Saturday, August 16, 2014

4-H & Fair Fun

Our July calendar was filled with fair prep and 4-H activities. We actually hit three county fairs within one week this summer. We made it to Dallas & Washington counties for motocross racing and our fair in Mahaska county. Here's a few pictures of our fair experiences. 

Ethan's 4-H club was challenged to make a pallet project for the fair. After looking online he decided on a chair. Time got away from us so he decided on making a wagon with recycled parts he found around the yard. He got in some welding, grinding, screwing and sanding experience with his project.

Finished wagon to haul his feed bags with.

Our first fair was in Dallas county, this is our crew waiting to race. 

After a late night racing we had an early morning bringing fair exhibits to town. This is part of Ethan's 4-H club ready to interview with judges.

Then it was home wash chickens.

They didn't exactly love their baths.

Amelia was in charge of cuddling and warming since it was a cool evening.

Ethan brought six chickens to show, all ones we hatched from our own chickens. He did well getting four blues and two reds. A couple of the chickens the judge thought needed to grow a little more so they were the ones that got red ribbons. Something to remember for next year, have chicks hatched by early March.

What fun would the fair be if you couldn't hang out with your friends in the livestock barns.
(We have a little "football" game going on here.)

The morning after the chicken show was the sheep show. Ethan got two purple ribbons for his lambs. Despite our MANY, MANY,  hours of working with them neither one cooperated for him. :( Thankfully the judge was gracious and gave him some good tips. Although Ethan has told us he will be showing hogs next year because they are easier. Uncle Karl are you ready! :)

Anton and his cousin testing out the swords they made at a 4-H workshop.

Both Anton and Eljjah tried mutton bustin, along with every other kid age 8 and under in Mahaska county. :) It was a huge crowd (at the beginning) and a lot of fun.

Next night we were off the the Washington County Fair to race again. Elijah is racer "X" in the middle.

It was a good night, both boys got first and Mark got 2nd.

After a long week filled with fun and competition it was time to pack up and bring things home. Here Ruby, our ewe lamb, is going back into the herd. She was glad to see the other sheep and Ethan was glad to see her go. ;)

The sheep in the front and center is actually Ethan's sheep from last year, Lucy! It was so fun to see her and she actually remembered us and came right up to us. It was a nice way to end his sheep showing career. :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Traverse City, MI Trip

Mid-June several Farm Bureau Campaign Managers took the opportunity to tour a variety of Michigan farms near Traverse City, MI. This is the third year Mark and I have gone on this trip and we have loved every one of them!

On our way to Traverse City we stopped at dunes along Lake Michigan.

 If you look very close you can see the people standing near the water at the bottom of the dune. I wasn't able to fit the top of the dune in my frame it was huge!

 Our first day we visited an orchard, winery and hops farm. King Orchards was our first stop and they grow cherries, apples, raspberries and vegetables. Cherries are their biggest crop which they sell at wholesale markets and farmers markets. Their cherry juice concentrate is sold online. An interesting challenge that King Orchards has had to overcome is that although healthy bees are key to good pollination of their crops, the bees didn’t over-winter well there. Because of this, the Kings' bee keeper moved to Florida with the bees. The Kings now rent the bees at peak pollination times. They transport the bees by semi in their hives covered with netting from Florida.  (Picture above is a cherry picker.)

 After our visit to King Orchards, we enjoyed lunch and wine tasting at Black Star Farms. They feature two winery production facilities with tasting rooms, a distillery, an inn and equestrian facility. It was absolutely beautiful and booked every weekend with weddings. Another aspect I enjoyed in our visit to Black Star Farms was that they grow much of the food they use for their dinner events right on the property. (Picture above is a wine cave)

Hops plants growing up the wires. they will reach the top and grow out. Hops are harvest at the top of the wires in the fall.

 During our second day of tours we visited a robotic dairy and potato operation. The robotic barn we visited has been in use since last November. The cows are enticed to the milking area with feed pellets. They are scanned and the machine then knows when the cows were last milked and will either milk them or send them on. It also knows if the cow has just had a calf and will divert that milk into another tank for the calves. If a cow doesn’t get milked within a certain time frame the farmer gets a message on his cell phone with the cow’s number and they get her milked. The technology involved was very impressive. 

Spoiled cows! :)

Our final tour was a potato farm. They had a large, state of the art, storage cooler we got to tour. It was pressurized, temperature regulated and kept at 95% humidity. They designed and built most of the cleaning and packaging equipment they use to save money and for efficiency (picture above). Potatoes are on a five year crop rotation to prevent certain diseases. They rotate potatoes, green beans, corn, soybeans and hay.

After a full day touring Mark and I enjoyed kayaking with friends. We went 7 miles starting in a river (pictured above), then across a lake, had a small portage and kayaked threw town and ended up in the freezing, rough bay. Thankfully we didn't have far to paddle in the bay, the water was around 50 degrees! Brrr

Posing for a picture during our portage.

 Kayaking in town.

After many, many hours on the bus this ferry was a welcome sight! We rode across Lake Michigan in this, bus and all.