Pandemic survival skills: sourdough

The pandemic has turned me into a sourdough ... baker. I have extra time on my hands, but have been confronted by empty grocery store shelves — in the yeast section, at least. So a couple weeks ago I whipped up a batch of sourdough starter, and now I no longer needed commercial yeast. The wild stuff is starter was enough.

The internet makes starting hobbies less intimidating than the dark old days when we had to rely on things like the Encyclopedia Brittanica to figure stuff out. YouTube is a great resource fo how to stuff like this, and that's what I relied on to get my sourdough game on. So far I've cranked out four loaves of bread, and there's sourdough pizza dough proofing in the fridge. And my starter on the kitchen counter keeps belching out CO2.

Here are some links to help you brush up your pandemic sourdough survival skills:

I followed this recipe from Joshua Weissman to create my starter. He's a young foodie social media influencer. The recipe works well, using unbleached AP or bread flours mixed with equal parts rye.

I used this Weissman recipe to bake my bread. It's from an episode of Basics with Babish, a YouTube foodie channel that I think is quite good. The recipe is great, but the Weissman-Babish bromance can be a little much at times. It's all in good fun, however.

Here are some other useful sourdough resources.

Sarah C. Owens is a California-based baker and author of "Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More." I haven't read her book, yet. You can find her on YouTube baking sourdough bread here.

The Wild Life offers free online sourdough courses. I haven't taken one yet, but I plan to check it out.

Patrick Ryan is an Irish baker, and O'Day was my mom's maiden name, so I'm biased. His rye sourdough recipe on YouTube is on my schedule for next week.

Mentoring the next generation of hunters

Here's an thought-provoking story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the need for hunting mentors. I've written about this in my column recently, about how millennials may be key to R3 efforts and how outdoor education courses for women are important to fishing and hunting. And these piece from the New York Times explains how this younger generation's motivation to hunt may be slightly different from the past: Wade Truong and Rachel Owen are all about moving quality protein from field to table.

Griz hunt opponents challenge Wyo quota

Groups trying to stop Wyoming's planed grizzly bear hunts this fall say the state borrowed part of Montana's quota to increase possible females killed from one to two. Officials in both states dispute this.

Under the Wyo proposal, hunters could kill up to two female grizzlies, even though the state's allocation is just 1.45. Montana's female allocation is 0.9 females. The states have agreed to round up or down the allocations, so Wyoming should only have one female tag, as would Montana if it had set a hunt.

Wyoming's hunt also provides tags for up to 10 male bears. All grizzly hunting would cease, however,  once two females tags are filled to prevent more females from being mistakenly killed.

US caribou almost gone

The last remaining caribou herd in the lower 48 has been declared effectively extinct, according to a story in the New York Times. Recent aerial surveys counted only three animals in the herd.

Woodland caribou once ranged into Montana as far south as Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot.

The small and dwindling herd that roamed into the United States used the  Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and Washington near the Canadian border part of the year.

A University of Montana wildlife biologist blamed mismanagement in British Columbia for the vanishing herd.

“The functional loss of this herd is the legacy of decades of government mismanagement across caribou range,” said Mark Hebblewhite, a wildlife biologist at the University of Montana, in the story in the New York Times.

The animals require old growth forest to survive. During the winter the animals move up slope in areas of heavy snow. The caribou's large hooves allow it to stand on, rather than plunge into deep snow. This allows them to feed on Old Man's Beard, a lichen that grows in old growth trees.

The deep snow also protects the caribou from predators, which move down slope in winter.

Plowing begins on Going-to-the-Sun

Plowing has begun on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, but don't expect Logan Pass to be passable anytime soon. The road normally opens in June, but heavy snow this season could delay that opening until later in the summer.

The Park announced that it had plowed to Two Medicine Camp Store on the Park's east side last week, where drifts measure 15- to 20-feet deep. Crews are working on Many Glacier Road on the east side of the park, and Camas Road on the west side of the park, as weather conditions allow. More snow is in the forecast.

Next week, west side crews expect to begin plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche.

Glacier, like the rest of Montana, has been hammered by snow this winter and early spring. The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station shows snow depths 125 percent of a 30-year average. According to data recorded at the Flattop SNOTEL station, this is the most significant snow year since 2011. The West Glacier Weather Station is showing approximately 127 percent of a 30-year average as of March 30, with this winter (in West Glacier) thus far being the eighth highest snowfall year since 1964.

The Road is usually open by early to mid-June, but didn't open until July 13 in 2011. That was the latest opening for the road since it's inaugural year, when it opened July 15.

Montana river basins hold snowpack well above average, and may increase as early spring storms continue to hit the state. The Flathead River Basin on Glacier's west side is at 142 percent of average as of April 5.

Montana snowpack holding steady in April

The percentages of average snowpack stored in Montana's river drainages held steady in early April at levels way above normal. Adding to the carnage, Montana is being hit by early spring storms right now, with more weather forecast next week. There are winter weather watches and advisories posted across the state for today and Friday.

If you are traveling, be careful. If you can, avoid it all together. Summer will arrive soon enough. It only seems as though it will be just a long weekend in early August.

The good news: all this snow if river storage for summer. Trout and whitewater guides will be the primary beneficiaries if cool temperatures prevail this spring. Farmers won't be too angry either.

Spring fishing season delayed?

Well, it is spring in Montana so the storm that blew through the state Sunday night and Monday morning really isn't out of the ordinary. Still, I'd hoped I'd shaken the last of this season's snow and ice off the boat tarp this weekend. I guess not.

Still, all this snow, or more importantly precipitation, bodes well for the summer fishing season. All that white stuff is simply a whitewater in storage. We'll appreciate it in August if it lasts. At least for now, the forecast is bullish for full-flowing summer rivers.

Montana bearish on griz hunting, for now

Montana will hold off on grizzly hunting, at least for now. That's a good decision, but as the bears recover, conflicts will become more frequent.  We ought to prepare for the reaction when something bad happens. Bears aren't wolves and when the victim of an attack is human rather than livestock, the blowback will be fierce.

My latest column about the future of grizzly bears and the inevitable hunting season in Montana's future.