Home made bird ‘suet’ feeder recipes

Been buying these cakes for years and use them all Winter.  The variety of birds that you attract is greatly increased, as some birds do not really go for the dry seed in my tube feeder.

As long as you know the base proportions, to get the consistency right, the rest is very easy.  I estimate that you can make your own for half what you would pay for bought cakes, which would be .69 to .99 per cake, plus tax, around here.  Most of the ingredients that you buy to make your own cakes from scratch are not taxed in my state, but the pre-prepared ones are taxed at 8.7%, so I have already saved that much by making my own!  (You see, the suet cakes are ‘bird food,’ therefore they are taxes at regular sales tax rates, but the actual raw ingredients, except the bought wild bird seed, are ‘people food,’ and are not taxed!)

The ‘grease’ component is either Crisco or lard.  Lard is cheaper and the birds love it.  The grease component that you use must be hard at room temperature. The other base component is peanut butter.  Any kind.  I use what I normally have on, Adams Natural Crunchy, but if you are buying it only ‘for the birds,’ buy the cheapest kind in the largest container to get the most for your money.

The recipe below is enough for 5 to 6 suet feeder size cakes.  Read the technique all the way through before starting, please.

1 cup shortening or lard (If you eat bacon, save ALL the grease and use it instead of some of the lard or shortening.)

1 cup peanut butter

3 to 4 cups of Flours, cornmeal, oats, etc

3 to 4 cups Dry bird seed mix

Optional: Dried fruit of any kind; raisins, Craisins, etc.

In a metal bowl, slowly melt the shortening or lard on the stove.  When it is melted, stir in the peanut butter.  You must work quickly at this stage, as it will start to ‘set up’ right away.  Have your ingredients all at-hand and at room temperature. This is a good time to clean out those odds and ends of flours and seeds in your pantry that you have not used in a long time.  Add, 1/2 to 1 cup each of the following:  flour, cornmeal, whole rolled oats, wheat or rye flakes, etc, to total 3 to 4 cups.  Now you have a stiff batter.  Add 3 to 4 cups of regular bird seed and stir it all up, one cup at a time.  Now you have a very stiff batter.

Cooling

Cooling

Press the batter into shallow pans that are lined with foil or wax paper.  This recipe makes two 6 by 8 pans, full, see photo at left. Make sure the cake is the thickness that will fit into your feeders; about 3/4 inch or less.  (If the batter starts to stiffen up too quickly, just return pan to a low stove-top burner and remelt.) Cool, then freeze.  Cut to fit in your feeders.  I save and reuse the plastic trays that the store-bought cakes come in and use them to refill with this recipe.  I also use the bottoms of 1/2 gallon plastic milk jugs and other ‘orphan’ plastic  freezer containers cut to fit into the wire feeder cages.  Sour cream/large yogurt/cottage cheese containers cut down to 1.5 inch trays also work well. If you use this method and pour the hot mix directly into the plastic trays, you have a more solid cake and it is harder for the birds to break it up. (Starlings and Flickers are adept at this!) If you are lacking these trays, line the back and sides of the feeder with foil, leaving the one ‘feeding face’ open.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Flourless Corn Muffins

Finished!

Finished!

This corn muffin recipe is gluten-free and makes a hearty muffin that freezes well.

I like Bob’s Red Mill Corn Meal because it is sort of ‘rough’ and the medium grind adds a lot of texture.  In addition, my local Cash and Carry stocks it in 25 lb bags, which makes it about 54¢ a pound.  I have experimented with different pan techniques and found that the silicone baking muffin pan without cupcake papers is the best.

The Recipe:

Preheat oven to 450f

2 cups medium corn meal

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp flax meal with 3 tbsp warm water, let sit at least an hour

1 1/2 cups 2% milk, warmed (Or 1 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup warm water.)

3 tbsp olive oil

Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, whole sliced jalapenos to push into the top of unbaked muffins.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Mix the dry together in a bowl, add the wet and mix well.

Place a silicone baking muffin pan on a sheet pan.  Fill cups, without papers, most of the way full.  These muffins don’t rise much.

Bake in hot oven 20 minutes, turning pan several times.

 

Baked!

Baked!

Let cool before popping out of pan.  These are best served hot right out of the oven, but freeze well and when thawed and then reheated, in microwave, are very good.  They do not become rubbery because there is no flour in them.

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Alger Alp via Squires Lake Park Trails

View from FR 1000 and FR 1300

View from FR 1000 and FR 1300

Alger Alp, also called Old Baldy by the locals, is a lowland peak that is part of the Chuckanut Mountain system, east of I-5.  It is composed mostly of Chuckanut Sandstone and shale.  It has been logged at least once, as you can see from the massive stumps of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar.  A very detailed description about the geology is made by Dave Tucker in a post here.  I recommend that you read Dave’s post first to get a feel for what you are going to be looking at, then read it again after hiking to the top of Alger Alp.

Map

Map

There are two routes to get to the top of Alger Alp.  This post is about the route that starts in Squires Lake Park.  Allow 3 to 4 hours for a round trip of about 6 miles.  For a description of the park and trails see my previous post here.

I highly recommend trekking poles for any hike.

Park in the lot for Squires Lake Park on Old 99, north of Alger.  Hike to the lake.  Take the Loop trail to the right, after a bit you will see the South Ridge trail forking off to the right, take it.  You climb along a ridge with the lake on your left and Friday Creek, Old 99 and I-5 way down the hill on your right.  After about 1/3 mile you come to another fork.  Take the Pacific Northwest Trail fork to your right.  The trail follows a hog back ridge for another 1/3 mile, where it ends at Forest Road (FR) 1340.  Now you hike on logging roads to the top.  Some of the roads are marked, some are not and some are marked with two different numbers.   Stay on FR 1300 until it intersects with FR 1000, which continues up and to the left.  Go up FR 1000.  (The other route to Alger Alp is up FR1000 from a small parking lot off of Alger-Cain Lake Road.  This route is ALL on logging roads.) You are now on the north side of the peak, no other roads to confuse you.

Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker

The top opens up to views to the south, west and east.  I-5 rumbles far below you.  You may take FR 1000 back down the hill, but if your car is parked at Squires Lake, I recommend that you return the same way you came!

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Alger, Chuckanut Mtns, Day Trips-Driving, Family Friendly, Geology, Hikes & Walks, Local History, Rivers and Lakes | 1 Comment

Clayton Beach Hike

Clayton Beach

Clayton Beach

Clayton Beach is just a 2/3 mile hike, each way, from the parking area, excellent for those who are looking for a little workout or families with wee ones.  If you are driving Chuckanut Drive this is a great place to stretch your legs and visit an excellent beach. The trail is part of Larrabee State Park and a Discover Pass is required to park in the State Park lot, but many people just park along Chuckanut Drive without a permit.

Take the stairs to the old railroad bed of the Pacific Northwest Traction Co.  This was the route that this interurban took between Fairhaven and Mount Vernon.  This is the reason that it feels like you are walking on a straight old road.  Just before you drop down to the BNSF tracks, you encounter a large slab of rock and loose material that appears to be the trail.  Stay to the right of this steep place and you will see a very easy route down to the tracks.  Immediately across the tracks you see what appears to be the ‘main route.’  It is not!  Walk south along the tracks and take the NEXT little cut in the railroad bed, toward the beach.

dscn2076When you get to the beach, you will notice a rock riprap levee and a long row of pilings.  These are what are left from the interurban track overpass that sent the interurban car OVER the Great Northern tracks from 1911 to ~1940.

If you are interested in the geology of this area I highly recommend visiting the links below:

Honeycomb Weathering in the Chuckanut Sandstone.

Volcanic Ash between the sandstone Layers.

Landslides along SR 11.

Map

Map

Click on map to left for a larger version.  You see some side trails on the north side, but these generally only go to the tops of the bluffs, not to the beach.

On your way back up the hill you will pass the foundation of the Power Station that was used for the interurban.  There is a photo of it on the information board near the parking lot.  After you have climbed up from the BNSF tracks, on the right will be the fill that was put in place to carry the interurban track over the Great Northern tracks.  A short trail takes you along this fill to the end.  About 100 feet further up the trail, on the right is a short trail to the foundation site.

There is a large amount of information and stories about the days of this interurban in the Skagit River Journal.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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West Skagit County Hikes and Walks

Rosario Head Cliffs

Rosario Head Cliffs

I get guests who are looking to get out and take a hike or walk, but not a ‘North Cascade Adventure.’  A jaunt in the woods, around a lake, along a river or slough or near the beach.  Day hike or walk, if you will.  I am pretty experienced in this and have put together a list of short hikes that also may suit you.

The nearest town or geographical area is listed along with a very short description.  The link takes you to a more detailed description and usually maps.  I am personally familiar with most of these trails.  A few of these trails in the Deception Pass Park area are actually in northern Island County.

Chuckanut Drive Area

Clayton Beach

Alger

Squires Lake County Park. Walking trails.

Alger Alp via Squires Lake

LaConner

Boardwalk along the Swinomish Slough 

Padilla Dike Trail. Walking and biking trail along the sea shore.

Kukutali Preserve. Kiket and Flagstaff Islands. Walking trail, Discover Pass Required for parking.  Managed by State Parks and Swinomish Tribe.

Mount Vernon

Little Mountain City Park. Walking, hiking and mountain biking trails within city limits

Kulshan Trail. Urban walking and biking trail

Riverwalk. Boardwalk along the Skagit River, downtown Mount Vernon.

Anacortes

Anacortes Forest Lands and Mt. Erie.  Walking and hiking trails west and south of Anacortes.

Tommy Thompson Trail. Paved walking and biking trail from downtown Anacortes to March Point

Sedro-Woolley/Concrete.

Cascade Trail. Twenty-two mile graveled biking and walking railroad bed between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete.  I can personally recommend the stretch between Birdsview and Concrete as the best.  If cycling, mountain or hybrid tires are a must.

Fir Island/Conway

Wiley Slough. Discover Pass required at this State Fish and Wildlife Unit

Lake McMurray to Snohomish

Centennial Trail. paved walk/bike trail 26 miles from near Lake McMurray to Snohomish

Deception Pass Area, Full Map Here

Bowman’s Bay. Several trails that all start and end at the parking lot at bowman’s Bay.  Discover Pass required to park.  I like to take the Bowman’s Bay trail toward Rosario Head, see photo above, and back.  Or the Lottie’s Bay and Lighthouse Trails, and back.

Sharpe Park – Sares Head. Woodsy and great western water views. (My own post here.)

Hoypus Landing

Hoypus Landing

Coronet Bay. An easy out and back walk along the old road to the Hoypus Ferry Landing.  Discover Pass required.

Goose Rock and area. Whidbey side of the park, hike to the highest point on Whidbey island. A very large erratic rock now in Coupeville was plucked from this area and transported by glaciers.

Ala Spit. Not part of the Park but a nice public beach walk, south and east of Deception

Ala Spit

Ala Spit

Pass State Park on the NE side of Whidbey Island.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Cycling, Family Friendly, Hikes & Walks, The Mountains, The Sea Shore, Upriver, What to do? | Leave a comment

Bowman’s Bay/Rosario Head Winter Hike

MapA very nice out-and-back hike that is not too far from Mount Vernon.  This hike is in Deception Pass State Park, on the Skagit County/Fidalgo Island side of the park.  In the map view to the left, the trail is about where the red dashed line is. Click map for full size view.

Bowman Trail

Bowman Trail

Deception Pass is the most popular of all the State Parks in the State of Washington.  If you have never been there, you are in for a lot of surprises.  Even with the summer crunch of crowds, this park can really suck up a lot of people.  So diverse, convoluted, lots of trails, beaches, rocks and trees, on and on!  Camping, picnicking, just sitting in your car and watch the sea, which in this Park is more ‘Ocean like’ than a lot of the rest of the Salish Sea.

Rosario Head Cliffs

Rosario Head Cliffs

I like to park on the Bowman Bay side and point my car toward the beach.  DISCOVER PASS REQUIRED. In the summer this can be a challenge, but in November, most of the 10 slots are open!  You follow the Bowman Bay trail which starts right from the parking lot and heads along the beach, then climbs along the cliff, toward Rosario Beach.  After about 1/2 mile you are at Rosario Beach and you can explore the beach area before climbing Rosario Head, on the Rosario Head Trail.  These are both pretty short trails, walks really, not hikes.
Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Squires Lake Park and Trail

What a close place to hike, did not know how I missed it!  Just, literally, 2 minutes from I-5 in the very fringe of north Skagit County.  This County Park is a hidden gem!  The Park is jointly managed by the Parks Department’s of both Whatcom and Skagit Counties.  This could be because the 82 acre park is in both counties.

Map

Map

To get there:  Drive north on I-5 for about 17 miles from Mount Vernon, exit on Nulle Road, turn right, this takes you to Old Highway 99 North.  In about a 1/4 mile, the Squires Lake Park parking area is on your left.  Go past the first drive and enter on the south end of the lot.  This takes about 20 minutes from Mount Vernon.

Here is what Skagit County has to say about this little park.  I will elaborate as I took some photos and did a little digging about the history of some of the trail and the park itself.

F & S Roadbed

F & S Roadbed

The first part of the trail to the lake is a series of switchbacks, about 1/3 mile total in length.  One of the switchback legs, the longest one, is clearly level across the slope.  This leg is on the former roadbed of the old Fairhaven and Southern Railroad.  This railroad came into Skagit County from Bellingham in 1889 and reached the coal mines of Sedro-Woolley in 1890.  The line followed along Lake Samish, through Alger, along Friday Creek, through Belfast, then followed a direct straight route to Sedro-Woolley.  The ‘F and S Grade Road’ into Sedro-Woolley is this former railroad bed.

Later in 1890 the F & S was bought out by the Great Northern Railroad.  This link allowed the GN to complete their line north to Bellingham without building their own.  A few years later, about 1902, the GN rerouted their line along the salt water beach area between Chuckanut Mountain and Samish Bay.  The line makes this direction shift just north of Cook Road at ‘Belleville.’ This is the line used today.  The old F and S line was abandoned and pulled up. Here is some detailed history of the F and S, via the Skagit River Journal.

The park trail choices consist of several loops.  The Squires Lake loop takes you around the main lake, the Beaver Pond loop takes you to the edge, not around, the Beaver Pond.  This trail loops back to the Squires Lake loop.  The ‘Beaver Pond’ is pretty much a big swamp, there is no actual Beaver Dam, as the topography is such that a natural outlet keeps the pond at a single level, this outfall was just a trickle when I visited in October of 2016.  The condition of the trails were pretty good and I think that even in the middle of Winter, they would not be very muddy.

Jan 2017

Jan 2017

dscn2052The amazing thing is that it is so close to the Freeway, but as you enter the forest, the rush of traffic diminishes and you are in quiet solitude.  The other amazing thing is that less than 100 years ago this land had been clear cut and was just an ugly jumble of stumps and slash.

Winter photos, lake is frozen all the way across, but still hikers on trail, even on a weekday afternoon!  Trails all snow and ice covered, so take your trekking poles!

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Alger, Chuckanut Mtns, Day Trips-Driving, Family Friendly, Hikes & Walks, Local History, Rivers and Lakes | 1 Comment

The Chuckanut Trail

dscn1932Looking for a mountain style trail that starts near sea level and is in western Skagit County?  This is the one.  Although the most popular route in this network is to Oyster Dome, if you take the other fork to the Samish Overlook, it is still quite the workout.

Drive north on SR 11, Chuckanut Drive, and just past the hamlet of Blanchard is the Chuckanut Manor, on the left.  This is only about 14 miles from Highland Garden House.  Just a bit further you will come to the parking area, along the highway, south facing.  No permit required. There is room for at least 25 cars.  The trail starts on the uphill side of the highway.

dscn1941The maps say 2.1 miles to Samish Overlook.  With some additional walking around, this makes it a 5 mile round trip.  The trail consists of some very long switchbacks up the 60+ degree side of Chuckanut Mountain.  Most of the route is in deep second growth forest, but there are a few open places where you can take in the San Juan Islands to the west, and Samish Bay, far below. The trail forks at about 1.8 miles, the left fork continuing on to Oyster Dome, the right to the Samish Overlook.  There are picnic tables, benches and potties.  No water nor trash containers, so pack it in and pack it out!

dscn1937_croppedIf you are lucky, there will be hang glider activity at the top.  This place can also be driven to from the east side of the mountain, near Alger.
Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Down and Dirty Shoe Repair

When your sneakers, walking or hiking shoes go from ‘dress’ to work or painting service, there is usually a reason.  But the reason is not usually that the tread and sole is worn out.  It mostly is due to holes and gashes where the stitching or glue has come undone.

I have found a very quick and easy way to do a repair using fiberglass window screen scraps and Shoe-Goo.

I always save scraps of window screen as I replace mine as I also use the screening to strain paints.  Don’t use used screening, it has been in the sun/weather and is about half shot already.  In a pinch you could also use sheet rock seam fiberglass mesh tape, using this same technique.

Shoe Repair

Shoe Repair

Cut a piece of window screen to make a band-aid like covering for the repair.  Using a flat stick, like a Popsicle stick, spread the area with Shoe-Goo.  Apply the screen piece and press in and through the Shoe-Goo.  You will want to spread the Goo out to and beyond the edge of the screen, so there are no loose edges.  Now spread a little more Goo over the top and smooth out.  That’s it!

Wait at least on hour for the Goo to set up and you are good to go!

(Caution!  Shoe-Goo is very sticky, try to not get any on your hands.)
Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Baker River Trail, #606

Shuksan with Sulphide Creek

Shuksan with Sulphide Creek

This hike is not far from Highland Garden House, but is a world away!  After driving 48 miles on paved roads, you do another 5 miles of pretty good gravel/dirt/dust/washboard to get to the trailhead and the end of the road.  That last 5 miles pretty much keeps the crowds out, I believe.  If it was paved, no telling if you would even find a parking place!

The Trail head does have pit toilets but there is no potable water.  Several campsites are available to use for free.  This is a Forest Pass required trail head, so the purchase of this parking pass is a requirement.  This also allows you to camp for free.

Sulphide Camp

Sulphide Camp

The Baker River Trail is a 5.2 mile, round trip, out and back trail that winds along the Baker River and ends at Sulphide Creek.  There are various places along the trail where you cross small streams and ‘crickletts’ but on Aug 15, 2016, they were all bone dry with the only easy water available at the end of the trail at Sulphide Creek.  So:  carry water!

There is a nice camping spot along Sulphide Creek and it was vacant the day I visited.  You can camp mostly anywhere in National Forest lands for free.  This particular spot is actually in North Cascades National Park, though.

Baker River boulder bed

Baker River boulder bed

The big view is right at the creek, where you look right up into the south face of Mt. Shuksan.

Driving Directions

From Burlington (exit 230 on I-5), head east on the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) for 23 miles, turning left (north) onto Baker Lake Road (between mileposts 82 and 83). Continue on Baker Lake Road for 26 miles (it becomes Forest Road 11, and the pavement ends after 23 miles), reaching the road end and trail head (elev. 750 ft). Privy available.  Forest Pass or National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass required.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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