We survived our first county fair as 4-Hers. By survived, I mean we didn't lose any kids, none of the animals escaped, and we managed to get all of the necessary chores done here at home. I haven't finished unloading the van and the truck, and the dirty fair clothes still need to be washed, but we survived.
We almost lost Daphne once. I had to climb into the pigs' pen to help Dan and, while my back was turned, Daphne followed another family around the corner of the barn. Thankfully, they brought her right back. Then another mom passing by with her kids offered to keep an eye on Daphne while we finished the pig chores. That's what's great about the county fair - everyone was willing to help others out when they were in need.
The folks in the dairy barn were especially helpful. A young man from the club across the aisle always seemed to be two steps ahead of me with a fork when it was time to clean up after our calves. We had lots of help from family and other exhibitors, too. I can't thank them all enough for helping with our calves when we were home doing chores.
And, it seemed like our chores during the fair took forever. Partly because we were so doggone tired from the long days and late nights. Partly, too, because a whole slew of calves were born during the fair, so we were dealing with fresh cows and new calves on top of regular chores. This is the first year in several that we've freshened any cows in July and August. We used to avoid breeding in October and November so that we could avoid heat stressing our fresh cows, but last year we decided to end that practice. All those new cows and heifers put us at 90 cows in milk, which, for our set-up, makes milking a full-time job.
By the time we got the projects and animals back home on Sunday, we were all flat-out exhausted. I think I underestimated just how exhausting the fair would be. Is there such a thing as a fair hangover? Because that's how I feel - headache, nausea, exhaustion.
But, as I look back, the exhaustion was worth it. We had a lot of fun, we got to visit with friends we don't often see and we learned a lot, too.
I learned to relax my standards, at least for now. Prior to the fair, I had hoped to teach Dan and Monika about the importance of herdsmanship. I planned to show them how to properly block the straw that their calves were resting on and to stress the need to keep the walk way behind our calves swept clean. They quickly picked up on the need to remove manure from behind their calves and keep the floor swept. I decided that blocking straw can wait until next year or the year after.
Our calves weren't perfectly fitted for the shows, but they were clean and nicely clipped. Dan and Monika have lots of years ahead of them to learn about fitting.
Dan and Monika learned a lot about responsibility and the buddy system. They were allowed to go freely about the barns to check on their animals as long as they had a sibling or cousin with them. If one of the cousins couldn't be found, the kids were quick to report it to an adult. Monika was reported lost several times, but was always found in the rabbit barn asking fair-goers if they wanted to pet her bunny.
Dan and Monika also learned a lot about exhibiting other species. The cloverbud swine show was not the rodeo we thought it might be. Our pigs walked right from their pen to the arena, and we didn't have to chase them all over the fairgrounds.
Monika said she really like bringing, Cookie, her rabbit to the fair. "It was so simple, Mom," she said during our fair debriefing. And, I have to agree. Cookie didn't need to be washed or groomed and cleaning up after her was as simple as it gets.
I reached the conclusion that dairy cattle are, by far, the most labor intense species to show. But, I also agree with a friend who said, "The dairy barn is still the best place to be at the fair."