"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fair-ly Stressed Out

This has been one of those fair years that has taught us lesson upon lesson and I know that my kids are tired of hearing my preaching to and from the fair grounds.

The day after judging was a hot one, one of the hottest we've had this year.  Our meat poultry were placed in cages against the west facing wall of a metal barn and that thing heated up like an oven.  Those birds went into heat stroke accompanied by the stress of what we put them through, and nothing we could do would pull them out.

Folks walked by our cages smiling and taking pictures of our birds sitting on bags of ice but we were far from smiling as we force fed electrolytes down birds with eyedroppers.  It never got any better and by nightfall, death began and we started loosing birds.

And then we were surrounded by concerned faces, the investigative fair board members, the cry for autopsy, and poultry pandemonium set in as if we'd just walked in the school doors with lice or pink eye. 

Heat and general exhaustion was the final verdict but none the less, a very stressful coupla days.

We returned home to find the remaining birds confined in our own metal shed to be suffering as well.  Dividing our time between both locations trying to recover, turned into an amazing race against time.

We were able to maintain our fourth place win and still make the sale but we sure did learn some valuable lessons along the way.

1)  Crisis (even when it's chickens) shows you who your friends truly are.  There are those who jump in and help and those who stand back in fear of getting their hands dirty.  Life is full of dirty experiences and when it's said and done, don't I just appreciate those who jump in with "what can I do to help".  I need to be more of that person.

2)   Everyone needs an advocate.  Someone who says, "This is a result of these conditions."  When there is someone standing beside with that kind of encouragement in any situation, it boosts the spirit and lightens the load.  The nay sayer's of the world, those who say, "Well ... what did you do wrong?" ... nobody needs them.  I hope I'm always an advocate.

3)  Judgements and compassion.  Boy, don't we all say stupid things sometimes and walk away thinking to ourselves, "That sure came out wrong."  Give the benefit of the doubt.  Don't read too much into what people say.  And always remember that some one's troubles today might be your troubles tomorrow.  Everyone has a private story.  No one may know what it is, so compassion for the unseen can go a long, long way.

4)  Go to school and get a good education so you don't have to rely on agricultural farming for your livelihood.  It has a lot of ups and downs and the ability to make or break you in an instant.  If you love it ... do it.  If you adore it as a hobby ... do it.  The hard work is invaluable but kids .... get your education.

Above all else, celebrate the fun.  Celia made me laugh with her comment that starting school with her friends this week, will be a welcome relief from the stress she's endured through the fair.  Poultry death ... not fun.  On the bright side, there were a whole lot of accomplishments to smile about and moments to celebrate just being a kid.  Here's to our yo-yo year at the fair.

Cannot count how many times I would walk through a barn along my way only to cross paths with these two tearing by on this contraption.

Our names are immortalized on billboards all over the fair grounds.  That does feel pretty good.

That girl can work a sale.  She brought in $600.00 for those three birds despite our fourth placement and struggles.  Enough hard work to make a girl collapse on a barn floor in exhaustion with friends.

Eliza and Butter.  
Dad got worked hard for the purchase of a goat again this year.  Baby steps.  He did ask the buyer how much ... which is more interest than ever before.

You know what I was thinking would be really good with some goat milk right now??  An Oreo cookie deep fried in a vat of hot oil.  Oh wait, look .... and there they are!!!

We faced some judging frustrations on our domestic projects this year.  Celia placed 3rd on her beautifully, leather crafted belt. I'm a little biased but when I see an untouched piece of leather turn into such an incredible design, I'm always impressed. 

Janie worked like a perfectionist on her wallet.  Really.  Her perfectionism nearly drove me crazy.  6th place.  It was a hard pill to swallow as the judge gave her perfect marks but could only award her so far for a missing stroke requirement due to a change in the instruction manuals which our club was not issued this year.  Man, was I proud of that girl and her composure.

Shooting sports presents a project poster along with the shooting practice scores and those are graded on content and neatness. Sometimes, it's hard not to feel like the neatness is judged on how well a parent can do the project for their child.  I'll tell you what ... he did this project all by himself this year.   Not placing at all doesn't mean a thing. He can do it and that's the greatest reward of all.  

Annie had the best project experience by default.  Her project was disqualified as a 4-H project due to a clerical error in the office. As a result, she had to show her leather crafting in the Event Center Open Class.  No record book requirements and no judge interview sure suited her more reserved personality.  And she won first place, AND she took home $3.00 in cash prize money. 
Can't beat that.

Windex found a new home where he can go crow to his heart's content and Lacey took Reserve Grand Champion.

But the grandest excitement of all was Annie's placement as Reserve Grand Champion in Junior Showmanship.  My other, over confident children, played second fiddle to our middle child and she couldn't have needed this more.  There are huge lessons to learn about celebrating the accomplishments of others most especially when she's your unassuming sister who you did not expect to be beaten by in a competition.

As reward, she and all other grand champions competed in a "round robin" of showmanship demonstrating the handling of all animals being shown at fair.  So hard!  I know she was deathly nervous but she pulled it off with grace and poise. And ... would really like to own a llama now. 
No chance.

We'll take the good with the not so much.  Will we do it again?  You bet.  No better place to learn life's greatest of lessons.


  1. So sorry to hear about your chickens. That had to be so hard for all of you. I'm glad it looks like you had plenty of bright spots throughout the Fair though.

    Life lessons...why do we need so many life lessons???

  2. Oh goodness, Marlowe--sounds like an exhausting week! Sounds like you all need another week at the beach to recover! ;)

  3. I am glad you had some ups to go with your downs! I bet these will bel ife lessons that none of you will forget....even if you exclude your lectures to and from the fair grounds!