Create a Winter Bird Buffet
These "cookies" add color to your backyard as well as food for birds.
To make this project: Coat peanut butter on the fronts and backs of seasonal wooden cutouts bought from a crafts store. Press dried cranberries and seeds, such as niger, sunflowers and mixed birdseed, into the peanut butter and hang.
Tie ears of miniature corn end-to-end to form a small triangle, using one ear each of red, yellow and blue-black. Raffia ties them to shepherd's hooks or pine trees.
Serve fresh water from a wreath-adorned heated birdbath.
To make this project: Place an electric heated birdbath pan inside the basin of your existing birdbath and run a heavy-duty exterior extension cord to an outlet. Make or buy a wire-frame wreath of mixed greens to encircle the top edge. The wreath will probably be heavy enough to perch there unaided, but you can use wire to secure it. Natural ornaments such as tan wheat and oat sprigs, red rose hips and blue juniper berries add texture and color plus can be eaten by birds. Change the water every day or two and make sure it's no deeper than 2 to 3 inches.
Appealing apple cup
This outdoor decoration is easy enough for children to handle after an adult uses a knife to hollow out a bowl inside the apple.
To make this project: Insert four nails evenly spaced about halfway down the side, leaving the nailheads out about a quarter-inch from the skin. Mix birdseed with enough peanut butter to evenly coat the seeds. Spoon the mixture into the apple cup. Cut four equal lengths of raffia (about 14 to 16 inches long) and attach one string to each nail. Tie the ends together at the top to hang from a tree or hook.
Gather the materials for this door or gate decoration on a winter walk in the woods.
To make this project: Take a hike to find a grove of sumacs. Cut the dark coral seedheads, leaving 14 to 16 inches of stalk on each. From your garden (or ask your green-thumb neighbor for help) cut the spiky brown seedheads of coneflowers (Echinacea), leaving stalks 10 to 12 inches long. Be careful, as the seeds may be brittle and fall off. Add stalks of oats and amaranth for a change of texture and color. Arrange in a pleasing pattern of varying stalk lengths, then tie with raffia and hang from a gate or door.
Can't find a grapevine topiary tower? You can use the same technique to decorate a grapevine wreath or any other shape.
To make this project: Place grapevine topiary towers atop matching urns. String cranberries and popped popcorn to wrap around the topiaries as garlands. Using a hot-glue gun, attach sprigs of seed heads such as millet, wheat and oats. Finish the top with a star crimped from speaker wire.
Hang this basket from a garage side door, on a shed wall or on a fence where birds can easily reach it.
To make this project: Select a natural grapevine wall basket. (It should be flat-sided with a handle so it can hang on a wall.) Fill the pocket with the rigid foam used by florists for dried flower arrangements. Tuck in stems of natural materials with seeds that birds will eat, such as sprays of millet, broom corn and sumac. Add dried leaves, curly sprigs of bittersweet and bits of evergreen for color.