Saturday, August 25, 2012

County Fair Preview

The Montgomery County Fair starts this week and our family is gearing up for another fun week of old friends, family, livestock exhibition and dirt. Lots of dirt.

Husband and the kids have been working hard to prepare their 4-H pigs and dairy heifers for show day, while I have been focusing on laundry, stocking the trailer that our extended family shares, procuring white pants for an 11-year-old boy, did I mention laundry(?) and a few fun non-livestock fair entries.

For several years I have been entering a scarecrow. Following the themes dictated by the fair, we have created a post man, Bob the Builder, the Evil Queen in Snow White and even Angelina Jolie. This year they asked for a traditional scarecrow, so I took some jeans (that Husband had worn the day before), a old feed sack and an old flannel shirt from my Mom's house and created a more traditional scarecrow, complete with crow and metal bucket that can double as a rain gauge.

Every year the kids enter decorated cupcakes. Here is Morgan's test run of cows and udders.

And Justin's fish, who are represented by the Lollipop Guild

And a behind-the-scenes look at the test of Ryan's frogs and what happens when we decide that only one sample is actually good enough to use up some of the good candy to complete.

I also enter photos every year. Sometimes my criteria are more about which pictures do I want to invest in ordering a 5x7 print of, than art. I don't care if I win a ribbon, the $1 was well spent to have this photo of Husband riding a camel on display all week!

So come see us at the fair.  We'll be there making memories.

Friday, August 24, 2012

In Need of Some Oinkment

There is a reason that Husband didn't own any shorts (or swim trunks) when I met him. Farmers need to wear jeans. In all temperatures. In all situations.
Husband still farms in his jeans every day but he is now known to wear shorts often enough that his legs are no longer the same color as those eyeless fish that live in the bottom of the ocean. So we weren't concerned earlier this week when Ryan headed to the barn to take care of his 4-H pigs in his play clothes (shorts/t-shirt).
This is not the pig that bit Ryan.
In this picture all three kids are wearing shorts with the pigs, without incident.

Unfortunately, the pigs were in a bad mood that day and got in a fight. Pigs are territorial. They usually get along with other pigs, but like people, they tend to be wary of new pigs inside the gate and tend to fight, sometimes viciously, to establish the pecking order of the pen.

We're not sure why the pigs were fighting but Ryan got caught in the middle. His bare pink leg got taken for pink pig flesh and he was bitten by his brother's pig for the county fair (now jokingly dubbed ManEater).

Ryan started bleeding and then screaming and fortunately, Husband was nearby to rescue him. The long gash on his leg led to a trip to the emergency room for stitches.

Ryan was the talk of the children's hospital ER, with various doctors and nurses out in the hallway asking if they could check out the kid with the pig bite.

He was cleared for sports but due to pain and swelling decided to sit out his soccer practice that night. I can imagine the conversations that went on in several households in our community as Ryan's fellow soccer players tried to convince their mothers that, yes, their teammate really WAS bitten by a pig. After making a few jokes, including asking him if he needed oinkment, the team rallied around him and even brought a sweetly homemade card that said get well.

I can understand the need for a homemade card, unless Hallmark has a new agricultural line.

Ryan is recovering nicely and will keep his stitches until next week--smack in the middle of the county fair. We plan to ask the veterinarian to remove them (only half joking about this).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Snapshots on the Farm

Husband, Morgan and the fair pigs out for their evening stroll. Just a normal scene from our front porch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We are Fam-ily: Top 10 Tips for Planning a Reunion

Having survived back-to-back family reunions this summer, I am now feeling like an expert on multi-generational food-based gatherings.

Whether your reunion is annual or scheduled because some aunt said, "we're tired of only getting together at funerals," planning is important.

So here are my 10 tips for planning a family reunion

1. Keep everyone informed.
If your reunion is annual, setting a standing date (third weekend of July, for example) is helpful. A consistent date helps family members schedule their vacation time for travel and helps everyone know to hold that weekend. My family reunion is always in July, close to the birthday of the patriarch of our family. Every year we send out a one-page flyer with the details and the schedule of our weekend-long reunion. This is just a reminder since we keep the schedule nearly the same each year.

Since Husband's reunion was new, his cousin collected emails and set up a website to keep everyone informed of the schedule and hold the date--which was booked nearly a year in advance.

2. Food. Food. Food.
Aside from solving the mystery of what happened to Cousin Eddie's latest wife, there is no more anticipated part of a family reunion than the food.

If the reunion is largely local family, then a carry-in of everyone's signature dishes is always popular. Consider chipping in for some barbeque or do like my family and grill pork chops, either way you are guaranteed to have enough meat.

Homemade ice cream is a big treat for my family and every year the great uncles break out their White Mountain freezers and prepare at least four kinds of ice cream. A delicious way to cool off and a great tradition.

If your crowd is traveling, whipping up a dish from a hotel room isn't practical. You may need to arrange for catering. Make sure that you know who all will be chipping in to pay the bill. During Husband's family reunion each of the three branches of the family was responsible for one meal, making the split even and providing autonomy in what was selected for the menu.

3. Location. Location. Location
The location of the family reunion is a critical decision that will affect attendance. My family is fortunate to live in the same region and to have my grandfather's farm set up as a campground for our annual reunion. Husband's family took advantage of the lodging and recreation opportunities at Hueston Woods State Park.

 4. Activities for each generation.
Hearing about olden days is great talk at family reunions but not as interesting to kids, although I firmly believe kids should know some basic genealogy and be able to converse with distant relatives. It's always good to have a mix of activities at the family reunion, because while sitting for hours telling stories may appeal to one generation, a geocaching trip into the woods with long-lost cousins is fun for other generations. And if you want to have the coolest family reunion ever--then you rent a bouncy house. And don't think it's just for kids.

5. Multi-day format.
I feel like I have alluded to this in other tips, but holding a reunion from 12-2 on a Sunday afternoon is good if you also see these relatives at holidays and people aren't traveling long distances to the gathering.

If you really want to renew relationships and have the opportunity to spend time with your family, then you need to spend more than one afternoon together. A longer format also makes the trip worthwhile to far-flung relatives.

6. Be flexible.
Like any big event, things don't always go as planned at the family reunion. Weather is always a factor. Have an alternative location in mind if plans to eat together outside, for example, aren't practical.

7. Share responsibilities.
Divvy up the responsibilities of the family reunion along the family tree or by generation. Knowing in advance who is responsible for what will make the event go smoother and eliminate anyone feeling put-upon for the planning, on-site logistics or clean-up.

8. Keep records.
At my family's annual reunion we do a headcount during our big Saturday night meal. And we keep a simple notebook that includes information on who was in charge what year, how many people attended and what investments were made in meat or entertainment. My family actually owns its own tables, chairs, freezer, fridge and even portable shower for annual use at the reunions, so we keep records on those items.

Even if your reunion isn't annual, knowing when you had the last one and how often you would like to get together is useful. Keeping a database of family contact information is another important record.

9. Establish traditions.
When family members have traditions to anticipate, it makes the reunion more fun and more of a can't miss event. My family has a hayride each year, a tradition started by my late father and now continued by my brother and Husband.

10. Discover and enjoy your family.
A reunion is what you make of it. If you only talk to the people you see all the time, you won't have the opportunity to discover the richness of your heritage and hear the stories of other generations. I learned something about my great aunt this year at the family reunion I'm not going to ever forget. So get off the lawn chair and mingle! And encourage your children, whether they are teens or elementary age to do the same.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Swine Slobber in my Laundry

Of the many remnants of pigs that make their way into my house via dirty pig farmers, like pig poop, pig pee and pig semen(!), worrying about pig germs hadn't really crossed my mind.

But now there is H3N2, known casually and, perhaps incorrectly, as swine flu. In case you've been living under a rock, or you rely on this blog for all your swine-related information (haven't you been in the dark lately?), the H3N2 flu starts with pigs but can be transmitted to humans. Several state and county fairs in Ohio and Indiana have reported cases in both pigs and at least 120 162 people.

Our pigs and our farmers are all healthy but this is something we are watching.When the kids were at the Ohio State Fair last week, some hogs were sick. Husband spent some time disinfecting our equipment from the State Fair. We still have our county fair coming up on Labor Day weekend.

Fortunately, the flu has not proven to be too dangerous for humans (Symptoms of infection with the H3N2v virus are similar to those with other flu viruses: fever, cough, runny nose, and sore throat.) and is easily prevented. According to Mark Case, the director of Environmental Health for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, many of the recommended steps have been in place for several years and are pretty simple; washing hands before and after visiting livestock areas; not eating or drinking in livestock areas; avoiding close contact with animals that appear to be ill; and avoiding contact with animals if you are ill. Some of the great information shared during a live chat sponsored by the Dayton Daily News last week.

Also very important to note is that pork is still safe for eating. Dr. Mary DiOrio, Ohio Department of Health said during the Dayton Daily News live chat, It has not been shown that influenza can be transmitted from eating pork products. It is safe to eat bacon, pork roast, and the like.

As for us, we'll be exercising caution and common sense during our upcoming visits to county and state fairs.

So unless you have swine slobber in your laundry (like I do!), your family is safe from H3N2. Please don't let misinformation prevent you from eating pork or visiting a fair.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

White on Labor Day

The definition of insanity: 11-year-old boy wearing all white + dirtiest place in the county + livestock = County Fair Dairy Show.

I just ordered this year's white Wranglers for our county fair, which is on Labor Day weekend. I will probably keep them packaged up until show day, otherwise, every ketchup, mustard or sauce jar in our house may explode with excitement.

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