posts tagged with '4h'

all's fair

We haven't been able to think about much else besides the Middlesex County 4H Fair for a little bit now. After seven or eight Monday evenings of fairground cleanup to set the mood, we've spent a solid week prepping all the boys' projects they're going to show—and then an hour or two each of the past two evenings to drop things off and set up the poultry barn. With the opening day of the fair today the end is in sight, but we're not out of fair mode yet. Over eight hours of fun and work today (it would have been more but afternoon thunderstorms closed things down early), and even more tomorrow and Sunday: we aim to get there tomorrow not much after 7:00 am. Good thing we're enjoying it!

fairly stressed

Maybe a month ago we were vaguely excited by the idea of the county fair at the end of August. The Middlesex County 4H Fair, to be exact, which we're now allowed—expected!—to show at, as members of a county 4H club. So we looked through the premium book and each kid picked out some things that they thought they'd like to show off. Then suddenly it was this week, and all those things need to be delivered to the fairground by 5:00 tomorrow evening. So as you can imagine there is some stress around our house, and I was perhaps not as kind as I could have been once or twice over the course of the day today. But things are coming together, and there weren't any actual tears, so I do believe it'll all feel like a positive experience in the end. Like with Christmas, we've made many promises over the last couple days that next year we'll start everything so early and have it all done in plenty of time. We'll see about that. At least we're saying "next year" instead of "never again", so you know it can't be completely horrible!

Backyard Farm Club

This past Monday we started a new thing: Backyard Farm Club. Well, not just us; there are five families interested in getting together from time to time to share experiences of trying to do something different in our suburban yards. And also put our kids to work! That's what it's all about for me.

Zion, Elijah, and some friends removing grass with spade forks

whips not pictured

The idea germinated at Park Day when a couple of us were talking about our mixed feelings about the 4H clubs we're part of. There's definitely things we enjoy and appreciate about 4H, but it's not all that we expected. So one parent wondered about creating a homeschool-oriented club, which reminded another parent and I that we'd been talking before the pandemic about collaborating to share work in our gardens. Maybe those two ideas could go together?

For now, we're not worrying about the 4H part. We're going to try things out and see if we can figure out a schedule and a routine that works. Then maybe in September we can get more official. So far, our idea is to rotate between houses and at each gathering have a selection of chores and projects that the kids (and the parents!) can take part in. For our first meeting at our friends' house, we cleaned out the chicken coop, weeded the garden, fixed some broken fencing, and pulled out grass from a piece of ground that is transitioning from lawn to food forest. Or, some people did. I was on grass removal duty the whole time. There was also a nature drawing scavenger hunt. At the end we had snack: we brought cookies and rice-crispie treats and someone else had some delicious egg tart things, but the best of all was the "apple nachos" made right on the premises. Not all the kids loved being made to do things, rather than just playing with their friends, but hopefully the snacks will keep them coming back.

apple slices covered with melted chocolate and peanut butter and chocolate chips

this is what apple nachos is

And hopefully we can host the next meeting. There's a lot of work that needs to get done around here!


spring farm extravaganza

We can count the fair at church two weekends ago as a warm-up, because this past Saturday we jumped head-on into a bigger event: the Middlesex County 4H Spring Extravaganza. And not just as participants, either—we were there to work! But don't worry, there was plenty of time to play and enjoy as well, because the volunteer assignments were so ad-hoc and disorganized that, beyond setting up and cleaning up, there wasn't really anything for them to do. Except do fair things, and spend money!

the boys and a friend milking a life-size plastic cow

a celebration of farm life

Besides the food—hamburgers, grilled cheese, chips, brownies, popcorn, Hawaiian shaved ice—they bought raffle tickets, stuffed animals, and books. Which was almost everything they could have spent money on. Some of their friends also paid for henna tattoos, but that didn't interest them. The stuffed animals were delight enough!

Harvey with a little stuffed animal pig on his head

introducing "Hamilton"

And of course, it wouldn't be a proper old-fashioned fair without some field games. Besides the tug-of-war pictured here (Zion and Elijah's team won that contest, I was on the losing side every time I participated), there were sack races. They provided all the excitement anyone could hope for.

Zion and Elijah mid sack-race, with people falling down around them

thrills and spills!

The event was pretty well attended, and it was a cheery sunshiny atmosphere all over the grounds. I didn't take any pictures of the animals, but they were the main attraction: you could visit and pet cattle, sheep, and goats—including a few adorable tiny baby goats. And the horse girls were riding in the ring, showing off their skills. And when the boys needed some time away from the crowd, the fairground has space for that too.

boys sitting on a pavilion in the woods at the edge of a pond

a moment of quiet

This was the first ever Spring Extravaganza; usually Middlesex 4H is content with just the one fair in August. But I guess they've been missing inviting the public to the fairground over the last two years! Of course, the end-of-summer fair is still on the calendar, and promises to be a whole lot bigger and better. We're looking forward to it!

the boys walking on a dirt road on the fair ground, holding bags, balloons, and stuffed animals

after the crowds had gone


chicken club

No, I'm not talking about a sandwich. After 12 years of non-joinerism, the boys have finally signed on with an organization formal enough to require dues: Middlesex County 4H. Specifically, the Backyard Chicken Club.

kids sitting in a semicircle of folding chairs in a farm parking lot

club meeting

In some ways it's just like things we've already been doing. The group at the first meeting last month was over 50% homeschoolers, and there's definitely a homeschool feel. The activities are loose and fun, and there are plenty of movement breaks between the sitting times. But there are also some distinctly unfamiliar elements. The cost, for one, which at $15 per kids per year is super affordable—but we've almost never paid for any group ever before! And there were all those forms to fill out. There are officers and elections. And strangest of all, every meeting starts with the Pledge of Allegiance! (and the 4H pledge, which is less noteworthy). The boys had no idea that was a thing, but they learned it pretty quick ahead of the second meeting this past Sunday.

Even though some of our best friends are also members, I had to force the boys to give the first meeting a try. Happily, they took right to it, and demonstrated once again that, while they aren't joiners by nature, they're generally pretty happy to be with other kids and are ready to jump into whatever is going on. There was a food drive last weekend that they had to help with, and Leah, who took them, reports that they were all great at talking to shoppers outside of Donelans in Acton. And while they declined to throw their hats in the ring for any of the major elected positions on Sunday Elijah tells me he's interested in running for Games Organizer when the minor positions are filled next month. Way to get into the spirit!

Elijah a chicken run holding a bantam hen, Zion watching

sometimes they even get to be with chickens!