Monday, August 29, 2011

Today's Special

     So there's a food booth at the Colorado State Fair that specializes in "out-of-the-ordinary" cuisine. You know, those food dishes you don't normally find on most menus--yak burgers, kangaroo burgers, alligator on a stick, alligator stew, chocolate-covered ants, maggot sandwich--just to name a few. I will say that I didn't patronize this particular food stand when I visited the fair on Saturday. I don't know, I guess I just wasn't in the mood for a maggot sandwich.
     But I'm thinking I could supply their cause. We seem to have an infestation of these yellow and black worms. They're everywhere! It's kind of like when the President addresses the nation--he's everywhere and you're gonna miss Flipper! Well, these worms are everywhere and we can't even find Flipper for all the flippin' worms! Somebody told me we have these worms because of all the moisture we've had. I also have not found all this moisture to which they are referring, but, hey, it sounds like a great reason.
     I think they are New York worms because they are always in a hurry. They get on a mission to get somewhere and they go as fast as their little short legs can scurry across the driveway. Most of them attach themselves to green tumbleweeds. So I don't really need to paint the vivid picture for you of what it looks like when you step on one. The chickens don't seem to want to eat them. I thought chickens ate about anything. The pigs, however, think they are a delicacy!
     I think I could capture a bunch of these and take them to the state fair and sell them to that exotic food stand. I'm thinkin' second income here. Well, maybe it's a first income since I do ranch for a living! I wonder how you'd rope one of these critters? I'd probably have to pick them up and the thought of that doesn't exactly rank high for me on a scale of 1 to 10. I watched them today--they even like to race each other. I told you they are New York worms!
     Getting back to those chocolate-covered ants--do you "oldtimers" out there remember the freshman high school initiations we used to have to endure? For you newbies, that's a legal form of "hazing" freshmen into high school. We used to have to dress up in some stupid looking garb, like wearing a tea-towel for a diaper over a pair of sweat pants, an over-sized straw hat, and, my favorite one, the onion around the neck. I managed to slice my onion somewhat just to impress the upperclassmen. What the upperclassmen forgot was they got to endure the awful smell of the onion. Wearing one for a necklace somewhat took out the sense of smell and it wasn't all that bad.
     The upperclassmen also forgot that what they viewed as "punishment" actually was a reward for us--like having to stay after lunch and help the cooks do dishes. This was back before paper plates were used and actual silverware graced the cafeteria. It always took us such a looonnng time to get those dishes done! And the cooks always rewarded us with cookies or cake for a job well done.
     Initiation also involved a "special supper" prepared by the upperclassmen. It usually involved cow's brains (spaghetti), maggot pudding (rice or tapioca), and, in our case, actual chocolate-covered ants. Some candy store in Colorado Springs was selling them. I thought they were good. They tasted like those Nestle Crunch candy bars.
     On second thought, maybe I'll head back to the fair and try one of those exotic dishes. All but the maggot sandwich--I've seen tooooo many dead cows to go against my better judgment on this one. And maybe I'll take along a few of my "wiggly friends" to see if they're interested! Bon' appetit!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In The Spirit of the County Fair

     It's been a while, hasn't it? I've been busy, I guess. It finally rained, things are looking more promising, the cows aren't chasing the pickup looking for feed, God is good. We're in the heart of county fair season. My boys are too old for 4-H, but I miss them showing. I miss helping them work with their animals, going on daily walks with steers and hogs, and, yes, even the stress involved with getting ready for the fair.
     I wanted to share a few photos of the El Paso County Fair with you. I don't think these kids will mind me using them in my blog. They're great kids--they remind me of my sons when it came to fair time--hard working, helping others, seeing what they could do to help out in any way. They're also in my 4-H club, so they are truly "my kids." I laugh with them, I cry with them, I coach them, I see them through their disappointments, I celebrate with them. And years from now, I get to reap the rewards if knowing I had a small part in their character-building process back then.
     Before we get to the kids, I wanted to talk a little about how I actually got involved in the "fair preparations" this year. I was headed out the door, running late as usual, trying to make the breeding shows at the fair. I had a couple of kids showing heifers and goats and wanted to be there by show time at 8:30 a.m. As I was leaving my yard, I happened to glance at the bathtub that Jake had buried a couple of years ago hoping the ducks would use it for a swimming hole. They don't. These ducks are afraid of water if they can't touch the bottom. Go figure. The dogs love the tub, however, because it does make a great swimming hole for them on triple-digit days. But I'm not sure where the chicken population figures in.
     I happened to see something in the tub and it wasn't a duck and it wasn't a dog--it was a chicken. She was just floating in that tub. I know chickens aren't the greatest swimmers. I was mesmerized at the county fair one year watching the poultry kids prepare their chickens for show. They stood them on five-gallon buckets, soaked to the last pin feather, and were blow drying the hapless hens. One of the poultry kids told me the chickens can't fly off the buckets when they're soaked. They were not, I repeat, NOT using steer blowers, although that might have been fun to watch. Hair dryers seemed to do the trick.
     So I plucked my water-logged hen out of the tub and knew I needed to dry her off. She was shivering uncontrollably and couldn't stand up. I'm not sure if she spent the night in that tub of water, but she was weak, cold (even though it was already 90 degrees), and had given up. I raced into the house and grabbed my hair dryer. About that time my husband drove through the yard and did a double-take. There I stood, hair dryer in hand, hen perched on a bucket, blow drying the egg producer. The more I dried, the prettier she became and the livelier she got. I knew this had to be working, but I also needed to hit the road to get to the show. I quickly finished the job, perched her in the sun next to a pan of water (to drink, not to swim), gave her a little grain, and headed to the fair. When I returned that night, she was running around, clucking like crazy. Success!

     See--4-H leaders can learn from their kids! I knew those demonstrations throughout the years would pay off if I just paid attention to content and not presentation only. Anyway, I wanted you to see the hen in the tub. Sorry I didn't get any photos of the finished product. I also wanted you to see the love of the kids and their 4-H animal projects.