All in the family

One of the challenges that I’d never really thought much about that we would face as our family grew was that we would have choices to be made about what sorts of things we would say yes to outside the things we do at home.  Not that we spend our days here in a bubble not engaging with the outside world.  Not at all so.  We love having a steady stream of people here for one thing or another.

Some of our friends are highly involved and committed to year around sports.  While for certain families this works great, it also has the potential to fragment the family quite a bit.  Dinners together are the exception instead of the rule.  The costs for kids who move beyond recreation-level sports are into the many hundreds of dollars per season.  However, even for just 6 weeks of YMCA level, “for fun” soccer for our kids it would have cost us almost $500.

When one child excels in a sport, it’s easy to get excited and put others on the sidelines (literally and figuratively).  We’ve watched this play out just this past year in fact.  It is harder than I’d have guessed to find things that a family with several children can be involved in together.

Two years ago this fall we happened upon a county wide 4-H meeting near us.  We stopped and talked with each club leader for any animals we were interested in.  The commitment levels varied a great deal.  The personality and “feel” of the groups did as well.  We still lived in our tiny rambler with our five children, mostly quite happily.  We had chickens and a dog and a cat.  We were far from anything that resembled any sort of country, agricultural life.  But we signed up anyway.  Figuring we could just learn about animals, make some friends and have some fun.

We had no idea what we were in for.  We spent that first year learning all sorts of interesting things about dairy goats.  But better than that we made some great friends.  Grown up ones as well as kid ones.  Each of our children were challenged to give presentations to the group.  Learning to stand up in front of your peers and share about something is such a helpful lifelong skill.

When we had the opportunity to move part way through that year we found ourselves living at the end of an unmaintained county road with a small pasture already in place.  And it happened to be just about kidding season.  Three baby goats quickly found their way to our little family farm and into our hearts.

Of course fair season is the culmination of the 4-H year.  We didn’t really “get” that the first year.  Last year we showed up at one small community fair and had a ball.  This year we did the same fair (pictures below!) but had anticipated all year long that we would do the Big One.  The full Monty of the fair world around these parts.  But it requires its own post which I promise to work on this week.  For now, here are some snapshots of us enjoying our time at Silvana together.  Even just a one-day, all day event for seven people isn’t a small affair….but it was insanely fun for all of us.  Finn included!

Finn getting ready to take on the show ring with the Tiny Tots
Audrey getting Little Su ready
Finn and Kodiak
Audrey and Little Su in the ring
Finn showing Kodiak
Finn with the (lovely) judge
Kyler with Posey
Caleb with Wyatt
Rylee with Blanchette
the lineup!
lovin' us some cousins who came to watch!
our little goat show-girl
the fantastic Finn
sweetest Kyler face ever
going for a sno-cone run
taking a snooze wearing his show ribbon - hard work wrangling goats when you're two!

4-H fun!

Our summer has been even more fun than we’d hoped given our recent entrance into the wide world that is 4-H.  When we dropped in at the open house last September we were still living in our little house, our kids praying and dreaming for some space to climb trees and raise some animals.  We met a super sweet lady who had a dairy goat farm and we were hooked.  She was passionate about kids and animals.  She had a wealth of knowledge about something we were interested in and a heart to share it.  That last sentence probably sums up a good deal of all that is 4-H.

We decided to jump in and join the goat group even though we had no hopes of having goats in our little yard.  I sort of figured we’d live vicariously through the ones who did have goats and we’d learn a lot in the process.  My goodness are we ever glad we did.  Our kids have grown in their confidence and abilities in ways I never expected.  The look on their faces walking away with ribbons for participation and good work was priceless.  The friendship they’ve found there has been of even greater value.

We started into the world of fairs and showing animals with a small community fair this year.  It was quite possibly the best day of our summer.  My face hurt from smiling by the day’s end.  The icing on the cake was that my grandpa planned his trip out to visit to correlate with the fair.  So he got to see his great-grands do their first show.

There were no rides, just old fashioned games like potato sack races and climb-the-greased-pole.  The food was cheap and the pace was slow.  It was the best induction into the realm of showing animals and projects and such.  Little did we know when we started this adventure that we would move this year and be able to have our own goats!  We enjoy them more than we even thought we would.  They are wonderful companions and pets!