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Photo by E., my 4-H photographer, for next week’s county fair.

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Timeline of a coincidence

September 19, 2012

Do you look for signs — cosmic signals to explain, direct or confirm? I used to find them, or they would find me. These days, life is busier and if they are there, I’m not seeing them. Last weekend, one such sign was undeniable, an in-your-face cosmic coincidence. The timeline leading up to the moment went like this:

December 2011 – D. decides to take on photography as a 4-H project.

May 2012 – One spring photo trip includes a visit to Old Cowtown, a living history museum in Wichita, Kan. We happen upon an old-time baseball game. D. asks two of the players if he can take their photograph.

July 2012 – His great shot earns him a purple ribbon at the county fair and qualifies him to take it to the state fair.

September 2012 – We visit the 4-H building during the state fair, fingers crossed for another purple. We find our county’s display, but have to wait behind a dad and his kids who are taking a photo of a photo — D.’s photo. He turns around, apologizes for blocking our view, but says this photo is of him and his friend.

That’s right. The subject and the photographer meet at precisely the same moment, months later. We share an incredulous stare and laugh.

Sign, coincidence, fate, karma? The significance might be simple, the chance to share a great image, and to give a young photographer a boost. That’s good enough for this proud 4-H momma.

Here’s his shot. Hope you enjoy, too.

Baseball players at Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita.

Baseball players at Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita.

How to wash a chicken

July 17, 2012

I was chatting on Facebook about my 4-Hers getting ready for the Sedgwick County Fair, which included E. washing her chickens.

“How do you wash a chicken?” they asked. “Very carefully,” I answered. Sorry…couldn’t resist. Here’s the real scoop on how E. washes her chickens. In this case, Speedy.

1. Catch Speedy by moving very quickly, cornering him in the chicken house and grabbing him.

2. Slowly submerge Speedy — but not his head — into warm soapy water. (We use Dawn dish soap.) Hold tight with one hand. Use other hand to rinse off feathers and scrub feet.

3. Remove Speedy from water. Let him drip just a little. (Don’t know why. That’s just her technique.)

4. Make sure Cesar doesn’t sneak in or a dirty chicken will be the least of our worries.

5. Submerge Speedy again, this time just in warm water. Give him time to enjoy. (He just bobs about in the bucket, like he’s on a floatie on the lake.)

6. Give him to your brother to hold, so Speedy can drip dry. Must ask nicely because brother doesn’t really want to hold a wet chicken. Then, place carefully in pet carrier to transport directly to the fair.

Finally, enjoy spending time with Speedy and his friends in the poultry barn.

Twin lambs born on National Ag Day 2012.

These twin lambs were born this morning, on National Ag Day. One is male and one female and they’re doing great. This is the first lambing for this ewe and she’s keeping them warm and full. See them in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrHOHVriP9c&feature=g-upl&context=G27b7a95AUAAAAAAAAAA.

Last year, we also had an Ag Day birthday.  My 4Her took “Sparkles” to the Sedgwick County Fair last July and she’s now part of our herd. Here she was a year ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbOLxpLdBbU&feature=channel.

Happy Ag Day everyone. Thanks farmers and ranchers for all you do.

This ewe lamb (female) is just a few hours old. She is a cross between the Hampshire and Suffolk breeds. My 4Her plans to show her at the county fair this summer. Boy and lamb will spend lots of hours together until then.

Sedgwick County Fair ribbons
Sedgwick County Fair ribbons

I make two dishes that I’m proud of – banana bread and lasagna. So, last year, when my 4-H kids were in county fair prep frenzy,  I joined in and entered my banana bread in open class. I whipped it up. Plopped it on a paper plate. Zipped it up in a baggie and off we went. I thought it looked and smelled great.

What did the judges think? White ribbon. That’s one higher than the thank-you-for-coming ribbon. I didn’t think I had an ego, but, apparently, I do. It was bruised.

The judge’s comments: over filled; under done; ingredients not at room temperature; and others I’ve tried to forget.

Now, a year later, I had a chance to reclaim my baking honor. Humbled, I tried a new approach. I followed the recipe exactly. I measured the flour carefully, using a knife to scrape off the excess; not my usual shake and dump. I mindfully chopped and measured the nuts, adding just ½ cup. Bananas were mashed with love. I used a new baking pan.  And, my ingredients were at room temperature (still puzzled by how the judge could identify that).

Most importantly, I didn’t multi-task. No phone calls. No starting a load of wash. No email checks. No Facebook or Twitter.

It was actually liberating to focus on one simple task – and aim to do it perfectly.

Unfortunately, the judge didn’t deem my bread perfect just yet , but I did bump up to a red ribbon. The bread was “nicely browned, moist
and had good flavor.” However, it was also a little soggy on the bottom (need to remove it from pan earlier) and top edges were overdone (go easier on the cooking spray).

Next year it’s my year. I can feel it. 357 more days to practice my banana bread — and single-tasking. My ego and shelf need that blue ribbon.

(E. photo)

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