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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sending Fall Fun to our Soldiers

Just a short post today as we worked for only a brief time packing boxes for the soldiers this morning. 

We enjoyed packing fun items in boxes for the soldiers related to the fall season.  We even had a lady bring tic-tac-toe bags for the soldiers to pass the time.  Such a neat idea!  We were met by another 4H family to pack as well.  We talked about next month doing something special for the soldiers to let them know how much we are thankful for all they do to protect us. 

Believe it or not...we have a four day stretch with out a single 4H activity planned...we are heading to my Mom's for the weekend.  But, you never know when something might come up as we travel around Austin.  I might just post about our festival bee experience on one of these off days as well.

Always looking for ways to 'make the best better!'

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waterfowl and Game Laws

We had a full afternoon of learning today at a special location.  Today we headed out to the Lake Sam Rayburn Nature Center where the director, Rachel, helped us learn about waterfowl.  Whenever, I think of waterfowl, I cannot help but think that the day these animals were created God said, "Let's pull out the paints today!"  There is so much color and sometimes it appears that the feathers have been created by the sweep of a brush.  I love learning about the different species within this group of birds.

While we waited for everyone to make it to the center, we set up a short compass & pacing course.  We learned that heading in the right direction is not good enough if you do not pace yourself properly.  We will need to work on this skill next time.

Once we had all gathered at the center, Kevin gave an excellent presentation on waterfowl to get us in the right direction.  Here is some of the information he shared:

Green Teal (puddle)
Wigeon (puddle)
Gadwall (puddle)

Wood Ducks
  • Found only in North America and mostly in the Mississippi Flyway
  • They inhabit most wetlands, rivers, ponds, and freshwater lakes.
  • The wood duck perches and nests in trees, 90% hatching in tree cavities.
  • The wood duck travels at 37 mph.

Mallard Ducks
  • Distributed across the Northern Hemisphere
  • Migratory across the northern breeding range
  • Winters in Mexico
  • Wide range of habitats and climates, Artic tundra to suptropical regions
  • Found in both freshwater and saltwater wetlands
  • The adult male is unmistakable, with a bright green head, black rear end and a bill that is yellowish orange with black tip and white collar
  • The female is mottled in color with wings slightly varied in color
  • Mallards are omnivorous, based on stage of development and food availibility
Pintail Ducks
  • Wide ranging migration
  • This dabbling duck breeds across northern and Midwest United States
  • Winters in the south nerly to the equator
  • Breeding habitat is unwooded wetlands
  • In winter, utilizes wider range of open habitats (i.e. sheltered estuaries, brackish marshes, coastal lagoons)
  • Highly sociable outside of breeding season, forming large mixed flocks with other ducks
Canvasback (diving)
Shoveler (puddle)
Ruddy Duck (diving)

If you would like to test your waterfowl identification skills, try this link from Texas Ducks Unlimited. However, you might want to look over the pictures to better your identification skills first at the photo gallery from the same website.

After Kevin completed his presentation, Rachel took everyone outside to play a game.  The game was called "Sweeties" and the object of the game was to watch for details.  She explained that this is very important when identifying waterfowl.  We would see this ourselves later in the afternoon. 

After a snack and water break, we welcomed our Texas Game Warden, James, to talk to us about gaming laws and hunter safety.  The group was so quiet as they listened to would have thought he was a law enforcer or something!  Oh yeah....he was!!! 

Seriously, James gave us a lot of information about gun safety.  One thing he emphasized was to know where your gun is pointed at all times.  He told the group it would be like having a gun with a laser attached to the end and wherever it was pointed it was zapping things with its laser.  We also talked about the importance of the safety on a gun.  Then he reviewed a few gaming laws.  I found a great website with a hunter safety quiz.  I encourage everyone to check it out for practice.

We ended the day with a wildlife biologist, Sean, talking to the group about identifying duck wings.  He did a great job of going over the details of a wing.  This is where it becomes important to focus on details.  Each duck had obvious differences once we looked at the wings closely.

For a good look at duck wings, look at the following sites:

County Food Workshop

We got together with all the clubs in the county to present information that would be helpful in the upcoming 4H Food Show. We always have a contest for making the best dish in various categories.  In order to compete in the contest, it is best to have a well-rounded food resume.  This means having learning experiences, community service opportunities, and knowing the nutrients and values in a very well planned dish. 

Tonight we were able to help create an opportunity for learning and community service.  We asked each member to bring canned goods for our local food pantry as an 'admission price' for the workshop. 

Senior team in action
Mixed age team presenting
their version of the ingredients
First, we had a mock contest demonstration for a new contest called Food Challenge.  This contest is much like the TV show Iron Chef.  The members are given a set of ingredients and a clue that helps them determine the recipe.  The team closest to the correct recipe at the end of 40 minutes is awarded the prize.  However, to make it a true learning experience, the teams must also present the judges a clear explanation about the nutritional value of the ingredients, kitchen safety tips used, and cost analysis.  This must be done in a way to include all members of the team throughout the presentation.  The judges are allowed to ask questions if they feel like not enough information is given or clarification is needed.  They are only given 2 minutes to present their information.

After the contest demo, we had two main stations--the smoothie station and the My Plate.  Sean and Henry took on the job of presenting the new nutritional program, My Plate.  We created a power point presentation to talk about the different parts of the plate (shown below).

This is the icon for MyPlate which replaced MyPyramid in June 2011. The new MyPlate icon is composed of a plate divided into 4 sections: fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. A dairy section is off the plate to the side. The MyPlate graphic is positioned on a placemat with the website written underneath. The 5 sections of MyPlate are clickable and go to food group subpages.

Creating a balanced meal
with food cards after presentation
I thought it was funny because the boys did a great presentation for the first group that came through; however, the pull of smoothies was too much.  They begged to go to the smoothie presentation for the second round!  It worked out well in the end.  One of the other members, Joseph, volunteered to take over the presentation with my help.  That was great leadership for him and he made it a funny second round!  Thanks for your help, Joseph! 

We ended the night by cleaning up.  While doing that the county extension agent asked us if we would be willing to decorate for the Gold Star Banquet next week.  So, now the wheels they are a turnin' as three 4H moms set to work to transform the 4H building into the Texas State Fair!  More on that next week!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Little Old Lady and Her Crew

Another early morning...if you followed the story from yesterday, you realize that I did not get home until late last night.  But, we got up again early this morning to head back to the festival.  We worked in our 4H booth in the morning and then we had a special event to participate in.
You see...About a month ago, I was asked to lead a group of our younger 4H members (Brianna, Henry, Sean) in a food contest at the Forest Festival.  We were to make hushpuppies.  Now, I have not said a lot about this contest because we have secretly been perfecting our recipe that we would use in this contest.  We have not told anyone the recipe and it is quite unique.  I would not even tell my husband (in Afghanistan) because I wanted it to be a surprise for the kiddos to share with everyone at the same time!  ( have to wait until the end of the post to find out!!!)  The only ones who knew our idea were our team and the older 4H team from our club.

We competed in the third round cook-off.  We did really well getting the hushpuppies ready to fry.  We even got the first batch made with little trouble.  We set a few aside for the judges and began our second batch.  Since we knew we did not like some from the first batch, we gave them out for samples.  Big mistake!!!  Our fryer quit working on our second batch.  I did not think they were ever going to cook!!!  We finally had to turn one of the hushpuppies into the judges half cooked.  What a disappointment!! 

So....imagine our surprise when we heard our names called out to come back in the final round of the top 8 hushpuppies!!!!  Woo-hoo!!!  We were so excited!!! 

The second round was a lot of fun...all the worries were gone because we knew we had a good hushpuppy!!!  We set up for the second round and laughed with the other teams as we waited for the round to begin...and waited...and waited!  Having 8 teams with electric fryer was just a little too much...we had to wait for proper electrical supply to the fryer to begin the final round. 

We finally got started and made an awesome batch of hushpuppies!  Our fryer worked great during this second round.  We turned in our samples to the judges and had plenty of time to make another 60 hushpuppies to give out to the crowd to sample. 

The judges were impressed with our samples also!  We won 4th place for our....drum roll please...Smores hushpuppy!!!  Lots of chocolate-y, marshmallow-y, graham cracker goodness!!!  Now I still won't tell you our secret recipe but at least you know the flavor. 

I could not have been prouder of our team.  We were the youngest team to compete in the final round and we all worked together as a team.  Brianna mixed the batter just right, Henry scooped them up into perfect round balls, Sean placed the marshmallow just right, and I fried them to perfection!  Brianna also gave me the idea to form the batter around the marshmallow just right.  And I learned a trick about frying huspuppies that I MIGHT share with my closest long as I don't have to compete with them!  <WINK>

Also, there is a spirit award given out each year to the team who dresses up in costume while making their hushpuppies.  So, we dressed up like the nursery rhyme..."The Little Old Lady who Lived in a Shoe."  We even made a LARGE boot to make it clear to all who we were.  It was a lot of fun.  I was the little old lady and my helpers were the good children who were allowed to come out of the shoe.

Our older team (Caleb, Justin, Katy, Treyton) dressed up like World War II heroes (Patton, Eisenhower, WWII Nurse, and MacCarthur).  They did a great job with their costumes and even wheeled in a little tank they made.  I was not a bit surprised when the judges called their names for the spirit award.  I think I was just as excited as they were when they went on stage.  Great job senior team!!!

We spent the rest of the night working our 4H booth and got home just after 10pm.  That was the last night of the festival for us!  We waved good-bye until next year!!! 

PS...we had a lot of fun things happen with our observation hive today!  I will try to tell you about this tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Tale of Two Fairs

WARNING!!!  Not for the faint of heart!  Crazy woman alert!!!! that I have warned you, let me tell you what we did today.

I woke up at 4am and got breakfast ready for the kiddos and then woke the boys up in time to leave the house by 6:30am!  However, we were not alone in this endeavor...we met with four other families to head to the East Texas State Fair!  We found out about a plant identification contest and thought we could use the practice before our big contest in a couple of weeks. 

We arrived just in time to register and find out that the participants would need to know the names of the plants and write them on the answer sheet.  There are 50 plants to learn and half are chosen for the contest.  This is not a lot of names but normally we are given the list and asked to only write the number assigned the plant name.  I think it was a good lesson for us because, honestly, I think our kids should know the plants they are learning without a list.  So, a lesson learned, and we will be ready for next year. 

The best lesson of the day was the grasses that we were finally able to see without looking at a book.  Most of our books have black and white drawings so we have never been able to identify specimens we find.  This contest gave us an opportunity to see specimens and know the name.  Very helpful!!!

We also had time to tour the fair a little as we waited to hear our results.  The boys even found a 4H display, entomology maze with a "Wizard of Oz' theme, wildlife track hands-on activity, and a East Texas Beekeepers booth.  We also found our way to the petting zoo.  Then we watched a man carve an eagle into a log of wood with a chainsaw!!!! 

We later found out our results and were pleased with our scores, even though they were lower than most,  because we knew we had done our best.  I also spoke to one of the judges about obtaining specimens and he directed me in the right direction.  So, all in all it was a good opportunity.

But our day did not end with this contest...

We rushed back home to pick up our basket for our 4H booth and headed back to the Forest Festival.  We continued our promotion of 4H well into the night.  I really enjoyed showing our hive to the passers-by.  It helped me learn more myself.  I was often asked question that I was not sure about the answer.  I don't like it when that happens, so I will have some learning to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.  The boys learned that it is OK to not know the answer and be willing to tell your 'audience' that you don't know.

We stayed at the festival long into the night....not arriving home until almost midnight. 

Oh...and did I mention that I brought along three snakes for the night!  A baby corn snake and two Colombian boas.  Thank goodness they don't need a lot of attention and I can take them back to the fair tomorrow!
We will get up again early tomorrow to head back to the festival and I will wait to tell you how this crazy woman turns into the little old lady that lived in a shoe!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Forest Festival Fun

We have spent the last two days at our local Forest Festival.  We have had so much fun meet with this community outreach.  We have a 4H booth set up to explain about 4H.  We do this each year to help promote 4H in is important to get the word out to others.  It also gives us a chance to show those who know about 4H to see how the members are learning. 

Christina checking out
our bee hive
We were given a great opportunity to share part of our Entomology project with the community thanks to our beekeeper friend Marie.  She let us take out an observation hive to the festival.  You would be amazed at how many people were more afraid to look at a contained bee hive than they were to hold a snake (more on that in moment)!  However, after some education on bees we were able to come in close and see the hive along with the queen, her worker bees, and the new larva. 

Brendan and Edward with the
Friends of the Forest booth
So, as you might have guessed, our family does not do anything simple.  We are also a part of an organization called Friends of the Forest.  And, yes, we did get involved with this group indirectly from 4H.  My daughter met the leader of the group a few years ago when we were volunteering at a 4H community service project.  Since that time we have gone to many events with this group.  What was the great pull for my daugther to get involved?  SNAKES!!!!  She loves these things and so she fell in love with Friends of the Forest because they always have snakes in their exhibits. 

Well, now she is off to college to study animals (especially snakes) and we are still enjoying the group.  To find out more about this awesome organization that teaches about conservation and more, check out the link on the name above.

Brendan with the
fire safe house
So the complexity of the situation came about when we wanted to help both 4H and Friends of the Forest.  Thankfully, we found a way to set up booths next to each other.  So we have been floating between the two booths, helping out as we can.  Tonight I got an extra thrill of learning we get to bring the snakes home with us tomorrow night!  I will add some extra pictures of the boys holding them tomorrow.

And, we are not through playing out at the festival.  We will be back out there tomorrow and Saturday.  Tonight we get to have a good night sleep so we can head to a different fair.  This time for a plant identification contest.  Can't wait to tell you all about it tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little More from Yesterday and then Today

So, as sometimes happens with a busy 4H family, we had some overlaps yesterday!

In the midst of our Wildlife meeting, we were also supposed to deliver desserts to local media outlets to show our appreciation--Media Day!  We were disappointed but we had delivered brownies earlier in the day to support the effort.  Sometimes you just have to realize that it is impossible to be in 2 places at once.

Then we carried 4H into the evening with the County 4H Expo. This was an opportunity to promote our projects at the county level. We helped set up the room and then set up a booth for Wildlife and there was also a booth for Entomology. We were able to showcase our project to 100+ children and their parents. 

We were especially excited to have our photography workshops promoted by another club.  I guess that means we did something right on Monday.  I think the big pull was the professional coming to our next meeting and our desire to provide community service projects throughout the year. 

We also had two new children interested in the Wildlife project!  This young man in the photo was a little young to be in 4H but he was very interested in our booth and the project.  I told him to take the next two years to explore the outdoors on his own and study the wildlife in the area, then he would be well prepared to join the project!  He really had spunk and I could see that 4H sparkle in his eyes!

 So here the boys have ventured off to one of our old projects.  Forestry is a great project but it conflicted too much with Wildlife to continue.  We still love to look at the trees and learn.  It is often hard to narrow down your choices in 4H....there is just so much to do!  Sometimes you have to make hard choices and give up a project for the good of another.

I just could not resist adding this picture in the blog!  Brendan is ready to promote 4H.  He is talking to someone about the importance of bees at the Entomology booth!  This will be a great way to show that he had the 4H spirit from the start.  He is already ready to 'make the best better.'  But for now he can continue to be our little tag-along 4Her.  Imagine what he will be like after 8 years of pre-4H fun and out 4H world!

Today we woke up early and began preparations for our 4H booth at a local festival.  We will be promoting 4H and our club.  We will also be selling raffle tickets for our fall fundraiser.  We will be set up throughout the rest of the week and into the weekend.  I am sure I will blog more about these experiences throughout the week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good Mourning Dove!

Today, we had the joy of studying one of my favorite wildlife creatures from our project contest....the mourning dove.
When I first started learning about this project and not knowing the spelling of this species of bird, I thought that it must have been named because it was an early riser like myself.  I kind of liked that idea, until I actually looked up the bird and realized it was actually 'mourning' not 'morning!'  Oh well, I still think this bird is pretty neat...maybe it is more because of its adaptability to different locations.
Today's presentation was done by Katy.  I was very proud of her for getting up in front of the group today.  She did a great job of covering all the information. 

"A graceful, slender-tailed, small-headed dove that’s common across the continent. Mourning Doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying. Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted species in North America."

Doesn't that sound like a beautiful bird?

We learned today:

The Mourning Dove is from 11 to 13 inches long, with a wingspan of 17 to 19 inches. Weights range from 4.5 to 6 ounces. The small black spot on the face distinguished it from the now extinct Passenger Pigeon.

Except for wetland and dense forest, mourning doves can be found most anywhere.
Mourning Doves birds prefer open land with scattered trees and shrubs.
They are one of the most widespread and adaptable North American birds.

The male and female look a lot alike.  The sex of a Mourning Dove can be determined with lots of experience. Males have a bluish crown and nape, and a rose wash to the throat and breast. The crown and nape of the female is grayish brown, and the throat and breast has a brownish or tan wash.

Nesting Habits
A loosely built nest, built by the male, of twigs, grass, weeds and pine needles make up the nesting materials Doves use. In fact, this loose pile of twigs is so lightly put together that often you can see through it from the bottom.

Nest abandonment is very common with these birds. If they feel any threat from predators whether human or animal, they may go elsewhere to nest abandoning both eggs and nestlings.

Unlike most birds, Doves incubate their eggs continually. Since the male and female look alike, it appears the same bird is incubating the eggs the whole time.  Actually, the male does a daytime shift and the female does the night shift.

The nest can be found 5-25 feet above the ground, often in the crotch of a shrub or tree. Laying 2 white eggs that are incubated for 14-15 days. The young will leave the nest in 12-14 days.

Doves, along with Pigeons, produce a food called pigeon milk (not really milk) by glands in the crop of the adult bird. The parent opens its mouth wide, permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.

In the wild, the adult birds feed primarily on waste grain. These include corn, wheat, grass, and weed seeds.

The average lifespan of first year doves is 1 - 1.5 years. First year doves have a mortality rate of 60 - 75 percent and adults have a mortality rate of 50 - 60 percent. For any songbird the first year of survival is the most difficult. Doves that survive their first year can live on average 4 - 5 years.


  • Plant on field borders, along fence rows, or any other idle land area

  • Do not till in fall after harvest of small grain crops

  • Leave waste grains available

  • Leave some areas of small grains (wheat, millet, milo, oats) unharvested

  • Plant annual food plots in areas lacking grain

  • Brush chop, chain, or roller beat small areas (10-20 acres) in large expanses of brush or woodland

  • Control burn small areas (10-20 acres) in large brush or woodland areas

  • Plants for the Contest
    Annual sunflower
    Partridge Pea
    Prickly Ash
    Rye Grass
    Smart weed
    Sumac Littleleaf
    Switch Grass
    Western Ragweed

    We had 16 children and 7 adults in attendance.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Photography 101

    Started our new 4H phtography year, with a session on basic camera skills.  We focused (haha!) on the basic features found on most digital cameras.  I felt like I was talking a mile a minute to get all the information to the participants.  I know I could have spent several sessions on this topic; however, I really want the members to look at their personal camera to discover what it can do to help them get better shots. 

    So the basics we covered were:

    • Camera Modes
    • How to hold camera
    • Shutter Lag
    • White Balance
    • Histograms

    Then I shared some tips on what to think about when taking pictures:

    • Telling story with pictures
    • Focal Points
    • Competing Focal Points
    • Background/Foreground
    • Closeups
    • Source of Light
    • Framing Straight
    • Perspective
    • Travelling through the Picture

    After the class session, I sent them out to explore the CEO grounds.  I encouraged them to use the additional features we discussed on their cameras.  They often came back with great pictures.  I hope they know that they are better photographers than I.

    We ended the session with a homework assignment for the next month. 

    Photography Assignment #1

    Choose one scene or object.
    Experiment with your camera and the information given in class. 

    Try to take several differnet pictures at different times of the day and different techniques.
    Submit favorite picture to my email t obe used in a slideshow at beginning of next session.

    I can't wait to see what they choose to submit.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    A Sticky Situation-(aka Honey Judging)

    After posting such a long post about JAKES Day, I decided to save this post for another day.  We had a such a full morning yesterday that most would call it quits for the day.  However, we hopped in our car and raced to the home of one of our local beekeepers.  We were met by two of our fellow beekeepers, Cecil and Marie, who taught us the basics of honey judging. 

    We learned that there are several qualities that are desired for good honey. 

    Moisture Content

    However, when judging honey for contests, there are other factors involved.

    Jar Cleanliness
    Accurate Volume

    There are also several categories that can be judged.  Yesterday we judged eight entries in three categories.  We had pure honey, comb honey, and whipped honey.  We were hoping to have an entire frame to judge but it did not work out. 

    All of the honey was very tasty.  The boys thoroughly enjoyed the experience!  There only complaint was that the dippers were not big enough!  If they had had it their way, they would have eaten all of the honey in one sitting. 

    The most interesting step was judging the moisture content.  We actually tested the level of moisture with a eye glass type instrument.  We all had an opportunity to use the device.  We were told most honey is considered good quality if it is between 14-18% moisture.  The honey yesterday was usually on the higher end of this moisture content but it all tasted great!

    Marie heard we were going to be set up at the Forest Festival this coming week.  She asked if we would like to have an observation hive set up.  So we are looking to find a way to take our hive out to the festival.  This is just one more great way to reach out to the community and educate the public about the benefits of bees.  We are looking forward to the adventure.

    Once again we are learning how to 'make the best better.'

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    JAKES Day...Turkey Extravaganza!

    Who would have thought there could be so much excitement over turkeys?!

    We woke up bright and early this morning to arrive at a local ranch to help with set up.  Sean was asked to help with the 4H booth at the annual JAKES Day event.  Well, once one starts helping the others follow along, especially at an event like this one.  We found ourselves blowing up about 100 balloons to create a target board for longbows and BB guns.  This is where Sean would spend most of his morning. 

    Once the event began, we left Sean behind to join the 300 other children and adults around the stations provided by various groups invited by the National Wild Turkey Federation.  We were divided up in groups of ten to make the rounds. 
    We began the adventure at the trilemetry station where we learned how to track a wild turkey.  We learned that a simple radar device attached to a turkey can allow wildlife biologists an opportunity to track the movement of the turkeys.  The children were even given an opportunity to find a 'turkey' with the equipment.

    We then headed for the booth set up by the Texas Game Wardens.  This station was called "The Wall of Shame."  There were several animals that were found by the game wardens due to illegal hunting.  These animals are now used to show children (and adults) the importance of following the laws.  The children especially enjoyed seeing the bald eagle that was found in the woods after the Columbia space shuttle fell in East Texas.  The game wardens are not sure what caused the eagle to die because there was nothing apparently wrong with the bird.  It made quite a specimen for the display.  The game warden spoke about the conservation strategies related to the bald eagle, as well as other animals. 
    Our third stop was our 4H archery booth.  Henry and Edward enjoyed sending a few arrows out to the balloons we had blown up earlier in the morning.  Bow hunting is one the favorite ways to hunt turkey.  The long bow that we shot at this booth is not used as much anymore but it is still fun way to learn how to shoot an arrow.   We had several of our senior 4Hers helping with this booth.  Treyton and Caleb were especially helpful at guiding the younger children in hitting the balloons. 
    The BB guns were also a hit for our group.  Brendan was convinced that this was the gun for him.  Unfortunately, the leader of this 4H booth felt that a 2 year old was a little young for a gun.  I finally convinced them to let me hold the gun while he shot it.  It just was not the same...Brendan sulked as he watched his older brothers have all the fun!  Maybe next year!
    The fifth station proved to be a noisy spot!  The children were shown how to do turkey calls by award winning callers.  There were several types of calls and the children were all given the opportunity to try there best to call some turkeys.  Imagine ten little ones all given noise makers all at once!  However, by the end of our session, the children were actually sounding like a rafter of turkeys! 
    The next station was a stop at the Texas Forest Service booth.  They spoke to the children about wildfires (very relevant to our area right now) and how to prevent them.  I did not take any pictures at this booth because I was too busy talking to the volunteer fire fighters about how thankful we are having them available.  Also, they helped me choose some educational posters given out by the Forest Services.

    Next, we were off to a second archery booth with compound bows.  There were easy to shoot and the boys loved having multiple turns shooting at targets and a deer.  Edward was given a lot of one on one guidance.  Henry was happy that he always hit his target. 
    This was followed by a shooting station sponsored by another county 4H group.  The boys were allowed to shoot two types of shotgun and a 22 rifle.  Edward shot the shotgun first and that was enough for him.  It definitely had a kick to it but most of all it was loud.  He never could stand loud noises.  So he did not shoot any of the other guns.  Henry, on the other hand, shot everything he could get his hands on.  He really enjoyed this station.  I can see shooting sports project in our future.
    Just when you thought you had learned all there was to know about turkeys, we found ourselves at the next station!  We had a wildlife biologist talk to us about the biological facts of a turkey.  This included information from the nest and on throughout the lifespan of a turkey.  We especially enjoyed learning about the juvenile turkeys, called jakes, as well as the different turkey feet. 

    Our final stop was at the fishing station sponsored by Academy.  The boys love to fish, but to add to the fun, Academy gave out $10 gift cards for the participants who landed their 'hook' into the circle.  Each of the boys walked away with a gift card!  Thanks to Academy for coming out each year!  To finish up the great event, we were served a hot dog lunch and more prizes were given out.  The Winston Ranch gave away a free youth hunt and Academy gave away more gift cards and camping chairs.  Edward won a nice camping chair! It was just a great day over all! 

    A big thank you to the National Wild Turkey Federation for another successful year!
    Here are a few websites that relate to the events of the day:

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Our Wacky Crazy Thursday!

    Welcome to our Wacky Crazy Thursday!

    That is what we like to call this once a month event in our house!  What can I say?  I am not sure what it is about the day we have our 4H club meetings, but it always ends up being a full day regardless of how little or how muc hwe fit into the day!

    We usually spend most of our day preparing for the meeting.  The boys are always getting together what they need to present information.  Then I am the project leader for three projects, so I am usually gathering information related to the information I need to gie to the club members.  Tonight we made even more crazy because we prepared refreshments for the end of the meeting. spite of all this hoop-la, we have to admit we love it!  We got it all together...we got information out to our club, and most of all...we had fun! 

    We had a great program about parlimentary procedures presented by our Vice President, Katy, and our Parlimentarian, Jonah.  They taught the club how to make a motion and the different ways to vote by setting up a scenario where the club voted on how to make a trail mix and what would be included in the mix.  It was a lot of fun and everyone learned the procedures!  We also voted to set up a booth at the Forest Festival next week.  This will include selling raffle tickets, but mostly we will be promoting 4H with crafts and information at the booth.

    We decided to make our day even wackier by planning a meeting after the club meeting because our club is competing in a hushpuppy contest. Yes, this does relate to 4H because of our interest in Food & Nutrition. (More on this adventure next week!)

    It was a full day but we continue to find new ways to 'make the best better.'

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Wildlife Habitat Evaluation and Management

    Before I get started with my post today, O want to make sure to make a big announcement about JAKES Day. 

    Looking for ways for the whole family to enjoy the outdoors this weekend? Come to Winston Ranch for J.A.K.E.S. Day this Saturday, September 17, 2011! This fun-filled event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Admission is $10 and includes an array of activities that focus on wildlife, conservation efforts, and outdoor recreational opportunities in Texas. Children can try their hands at archery, fishing, shooting sports, and much more!

    For more information, check out or call the County Extension Office.

    Now back to our main topic of the evaluation and management plans.

    The evaluation of land is one of the most helpful skills you can learn in the program.  All of the other information we learn (about plants, animals, and preferences) leads to this skill and followed up by how this evaluation determines the management plan for the designated property.   

    We learned yesterday that animals must have in their habitat adequate
    • food,

    • cover, OOPS!!!

    • water,
    • and space. 
    NO...this kind of space!

    Now those pictures are what we might visualize when we think about food, cover, water, and space.  It is not that different for our wildlife.  All of these parts come together to form a habitat.

    We even had an activity to emphasize the importance of these habitat requirements.  The main point of this activity was to show how interconnected these parts are to reaching optimum wildlife conditions.  If one part of the habitat is lost or deficient, the wildlife will suffer and cause detrimental effects on the other parts of the habitat.  Not only must the wildlife benefit from the habitat, but also, the wildlife must coexist with the other wildlife species, livestock and humans.  All of these factors must be observed in order to utilize resources properly.

    All species have different thoughts when they desire the ultimate habitat.  If each animal were able to create their own habitat they would pick out certain needs related to food, cover, water, and space.  Unfortunately, we can not have each species separated into unique and individualized habitats, so we try to work with a more natural habitat to help optimize the population of diverse wildlife on a piece of property. 

    Our focus for our 4H wildlife is to optimize the population of deer, squirrel, quail, turkey, waterfowl, and dove (other animals include pheasant, antelope, and javelina).  I wish there was a way to give all of this information to you on line but it is a course in itself.  I have found a great resource on the Texas Parks and Wildlife site.  I encourage you to check it out.

    Now once you have determined the desired wildlife and the needs for this species, you can move on to a management plan.  There are several practices used in our area to help manage a population.  Most of the practices make sense when you hear them.  The difficulty comes when you have species that require different habitats on the same piece of property.  I have learned that is a very objective skill.  Many professional wildlife groups (i.e. biologists, foresters, landowners, etc.) have different ideas of how a piece of property should be maintained.  The best method I have found is to take your time and draw it out.  Then look for overlapping practices.  Always pay attention to details in choosing the optimal plan for the given property. 

    A lot of information!  The best thing to do is know your wildlife needs and remedy inadequate food, cover, water, and space issues.  If you can determine the deficiencies in a property, then the plan is 50% complete.  Just fill in the management practices that will remedy that deficiency. 

    What better way to "make the best better" then to help maintain a property for ourselves and the wildlife!

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Wild Turkey

    Today I am going to talk to you about...

    The bird Benjamin Franklin wanted to represent our country...NO!!!...not the bald eagle...but the...


    Yes, that's a letter to his daughter during the time our country was forming Benjamin Franklin wrote:

    "For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character.”

    “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."
    (To read more from this letter click on his name above.)
    So, why all this talk about a silly bird?  Today we had a great presentation from one of our younger members (Briana) about the wild turkey.  This is one of our key animals on our local wildlife contest.  Here are a few of the highlights from our meeting:

    General Information:

    Male Turkeys (Gobblers): 
    About 4 feet long, including tail
    Breast feathers have black tips
      Female Turkeys (Hens):
    About three feet
    Breast feathers have brown tips

    Turkeys live in open woodlands and forests with lots of clearings and meadows. 

    Wild turkeys travel in small single-sex flocks most of the year.
    Wild Turkey have good eyesight and hearing, and they are fast runners.
    They roost in oak and pine trees at night.

    Insects, spiders, snails, slugs, salamanders, small lizards, frogs, snakes, worms, grasses, vines, flowers, acorns, seeds, berries, and more!!!
    One male with 3-10 female in a 'harem'
    Male will gobble and strut and gain attention by fanning out his tail
    Nests made in ground, lined with leaves and vines
    10-15 eggs, light brown with black or dark brown spots
    Raccoon, Red fox, Skunk, Crow, Snake, Opossum, Chipmunk, and Squirrel
    Management Recommendations:
    Habitat should include clearings where insects can be captured and 10% of the woodland area should be maintained in scattered openings to provide optimum foraging.
    Disking small areas to maintain some perennial forbs, grasses, and shrubs
    Use controlled prescribed burns every 3-5 years in shrub habitats.
    Clear cut 10-20 acres in large expanses of young and mature woodland or trees.
    Perennial food plots to native grasses and legumes in large expanses of shrubs and young woodlands where food is limiting.
    Plant native mast crop trees.
    Eliminate fall tillage of grain crops, especially adjacent to woodlands.
    Leave small areas of grain crops unharvested.
    Manage livestock.
    Great websites to learn more about wild turkeys:

    Plants for our contest related to Turkeys:

    American Beauty Berry

    Annual Sunflower

    Arrowleaf Clover

    Bahia Grass


    Black Cherry



    Crimson Clover








    Partridge Pea



    Post oak

    Prickly Ash

    Rye grass


    Southern red oak

    Sumac Little Leaf


    Water oak

    Western Ragweed

    White Clover

    White oak

    Since this turned out to be another long post about our featured animal of the week, I will save the information about habitat evaluation and management practices for tomorrow.