More from the State Fair

The State Fair seem so long ago now, but it was only last weekend. I wrote a post about our sheep exhibit and our wins. But I also wanted to share some of my other favorites before I move on to my next adventure (coming up this week!!).

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I didn’t venture far from the barn this year because it was so busy. However I always like to see The Farm. Here was one unique flower display.

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This sign explains what many people who live in other parts of the country don’t realize about most of California.

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Here is a further illustration of why much of California would be considered a desert if it were not for irrigation water.

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Back in the barn, the longhorns are always a favorite.

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As my friends know I’m not a big fan of llamas or other camelids (at least not up close), but they do make good subjects for photography.

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Our neighbors to the back were some lustrous, fluffy Karakuls.

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Julie, (our favorite bunny lady from our spring Open House and sheep and goat breeder) had a display down the aisle from us. This is one aspect of her display that shows fleece from a variety of breeds. Julie won several well-deserved awards this year for her display.

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We had new neighbors across the aisle. Being Angora goat (mohair) exhibitors they were new to the Marketing Award competition, but they did a superb marketing display and won first in that category this year. We enjoyed getting to know them and teaching one of their members to spin (see the last post about the fair).

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I watched from my sheep pens while they took their goats to the show ring on Saturday morning. The method was to open the gates and hope they all followed the leaders, which mostly worked.

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Bringing a stubborn kid to the ring.

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I wish that we could show rams beyond yearlings. This aged buck was impressive.

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These photos almost make me think…

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…about having an Angora goat again…

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…but then I’d have to deal with a GOAT.

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!!!

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.)

State Fair 2015

I missed the State Fair last year because I was in Texas waiting for a grandbaby to be born. Coming back to the fair this year I decided that I wanted to change my display. The fair offers Marketing Awards for each species for those who put some effort into the displays that are with their livestock. I put a lot of thought and effort into this and Farm Club members also helped with some of the behind the scenes stuff as well as being there every day of the fair.IMG_5623This is what the main part of the display looked like. I used rusty tin (and I didn’t have to do the DIY TV shows’ trick of using acid on perfectly new tin to make it look that way) for the background as well as additional signage over the sheep pens. I focused on Farm Club and the idea of local marketing of wool, lamb and promoting consumer education while many of the other sheep exhibitors primarily promote marketing breeding stock. 

IMG_5567 I created a Jacob sheep puppet  as a craft project for kids to take home and came up with a crossword puzzle unique to our farm.

IMG_5568 Part of marketing is using social media and the award description even specified use of QR codes. There is this blog, Rusty’s blog, a Meridian Jacobs Facebook page, MJ Ravelry group, a MJ YouTube channel and even Pinterest and Instagram (which I didn’t put on the sign). IMG_5586This is the fifth or sixth year that I have provided pregnant ewes for the Nursery that is managed by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. This doesn’t have anything to do with the Marketing Award, but the people at the vet school are so appreciative of this that I continue to do it.IMG_5585Isadora, one of the new mom’s would probably rather be home, but she really has it rather nice at the fair–always plenty of food and a blowing fan when it is getting very hot.

I think our CA State Fair has a lot going for it. I did not do my regular pre-sheep-show visit to the fair because of our trip to Texas and the work to get ready, but I looked at a few other parts while I was there. IMG_5591At the other end of the barn there are the longhorns. I am afraid that this is a dying breed–not the cattle, but the people who bring them to the fair. There are only a few exhibitors left now and I hope that someone else will choose to show them because they are always fun to see.IMG_5589Same with sheep, right?IMG_5625I always like to see the part they call the Farm. We have modeled some of our garden ideas from what we have seen here. No reason to throw out tires when they can be used to grow vegies. They had a stack of three for potatoes which I thought was very clever. At harvest time just pull off the tires.IMG_5730I took this photo for my husband. In the Counties Exhibit Hall I saw this cycling jersey promoting the Tour de Manure.IMG_5622Back at the barn, I love to see the beautiful Clydesdales. IMG_5616 They make my yearling ram look rather small.IMG_5637

The fair runs for three weeks and the sheep are in the nursery for the whole time. But the sheep show is only four days. Good thing because it is exhausting talking to so many people. The moderate weather for the last week of the fair contributed to record crowds. I had to bring additional panels to “protect” the rams from people  being too close and not reading the “Do not pet rams. Do not grab horns.” sign.

IMG_5641 Of course the point of going to the fair is to show sheep although my focus is on the marketing award because it’s hard to compete in classes with many breeds of sheep. Those are my two yearling rams.

IMG_5713 I was pleased that Meridian Crosby won Reserve Champion ram in the Heritage Breeds Division.  He was not cooperative for the photo but hopefully the official photographer got one.

IMG_5716 Both rams were happy to get back in their pen after the ordeal of the show ring.

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I won the Marketing Award as well as Herdsman and Best Program directed at the General Public. I found out later that I also won the Marketing Award over all the livestock species for the full run of the fair! I can’t say thank you enough to Farm Club and a couple of other friends who helped at the fair. I couldn’t do this without you.IMG_5760A successful few days, but all of us were glad to go home.