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Butterflying

April 29, 2010

I was never interested in creepy-crawly creatures. I’m more enamored with the four-legged, panting, drooling kind. However, thanks to my work with Extension 4-H School Enrichment, I can spell — and use in a sentence — worlds like chrysalides and proboscis. And, butterfly larvae are staring at me right now, merrily exploring their cup — their sealed cup — on my desk.

I helped develop the Life Cycle Miracle (butterfly hatching) program last year and I just wrapped up this Spring’s classroom presentations to nearly a dozen schools and hundreds of elementary students. The students capped off the program by releasing the butterflies they raised.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to see the 4-H experiential learning model at work. Here’s a summary:

  • Experience – Youth do before being told or shown how.
  • Share – Youth describe results of the experience and their reactions.
  • Process – Youth relate the experience to the targeted life skill.
  • Generalize – Youth connect the life skill discussion to the larger world.
  • Apply – Youth use the new life skill experience in other parts of their lives.

It’s been fun testing out the project at home with D. and E. The other day, we struck gold. We witnessed one caterpillar make its chrysalis when it shed a final layer of skin. D. described it perfectly:  It’s like the caterpillar unzipped its sleeping bag. E. released one batch of butterflies last week. Pure joy for her, the butterflies, and me watching.

If you’d like to do the project, go here to download the guides: http://www.sedgwick.ksu.edu/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=481.

Women in Ag

March 8, 2010

LaDene Rutt, portrait by Paul Mobley, from American Farmer: The Heart of our Country, by Katrina Fried

 

LaDene has been to all 25 Women in Ag conferences, sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. I now know why. I recently attended for the first time and these words come to mind: welcoming, informative, inspirational and motivational. 

The conference celebrated the role women play on the farm. However, the conference wasn’t about awards or pats on the back. This was about farm wives, mothers, daughters and grandmothers gathering to share meals and learn from the experts — and each other. Learn we did, about the government’s farm program, marketing strategies, advocating for agriculture, operations and financial management and so much more. 

One woman in her 70s was planning for retirement, while seeking advice about how to  pay for her mother’s healthcare. Another young farm wife attended with her mother, also a farm wife. One presenter on Medicare and Medicaid shared stories about her own farm life in a remote part of Nebraska — 35 miles to the nearest grocery store. Many studied and asked questions about which government program to enroll in — to protect their operations from the inevitable weather disaster. 

I have great admiration for what these women do and manage each day. I play a smaller role on our own farm. However, there was no discussion about who was bigger or better. The conference was about preserving a livelihood and building a legacy for future generations. I’ll definitely go back. 

Click here to learn more about the conference. Click here to see some amazing portraits of farmers, including LaDene.

Farmily

February 23, 2010

I felt quite clever last week. I mistyped the word “farm” and “family” in a story and wrote “farmily.” Thought it was such a cool word, that I tweeted my discovery. Ann Wylie, a leading communications and writing consultant, retweeted me. She has more than 900 followers, so I was now both famous and clever.

A Google search deflated my ego. Urban dictionary listed the word, so somebody, somewhere got there first. No matter. I still love the word.

Farmily is the reason my D. choses to spend every June in the combine with Grandpa, instead of at the baseball field. It’s the reason E.’s recipe box is right at home in the same kitchen in which her grandma and great-grandma cooked, baked, boiled and fried. It’s the reason V. introduced me to his family at a noontime meal, when everyone was in for a break. (I knew I had to marry him when his mom offered me seconds on her out-of-this-world chocolate cake, with home-made fudge frosting and pudding filling.)

A great word. A great way to raise our family.

Random connections

December 13, 2009

My 10-year-old is a free spirit. I am not. Consequently, I learn a lot from my tween hippie. Like a few weeks ago when we were shopping at Sheplers, one of our favorite stores and “the world’s leading provider of apparel and accessories for the country/western lifestyle.”

We were enjoying a nice chat with the cashier. E. was talking about how old she was, horses, etc. The cashier remarked that she was going to be tall like her dad, who was standing nearby. We’re an adoptive family, so those remarks can leave us wondering. How much do you share with a stranger?

It didn’t faze E. “Oh, I’m adopted and my birthmom is short,” she says. I was proud of her straightforward response, but what will the reaction be? The clerk put her hand on her heart and said, “I’m adopted, too. You just gave me a shiver. I can’t wait to tell my daughter.”

Here’s the best part. It was no big deal for E. — just a simple statement and another one of life’s random connections.

I left with another reason why I admire my daughter. E. left with a great pair of cowgirl boots.

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