Two weeks ago today, we ended our ten day run at the fairs. We started at the Knox County Fair and ended and the Ohio State Fair.
This year was different for us. Yes, some of the different was because of Covid changes, but most of the different was because we were all too aware that this was our first last.
This was Isaac's last year at the Knox County Fair and the last day of the Ohio State Fair marked his last "kid" activity before heading off to college.
There were a lot of kids that spent this year soaking up their "lasts", so there weren't many "no's" coming from us.
This weekend will mark the final time that Isaac moves animals into the Knox County Fair as a 4-H member.
Not so long ago, he was a nine year old arriving at the county fair for the very first time.
Oh, how things have changed since then.
It has now been two weeks since we started our journey out to Duncan, Oklahoma for the Miniature Hereford Breeders Association and Miniature Hereford Youth Foundation Miniature Hereford Junior Nationals.
We arrived to humid mid-nineties temperatures, but fortunately, the hottest days ended up being the day we unloaded and the day we loaded. The rest of the week was just about the best weather we could have asked for. It was still hot, but a couple of cloudy and rainy days helped to keep the temperatures and humidity bearable. Besides, the show ring and contest areas were all air conditioned, so if the heat got to be too much, we had plenty of places to escape. We did keep an eye on the radar (because we do have a kid terrified of tornadoes), but the few night time storms were fairly mild and most of the red cells stayed just outside our radars.
You know you had a good time when after 10 days no one in the family is ready to go home. Not only were we not ready to go home...but we were all ready to head right back to Oklahoma as soon as we did get home.
We all agreed, this was the best Junior Nationals and best cattle show we have ever been to. It was just plain fun!
Early Saturday morning we loaded the cows on the trailer and set off for Duncan, Oklahoma for the Miniature Hereford Junior Nationals sponsored by the Miniature Hereford Breeders Association and the Miniature Hereford Youth Foundation.
The 2020 Miniature Hereford Junior Nationals was cancelled due to Covid, so it is good to be headed back to the show ring.
It was going to be a long trip...and really hot, so at the last minute, we decided to hang over Saturday night in Buffalo, Missouri.
One of the great things about showing cattle is all the people you meet along the way. Two years ago, when we were in Oklahoma for the Junior Nationals, we met a family from Missouri, and it has been great to meet back up and grow our friendship. They graciously agreed to lend us some pasture space to keep our cattle overnight.
Farming is not an easy life. You spend most of your days at the mercy of the weather and have animals that can get sick at any moment. Our jobs are to be problem solvers and if you haven’t learned to be flexible, you are going to have an even rougher time.
It’s no secret that last year was a pretty rough year here on the farm. Just about everything that could break did (see here and here). We were pretty fortunate on the animal front and didn’t have an excessive amount of vet bills, but we always have enough to keep the checkbook on edge.
When we first got into Miniature Herefords, one of the goals was to build our herd to the point that we could sell a few animals each year and pay for our kid’s Christian school education. Every year about this time we file our taxes and ask ourselves why in the world we do this. We would be farther ahead to just pay the tuition and forget the farm.
Last Wednesday, we moved in to the Ohio Beef Expo. There were many moments that we wondered if the show would go on...but it did.
And it was a great success!
The Covid plan modified the schedule from past years, but we are actually really big fans of the new format.
See...sometimes good things come from adversity.
We moved in on Wednesday (a day earlier than usual), but it was a really relaxed day...and it was gorgeous weather.
It's been two years since we have been at the Ohio Beef Expo and we can't wait to be back on the grounds to show our cattle.
We have just passed the one year mark since Ohio was shut down for COVID-19. A year ago, we were grappling with the frustration and disappointment of having one of our favorite shows cancelled the week before the event.
Since that time, cancellations and waiting for cancellations have become a way of life.
The future is looking brighter and the Ohio Cattlemen's Association is working hard to make the Ohio Beef Expo as normal as possible.
We get to show this week!
Last week we were able to travel to Louisville, Kentucky to attend the North American International Livestock Expo.
That may seem like an ordinary year for us...but this year has been far from ordinary.
After the National Western Stock Show was cancelled, we were pretty sure that NAILE would also be cancelled. However, the show was to go on.
We submitted our entries, ordered all the awards and made plans to head to Louisville. The closer we got to the show, the more the Covid numbers increased.
But, we were fortunate and the numbers in our state were low enough that we were still able to attend.
Not long after we arrived at the show, the rumors started flying that the show was going to be shut down. We had worked too hard and come too far to be shut down...again.
Each year I like to look back at the show season to reflect on what we have accomplished, but most importantly to look at what we have learned.
We have been at this Miniature Hereford thing for a little over 10 years now, but we are still learning. Learning about cows, learning about showing, but most importantly, learning about ourselves.
1. Less is more
This year we went to a lot fewer shows that we normally do, and not because of COVID-19. It was an accidentally planned decision.
We had every intention of showing in the Ohio Cattlemen's Association BEST program again this year. Isaac even went to Iowa to buy a heifer specifically to show this season. However, our plans quickly changed in November...just a few weeks before the season started.
The BEST season usually begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends in March with the Ohio Beef Expo. This year, there were some schedule changes with two shows being eliminated, including the one on Black Friday. To be honest, we were really excited about the change. It meant that we could spend Thanksgiving with family that we don't normal get to spend the holiday with. We enjoyed it so much, that we think we will keep this holiday tradition going, even if they do bring back the show the day after Thanksgiving.
When Wesson won Reserve Champion Bull in Louisville, we had to really rethink our plans. With Denver being on our bucket list, we decided this was the perfect year to attend the National Western Stock Show.
But then we looked at the BEST season schedule. The first show was on gun deer hunting weekend. The boys really, really wanted to go hunting. You can see why here and here. Then they saw that we would miss another show if we went to Denver. It was then that we decided to not make the BEST season a priority this year. We would probably go to one or two shows, and of course we would be there for the Ohio Beef Expo, but we wouldn't put pressure on ourselves for the other shows.
You might think this was a hard pill to swallow for ultra competitive Isaac, but he was really the biggest advocate for not showing in the BEST. We are all tired. We love showing, but after over five years of a very busy winter show season, we are getting a little burnt out. We knew it would be really hard to give our all for the National Western and still give our all to the BEST. It took some time, but it was a decision that we were all comfortable with.
As the season progressed, we really enjoyed some extra time at home. Time to get caught up and just not be so rushed and spread so thin. As friends would call us from the show, we would always hang up the phone and say "I am glad we are not going to the show this weekend." As the dates came around for the few shows we had intended to attend, the boys just didn't feel like going, so we didn't push them.
The end of the season was taken out our of control, and we really did want to attend the Ohio Beef Expo, but we are content with the shows that we went to this year.
We only attended two shows all season (Louisville and Denver), but they were bigger shows that took a lot of effort and work. We did well, had fun and were able to come home to rest, recover and enjoy the experiences we had.
This doesn't mean we won't show the BEST next year. My guess is that they will be itching to show by next November.
2. Denver is a long way away
It took us 23 hours to drive to Denver, Colorado over two days. It was a loooooong trip.
We were very fortunate to not have much bad weather and the trip was pretty uneventful. However, I never thought we would get there...and I am sure the cows thought the same thing.
We were gone from home for 11 days. It was an awesome trip...but we were all very ready to be home.
I am not saying we will never go back...but it certainly won't be a trip we take very often. It takes a lot of time, planning, work, money and vacation time. It is a trip we will never forget. I can't say it's a once in a lifetime trip...just maybe a once every five years trip.
3. Tackle that bucket list...even if it doesn't make sense
When we made the decision to go to Denver, it really didn't make any sense. We made the decision to go about 3 days after registrations were due. Part of that was because it was Thanksgiving weekend and I was too busy cooking for family to look into travel arrangements and decide if we could afford the trip.
We got home from Thanksgiving and I started looking into the costs and what all we needed to do in the next six weeks in order to get ourselves to the show. It was all very overwhelming. The kids were in bed and we hadn't given them a definite answer on whether we were going to go. I was getting ready to hit confirm on our show registrations and I looked over at Daniel and said "how are we going to pay for this?" He said "I don't know...we'll figure it out."
So I entered the show.
We started to make phone calls to figure out what we needed to do, where we could stay along the way, where we would park the trailer and all those other little details. Every time we got off the phone with someone, we just shook our heads with that deer in the headlights look.
There were just so many details. But, we are planners and all that planning paid off. We had some hiccups along the way...like driving into an ice storm...but everything worked out. We had plans and contingency plans for those plans.
As we look back at that trip, we have no regrets. It may have cost us about double what we thought it would, but we will treasure the memories for a lifetime. We have videos, memories, laughs, good times and bad times that no one can ever take away from us. We are watching our kids grow...especially Isaac...and know that our time with them, and the opportunities to take trips like these are quickly slipping away. From the moment I hit confirm on that registration, we knew this was the perfect time to take the perfect trip.
4. Everything is different on another farm
While we were in Denver, we had the opportunity to board our cows at another farm for a few days. We have been out West several times and know that things are different out there, but I don't know that it all really sank in.
We live in a perpetual mud hole called Ohio. We were kicking up dust clouds in Colorado in January. We were very confused. But, it prompted us to ask lots of questions.
The ground is so different out there. We squish around in mud and struggle with places to keep our cows because we destroy all the grass if we leave the cows out on pasture in the winter. They struggle with growing grass at all and buy hay from out of state by the semi load. They can only graze their cows one time on a pasture because the moisture levels and species of grass are just different and do not replenish throughout the year.
We also learned that feeds are different. The grains and feeds that are available out west are completely different than in Ohio. So, we can ask someone in Colorado what they feed their cows, but it probably won't work for us here in Ohio. Their hay is different than ours, which in turn provides different nutritional values, which in turn means they have different grain needs than we do.
We also learned that the VitaCharge Stress Tubs that we can find at any feed store can't be found anywhere near Denver, Colorado.
We can ask all the questions we want, learn all we can, but that doesn't mean it is going to work for us here in Ohio. And what works for someone in Colorado, probably won't work for someone in Texas.
5. There is always a silver lining
Just when we thought we had all our plans made...COVID-19 happened. We were a week away from our first show in two months...our last hoorah of the season...and the Governor changed all our plans.
I will be the first to admit that I was angry. So much time, effort and money down the drain. Not to mention, we have some pretty awesome bulls that we were excited to get back in the show ring.
But...it was all out of our control.
If you know me, you know that I am a home body. I wasn't all that disappointed at the slower show season this year because it meant I got to stay home more. But, we were all devastated when the news came down.
Right now, we don't know when we will be back in the show ring. Our county fair hasn't been cancelled...yet...but we aren't allowed any face to face 4-H activities until two weeks before the fair starts.
We have all lost a lot, and we can moan and groan about it....I have already done a lot of that...but it isn't going to change anything. We have to find the silver lining...and there always is one.
We will look back at this time in history and say "I wish we could have done...", but we will also be able to look back and say "because of, I was able to do..."
For us, we have been home. We have been home far more than some have liked...but we have been home. That means we are accomplishing great things right here on our farm.
For now, the focus has been fixing up this old farm house we come home to (or never leave) every night. The boys are learning to stain and paint...and Isaac has determined he will never buy a fixer-upper. But...their rooms might finally get finished...for the first time in their lives.
We have been able to focus on the health of our herd. Again, that is always a challenge in the never ending Ohio mud season. Being home all day has given us a chance to really examine our cows...to fine tune our program...to make things better.
Why isn't she chewing her cud?
How did that bull get in that field...oh, we need to fix the fence.
Barbie is in labor!
And last night, Isaac and Walker got to see kittens born for the first time.
As my mom always says...
This too shall pass.
Six months from now, I hope we are all looking at a different future. A future bright with possibilities and another show season on the horizon.
Our show season was very different this year, but we still learned valuable lessons..and most importantly...a lot about ourselves.
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This past week has been interesting...
To say the least.
As the Coronavirus has spread, so have the cancellations of schools, mass gatherings, and life as we know it.
Included in the cancellations is the Ohio Beef Expo.
But the sale will go on!
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.