LITTLE ROCK – With winter on hand, a sizeable percentage of Arkansans are feeding birds in their yards, on decks and other handy places. Magic Mix is heavily in use.

What is Magic Mix? How do you make it? Where do you buy it?

Magic Mix is something like chili. There is no exact formula or recipe. Opinions vary widely, and the bottom line is whatever works for you is “right.”

Most Magic Mix has lard, peanut butter and corn meal as ingredients. Other ingredients can and often are added. Magic Mix is a name that came from some bird enthusiast years ago, and capitalizing it just seems logical, although it’s not a brand name by any means.

Lard, peanut butter and corn meal. Simple enough. Use lard and don’t use vegetable shortening. The latter doesn’t furnish nutritional needs for birds. Lard is available at any grocery or supermarket in plastic buckets of various sizes and is relatively inexpensive.

Peanut butter can be smooth or crunchy. Cheaper house brands work as well as the familiar brand names, and the birds won’t care.

Corn meal can be white or yellow or what is on sale or even what may have been around so long it’s got weevils in it. Again, the birds won’t care.

One veteran household Magic Mix specialist uses no written or exact proportions but says it generally is about three parts lard, one part peanut butter and enough corn meal to make it bind together well. She adds a little flour to help with the consistency, and this is one of those individual additions to Magic Mix we’ll touch on later.

She puts the lard and the peanut butter in a large plastic mixing bowl then microwaves it for a while to partially melt these two ingredients. This makes it easily to blend. The corn meal is gradually added in the blending until it reaches the desired consistency of being formed into sticky balls.

Some Arkansas Magic Mix users add uncooked oatmeal to the blend. One says a small amount of sugar is added to her Magic Mix. Several Arkansans use raisins or dried cranberries. Chopped shelled nuts can be added – peanuts, pecans, walnuts or others – and these can be old and too stale for family cooking. Again, the birds won’t care.

Still another Magic Mix user sprinkles black oil sunflower seed into the blend.

And a couple of Arkansas Magic Mix users add dry cereal like corn flakes. One says to crush the cereal; the other doesn’t crush it. Stale cereal will work here, also. Leftover toast, biscuits or cornbread can be crushed or crumbled and added to the Magic Mix blend.

Magic Mix keeps well for several days, either at room temperature or in a refrigerator. To use Magic Mix, just put out a wad anywhere you choose.

A magic mix feeder is as simple as the mix itself. Get a narrow log and drill some holes in it. The holes don’t have to go through the log, they just have to be deep enough that they can be packed with magic mix. Then you can hang it from a tree or on your house. If you don’t have a drill, you can simply smear gobs of magic mix on the hanging log.