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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Care Packages for the Soldiers

A quick trip into town this morning to help our local American Legion group pack boxes to send to our deployed soldiers.  The boys helped unload vehicles as they arrived with lots of goodies and well wishes for the troops.  We brought in a little bit ourselves (mainly toiletries and some condiments). 

The boys feel like they are doing something to help morale and stay connected to their dad overseas.  Since we can not send anything to him directly, this is the next best thing.  Even Brendan is able to help throw (literally!) snacks into the boxes.

We were able to pack 40 boxes today!  They will be shipped out on Saturday filled to the brim with lots of great stuff to bring a little bit of home to the different locations around the world.

I also have our numbers for the month of August.

2 Wildlife Meetings (4 hours)
19 in attendance
Henry presented information about mule deer (leadership)
2 promotion events (6 hours) 275 attending both events
Community service (4 hours) 110 served (VA clinic lunch, Forestry Museum, Soldier care packages)
2 Other learning experiences (Back to School event and Family Fun Day at SFA)
3 Recipes made
2 Volunteer leadership experiences for Sean (leading pledge)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mule Deer

Riding on the tails of last night's 4H Family Fun Night, we had our second Wildlife project meeting.  I was pleasantly surprised to find 5 new participants eagerly waiting to learn more about the project when I arrived!  We had 19 4Hers and 9 adults there to learn about wildlife.  This is a great turn out!

We started the meeting reviewing about the ringed-necked pheasant and then I was politely reminded that we were suppose to bring five plant specimens with us to identify.  So even though I forgot, we had about 20 specimens to identify.  I was surprised at how much we remembered but grasses ALWAYS gets the better of us.  I hope by practicing we can get better at identification.

Henry did a great job of presenting information about the mule deer to the group (look for information below).  Then we had Justin demonstrated some techniques for identifying animals.  He showed us deer skulls (white-tailed deer and axis deer) and feral hog teeth.  He also showed the group the skin of a white tailed deer and a snapping turtle shell.  Then he demonstrated how to age deer by their teeth. 

Naomi with the bobcat skull
Mule Deer

Justin and Kevin with the deer skulls

Quick Facts

  • Range from 2-4 square miles but have been known to move as far as 26 square miles.
  • Mule deer usually live 9-11 years in the wild.
  • Season extends from mid-November through mid-February, peaking in December
  • Young male do not usually rut until 3-4 years
  • Gestation is approximately 7 months
  • Weaning in 60 to 75 days if adequate foliage is available
  • Require shrubs trees, and tall grasses for shelter and cover

  • Well-balanced livestock by implementing proper stocking rates and a grazing system to protect and promote forage species
  • Avoid indiscriminate brush control and have brush in strips or blocks also allowing brush in drainageways and steep slopes
  • Harvest of bucks should be no more than 10% of population with a buck to doe ratio 1:3
  • Small grain and legume plots planted for winter grazing
Plants associated with deer on our contest are:

American Beautyberry
Annual Sunflower
Arrowleaf Clover
Crimson Clover
Partridge Pea
Post Oak
Rye Grass
Sumac-little leaf
Western Ragweed

Monday, August 29, 2011

4H Family Fun Night

So you might be a little confused or doing a double take...or maybe you just think I am posting on the same event twice...but no...our club has this event every year to promote the projects our club offers.  We call it "4H Family Fun Night" because the project leaders like to set up booths with fun activities associated with the various projects.  We also serve a meal for all the families that come to the event.

So, here we are the morning of the event and working fast and furious to get it all ready.  It is great to be so involved in different projects in 4H.  But on days like today, it gets a little hectic.  Normally our projects are spread out throughout the year, but on this day we have to bring them all together on one day and throw in a meal to add to the mix.  Needless to say it gets a little crazy at our house.  We are making the most of it to "Make the Best Better."

Last night, Henry and I decided to take away some of the burden of the day by making the chicken spaghetti.  We had cooked a chicken all day in the crockpot and then deboned it.  Henry had never done this before so we can add this to his learning experiences for Food & Nutrition.  He also learned how to make chicken stock (no waste in our house!).  Then he helped me prepare the spaghetti casserole.  Now we can just throw it in the oven this afternnoon before the fun begins!

This morning, Sean made lemon cupcakes with a creamy frosting for dessert.  He had wanted to make his 'famous' key lime pie that he made for the Youth Fair last spring, but I did not make it to the store for the ingredients.  This created an opportunity for us to make a new recipe.  We googled for recipes this morning and found one that would work for a base for his creativity.  We almost never use a recipe exactly like we find it!  This recipe was very bland with little lemony flavor so we jazzed it up and hope the lemon taste does not get cooked out of it.  We can always add more flavor to the frosting if the cake does not pop with flavor! 

We are now working on our activities for 4 different projects.  Somehow we are going to make this work tonight.  We have other 4H members to help us with the booths so all should be good. 

Wow! After all the preparation and fuss, we made it through the fun. They came...they ate...they played...they left...and now we are home too!

All in all it was a big success. We were able to promote our 4H projects to at least 75 individuals. We had a lot of new interest in our photography project and wildlife project.

Cool water effect Henry demonstrated
And for our side of the event, the children were able to succesfully present the information about their projects to others. Just another thing I like about 4H is the public speaking opportunities. So when the potential 4Hers came to the photography booth, Henry was able to talk to them about the camera trick to get a good reflection. I was very proud of him for talking to all ages from 8 year olds to adult. Great job!
Also, Sean showed real enthusiasm when it came to his computer science project. He took this booth on his own and was able to tell the participants about what we plan to do for the next year. Sean was also able to split his time with the entomology project helping to identify the insects to those interested.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Family Fun Day

I have always enjoyed taking our children to special events in our community.  However, ever since we joined 4H, we espceially enjoy finding events related to our projects.  Yesterday we jumped into the car early in the morning to attend a Family Fun Day sponsored by Naturally Nacogdoches.  The event took place at the SFA Native Plant Center (another one of our favorite places to visit) and there were booths set up for us throughout the morning.  These activities were a perfect match for our Wildlife project and WHEP (Wildlife Habitat Education Project).  Here a few highlights that show all the fun we enjoyed.

I love this picture of the boys at the bird watching station.  They all grabbed a set of binoculars and were on their way exploring through t woods looking for birds and checking off their list of those that were found.  Ruth from the Audubon Society had set up pictures of birds hidden in the area for the boys to find.  They enjoyed this activity along with the games set up at the booth.  They learned how to determine the food birds eat by looking at their mouths and identifying birds by their call.  This  information will help them remember the importance of birds to their habitat evaluation plans.

The next activity was the favorite for the day!  The boys were given the opportunity to perfect their compass and GPS skills.  This is a big part of our contests and we have often had hit or miss results even though we have been doingthis for years.  This has been one of our frustrations when we go to contests.  So, I was excited to actually have someone who knew how to explain the skill to the boys without second guessing their own skill (that would b e me!)  It was good for me also because I think I finally get it! (always an added bonus to teach the teacher the skills) 

The boys reviewed the technique and then were on their way to find a prize box set at a certain coordinate on the trails. This gave me an opportunity to ask some extra questions about the pacing portion of this technique.   Then the boys were given an opportunity to use a GPS unit.  I was amazed at how easy it was to use the GPS.  After he taught us the basic skills, the boys were off on an adventure looking for a new prize.  They were so funny to watch as they zig-zagged around the trails watching the arrow turn to get them back on track.  It was like watching a Family Circle dotted trail.  He said they were naturals!  By the time they were done, they were all begging for their own GPS units.  As nice as it would be to have the contest switch this technology, I realize that it would be more expensive.  Furthermore, it is better to learn the basic skill before using the shortcut of the technology.

So after dragging the boys away to the next stations (they continued to drool over the GPS idea for the rest of the day), we enjoyed some games and refreshments.  Then we came to the fishing booth.  Even though the boys were just catching plastic fish, they were using real rod & reels so they were happy.  The best part for me was the contacts I made with the Bass Club.  I was even able to line up a speaker to talk to our project group about types of fish and gaming laws.  That made my day since I know nothing about fish.  This should make our group happy also because it is always better to have an expert (and enthusiast) over my dry and limited presentations.

The next booth was set up by a group we have volunteered with for several years.  The Friends of the Forest is a nature group that shares ways to preserve the natural habitats in our state.  It has actually grown into a national organization and I am proud to say we were part of the beginning of this group.  Our involvement in the group was due to our desire to add more community service opportunities to our Wildlife 4H project.  We have gone to many events to help promote wildlife in Texas.  Check out what is happening in your area or maybe see some pictures of us at events:

I realize this blog post is getting a little long but we learned so much!  So here are a few more pictures to show how we completed our fun day.  I will try to let you know when there are future events, so you can join us in the fun!

Henry and Brendan with Casper the Friendly (Rat) Snake

Henry caught a bumble bee

The crew in a canoe
Solar Funnel Cooking (google it!)
Edward trying out the archery booth
Brendan saving a fish from the trash!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Making Lunch for Our Veterans

Sean chopping apples
After last night's fun community service opportunity, we came home to a message that our club was scheduled to serve lunch to the veterans at our regional VA Clinic.  These kinds of community service opportunities mean a lot to our family.  We almost never refuse to help our veterans because we are a military family.  We have had first hand experience with the effects of a military life, especially deployments.

We had a great group of 4H'ers come together to make a healthy chicken salad sandwich for the veterans.  This group has often come together to make lunch for the veterans.  We decided to add chopped apples and celery to the mix today.   

It was fun to watch the 4H'ers work together to make the lunch service a success.  We had some of them chopping food while others mixed the ingredients together (Briana shown) and making the sandwiches (Henry shown).  We shared some great laughs too.  That is one thing I like about 4H...we are all making lasting friendships as we learn skills and help the community.  They will probably use these life skills even more than the educational information from the projects.  These guys and gals will hopefully look back at these years and remember the good times. 

And, when we are not focused we have our youngest little helper (Brendan) to get us back on track!  He really thinks he is the head man in the kitchen!  But the best part is he is learning from watching the others.  That is just another example of how great 4H is.  There is a respect for families being together.  My children all know they can work together to help in an activity.  This is true for children who are old enough to be Clover Kids, but we also have ones like our little guy who we call the 'tag-along' 4Her.  Brendan is such a trouper.  He has been with us from the beginning...poor little guy never had a chance...he was born into 4H!

So after all our prep we were ready!  We were also asked to serve donuts, coffee and juice.  So we got all of our sandwiches made and got to work serving the veterans. 
Sean heading up the serving line

Henry with one of our veterans
One of the reasons this is such a great community service experience is being able to talk to the veterans.  They love to see the kids there and are so appreciative.  Many of the veterans stay and talk to us even after they eat their food.  We have heard so many great stories!  It is like having a living history lesson, and we never know what piece of the story we are going to hear. 

We were able to stay at the clinic for over 3 hours.  We served about 70 veterans.  And we had the added bonus of taking 3 dozen leftover donuts to the local homeless shelter!

Back to School Fun at Our Favorite Museum

For the last five years, we have had the fun of starting out our school year with a celebration at our favorite museum.  The Texas Forest Museum finds great ways each year to motivate the children to learn.  This year they had a western theme with old fashioned games like marble races and potato sack races, along with fun crafts as well. 

Now this might not seem to relate to 4H but you will soon see that we love to volunteer our time at this museum.  This all started when we began looking for service opportunities related to our projects.  The museum is always glad to see us volunteer and the 4H members (especially my boys) love to learn as they help.  It just seems to be the perfect fit for our love of nature and our desire to give back to the community. 

Our main task for this event was setting up the stations for the event. We finished just in time as the children got to the museum just as we were setting up the last table. We only had a small group of about 20 children (and their parents) for this event. However that allowed us the chance to interact more and play the games more often.

Sean helping with a balloon game

Henry racing through the museum with a marbles
Edward with one of the crafts made

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Follow Up on Yesterday

I am always so impressed by the 4H members in our little group.  Yesterday we had our first Wildlife project meeting.  We meet at a forestry museum in town that graciously lets us use their classroom.  Then we head outside to their walking trails to study in the GREAT OUTDOORS!!!  Well at least a small semi-cultivated part of it! 

I arrived early hoping to get the technical side of things squared away before everyone else arrived.  Well, I guess next time I will arrive early for early because most of the group was already there ready to start out on our new adventure.

This year we decided to let the members teach about the different animals we are studying. Everyone signed up for a given animal and will present their information much like my post on ring-necked pheasants. I look forward to their different methods of presentation and the knowledge they will bring to the group.  I already heard some really good ideas to help motivate everyone to learn. 

Then (being the mother of a diaper clad little tike) I had to take care of one life's little necessities.  This allowed a great opportunity for leadership.  One of our seniors took this up for his own and showed the group outside to identify the plants and trees on the nature trail.  I was very thankful for Treyton leadership. 

It's not just the members either.  I officially send out a thank you to all the parents who work so hard to get them there for the meetings.  I am so thankful to their dedication.  Not only do they bring their children but they stay and help when they can to make the learning experience beneficial for everyone. 

I wish I had taken pictures of the group yesterday. I will try to do a better job of this as the year progresses. 

We have our first contest in less than a month at the East Texas State Fair in Tyler.  We have a lot of learning to do before that date.  But as long as the drought does not kill everything off we should have a lot of good days for learning experiences.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Learning about the Ring-necked Pheasant

Male Ring-necked Pheasant

This is the star of our Wildlife project meeting today!
Isn’t he a beauty!
This is a ring-necked pheasant and we are learning all about the habits and environment that this bird likes to be comfy cozy in his home!  This is just one of the many animals we learn about in the Wildlife project.  Not only do we learn what he looks like, but also his cover needs during his lifespan, his food preferences, nesting patterns, and breeding habits. 
Here are a few quick facts about the ring-necked phesant:
·       Upland bird
·       Lives in forests, brushlands, and prairies
·       Nests in grasses and shrubs; 10 - 12 brownish-green eggs.
·       Ring-necked pheasants are usually polygamous but some males are monogamous.
·       Ring-necked pheasants are capable of breeding the spring of the year after they hatch.
·       The eggs are incubated by the hen for 23 to 25 days.
·       The chicks are cared for by the hen until they are 6 to 8 weeks old.
·       Adult ring-necked pheasants are mainly seed-eaters, with cereal grains comprising their staple food items.
The plants refered to in our Wildlife contest are:
Annual Sunflower
Partridge Pea
Western Ragweed

Some good sources I liked related to the Ring-necked Pheasant are:
Female ring-necked pheasant

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Installation of New Club Officers

Sean with our club president Caleb
Tonight we had a great experience to complete our last year of 4H and begin the new one. Our club does this each year by allowing the officers from teh last year install the new officers. Our two older boys were installed into their new roles. Sean will be our club's county council delegate. This is a big job with the responsibilty of passing on information to our club that affects our county. Our son Henry has taken on the role of third vice president. What we like to call the 'entertainment VP.' He was given the task of making sure we have refreshments for the meetings and will also have a game for after the meeting.

Henry with our club manager Myra
The boys expecially love the ceremony we use for the installation. I think it has something to do with their sweet tooth (or should I say teeth). Each officer's duties are associated with a type of candy. Sean was given an assortment of fruit candies to show his role of diversity that he will bring to the club. Henry was given laffy taffy because his role is to bring laughter to our club meetings.

We also announced two of our project meetings for the new year.  These projects are Wildlife and Photography.  I have the joy and privilege to be the project leader for these projects.  I can honestly say that I never thought I would be leading either of these projects; however, I have grown to love them and cannot imagine it any other way.  Besides, that is what being a 4H mom is all about…taking up the projects that our children love and making learning experiences for all involved (including me!)  Of course it helps to have the best 4H members participating in these projects.  They always make me proud.  I cannot wait to start the new year.

So, its official…the 4H fun has begun!  If I doubted it for even a second, then the buzz all around us after the ‘official’ meeting was over made it clear.  Our club is already planning to make this year big.  My boys have signed up for parts in a play (more on that later!) and a hushpuppy contest (more on that later too!).  This is on top of our regular project meetings and community service projects.  The adrenalin rush is on…let’s see how it all turns out!