Wednesday, 1 February 2017

10:29 – It was 39.3F (4C) when I took Colin out this morning, but with not much wind. The snow is all gone, but we have colder temperatures and precipitation in the forecast for now through the weekend, so we may have more before the weekend. Barbara is off to the gym this morning and then volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore this afternoon.

If you’ve tried to order antibiotics from aquabiotics.com recently, you noticed that their site no longer lists any products. You can still order frm them, though, but you’ll have to pay with a check or money order. Their credit-card processors, originally PayPal and more lately WePay, find out that they’re shipping “prescription drugs” and refuse to continue to process payments, even though those drugs are for ornamental fish only and therefore completely legal to ship. I paid by check when I ordered last time, and they shipped what they were supposed to ship and in a timely manner. I got email Monday from Dave Folsom at aquabiotics.net.

Wepay has terminated merchant service, so we are now reduced to checks/money order payments. I have removed all items from the website, but left the site up as a point of contact. If you need anything, please use the table below, or the attached spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will allow you to enter your discount percentage(as a decimal) and calculate your total. Discounts are 5% for orders $35.00+, 10% for orders $150.00+, and 15% for all rescue/humanitarian groups on any size order. If you take the rescue discount, please give me the rescue name as our benefactor will pick up a portion of your discount.

I apologize for what has been 13 months of chaos, and in advance for what might be 100 months in the future.

The headlines yesterday said that Walmart was declaring war on Amazon, which is more than a slight exaggeration. All Walmart has done is announce that, as of yesterday morning, they are now selling many products with free 2-day shipping with a minimum order of $35. They’re very careful to point out that it’s literally 2-day shipping, as in two days’ transit time after they actually get around to shipping the order. It’s not going to arrive two days after you order it, because Walmart takes at least a day and often two or three to get the product to the shipper.

Even so, many people expect this to have a severe impact on Amazon Prime, which charges $99/year for unlimited two-day shipping. And Amazon’s actually is two-day from order to delivery at least 50% to 75% of the time.

I’ve been a member of Amazon since their very early days, and a member of Prime since soon after they started offering it. I’ve never particularly liked Amazon, starting when they patented their so-called one-click ordering. Bezos is also a big-time progressive, who now owns WaPo. He supported Obama and Clinton, and has apparently never seen a progressive cause he doesn’t support.

But the real reason I’m considering dropping my Prime membership is that their pricing is often no longer competitive. As in 50% to more than 100% more for exactly the same product I can get elsewhere. I also don’t like their pricing games. If I log on to Amazon and check a price, and then check that same product’s price in a separate browser without logging on, I often find that the logged-in price is noticeably higher than the anonymous price. Obviously, Amazon is punishing current customers because it assumes they’re willing to pay more.

I’ve already started to shift purchases away from Amazon. If they carry something at a better price than is available elsewhere, I can still get free shipping with a $50 minimum order, which is never a problem. That means the only Prime benefit is really their streaming video, but looking back over the last year we really didn’t watch much on Prime Streaming.

So I’ll talk about it with Barbara, but unless she makes a serious objection to dropping Prime, that’s what I’m going to do.

We had a decent January. Kit revenue was up 33% from January of 2016, although still 20% or so lower than an average January. Of course, we’re now into the deadest period of the year. In an average February, we might ship only three kits per week and have total revenues of only two or three grand.

Email overnight from Jen, who wants to get started home canning, and what she wants to can is bacon. She’s concerned because the instructions for doing so are all over the map. Some sites give detailed instructions, while many others say that canning bacon is dangerous. She doesn’t want to take a chance on botulism, obviously, and asked me what I thought.

The truth is that the USDA officially recommends NOT canning bacon, simply because they’ve never done the detailed testing required to determine how to do so safely. But millions of people have been home-canning bacon for a hundred years. Before pressure canning, our ancestors preserved bacon simply by layering the raw meat in barrels, pouring hot lard on top of each layer, and storing the barrel in the kitchen or on the porch. When they wanted some bacon, they’d scrape off the top, rancid layer of lard and eat the bacon beneath it, which was perfectly safe.

The worrisome aspect is our old friend Clostridium botulinum, an anaerobic bacterium that produces deadly botulinum toxin. But it’s safe to eat foods that are contaminated with C. botulinum bacteria, a very common soil bacterium, as long as they’re cooked properly. Boiling destroys both the bacteria and the toxin, although not the spores. Eating the spores is safe for anyone except infants, which is why it’s unsafe to give honey to infants: honey is always contaminated with C. botulinum spores.

I intend to pressure can bacon in the future. I’ll do so by cooking it until it’s soft and slimy, transferring those strips to a canning jar, filling the jar with a brine solution, and pressure canning the hell out of it. For canning bear, beef, lamb, pork, veal, or venison in strips, cubes, or chunks in quart jars, the USDA recommends:

Hot pack – Precook meat until rare by roasting, stewing, or browning in a small amount of fat. Add 1 teaspoons of salt per quart to the jar, if desired. Fill jars with pieces and add boiling broth, meat drippings, water, or tomato juice, especially with wild game), leaving 1-inch headspace.

They recommend different pressures depending on the type of pressure gauge on your canner and your altitude, but the top numbers they recommend are 15 PSI for 90 minutes. I intend to use 15 PSI (or higher if my canner allows it) for 120 minutes, which should kill the shit out of anything in there.

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