We started 4-H as a way to be able to have chickens in our neighborhood. But it quickly became much more than that!
First to dip their feet in was actually me. Over several months, they offered Backyard Basics classes for adults. I attended a canning class, a yogurt and mozzarella-making class, and a sausage-making class. Got Ben to help me with my first attempt at making the sausage at home….
Then we chose to tackle the broilers project. For the last three years, we have stood in line at the fairgrounds, just before Thanksgiving. Visiting with friends and strangers, hearing the peeps of the new baby chicks, and giddy at the anticipation of cute yellow fluff balls. Some photos of our pick-up days….
Then we’d have the rest of November, all of December, and a week of January to care for these babies. Lots of washing, replenishing water, feeding, turning the pine shavings, replacing shavings, checking temperatures, checking weights. And loving on baby chicks.
Then would be the big show day. We’d get up early, rush to get birds ready and to the fairgrounds. And then lots of sitting around. Ben and his daddy would stand proudly in the ring, holding three of our birds for judging. And we’d do terribly. Ha! Show ring pics from 2014 and 2015…
But having some of the smallest or least uniform chickens in the ring didn’t matter. It was hard work. We were proud. And there was always the auction. And boy did Ben do well in the auction. He knew exactly how to smile, turn on the charm, and get some bids! Thanks to the auctions in 2014 and 2015, he got some great deposits to his savings account….
The one sour spot in all of this is that we missed the show and auction this year due to my negligence. I had just gotten home from a fun New Year’s Eve trip to Houston when I noticed friends’ pictures at the show. Came to find out, I had the show on the wrong date on my calendar! And since we missed the show, he could not participate in the auction. Yes, we were still able to process our broilers (so there is lots of amazing meat in our freezer). But Ben missed out on the chance to be in the show ring, feel that sense of pride, show off in the ring, and add that $1000 to his savings. He was fabulous… and seemed to forgive me almost immediately. Me, I’m still working on that.
The next part of our 4-H journey was joining the layers club. We had meetings every month, had fun field trips, became a part of a family, and showed our laying hens for judging.
This is our amazing club leader and her son (our president)….
We participated in the Kendall County Fair parade….
Ben showed Maraschino and Ms. O at the chicken show. Evan showed Brownie and Fudge. And Fudge won GRAND CHAMPION!!! Evan walked away with Happy Hen treats, a cash prize, a huge belt buckle, and an even bigger smile!!!
Our layers club even had our own Chicken Fun Day. Showmanship, chicken judging, egg judging, costume contest, egg-throwing contest, egg races, and cutest chick contest. So fun! And we were very excited to win a blue ribbon with our beautiful eggs!!!
And another big part of this group has been our photography club and venturing into baking. I gave up my old point-and-shoot so the boys could start taking great pictures. Evan baked for the Wounded Warrior Project. And we had lots of entries in fairs!
At the Kendall County Fair, Ben entered six photographs… and came home with a ribbon for each one! Evan entered four photographs… and not only came home with a ribbon for each… but he also won BEST OF SHOW for his funny chicken photo! Me, I entered three baked goods. I came home with a third place, a first place, and a BEST OF SHOW!
Then the boys tried their hand at something outside of Kendall County. Fairly last-minute, they decided to enter the San Antonio Stockshow and Rodeo competitions. Evan baked his favorite zucchini bread and our chocolate zucchini cookies. And did well. And Ben submitted his six favorite images. Each won a ribbon… and two won BEST OF SHOW!!!! (and the competition was fierce!) I was SO proud!
In the end, I love what 4-H is doing for the boys! They’re developing new skills, perfecting old ones. They’re learning more about responsibility. Respect and self-respect are growing. We’re working on staying organized, meeting deadlines, following rules. We’re making new friends and looking at new possibilities. They’re earning money for college. They’re adding to their experiences. We’re having fun!
If you’re at all interested in joining 4-H, don’t hesitate to call or visit your county’s extension office!!!