It was mid-September when I wrote this column.  The air was thick with smoke and haze from the wildfires burning in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and along the mountains of Oregon, California, and Washington.  The amount of smoke was unreal and made your throat burn at times, and it was this way for months.

The drought has been a reality here, and for folks all across the western plains with over a million acres of grasslands, forests and fields burned in the last few weeks.  I also saw a report that 47,000 wildfires have burned over 8 million acres since the first of the year.

With crop prices, the lowest in history for many commodities and now with the fires, I think people may be in for a bit of a shock at the grocery store.

Perhaps then, they will realize the price farmers and ranchers gets for their product has very little to do with the price they pay at the market.

We were in a store in the city recently that was selling birdseed in bulk at just 59 cents per pound, or $59 per hundredweight. That works out to $24.50 for a bushel of bird seed. I hope consumers realize the farmer who raised that seed only gets around $3.50 per bushel.

Recently, the price of a bushel of wheat at our local elevator was  $4.08. I wonder how many consumers understand this price paid to the farmer doesn’t even take into account the cost of delivering the grain to the elevator, let along the cost of purchasing and maintaining the truck. I think many would be very surprised to know how much the farm machinery to harvest the grain costs, as well as what they pay the workers needed to plant and harvest the crop. If I remember correctly, a bushel of wheat will make 60 loaves of bread.

How many consumers do you think are aware of these facts and figures?

Kids and Clothes Shopping

Clothes and shoes get more expensive every year. Recently, I observed a young boy of around 12-years-old attempting to convince his mom he “just had to have” a $200 pair of shoes for school. (Back in my day, we called them sneakers or tennis shoes, and I don’t think I’ve ever paid over $15 a pair). They had quite an argument by the time they left that part of the store because his mother told him he had just $200 to spend on all of his school clothes, including a new coat because the one he wore last year was too small. And he also needed jeans and shirts as well. She told him he had to find a pair of cheaper shoes or go without any other new items for the entire school year.

He sat there for a while and then finally chose a much more inexpensive pair because of the other things he had to buy. He was not a happy camper, and his mother also told him that from now on, he was going to have to do extra chores to earn and save the money to buy anything other than basic school clothes.

When my children were in school, we hit yard sales all summer long and even made a trip to the city on a Saturday so they could attend 15 or so yard sales in one day, and they could buy (new to them) clothing items – some still had the tags on them. We told them the amount of money they could spend, and I don’t think it was ever over $50 for all they wore – coat, boots, jeans, shirts, you name it.

As an aside: I was told the other day that some of these ‘new-fangled’ jeans are costing over $400 a pair. Then I got a letter from a subscriber that still has me laughing.

She writes:

”Here’s an interesting (true) story about a relative of mine. Her grandson had bought a new pair of “in-style” jeans. You know, the ones that are faded with holes in the knees and everywhere else. Anyway, one day he laid them on a chair at his grandma’s house.  She noticed the ripped up pants and decided to do some patching. She found her patching materials and pinned them on the jeans ready to sew them on at a later time. When her grandson came home and noticed his new jeans with patches pinned on them, he shouted, “Grandma, what are you doing with my new pants? I just bought them!”

(I wonder what he would have done if the patches had been stitched down!)

Welding Idea

If you are trying to weld a couple of pieces of metal that have to match up perfectly in a hard-to-reach place, try using magnets to hold them in place. It works quite well. My daughter came up with this idea one day when she was helping me fix some machinery.

(tip submitted by DE, ID

Drill Cleanout Help

When fall planting time is over, and the grain drills need to be cleaned before they are put away for the winter, we found that using a vacuum cleaner with a bag works wonders.

We put a clean bag on our vacuum and clean out every grain spout. We have to stop several times and empty the bag into a bin, but everything gets nice and clean, and we don’t have to take everything apart.

We save the seed we vacuum out for another time because doing it this way doesn’t draw moisture over winter and sprout, or get wet and spoil in the drill.

(tip submitted by FW, MN)

No ‘Buggy’ Cupboards

Now is the time of year when we stock up and stash away extra food for the winter. I like to be able to go to my cupboards and get what I need without making extra trips to the store, so I will buy a couple of extra packages of noodles, rice, beans and some pasta when they are on sale.   

I have found in the past that I ended up with some little black bug that gets into the grain products and spoils them. I don’t know what kind of bugs they are, but I assume they are eggs that hatch in the food or maybe in the cardboard box the food is stored in.

A neighbor told me to get some spearmint gum, unwrap it and lay it on the shelves. It usually only takes one piece per shelf. I guess the bugs don’t like it, or maybe it kills them. I don’t know, but I haven’t had a bug in my cupboards since I started ‘gumming them up’!

(tip submitted by GS, CA)

Canning Jar Cleaner

Get canning jars clean that stored meat by adding a spoonful of bleach in the jar and fill it with warm water. Let it soak for about 45 minutes, then dump out the bleach water and scrub in hot soapy water – all clean!

(tip submitted by GS, CA)