Saturday, February 26, 2022

Will chicken skyrocket?

In mid-January, I took a trip to the city to stock up on some items. One of my favorite places to shop is Chef's Store (formerly Cash'n'Carry), a restaurant supply store which is excellent for purchasing bulk quantities of things.

While there, I asked about the availability of a 40-lb. box of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, since I had it in mind to can up some additional chicken. The fellow shook his head and said they have it in stock, but I wouldn't like the price.

"How much?" I asked.

"$110," he replied, himself scandalized. "It dropped to $80 for a while, then went up to $110."

That's $2.75 per pound, bulk. I decided not to get the chicken breasts.

However today, I noticed an article entitled "Bird flu detected in Michigan flock, federal authorities say." The article reported, "The virus strain is potentially deadly to commercial poultry. The bird flu cases are among the latest in the U.S. that have put farms that raise turkeys and chickens for meat and eggs on high alert, fearing a repeat of a 2015 bird flu outbreak that killed 50 million birds across 15 states and cost the federal government nearly $1 billion."

Now I wished I'd bought that case of chicken breasts back in mid-January.

So this morning I called Chef's Store and inquired if they had cases of chicken breasts in stock – they did – and what was the price?

$135 for a 40-lb. box. That's $3.37/pound. Now I really wished I'd bought that case of chicken breasts a month ago.

Don and I talked it over and decided we would not purchase the chicken. I still have some canned up in the pantry.

However the fact that bulk chicken breasts leaped from $2.75/lb to $3.37/lb over the course of five weeks – a 22.5% increase – is disturbing. Now if the bird flu takes off, that could ratchet prices up even higher.

If anyone's in the market for chicken to can or freeze, I wouldn't waste any time.

(Addendum: Due to a Google glitch, I can't reply to comments. Someone asked what I do with canned chicken. Usually I make chicken pot pies with it, but of course it's excellent for soups, stews, or anything else where shredded chicken is an ingredient.)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Cat vs. magpies vs. vole

Early one morning, Don looked out our kitchen window and saw one of the neighbor's cats in our pasture.

This is nothing unusual, as the pasture appears to be rich hunting grounds for the cats. Frankly they're welcome to take all the mice they want.

But what caught Don's attention wasn't the cat per se, but the proximity of the cat to a pair of magpies (only one of which I could capture in the same frame as the cat).

"Look how close together they are," he commented. We watched as the mapgies stalked around the disgruntled-looking cat.

But soon it became apparent there was more to this little drama than met the eye.

Can you see what the magpie sees?

Let me enlarge it for you.

That's a vole on the left, right in front of the magpie.

Sadly the vole knew exactly what lay in store for it. There was no escaping the magpie's beak; and if there was, the cat was right there to finish it off.

Meanwhile, look at the cat's expression. We missed the opening scenes of this drama, but we speculate it's the cat who flushed out the vole, and then the magpies took over. The cat wisely knew it would be dangerous to try and attack the magpies, and he looks very annoyed that his breakfast was stolen.

I don't know if the vole was injured by this point, but it hardly mattered. It was doomed. Magpies are vicious killers.

Here's the second magpie, moving in for the kill.

A direct attack on the vole wasn't long in coming.

At this point the vole (located between the two magpies) was still alive.

But the magpies kept flipping it around, doubtless injuring it more with each flip.

I felt very sorry for the vole, let me tell you.

It was hard to tell, but it seemed this was the killer blow.

Victory dance?

With the vole dead, it was never clear if or how the magpies shared the feast. I suspect there was no sharing. Magpies don't have that much altruism in their shrunken little hearts.

After the magpies had departed with their loot, the cat hung around a bit longer, no doubt hoping for another vole to show up.

Interestingly, long after the cat had departed, we noticed a lot of magpies hanging around the same general vicinity. Must be a lot of voles up there.

Just a little slice of life in north Idaho. Or in the case of the vole, a slice of death. Ain't nature grand?

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Emma, you're my hero

I hate sewing.

I mean, I really really hate sewing. I loathe, despite, detest, and abhor it from the deepest pits of my being. I don’t believe there are adequate vocabulary words in the English language to express how I truly feel about it.

Don’t get me wrong: I can sew. I just hate it.

I’ve hated sewing since I was a child. My saintly mother, who sews magnificently, could never understand why I didn’t share her delight in creating beautiful garments from virtually nothing. Despite all her patient efforts and skillful mentoring, the mere act of putting needle to thread still fills me with hateful frustration and dripping venom.

So when I came across a photo of this framed antique sampler from 1877, I burst out laughing.

Emma, whoever you are, you're my hero.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

So what did you do on 2/22/22 2:22:22??

Many years ago, I posted a quasi-comical question: So what did you do on 11/11/11 11:11:11?? That's because it was November 11, 2011, a day full of "ones."

So here we are, eleven years later, and it's a day full of "twos." It's even "2sday."

We have no particular plans for this auspicious date except to hunker down indoors because we're in the midst of a brief cold snap. Don plans to make some sourdough bread. I'll make meatballs for dinner. We'll both work on writing projects.

It's times like this we're beyond grateful for our wood cookstove.

So what did you do on 2/22/22 2:22:22??

Monday, February 21, 2022

Haunted forest?

We have a small grove of black hawthorn trees in our pasture. The other day I was walking Mr. Darcy by the grove on a morning when the sun was trying to break through fog, and snapped this photo:

I mean honestly, doesn't it look like a grove from a haunted forest in a fairy tale? When the trees are in leaf, it's actually quite lovely....

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The conclusion of a small experiment

"Here's a small milestone," I told Don a few days ago. I held up an empty cardboard tube. "I finished a roll of paper towels."

The reason this is a milestone is because we seldom use paper towels. (In fact, having an empty cardboard tube is so novel, Don wants to keep it in case it has a use.) We segued away from using as many disposable products as we could many years ago – including the ubiquitous paper towels – and never looked back.

I put the empty cardboard tube on the kitchen counter while going about my tasks. It wasn't until a few minutes later I noticed something: I had written the date in the tube of when I first opened the roll. Evidently I did so as the start of a small experiment to see how long the roll would last.

Hmmm. November 10, 2020 – that put us smack in the middle of living in our temporary rental house while searching for our forever home. In other words, this roll of paper towels saw us through two moves as well as fourteen months of projects in our new home. Not bad.

Now that it's time to open the next roll of paper towels, I might as well write the opening date inside the tube. What the heck, it will make for another interesting, small experiment.

Friday, February 18, 2022

That must hurt

We have loads of evening grosbeaks at our feeder lately. Despite their name, they're especially active in the early morning, but we get them throughout the day.

Yesterday I noticed one bird sitting funny.

I've seen that position before. The poor thing has a broken leg. That must hurt.

His wings work fine, so at least he has a food source to keep him going.

He could even compete with quail.

But it's hard to watch him struggle.

I don't know if birds can heal from a broken leg in the wild, but at least he won't starve.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

How to make frankenbread

Have you ever wanted to make a loaf of terrifying frankenbread, perhaps for Halloween or some other special occasion? It's easy-peasy.

Just combine the ingredients in the bread machine, forget to add yeast, and voilĂ : a hideous and inedible glob of baked goo. Frankenbread.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


We enjoy walking. In our last home, it was a nice solid three-mile round trip walk to the mailboxes, and I miss that. Here in our new place, even though we're farther out, there are fewer places to walk. Go figure.

The problem is exacerbated by dogs. We're kinda hemmed in by some scattered neighbors whose dogs are not yarded (if you know what I mean), and it makes for some exciting encounters on the road whenever we have Mr. Darcy with us.

So Don and I got on Google Earth and started tracing road paths from dog to dog ('scuse me, from boundary to boundary) measured from our house, to figure out how many times we'd have to cover the same ground to achieve a nice solid three mile walk.

Once that was determined, we began incorporating afternoon walks into our daily repertoire, especially now that the snow is releasing and walking no longer requires cleats on our boots. (Walking three miles in cleats would be exhausting.)

Walking allows us to observe our environment far more acutely, both the large and the small components. Here's some of the things we've seen.

Deer tracks across a north-facing slope.

A solitary deer in a field.

Further away, three others watched.

The doe moved to join her companions...

...then the whole group moved to a safer distance.

The snow is retreating from this outcrop of rocks.

A freshly dozed section of road from an industrious neighbor working to fix potholes.

A dead grass head from last summer. Soon enough we'll have multitudes of fresh green grass.

A large tuft of soft underfeathers caught on some barbed wire. There were also feathers on the ground beneath. Trying to interpret what happened, it almost seems like an owl caught some feathers on the fencing while dive-bombing a rodent. Hard to say, but these feathers have the look of an owl's downy feathers adapted for silent flight. Just a guess.

Elk hoof print.

A cheeky magpie.

Late afternoon sun through some ridgeline trees.

Sun on a mossy embankment.

The moss's new growth glistened so brightly, it was almost fluorescent.

Turkeys. Heavens, we've been seeing turkeys. Enormous flocks of them.

My scarf, which I snagged on a convenient branch when I got too warm. I'm famous for shedding clothing as I walk. Our old neighbors used to be able to monitor my progress by keeping track of what outer clothing I'd shucked off and hung on fence posts and bushes.

A neighbor's small stock pond, still frozen because it's tucked in a shadowy north-facing draw.

Pheasants. We're starting to see more of them.They're skittish birds and hard to photograph (especially while walking an upland bird dog on a leash.)

An old wasp nest on a neighbor's mailbox. Must have been exciting when it was active.

A mere fraction of a neighbor's chicken population, which she describes as "too many."

And one escapee.

Some fog wisping through the hills after a slushy day.

Yes, walking is the best possible way to observe the world around us, in my opinion.