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Monday, April 30, 2012

Zoo Photo Session

Our photography group (Sean, Henry, Edward, David, Joseph, Ashley, Caleb, Treyton, Brianna, James, Rebecca and Jaron, along with moms-Michelle, Heather, Christi, Wanda and )  met at the zoo today to take pictures of all the wild animals.  We met under the large canopy surrounded by exotic, tropical plants.  I thought the director, Charlotte, was only going to greet us and send us on our way, however, she had just had a photo-journalism class earlier in the day and shared this information with us as we toured around the zoo.  This was a great opportunity!

We started in the small animal house.  This includes the tamarins, bats, some birds, and reptiles.  Charlotte spoke to the 4Hers about taking pictures through glass and with obtrusive lighting.  I also talked about trying to find ways to frame pictures with natural features within the cages.  I did not know my framing technique was going to include a snake constricting around a very large rabbit!  Once we went inside the reptile house, Charlotte mentioned the importance of avoiding reflections from the opposite wall of displays.

Then we headed over to the otter display.  Charlotte showed the group a trick to animals that like to move around a lot.  She told them to focus on a point where the animal likes to be most of the time and wait for the moment the animal enters that area.  I thought this was a good trick that might work well with small children was well...LOL!

As we sauntering over to the alligators, flamingos, raccoons, lemurs, and komodo dragon, Charlotte was joined by her education director, Alissa.  An awesome picture of the alligators was there for the taking.  Two alligators were laying their heads on each other with their big grins. I hope someone got that picture!  We also discovered that the flamingos were nesting!  We got several photos of the nests.  The other animals are always fun to get pictures in different actions or just sitting there.

We circled around to the hippo display.  We have several shots of the underwater ballet that takes place each day.  We also have several pictures of them coming up to the surface of the water.  We were told it is best to take these pictures in the early morning so the debris in the water has not had time to get stirred up.

We did not have a good photo opportunity at the giraffe display, so we moved on to the big cats.  We took pictures of the lions, jaguar, and tigers.  We also got a group shot with the jaguar.  It is not easy  to see in this picture but the jaguar watched the camera the entire time.  He patiently waited for the rest of the group to get in line and allow a picture to be taken...LOL!

Our last round of pictures was at the eagle and wallabies.  Some of our boys went back for more pictures in different areas as well.

We finished just as the zoo was closing.  A big thanks to Charlotte and Alissa for sharing their zoo with us.  And especially, for Charlotte for sharing her understanding of zoo photography!

I would also like to say that while we were roaming around the zoo, some of our club members (Treyton, Brianna, Caleb, Daniel, and Jonah, along with moms-Myra, Brenda, and Robin) were decorating the extension office for our annual county Leadership banquet.  I will talk more about that tomorrow and show pictures of all they accomplished with the decorations.  It is so nice to our club members so involved at the county level.  This is just one more way our 4Hers help to 'make the best better!'

Saturday, April 28, 2012

District Round Up!

I have been at a retreat workshop in Dallas for the last couple of days.  The boys stayed with some good friends of ours.  I woke up at 5am to drive back and meet them at the district Round Up.  The boys were there and ready for the contest to begin.

Sean, already in costume, met me at the registration.  He told me he looked a bull in the eye.  I just laughed and figured they must have had an adventure while I was gone!

We proceeded to the room where the senior team would perform their poem.  They were given the opportunity to go first in their division because Sean had the other contest.  In case this is your first blog read, the team performed The Ragged Old Flag, by Johnny Cash.  I was very pleased with their performance.  I think everyone gave their very best effort.  I wish there was a way to post videos, so you could all see the performance, instead of these still shots.  

We then rushed Sean next door to the Entomology contest.  Henry, along with the other participants, were seated and waiting.  It was nice to know he had time to spare and focus on this contest.  Our club had a Junior Team (Timothy, Cody and Jordan), a Intermediate team (Henry, Joseph and Graham), and then Sean was our lone Senior.  There were quite a few other participants in the room, so it would be interesting to see the results.

I left the room to go back to watch the other Senior teams in the poetry contest.  There were three others competing in their age division.  I did not get back in time to watch them, but I talked to them.  One young lady had recited the entire Declaration of Independence.  How many of you could do that?  At least go to the link and read it.  Maybe contact your Congressmen and ask them to do the same...LOL!  Another young lady recited the Dr. Seuss classic, Oh! The Places You'll Go.  I thought that was fitting since it was her last year and it is such a motivational book for anyone during a transitional period.  Then, the final group reciting was two ladies performing a scene from Midsummer's Night Dream.  Everyone did a great job, according to those who were able to stay and watch.

The judging for poetry was completed quickly and we checked to see how Sean was doing in Entomology.  He had just started, so he was unable to hear the results for poetry firsthand.  We were so excited to hear that they were awarded 2nd place!  The girls who performed Shakespeare won first place.  Both of these teams will be able to go to the State contest in June!  I am sure the judges had a hard time choosing.  I am convinced our awesome backdrop and props were the key to this win.  The background scene was praised by the judges.  They liked that the 4Hers connected with their own heritage by learning about relatives serving in the military.  The judges were very helpful also.  They talked about ways for us to improve as the team advances to the next level.

We returned to the waiting area outside of the room for Entomology.  This contest is harder to score because the participants must write their answers and have correct spelling.  I am sure the judges watched this closely, which led to the delay.  We were one of the last contests to find out results!  We did find out that David was awarded 2nd place for his performance with the piano, playing The Storm.  I did not hear this, but I am sure he did an excellent job!  Maybe we can have him play for us sometime!

We finally were allowed back into the room to hear the results!  Our Junior team was awarded 1st place.  Our Junior individuals were: Jordan-4th place; Cody-3rd place; Timothy-2nd.  Our Intermediate team was awarded 2nd place.  Individual Intermediates were:  Graham and Joseph-participant ribbons; Henry-4th place.  We did not have a Senior team, but Sean placed as High Point Individual for the contest!  He will now be going to State for this contest as well!


We also entered photos for the contest.  However, we did not get back to the display before it was taken down.  I will need to find out on Monday how everyone did in this contest.

I finally got the news about the photography entries.  Our boys did not place with their photos.  However, we did have several winners from our county.  From our club, first-timer, James, placed 2nd in the theme (trains) category and 3rd place in the night photos.  He is so excited to have his first 4H ribbons!  We are proud of him also.  Also, from our county we had the following winning entries:

Corrine placed with six of her entries (people, marine, digital darkroom, trains, misc, and story board) .  
Abigail placed with her entry in nature/landscape.
Grayson took home the prized best of show overall and for his age division, along with three other ribbons (elements design, nature/landscape, details/macro, trains and misc.).
Jennings placed with three of his entries (domestic animal, marine and food).
Laura received five ribbons (people, wildlife, marine, elements design and details/macro).
Ramsay came home with 3 ribbons (people, nature and misc.).
Brooke placed with four of her entries (marine, nature/landscape, details/macro and night photo)

Great job to all who competed from our county.  You can see a few of these winning photos at the Round Up website.  Enjoy!

What a great experience at Round Up!  BUT...we are not through with the day yet!  It's just lunch time!   Well, technically, our boys are done.  However, we promised our good 4H friends that we stay and see the results for the Fashion Show.  Mainly, we were there for Treyton and Brianna, but we were also happy to see our other friends from our county, Rozalinn and Jasmyne.  

Brenda and Jamie were judges for the contests.  I knew Brenda had not eaten, so I volunteered to go for a food run (our boys were starving also!).  She said she could wait, but when we found out about a service opportunity for fashion I found a way to go take care of both.  The boys and I ran to the store to find socks and undies for children in African orphanages.  We also stopped off for some fast food!  Arrived back just in time to pass a chicken salad to Brenda before she headed into one of the judging rooms!  Hey...we have to stick together and that includes making sure we eat during these busy 4H days!  

So, the boys and I ate our lunch and met new friends while we all waited.  It was fun sitting around talking to  everyone as they came in and out of the rooms.  Judging was finally over for the second time today.  Here are the results:

Rozalinn-1st place for Storyboard; 2nd place for Constructed Dressy Dress
Brianna-1st place for Storyboard; 2nd place for Shoe Fun; 3rd place for Constructed Specialty Int.
Jasmyne-1st place for Shoe Fun; 3rd place for Buying Dressy Dress 
Treyton-1st place for Shoe Fun; 3rd place for Constructed Specialty Sr.

Our Angelina Team was also the only team who constructed a Windows WOW! display.  It turned out to be an awesome backdrop for the Fashion Show (You can see it in the pictures!).  They were awarded 1st place, of course!  Great job!  As you can see these costumes are excellent.  The entire group has worked hard on learning about their outfits and creating them, whether buying or constructing.  They have all learned so much from this experience.
We loved seeing everyone from our county doing so well today.  When we strive to do our best, amazing things happen.  I am so proud of all of them!  Everyone needs to give a round of applause for all those 4Hers who participated today.  We represented our district well.  We truly showed how to 'make the best better!'

Close-up of head of black bull being held by ring in its nose Stock Photo - 4019203Oh!...I can't end without telling you the rest of the story! I got a call form our friend (see above) and she was so excited for Sean's high point award. She told me that they were gathering their cows to take to auction this morning. She called Sean out to see their bull and told him, "Sean, you are the only person competing today who can say they looked a bull in the eye! Now, if you do that you will do well today."  So, he looked that bull right in the eye! A great way to get pumped up for a contest! She was also excited to hear that Sean was going to have an entire week at Texas Tech for the state contest because her daughter goes to school there. Maybe she will show us around this summer!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dress Rehearsal!

Before I talk about our Share the Fun dress rehearsal, I would like to take you on a little detour to brag on our Clothing & Textile group!  We went to the local women's shelter to take them our quilts and blankets made throughout the year.  We were able to turn in two quilts and 7 blankets to the shelter.  These will be given out to children who are need of special comfort during a difficult moment in their lives.  What a wonderful feeling for our 4Hers to know that they have made a difference.  We were also able to make a connection with the directors (Holly and Jill) to provide other opportunities in the future.  Holly suggested we could teach sewing lessons to the women.  Jill thought we might be able to make curtains for the apartments.  I think we have created a connection for future service opportunities!

Then, on to rehearsal we went!  Sean immediately dressed up in his costume.  Others began to show up and set up the props and background.  We had a productive evening as we made final preparations and adjustments to the presentation.  Daniel did a great job with our background.  Katy was given a final task of creating one more scene for the set.  I am looking forward to see that finished product.  We have a few costumes to perfect and gather.

We also had a special guests arrive to help us polish our act.  Krista (Texas representative for Poetry Out Loud! who is heading to National contest in two weeks) and Lorraine (her mother and instructor).  Lorraine and Krista watched the performance and gave the groups some valuable instruction on how to perform before an audience (and judges).  The adults in the group could see an immediate improvement.  A big thank you for their help!

We still need to work on our skills so we will have one last practice on Friday!  This is cutting it close but is needed to ensure that they are doing their best because contest is Saturday!

We also found out about an opportunity to present our skit to the VA Clinic next month.  This will be a fabulous event with multiple performances honoring the very group this poem was written to represent.  Everyone (including this 4H Mom) is excited to be a part of this group!  Once again helping us to 'make the best better!'

Monday, April 23, 2012

Surprising Review Session!

I really did not think I would blog today.  The only 4H event was our weekly Entomology meeting, and the plan was to review before our district contest to take place this weekend.  I guess that is why I did not have my camera with me (so beware of terrible cell phone pics!).

We arrived at our normal meeting location to show off Sean's new flashcards we created.  He was proud of his new method of studying.  However, Mr. Joe had a much bigger surprise for us.  He showed us what appeared to be a group of leaves in balls, but the clusters were MOVING!!!!  He told us that he would tell us what they were when everyone arrived.  Sean was fascinated and watched them while others arrived.

Once all were gathered, he explained that the leave clusters were actually moth cocoons.  About a week ago he happened upon several Luna Moth larvae.  He told us that he has often found larvae from time to time, but NEVER had he seen so many in one place.  He gathered the larvae and allowed them to form their cocoons.  The mass of leaves was used by each larvae to wrap around them during the pupae stage.  The larvae used special secretions to 'glue' the leaves around them.

This is one of the great reason I am so thankful for the boys (and our club members) to have the opportunity to learn from Mr. Joe and Mr Kieth.  They always make things interesting, and try to find new opportunities for the 4Hers.  Which is why I should have had my camera and why I should never assume a review meeting could be simply a review.

Each family was given their own cocoon.  We were told to place in a paper bag and check each day until it emerged.  I have also done my own homework, and I discovered that a Luna Moth usually emerges after two weeks.

I must admit, I am a little nervous.  I have tried numerous times to show the butterfly stages to our children.  I have failed miserably every time.  The children have often called me the butterfly killer.  I do not know why it is so hard for us...others talk about it as if it is a walk in the park.  I just never can do what needs to be done. So, Mr. Joe gave us specific instructions, and sent us on our way.  Sean ensured me that this time we had a moth and all would be OK.  I hope he is right.

Hoping next week, I am able to show you our Luna Moth.

Mr. Joe also surprised the group by releasing a Mourning Cloak toward the end of the class time.  We were all surprised as it fluttered around the room.  What a great way to end our last class of the year!  I did not get a good picture of our specimen but here is a picture of one from the internet.

Once again, a BIG thank you to Mr. Joe and Mr. Keith...they always make it interesting for us all!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Celebrating Our Planet

Today was Earth Day...when I told my husband that we had a booth set up at the event, he was surprised.  I could not help but is too bad that this celebration has gotten a bad rap over the years.  We did not spend the day worship the ground or hugging trees.  Instead we were able to spend some time with the community teaching about wildlife and our national forests and grasslands.

The boys and I often volunteer with the group, Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands.  This groups is set up to educate communities about the amazing resources found in our forests and grasslands.  Today we were only one of many groups that taught about gardening, recycling, food, and more!

This is just one way we have found to give back to the community that relates to our Wildlife project.  4H encourages service opportunities related to projects.  This group was a perfect fit for our family.  They encourage family activities and the children teach children by coming to the events and showing them what they have learned.  Today we were also able to show off some of our native snakes to the participants.  We brought along three small corn snakes (one was even shedding, which is fun to show people) and a leucistic (partial loss of pigment) rat snake named Casper.  We also had a Columbian red-tailed boa, however, he was too  nervous to allow visitors to hold (he wrapped himself around our arms very tight!).  Our main goal with the snakes is to show the public that snakes are helpful.  We do not want any one to have a bad experience, so we try to be aware of the snakes behavior before allowing others to handle them.  For instance, Casper was very friendly and many people (children and adults) were able to hold a snake for the first time.  I always love to have a turn-around with a participant because I remember my own turn-around moment.  And this would never had happened had we not been volunteering with the group for 4H experiences.

The set up at this event was very helpful for us.  All of the booths were set up in a tight circle, so the boys were able to come and go from our booth easily.  They all went around to see the different crafts, food and information throughout the area.  Here are some of the highlights of the day:

Brendan spent most of his time near our booth.  However, he would often venture over to the booth a few steps down from ours to grab another bowl of homemade ice cream!  He even had the opportunity to help in the making by turning the churning mechanism.  All of the boys enjoyed this but he loved the ice cream!

Edward found the face painters and convinced them to paint his arm with a snake!  I thought that went right along with the theme of or day.  He also made several plasters of animal prints throughout the day.  These will be very helpful for our Wildlife/WHEP instruction.  Edward also managed to find all the booths with food...our little snacker had a field day walking around the booths eating!

Henry immediately was drawn to the Pringles cans that were dangling from a booth.  He loves to reuse those canisters.  Today he learned to make a bird feeder.  He was also the one he stayed with our booth the longest.  He loves to hold the snakes and share with others.

Sean found a recycling area also.  He was able to create a winning craft (an egg carton caterpillar) and was awarded a recycled ribbon for his efforts.  We also took pictures of a day-fly and spider during the day.  And we found ourselves not too far from the beekeepers observation hive, so he spent some of his time there as well.

I need to remember to bring an empty tote bag with us when we go to these events.  We walked in with a small backpack with diapers and came out with a ton of stuff!  We could barely carry it all back to the car, and we were very thankful for the small carts that were driving people back to the parking lot.

It was an awesome day sharing what we have learned from our 4H Wildilfe/WHEP projects.  I am so glad that 4H encourages us to 'make the best better.'

Friday, April 20, 2012

VA Clinic and a Little Appreciation

We headed over to the VA Clinic to make our monthly round of sandwiches.  We had four other families join us this week so we ended up with more volunteers in the cafe then veterans most of the time!  We are planning to split up into groups next time to avoid confusion.  I think everyone will appreciate a few less hands at one time!

It was great to see the 4Hers take control and the parents could sit back and watch them in action as they made four different types of sandwiches.  Even the younger ones were able to help by labeling the sandwiches and taking them out to the tray.  Then they served the sandwiches, along with coffee and donuts throughout the morning.  They made over 40 sandwiches.  They were halved and bagged.  All of the sandwiches were eaten and other veterans chose donuts, so I am guessing that we served over 60 veterans!

Great job to Treyton, Brianna, Sean, Henry, Edward, Caleb, James, Rebecca, Jaron, and all the moms!

We left the clinic just in time to drive through town in a hail storm!  The hail was about the size of marbles and was coming down really hard.  The boys, of course, thought it was great fun!

We made it to a local Cajun restaurant for a volunteer luncheon.  You would never have know that there was a hail storm on the other side of town!

The luncheon was for all the volunteers from our local forestry museum.  We were very proud to represent the Lone Star 4H for the work we completed on their trail, as well as special programs and tours throughout the year.  We love helping at this museum who does so much for our 4H projects.  The regular workers are always so supportive of our efforts.  A big thank you to them for honoring us at the luncheon and most especially for all they do for us throughout the year!

The highlight of the luncheon was being able to officially thank all the hard-working foresters.  They have done so much to educate us through the years, but also protect us from harm.  The last twelve months was a real tough one for them!  The forest fires in Texas were quite consuming (literally!).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Full Evening at the 4H Meeting

We met a little early for our monthly club meeting with a small group to go over our club budget.  We try to always look ahead to make sure we are on track to most benefit our members and the county.  Today was a no different as five of our members came together to ensure we would have enough funds to finish out the year and start next year out right.  I was very proud of the group for sharing their time and love of 4H to come forward and make wise decisions.  We were able to quickly make decisions to allow for the best for our club today and in the future.

I briefly blog about our monthly meetings each month, but have you ever wondered what we do at these meetings?  This month's meeting is an extreme case of overload but I thought I would share from our club president's agenda from last night.

Call to order...meeting begins at 6pm with the prayer, then pledges to country and state, followed by 4H motto.  Caleb (President) reads a motivational reading from Matthew 5.   Then Kevin (3VP) welcomes all guests.

Monthly Program...Katy (VP) introduces our program presented by the county Clothing & Textile members.  Treyton, Brianna, Jazmyn, and Rosalinn showed our group their store front display for the Windows WOW contest they will take to the district next week.  They also showed their entries for the shoe design and their design storyboards.  This was a great leadership opportunity for them and promoted their project as well.  There were many questions from the club throughout their presentation, so they obviously gained some interest from the group (including my boys, of course!).

Nomination for 2012...Then back to business with Caleb explaining the election process for electing new officers.  Tonight we had a call for nomination from the club for all positions for next year.  We had a slow turn out for nominations but the intent to run for an office can take place over the next month as well.  Here is the list of nominations so far:

Vice President-Kevin
2 Vice President- Brianna and Taylor
3 Vice President-Rebecca and Sarah

Council Delegate and Alternate-We need strong seniors for these positions!


Reporter-Who will report our events next year?

Parliamentarian-It helps to have someone assist the president in keeping order!
Community Service Chairman-James

Call Committee Chair-You never know when we might need to get in touch with people quickly!

Fundraising Chairman-Caitlin

So, as you can see we have a few positions that need to be filled and some that we will need to vote to see who will hold position.  Everything can (and will) probably change over the course of the next few days as others will shyly come forward for nomination.  I will update next month after we have elections.

Officer Reports...This part of the meeting goes by quickly as the reports are emailed to the club members prior to the meeting and only need approval at our meeting.

Project Reports...This takes a little longer as each Youth leader presents the information of events that took place in the last month, as well as any upcoming events.  This is when I told the group about an upcoming quilt workshop for Clothing & Textiles project.  We were told about the upcoming Entomology contest at the district level.  Preparations for the State Food Challenge will begin in May.  Forestry results from their last contest were announced.  Information for the Photography field trip to the zoo to take pictures was addressed.  Share the Fun schedule of events was given.  Wildlife results were announced with flair and many stories that got the whole group laughing.  We announced our desire to go to state WHEP contest and encouraged others to join. makes me tired just thinking about it!  We have a very active group with a diverse set of projects.  This did not even include our animal projects (finished for the year), computer science and shooting sports!

Unfinished business...Caleb reminded the members that our club T-shirts had arrived and were ready for pick up.

New business...We were sad to have official news that our Club Managers would be leaving our club next year.  Myra has done so much to encourage the 4Hers over the years as a project leader and as our manager.  She will be missed.  Sheri has also led our club through tough times for our club and during her personal life.  Sheri will remain with our club but has decided that she needs a break from leadership.  Caleb announced that our club was approved to have Brenda and Jamie take over these management positions.  I am so thankful they have stepped up into these leadership roles.  They will carry on our club goals with pride.

With change of leadership, we also found our club voting on changing our meeting date.  The club discussed and voted on changing our meetings from the third Thursday to the first Thursday.  I think this will be a good change for the club.  We will be able to get information out to the members earlier in the month and we will avoid conflicts with holidays that always seemed to be during the week of our meetings.

Fundraising Report...Justin (Chairman) discussed the possibility to work with Chick-fil-A on a fundraiser.  We would pass out flyers to friends and family to eat at the restaurant on a certain day at a given time and 20% of sales would be donated to our club.  The club approved this event, so be sure to eat at Chick-fil-A on Thursday, April 26th, at the mall location from 5-8pm.  Don't forget to tell them that you want to support 4H!

Budget Committee Report:  Caleb gave the club our proposed budget for the remainder of the year.  The club approved the expenses, so all is set for the year and we are to begin the new year.

Spirit Award Nomination and Vote...Each year we give out a spirit award for each age level to a 4Her who has shown a love for 4H and shared that joy with others.  The two older group nominees are then sent to the county level in the fall.  We voted and I think our 4H members who won this year will be greatly surprised.  We will make this announcement at our awards meeting next month.

Announcements...general 4H events for the county and district were announced.  District 5 Round up...Fashion Show...Leaders Appreciation Banquet...Record book workshop.  Then Caleb announced that we would have a potluck dinner for our awards meeting in May.  We would decorate the room with a 'Night in Paris' theme, so we were asked to dress up for the occasion.  I also announced that we would be serving the veterans sandwiches at the VA clinic tomorrow morning and would love to have volunteers.

Door Prize...Henry (2 VP) provided three door prizes for the meeting.  The first prize went to Naomi who had the birthday closest to our meeting date.  Then Treyton gained a new 4H hat for being in 4H the longest.  The final prize was to the member who joined 4H most recently.  We had a tie as Ashley and Kaitlin joined on the same day!  They flipped a coin to see who would win a cool 4H sling pack and Kaitlin won!

Adjournment...The meeting was adjourned at 8:30pm with Henry announcing refreshments provided by the Foster, Allen, and Castillo families would be served.

The club members enjoyed snacks (dinner!) while parents confirmed events and participation.  We also enjoyed the discovery of a little critter in the parking lot.  All the members left cooed and aahed over the tiniest little thing...not sure if it was a mouse or squirrel because it was so small.

We did not leave the building until after was a long and productive meeting.  Again, showing how our club 'makes the best better!'

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Across Texas and Back!

We came in late last night so I was not able to post about contest day as planned.  Here are the highlights of the day:

We started out the morning with the Texas Ranger grabbing up TWO rattlesnakes before the contest even began (not a good picture but we know the snake was there!).  Renee and I prayed special prayers of safety over the 4Hers as they headed out in the field.  I think we were all pumped up and wired tight as we were getting on each others nerves a little waiting for it all to begin.  I guess the build up was more intense than we realized.  We started a little later than expected, so that did not help.  However, once everyone got in their assigned groups there seems to be more of a peace in the air.

Then the waiting began for Renee and I, along with three younger siblings (Naomi-who was also our alternate!, Edward, and Brendan).  The little ones found ways to occupy themselves with the red dirt and a few toys.  They also had the opportunity to ride around in an ATV.  Empty water bottles seemed to be the hit of the morning, as they collected dirt and insects (Mr. Joe would be proud).  I got a little rest and time with other coaches.  I even got a lesson in grasses from one of the FFA students (an alternate with time on his hands as he waited along with us!).

Then the 4Hers returned after almost three hours in the field.  They had gone through seven stations related to wildlife, plant ID, and management.  Renee and I thankfully made it through the contest in about thirty minutes. I think we did a good job of reviewing information before the contest.  Techniques varied in skill from deer aging to wing ID to hides.  I think it was a good variety of skills for the group.  The plants were all ones we had seen over the last few days, except a very young annual sunflower and broomweed.  The focus animals were deer, quail and dove, which was a good combination for our group.  Renee and I rushed back as we had to gather the group back into cars and find a different location for lunch and awards.  Here are a few examples:

Can you believe that pesky wolfberry made it on the contest?!

How to age a deer by its teeth

Not a great picture but this was a snow goose wing

Don't be fooled...this was a mule deer!
See the black tip on its tail?
We began looking around the meeting room as we gathered for awards.  Even though we were told we had competed against eight other 4H teams, there were only FFA shirts in the building.  We were feeling like we were out of place.  We soon realized that the other 4H teams were made up of FFA members as well.  When awards were given out they did not even recognize the 4H presence in the room.  This was very different from my past experiences.  Awards were given and all were given to teams wearing FFA shirts.  This was very disappointing for us.

Once again, I realize the importance of the learning experience for our 4Hers.  Do we do this for the trophy or for the expereince?  After all, if we had not gone on this trip, we would never have been able to learn about wildlife and plants at the focus level we did.  We also would not have had the opportunity, as a group, to experience two amazing Texas parks with awesome park rangers!  The experience far outweighed the trophy.

Also, we arrived home late in the night (morning?), but I took the time to check out our scores.  I am so proud of our little group!  We placed 5th in the 4H division (Sean, Joseph, Henry, and Caitlin), and our 4Hers were in the upper half of the individual scores.  I guess those learning experiences paid off after all.  The group certainly retained the information we learned and hopefully enjoyed doing it!  Best of all, we are a young team, and we will have many years to continue our efforts (After all, I have a 3-year old already learning and maybe another little wildlife expert on the way!).  We have many lessons to bring back to our other 4H participants for next year.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Leisurely Sunday Trail?!

After a nice morning of various church services and lunch, we headed to Copper Breaks State Park.  We thought we would be meeting with a county extension agent from the area, but we arrived to the news that he had another engagement.  We had Park Ranger David take us around to see plants.  We also had the joy of seeing the park's skull room.  Along with the skulls, there were hides, prints, and insect specimens.

We learned a lot about the plants in the area as we traveled around the park.  We even learned a few of the plants we thought were interesting that were not on the contest, such as the greenfield milkweed and the horse crippler.  The 4Hers willingly wanted to learn more and the ranger was kind enough to share what he knew.  One thing that was amazing was the lake, which was only half the level it should have been.  It was devastating to the landscape and wildlife.  They received their first rain in 12 months the night before and plants were blooming everywhere but also a lot of dry plants.  We often found ourselves standing where the lake had been only a year ago.

The other thing was the fact that we were now surrounded by FFA members.  They were everywhere!  We were so thankful the ranger stuck with us.  We were happy to have the time talking with him.  He also took us out to a trail to look at plants on our own.

The park gets its names because the canyon actually breaks up and there are deposits of copper throughout the land.  The ranger told us that many of the rocks at the lower part of the trail were recently at the top!  That was a little scary since we were looking at the 4Hers heading up on those very rocks!  Also, the younger ones were right behind them!  We headed out on the trail and I thought we would make it back in about 30 minutes...but the trail was rough and we made several stops to take pictures (and catch our breathe maybe?). We were gone on the trail so long the ranger even came back to check on us!  We were just enjoying it so much, but seeing the time we knew we needed to head back to the hotel.  What I thought was gong to be a leisurely look at some plants turned into a hike on rugged land but also very helpful!

We got back to our hotel and had a nice taco dinner we had prepared.  I was so glad we made this 'home-cooked' meal as we were short for time.  We used the hotel dining area to eat so decided to continue using the area for a little more study time.  The ranger allowed us to borrow his plant ID book,  "Common Rangeland Plants of the Texas Panhandle."  I would love to have a copy of this book, along with the ones for the other regions of Texas.  We went page by page reviewing the plant ID and preferences.  I thought they had had enough so we headed back to our rooms to pack up (early morning so would need to be able to leave quickly!).  However, when I returned after taking the last load I was happily surprised to see everyone studying quietly in the hallway.

Another way I can say that our 4Hers are always trying to 'make the best better!'