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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Choosing the Right Bird Feeder

Walking out on my back deck at 7 a.m. and hearing the happy chirping of the birds I have drawn into my yard makes the perfect start to my day.

Every yard may have a few feathery visitors, but creating a bird haven takes a bit more work and time.  

Choosing the right bird feeder to draw in the birds you want in your yard is a good first step.  

Here's a list of the six most common types of bird feeders and their advantages and disadvantages.

You can click on the photos for more information about each of them.

The Tray or Platform Feeder

Trays attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds, including pigeons, starlings, and House Sparrows, but also grosbeaks and native sparrows. 

Tray feeders offer no protection against rain and snow and some have no drainage.  Bird droppings can quickly soil the seed in tray feeders.

The best tray feeders have a screen rather than solid bottom to promote complete drainage.  At the very least, tray feeders should have several drainage holes. 

Even with drainage, though, the bottom should be removable for frequent cleaning. It is a good idea to only offer enough seed in tray feeders for birds to finish every day or two, and shake out the bottom every time you add new seeds.

A disadvantage is that tray feeders are an open invitation to squirrels and chipmunks unless they are constructed with an effective squirrel baffle on the pole or suspension chain.

In addition to squirrels, deer, raccoons and other critters, tray feeders placed near the ground are most likely to attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows.

Tray feeders can be mounted on deck railings, posts, or stumps, or can be suspended. Some models have a roof to provide at least some protection from the weather.

Hopper or House Feeders

Hopper feeders are attractive to finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice, however, frequent visitors are squirrels so, some sort of squirrel baffle is important.

There is no protection against rain, so, again, if the seed gets wet,  fungus and bacteria can thrive.   Some house feeders, though, do have a little more protection from the rain.

And although these hopper feeders hold enough seed to last for several days, that becomes dangerous for the birds if the seed is allowed to get wet.

Tube Feeders

Hollow tubed feeders can keep seeds fairly clean.  Depending on the size of the perches under the feeding ports, these feeders can attract small birds such as sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches while excluding larger species such as grackles and jays. 

Styles with perches above the feeding ports are designed for seed-eating birds that can feed hanging upside down.  These birds include goldfinches and chickadees.

Some tube feeders have a cage around the tube making it more difficult for the squirrels to raid the seed.

You can also buy brackets that will allow some open space making it more difficult for squirrels.

Tube feeders that accommodate a dozen or more birds are best used during times when many birds are using them. When only a handful of birds are using them, a smaller model is best so the seed is used up frequently.

Tip:  When adding new seed to tube feeders, always empty the old seed out first.

Window Feeders

Window feeders are small, plastic feeders affixed to window glass with suction cups.  They are very easy to clean, but the seed should be replaced daily as the seed risks becoming soiled.  

Window feeders are popular since they give adults and children alike the opportunity to observe birds up close.  

The window feeders attract titmice, finches, chickadees, and some sparrows. 

Nyjer Feeders (Thistle Feeders)

The above feeder is basically a tube feeder with very small feeding ports.

The second type of thistle feeder pictured above are the fine-mesh socks that the birds cling to as they feed.  Squirrels aren't particularly attracted to Nyjer seed, so there usually isn't a squirrel problem with them.

Nyher Seed

Both types of nyher feeders are appropriate when you have enough finches to consume the contents in a few days.

These feeders are popular with American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls. 

Suet Feeders

Suet feeders attract a variety of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, jays, and starlings. 

Some Suet cages open only at the bottom which forces birds to hang upside down while feeding.  This design will usually exclude starlings, which have trouble perching that way.

There are suet feeders with a surrounding cage, as pictured above, which may be a safer way of offering suet.

Suet cakes come in a variety of flavors.  They are also available in a "no "melt variety.


What a joy it is to wake up to a symphony of chirping and singing birds.  I hope this article was helpful to you in deciding which feeder to buy to bring them to your yard!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

Monday, July 27, 2020

15 Common Canning Questions Answered

15 Common Canning Questions Answered

The act of canning your home-grown or store-bought food is becoming increasingly popular as people begin to realize the precariousness of our food growing and food distribution system.

If you're interested in beginning to can your own food, I think you will find these 15 common questions and answers very helpful.

What does the canning process involve?

The canning process involves placing foods in jars and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. It's a lost art that has become much more popular in light of the uncertainty of our current times.

Why is canning food important?

We have begun to realize how valuable our homegrown produce is and that it’s worthy of spending a few extra hours preparing by canning so we can have some winter convenience food of our own making.  It is also a way to consume less processed foods.

And since the jars are simply placed on a shelf, there is no worry that the food will be ruined during a power outage.

Canning Lids

What are some of the reasons that canning lids do not seal properly?

There are many.  Here is a list of the most common.  

  • The top rim of the jar wasn't clean.  Part of the canning process is wiping the top rim carefully to remove any food particles before adding the lid and ring. 

  • The jar wasn't filled properly.  Leaving the specified amount of headspace in a jar is important to assure a vacuum seal. If too little headspace is allowed, the food may expand and bubble out when air is being forced out from under the lid during processing.

Canning Rings

  • The ring was too tight.   If the rings are screwed down too tightly, those air bubbles don't have a way to escape and can cause your lids to buckle. Leaving the rings a little loose lets that oxygen escape without incident.  The lids will form their seal as the jars cool.

  • The jars weren't processed long enough or at the proper temperature.

  • Tampering with jars as they're cooling. Allow the processed jars to rest untouched for 24 hours.  Moving or inverting the jars could cause a seal failure. If a ring loosens during the processing time do not re-tighten it, as this could interfere with the seal forming.

Pressure Canner

What's the difference between pressure canning and water bath canning?

A pressure canner heats the food at a higher temperature than the water bath canner, with pressurized steam hotter than the temperature of boiling water. The big difference between water bath canning and pressure canning is: high-acid foods are canned with the water bath, low-acid foods with the pressure canner.

Water Bath Canner

A boiling water bath canner cannot surpass 212 degrees Fahrenheit. A Pressure Canner brings jar temperatures up to 240-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature can be reached only by creating steam under pressure. At this temperature, we can be assured that 100% of bacteria is killed.

Can canning jars go in the oven?

The glass used for Ball and Kerr canning jars is not tempered for oven use and is not meant to be used in baking projects. The jars are safe to use for home canning recipes, cold or room temperature food storage, crafting, and cold beverages.

Straight-Shoulder Canning Jars

Can canning jars be frozen?

Ball® makes mason jars specifically for freezing. They're made with a straight shoulder. That means there's no curve around the neck of the jar, which makes it easier for them to stand up to low temperatures and expanding liquids. Freezer-safe mason jars like these don't curve in toward the lid.

Are canning jar lids reusable?

The simple answer is no.  Canning lids are designed for one-time use. Using them more than once may result in your jars not sealing properly. These lids have a special sealing compound around the rim that is only good for one use.

There are currently canning lids that are reusable.  The most common brand is Tattler.

What is canning salt and what's the difference between it and regular salt?

Pickling salt is sometimes called canning salt or preserving salt.  It is pure granulated salt (sodium chloride). Pickling salt does not contain anti-caking ingredients, which can turn pickling liquid cloudy, or additives like iodine, which can make pickles dark.

A good substitute for pickling salt is kosher salt. It's more widely available, isn't particularly expensive and is also free of those additives that prevent clumping.

When should the canning lids pop?

It can take up to an hour or even longer for a canning lid to seal, and jars should be left undisturbed for a full day before you check their closures. When 24 hours have passed, check the lids. Press on the center of the lid.  If it doesn't move, the jar is sealed.

What canning supplies do I need to begin canning? 

To read a full article on the supplies you will need to begin canning, click here.

Which foods need to be pressured canned?

Pressure canning is the only safe method of preserving vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a special pressure cooker which is heated to a temperature of at least 240° F. This temperature can only be reached using the pressure method.

Which foods can be water bath canned?

Fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies and other fruit spreads, salsas, most tomatoes, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sauces, vinegars, and condiments are among items safely preserved using the water bath canning method.

What temperature should I store my canned food in?

Ideally, home-canned food should be stored between 50 and 70 degrees.

How do canning jars seal?

Initially, gases are vented from the jar. When the processing period is finished, the atmospheric pressure outside the jar is greater than the pressure inside. This difference in pressure pulls the lid down onto the jar and forms a vacuum seal.

What is a false seal?

A false seal can occur when jar rims are not wiped clean before processing, if a jar is not filled correctly, or if products are not processed correctly. 

Both a boiling water canner and a pressure canner not only heat the product to help ensure a safe result, they also force as much air as possible out of the jar.

What is the importance of altitude in canning?

Your altitude is important because the higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure, and hence the lower the boiling temperature.

Generally, recipes are written for water bath canning at altitudes less than 1000 feet. Pressure canning recipes are generally written for altitudes of less than 2000 feet. If you live in areas that do not fall within those parameters, adjustments need to be made according to your altitude.  

Why are there ingredients I cannot add to a recipe for canning?

Not everything can be canned simply because home canners are unable to reach the heat required to properly can foods that are too oily, have high fat content, or are too viscous. 

Commercial canneries also use additives, preservatives and processing equipment that you can’t replicate at home.

Why do they call it "canning" when you're using jars?

This is my favorite question simply because my five-year-old granddaughter asked it.  I will admit, I had to look it up.

Commercial canning in tinplate canisters became common because it was easier, less expensive and safer to preserve food in the tin canister. 

Soon the word "canister" was shortened to "can" and "canning" became a common term for commercial food preservation. The term stuck even after the introduction of glass jars.


So there you have it.  If you'd like to learn more about canning, here are some great book choices to check out.

I hope you found this article helpful.  I encourage you to begin your canning adventure.  You can do this!!!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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