a peek inside the fishbowl

28 Mar, 2014

The story behind the bird ball

Posted by andrea tomkins in: dog stuff|Oh! Things!

My mom lives in a small town, and sometimes things are a little different there. Like at the grocery store. We went to the store to do a shop, walked past the Ski-doo for sale signs and church bazaar posters, and grabbed a cart. The store opens directly into the meat aisle.  Boxes of frozen burgers and chicken wings were on prominent display in long open chest freezers, ready to grab and drop in a cart. There was a small pile of something in the corner that caught my eye. I picked one of them up and looked at the label. It said, BIRD BALL, which kind of made me laugh because I’d never heard of this term for suet before.

As I was looking at this ball of animal fat, a stock boy walked past us and informed us that these were the last of the bird balls. The way he said it was indicative of the high demand. No more were coming! So of course my mother and I each grabbed one.

My mom’s place is well equipped for suet hangings. She has a wire hanger formed into a sort of hook upon which she spears the suet. It’s hanging in front of her window, and has become a high-traffic area for all kinds of birds. We had no such hook here at home, so we had to make our own suet holder. This is why I found myself in the basement at a later date, attacking a roll of chicken wire with a pair of wire cutters. Thankfully Mark took over before I hurt someone.

He made a tube of chicken wire and wrapped the suet inside, and added a thicker wire with which to hang the whole contraption. Mark was heading out to hang it on our lilac tree when I got the idea to show it to Piper. LOOK PIPER. LOOK! LOOK! GO WITH DADDY! GO SEE! And of course she read something into my voice. Clearly, this thing that daddy had in his hands was something to get excited about! She followed him eagerly outside and watched carefully as he hung it on a branch; positioned in such a way so we can see it from our family room window along with the flocks of birds it was bound to attract.

I should point out that it was mighty cold outside. This was one of the reasons we hung the suet in the first place. The birds needed some good food to help them stay warm during The Longest Winter in the History of Ottawa. Mark hung the feeder and hurried in from the winter weather, but guess who stayed outside? Piper. She danced around with her nose in the air, sniffing madly. She circled the tree, again and again, looking for the source of That Awesome Meat Smell. We let her go wild, but then she began to pick her paws up one at a time. Her feet were freezing. Time to come in. We called and called, but she refused our pleas. She finally, stubbornly, relented. And I thought that was the end of it, until I was woken up by a plaintive whine at some ungodly hour. All I know is that it was still dark, and I was tired. And when I let her out I realized it was that goddamn suet she was after.

This was Piper the next day:

Adventures with suet

You can see the suet cage there in the tree.

The idea of a MEAT BALL hanging from a tree was clearly driving her bonkers, so Mark moved it further afield and higher up in the branches. She has given up, a little. From time to time we look outside to see her raise her nose in the air and catch a whiff of her much sought after meat ball. Is she sad to know that she’ll only be seeing it in her dreams? I wonder…


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  • Jenn Jilks: That is really exciting! Break a leg!
  • fun88: I was excited to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also
  • Gretchen Humphrey: I had a beautiful bee& birdbath filled with a solar fountain and dozens of antique marbles that were suddenly disappearing. At first I thought my
  • Jinjer: I am sobbing reading this post. And you're right, companion is not enough. Little furry treasured gifts that they are. Thanks for sharing cutie-pi
  • Karen: Dear Andrea, Mark and your daughters I am so very sad for your family xxx Piper was/is my favourite Instagram post. You shared with us so intimately
  • Christina Banuelos: Thank you for sharing Pipers life with us. Your posts of Piper brought me joy. Every time I see your post and see what kind of mischief Piper was gett
  • Carla Slocum: I am sitting here yet again crying at your loss. We have known that loss with Asta the WFT our first pup but now have the enormous gift of Stryker the

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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