Saturday, July 24, 2010

My State Fair, Part II

As a would-be farm girl growing up, I have always loved farm animals--at lest in theory. Other than chickens, I've never had any, but most of my childhood friends did, and were active in 4-H. (For those who may not know, 4-H is a great program with its roots in the late 1890's farming communities in the U.S. It developed with the assistance of the U.S Agricultural Extension Service and grew up with the creation of the Cooperative Extension System in rural counties to become a nationwide program of hands-on learning, in local clubs, for rural youth.  Early on, corn growing contests and then cattle and swine shows were hallmarks. Soon after, canning, sewing, and other home arts were subjects which girls learned in 4-H. 

Prizes, such as trips to Chicago for the best in category cattle or pigs, motivated participation and learning.  In 1922, an Iowa girls Canning Club won a national competition and a trip to France, where they gave demonstrations.  My own 4-H participation focused on sewing, needle arts and nature/conservation.  This has turned into quite a tangent, as I enjoyed learning about the history of 4-H just now.  You can read more about 4-H at their website, here, or on the national headquarters (USDA) website, here.)

Ok, back from tangent.  So of course I visited all of the animals at the fair.  First were the sheep.  Most had had their final baths before competition and were dressed like they were headed to a Klan meeting. I wish I had had a video camera to show you a young man giving his big sheep her bath...they were both all full of suds and she was NOT cooperating very well. 
These adorable rams (I don't think they would want me calling them "adorable"--any young man would object) were trying to scrape the hoods off their heads.  Luckily they don't have wear them except right before judging.  The one came right over when I said "hey pretty boy" a couple of times.  I guess he gets called that at home!
Right next door were the swine.  This big girl was taking a rest after her trip in from the farm.  (I believe she is a mixed breed, as she doesn't match any of the standard breeds listed.)

I can identify these two: here, a Hampshire greets the Duroc-Jersey in the next pen...nose to nose, lots of snuffling and snorting involved.  I spared you any shots of the "boar" (males) full-length....I don't think anyone wants to look at an extra-large-grapefruit-sized scrotum stuck on the back end of a pig!
In the next pavilion, some of my favorites: the cattle. Here's a beautiful Holstein (spotted) and I believe the others are Belted Galloway (the cow lying down has a fuller white belt than the standing calf.)
Here's a scene that made me happy on all sorts of levels. These sisters had just arrived with their Holsteins and together, they were giving the big mamma her bath before settling her down in the show area. Joking and laughing as sisters do, they clearly were comfortable with the animals and were having fun.

One more from the cattle department: the world famous black Angus, among the best beef cattle around.  This family had several young bulls there to show.
And the last pavilion I visited (only last because the poultry was scheduled to come in beginning on Friday) was the one housing the goats.  I'm no goat expert; never even been a real fan of goats, but the brown and tan mother and baby were absolutely adorable together although hard to photograph because they kept moving around.  The first two photos show Pygmy goats.
These two gals were just cute, both needing to eat at the same time. I think they may be Turkish Angora goats, recently shorn. They looked like they had a fresh haircut, and I have searched for any other type which looks like them, to no avail.  (The fair rules only indicate that "all breeds" are shown together, so that wasn't helpful, either.)  There were also Boer goats, but I couldn't get a good photo of them.
Without the Poultry (which is really "big" around here), I can hardly say my livestock photos are complete, but I'm just not that broken up over its incompleteness to go back to the fair just to see the chickens. 

Stay tuned for my final installment, which does not include any photos of the "midway" or amusement rides.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My State Fair, Part I

My bout of nostalgia ended up taking me to the State Fair which opened yesterday.  In a larger state, this would be like a county fair.  Here, we have only 3 counties so we have a statewide fair.  It has all the same things I remember from the old county fair from my youth, plus some of the more modern draws which have been added over time.  Early in the evening, the Citizens Hose Band of Smyrna (a volunteer fire company band) played some Sousa marches.
I ducked into the nearest exhibit hall (air conditioned to some extent) to see what there was to see.  (And to get out of the 92 degree heat and 50-55% humidity after my long walk from the parking fields.)

I love the home arts (as regular readers must already know), so this was the best place for me to begin.
So many quilts and crocheted, knitted and other sewn items to see! The colors were vivid, and more than anything else, I marveled at how diverse the works were--some classic, some bright and modern, some traditional designs and some highly creative new designs!  (clicking on the photos should give a much enlarged version).

Behind the crocheted flag, there are dozens of scarves, sweaters, and many hand sewn quilts in traditional patterns as well.
Moving toward the back of the exhibit hall, I toured the traditional displays from competitions in the Farm, Fruit & Apiary and Garden Vegetable Departments.  Here are: Best 8 Ears of Corn, Any Variety; Biggest 8 Ears of Corn, Any Variety; Best 5 Ears Old Fashion Indian Corn, Best gallon jar Yellow Corn, Shelled, and more.  (Love the categories, which have probably been unchanged for ages.)
Here are a few apiary entries: at center, comb honey in frames (jars of honey and the purified wax were on the end.)    Above the frames are quart jars of various seeds, such as several types of clover.  The upper right shows a back view of some huge sunflower heads, which were at least 20 inches across. On the bottom are peaches, plums and nuts.
I love this next shot just for the colors.  These are the Garden Vegetable Department's tomato varieties--red, green, and yellow classes.

Below are the yellow squash and a glimpse of some of the peppers (hot banana peppers are just above the squash.)

Finally, along the back wall, were shelves and shelves of canned goods.  This is only one of 4-5 tiered units full of canned produce.  These are beets and pickles (shown for my husband, who loves both) and there were rows and rows of canned fresh vegetables, fruits, jellies, jams and preserves.  They're not readily visible, but on every single jar there was a sticker that said "I Have Been Opened," which I thought was a great example to the public in accordance with the Department of Agriculture's home grown food safety program.  

One final shot for this edition: each night of the fair they have featured entertainment in the grandstand, which includes big name country singers and other shows.  For opening night though, it was the Demolition Derby. That says a lot.  This picture says even more.  Although announcements were made that $10 tickets were still plentiful, this is a part of the fence surrounding the track at the grandstand:

Just can't take the "country" out of the boys, I guess--and they're not all boys.

I have two more installments in mind to give you a flavor for the rest of the fair. Y'all come on back now, y'hear?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wildflower Memories

I've been feeling a bit nostalgic these past few days--not something I get too often, as a rule. Maybe it's Summertime; the hot, languid days calling back some feelings from long ago. I want to swim on days like these: to get in a pool and feel the cool water and be refreshed! I could see me floating around on a couple of noodles, just relaxing away!

Before becoming a mom, I also used to go on long bike rides on days like these. It always felt good to have the breeze cool me as I rode. On the lonely back roads I'd watch the butterflies flit silently among the flowers which crowded the edges of the road.

The other day my son and I were back on one of those roads.  The flowers were there, as they always were.

I've loved this pretty little flower for years.  I used to call it "cornflower" in my mind, because in the big big box of Crayola Crayons (what an exciting moment, to open a new big box of crayons--all perfectly pointed, wrappers pristine...with that unmistakable smell!) there was a beautiful shade of blue almost that color called Cornflower.
So I finally learned that my pretty blue flower is actually Chicory.   I never knew!  Many years ago, I had a chocolate milk substitute, made by a friend's mother who was an early naturalist. She used fresh goat's milk, honey, and ground chicory to make a rich and flavorful drink.  It was nothing I was used to, but it tasted pretty good!  Trying chicory has crossed my mind over the years as a result.  If I dig some up and roast it, I'll let you know!

Also on my rides was another common flower I remembered from childhood.  Queen Anne's Lace, a lacy white flower many people probably know.  I remember it because when I pulled it up, the leaves looked and the root smelled like carrots--I could not get over how much it smelled like carrots when I was young.  Now, come to find out that Queen Anne's Lace and the carrots we eat are both  Daucus carota.  I knew they were related! 
I love how the light blue and white flowers sprinkle the edges of the road subtly--not blaring with color--understated, quiet, unnoticed by many who rush down the road.
Another of my favorites is the trumpet vine, or trumpet creeper, which grows wild along the back roads here.  Sometimes you can see a hummingbird visiting the flowers, poking a tiny beak inside for nectar.  I have wanted to grow it at home, but I just read that the vines can cause a rash.  I hadn't heard that before--does anyone have any experience with that?

I'd love to attract hummingbirds, but my sensitive skin would probably not handle an irritant vine.  I need to find that out before trying to grow it. 

Thanks for taking a little walk down memory lane with me!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


As I sit here with ice on my knee (I twisted it while not falling as I turned my opposite ankle...stupid heels), I can finally take a few moments to breathe and reflect on the summer thus far.

This has been a week! I'm glad it's over (we got a defense verdict in our trial, woo hoo! The celebretory Cosmo I'm sipping tastes soooo good.)  And we're well into the Summer already, although it seems like it just began. 

This year I really wanted to have my gardens back, so I made the time in May and June to do the work. (Yet another reason for the few posts.)  I have tomatoes (Roma, Sweet Million cherry, and mystery volunteer heirloom varieties) peppers (Bell, Cubanelle, purple Serrano (in the photo), Serrano del sol, Poblano, and Yellow Banana), many herbs, and for the first time ever, Artichokes. 

Above is a picture of one corner of the herb garden a couple of weeks ago right after I got done weeding it.  The big rosettes of leaves are common mullein, an herb used in the olden days for pulmonary ailments; the white flowered herb is feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) which has long been used for medicinal purposes and more recently has been confirmed in some studies to help prevent migraines; between the rosettes is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), there's a salvia to the upper right, and near the feverfew is some St. John's wort, useful medicinally for relief of depression.

This photo has some tarragon hidden between the lemon balm and black-eyed Susans, but mostly I just love the brilliant yellow of the black-eyed Susans (that's why I let them self-seed and weed around them.)  In the upper right you can just see the orange flowers of "Butterfly weed" (Asclepias tuberosa), another one of my favorite native herbs.

And, more recently, I picked this basket from my garden: bell peppers, serrano peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, and the first cherry tomato.

I love being able to pick fresh vegetables from my gardens!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I've wanted to write, but every minute of the day has been consumed over the last week or so. Being at trial is like falling into a big hole. You become completely absorbed in the case. You can recite every important date in the 5 year medical history of the plaintiff. You can rattle off doctors' names....test results...procedures quicker than you could your own medical history. You know what every witness said at every deposition...and then have to find the page and line numbers in the transcripts at a moment's notice. The exhibits are like a poem long since memorized, and you can see the x-rays in your sleep. And that's for a relatively straightforward trial, too, which luckily is only going to last the week. (There must be a different strategy for the trials that last for multiple weeks...I think it's called "many lawyers.")

What's more, as with every trial, there are the sartorial I, as the only female lawyer in the room, have enough suits to get me through the week without repeating? (Some things are really important!) The men can and often do wear the same suit two, three, or four times in a week, but a woman cannot do that. The jury (ours is 5 men 9 women) always watches that sort of thing, and what else are the women going to talk about all week? So I got a new chocolate brown suit and a top to wear with it. (That was after being at the office from 8:45 until 5:30 on Saturday.)

So, instead of turning out the lights and going to sleep now, I'm taking a mental break to disengage for a few minutes. Our dear aunt has become even more pale and thin, and I feel very badly because I haven't seen her since Thursday. Thankfully my husband has been by every day. As soon as this case goes to the jury I will go and visit her. I miss seeing her and I know she misses my reading; she told hubby so.

Strangely enough (one must think after reading the above) this is the very best part of being a trial lawyer. Every single one I've ever known says the same thing. This is the very best part, and I think so too. Everything else is all prep for the big show, it only happens in 1 or 2 out of 10 cases, and this is it.

When this is done, I'll let you know if I think it's enough.

Good night, or, ta-ta-for-now~

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Time for a Change

Hey, it was time for a change.  I'm sure you noticed the new look!  I'd love to hear your feedback on it!  I thought the brighter, more vibrant colors would be a bit more stimulating for this desperately hot summer. (Perhaps that's a bad thing?)   Geez, it took me a long time to find where to put the html code necessary to center the titles, of all things--but I couldn't leave them all the way up in the left hand corner.  One would think that would be a bit easier... but the programming I did at the beginning of my blogging life came back, I guess, since I didn't spend as much time as I did in the early days.  And I came across a treasure trove of adorable cat pictures (which I love to see) so I added a place for them. 

Hope to have more time to write a "real" post soon--the artistic stuff used up my time for this afternoon though.

So, what do you think? 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blogger Heaven

Hello to my few but faithful readers! This is just going to be brief: I read a short article about the new "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" ride at Universal Studios because it was a headline on the Yahoo! homepage, which I still use as my homepage for various reasons.

The headline caught my attention (as good headlines are designed to do) because it indicated that the ride was unsuitable for overweight riders, and implied a "fight" was at hand. Instead, the article mentioned the story of a young guy named Banks Lee, apparently a devoted Harry Potter fan whose obesity prevented him from experiencing the new ride. Instead of pouting and crying "foul," Banks has made it his goal to loose enough weight to ride the ride. Banks has decided to blog about his journey here on blogspot at his blog entitled "Banks Lee & The Three Clicks" (the restraint system on the ride has to click three times for a person to be allowed on.) 

Why do I bring this up?  I am not suggesting you go read about the guy's weight loss, or that his is an especially interesting or well-written blog.  Here's why:  out of curiosity, I took a brief look at his blog at the office and then got back to work, unintentionaly leaving the page open on my computer.  Less than two hours later, I returned to the computer and he had gone from about a hundred "followers" to having 169!  Within the next several hours, the number doubled!!  Now, as I check back to Banks' blog to link the page here, he has 525 followers, and he's going to be a guest on Fox TV.  Amazing.  I was thrilled when I got each and every one of my 14 followers.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have your numbers increase exponentially like that?  Wow.  A special piece of heaven for the blogger who wants to be read.

I've always said I never wanted to be famous, and to a certain extent I guess that's still true, but writing in a public space like this is putting yourself out there to the world, for whatever underlying purpose.  I like to write, I like to put my ideas "out there"....I like the idea that some people care enough to read them, and I especially like when you guys take the time to comment.  I guess that's enjoying fame to some degree, isn't it?  Have to admit, I'd be in heaven if I had 525 followers!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Big Question

I have been struggling with a "big" question recently.  Setting aside the "why" of what brings this up, I wonder: if you believe there is a God, and he/she has preferences or even plans for what little you are supposed to be doing here on earth, how do we know what that plan is for our lives?  A lot of religious teaching (certainly Christian, Methodist teaching with which I'm most familiar) indicates that God knows you and has a plan for your life.  That's pretty daunting, if you believe it.  THE God, the creator of the universe and all heaven and earth, has a plan in which you do something. You are part of that plan. 

Unfortunately, there is no blueprint.  There is no note from God saying "Erin, get a degree in nursing so you can care for the sick in my name."  There usually is no visitation from Gabriel, head angel, who tells you to marry Mr. Right or divorce Mr. Wrong.  There is no sign written in the clouds (or on the third base scoreboard, like in Field of Dreams) saying "Go The Distance"...or, perhaps "Apply for The Job."

So how do we know?  Can we know?

I don't know.  At the moment, all I get is a sense that maybe I'm not in the place I'm supposed to be.  Not right now.  In the past, whether from God or from where ever, I've felt a sense of fulfillment when I can help people, when I can ease their suffering, return them to health, prevent problems or help solve them.  And I have knowledge and skills which allow me to do that in more than one arena at this point.  But am I using those to do what I'm "supposed" to be doing, according to God's plan?

For example, I can work all dang day at the office and feel sick and tired of it all. All. Day. Yeah, sure, I wrote this response, filed that pleading. So what?   But after work, I can go over to our dear Aunt's house as I have been, visit with her, and read a few chapters of the Bible to her, and feel like I've done something good.  I actually do research on what chapters might be comforting to someone facing death, or reassuring of salvation, or God's love, just to have good selections to read to her.  It struck me early on, as I went into her home, that I was actually kind of like a minister, showing up with my Bible in hand.  And she asks me "Did you bring your book?" when I visit, because she's looking forward to our time reading.

What's more, I feel that the concept of me reading to her was an idea right from God (or the Holy Spirit, if you want to get technical.)  No, I am not saying God talks to me (he's busy talking to Glenn Beck, if you believe him), but the day we saw the neurosurgeon and, while waiting for the car, she asked me "do you think the days will be long, waiting for the end...." I was filled with grief and sorrow for her, and the next day I was asking myself, what can I do?  What would I be doing if I knew I would die in two months?  And right away, I answered myself: I'd be reading a lot of the Bible! And immediately it came to me that I could read it to her, since she is nearly blind and cannot see to read anymore.  And as soon as I had that thought, I just KNEW it was the right thing, it was what she would need, and it was what God would want me to do.  I felt peace about that situation right then and there.

So how and when can we get those answers in other areas of life?  Over the past weeks, I've devoted much more time to meditative prayer, even going as far as to (don't tell anyone since I'm not Catholic and have issues with certain aspects of that "denomination") use rosary beads to focus my prayer and meditation. I'm waiting, but nothing yet.

I seem to recall being taught that you will know when it is time to know.  You get what you need when you need it.  Perhaps that's the answer...maybe I should stop struggling and trust that God will let me know when it's time to take my next big step!