It's been a long road, the last two years, and it ain't over yet!
The world is a different place today than it was two years ago, isn’t it? Two years ago, we all held our breath as this mysterious thing, a virus, was taking hold and spreading across the world, like bad gossip. It was hard to believe that a virus would impact us for more than a month, much less two years. Hah!
As an entrepreneur (and a fairly new one at that!) I had panic grip my heart as I feared I would lose everything and my commitments to my employees would be like a feather in the wind. Instead it became a year where the word “PIVOT” would ring in the back of my head and the constant changes to keep up with current knowledge made me feel like I was stuck in the world’s worst pinball game.
The second year of it wasn’t much better for the hamster wheel run. We did have some extra fun, too, of a move of home and business. This was great because then we could design the space to be accommodating to the current state of the world, which would safeguard it against future pandemics, knock on wood!
And now here we are, March 2022. The province is opening up and releasing us from restrictions. I have my own anxiety around masking, especially with a vulnerable family member. We will continue to mask for a while at The Birdhouse. It’s such a simple thing to do for ourselves and others.
We are also witnessing through our televisions and social media, the horrible destruction of a beautiful country and its people, all for a megalomaniac’s myopic, selfish, narcissistic vision- Putin and his unnecessary war against the Ukraine. Collective world anxiety has risen and rightly so. Sighing here, is near impossible and it seems stuck in the top of my chest as I wait and watch. (Turn off the news, Bobbi, put down your phone.) But for what they’re suffering, watching feels a small price to pay to perhaps, universally alleviate some suffering through empathy right? Right?
We have been long sheltered in our safety and democratic, Canadian ways. Geographically, we’ve forever been safe from most harm that could be inflicted from outside influences. It’s forgivable I think, to feel that it’s almost bizarre that the outside world really has more impact than we are comfortable to admit from our couches.
As a retailer, I’ve come to understand just how much recovered pigs from a swine flu epidemic in China impacted the price of bird seed. They needed way more soy than originally thought, because dammit, the pigs didn’t die, and now they need to be fed. So farmers planted more soy instead of planting black oil sunflower, or safflower. This put more pressure on the rest of the market to supply what was needed. Up went the price of oil seed.
Drought out west in the US and Canada, damaged our own black oil seed crops, and other oil seed crops. This drove the prices higher again. Bird feeding through the pandemic increased in leaps and bounds. Demand was through the roof. We nearly ran out of seed! We ate more sweets and baked more during Covid, increasing demand for sunflower seed in confectionary manufacturing too. I’m laughing now still in utter disbelief at what impacted us here in small town Ontario.
We actually almost ran out of nyjer here in July/August of 2021. India and Africa had closed their borders and ports because of Covid. Since we don’t grow nyjer here, it got a little dicey until they finally managed to open up and get it to North America. That drove prices up too. We were meting it out in 6lb bags max per customer to get everyone through.
You’d think things would be looking up now, because pandemic mandates are releasing. But no. The Russian/Ukraine influence into our lives is here. We’ve seen it with the gas prices. And we are seeing prices going up everywhere.
The Ukraine is the world’s #1 exporter of sunflower seed. The farmers are delaying planting, of course, because of war. And rightly so! Frankly, I like them using their tractors to drag off tanks when the Russians aren’t looking. This brings me joy! They aren’t going to be able to export anything as normal for some time to come, which brings me to my next point.
The price of seed is going up because of the Ukraine crisis. From the start of covid to now, the price of birdseed has doubled in most cases. And now its going up again, by about 30% for black oil. All of our seed prices will be impacted going into April.
Several times through the last 2 years I’ve had a few customers, who have scoffed at the price increases, calling “conspiracy”, and telling me that it’s just price gouging and all for show. Let me assure you right now, that it is entirely real and I don’t take price changes lightly. I’m trying really hard to tell myself that it’s part of our price to pay for supporting the Ukraine in whatever manner we can. And I’m not sure that that’s remotely enough.
It’s going to get tougher all for small businesses as this European crisis affects the world. China is already experiencing more lockdowns from the next variant and if it reaches their major shipping ports, it’s going to further impact the world and us in ways I just can’t wrap my head around yet.
And if that wasn’t enough to deal with this last few weeks, there is this as well. The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, HPAI.
I have another four letter word for this, and I’ve exclaimed it more than once this last week with this news. Our migrating birds that are headed north are carrying with them (or some are) HPAI. The flu they are carrying is highly contagious for domestic poultry. It is unknown how this flu will impact wild bird populations.
Great. A flu pandemic for birds, on top of Covid pandemic, on top of war, on top of price increases…
Insert 4 letter word here.
The authorities WERE asking those in the Atlantic and Mississippi (that’s us here) pipes of migration to refrain from feeding the birds starting in April. Many will, and a lot won’t.
Update inserted here Mar 29 2022 - The authorities are now saying that this is primarily an Atlantic corridor issue and it is safe to continue to feed the birds here in Ontario (Mississippi corridor). I will update this post again if this changes. Please make sure to read part two of this post as it contains a lot of helpful info on cleaning feeders, and other tips.
The link to part 2 is HERE . It will have tips on responsible bird feeding through this time.
The one thing that will be absolutely crucial going into April for those that do continue to feed is to clean and sanitize your feeders. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you cannot commit to a cleaning schedule, please consider stopping feeding for a time. We have to consider the health and conservation of our songbirds that are already under stress.
At least with consistently cleaned feeders we can work at stopping the spread. You can’t clean natural food sources.