CA State Fair – 2017

Someone commented on a social media post something to the effect “It takes a village–no, it takes a Farm Club.” That’s so true. Farm Club came through again with helping me at the State Fair. Some other of our fiber friends were there as well.

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This is what the main part of the display looked like. When you set up a display at a fair, the first thing you have to figure out is how to make walls. There are no walls, just sheep pens. A few years ago I came up with the idea of using corrugated tin. Do you ever see those DIY or garden makeover shows? They buy tin and then spray it with acid to make it look old. We don’t need to do that. We just go out back and find plenty of beat up, rusty tin.

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The signs are mostly about Farm Club and include plenty of pretty pictures of sheep. I also had continuously running videos of the farm and sheep. That’s Jackie, Mary, Dona, and Doris spinning and making themselves available to talk to the hundreds of people who came by. DSC_2628

People admired Alison’s vest. The yarn is some that I spun during Tour de Fleece but plied at the fair.

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This year I added a Touching Table.

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Greenery is part of the scoring–or at least plant material is mentioned in some of the criteria. (20% Effective use of display materials. Paper, wood, metal, plastic, plants, etc.) I am always irritated that I have to go out and buy plants that I don’t need. It’s not that easy to find ones that look good for a display like this and then I can plant and keep alive here later. So this year I dug up shovel-fulls of the pasture and labeled them as such. Even though they weren’t “pretty” it made much more sense to me.

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Deborah, Alison, and Kathleen were there on Friday.

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This year signs in English and Spanish and having the plants and white chain (see upper photo) in front of the ram pen helped keep people away. Does it seem like overkill? The white chain was the last thing to take away when we packed up. When we went back in the barn to halter the sheep there was someone in the alleyway yanking on Buster’s horns. What can I say?

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I don’t mind the ewes having any attention they can handle. This is Vixen who learned that chin scratches are nice.

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Jude and Dona spinning on Saturday.

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Saturday was show day. I had cleaned the sheep up the day before, including scrubbing Buster’s horns.

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Here are the sheep at the ring ready to go.

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Yearling rams showed first. Buster was the easiest ram that I’ve shown in the last few years. I don’t see a blog post with a photo of him after I got him, but there is a photo here of him last October. He won his class and then was awarded Reserve Champion Ram of the Primitive Breeds Division.

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Doris was a huge help. She had her sheep showing debut at Black Sheep Gathering and she looked like a pro here. These sheep are the ewe lambs, Jolene and Jennie.DSC_8771

The next to last class is “Flock”. That’s one ram and four ewes. Not the best pose by Vixen, crossing her legs.

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The last class is “Best Pair”. I pay attention to what the judge says and use the two that he likes best. That’s the lamb, Jolene, and Buster.

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Most of my ribbons were red or white because there were some top notch Karakuls also entered in the show. They swept most of the awards. I’m happy with this award though and am satisfied with the others. The big competition was still to be determined.

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I reward myself each day with cold chocolate milk. Fair time and road trips are the only time I allow myself the luxury.

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Speaking of showing sheep, aren’t you glad you aren’t showing Suffolk sheep? Not only do you have to do all the work of fitting, they are the size of ponies.

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Back at the sheep pens, more spinning going on. This is Pat, Dona, and Susan’s husband (and Susan) who learned to spin just before I took this photo.

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And speaking of learning to spin, we added a couple of other new spinners to the ranks. I met Louis across the aisle from us. He is with Eureka Mohair and asked if he could try a wheel because he had started spinning on a spindle. I brought an extra wheel the next day and there was no looking back. He did well on the Ashford Traditional but decided that his favorite was the Ashford Joy.

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And this is my view of helping an 8-year old to spin. I treadled while he drafted.

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Eventually he was able to spin mostly by himself. (That full bobbin is mine however–I just let him add to it.) His family was showing sheep and he was glad to hang out with the rest of us who were spinning.

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The first day I plied his yarn and he wore it as a bracelet. The next day’s spinning made enough to be worn as a necklace. (He was also very excited about his henna tattoo.)

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On Sunday afternoon the Supreme Champion Ram and Ewe are selected from the Champions of each breed. This is the ram class. Southdown, Montedale, Dorper, White Dorper, Wether Sire, Dorset, Suffolk, Karakul (Primitive Breeds), Merino (Wool & Fiber Heritage Breed)  , Hampshire, Shropshire, Columbia, Natural Colored (can’t see that one), and All Other Breeds. In between the ram and the ewe class the other awards are announced.

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We did OK. This is 1st in Herdsman, Best Educational Presentation (sheep), Best Educational Presentation (all the livestock), Most Creative (Marketing), 2nd in Marketing Program. Thanks Farm Club and friends!!!

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One More State Fair Post

Before I get back to my Road Trip blogs I have a few more photos to share. No big surprises in this post like there were in the last one, but Dona sent me the great photos that she had taken of the show. And since I’m writing another fair post I’ll include a few others as well.

I didn’t see much of the fair besides the livestock area but I walked around briefly. Here is what caught my eye.

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On the wall of the livestock office.

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Another longhorn, this time with not-so-symmetrical horns.

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A “corn-box” for children.

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This seems like a good idea for kids but I think I’d want it far from my house. It’s hard to tell in the photo but there are metal bars hanging at each station for banging “music making”.

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I always like walking through “The Farm” to get ideas for my garden. I like these bricks that made the corners of the raised beds. It would be easy to change the location of the beds.

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Back to the show ring. Rotor was sometimes reluctant at moving around the ring.

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Here he is at the head of the class of Shetlands and Karakuls.

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This is the Primitive Breeds Champion judging.

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None of my other sheep did as well as Rotor. The judge preferred his fleece over that of my other sheep, although I think they are just fine. Meridian Honey, shown by my husband, had won Champion Jacob ewe at Black Sheep Gathering in June, but she was last in this class. That is part of showing any livestock, especially Jacob sheep. There is such a wide variety in acceptable traits in our sheep that it may not really be appropriate to judge them against each other. That is why Jacobs used to be judged by “card-grading”. Each sheep would get a “grade” based on the characteristics–not putting one of a similar grade above another. But that’s not how it’s done in traditional livestock shows.

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These are my two yearling ewes, Meridian Honey and Meridian Zinnia.

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This is the Jacob portion of the Primitive Breeds ewe lamb class. The two lambs without much color have a bit more on the other side. They are sisters and my friend, Mary, has bought one of them.

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Here is our Flock entry in the Primitive Breeds Division.

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Rotor’s debut on the photo stage after winning this show. See the previous blog for his other winning photos.

Big Wins at the CA State Fair – 2016

We interrupt this blog series…

I am not even half way through sharing photos and stories about our recent Road Trip, but for the last four days I have been at the State Fair and I have to share that experience.

Every year I wonder if it’s really worth the time and effort to go to the fair. My friends and I go to Black Sheep Gathering because…hmmm…why do we go? It’s a Road Trip With Sheep. I just bring sheep, look at fiber, and hang around with my friends. That can’t be said for the California State Fair. Although it’s close to home, it’s a lot of work. I set up a big display booth and my Farm Club friends and I staff it all day. It’s hot (105 this year), dusty, and I stay every night until about 8:30 because there are so many people still in the barn. We are under pressure to keep the area spotless and be nice to everyone because we are in contention for a couple of major awards for the display.

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For Farm Club member, Mary, who is also a new farm owner, this was a new experience. She has been here before but it’s different when you have your own sheep. Before we can put the sheep in the barn they are checked by the veterinarians.

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Once the sheep are settled in their pens we start with the display.

There is prestige and a good monetary award at stake for the Marketing Program that “should be directed at potential customers and show case the exhibitors Breeding Program and Operation”. Here is the scorecard:

  1. 20% Display. Clearly demonstrates it’s purpose, message and/or image.
  2. 20% Effective use of display materials. Paper, wood, metal, plastic, plants, etc.
  3. 20% Use of color and signage. Graphics and signage to create impact and storyline, QR codes
  4. 5% Special Effects. Movement, sound, audio visual, participatory element
  5. 20% Effective Use of Handout Materials. Flyers, pamphlets, business cards, recipes, children’s materials, etc.
  6. 15% Craftsmanship. Well constructed, balanced and has an overall finished, artistic, visual appeal.

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Here is the finished display.

 

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I’m glad that I had the last minute thought to provide a Touching Table. That came to me when I was looking for something else in the barn and came across these horns. We’ll expand on this next year. I was especially glad I thought about this when I realized that I had forgotten to bring the A-frame that holds some of our other interactive display material.

In addition to the Marketing Program, there are Herdsman awards that are offered “to encourage attractive, educational, and high quality presentations of all livestock exhibits”.  The Herdsman Award is judged on :

  1. 65% General Appearance
    1. 25% Neatness/cleanliness of bedding and aisle
    2. 10% Signage, banners, QR codes
    3. 10% Creative use of plants and special exhibit materials
    4. 20% Condition/cleanliness of animals
    5. 10% Educational material, marketing, breed promotion)
  2. 25% Feed Alleys/Tack Pen
    1. 15% Free of debris, not obstructed
    2. 10% Tack storage
  3. 10% Conduct
    1. 5% Exhibitor sportsmanship and cooperation with other exhibitors and staff
    2. 5% Public interaction and accessibility

In addition there is Best Educational Presentation over all the species entered in the three week run of the fair.

Farm Club members help to set up the display and come each day to staff the area and answer endless questions.

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This is the crew that was at the fair on Friday.

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I think they worry that I will forget to eat. On $2 Sample Thursday (all the fair food booths have to include a $2 item on their menus) they returned with this treat for me. I have a good photo of all of them eating their selections but they wouldn’t let me use it.

Other faces in the barn include:

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This Lincoln across the aisle from us.

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Suffolk ram that was just down the aisle.

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Longhorn steer at the other end of the barn.

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This is one of Mary’s new lambs who seemed delighted with the attention.

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The yearling ram, Meridian Rotor, standing behind the “DO NOT PET THE RAMS” sign.

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We spent the four days answering questions

  • Q: Is he normal? A: Yes, Jacob sheep can have 2 or 4 horns. (And that info is on the other sign right in front of the ram.)
  • Q: Where are the pigs? A: Out there (pointing).
  • Q: How do you get get it from this (wool in bucket) to this (carded sliver that I’m spinning)? A: We explain. Next year I will include the carders and carded batts, etc to more easily explain that.
  • Q: What happens if it breaks (fiber I’m spinning)?. A: Demonstrate how to join it.
  • Q: Where are the cows? A: Longhorns are at the other end of the barn. The dairy cows were here last week.IMG_3174-2

I spun three skeins of singles yarn while I was there.

But it’s really supposed to be all about the sheep show.IMG_3167

Mary and Russ practicing with their sheep.

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Dona, Mary, and Amy prepping sheep for the show. We don’t do all the fitting that other breeds do. That morning I had taken each sheep to the wash stall to clean their legs and feet. We wiped their noses and cleaned the grime off the eartags. Then we pretty much just brushed off the straw and were ready to go.

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The show started with yearling rams and I was thrilled when Rotor was placed first in his class and then awarded Champion Ram of the Primitive Breeds Division. The judge was not as happy with the rest of my sheep and they were interspersed with or at the end of the line-up of Shetland and Karakul sheep that were also in our division. Even Honey, who was champion Jacob ewe at Black Sheep Gathering, was placed last in her class.

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The breed show was Saturday. On Sunday champions from all 14 Divisions compete for the award of Supreme Champion. Rotor lo0ks pretty small in that line-up. (Some of those smaller sheep ahead of him are ram lambs that won their divisions.) As the judge went down the line he stopped and scrutinized him more than the others.

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He was one of four rams pulled out of the line-up to be in contention for the award.

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Thanks to Dona who got these great photos of us in the ring. In this photo the judge is discussing the four rams and said that although he wouldn’t ever want a Jacob (at least I think I heard that) he was very impressed with Rotor.

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He awarded Rotor Supreme Champion Ram of the State Fair!!!

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Here is me right after with all my loot.

Oh yeah, some of that is for the Herdsman and Marketing awards. Usually that is the highlight for me because I don’t expect to win with my sheep.

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From right to left: Supreme Champion Ram (banner and buckle); Best Educational Presentation (Herdsman); Best Program (Marketing); Third Best Educational Presentation over all the species for the three weeks of the fair; Second in Herdsman; Best Marketing Program.

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Of all the years showing in 4-H and later with our dairy and then with sheep, I’ve never had a belt buckle! I guess I need some Wranglers to go with it. And maybe some boots. I realized after the show that I hadn’t even changed into my (work) boots for the show and I was wearing those sandals through the whole thing. The excuse is that it the show was at 5 p.m. in the afternoon of a 105 degree day. (I was wearing jeans though. This picture was taken later at home.)

How I have spent 22 Mother’s Days

The Dixon May Fair is the longest-running fair in California. It is always Mother’s Day weekend. My oldest son started showing dairy cattle in 1988 and I’ve had kids at the fair ever since.  The kids can show as FFA members for one year after they finish  high school so this was my youngest son’s last show. He was at the fair from Tuesday through Sunday and left Sunday night for his job on a hotshot crew north of Redding.

Chris has shown dairy goats each year since he started in 4-H.  He sold some of his goats last summer when he left for the fire-fighting job, but had two two-year old milkers at the fair this year. Chris is showing Devan and a friend showed Denise.

This was a very small show, but Devan won Champion…

…and Best Doe in Show. Chris showed her dam at the CA State Fair two years ago and won Champion Toggenburg.

On Sunday Chris competed in Supreme Showmanship, in which the showmanship winners of each species compete.

Each participant shows sheep,

beef cattle, dairy cattle, meat goats, dairy goats, and swine. Chris won second place in this event. And then it was over. Chris rushed home to leave for the job. I went back to the fair to get the goats when they were released. That’s it! Not as big an adjustment as last year when Chris left home for the job for the first time, but now my years of 4-H & FFA Mom is over.

But I’m still a mom. Here is the Mother’s Day present that Chris gave me!!!!