Farm news: Everyone is well, albeit complaining of the heat and humidity. Steve has wallowed out a spot for himself beneath the rosebush, where his belly stays cool on the damp earth. We had a brief respite the past few days, but the weatherman says we're in for a bit more sticky weather the end of this week. I'm so ready for fall! One benefit of so much heat, humidity, and stormy weather, however, has been the beautiful sunsets we have after the storms have passed.
The biggest news from the farm, however, is that Grandlittle #3's "miracle beans" continue to grow. I think I've said this before, but I never expected the darn things to grow! We were all astonished when they sprouted .... and when they thrived .... and when they bloomed .... but when I saw them actually producing pods of beans, I didn't know what to think.
Unfortunately, the beagles are very fond of raw black beans (who knew?), so I'm having some difficulty keeping pods on the plants until the little gardner can come up to see the fruits of her labors. We're planning a little garden next summer, where she and her sisters can "farm". It's good for children to learn not only how their food grows, but also how much labor is needed to grow it.
Also entering fruitfulness are the "volunteer" plants thoughtfully planted by the birds, during their spring squabbles at the birdfeeder. We have only one sunflower left, and what I believe to be a variety of millet. I'm considering planting some wildflowers in the meadow, either this spring or next fall, to encourage birds, butterflies, and honeybees to visit. The problem with wildflowers here, however, is that the deer love them, too! Burpee Seeds has a deer-resistant mixture that might just fit the bill.
The State Fair! Yesterday, I dragged the man away from work for a day (harder than you might think!), and we went to the Kentucky State Fair. I've always loved the State Fair, although I haven't managed to visit every year. It's such a kaleidoscope of activity: animals, competitive exhibits, "fair food", the Midway, the horse show, talent competitions, public service exhibits, concerts ... seriously, the list could go on and on. If there's a State Fair where you live, do plan to visit. It's so much fun.
When we arrived, the exhibit nearest our parking spot was the Mules and Jacks exhibit. I have a soft spot for most animals, but I'm especially fond of mules and donkeys. A mule is independent. It knows its own mind, and doesn't hesitate to exercise its self-determination. Not for nothing does our language include the idiom, stubborn as a mule! It took me years to learn the difference, but in case you're wondering what's a mule and what's a jack, here goes.... A female horse or pony is a mare. A male horse or pony that is capable of breeding is a stallion. A male horse or pony that has been neutered is a gelding. A jack is a male donkey. A female donkey is called a jenny (or jinny). The offspring of a stallion and jenny is called a hinny. The offspring of a jack and a mare is a mule. Mules, whether male or female, are incapable of reproducing. A male mule is, confusingly, also known as a jack (or a jack mule), and female mule is called a molly.
Mules are renowned for their strength and pulling ability. These fine fellows were getting all dressed up when we arrived, and we soon realized what kind of outing they were planning. I love those big ears. I can't tell you how many mules, jacks, mollies, jennies, and hennies I petted yesterday........
...but not this fellow! He had signs posted on his stall that said I BITE. One of the signs had a bite taken out of it, too. You wouldn't think of it to look at him, would you? I guess with mules, as with people, still waters run deep.
I also have a ridiculous fondness for pigs. We saw quite a few smiling pigs at the Fair. See those notched ears? That's not something intentionally done for identification -- that's the result of two pigs going mano-a-mano in a pigpen rumble. I wonder if it's a status thing among pigs ..... "Don't mess with Chester! See those ears? He never loses!"
In order to accommodate all the competitive animal classes, the State Fair shows dairy cattle, dairy and meat goats, rabbits, and poultry the first week of the Fair. Then they all go home, the workers clean like crazy, and in come the beef cattle, sheep, and swine for the second week of the Fair. We saw so many sheep, from lambs to rams, and they were all glad to receive pets.
The man and I called this one Stormtrooper Ewe, after the white-armored soldiers from Star Wars ....
There weren't many cattle, as yesterday was move-in day. But I did find some bovine friends willing to have their portraits taken while they munched their lunches. The Hereford was a past champion, and very aloof. (He's obviously used to the press.) His neighbor was a young up-and-comer, and you can see in his eyes his hopes of taking home a rosette.
Some of the ladies were having baths, in preparation for last night's competitions. They didn't seem too pleased about it -- or maybe they just didn't want to be photographed in the middle of their toilette ....
Saw lots of folks walking around the Fair with their dogs, and the dogs seemed to be enjoying the day as much as their people were!
The Fair isn't just about farm animals -- it's about farmers, too, about celebrating the work they do to feed the world. Farming is -- or should be -- a family enterprise. My cousin Tina is a farmer, and she, her husband, and their daughter are all equally committed to the success of the enterprise and the well-being of the animals in their care. Likewise my friend Jayne, whose family farm depends on the work and passion of three generations.
The State Fair is the agri-Olympics for hundreds of 4-H club members across the state. It was great fun to sit and watch young farmers competing for ribbons and rosettes with their animals ....
... or waiting for the grownups to lead the animals into their stalls. These girls had no idea they were being photographed. I like to think of them as the future of farming.
I have only one more photo to share with you in this post, and it's one that puffs me up with pride....
Grandlittle #2 decorated this Pokemon®-themed birthday cake, and won second prize in the Junior Cake Decorating Division! I actually stood around telling complete strangers, "My granddaughter did that one."
So, that wraps up the first part of my State Fair post! In Part II, I'll share with you all of the knitting and crocheting blue-ribbon winners (well, as many as I could photograph), plus some cross-stitch, needlepoint, rug-hooking, etc. I hope to get that one up this evening -- stay tuned! ;)