Depressing

Posted April 27, 2020 By Ruth

I’ve been resisting writing another depressing post. We all need the cheering up, not the pulling down. But somethings have to be said. I’m not including links. More than half of my sources are from conversations with farmers, or from their FB posts, or the like. There is a remarkable, and scary, lack of mainstream media notice of this. Edit-after posting this I found a few links. They’ve been added at the bottom.

When this first started, when I first posted my first response to the shutdown and buyout out of the stock at the stores, I was outright hopeful that agriculture would come out strong. And I firmly believe that if the shutdown and fear mongering had really only lasted that two weeks that everyone insisted was needed that I’d have been right.

The problem is that we’re well into month 2, and about to head for month 3, of this mess.

Yes, RIGHT NOW, there’s probably enough perishable foods in the various warehouses to fill the nations grocery stores no problem. What we have RIGHT NOW is a distribution problem. We either can’t get the foods to the stores quickly enough, or the foods are in a form meant for restaurants rather than retail and so it can’t be immedietly sold without costly repackaging.

The problem is that the distribution problem has backlogged into agriculture already.

A HUGE portion of this country’s agriculture is based on supplying restaurants in various forms. This sort of food takes a completely different form than what the average person buys at the grocery store. And while I’m perfectly happy breaking down a 50lb case of beef for freezer storage, a HUGE portion of this country not only has no clue how to do that, they don’t have the freezer space to even contemplate it. And thats without getting into things like, onion rings, which people eat a LOT of when out at restaurants, and not nearly as much at home. A huge number of farms out there are dedicated to supplying the restaurant/food service supply chain. The meat and produce goes directly into processing plants meant to process it for food service. And those processing plants aren’t immediately able to switch over to retail packaging. It would cost a fortune to do. And that assumes that they have the people to make the switch and run the lines. Which they don’t.

Even the side of agriculture that is intended for retail sale is backlogged to the point of shutdown. Processors are being scheduled months out. In a time when the average American is trying to stuff their tiny little fridge freezer full of enough food to carry their family of 4 through weeks of quarantine the price per pound, that is paid to the farmers, of livestock and produce is crashing like a rock. Prices have been way low on that end of things for years now, but they just crashed, hard. Add in that the processors, big and small, are running short handed, or even shut down, because of fears of this virus. And even if the processors weren’t running short handed, this side of the agriculture equation just isn’t BIG enough to make up for the food that people are now buying at the grocery stores instead of at restaurants.

Look, remember how when this all started there were horrifying images of dairy farmers dumping milk? Well, those same dairy farmers are now looking at having to sell off their dairy herd, and not to another dairy farm, in order to just put food on their own tables. And once those 100’s and 1000’s of dairy cows have been slaughtered they can’t come back and start producing milk again. It’ll be years to rebuild those herds.

A friend of mine raises sheep for meat and for lamb sales. She normally has NO problem selling off her spring crop of lambs. But not this year. This year NO one is buying. Well, thats not entirely true. She’s had random city people pulling into her driveway trying to buy her livestock. People who have no clue what to do with a lamb, much less a cow. But even if she was willing to sell to those people they aren’t willing to pay a decent price for the animal either. She’s started making a point of counting her chickens every night as she closes them up in their coops. And she’s had medications for the animals disappear out of her barn.

Add in that a huge portion of the US consumers are now out of work. They no longer have the money to buy whatever catches their attention. And the longer this shutdown goes on the larger the percentage of them will that won’t have a job to go back to.

If this trend doesn’t get switched around by god fast there are going to be some by god major food shortages. We might not feel them till fall, but I have a feeling it won’t take that long.

Do we really want to find out what malnutrition does to the normal flu death rates? I’d really rather not. Really really not. Or malnutrition on top of the fall surge of Covid19, cause yes, there’ll be a fall surge. I really don’t want to go there.

Really really really don’t want to go there.

Edited to add links:

UN warns of global food shortage

Corona Virus affecting Georgia Farmers

NYT Corona Virus Destroying Food

Minnesota Chickens Killed

Tyson Foods Warns Food Chain is Breaking

Food Service Shut Down affects Potato farmers

Why Farmers Are Dumping Food

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Memes 3

Posted April 21, 2020 By Ruth

Before the last post goes buggy, I’m splitting it off again.

updated 4/26/20

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Garden 2020

Posted April 12, 2020 By Ruth

I haven’t managed to post about it, but I am planning on a garden for this year. Infact I managed to score a pallet of organic garden soil to top off the garden with at 75% off a couple months ago. We didn’t manage to get the wooden greenhouse set up last year, so I purchased another plastic cover for the plastic one.

I was very amused to discover that a large portion of the carrots I failed to pick last year have survived the winter and are now sprouting. It’ll be interesting to see if I can collect seeds. Even some of the parsnips are coming back up! Unfortunately the ants have invaded this bed again. Fortunately 2nd year carrots aren’t considered edible, they’re grown for seeds, so I can put down an insect killer and not worry about it to much.

Pepper seedlings out in the greenhouse. I’ve a few still left in the growtent in the house, along with all the tomatoes that I just planted.

We’d been originally thinking we’d go with a smaller than usual garden, for several reasons, but now I’m rethinking that. I’ve started seeds for our normal amount of tomatoes, we’ll see where things go from there. I do have 3 or 4 tire planters that need to be sprayed with weed killer and insect repellent and then covered with black plastic for a few months to kill everything that’s in them, but I think I can work around them well enough.

We’ll make it work!

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More Memes

Posted April 9, 2020 By Ruth

So, I added so many to the first post that when I went to edit it to add more it got glitchy. So here’s a new post.

Added more 4/12/20

added more 4/13/20

added more 4/16/20

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Hand Sanitizer Holster

Posted April 7, 2020 By Ruth

I think it was Tam who posted about hers recently. I’m sure she’s done so previously, but somehow I’d missed it. Not sure how, this little carrier would be massively usefull to public facing employees everywhere. Current virus scare or not.

Henry Holsters OCD holster. The only thing I don’t like is that its meant to dangle.

So I fixed that.

Course, by doing that I narrowed the space for the hand sanitizer bottle, but since I couldn’t find a Purell 1oz bottle right now to save my life, thats ok. Instead, I found a 1oz oval toiletries bottle. Note: I actually ordered 3 different bottles from these folks in my attempt to find one that fit, the 1oz bottle from the link fits, but the one that fits best isn’t actually on their website, email them and ask about the 1oz PET oval bottle with the 15/415 opening, thats the one pictured and thats the one that fits best. Tight enough to stay in, not so tight that it doesn’t slide in and out easily.

I’ve gotten multiple compliments about it at work, from my coworkers. Henry Holsters might be getting an influx of orders from Home Depot employees in the near future!

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in a less depressing direction

Posted April 2, 2020 By Ruth

In case it wasn’t obvious, I work an “essential service”, and since I’m reasonably young and healthy I’ve not taken advantage of the extra sick time off offered by my employer and have continued to work, and am, infact, working extra hours to help cover shifts and departments that are short people.

I cope by finding every meme that makes fun of this situation and the general public and sharing them on my FB page.

I thought I’d share them all here for you all to laugh at too if you want.  Below the fold so the folks with slower internets can decide if they want to see or not.  

Note, I did NOT create any of these, they were found online from various sources.

Also, I will add to this periodically, enjoy!

added more 4/4/20

added more 4/7/20

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It doesn’t work that way

Posted March 29, 2020 By Ruth

One trend I keep seeing.  People seem to believe that if we can all just properly “social distance” for a few weeks this virus will stop being an issue.

Guys, it doesn’t work that way.

IF we could do a hard lock down on everyone in the country.  No emergency services, no stores, no gas stations.  EVERYONE locked up at home.  For 3 or 4 weeks.  AND test everyone as they came out of lockdown to catch the folks who are sick with no symptoms, maybe it would work that way.

But we can’t do that.  Life doesn’t work that way.  Not to mention that here in the US of A humans are so used to having outside stimulation that they’re going out to the few stores still open just to “browse”.  Seriously.  They’re going to Home Depot and Lowes to browse paint colors.  Design their new kitchen.  Meander around and annoy the fuck out of the employees.

Best we can hope for is that this will slow down the infection rate enough that the hospitals will catch up.  As it is, once the various governments release their “stay at home” orders, I can promise that all those silent carriers of this virus are going to continue to spread it, and the infection rate is going to bloom again.

And once THAT happens the panic might just become a nightmare.  You only THINK it’s bad now.  Right now a fairly large percentage of the population are holding back their panic with the knowledge that this social distancing order is going to save us all.  The panic when they realize it doesn’t work that way is going to be seriously ugly.  Don’t let those prepper stockpiles dwindle to far, cause this summer has the potential to be really really bad.

Along those lines:

The big grocery store next to my work is kinda back to normal stocked on meats.  Kinda, it looks good, till you realize they still only have half the normal selection.  And purchase limits.  Strict purchase limits on milk and eggs mean that they’re well stocked.  There was NO CHEESE except for the weird flavors no one eats.  Dry cereal was well stocked Friday, and wonder of wonders, no purchase limits.  There were purchase limits on pasta, granola bars.  Paper products was still glaringly empty.  Frozen pre-prepared goods had no purchase limits, but the shelves were also still mostly empty.  Breads was better than it had been, but not really normal either, plus purchase limits.  Flour was marginally stocked, as in, maybe 10 bags of AP flour and that was it.

The smaller grocery on my way home is better, meats are damn close to normal.  No purchase limit signs.  Cheeses were pretty well stocked.  No paper goods to speak of, but they never carried much that way.  Freezer goods were sparse.

The Pet Supplies Plus was actually surprisingly well stocked considering that the grocery stores are basically sold out of pet supplies.  However Chewy.com is running a solid week + behind on shipping orders.  Thankfully I only rely on them for odds and ends and not foods.

My work has gotten in one (1) pallet of paper towels (it sold out in 24hrs), and one (1) pallet of toilet paper (it lasted 8hrs), both had purchase limits on them.  There is still no hand soap to be had, we’ve gotten a few cases of sanitizing wipes and they’ve sold out in hours.  No Lysol or other sanitizing sprays to speak of.  The only bleach left is a few cases of highly concentrated “outdoor bleach”.  Last I checked we were almost out of dish soap.  Cleaning supplies in general were basically gutted.

So far none of my co-workers has tested positive.  However my husband started working from home just in time, he got notified Saturday morning that a coworker in the same call center he normally works in just tested positive.  Husband’d been working from home for 12 days.  Quite a few of my coworkers are taking advantage of Home Depots offer of two weeks of PTO for anyone who needs it, and so we’re short handed, even with the shortened store hours.  Not that any of us blame those folks.  A large portion of our employees are “mature”, ie: near or over retirement age.

Deep breath folks.  And keep plugging away.

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Home Depot Reducing hours stores are open

Posted March 19, 2020 By Ruth

Press Release here.

The short form, in order to reduce staffing requirements, and hopefully spread of the virus, all Home Depots nationwide are reducing available shopping hours to 6am to 6pm, effective today.  Employees who normally work later shifts are still being scheduled for those shifts, but will now be spending extra time stocking shelves and cleaning instead of helping customers.

This is actually pretty big news.  Home Depot considers itself to be an emergency service and does its damndest to be open under all conditions.

In other news, I’m home today with the sniffles.  I don’t actually feel sick, I just have a runny nose and mild sinus pressure.  I’m fairly confident that its my sinuses, again.  But if I go into work with the sniffles we’d have half the city in a panic.  So I called out.  I don’t think I’ve EVER had a manager give me less hassle about calling out sick.  No one wants to trigger more panic right now!

prediction

Posted March 16, 2020 By Ruth

Local grocery stores have massively empty shelves.  People are buying anything that’ll store, and alot of things that won’t, in mass quantities.  It took me 3 stops to find a gallon of milk Friday night.  Every 24hr grocery store has started closing for at least a few hours overnight so that they can clean and “restock”, except that they have nothing to stock the shelves with.

Saturday at work I had multiple customers who run local businesses in the store trying to find cleaning supplies because their usual wholesaler has informed them that their usual order has been backordered.  Guys, a local ambulance company was desperately looking for general purpose sanitizers so they could clean the ambulances between patients.  I sold him the case of Microban spray I’d just found in the no-home overheads, he said he felt bad buying the last case in the store, I informed him that if I had to call an ambulance I wanted the damn thing properly cleaned and walked him to the register.

EVERY company runs on Just In Time ordering these days.  Very few companies, including wholesalers, stock large quantities of product above and beyond what they expect to sell within a specific time frame.  The only reason Home Depot stocks as much as they do is because we ARE the supplier for a fair number of commercial enterprises.

Let me give you an example of how crazy the current buying trend is: Every year HD does a big cleaning promo in February & March.  Every year our store gets a 4’x4’x4′ pallet of oversized packages of Clorox wipes.  And EVERY year we sell barely half of that pallet, and the remainder goes clearance and us store employees stock up when they hit 75% off.  That is NOT an exaggeration.  This year?  We sold the last of that pallet of wipes two weeks ago, they never even came close to hitting the 25% off mark.  When I left work at 6pm Saturday night we were on track to sell out of bleach by the end of Sunday.  Even though we’d gotten an emergency shipment.

In order to stop the panic buying they need to refill every single shelf and KEEP THEM FULL for at least two weekends in a row.  Everyone who tried to just buy their normal groceries this past weekend and couldn’t is now going to be doing their damndest to buy an extra one as soon as possible.  The site of empty shelves, even if it’s not for the product they were going to buy, is going to continue to trigger the buying of extra.

If this problem was confined to a state.  If this problem was confined to a region, or even a corner of the country, they’d be able to have the shelves restocked, and full enough to stop the panic buying, in the space of a week.  No problem.

But this is country wide.  EVERY SINGLE  reasonably sized store (and alot of the smaller ones) in the lower 48 (and according to reports, likely Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Europe) has sold out of essentially the exact same things.  It’s so bad that even direct from the supplier ordering of supplies like bread flour isn’t an option, both King Arthur Flour’s and Bob’s Red Mill’s websites list their all purpose flours as out of stock until further notice.

The JIT ordering system is fucked.  I don’t think it’s physically possible for warehouses, suppliers, and even manufacturers to push enough product out to the stores fast enough to stem the panic buying in short order.

I hope to god that I’m wrong, oh god do I hope I’m wrong.  Cause if I’m right this mass hysteria is going to do more damage to this country than the damned virus.

But I don’t think I am.

On the other hand, manufacturing of all of these products just got a hell of a boost (and most of these paper products are USA made too).  The trucking companies that move all these products are all looking forward to nice paychecks.  And the timing for agriculture is damn near perfect, everyone I know is doing the math to figure out how many extra fields they can plant and how many extra meat animals they can beef up for slaughter.  If this had gone down mid-late summer agriculture would be hard put to catch up.  So it’s not all bad.  But we have to hold it together to get to that point.

Stock up?

Posted March 11, 2020 By Ruth

News reports say everyone is stocking up on toilet paper and cleaning supplies.  But it seems to be VERY regional.  Not quite sure what to make of it.  Wegmans (a locally owned grocery chain) is specifically mentioned in local news as being sold out of TP and various cleaning products at two stores not to far from where I work.  But the Wegmans right next door to my work still had reasonably full shelves of TP yesterday (I didn’t think to look at cleaning).  And my work also sells TP, and we still have full shelves as well.

On the other hand, I hope you weren’t planning on buying Clorox/Lysol cleaning/sanitizing wipes this week:

That gaping hole on the top shelve is the HDX generic clorox wipes, and the Clorox branded wipes. The hole in the middle is the Lysol branded wipes. Lysol cleaning sprays aren’t in much better shape, what you see there is whats left in the entire store as of 4pm yesterday, and the only reason we have any left at all is cause they always send us an extra wingstack or two for the cleaning event this time of year.

That’s the hand sanitizer and hand soap shelf space. What you see is what we had left as of 4pm yesterday.

On the other hand, maybe this means that the generally unwashed masses are actually washing? Wouldn’t that be just awesome. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe this’ll result in a drop in the number of flu cases…..

Edited to add: as of the afternoon of March 11th, the toilet paper rush had finally hit my work. Interestingly I noticed that people were buying paper towels almost as much as they bought TP. But apparently the media hasn’t noticed that part yet.