Monday, September 14, 2009

Adventures in Fitting and Showing, a novel

I'll start off with saying, no clue. Had no clue. Consider yourself warned.

Easy enough, right? You take your disease, bug free animal down and enter them into the fair. Sure I know that 4-H does more, we're an Open fair though. So I figure we put the birds in, hang around the barns and figure out it all out for next year. HA! Wroooong....soooo very, very wrong.

Then evening before the children catch up their innocent, unsuspecting birds, get them caged and wait for Dad to arrive (he's gone off to get hog panels.) I finish up in the kitchen, listening to one very peeved drake, the hen has settled down in her carrier. She's got no worries, food and water all to herself, it's cool, she's takin' a nap. The drake, well....he's not impressed.
Dad gets home, the children pounce, they're all ready to get this ball rolling! Animals get loaded, Dad gives the order to
"Load the Birds so we can get going."
"They are honey."
"oh....well come on, what are we waiting for?!"

We join the throng of entrants, vendors and families getting ready for the fair. It reminded me of the movie "The Greatest Show on Earth". The birds get settled into their pens, watered, fed and we find the Superintendent of the barn to find out what comes next. There's a fitting and showing clinic the next morning, hadn't planned on doing that but she'd like them to try it out. So, the kids are skeptical, Lars more so. He needs to what with his duck? Dougall, stand on a table? Riiiight. He's going to do it, not going to do it, going to do it, not going to do it. Finally he settles on a take it as comes basis. We all pile back into the Suburban and head for home.
I'm left wondering if entering is that chaotic, what are the next four days going to bring?!

Thursday morning dawns early! First day of fair, the children bound out of bed (they need to be there before 8am to clean out pens, water and feed their birds), eager to get to the barn. I need my coffee. At the gas station I opt for the supercharged caffine blend, long ago I learned the wisdom of planning ahead. The morning progresses, animals tended at the grounds, back here to get everyone else off to school, make sure Justin is ready for his day (work intruded on his vacation), morning chores, housework, feed the rest an early lunch, back to the grounds for fit and show clinic.
Hmmm.....confidence is waning. Okay, well we have the information, now to get Miss Meena to school, back home to get Justin, more house stuff, load everyone up that's back from school and off to the grounds to get some hands on time with the animals.
Starlight is doing well, Anna's wandering around asking if anyone wants to pet her chicken. Okay, now it's Lars and Dougall. The lady with years of experience proclaims "He's a handful." Oh dear.
Long and short of it, Dougall got hung upside down...after which he behaved quite well. Lars worked him and we decided to call it a day at about 7:30pm.

Friday, it's the big day. Fit and Show, 9am. Justin took the kids down to the grounds, I stayed at home to milk, do farm chores, just about needed a block and tackle to get Bruce out of bed, housework, packed the two coolers for us to eat out of, got everyone ready to spend the whole day down at the grounds, Justin picked the rest of us up while Lars and Anna stayed behind to get some last minute handling and instruction in. While they're waiting their turns, they're getting last minute tips, listening to the judge's comments, Lars's arm is getting tired. Dougall is all tucked in under his arm and has, at this point, resigned himself to his fate and getting a doze in.
Anna is up first, it's going great until the judge put a pen on the table and wants them to demonstrate how they put them in and take them out. Anna, I tell her to watch what the others do and follow suit, Lars has turned a greenish white....just watch son....and breath. Then another surprise, the judge switches everyone's birds. Anna took it in stride, does very well and gets her hen back. Lars is calming down some.
This goes off well, Anna's doing great until the chicken next to her decides it doesn't like her hen. It jumps her, they both go off the table.....and again....Anna's flustered at this point. A group is asked to leave, Anna in them. She puts her hen back, very disappointed. I go with her, talk, tell her it's okay and she and her hen both did fantastic for being first timers! Come on, her hen stood there like she'd been doing this days out of the egg and she's a working farm hen. Good dispositon on behalf of the hen and Anna's been packing her around for the last day. I know that Anna doesn't understand, but I was really impressed with both of them. Sometimes you just get bad luck with the line up.
Everyone is called back up and she gets a blue ribbon. Ahh, she feels better but I know she had her eye on that purple ribbon. Maybe next year. ;) Off she goes to put on Starlight's pen and back again to see how her brother does.
Lars is called, I know he's dreading putting Dougall on that table. Dougall has some surprises of his own though and stands there like a gentleman. He fussed a bit at first, but settled down to grooming...or trying to at least. Lars completed the penning excersize perfectly, the Superintendent was very impressed. Neither he or Anna really had any instruction in this. He was starting to calm down, the worst part was over.
Now for the bird swap, Lars got a Phoenix pullet, while the poor girl down the table looked like she'd just been handed Daffy's evil twin. Dougall may behave for Lars and the nasty lady that hung him upside down....but he was going to eat this girls buttons for breakfast! He did try too.
Lars also took a blue, put Dougall back and the two of the, Anna and Lars, put in their request for next year's birds. Lars has decided that this will be Dougall's only year at the fair. He's best suited to the life of a guard duck and is retiring to said life. Next year, he wants to do a Call drake...they're tiny little things. Anna has a range that she's considering, but has it down to Frizzle, Call duck and Silkie. She wanted to try geese...but Mom's not doing geese, no.
Bruce voiced that he would like to consider it for next year, Malina wants to, Leif was pretty oblivious...he had a germ on the end of a string that he was flying through the air.

Big breath. Done...nope. Saturday brought Poultry Judging. They didn't have enough of one breed to do a line up so we supplied a line of Speckled Sussex cockerals. Lars took Reserve Champion in this for Juniors. Listened to why the chickens were judged the way they were and knew which ones he got wrong.
It was a lot for Anna to take in all at once, people everywhere, she did listen but she's reading up some more now that she's home.
Friday and Saturday were the marathon days, stayed all day, came home did the housework, got dinner for everyone and collapsed.
Sunday, was quiet until 4:30pm. We'd made rounds during the previous 3 days and Justin talked with the people in the Rabbit barn. The result is that we now have 2 Californian does for free and a very nice New Zealand buck (he's just a little narrow through the shoulders, but for a first buck he's great) for $10. We bought the does cages and one of the nest boxes. Okay, I have a Suburban and 5 kids, a duck, a chicken, 2 does, 1 buck.....I ran out of room at 5 kids. I spent a couple of hours running animals and accessories home, doing a little connecting of my own and finally finished up at 7:30pm.
As for me? My filet crochet piece took Grand Champion *grin*. When I went to pick it up, there was excitement to see what I entered next year. Don't know, but I'll figure something out.

Next year is going to be crazy too, it just is, but at least I'll know what to expect, what I need and be able to line up my time better. There's always the proverbial monkey wrench but hopefully it won't be too bad.

Today, I have a date with the couch, remote and a pair of socks. Sounds like heaven.

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