Total Pageviews

Friday, May 31, 2013

Last of the Presentations

Holding this spot to tell about WHEP...will happen when I get from our weekend trip!

Great job with the last of the presentations...Taylor, Zach and Caitlyn!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Manage a Pond

I have been looking forward to our county Extension Agent coming to talk to the group.  Cary knows so much about fact, I once went to a class he taught a few years back (long before I had studied any of the material we are learning) and he knew so much and the little he shared just blew my mind away!  Now that I have had the opportunity to learn some of the vocabulary about pond management through the WHEP program, I was hoping that his talk with not be so daunting.  It also helped knowing that he was going to bring it down to a more elementary level.  I might just be able to handle his presentation!  I was not disappointed!

Before he arrived, we had Sean give his presentation on water development for wildlife and water control structures.  I think Sean did a great job...I realized that he is getting more confident in talking to a group...when he read his report...he did not stumble over words as much.  I was able to add just a few key points to clarify some issues.  And, I even had a chance to remind everyone that Cary would be discussing pond management with the emphasis on fish and waterfowl...just before he walked in the doors.  To our surprise...we had our county 4H agent...Mr. Ryan...joined us as well!

Cary started out with a basic drawing of a pond to illustrate the various techniques that keep a pond healthy.  Here are a few of the highlights I remember:

  • Ponds intended for fish and waterfowl need to have deep edges to avoid unwanted sediment from entering the water.  Deepening edges of a pond is helpful when vegetation is too thick around the edges or the slope is not steep enough.  This also allows for native plants to form around the edges.
  • Consider the sediment in a pond as two opposing forces much like charges in electrons or magnets...if the right balance is not obtained, the settlement of the pond will not be adequate and cause negative effects on the pond.  Gypsum or lime can be added but it is not always easy to determine effectiveness without experimentation for the specific pond.
  • The ratio of bass to bluegill should be 50:500 unless the pond is being fertilized and then the ratio should be 100:1000.  This restocking technique should only be used if other methods have not remedied the balance of bass to bluegill.  A well managed pond should not need to be restocked.  Turnover of a pond is a normal cycle in ponds but should not have extreme population decrease.  If large fish are lost, than it is likely due to lack of oxygen.  If small fish are dying then it is due to poisoning.  Usually the latter is the case.
  • The pH balance of the pond water is essential to keep with a range of 6.5-9 on the scale in order to provide a balanced habitat for fish.  
  • If the pond water is too acidic, then it is best to add gypsum to the pond.
  • Fertilizer (with a ratio of 12-52-4) should only be added to the pond (15 pounds per surface acre) if there is not adequate vegetation.  This vegetation includes microscopic photo-plankton that provides initial food source for the food cycle needed for a pond.  This technique should also be avoided if there excessive water flow or the pond is turbid (muddy).
  • Turbidity is also a concern for most land owners.  The pond water should be clear up to 18 inches in depth.  An increase in turbidity is usually caused by erosion from livestock or lack of vegetation along the watershed, which can be avoided by reseeding this area.
  • Seepage on a pond is usually caused by leaks or cracks in the pond walls.  This is often caused by tree root system.  These areas need to be repaired to allow for adequate water level in the pond.
Cary graciously went off topic to help understand a technique mentioned in Sean's discussion on water development for wildlife.  He explained the technique of gushers and windmills.  This technique involves water collection into rain barrels from a watershed or adapted structure to allow for collection.  The windmill is used to pump the water to desired location on the property.  This will likely not be on our contest as it usually is used for drier regions such as west Texas.

WOW!  What great information and it helped to have him explain everything in ways the 4Hers could understand.  I cannot thank him enough for coming to our group to give us a better understanding of the material.  I think this is very practical information for our families.  He even told us this was the most asked question...above lawn care and gardening!  It is pretty impressive that our 4Hers have a grasp of understanding now that many adults do not understand!  Thank you, Mr. Cary!

It was nice to take the two agents around our home away from home...we love the museum and are so thankful for being able to use it each week!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Taking a Break from 4H

After almost ten years of 4H activities, our family has decided to take a break from our involvement in 4H.  It is hard to believe we walked into that meeting place back in September of 2004 without a clue of what we were doing!  We did not know anyone either as we were new to town.

I always thought 4H was that farmer's kid club where they learned about raising animals and gardens.  However, over the last decade, we learned that there is so much more...and we did it all...except that misleading livestock project!

We started out in a run to try to do all the projects we could...we never seemed to really slow down.  Our children have been in various projects from Food & Nutrition to Forestry.

Amanda led the way with her love for outdoors in Wildlife and Forestry.  She could not help but love the idea of Food & Nutrition and Clothing & Textiles as well.  She even ventured out of her comfort zone with Entomology just to improve her score for the forestry team.

The boys were right there tagging along and then went off on their own adventures with a Dog project, Horsemanship, Robotics, and Photography added to our list of projects.  We loved every minute of our adventure, and we will never forget all the friends we gained along the way.

A special thank you to those who helped us on this journey:

Janey Phillips was our first club manager.  She had such a love for the children and a passion for nature that I admire so very much.  She was our first example of what 4H means.

The Morgan family was an amazing start to our 4H experience!  Myra, Eddie, Josh and Caleb were right there to welcome us and help us figure out the ins-and-outs of 4H.  Myra was the club manager for the majority of our time in 4H and also the leader for our main projects. I know Amanda and the boys (as well as myself) have learned so much from them in our projects and just in life.

Connie and Traci Byers were also some of the first members we met in 4H.  Connie and Traci did a great job teaching us about nature.  Traci convinced us that 4H was where we needed to be and that there was so much more than livestock.

Mr. Whiteman and Sandi...they are such a great team and ran the 4H for our county with precision and expertise.  A lot of people find them tough but I like knowing that when I go into the office for help, they know what to do and how to do it.  Mr. Whiteman retired a few years back but Sandi is still working hard in the office making sure everyone is staying on track.  I can never thank her enough for helping me when I had a million questions...I still have a million more!

Ryan Merrell has brought a new spin on what makes 4H work in our county.  I have enjoyed working with him as our 4H agent.  I hope he sticks around for many years to come.

Sheri Jones and I did not always see eye-to-eye about things but we always made it work out.  I appreciate her honesty and forthright character.  She has helped Sean with his Entomology project for several years and I am thankful for her patience with him.

I hope for the best for Brenda and Jamie...transition is hard and I will pray long after we are gone for the club and that all will go well.

I am sure there are many others who I am forgetting to mention.  Many of the parents have helped me with projects and have been good friends as we learned together.  I hope we can stay in touch in different ways outside of 4H.  These friendships definitely made it hard to make this decision.

So, why are we giving it all up?  After all, we could still have another twenty years of adventure with our youngest only 9 months old.  However, we have spent the last year in a state of stress.  There is no reason to hash it out here on this blog, but for our family it has become too much and we have decided to take a break.  The desire to keep the fun of 4H centered around the youth and not the adults has not been up to our expectations or past experience.  We are not giving it up completely...I am sure we will register as always come next fall, but we will not be active members.

And, once the decision was made...I realized it will be nice not to be known as the 4H family...I would much rather be known as the family who cares about nature, photography, food, science and learning...the family who cares about the community and how we can help those in need.  4H has given us a venue to make that happen but 4H does not make us the family that we just enhanced a desire to make these things happen.

Some will say we just are burnt out and that is why we need this break.  That is far from the truth.  In fact, the boys and I are already thinking about what we can do to share what we learned with others.  I think we will use what we learned to create a nature photography club.  We can combine our love of these two interests to go out and explore the world without worrying about if we are learning the right things for a contest.  We can also be more spontaneous about where we go to learn.

We still have one more big event before we are completely done for this year...our state WHEP contest that we have worked so hard to compete in is in mid-June.  We are looking forward to this again.  I know I will blog about it.

As I read over this post...I thought about how many times we have joked over the years that the adults should be able to turn in a record book.  I think this post is my attempt at writing the story of my 4H experience.  Through it all I have always tried "to make the best better."  I hope that I can continue that motto beyond 4H as well.  I have always believed that everything happens for a reason.  I am not sure what the future holds for our family but we are looking forward to the new adventure.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Songbirds and More

We had the joy of learning about birds today with Ms. Ruth.  So much fun learning with her and enjoyed her expertise.

We started our meeting a little early so we could have the first of our 4Hers present about the management techniques.

Brianna shared information about Controling Non-Native Invasive Vegetation and Fish or Wildlife Survey.

Naomi taught about Decrease/Increase Harvest.

And, Coty told us about Wildlife Damage Management.

Then Ms. Ruth arrived just as we were discussing the possibility of a fundraiser to help cover the cost for the State contest next month.  We are looking at having a raffle.

Ms. Ruth jumped right in telling us about how to identify birds by looking at distinguishing markings.  She passed out stuffed animal birds for the group to view as she spoke.  Some of the main areas of interest on a birds are:

Crown (and sometimes Crest)

It was also so fun to hear Ruth's stories of how she started birding.  She says it started when she found a baby starling that she raised.  However, I think she was born with a love for birds.  Her stories of her childhood experiences were amazing!  I especially loved hearing how she wanted a pet pigeon because she had read about homing pigeons.  She thought she could catch a pigeon and teach it to send messages!  She went downtown on the city bus and actually caught a bird that she fed in order to catch in a paper bag.  She succeeded and carried the bird home in the bag with everyone staring at her on the bus as the bird was trying to escape!

We reviewed all of the birds on our list (well beyond the songbirds she was originally asked to discuss!) and showed us many pictures from her field guides.

She ended our time together with Bird Bingo.  I did not know if the 4Hers would like playing but they asked to play three rounds and they were also so quiet as they concentrated on her pictures of birds!

A big thank you to Ms. Ruth for sharing her amazing knowledge of birds with us!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tacos and Fajitas

Tonight we had our awards dinner for our club.  We enjoyed walking into the building where we meet to find a construction site.  We would later find out that this was inspired by the activity for evening.

Renee asked everyone to build something with the assistance of all the 4Hers.  She did not give further instructions.  So the adults watched to see what would come of this activity. I was thoroughly amused when Edward decided they were making a battleship raft fully equipped with machine guns and cannons!

After the 4Hers had completed their "battleship," Renee explained that the group had done a great job with team work and cooperation in their building.  However, it was noted that without guidance it was hard to know what the group was supposed to be making.  Renee then pointed out that our projects are like that in 4H.  Without a leader the 4Hers do not have direction and are not as likely to succeed.  She then showed the group what they were supposed to make with a little model of a cabin.

The group was asked to disassemble their "battleship" and create the cabin.  Once again the group worked well together and it was a nice looking cabin!

We then had a great meal of tacos thanks to the cooperation of all the families.

As I walked past the cabin, I noticed Jessica was sitting in the cabin alone.  I asked her if she liked the cabin and she told me yes...she was enjoying sitting in her bomb shelter!  I got such a laugh out of this sweet little girl saying such a thing after the boys made such a big deal about their battleship!  Such great imaginations our children possess!

We finished the evening presenting awards to all the 4Hers who completed projects for the year.  Henry created a slide show of all the projects the club was involved.  Then a small gift was given to our Senior graduates...Joel, Katy, and Matt.  It was nice evening.

The following Tuesday we had our county leadership banquet, which we helped to decorate the room.  Brenda, Jamie, Robin, Daniel, Brianna, Sean and I transformed the building into a 1940's USO party.  We had bunting on the walls and tables and old war posters as well.  We even had a little band stand playing old band music.  The center pieces were created with mason jars filled with red-white-blue water marbles along with a flag and patriotic fans.

It was nice to see all the adult volunteers honored at the banquet.  We were fed a nice fajita dinner served by the county extension agents.  The 4Her scholarship awards were also announced.

Both evenings were a nice change of pace from the rush of the year!  A big thank you to all who helped to make it nice!