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Monday, November 28, 2011

Along for the Ride

We started out over a week ago on a road trip for the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is actually an add on to our 'real' vacation, but it has become quite a journey.  We are seeing family and friends who we do not get to visit very often.  In fact, I have one friend that I met that I had not seen in 25 years!  It has been a fun and crazy journey.  We stop as we go, without much of a plan, all so we can get to our main destination (yet to be revealed to my readers).

One of my plans for this little road trip was to bring back plant specimens that could be on the State Wildlife contest.  For the most part, I have been asking to pull over on the side of the road to gather grasses and taking pictures of trees along the way.  However, I have also been fortunate to have several stops at national parks where the plants have been nicely labeled so I know the plants I am gathering are correct.  I try to take the specimens already gathered to compare to these labeled plants. 

Here are a few of the plants I have gathered along with a few pictures, along with location:

American Beautyberry
Catclaw Sensative briar
Four-winged Saltbush (Wupatki Nat. Monument, AZ)

Hackberry (Montezuma Castle Nat. Monument, AZ)

Honey Mesquite
Little Bluestem
Live Oak
Plains Bristlegrass
Prickly Pear (outside cave entrance at Carlsbad Caverns, NM)
Rusty Blackhaw
Southern Red Oak

Sumac-little leaf (Carlsbad Caverns, NM)

Western Soapberry (Montezuma Castle Nat. Monument, AZ)

Not a bad start to my specimen list.  I can’t wait to get back to show the group.
Also, our picture taking skills have been used to take great shots of the mountain scenes across three states—Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  Still more of this to come as we head off on our ‘real’ vacation in just two days!

train shot by Henry

snow-capped mountains by Michelle

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Could not Resist One More Post

Before we head off for our vacation, I remembered that we had not left anything for the soldier care packages for the December shipment.  We are at my mother's house, so we gathered some supplies.  We created some little packets to mail to a friend so they could get to the center in time for shipment.  We just could not forget our soldiers for Christmas.  It is hard to believe it takes so long to get a package to our soldiers but a lot of mail must be delivered at this time so there are often delays.

All our boys and Gramma got into the act and set up the packets.  We placed Christmas candy and some extra items (e.g. hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, and cider mix) in the packets.  Even little Brendan liked to stuff the bags! 

We made 40 packets and then shipped all the extra for the group to make more.  I also added more candy canes and beef jerky to the box. 

So, a big thank you to all our soldier friends.  Know that you are loved and prayed for daily.  God bless you on Thanksgiving and into the New Year!  Safe return for all!

Testing sensitive briar
Also, we went to the Lady Bird Native Plant Center yesterday.  I was hoping to see a few of the Wildlife plants labelled so I would be sure I knew what they were by sight.  We will be travelling west starting Tuesday, so I will look for these same specimens that I can bring home for the group.

While we were there, Henry could not resist taking a few snap shots of the couple who were getting married soon after the center closed.  It was good practice for photography.

Sean also had an Entomology experience!  He was able to observe a moth cocoon at an observation point along one of the nature paths.  A great experience all around!  I am glad we had the opportunity to go on this adventure as a side trip before the real trip begins.  I can't wait to share what I learned with the group when I return next month.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

In 4H, these months seem to go around again and again!  LOL

No, not really but monthly meetings do seem to come around often.  Yet, there is always something a little differnt to make it intersting.

Before the meeting began we took a visit back to Grace Care Center.  I had the pictures developed so we could meet today and pass out the photographs taken Monday.  I have never seen so many happy faces!  So many sweet residents who were so thankful to see us.  They were almost as pleased to see their photos.  This is a project I hope comes around often!

We then raced over to the CEO to make it to our meeting.  We had our drawing for our raffle so we collected the stubs at the door.  I helped to verify all the raffle tickets were accounted for before having the drawing.  Along with our drawn raffle winners, we gave a prize to the seller of the winning raffle tickets (Jaron, Caleb and Treyton).  Then a final youth prize was awarded to Caleb for selling the most tickets (187).  Caleb was so kind, he knew Sean had worked hard selling tickets (157) so he gave Sean one of his prizes.  Sean could not have been more pleased with his multi-purpose cutter!  You think he had one the grand prize from the raffle!

We had a special guest speaker tonight!  None other than our favorite soldier, my husband!  He spoke to the group about Afghanistan as well as the Army after a nice introduction from Katy.  He would later show his pictures to those interested after the meeting.

Now we are home preparing for a little trip we have been planning when Michael returned from Afghanistan.  I won't give any details now but be ready when I return.  Even though it is really not 4H related, we are hoping to take lots of pictures so we will fudge and connect it with photography some how.  You never know where a prize winning photograph will appear!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Little Celebration

We got together for Wildlife project today.  However, I decided to surprise the group with ice cream sundaes.  We needed a little celebration instead of studying today.  We can study for the State contest we take a little break through the holidays. So I thought we should enjoy a little down time.

We also invited our favorite museum directors to celebrate with us.  We really appreciate all of the help they have given us over the years.  We could not do it with out their support.

We spent the last few minutes talking about the upcoming events.  Along with the Wildlife team continuing their study efforts for the April contest, we will  begin learning about our new WHEP project that we will compete in for March.  We are looking forward to learning about this similar project.  You will read more about this endeavor in January.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Portraits of the Elderly

Last summer I was given an idea for a photography service opportunity.  Go to a nursing home and take pictures of the residents.  I was so excited about the idea that I wanted to go out to nursing home immediately!  What a blessing for our 4H members to be introduced to the elder members in our community and bless them with a nice picture in return.

Well, this afternoon the opportunity finally came about at the Grace Care Center.  We (a group of 10 members) were able to meet and photograph 52 of the nicest people.  We had one couple who had been married for 13 years (second marriages after first spouse passed away) who were so happy to hold hands and have their picture taken.  We also had a couple who had been married for 60 years.  The husband was so sweet and cared so dearly for his wife, wheeling her into the area and helping her straighten up in her chair before positioning himself.  Then we had an elderly woman who was so pleased when we agreed to take a picture of her with her son who had just come to visit. 

We hope to have the pictures developed so they can be returned in time to give out in Christmas cards.  I will spend the next two days choosing the best shots and cropping out undesirable backgrounds. 

I am so glad for the opportunity our 4H members had to "make the best better" and give their "hands to larger service."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

4h "Fun"draiser

Our club decided back in September to have a raffle to raise funds for the club.  We gave out at least 10 tickets per family and hoped we would have families take more.  We also sold tickets at the Forest Festival and at various other events members had gone to over the last few weeks.  We will be drawing for the winners next week at our monthly meeting. 

I think it is a good raffle....not one of those where you end up winning something you may or may not desire.  We decided to have three winners to be awarded $150, $75, and $50 gift certificates to the store of their choice.  Not a bad prize considering you get to choose where the money is spent.  We also decided to give the 4H members a little motivation to sell tickets this year.  One of our project leaders donated a $25 gift certificate to the 4H member who sells the most tickets (or was it whose names was on the back of the winning ticket?)

So, today was our day to sell as many tickets as possible.  We were heading to a big event at the local ariport and we knew we would have a lot of people to buy tickets.  We grabbed up as many tickets as we could and headed out the door before 8am.  I am so glad we started out early because most of the people came in the first 3 hours.  We were able to sell almost 150 tickets!  Along with all the exhibits at the airport, we had a great day.

The boys were so motivated to sell tickets that they walked around our neighborhood and sold a few more.  What I love about ticket sells at events like this and around the neighborhood is the fact that we are promoting 4H as well.  Almost everyone we sold tickets wanted to hear more about 4H and our club. 

However, our day did not end with raffle tickets.  We came home to find a package!  It was Sean's costume for our Share the Fun skit.  He is playing the part of George Washington.  He looked great as he tried on his suit and wig.  I can't wait to have the entire skit set up to perform.  It should be a lot of fun!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

One of our favorite parts of 4H is the fact that the organization promotes good citizenship.  What better way to be a good citizen then to honor those who protect our country on Veteran's Day (and every day!).

Each year we try to honor the Veterans in a special way.  We usually go to a celebration of some kind.  In the last few years it has been at the Huntington high school.  They have a nice performance with local talent come out to sing along with slide shows of local veterans, especially those who attend the school.  They also honor each of the veterans with a special welcome as well as a tribute to all the armed forces.  Then they provide a nice lunch.

We heard so many great stories during the program.  We were also impressed with the singing quartet, Driftwood (3 of which are veterans).  Then the guest speaker was Milt Price who was an Air Force tanker pilot during Vietnam and flew airplanes for American Airlines (specifically on that fateful day of 9-11).  He encouraged the young people to look at the military and Civil Air Patrol as an honor to participate in order to protect the country.  He quoted the Strategic Air Command motto, "Peace through Strength."  This was also the motto for our former President Ronald Reagan.  May we never forget that even during peace time we need a strong military to ensure others do not see us as week and decide to attack.

Then we watched a tearjerker of a film about the Marines on Makin Island.  Of course, we also had the Pledge of Allegiance, Star Spangled Banner.  When the 11th hour came, we stopped to have a moment of silence followed by the playing of Taps.  I always get so choked up when I go to these events.  I am so proud of our military!

In the past we have taken the children to the event and had them sign a Veteran's book.  We then remember these veterans each time we look at the book, usually by offering up a prayer in their behalf.  This year we decided to do something different.  The boys went around to talk to the veterans ans asked to take their picture. 

We then created a collage of these pictures to show to you.  I hope you will look at these brave men and women who fought for our country from World War II to present day, and then feel some form of gratitude for what they do for our country.  

Happy Veteran's Day!

May God bless our military and their families!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Lesson in Parliamentary Procdure

Our County Council met today for their monthly meeting.  They were in for a surprise crash course in parliamentary procedure.  The county extension agent did  a good job of incorporating the actual meeting into this educational program.  I was not able to sit in and listen but I did have Henry sneak in and take a few pictures.  Sean looked a little confused in this picture, or at least he looked like he was concentrating on the matter seriously.  The group learned how to run a meeting with correct procedure as well as how to carry a motion from beginning to end. 

An unknown 4Her stands to make a motion.

I had wanted to stay after and talk to the 4Hers in general about the experience.  However, we were in a little bit of a hurry today.  We had to rush to the airport to pick up our favorite soldier at the airport.  After being away three months we were happy to have him home. 

We decided to wear our 4H shirts to promote our club and 4H in general.  We even grabbed Michael's shirt so he could switch into it on arrival.  Then we took our large group out to eat to advertise a little.  We might not ever know who saw the shirts and wondered about 4H from the experience but we had fun in our matching shirts nonetheless.  I just had to post some coming home pictures for everyone to see! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Boy Quilters?

I guess I should have taken the time to have a pre-post blog yesterday.  I will try to catch up my readers on a little project my boys (along with 3 other boys) began last March.  We had heard about a quilt challenge that would take place at our Ste Round Up in June.  We were told to send off for a block of the theme material and then proceed to make a quilt in a pattern of our choice.  Since the boys had been in Clothing & Textile, we decided to participate.  Little did we know that the quilt would end up being an all-boy quilt from start to finish.  Also, none of the mothers had made a quilt before so it truly was a first time quilt for all involved.  Here is the finished product after its completion last May.

Now the boys sent the quilt in to the Round Up Quilt Challenge and found out a nice surprise.  All quilts entered in the contest would be displayed at the International Quilt Show in Houston!  Skip ahead 6 months and here we are today!  If we could incorporate what it means to be in 4H in one was the day!  And what an amazing 4H day it was!

After the two hour road trip this morning at 6am, we arrived at the quilt show.  We were allowed to enter early so we could be ready for the show attendees.  We would spend the next 3 hours promoting 4H.  The boys were a little shy at first but after being asked to have their picture taken with their quilt many times throughout the morning they got into the spirit of 4H.  They each spoke to those who ventured into the 4H displays; they spoke about the quilts and the challenge, and the desire to donate the quilt (as all the quilts would be) to a local women's shelter.  However, they also talked about 4H in general...promoting other projects along with Clothing & Textiles.  All who spoke to the boys were impressed that they had made a quilt.  These are a few of our favorites, especially our own and the one made by our friend, Brianna.

After noon we were able to go explore the quilt show.  We saw so many quilts but not even close to seeing them all.  I will have some pictures of our favorites at the end of the post.  However, as we rambled around the show, we came to our service opportunities of the day.  The first was the Quilts of Valor booth.  Quilters from all over the United States get together and make quilts to give to wounded soldiers.  This booth was set up at the show to ask attendees to donate to the funds to provide material for quilts, as well as sign a quilt square to be pieced together for a quilt.  We were happy to participate and find out more information to see if we can participate locally. 

Then we went around the corner to learn about the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.  This group is trying to provide beds and bedding for 1 million children in the area.  They also promote the idea for other communities.  They had a pillowcase assembly at the show, so the boys each made a pillow case.  They even learned how to use a serger for the first time.  This is another service opportunity we hope to bring back to our community!

But, our 4H adventure was not over yet!  We turned the next corner to find a very large quilted hamburger, and a quilting workshop set up for children.  Now, I have to admit that even though the boys had made a wonderful quilt, we had much to learn about quilting.  So, the boys and I decided to learn from the pros.  Henry chose to work on his machine quilting techniques.  Sean and Edward chose to make a hand quilted square.  I was able to sit back and gather information, while Brendan took a rest from the backpack.  Henry was able to complete his machine stitched square, however, the other boys will need to finish theirs over the weekend.  I learned a lot as well and hope to work on my own quilt at home.

As the boys worked on their quilt squares, our eyes kept drifting off to the side where a car was placed in the building.  So we knew the next place we were headed was to the quilted car.  Who would have thought to quilt a car cover!?!  However, it was nicely covered with care by several quilts pieced together.  I guess this might keep your car warm and keep you from frost on those cold winter mornings!

This was followed by more quilt viewing.  Just when we were about to leave we happened upon a section of the show for historic quilts.  Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures of these quilts.  We especially enjoyed seeing the 150 year old quilt that survived a shipwreck in Galveston Bay.  We also liked the quilt shaped like Texas with all the counties pieced individually.  We did not take a picture of it but there were several Texas quilts like it on display. Then there was the diary quilt.  It was a great way to 'weave' family history into a quilt.  We were unable to take a picture of it but the woman who made it spoke to us about the research that went into making the quilt.  It looked like it came right out of the page of a diary and represented many passages from across the generations.  What a great way to represent family history!

As you can see it was an awesome 4H day.  We truly lived out the pledge of 4H: 

I give my head to clearer thinking (learning how to quilt),
my heart to greater loyalty (promoting 4H ),
my hands to larger service (service opportunities),
and my health to better living (learning about historical quilts),
for my club, my community, my country, and my world (International Quilt Show).

Here are a few of our favorites from the day.  I have placed all of our pictures of quilts on my Facebook page if you would like to see more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are you Smarter than a Wildlife 4Her?

If something could go wrong this morning it did...At 8am I had already been up for 3 hours trying to get last minute things together for our contest.  And I was in a panic!  I am usually pretty calm when it comes to contest day.  But this morning, I realized that I had forgotten two big things that had to happen before I could leave. 

First, I remembered that this was the contest when we need to bubble in scantrons.  These scantrons are specially made for the contest and must be ordered from a company.  Thankfully, I always buy extras.  The problem:  Where did I put them?  After a frantic search through a very large tub full of wildlife supplies, I found the bottom of the tub, of course! 

Then I raced to get the boys up and out the door when it dawned on me that I needed to have the registration forms in hand at check in.  This might not seem like a problem but the forms had to be signed by our area NRCS coordinator.  I had the forms but I could not remember where I had placed them!  I began my search but to no avail and I was at the point of tears. 

Now if you are not a believer in God, you probably should not be reading my blog, because God is the only thing that gets me through situations like this.  I hollered out, "Lord, you better help me figure this out because it is beyond me!"  And wouldn't you know, I looked at a stack of papers on my desk and there lie the forms! 

I raced to the car and headed to the contest!  I prayed the entire way to the contest for the 4Hers to be humbled as I was this morning and to be filled with a superabundance of wisdom.  I thanked God for each one of them and asked God to bless them.  And I can tell you it was from my heart because I was just crying the entire time! 

And would you believe it?  We arrived at the contest early in spite of everything!  I had prayed so hard for the team before the contest, so I asked if anyone else would like to pray when we gathered together.  I thought it was so sweet that Edward said he would pray.  He simply asked God to help our teams.  This brought tears to my eyes all over again.  I was glad to get it all together and get ready for the contest.  I just emphasized how proud I was of both teams because I knew they would do their best.

Once the teams were grouped in their stations, the coordinator announced that he needed to talk to all coordinators.  That has never happened in the past, so I was a little surprised.  Then the coaches were told that most of us would have been disqualified if they had gone strictly by the rules.  We were told team members must all be wearing collared shirts, long pants, and close-toed shoes.  We were also not allowed to use wooden clipboards.  And, this would be the last contest with a compass & pacing course.

When the coordinator announced the dress code, I have to admit I was a little surprised.  We had never been told about a dress code and we this was our first year to create team shirts.  We were so proud of ourselves and liked the matched look.  Unfortunately we purchased t-shirts and we will not be able to use them again.  I thought it was ironic that this would also be the year that we would buy new compasses for all the participants as well.  We would now find out that it was an unnecessary expense. 

Then I was asked to help judge the fairness of the contest.  All I can say is it was a hard contest.  I think they must have watched us study and picked questions from the portions we had not seen.  So let's see how you would have done on the contest.  Have you heard of the popular game show "Are you Smarter than a Third Grader?"  Well we are going to play "Are you Smarter than a 4Her?"

The first two question on our contest is to identify common plants associated to wildlife in our region.  The 4Her must first identify the plant correctly in order to answer the second question referring to the wildlife animal preference to the plant.  We are asked to know 51 different plants and identify 15 of these plants for contest along with the preference to specified animal species.  The following is an example from yesterday's contest:

The plant is Smartweed which is liked by turkey and waterfowl.

Question 3 questions are based on a wide-range of knowledge associated with the key wildlife animals of the contest (deer, squirrel, quail, turkey, mourning dove, javelina, pronghorn antelope, and waterfowl).  For example:

What type of bird is a turkey?  The answer is gallinaceous birds.

If you don't know what a gallinaceous bird is, don't feel too one could tell me at the contest either.  However, looking it up when I got home, I found out it is just a fancy scientific word for "heavy-bodied ground-feeding domestic or game birds."

The next questions (4 and 5) are about Wildlife evaluation and management practices.  The 4Hers are taken out to a piece of property and given a scenario. Then they must determine if the property is adequate or deficient for three specified animal groups.  Then they must determine accurate management practices to improve the set property.

Today, the 4Hers were taken out to the following property and asked to evaluate and manage the property for deer, squirrel and turkey.

For the management practices, the 4Hers were also given the following scenario:

"I have just purchased 1000 acres.  I would like to develop a 20 year plan to manage the area for deer, turkey, and squirrel.  Observation and spotlight data have shown that buck to doe ratios are 1:5.  I have a water well, several pipeline-fed water troughs, a creek, and ponds throughout the property, I have no intentions of grazing cattle.  I may consider harvesting some timber but only if it will help me maximize my wildlife potential.  I do not believe in removing any hardwoods because I do not feel like I have enough to do so.  I regularly see hogs and coyotes on the property."

I have underlined some key clues to help us determine the management practices for this property (The 4Hers were not given this advantage.)  The answer is:

Deer                                                 Turkey                                    Squirrel
Animal damage                                Animal damage                      Food plots
Population management                   Prescribed burning            Retain hardwoods                  

Prescribed burning                            Streamside management       Prescribed burning
Streamside management                   Construct access/firebreaks
Construct access/firebreaks   

The hardest part of this portion of the contest is knowing what the clues mean.  The first point is that this is a long term plan.  When initially looking at the property it has obviously had a prescribed burn recently (2-3 years); however, because it is a 20-year plan and they do not intend to thin timber or remove hardwoods (obviously retain hardwoods because it was requested by landowner, but only needed for squirrels in this scenario), there will be a need for prescribed burns in the future.  The fact that there is already existing water is a clue to have streamside management.  Also, we are told that there are animals that might harm the livelihood of targeted species so there needs to be animal control; however, squirrel are not effected by animals mentioned.  The deer population needs to be reduced to even out the ratio.  Also, due to the lack of diversity, a squirrel population would be maximized by food plots during stress periods.  It is always a good practice to have access roads or firebreaks on a large piece of property, however, it would not affect the squirrel population.

I know this is a long explanation.  However, you can see that the 4Hers must really think thorough this portion of the contest.  They are actually counted off if they choose a management practice that is not correct and can end up with a negative score!  I also think this is the most subjective portion of the contest, with every wildlife biologist deciding a different plan.  It is also one of the most helpful of all the parts of the contest (You just need to know the other parts to understand this one.) for anyone who wants to own property.

Question 6 was about game laws.  For instance: 
Harassment of hunters, trappers, and fishermen is punishable by what fine? 

The answer:  $200-$2000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.

Question 7 is about "Outdoor Safety," which is a very broad definition including hunter, ATV, boating, fishing, and more. 

Yesterday the 4Hers were given a set up from a boating trip.  They were also given a scenario (I won't give those details today.)  and asked several questions, including:
The group of three men were running low on bait while night fishing.  Jack and Fred get out on a nearby island to continue fishing.  John takes the boat back to the marina to buy more bait.  Is this considered safe or unsafe? 

The answer is unsafe.  It seemed like a good enough question to me when I was helping to judge the fairness of the contest.  However, the coaches spent a lot of time discussing why it should be considered unsafe before judging the rest of the contest.  I must say, I learned a lot about judging contest today!

The 4Hers would then go to the technique portion of the contest.  This is what I call the curve ball of the contest because you never know what you are going to get.  One example of a technique question is:

Yeah...I know it's upside down!...but sometimes that's how the 4Hers see the questions also!  LOL! 

Did you guess "coyote?"  WRONG!!!  That is a fox!  It is too small to be a coyote and a possum has a few smaller teeth in front before the sharp teeth seen in this picture (Sorry I don't have technical names for these teeth.  More to learn for next year!).

The 4Hers ended the contest with a compass & pacing course and then were able to enjoy a BBQ lunch while we waited (and waited) for the results.  In fact, we waited so late into the afternoon that most of the teams left for home.  However, we stuck it out, and I think it was worth the wait.  I got to talk to several coaches one on one, making good contacts for the future.  And, we found out firsthand that after all of our studying (and some powerful logical thinking on the part of our participants!) we were awarded 2nd and 4th place in the contest!  We will also be allowed to take one team and an alternate to the State contest in April. 

I am glad we have a head start in our studies because the contest will be in the Panhandle this year.  The plants are quite different and we will need the practice.  Also, my family will be making a trip that direction (more on that later) so can hopefully pick up some plant specimens.

I am so proud of all the participants (The picture is only of the ones who were able to stay until the end.  I will try to have a group shot in a later post).  They really did a great job and stayed positive throughout the day!  We also had the extra bonus of having the high point individual from our club.  Great job, David!

It was another great 4H day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wildlife Trivial Pursuit

First, I want to say that I am very excited that I have over 1,000 hits on my blog!  I am not sure who is reading all my ramblings (You can comment any time!  I would love to hear from you.), but I hope you enjoy what you read.

Today we had our final prep before the Regional Wildlife contest.  Somehow I got this great idea to create a Wildlife Trivial Pursuit (hope I am not infringing on too many copyrights there).  I thought it was pretty awesome that we had just the right amount of categories to make it work.  I stayed up late last night (even falling asleep at the computer) and then woke up early this morning finishing the game right before we had to leave the house. 

It was well worth the effort!  I think the 4Hers really enjoyed the fun way of reviewing the different questions for the test.  Hopefully we learned something along the way also. 

So, I will fill you in on the details of the contest tomorrow.  I can't wait to see how we do after all the hard work.