Monday, July 30, 2012

Our first show season

The Stearns County Fair was last week and now that it's over, so is our family's first ever show season.

The season started with the selection of calves.

With a little guidance from us, Dan picked a March Holstein calf named Bonita for his show calf.

Monika decided she wanted to take three calves to the fair — Star (aka Rockstar), Sandy, and Cookie.

Dan and I took Bonita out for a walk one nice April afternoon. Dan didn't let go of the halter when Bonita went from stubborn to wild, but he ended up with grass stains in his hair.

After that, I changed our strategy. We tied Bonita up in the calf pen so she could get used to the halter while Dan brushed her. Dan even managed to trap her in the feeder stall one time all by himself so he could brush her there. We did that for quite awhile before we took her outside again.

Monika was mostly content to socialize her calves by simply hanging out with them. She's hanging out with Star, an April Jersey calf, in the photo above.

Our first ever show was the Central Minnesota Youth Dairy Days show on June 15. Our goal was for this show to be a learning experience and an opportunity for Dan and Monika to see what showing is all about.

Dan and Bonita got third place in their class.

Monika took Sandy, a May Jersey calf, to the Dairy Days show and they got third place in their class, as well.

The show was a bit long for both kids' attention spans, but after watching senior showmanship, Dan told me he was going to lead Bonita every day so that she would walk nice.

We didn't lead Bonita every day, but she led very well at the Stearns County Fair, especially considering that she comes from a line of remarkably high-strung cattle.

Dan practiced saying Bonita's name, birthday and sire so that he could tell the judge when he asked.

Monika and Star did very well, too, but we didn't get any good pictures in the show ring.

Bonita was the first place spring Holstein calf in the Open Show at the Stearns County Fair. Star was the first place spring Jersey calf. I'm not sure if Dan and Monika understand how special that is, but we (Mom and Dad) are pretty darn proud.

We debated taking Bonita and Star back out for the Junior Champion line-up, because Glen said baby calves never get picked for higher honors. I decided we should take them back out because it would show good sportsmanship. Plus, who knows when we'll have a first or second place calf again.

As Glen predicted, older Holstein heifers were selected for junior champion honors, but then, the unthinkable happened.

In the Jersey Junior Champion line-up, the judge pulled Star and two older heifers out for top honors. I could hardly believe it and figured Star didn't have a chance against the other two. But she was named Jersey Reserve Junior Champion and also Top Bred & Owned Jersey of the show.

Monika definitely doesn't understand how incredibly well Star did, but she was beyond excited about getting a purple and a pink ribbon. She even wanted to take the ribbons along on the fair rides after we were done with the show.

My camera died right before the junior champion line-ups. I used my phone to take the picture of Monika with her ribbons so we could send it to Glen, since he had gone home to finish cutting third crop. But I got the dead battery to take one last picture of Monika at the fair.

Showing calves is hard work for a three-year-old. She sat down in this lawn chair by her uncle's horses while I was loading the trailer and promptly fell asleep.

Since my camera died at the show — and it was just a bit crazy there — I took a couple last photos of the kids and their calves together before we put Bonita and Star back in their pens.

Our first show season was fun and rewarding. We're looking forward to many more.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Little green frog

So far this summer we've had an assortment of creatures housed in containers in our kitchen: Wooly Bear Caterpillars, tent caterpillars, moths, ants, grasshoppers and an American Green Tree Frog. Here's the story of the little green frog.

A couple weeks ago, I sent Dan and Monika outside to jump on the trampoline one afternoon when it wasn't so blazing hot. I was hoping to catch a short nap before chores while the house was quiet.

Five minutes into my nap, I heard the storm door open and the kids come running in.

"Mom, we found a frog!" Dan yelled from the kitchen.

I didn't exactly want a frog hopping free in our house, so I got up to intervene.

Cradled in Dan's sweaty little hand was a very dehydrated green tree frog. The kids said they had found him on the trampoline. At first I thought the frog was dead. It had been so hot and dry for most of that week, it made sense that moisture-loving amphibians were suffering, too — especially if they were hanging out atop the black surface of the trampoline.

I told the kids I thought the frog was dead, but they assured me it could move. So we put the frog in a plastic container, added a little unsoftened well water, and covered the container with cheese cloth (secured with a rubber band).

I told Dan and Monika the little frog needed time to rest and soak up some of the water. They went back outside and I went back to the couch.

When we checked on the frog before going out to the barn, the transformation was almost miraculous. What had been a nearly lifeless little frog was now fully hydrated and reactive. At Dan's request, we added a stick to the container for the frog to climb on.

When we came in from the barn that night, the frog had recovered enough to climb again and was suctioned to the wall of the container up near the top.

We kept the frog in the container that night, with the agreement that we'd have to let the frog go outside the next day. This didn't go over so well with Dan. He really wanted to put it in the aquarium like the first frog who showed up in our house.

The next night we let the frog go, ushering it out of the container and into the potted plant on top of our picnic table. I didn't want to let it go on the ground because the barn cats were hanging around on the patio that night.

Dan and Monika checked the plant the next day, but didn't find the frog. We could only hope that he found a tree to hide in and some bugs to refill his tummy.

Then, one night last week when I was coming in late from the barn, I spotted something on the picnic table.

It was a little green frog.

I didn't want to wake the kids up to come see it, so I grabbed my camera instead. I have no way of knowing if this little green frog is the one we rehydrated, but it feels good to think it is.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sweet, sweet rain

It seems like every summer the weather here in Minnesota gets more and more bizarre. (Actually, the winters have been pretty strange, too.)

We started this summer with more rain than we could handle, at least here in the central part of the state. We have a couple spots where the corn didn't grow because the washed-out soil buried the seeds. Lots of our neighbors have low spots in their fields where nothing grew at all, except ducklings and goslings.

But then somebody turned the garden hose off and those temporary ponds dried up. After a couple weeks of scorching heat, the soil in those empty ponds cracked up like over-baked peanut butter cookies. Then the soil cracked up everywhere. The corn and beans curled. The alfalfa tried to produce a third crop. The crops in sandy spots turned brown.

We don't keep track of precipitation here, so I'm not exactly sure how long we went without rain, but I think it was over a month. I took the picture above of a dry spot in one of our fields ten days ago. I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of our worst corn.

Finally, though, after weeks of watching the approaching storm systems split and go around us, one system stayed its course and delivered rain on Wednesday morning. Of course, there had only been a 30% chance of rain, so we had loads of straw bales sitting in the yard, but a little wet straw was a small price to pay for rain.

The downpour started just as I was loading the kids into the van to bring Dan to school and Monika to daycare. I had to change shoes after carrying Monika to the garage under the umbrella. My clothes were soaked, too, but I've never been so happy to be drenched.

After the brief downpour, the rain slowed and we ended up with close to two inches of sweet, sweet rain.

The sun is shining again today and it's a toasty 90° outside. There's a lot of summer left for the crops to get through. We're hoping that the next month won't be nearly as dry as the past one and we're praying that our fellow farmers in even drier parts of the country get some much needed rain, too.