Birds signal a healthy garden – they keep some pests at bay, add a bit of life and song and are cheery little critters. The oily rag community has some pointers on attracting and keeping our feathered friends in the garden. John writes that he is enjoying seeing native wood pigeons feasting on the guava berries in his garden. He has grown them especially for the pigeons but says he loves eating them fresh from the tree too. So, if you have some space, guavas are a great tree to plant – and they are also said to be a good companion plant for citrus too. Speaking about attracting birds, something as simple as a bird bath will bring them around – including native pigeons. Tuis, bellbirds and waxeyes love sugar water, especially at this time of the year when nectar is in short supply. Dissolve a cup of sugar in a litre of warm water, and allow it to cool before placing it out for the birds. If you want to encourage birds into your garden, why not hang up a bird feeder and fill it with seed from the supermarket, garden centre or pet shop. You could also try feeding them with bread, fruit, or kitchen scraps. In our house nothing is wasted – kitchen leftovers are either fed to the chickens or birds, or they end up in the compost bin and returned to the soil. Those in workplaces where there are kitchen scraps may want to organise a workplace food recycling scheme – that’s what Bernie from Christchurch did. “I work in a large corporate office where most days there are catered meetings but it would break your heart the amount of high-quality food that gets thrown in the bin. As I keep three hens in my backyard, I started a ‘chook bucket’ in the office kitchen and now all the leftovers go home to three very appreciative ladies each night – sometimes they eat better than I do!” Great idea Bernie. Now here’s a challenge for all you corporates and government agencies that claim to be environmentally friendly – have a chook bucket in your kitchen so you can add “Chook friendly” to your corporate credentials … and put it on your business cards! Roger writes to say he was pleased to find a slug and snail product in his local garden centre that is safe for pets and wildlife. “I have never used a slug and snail bait because I have been worried about poisoning bird life, but now I can blitz the blighters worry-free”. Mary says she is enjoying the benefits of making their own yoghurt. “Our kids have great fun making their own yoghurt. They choose their flavour and help in the shaking. It then becomes ‘their’ yoghurt and they consume it with great gusto and remarks about how good it tastes! That means they are eating healthier and we are saving money! What’s even better, last week the supermarket was giving away a yoghurt maker free with every four sachets purchased so we have given it away to our friends who are now also getting their kids involved in yoghurt-making.” Adrienne from Christchurch has this handy hint for cold winter months. “Keep a sunlight liquid type squeeze bottle of water in your car for when you go out in the evening and find your front car window frozen. We also keep a clean bucket of water at our back and front doors for local cats to have a drink of water. These are handy to have for frozen car windows in the morning. Check water has not frozen before you throw it at the car!” Cherie from Ohope writes, “Timebanks and LETS (local energy transfer system) are excellent groups to join to help live more prosperously without money (or certainly with a lot less money). We have Eastbay Timebank in Whakatane and surrounding areas. Google for your local one.” If you want to see if there is a Timebank in your area, have a look at www.timebank.org.nz. In the About Us section it says, Timebanking “facilitates the sharing of skills between its members, both individuals and community groups. Time Banking creates and promotes well-being, helping communities flourish and thrive. Time Banking activity is measured by the time it takes to complete a piece of work. Everyone’s time is considered equal.” Happily Retired from Rotorua has this advice. “Don’t buy it if you haven’t got the money saved. Then consider whether it is a want or a need? You will appreciate it more if you need to wait. You never know it may be On Sale when the time comes. Now that’s a bonus!” We would love to hear from you with tips or questions to share with readers, so please contact us via the website at oilyrag.co.nz or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei. By Frank and Dr Muriel Newman. Read more here.