Here are some ideas:
• Garland strings of popcorn and cranberries are a traditional favorite. Buy a bag of fresh cranberries in the produce department. With a needle and thread, string pieces of popped popcorn and cranberries for a colorful red and white pattern. You can also add pieces of dried fruit for an even more nutritious boost.
• Birds and other furry critters love dried corn. To hang sections of dried yellow and colorful Indian corn on the tree, drill a hole horizontally through the corncob and hang with cotton string.
• You can hang orange and apple rounds on your tree, too. Just thread a string through the top and tie to make a hanging loop.
• For a special treat for our furry friends, buy mixed nuts in the shell and drill a hole completely through each. Then feed a cotton string through the nut and tie a knot at the bottom. If you hang these individually on the tree rather than making a garland, the animal can pull them down one at a time. You can also string unsalted peanuts in the shell to make a delicious garland.
• Attach whole, dried sunflower heads to the tree for another bird favorite.
• Birds love homemade suet, which you can hang in old onion bags. One good recipe for suet includes: two cups of lard, one cup of peanut butter, two cups of yellow corn meal, two cups of birdseed, one cup of dried fruit pieces, and one cup of raw oatmeal. Melt the lard in a pan over low heat. Add the peanut butter, stirring until well blended. Next, add dry ingredients to the mixture, blend well and pour it into a cake pan or casserole dish to cool. Then cut the suet into squares and place them in onion bags for hanging.
• Pinecones feeders are another favorite and make good decorations too. Wind a cotton string around the pinecone and loop the end so it can hang from the tree. Mix chunky peanut butter with cornmeal, and birdseed, but if you are allergic to peanut butter use lard instead of peanut butter. Spread it thickly on the pinecone “petals.” Roll in more birdseed and hang.
• You can also spread this peanut butter mixture onto rice cakes that have been punched with a toothpick to make a hole for threading with cotton string, stale bagels or pieces of white or whole wheat bread that have had shapes cut out by holiday cookie cutters. Leave a loop at the end for hanging on the tree.
• Remember to add shallow pans of fresh water and to replace the water as it freezes.
• A fun idea might be to photograph your tree for your next year’s Christmas card.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.