4-H

Meeting the International Champion Monroe County, W.V. Lego Robotics Team.

While taking my youngest son to see his 4-H project at the West Virginia State Fair this August, we met a group of inspiring young people from Monroe County. The Boa Constrictor Robotics Team from Union, West Virginia is not only a local and national champion, but a 5th place winner on the world stage for Lego Robotics building.

Yes, you read that properly, 2 dozen kids from one of the poorest counties in the nation placed 5th in the world. The team beat challengers from Korea, China,and Chile, to name only a few of the over 60 nations represented. Monroe County claimed awards and trophies for beating hundreds of well sponsored teams from all over the United States and the World.

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Members of the Monroe County 4-H Lego Robotics team at the West Virginia State Fare 2017

The Monroe County 4-H members put on a demonstration in the 4-H/FFA center building at this years State Fair. The same room where all qualified projects are displayed and judged for the best projects at the state level. This team was able to show hundreds of visitors what 4-H can do for kids and what one small community was able to do with some dedicated volunteers.

Christopher was instantly engaged in the robots and the team allowed guests to play with the winning robot named Rook. The team made and displayed several smaller introductory robots also. I could not drag my son away, the visit to see his own project was forgotten and it  became a quest to learn more about how to make and drive these machines.

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Christopher getting instruction from Boa Constrictor Lego Robotics Team member

 

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Christopher in front of his first year 4-H pillow project that made it to the State Fair Level. 

The Lego Robotic program is a wonderful way to show off what is often overlooked in our young people in West Virginia. 4-H members have to do the math and work with their hands, solving problems in real world situations. They develop teams were they learn to build what they need rather than counting on something prefabricated. All things our rural kids already understand. Our kids will need more than one sponsor, unlike other teams who can depend on money from wealthy colleges or business.  They will have to develop public speaking skills as they talk to business people, university presidents, churches, banks and farmers to find the over $15,000 dollars it took Monroe County to make their dream come true.

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Christopher plays with the first robot the Monroe County team built-in 2016

So with my  family and others, an older son who loves to work with his hands, and help from our County extension office, we are now taking  on the challenge of getting more young people involved in STEM projects ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and  Robots. Our families hope is to increasing the number of children who are exposed to the future of technology and keep that interest growing . Lewis county 4-H is stepping up and following Monroe counties lead and starting their own Robotics team and my family is all for it. Soon we will have our own team,starting our own Lego robotic build and teaching kids about robotics. From the bottom of my heart, I am so proud to see our youth reaching their dreams. I thank them for inspiring a whole state of 4-H members and hope to hear great things about the Monroe county kids as they take on the State, Nation and the World competitions again this years. Best of luck kids….. West Virginia is behind you all the way!

To learn more about 4-H and Lego robotics and STEM projects contact your West Virginia University extension office in your county.

 

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Categories: 4-H, awards, Christopher, Cody, education, Legos, Monroe County, Robotics, STEM | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Bee Hive at a Time

bee in pink rhododendron flower on family farm

Bee in pink rhododendron flower on family farm 2002

I have spent several years thinking about becoming a beekeeper and this year I will officially have my own hive. I have followed blogs and read books and talked with several beekeepers about the hobby.  I have been supportive in my gardens to feed all pollinators and like any normal person I love honey. So this February I enrolled with about 40 other community members in a Department of Agriculture class titled “Beginning Beekeeping” given through the Lewis County,W.V. Extension Office. The class was what I needed to feel like I can become a responsible beekeeper.

One of the wonderful things about the class was to see who also enrolled in the very inexpensive class.They are the faces of people who I see almost everyday,there were farmers, business owners, teachers, retired state employees, gas men, salespeople and few children all eager to learn how to help the bees. It was an equal mix of husbands and wives and families who all felt the drawn to honey and the plight of the bees. Maybe it was a mixture of love and fear that made all of us trudge to the 4 classes almost 2 1/2 hours long in the cold evenings of February.

Living in an agriculture heavy state bees are a serious topic of conversation.My community worries about the future of our farms and orchards with less pollinators . They want education and they want to help bees.The classes were eye-opening for all of us. According to USDA’s 2014 report open pollinated soybean and apples are our state’s 3rd and 4th largest cash crops. Those two bee loving crops produces $25,708,000 dollars of produce for our state’s economy. This is only the information on registered producers who sell for profit. The effects of low bee populations are dramatic when you add in all the other fruit and vegetables that are lower on the list and all the produce from the back yard farmers that sell or give away their produce. It is overwhelming that all of this money rests on the winged shoulders of our bee population.With bees in decline all of us at this class understood the importance of our attempt on a small-scale to help.

Spring wild blue bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Spring wild blue bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Honey sweetens the pot for beekeepers who want to also make a profit from caring for the bees. In our class were able to get enough information about bee keeping to think seriously about what we will do with the honey. Our family plans to eat and give away honey with the comb in jars, so we will be doing a more historic and traditional way of processing our honey then many in our class. Most members will be removing the honey with a centrifuge system that should make honey production faster and easier.

Cosmos a bee favorite flower in the backyard

Cosmos a bee favorite flower in the backyard

As spring arrives I will be writing more and sharing photos of our last class where all of us beginners will get a hands on chance to open and split a hive, take a look inside the hive and look at the condition of the queen and the comb. It will be just before then that we should have our hive and begin setting it up in the yard. Around the same time our bees should arrive and we will take the first steps in this adventure. I am looking forward to sharing my new hobby with my husband and two sons. If I am lucky maybe they will also see the value in raising these very important pollinators and will see the overall benefits to our family, community and state. If Christopher finds any interest in the bees he can even use them as a 4-H project to educate other kids about bees, honey and how important they are to our world.  It is because of all people I call my friends that I think together we can make a difference in our environment one hive at a time.

Categories: 4-H, Apples, Beekeeping, Foraging, hobbies, Honey, Preserving, rural life | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bunnies at the 4-H Jamboree 2014

Our first time out to the 4-H show with Christopher’s bunnies was full of highs and lows, riding the wave of the learning something new. He learned allot from other competitors who shared grooming tips and from the judges who explained technical terms to him. We had a great week of seeing friends and watching many of our friends win prizes and get more confident with their animals and projects. This is one of our families favorite weeks of every year and helping Christopher learn about showing animals was a blast.

Grand prize winning Sable buck open class 2014 4-H jamboree

Grand Prize winning Sable buck open class 2014 4-H Jamboree.

Our family originally bought our rabbits as dual purpose animals. First and foremost they are pets for my son. The other purpose for having these little guys around is to have off spring, which we will use for food, sale and to show.  This has been a year-long project as we started off writing about the rabbits as babies and we now have two mature bucks that are ready to breed in the spring if we can find a nice female to start our herd off with. So over the past year Christopher has shown both rabbits a couple of times. He  finished the year with his 4-H clubs end of the year  show ” The Jamboree”. This is where all the kids who are part of the county 4- H bring all their animals and projects for judging and prepared to go on to the State wide fair competition. At this years local show around 45 rabbits got displayed.  Christopher being the youngest competitor at age 5. Because of his young age he was in the “Open Class” this class is open to any one who wants to show an animal. The class  includes children, teens and adults it is open to any competitor. Some years we have had several disabled adults show in this class and lots of under age children compete for prizes and ribbons. It is a great place to train a young person about how  judging works, how to care for you animal and how to win and lose with Grace. The week starts with setting up animal pens and cages and getting the animal inspected for sickness and sex. Then listing the breed, age and class the child plans to show in. After check in the animals stay in cages on the show grounds and will be in the barn for the next week.  Above is a photo of Diesel in his cage at the fair grounds.The fallowing evening we got to help Christopher show his Rabbits. With help he got his rabbits groomed and clean for the show. We then helped him carry  the two 10 pound rabbits into the show ring with Christopher leading the way.

Christopher leading the group to the judges table

Christopher leading the group to the judges table

The judge inspects the animal and gives the competitor information about the animal and scores its condition, coat, conformation.

judge talking with Christopher about his rabbits

judge talking with Christopher about his rabbits

In this case Christopher was the only competitor so the judging went fairly fast with him winning 1st and 2nd in breed and Grand Champion and Reserve for the class of Open Rabbits.  It was a joy to see him get a chance to show off his rabbits and get his picture taken with the ” Queen of the Fair” and receive a large collection of prizes for his first attempt at showing off his rabbits

Christopher getting his picture taken with the fair Queen and the judge

Christopher getting his picture taken with the Fair Queen and the Judge

 

Christopher with ribbons and prizes from the 2014 4-H jamboree

Christopher with ribbons and prizes from the 2014 4-H jamboree

The one thing I have learned about Christopher these last few days is when he is unsure of himself  he tells me that he can’t do something.The night of the show he told everyone that he could not walk his bunnies alone across the area. Even though he had done so several other times over the course of the summer at different events. So this time he needed a little help holding the bunnies because they had gotten so large and heavy he was afraid he would drop one of them or they would struggle and scratch him. It was an easy fix for me and a friend to help carry the heavy guys to the judging table and back to their cages. I just hope that the support this time will make it easier for him in the future. It is all about learning and growing with 4-H and I was lucky to learn something too. Hopefully some time in September he will receive his trophy photo plaque and we will have a wonderful time at his awards banquet. At that time I will get a photo of him winning his first show and it will remind me of how small he was when we started teaching him lessons about sportsman ship, compassion, responsibility, team work, and love for animals. I am a happy and proud 4-H supporter. I know that  4-H  has changed the lives of both my boys for the better and I will be part of my 4-H family for a very long time.

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, education, family fun, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Bunnies and a Easter wish to you

As you already know one of the many things we have decided to do in an effort  to become more self-reliant  is to raise rabbits. I have been a  rabbit lover since my folks let me have them as a kid and have been known to have up to 18 at a time. With our recent move a couple of years ago the only thing I wanted from our farm of animals was my rabbits. I had visions of raising, selling, showing and eating my farm raised rabbits. Well over the first year here at the OLD house on the edge of town two things happened that I could have never foreseen. First was the sickness and later death of my large brood Doe… after about 8 years she caught a cold after our move and died before the antibiotics took effect. Second was the loss of my little Doe that was Christopher’s show bunny. She escaped her cage and we spent days trying to recapture her in our large yard. This was a major set back for me as I had planned to raise a litter of Kits for sale at Easter and/or to show this year at the 4-H shows and State Fair.

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

So we started the long process of starting over. I wanted a rabbit that was a multi-purpose breed, that could be sold for pets,shown or used as food if I ended up with more than my fair share of off spring. So I found that perfect combination of traits in the Sable Rabbit. We were off and running when a local woman offered to give Christopher a Sable that was not pure bred as a gift. I thought that this would set us up with a nice pet and get my then 4-year-old interested in animals and their care.  So we were up and running with this little guy.

Well this  wonderful and clam rabbit has won our hearts and has been traveling with us as we take him to local pet shows and 4- H gatherings. By Fall Christopher and Ratchet became a team and we discovered that we had gotten a great starter show bunny for him even if he was not pure bred.

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

I then started a conversion with some of the local kids and competitors at our local 4-H and many of them suggested that I think seriously about Christopher’s future with rabbits as show animals and how hard some kids work at breeding and showing them. At last count one of our high school girls showed and won multiple  trophies with about 28 rabbits last year at state fair. She sold most of them before leaving and come home with enough money to put around 2500.00 dollars in her college fund.

So this sent me on the hunt for a pure bred version of a Sable rabbit. Taking my family on a car trip to southern Pennsylvania .On Christopher’s birthday we purchased another Buck and attended our first rabbit show. I had a wonderful time and could hardly contain my happiness about seeing so many wonderful animals. We were able to pick up our new bunny who was huge at the same age as Ratchet. We named him Diesel.

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher has really enjoyed  playing with, feeding and holding his first real pets. It has been a good investment of time and money to teach him about the love of animals.

walking rabbits on leashes

walking rabbits on leashes

One of the ways we get to spend time with the rabbits and get them some exercise is to walk them around our yard on nice days. It is hard to believe that only 9 months ago the rabbit in the blue harness fit in the palm of my hand. Ratchet  is now about 6 pounds and Diesel in the red harness is about 8 pounds. Both are of breeding age and ready to move into the show ring and start paying their way in the homesteading world. We are now in the process of finding a nice Doe to add to our growing rabbitry. This may take another trip to Pennsylvania because we have found no breeders in our local area.  The next project on our property is to add a large out-door shelter that will house all of our adult rabbits and an areas for three sets of kits. This will be an addition to a shed that we already have and will be semi enclosed. I hope to get started on it within a month. In the mean time we entertain our neighbors and friends with our walks and we enjoy bringing the boys inside for fun and family time.

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash.

There is a far amount or work keeping and raising any animal. Rabbits do have individual personalities and not every one is great for a young person like Christopher who is now 5. Ratchet is the type that loves attention and being held. He will fallow any one around the house from room to room wanting noting more than a rub or pat. He is also more active and loves to run and jump. Where as, his buddy who is a pure bred Sable is shy and lazy. Making him harder to handle but he would rather sit quietly when put down making a real nice confirmation  animal.I believe that Christopher will be more confident with Ratchet this year but in time will enjoy both.

We have our first ” Stock Man” class in a couple of weeks where the rules or care and showing animals at the fairs is gone over. It is an important step for both parents and children, sportsman ship is held to a higher standard than the quality of the animal at every 4-h event. This class covers cheating, animal abuse, animal neglect, feeding and health care and general sportsman ship. It is the basis for a wonderful future in 4-H. I am so lucky that Christopher will be learning these lessons so early and in such a supportive way. We can all agree that teaching a child about the needs of others, including animals, how to play fair and the importance of being a good loser are lessons that build a well-rounded child and a better adult.

But in the end their really is nothing quite as wonderful as an Easter bunny.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday !

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, Easter, rabbits, State Fair | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Rabbits our new 4-H project

   I have been a rabbit lover forever.We had them as kids and my  family raised some for meat and fur at one time. Over my adult life I have personally owned with or with out my kids about 26 and we have lost a few, sold a few and some have passed away from old age but this little guy is different.

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   By different I mean this is the friendliest, calmest and coolest tempered bunny I have ever encountered. He is a total joy and will be excellent for Christopher to show and use for his 4-h project. “Ratchet” as Christopher named him is a 7 week old Sable Chinchilla.The buck was a gray Chinchilla crossed with a black New Zealand doe…. the sable gene is from the Chinchilla side and Ratchet has all the signs of a Chinchilla with two toned fur and light guard hairs but also inherited the sable markings of dark ears, nose and toes from his dad as he had points of darker gray also. GE DIGITAL CAMERA

    As a 4-H mom you are always looking for ways to keep you kids involved and learning. Raising rabbits is an easy way to teach them all about animals, responsibility, breeding and in some cases about meat production and even the harder life lesson like death. Rabbits are a wonderful introduction to the world of showing animals and competition with-in the world of 4-H. At our last year-end show called, 4-H jamboree, I think their were about 20 rabbits on display and at least 6 were part of the market auction. The market auction rabbits are Pens of three that the member raises for a meat project. The child member bred, raises, and is judged on the weight, size and quality of the animals. Then the child member sells the Pen at an auction at the end of the week. Here the Pen of three usually sells for a price of about 200 dollars . Not a bad price for one litter of bunnies. The money goes directly to the child who raises the animals and is usually used to buy more project items or feed. The buyer has the option of keeping the pen or donating the pen back to the child so that it can either be sold later, eaten or bred again for the following year.

  With Ratchet being so clam and quite ( the best quality for a young child just starting out) I will be able to help train him. He must be comfortable with lots of handling and grooming. Ratchet will have to handle having his toes examined, flipped on to his back to check for missing hair, sex and age. He will need to have his ears checked for cleanliness, carried without jumping over board and sitting quietly when sitting on a display table. All things a child of 5 willbe able to do with help from judges and parents.

   There is no requirement for papers or purebred animals for children this age. the object is to start with the basics and  show what works for you. Only the market rabbits have breed requirements, they need of the meat type and in the correct weight range. older members show purebred and line bred animals for breed classes and thier are 47 listed breeds on the American Rabbit breeders Ass. website at www.arba.net/breeds.htm. Eventually I will pursue another New Zealand for the meat classes and a purebred “REAL” sable for breed classes. Then breed Ratchet to the New Zealand rabbit for the meat bred category.

   Thankfully, Christopher has fallen in love with Ratchet. This is really the first time I have seen him attach to an animal although we had others. He really likes spending time with him. I hope the bond continues and they spend this winter getting to know each other. At this point we have Ratchet in an indoor cage because he is so tiny. His move outside is still up for debate. At some point he should reach a weight of about 10 lbs so he will be too big to stay in a small cage.

Christopher with Ratchet

Christopher with Ratchet

    I am so happy to add another little fur ball to our family and our “living off the land” life style. Ratchet and his babies will further lower my families dependance on the world’s food supply and will offer us another organic meat to eat. I personally love rabbit meat so starting to raise my own for food, fur,fun and profit is a natural way for us to progress. I just hope that as Christopher gets older he will enjoy these animals enough to want to raise a few babies for later projects and is able to sell a few along the way.

 Welcome, to the family Ratchet may you live a long healthy life full of love!

Categories: 4-H, animal health, bredding rabbits, rabbits | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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