Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Keepin' It Real...

So I did finally get Christmas cards out...after Christmas. And then I was going to post my Summary of  2016 here on the blog...and now that it is January 11 (Kit is one month old today!!!) I should get around to doing that too.

In case you had the mistaken idea that I am organized and successfully proactive with my plans for holiday fun, I thought I would give you the back story on my Christmas cards. I knew that my cards would likely be late, or become New Year cards (like last year) because we had another grandbaby on the way, and not due to arrive until after Christmas. But when Kit arrived on the 11th, I thought I could make it on time.

Of course, life conspired to make it difficult to have time to get online and look for a design, and then get the right pictures. I thought I had it all worked out when I got the word that pictures from the hospital were not acceptable. Of course, I thought my daughter looked beautiful in her hospital gown holding her newborn, but I could understand her point. So then it was a couple more days until all 3 were at the same location that I was to take the picture.

Once acquired, I put the picture in the design and sent it off. The cards were scheduled to arrive 3 days before Christmas. I bought stamps so I was ready to pop them in the mail the day after they arrived.  

The cards arrived on time, and I excitedly opened the box to find the Biggest Christmas Cards Ever! Apparently, in my rush to create a card, I did not realize that the design I had chosen was akin in size to a quarter page newspaper ad. And the entire back was a picture of Randy & myself with Kit. It was HUGE...So now I had a card, that I was a bit embarrassed to send out, but it was what it was, and it was going in the mail!

I readied my addresses and went to print my labels...and found out I had none. Just like toilet paper, it seems I either have more than I can fit in storage, or zero.

And then the weather and the road were not so nice, and Emma's momma got sick. Then Kit's momma got sick. Then Emma burned her little hand on the gas stove. (She now emphatically informs everyone that any heating appliance with flame is now "HOT!" and "NO!NO!NO!" -- said with fish lips.So cute!) So we were too busy to go anywhere, and Lynden town had no address labels anywhere.

If I had ordered labels on line, I would have already had them delivered to my home, but I was certain I could get them faster because I would just run into Bellingham.

By now, Christmas had passed, and one goal was moot. But I was certain that I would go Bellingham Monday morning, get the labels and get the cards in the mail. But first I stopped at Grandiflora to check for after Christmas deals. It was snowing lightly and so pretty, and on the way back to my car I found out there was ice under that snow, and ended up lying on my side on the ground. I had taken one sliding step, caught myself, and exclaimed out loud, "Wow! That was close!" and with the next step found myself laid out on the ice. Yeah, even closer... No cuts, minimal bruises (mostly my pride), just a really sore neck and shoulder for a few days -- but my desire to travel to Bellingham was killed. 

So I went home and ordered labels online, wishing I had done that several days before. Two days later, they arrived. I printed them and they looked like this:

Just in case you didn't know, Laser labels cannot be used in an inkjet printer, as the ink runs together, making the print illegible. It's quite important to check whether you are buying laser or inkjet labels.


Doggone it, I was going to get those cards out without further delay! So, I printed the addresses on paper, cut them out, and put the clear labels (without print) over the paper cut outs. Not exactly convenient, or efficient, but faster than going to Bellingham, or waiting two more days for Prime Shipping. So finally, the cards were done, and they went in the mail just before New Year's Day.

And two days ago, I found the spot where I had stashed my address labels...and they are Inkjet labels...and barring an addition of someone to our family in 2017, I think that I will take a sabbatical on Christmas Cards for a year.

December 27, 2016

Well, we’ve had quite the December. An abundance of winter weather, which I love, and an abundance of joy with Emma’s first birthday, and the arrival of Kit Cassidy Tuben! In between, Randy was so busy traveling to conferences and meetings, he was home for only one day each week from the last week of November to the middle of December. Fortunately, one of those days was the Sunday that Kit was born.
For a little while, we thought that Emma and Kit would be sharing a birthday. Caitlin and Jon went into the hospital on December 10, but Kit did not arrive until 28 hours later, on Dec. 11. So our grandgirls arrived one year and one day apart…which has made for two of the best Christmases ever!

We have had a full year of enjoying Emma and her cheerful personality. She loves to discover things, and enjoy life! She sings, and babbles a lot, and now knows a smattering of words that she pronounces with enthusiasm and sincerity. And she loves us! Oh, how we love her!

Now we have a new little girl to get to know. So far Miss Kit seems to have inherited a stubborn streak…How could she not?! J She’s a snuggler, such a tiny bundle! She is doing great with eating, and sleeping, and growing. She’s adorable in an almost opposite way from Emma in that Emma was bald and blonde; Kit is dark and has a full head of auburn hair. Oh, how we love her too! We are loving the grandparenting life.

Dillon continues at the radio station; Jon continues to fabricate, fix and upgrade off-road vehicles. Tiffany and Caitlin are making the adjustment to being moms. Jess continues in Olympia as a PIO, doing communications for 5 State Senators. He also helped with policy and debate coaching for the Republican gubernatorial candidate this year. Every time he helps with a campaign, he vows it will be the last. Too bad he is good at it, and always seems to be asked to participate.

We had a good harvest this year, though the earliest we’ve ever had! We started picking on June 9, and finished on July 15! This was about a month earlier than usual, and seemed very odd. Randy took advantage of the early finish to take out 12 acres of plants that were needing to be replaced. This project wasn’t complete until mid-October. So there wasn’t much respite before Meeting/Conference Season began, but he was very satisfied with all he accomplished.

My goat hobby grew by leaps and bounds, pun intended, when Imogene gave birth to FOUR kids in May. It was a rough birth and we had to go to the vet to get 3 of the 4 unstuck, but all survived and thrived, and delighted me not a little. They are so much fun. Best of all, a dear friend bought 2 of the boys. She and her human kids love them as much as I do and I have visitation. It was a fun learning experience for me! We will be having goat babies here again, but not next Spring. When you increase your herd 200% in one year, you realize that things could get out of hand fast! Randy is relieved. ;)

So that’s a brief synopsis of what’s been important to us this year…Life is busy, but good, and once again, we are thankful for God’s grace, and are doing our best to enjoy the journey. Our hope is that you are finding the same, and had a wonderfully merry Christmas, with a Blessed New Year ahead!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Miss Kit Cassidy...

Once again, I hardly know what to say on the birth of our grandchild…A year ago, I had this to say:Miss Emma Pearl

And it’s still true today. The wonder of it leaves me speechless. Now we have had a year of enjoying Emma, so we are more aware of the joys ahead of us; yet already we see that Miss Kit Cassidy is a different little girl, and will have her own particular set of wonders.

How blessed is that?!

Kit arrived 18 days before her due date, and though I expected that Cait would deliver early, I didn’t think it would be THAT early! So when she texted me to say that they would be missing Emma’s birthday party Saturday afternoon, Dec. 10, I didn’t suspect she was in labor. She had been having contractions off and on for the last few weeks, so I did wonder if she was having some more. What I didn’t know was that she and Jon were already at the hospital when she texted her cancellation.

It was snowing and the roads were pretty slick, so Emma’s party got postponed. Dillon, Tiffany and Emma ventured out to our house and Emma opened our presents for her because… FIRST BIRTHDAY! Who can wait?! While they were still there, Jon called, and confessed that they were at the hospital; had been since 6am, and now asked if we would go take care of their animals.

Of course, we were pretty excited, and amazed that the new baby might be sharing a birthday with Emma! What are the chances?! But, as Jon and Caitlin desired privacy, we could say nothing to anyone. Being able to talk with Tiffany and Dillon was certainly helpful to that end! I needed the pressure relief. Oh the anticipation!!

The rest of the evening, we waited on the edge of our seats, but heard nothing until late when Jon called to say things were going better (after a failed first epidural) but that progress was slow. I did wake a few times during the night, mostly because Olive and Angus were now in residence with us; and by that, I mean sleeping in our bed. I would take the opportunity to check the phone in case I had missed the alert but nothing… By morning, I surmised that baby had been born during the night, and they had just decided to wait until people were awake to send out the news.

Alas, when the anticipated text finally arrived, the report was that things were going well, but very slowly.

It was now Sunday morning, and the day that Emma was to be dedicated at Dillon & Tiffany’s church in Canada…What to do, what to do?? A final consult with Jon, who said there were likely a couple of hours to go, we dared to proceed out of cell phone range, and enjoyed the lovely service where our sweet Emma was dedicated. So glad we did not miss this.

On our way home, I kept checking my phone for service…And halfway there, I caught a few bars and saw that there was a voicemail from Jon! As I went to download it, we moved out of reception, and the rest of the way home I had to look at that alert, knowing that the answer was in; the unknown was known and I couldn’t hear it.

Oh, the humanity!

Thankfully, the border officer didn’t require much info and I could call Jon as soon as we were through the gate. On speaker phone, Jon and Cait told us that we had another granddaughter, and her name was Kit Cassidy. Seven pounds, 3 ounces and a full head of hair! Thirty hours of work for momma, and patience for dad… Apparently, they handled it all well as the nurse was sure to tell me how well they had done, and how much she had enjoyed helping them. I’m so proud of them!

And little Kit?! She is beautiful, and in an opposite way from her cousin…Kit is not fair, and has dark auburn hair, in contrast to Emma who was blonde and fair and mostly bald. What a pair they will be!
Kit has been a good little eater, and is doing well with sleeping. She has her fussy times, but they are occasional. She seems SO tiny, and it seems like Emma grew a bunch in one day after we got to hold a newborn again! I love her name, and it suits her. She seems to already exhibit a tiny little stubborn streak, and expresses her displeasure with great flailing of tiny limbs and high pitched squeals. It’s so adorable!! (Though I expect it seems less so in the middle of the night…) One afternoon when I was there to help, Kit was having a hard time settling after I had given her the bottle. When I finally handed her back to her momma, she visibly relaxed, and settled in to sleep sweetly. Yep, she knows what she wants.

Once again, it is a joy to see our child become a parent. Jon and Caitlin are doing well, and it is plainly fun to see them so smitten by their little cowgirl! So much joy has come to our lives with this precious little girl!

And so much more ahead…God is so gracious and generous! We are full of joy again!
Great Grandpa and Grandma Likkel

Great Grandma and Grandpa Honcoop

Our sweet Christmas elf!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Why I Like It When the Weather Outside is Frightful...

I love winter weather, so I am thrilled with the current, and potential, conditions we are experiencing this week. It’s been too long since we’ve had a real winter. For me, there is no more depressing winter weather than 50 degrees and rain. It might as well be June.

So I am rejoicing with this winter weather. However, for those of you who are not rejoicing, you must understand that a.) I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to, and b.) there is nothing berry farmers HAVE to do outside right now – even the pruning and tying can wait. I am free to stay warm inside, with my cup of coffee, and enjoy the beauty through the window.

I’m a lucky girl, I know it.

But, I have to admit that winter weather would not be as fun for me if I did not have the goat chores to force me outside twice daily.  It gives me great satisfaction to make sure they are warm, and well-fed, and the water is warm enough to drink. I love closing up the barn at night so they can stay cozy inside. I have the great good fortune of living out a very romanticized version of farm chores.

My romanticized picture of winter chores dates back to the winter of ’68-’69, a legendary season of weeks of missed school, blizzard after blizzard creating walls of snow along the roads, milk trucks stuck on farms and roads, everyone sleeping in the living room because the bedrooms were too cold…It was the Queen of All Winters!

And I was a kid, so it was all a big adventure!

One of my best farming memories was the day in that stretch of winter when Dad needed help in the barn, which was located a good walk from our house. Mom couldn’t go because my youngest sister was just a baby, so Dad entrusted me to brave the elements and be his helper. We bundled up, and filled a back pack with things we might need while we were out there, and trudged over the big drifts to the barn. In the barn, sheltered from the wind, was refuge, warmed by the feeding cows and the insulation of hay, shavings, and the drifts around the walls outside.

We did some cleaning and feeding, and I suppose I helped tend calves. I don’t remember the actual chores very well. I’m sure it was a big hassle for my dad, and a time of stress – but for me it was so satisfying to be a contributor, to be entrusted with sharing the difficulties of the day with my dad, to be his helper.

And to this day, I carry that sweet memory which comes so close again every time the weather is wintry. To a larger extent, the way our family functioned together during that stormy trial is the background of that good memory…moving mattresses to sleep on the living room floor; keeping the oil burner hot enough to beat back the cold creeping into every corner; Mom keeping us fed when you weren’t sure you could get to town for more supplies; putting Vaseline on baby sister’s chapped little face; wondering where Dad was when he was digging out a milk truck right in front of the house, obscured by the blizzard… I really had no idea of the uncertainty the circumstances brought. I was secure in the belief that my parents could handle all of it, and that we would be fine together.

I know. Being a grown-up changes your view and experience of winter challenges, but I am holding on to my emotional attachment to winter as long as I can. I plan to make the most of it whenever it comes. I’m sorry for those for whom winter weather means inconvenience and stress and even suffering. I don’t discount your challenges, and you have my sympathy. (I’m talking to you, dairy farmers!) But for me, winter is the most wonderful time of the year!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

To Be, or To Do...

Today was full of activity...Nothing like 20-some dinner guest to motivate this Dutch Girl to live up to her heritage!

I spent the day cleaning and prepping, and since there's nothing like being overly busy, we also had to reorganize the freezer so we could fit one third of a half of beef in there. (Read slowly. It really makes sense.) When we did this, we found a repair was needed, so I cleaned the outside of the freezer, and some of the garage while The Farmer fixed the drain and drip pan.

And then we packed meat into boxes and delivered it to multiple freezers before heading back home to more work.

I have surprised myself with ambition and productivity this week! And it is pleasant -- though I am dog-tired right now. My Thanksgiving prep has been condensed as I spent most of last week in Yakima, attending the Washington State Farm Bureau Convention. I chafed at some of those meetings, I will admit, because they were using up time I could have spent getting ready in a more leisurely fashion. Three days of meetings are too many for me. Thankfully, I got to ride over and back with some fun people, as well as hang out with them between meetings, so it was not all chafing and impatience.

But I was glad to be home...and still am.

I had an epiphany recently, and it is helping me get through this condensed preparation time much better than I anticipated.

Often, I find myself paralyzed and procrastinating chores and projects. I just don't feel inclined to do them, and adopt an attitude of defeat before I begin. Of course, the procrastination makes this a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I find myself far behind my goals, with tasks and chores piling up and overwhelming me...which only makes me procrastinate all the more.

For many years, I have assumed that there is such a big streak of lazy in me that I just can't get away with work...Until, I found that, if there was no time pressure, I didn't mind working at most things. Wondering why this made such a big difference, I stumbled on the epiphany...

I feel defeated and overwhelmed not because of the work, but because I am trying to BE the person who is always on top of everything, who is intentional with firm plans, and disciplined in maintenance and chores.

I'm trying to make myself into someone I am not -- and it's impossible, and overwhelming, and defeating.

It might be better if I just did some work. That's all, just do the work -- and not try to make myself into an idealized type of person. (Though I do recognize there are those who are capable of my ideal. God bless you!) I can just work away at what needs to be done, and not worry that, were I the right kind of person, I wouldn't have any trouble with keeping up.

It sounds simple enough to be obscure. And maybe you are saying: why is this an epiphany?!

But it is profound to me. Just do the work. Don't wait until you change and THEN do the work. You'll never get there.

Another example: I want to be the kind of person who always knows the way to dress attractively. So much pressure! I don't know how to do it! Maybe I just need to be me, and dress myself as well as I can by copying those I admire.

Trying to be someone I am not has cost me a lot of time, and productivity, and caused me a lot of sadness. My life does not have to be a constant struggle between my ideals and my reality. Some things I am -- and some things I do. When I quit mixing those two up, I am much more free to be productive and happy.

Which is what I was today...Not overwhelmed with fear of failing what is ahead, but doing my best to help it go well -- and enjoying the journey.

Not bad for a Monday...A good start for this week of thankfulness.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Last Week Was Hard for Hearts...

Last Wednesday morning, Daisie and I went out to do the morning duties. Mine are to feed and water the goats; hers are to…take care of business, and scout around the farm while she waits for me.

When I said, “Time to go fix your breakfast, Daisie!”, she didn’t respond with the usual enthusiasm, and walked slowly toward the house. Daisie has perfected the slow walk. It’s unbelievable how slowly she can put one foot in front of the other! But she usually only uses that strategy for times when a) she sees the toenail clippers in my hand, b) we are standing next to the hose and call her to come get her feet washed. Oddly, this time she was walking slower and slower as we went to the house. She stopped before the steps and stayed there, so I wondered if she was not hungry but wanted to lay on her bed on the deck. I put it out and when I came back to her, I saw that her back legs were slowly folding up under her. She was collapsing in slow motion!

I picked her up and carried her into the house where, under her own power, she walked into her crate – and again began a slow collapse. I got her settled in, and watched her huff to breathe, and twitch now and then. I checked the color of her gums. They were pale, and the capillary refill was slow. She had a blank stare.

I thought I was watching her die from a heart attack right before my eyes! I considered packing her up to the vet, but she was too unstable at the moment. If she truly was dying, I did not want to subject her to all kinds of heroic measures to save her life. She is 11 years old, and she doesn’t love going to the vet. I didn’t want her to die with great stress.

Randy and I watched her closely. Caitlin came and listened to her heart with her stethoscope. It was beating fast, but by that time, Daisie was breathing easier, and her gums were returning to pink color with better refill. Finally, she went to sleep, and after a long nap, she returned to her normal self. By evening, she was bounding outside for a visit with the goats and wanting a walk.

I thought the trouble was past.

But the next morning, at the very same time, during the same activity, Daisie began to stagger on her way back to the house, losing her balance, falling to the sidewalk, and stiffening like a seizure was taking place! I picked her up and got her into the house, where she lay huffing, glazed-eyed, weak and twitching again.

Because the timing was almost exactly the same, I feared that she was getting into some kind of poison when out on her duty run, and it was causing the symptoms. A recent rain had brought out a new crop of mushrooms, was that it? Was there something in the compost pile? As we waited for the vet’s office to open, Randy & I walked her usual circle, looking for some evidence.

Randy thought he had figured it out when he realized that there were some crumbs of rodenticide in a little trailer where he had been refilling bait traps for the field. But, Daisie doesn’t usually go up into a trailer to sniff or eat, and it was a pretty immediate reaction for something ingested. We were unsure. Still, I took the MSDS info with me when we went into the vet.

By the time we got there, Daisie was looking quite well, already back to her normal self. Dr. Erickson checked her over, and said that it did not seem to be poisoning. It was likely that she had a heart problem.

I left her there to have bloodwork, a chest x-ray and an EKG done. We were heavy-hearted thinking that our dear old faithful could be facing that day we knew was coming. She’s 11 years old. We know it is coming, and already, I wonder if I will find her in bed, never to wake again…which would be my preference for how she goes.

But I found out that I was not ready for that at all, and was pretty much a weepy mess when Dr. Erickson told us that she has a significant heart arrhythmia. Her heart was fibrillating and not pumping blood effectively, causing the episodes where she was severely short of oxygen, so she collapsed. There was medicine to try – sometimes it helps, sometimes it hurts. If we did not try, Daisie would have more episodes, and one of them might cause her to drop dead.

Dear old Daisie! The Best Dog in the World! The boxer who was our calm, easy-going comfort after losing two boxer puppies before her. When she was younger, we always said to her, “You know the rule: Don’t die!” We’d had too much of that, and her gentle personality, and desire to be near us kept her from harm. This time, I started to remind her, through my tears, of the rule…but I could only say, “Don’t suffer.”

I’m humbled, and must admit, that I was quite undone at the prospect of a life without our Old Faithful. I’ve said before that these are the times you pay the price for all the good your pets have given you. And I wasn’t handling it very well. I can’t imagine the strength employed by those who are suffering much greater losses as they deal with cancers, and diseases, injuries and deaths! I laud your courage, friends, and admire your strength. God bless you!

As it turned out, the medicine the vet prescribed has helped Daisie get back to normal. She has not had any more episodes, and is as energetic as she was before. She probably has as good a prognosis now, as she did before her collapses.

So, in effect, nothing is different than it was before, -- and everything is different than it was before as we are much more aware that the days are short. But they are still good, and I’m so thankful for bonus time!

Daisie and I enjoyed a long stroll today. She'd been missing investigating the smells of the fields. :)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Summer shout outs...

So, I’ve accepted that Summer is over, and I’ve decided to make it official by 1) putting away my pool and hammock, 2) tossing most of my flower pots, and 3) putting out the Leaves Wallflower scent warmer…a little bit of apple, a little bit of spice, and something else that I think smells like drying leaves.

The house smells like Fall…and I love that.

Despite having a lot of summer to enjoy after harvest, I did feel the usual regret that I didn’t make the most of my summer days. This leads me to believe that I will always feel that I didn’t do enough summer things when I recognize the days are getting shorter. I think it is a throwback to that sad feeling that school is going to start, and I’m going to miss the freedom of summer. But it is totally a bogus feeling (feelings LIE). Since we started growing berries 30 (yes 30!) YEARS ago, summer is NOT a time of freedom, and I just don’t get to do many summer things, nor will I ever. But Fall? Fall is my favorite, and freedom!

Anyway, before I jump into Fall, I want to give a shout out to some things that always get me through the heat of summer, which can seem a lot like suffering, to me.

First, Otter Pops – you refresh me like nothing else can, and so quickly!

Second, Not Hot Tub – 10 foot diameter of 2 feet of cool water, big enough to lay on a floatie and idly twirl with the current of the circulation. You turn my yard into my own personal resort! I thank you – and if it wasn’t for the people working so hard around us as I float your shallow, yet beautiful water, I would be out there every day. Some days, I just don’t have the heart to flaunt my life of ease – or endure the taunting about it.

Third, Air Conditioning – You know I didn’t want you when we built this house. I thought you were not necessary. I thought you were a luxury we could survive without. Foolish woman! In this instance, I appreciate The Farmer’s disregard for my opinion. He was right. I didn’t look ahead to see an older me that needed the cool to be any kind of productive in the summer. You make my life doable.

Fourth, my newest discovery – The Cooling Gel Pad! You are a wonder! What restful sleep I have because of you! You are the trauma kit for overheating. I’m so glad that day that I looked at those ads for a cooling pad for dogs, thinking “lucky dogs…”, it occurred to me that perhaps you didn’t HAVE to be a dog to benefit from one. So glad I realized that if it turned out to be a goofy idea, I could say I bought it for the dog. So glad that The Farmer goes to bed later than I and did not see I was sleeping on a dog cooling pad until after I knew it worked, and would not give it up for anything! Your cool gel presence under my shoulders just draws out the heat from the environment, and from my internal heater of Hades, the Hot Flash. I now see a way to go on, even if my hormones never stabilize. Truly, you have made my summer so much more pleasant, as more sleep makes for a more pleasant me…anytime of day.

If you suffer from sleeplessness during hot summer nights, and hot flash occurrences, YOU NEED TO GET ONE OF THESE!

I don’t know why they haven’t marketed them for these purposes before! They could put cute fabric covers on them, and make coordinating storage bags, and maybe add a lavender scent – to make your sleep time the best ever! But, likely, they would then charge twice as much, and I would still just buy one with a paw print on it because it works the same.
Either way, it was the best discovery of this summer, and portends to have great value all year round. So on to Fall! I’ll sleep well then too, and this year, I’ve done with summer regrets. It’s September, and I’m going to enjoy my freedom from this time forth until the days start getting longer!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

I almost chickened out...and I'm so glad I didn't!

I love the Fair, and the reason I love the Fair is that I have many good memories of my days there showing my 4H heifers. My sisters and I would be there from early morning to late night, doing stall duty, washing our animals, practicing our showmanship, pitching out the stalls each morning – and nervously participating in classes for animal type and showmanship. The Fair becomes its own little community during that week, and the camaraderie and competitiveness makes for a lot of entertainment with a bit of drama mixed in. It was a week like no other in the entire year, and we couldn’t wait for it to come.

I was privileged to be a member of a 4H club that still endures – Dairyland 4H Club celebrated 50 years of continuous operation this year. The club started with a number of young men from the Northwood & North Lynden areas. I believe that Debbie Van Mersbergen, the little sister of some of those boys was the first girl to be interested. The boys in the club had to take a vote about whether they would allow girls to join, and when they approved this move, my sisters and I were recruited to be Debbie’s companions.

It was a prime way to begin, I must say, as those big brothers and cousins would do anything that we didn’t know how to do, or were too scared to do. Even better, the guys were great fitters and showmen, so we had the best in our corner as we learned what how to show and judge dairy animals.

A few weeks ago, I heard that part of the celebration of 50 years of Dairyland at the Fair, was a showmanship contest for alumni of the club.

It was tempting…but as I am skilled at looking foolish without even trying, my default decision is to forgo the opportunity to look foolish by consent. I have not shown a cow since 1978. That’s…30some…A LONG TIME AGO!

But I often say how much I miss cows, and truthfully, the chance to show one again, no matter how embarrassing the outcome, still tempted me…And then I got a hold of myself, and said, “Self! What wouldn’t you give to get to handle a cow again? Isn’t a little humiliation worth the experience?”
So Self signed up…and then pep-talked one of my sisters into joining.

Self got a little carried away after that and smack-talked Sister Erin, saying how glad Self was that now she knew she would beat at least ONE person.

Self should know better, as she said this to the sister that has hunted wild animals in Africa, and attempted a climb of Mt. Baker…

Oh, Self.

So Thursday evening at the Fair, Erin and I arrived early to spend the requisite time of nervousness required when attempting to appear proficient at something you have not done for thirty-some years.
It was about this time that it occurred to me that I do have a bad shoulder, and should I get a fractious animal, it could be problematic. We also realized that neither of us had ever shown a cow, only heifers, so we stood in quiet consultation at the edge of the ring, reminding each other of all the rules and tips we could remember.

We would be showing in the 3rd class that evening…the Old Timers.

And I am grateful for that because it was an excellent review watching the Youngsters and the Middle Agers, though it began in a very perplexing way when the judge decided to have some fun and made the Youngsters pick up feet, and answer weird questions, and take weird maneuvers with their animals. Erin and I looked at each other in shock. We did not know that showing had changed so much! This was probably going to be more embarrassing than we thought.

Thankfully, then the judge explained that he was having some fun and seeing if the Youngsters would do anything he said. Ha! They did, like good showmen. And Whew! We wouldn’t have to.

The bleachers around the show ring were full of people come to see the spectacle. We hadn’t counted on that much audience, and about this time, I realized that another possible opportunity for embarrassment could be that I might collapse. After a day of HOT, HOT weather, in which I am prone to feel ill, and then potentially wrestling an animal around the ring in a HOT, HOT barn, my lack of general fitness might make me succumb to a fate worse than placing last.

And so I prayed.

Our turn in the ring arrived and wonder of wonders, I didn’t have to show a cow. I drew a summer yearling Guernsey heifer named, Dreamgirl…And that’s just what she wanted to do – dream. She wasn’t just reluctant to leave her hay; she refused. It took some prodding to get her out of the straw bedding and down the aisle to the ring. At least I didn’t have to worry about her running away, though she did make some attempts to thwart movement in the appropriate direction, but overall, she was okay. And it was great to have my hands on a bovine again, and be in the ring, doing the maneuvers that hopefully made my animal look it’s best. I made sure to stroke her dewlap (the soft skin flap that hangs below the cow’s neck – softest, smoothest part of the cow!) because I’ve always loved to do that. It had nothing to do with good showing and everything to do with missing cows!

Frankly, Dreamgirl and I were not a great team. I think I made her look good but not great, and when I got to trade animals for a big, sweet, calm cow, SHE made me look good. The judge asked me to back her up, and she did, good girl, and kept going when he told me not to stop! I was the back-up champion…if there was such a thing.

Going in to this competition, we didn’t expect the amount of serious scrutiny that we got from Mr. Jay Lancaster, the judge. He made us work, even testing whether we could handle our animals well enough to get their front feet on a board on the ground. (Not something cows like to do!) And while we had to do some serious work, there was a lot of laughing, and joking, and just general enjoyment for each of us showing,  -- and the judge, who knew he wouldn’t have any angry parent talking to him afterwards.

It was hard for me to see what Erin was doing in the ring because of her position in the circle, but every time I caught a glimpse, she looked good. Because some of the participants in the ring had shown for many more years than had we, and had their own family herds, we didn’t expect to finish high. We, vanity of vanities, hoped not to finish last.

So I felt great glee when I saw the judge pull my sister into first place in the Old Timers class! He called her the cow-whisperer as she talked to her heifer throughout their time in the ring, and kept her calm, and looking pretty. Erin was unruffled --even when her heifer didn’t want to cooperate, and was covering her arm with slobber, and she obviously had a good time making her heifer look great. I was proud of her! My sis has grit. She determines to make it work, unlike someone else who spends too much time thinking about fainting and bad shoulders and losing control of her animal.

I placed out of the ribbons, coming in 5th, or in the top of the also rans, which I felt was respectable. I didn’t do anything dumb, neither did I faint! And OH did I have fun!

Even better, Erin went on to win the overall competition when the winners from all 3 classes returned to the ring. The judge complimented all of us on our showmanship, and the Dairyland club for producing so many capable showmen.

It made me proud to be part of such a fine group of people, and to have had the influence of Bud Lenssen (our 4H leader for many years) and others who taught us the skill of showmanship, and the character of good competition. It really was a great blessing in my growing years; and it was also a blessing now to see so many friends from long ago, and reminisce over the memories of good times and hard work.

I’m so grateful to the current leaders and parents of Dairyland 4H for giving us the opportunity to celebrate its great history, and to have the fun of showing again. Hope someday there are great-grandkids celebrating more anniversaries.

And Self, though you really botched it when you smack-talked Sister, but I’m proud of you for not taking the usual easy road, and doing something that stretched you. It was worth the risk.

About Me

Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life ( and one where I can vent. (