Class offers bird lovers instruction in suet dough

From left, John Oaks, Jeanne Oaks, Kathleen Raub and Ernie Raub pat down bird food made from Regina Garr’s traditional suet dough recipe at the Cooking for the Birds seminar Saturday. The seminar was hosted by Regina and Steve Garr, owners of Birds-I-View.

From left, John Oaks, Jeanne Oaks, Kathleen Raub and Ernie Raub pat down bird food made from Regina Garr’s traditional suet dough recipe at the Cooking for the Birds seminar Saturday. The seminar was hosted by Regina and Steve Garr, owners of Birds-I-View. Katie Alaimo/News Tribune

The Christmas treats at Birds-I-View’s Saturday workshop in Jefferson City looked good enough to eat — carefully molded into the shapes of holiday ornaments and wreaths, they could have fit right in behind a bakery window. But unlike ordinary baked goods, these treats were designed with avian customers in mind.

In a seminar room next to the store, Birds-I-View owner Regina Garr demonstrated how to make traditional suet dough, a snack for insect-eating and seed-eating birds. The dough, which is made of corn meal, flour, peanut butter and lard, has a high fat content that helps birds store energy for the winter.

Workshop participants had the option to spice up their dough with a choice of crushed eggshells, finch feed mixture or mealworms. The eggshells, Garr explained, have two basic benefits: they provide a source of calcium for birds and can serve as a form of grit to help them digest their food.

Donna Menown, who assisted with the suet dough aspect of the workshop, said the mealworms were by far the most popular choice. She compared this trend to schoolchildren’s innate desire to play with “icky” creatures.

“I guess we’re all just big kids,” Menown said, laughing.

At the end of the workshop, Birds-I-View co-owner Steve Garr demonstrated how to put together a wooden feeder for distributing the dough to birds. The feeders came in a five-part package that required only a screwdriver for assembly.

“It’s a nice thing to do with your children or grandchildren,” Steve Garr said.

Regina Garr said she and her husband have been regularly holding seminars since 1979, the year after the shop opened as a feed store. Birds-I-View will repeat the bird treat workshop at 2 p.m. today and 6 p.m. Monday.

Paul and Sharon Pennington, who live in Holts Summit, said they first heard about the workshop from Steve Garr, whom they had asked to help identify an unusual goldfinch they had photographed.

The couple enjoys watching birds and has made several purchases from Birds-I-View to attract more feathered friends.

“We have a wood behind our house,” Paul Pennington said. “We put up a birdfeeder and now we’ve got ten. It’s just fun to watch them.”

Sharon Pennington said she looked forward to testing out the feeder and dough mixture from the workshop.

“I am just so pleased and excited,” she said. “I’ve seen these recipes and magazines, but when you can see them demonstrated for you, it’s very helpful. Now we can add to our suet by making some of our own.”

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