Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CHRISTMAS!!!

IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME!!!  I absolutely LOVE Christmas time.  I love decorating, I love wrapping presents, I love giving to others, I love the smells of Christmas, I love the reason for Christmas and the fact we celebrate the birthday of the best gift we could ever get, Jesus!  Pretty much love everything about it.  So, with that being said, I volunteered to be on our local tour of homes this year for Christmas.  It raises money for our local library so it was for a good cause:)  I had people ask me, are you crazy, why would you volunteer? I was so happy to do it thought it was not stressful or a task for me.  Mike was not so excited when I told him I had volunteered "us" because he knew that meant work for him.  My husband loves me SO much thought he was ready to get up on the roof and get the lights up right away (can you hear the sarcasm in that sentence).  Really though he knows how much I love Christmas so he was not surprised I volunteered:)

So this all started in about September, so I had plenty of time to think about what we were going to do and when we would start decorating.  Now I'm sure you are thinking, if I was doing a tour I would start decorating before Thanksgiving so it could all get done (because the tour was on December 5 & 6, one week after Thanksgiving).  Now that would normally be a good idea but you might remember a few posts back I was telling you about the turkeys we were raising for Thanksgiving (at our house).  I could not skip the fall decorations at Thanksgiving with a house full of people.  Sure, they might understand but it just didn't seem right.  I did however start putting up some Christmas before Thanksgiving (I am not CRAZY!) So we had a mixed decorated Thanksgiving. 

So I will step back for just a moment and share a couple pictures of the DELICIOUS turkey we raised:)  (He Really was great!)  I'm just glad they weren't cute...made it easier to take them to process...

He was HUGE...28.4 pounds to be exact...fit in the oven but hung over the edge of the pan.

Ok, back to Christmas!!
We had a pretty good turn out for the tour.  Friday night those of us that were opening our houses got together and went as a group to each of our houses.  There were four houses and the library on the tour.  I was glad to have to opportunity to see everyone's house and see fun ideas they had while decorating (one house had a "melting snowman" in the bath tub).  It was nice to be done on Friday with the house so Saturday we just relaxed and I did a couple of last minute things I just couldn't get done before the home owners came through Friday (like wrapping presents).
So I will take you through a small tour in case you missed it:)

Here is the house as you drive up
This one it is still daylight but you can't see our name in the dark (and yes, my loving husband climbed a ladder...in the wind...to hand those lights up there)
The house at night (off in the distance is the chicken coop and the windmill with red lights)
This was the day the lights went up:)  Austin was so excited to help, Lauren is usually up there with Mike but she was having a girls weekend at my mom's.
When you come in our backdoor (backdoor guests are the best, and that is where you pull up to the house) you are immediately in the dining room.  I took this looking back at the door you enter from.  I set my table because I have always wanted to be the house people walked through with the table set so cute:)  Hey, we all have our things...
 Here is one of the place settings...I folded the napkin in the shape of a tree on half of the plates.
 The other half I had these napkins and wanted to use them.   All settings got a salt cellar though (individual salts for each place, they used to use them until salt shakers became popular)
 The kitchen got some garland and lights to make it festive.

 As you head to the living room, my wonderful opening has lights and garland and ornaments displayed on it
Looking up at the opening
 From the living room back to the dining room:)  Both sides have lights.
 Making your way around the living room...my little snowmen (one is Lauren's and the other Austin's)..saw it and thought it was a cute way to put presents around, each one gets a snowman on Christmas morning to open
  Our mantel with the stockings patiently waiting to be filled
 The Tree!!  I Love Christmas trees:)

 The full view of the living room and the stairs
 All the years of Christmas!
 We have all the Santa pictures on display every year...it is fun to see how the kids have changed and remember the years.
This is also where my nativity scene is displayed...remember the fun and remember the reason!
 As you make your way around the staircase from the living room, I have my village houses on the stairs (my grandmother in Canada hand painted all of these).  
You can't see them from the picture but going up the stairs on the garland are wooden ornaments and ornaments we picked up when we used to go to the Christmas tree farm and cut down our tree (until we decided that was why I was sick EVERY year at Christmas time)
 The villages all lit up:)

 Into our room...we had lights and garland on the headboard
 And our bathroom...the red is wonderful for Christmas decorating:)

 I had all kinds of spots to put stuff in here....

 As you make your way up the stairs I have my Barbie tree at the top.  These Barbies were all from my grandmother.  Every year she would give all the grand kids an ornament, all the girls got Barbies.  When it first started it was a little strange, a Barbie ornament??  But as the years went on I would look forward to my Barbie ornament.  The year they stopped I have to admit was a little sad, I have 15 ornaments from the years she did these.  For a couple years the Barbies have not been out because with two children their ornaments are taking over the family tree.  This year however, I decided the Barbies needed to be out and they rightfully deserve their very own tree.  So in a happy spot at the top of the stairs they all hang:)


Into the kids rooms, they each got their own tree (they both wanted their tree pictures instead of their whole room:)
 This one is Lauren's
 And Austin's
 I can't forget the outside little touches...on my front porch is my cowboy snowman:)...you can't really tell but he had a cowboy hat on.

 Out back we added some lights around with the little deer and a tree
 Hope you enjoyed my tour:)  don't run over the lights on the side of the drive as you leave...this is looking from the house towards the road.  My husband did such a good job on the entrance.
Overall it was a lot of fun.  Even Mike enjoyed visiting with all of our guests, some knew him from the feed store and some didn't realize we were "The Newman's" (funny when you know people by their first name and think you don't know them because of their last).  Since we do not know a lot of people in town (being in a small town if you don't know more than half you are still unknown) it was nice to meet some new people and put some names to faces.  I don't know that I would do it again next year (since they need new houses next year for people to see) but I would say I would do it again.  Honestly, I would love to just have an open house for people to stop by (I am weird like that).

I hope you enjoyed my Christmas time decorations and house:)



On a little side step...everything else in life is going great!  Lauren is still having fun with her show cow, who will be breed this week:)  We will be cow grandparents hopefully in 9 months!!!  Both the kids made the A Honor Roll for the first and second 6 weeks!  This Paper Cowgirl is still living the dream well on her way to a real Cowgirl one day.  We also got new additions this past weekend...

Meet Jackson:)
 And his friend Cotton...Cotton is the neighbors but we each got one so they could stay friends (they came from the same place and one would have been left behind if we didn't get both)  they will both live at our house.
Austin thinks they are the best thing ever...he loves to walk them everyday and take care of them.

We always have something going on and plenty to do around the house.  Coming up we are looking forward to Christmas, a show at the end of December, Fort Worth Stock Show in January and Houston Livestock Show in March!!  Exciting times ahead.

I hope to have something exciting to write about soon but if not in the next couple of weeks, Merry Christmas to everyone.  Have a wonderful time with your family, be safe and remember why we give presents and celebrate this time of year.  God gave us the greatest gift in the form of a baby long ago so we could be forgiven. 

Happy Birthday Jesus!!
Until next time...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Totally Hooked!!

So my last post I was filling you in on our show cow.  We have now been to three shows and I think I can officially say we are TOTALLY HOOKED!!  The show we just finished was the Fannin County Fair Show.  It was different than the other two shows we have done since we had to be there more than one day.  The other two shows were what they call jackpot shows.  You show up that morning and show that day, Fannin county we moved the cows to the barn on Wednesday and showed on Friday.  They were on display for the fair goers and it is said they are less stressed on show day since they weren't in a trailer that morning (some cows get really stressed when they ride in a trailer).  It is a lot more work because we had to be there while she was there during the day.  I will fill you in on the details in a bit...first I will go back one show to Paris.

 Paris was good for the girls because they got to show again before Fannin County.  Since this is their first year showing each show helps them learn new things and see how others are showing and take those things and try them to improve their skills.

 Lauren got first in her class


 Stephanie got Reserve Breed Champion in ring 2


  Overall it was a good day:)

So I know I told you a lot of what we do to get the cows ready and what the judges look for to judge but I just realized you maybe wondering the difference in the rings and classes and breeds.  So a little insight for you...OK, so first off there are steers and heifers.  These are two different shows...steers show with steers and heifers with heifers (breeding heifers to be exact...as a farmer you would breed these cows to continue this good gene line).  Now, we know we have a breeding heifer and then from there they are broken down into breed...there are many breeds that are shown and each show has different rules on how many you have to have to show a breed.  For example, if you are the only one at a show with your breed of cow, some shows say one head makes a breed and some say 5.  So if you are at one with needing 5 you will be put in a group call AOB (All Other Breeds).  They are also broken down to American, British and Exotic (remember I told you in the last post we needed to know she was British).  Once the cow is in their Catagory and Breed there is one more break down...Class...this is by birthday.  Here is the line up for Fannin County so you can see how it looks.  At each show there are different numbers of rings.  Each ring has a different judge so sometimes you can lose one ring but win the next because what one judge didn't like the next might.  So shows with more than one ring give you different chances to win.


When you go in the ring, you first show in your class.  The winner of each class then goes back in and shows against each other for breed champion, once they pick breed champion (the class the champion came from they bring the second place from that class and they get to compete for reserve) they look again and pick the reserve breed champion.  If you are breed champion you then go back at the end of the group you are in and compete for British Champion (or American or Exotic).  All of these the judge is judging the cow and how they look like I told you in the last post.  There is also Showmanship, the kids get to chose if they want to do this one and it is by the age of the shower (JR is 8th grade and under and SR is 9-12th grade).  In Showmanship the judge is actually looking at the kids, how they handle the animal, eye contact with the judge, placement of the animal, not so much at the animal at all.  Now you know what I am talking about with rings and classes and breeds:)

On to Fannin County...

Leonard FFA had 6 kids showing and 7 cows (one showed a steer and a heifer)
 See the Mini Hereford...she is so cute:)

So as I said, we had to take the cows on Wednesday, since the show was in Bonham (which is only about 15 minutes from the house) it wasn't too bad.  I say that because we had to be over there while she was there...so we took her, feed her Wednesday night then put her and the others out in a tie out pen to sleep (and we went home).  We had to be back Thursday to wash her, dry her and feed her.  Since they are on display you have to be there all day to make sure to clean up after them when they go to the bathroom and make sure they look good all day and put them back out in the evening.  Then Friday...SHOW DAY!!!

I will skip all the washing and drying pictures and go to showing...

Showmanship...they had so many they had to split the Jr.s into two groups...the judge then picked the top out of the two groups and brought them back in to show against each other and then he picked the winner.  Lauren made it to the second time in and got 5th!!  She did good:)
 Lauren and Stephanie...5th and 6th in Showmanship:)

 Video...(beware, it is a little shaky, Austin took it) It is Lauren winning Breed Champion!!..and Austin saying at the end...she won a big ole Purple ribbon:)

video

She was SO HAPPY!!!  We all were.  Her first big win and it was at County:)  She is already talking about when we go next year and when our next show is going to be.  She said she knows she won't win all of them but it is all around fun.


All the kids from Leonard did really well...

Here is Lauren,Katelyn Alexander and Stephanie with their ribbons...


 Here are all the kids minus Katelyn Alexander.

And our County picture...David is on the left (he is the one sponsoring us)

So, although the win was great, Lauren and all the kids had a great time getting to know each other (they are all in different grades) and showing at county.  There were also a few ex-students that came and gave the kids some great tips, encouragement and help on show day which is very good for these kids.  Can't wait until the next show:)  Like I said...HOOKED:)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Beyond the chickens...show world

So I mentioned in my last post we were starting a new adventure with a show cow.  An adventure it most definitely is...

We started this adventure in May.  My boss (also my husbands boss at a different company) also owns a farm...Bear Creek Farm (busy man).  He raises registered Angus and Polled Hereferd cows.  He offered to sponsor Lauren and her friend Stephanie (whose Dad works at the Farm) with a couple of his calves he thought would make good show cows.  I will tell you more on this later but you can not just pick a calf and make it a show cow...there are MANY factors to look at when deciding if a calf is "Show" quality.  So Lauren and Stephanie are basically borrowing and caring for the cows for the year.
Lauren is working with the Polled Hereford this year and Stephanie the Angus (they have different ones so they don't compete against each other at shows).  Ready for some animal knowledge...Polled Hereford - It is a hornless breed which is a natural genetic mutation that was selected in a different breed in the late 1880's.  An Iowa rancher capitalized on the idea of breeding Polled Herefords and started the registry with 11 naturally polled herefords (otherwise they were born with the gene that grew horns and they could physically remove them later).  They originate from England (which you need to know for showing) and they are known for deep forequarters, depth and muscling, docile temperament, fast-growing calves, and good quality of beef.  

Back to the adventure...Here are some pictures of the first day the girls worked with the calves.  Now remember, these calves were born in a field, nursed from their moms and were weened off their Mama's like regular calves...these were not bottle babies that had always been around people.  These were wild calves when we started this.  We also had NO idea what we were jumping into...How hard can it be to walk a cow around a ring...we did know there was a little more to it than that but REALLY...some of this stuff just seams crazy...(you'll see).

We put the calves in the shoot so the girls could get close and start brushing.  Wild animals aren't to fond of being brushed at first...they begin to realize it's kind of nice:)
Meet Scarlet...
 Brushing and making friends
 The first attempt at walking her...she did not want to move
So all of this started while our fences were being worked on (I mentioned all that work in the catch up post) so we could not keep her at our house in the beginning.  We went to my bosses farm everyday and worked with the calf and brushed her and walked her.  As the days went on, Lauren and Scarlett became more comfortable with each other and Lauren learned more how to control her.  She also began to learn the basics of what she would need to do in a show ring and started working on the set up and all of that.

Dad watching on as Lauren learned how to make Scarlet do what she wanted her to do.
 Austin loves helping...Scarlet was so small when we first started:)
 Working on holding Scarlett's head up...not easy with a head that big

She has to get tied up to make her strengthen her neck muscles to hold up her head.  Cows don't naturally hold their heads up all the time.  You can see this is her "you're not my friend right now" face:)
 
  Scarlet set up like she would be for a show...
A little cattle judging knowledge so you know what and why the judges are looking for on show day...for beef criteria (which she would fall under) they are looking at the head and neck.  This should be broad and sit evenly on the shoulders and the base must be in line with the spine. The head size must be in proportion with the rest of the body.  The Topline (or the back of the cow) should be straight.  It will have a slight bend but mostly straight (this is why we do many things to grow hair...I will tell you more later).  The legs the judge will be looking at mainly the structure and for some muscle.  As the judge looks at the main body and ribs, they want to see as much rib extension as possible (large chest area).  They want to see the amount of muscle on the cow consistent throughout the animal from the head to the rear (Rump).  They don't want to see heavy muscles in the front half and not in the rump or visa versa.  They also judge the rump.  They will stand directly behind the cow and they are looking for a wide rump...they should see only the rump and none of the body.  They will also see if the legs are straight or point inwards or outwards.  There should be A Lot of muscle on the rump.  The judges will check out the cows hooves and their pasterns (the bones that run from the top of the hoof to the fetlock (kind of an ankle).  They will also watch the cow walk.  This is also checking their legs and their step.  All of this factors together and basically tells what kind of price it could sell for and how good a beef cow it could be (just in a show ring).  So as you can see...much more to show cows than just walking them around...also why you can't just grab any cow to show.  They have to have the right lines and structure to start with to build on.

 So once our fence got done at the house and we were ready to bring Scarlett home...Oh wait, remember the thing I said up there about some of the silly things...right...no sunlight.  WHAT??!!??  No, they can not be in a field in the sun.  If they are in the sun, they get hot and if they get hot they will lose their hair.  Yes, I said hair...No really, the hair is VERY important.  I know you thought we were talking about animals right...WRONG...we are talking about show cows here.  They fall under a completely different category as we have learned.  Oh, and our field we fenced for her is ALL sun...so, Scarlet needs a pen.  We got this one below from Mike's work (actually a horse stall but perfect for what we need).  So we got it home and with the help of the neighbor's tractor Mike and I did our first barn raising (well pen but we can think big:) ).
The wall's are up:)  Notice the big tree for shade.
 Well, the wall's are supposed to be wood slats that butt up against each other but we decided it would be entirely too hot to close her in.  So we got cattle panels and cut them to fit.  There is always a breeze at our house and we figured it would defiantly help keep her cool.
It kept the dogs in so should work for a cow...
 Next was the roof...Lauren helped fill holes...(and it's RED TIN...my favorite)
 So, we have a field for her (to put her out at night when there is no sun) and now we have a pen for her.  So it is finally the day for Scarlet to come home!!!
Arriving in the trailer
 Welcome home Scarlet!!
Her pink feed bucket...is anyone surprised it is pink?


Back to the fun of show cattle.  It is A LOT of work.  As all the factors above are judged there are different things to work on to better the look of the cow.  As I said, the hair. I will try to get a good picture soon of one of these cows that is a really hairy breed (you talk about fluffy).  So you want the hair long so that it make the illusion they are bigger in spots and straighter lines in spots...so it is a challenge to get cow hair to grow just right.  Cold water and cold air promote hair growth.  So everyday the cow is to be wet down with cold water, again, no sun and cold air.  Some people that do show cattle actually have a cooler room they put their cow in.  You read that right...it is an air conditioned room the cow lives in so it will grow hair.  We DO NOT have a cooler room, just no sun and a fan:)
 Here is Lauren wetting down the cow (only water...soap is once a week or they will get dry skin)  are you beginning to notice they are a little high maintenance...
 Work , work, work...Scarlet is getting bigger...
Lauren is blow drying the cow. 


Oh, did I forget to mention that you blow dry the cow?  Why yes, you have to blow dry the cow after she is wet down.   Along with the cold water, you have to brush a lot to stimulate the hair growth and blow dry them so the hair grows the direction you want it to.  And if your cow happens to have kinky hair you must blow dry it so the hair lays straight (luckily we do not have that problem).

Let me interrupt our post here for a moment...in the process of all this cow "fun" our life has gone on otherwise...in the mean time...the kids have started school...Lauren is in 7th grade this year and Austin is in 1st...WHERE DID THE TIME GO...as always, Austin is full of energy and always wanting to help...good for Mom (as you will soon see) Lauren keeps us busy and has her hands full.  Along with a show cow she has to...let's just say pamper...she is in band..plays the flute, and plays volleyball.  So a cow she has to feed and walk twice a day, bathe and brush. a flute she has to practice 100 minutes a week (for a grade) and volleyball...practice at 6:30am every morning and a game on Monday nights (she has to be there for all 4 team games played) and homework.  How does a girl have enough time to do all of this?  Luckily we all pitch in to help.  

A typical day around our house...So mornings start around 5:30am...get up get dressed ready for school/work...take Lauren to practice...come back home, Austin and I go out and feed the cow, take her to her pen make sure she has water and hay then feed and water all the chickens and turkeys.  Go to work/school...kids go home in the afternoon and do homework, Mike and I get home from work and dinner gets made (Lauren practices flute)...eat, go outside to wash, brush, dry, walk and feed the cow.  Put her up for the night and do chicken/turkey duty...and when Lauren has conflicting schedules...we work it out:)  Sometimes it is crazy but mostly fun!  Just wanted you to know life isn't all cow...but quite a bit...

Back to our regularly scheduled post...So, after months of the girls hard work it was time to go to our first show...it was a Alumni FFA show and thought it would be a good one for the girls to work out their nerves and do a lot more learning...So we meet at 5am and loaded the cows and were off to our first ever show...
The cows when we first got to the show...
 And a bath...you must be pretty for show day...
 The girls blow drying their cows.



This was a cow across the isle from us (Lauren competed against these two...that's Lauren's cow closest) As you can see it is VERY hard work to be a cow on show day...
In the show ring...Stephanie showing...

Lauren getting her cow's feet right...
 Lauren is in the middle...she was up against some big cows...
Sorry, that's about all the pictures I got of the first show...think my dad got more but I haven't seen them yet;)  The girl's learned a lot from their first show as did we all.  We needed to beef our cow up and grow more hair.  Lauren had some more handling to work on and she has been daily working on them.  Overall the girls did great for their first show.  They both got first place in their class and Stephanie's cow won breed champion in one of the rings.

 The girls with their ribbons

As of now, we are about two weeks out from our big county show the girls will be in and we wanted to make sure they had a little more practice.  This weekend we are going to a show in Paris Texas.  Now all the hard work we have done leading up to this there has still been more to do.  Remember all the hair growing...well on Tuesday we had to go get her hair trimmed to even everything out.  Yes, grow the hair to cut the hair.  We get the news that Tuesday is trimming day...be at the school by 6:30 am to wet her and dry her so she is ready by 8am to clip.  This means she has to be clean and dry (Soap bath) Monday night (Soap twice to get all the dirt out or it will tear up the clippers) and she must be fully blow dried to cut down on any dirt that might stick to the wet hair, and she needs to be wet down Tuesday morning to wash of any dust she might have picked up over night and fully dry to be clipped.  If you recall in my interruption earlier...Lauren has volleyball games Monday night and practice in the mornings...Yay for parents and little brother.  So after we watched Lauren play Monday night (her team won) Mike & Austin and I went home and washed and dried the cow.  Next morning...everyone up early, load up the cow and off we go, Lauren to practice us to the ag barn...
To the ag barn for hair cuts....

 Getting her hair cut...
  

Can you tell by the look she is not excited...
With much time left in the show season we all look forward to more adventures with the cow.  I will update everyone on this weekends show and how it goes.

It has been fun to watch Lauren learn about the handling of the cow and see her step up to the responsibility of caring for her.  Learning about how to feed and what portions to feed and why to feed and all kinds of extra knowledge about cows is a big reason for Lauren doing FFA.  As her parents, we hope she is learning there is more to "show day" and cows then being in the ring and winning.  The daily care, responsibility and eventually reproduction of livestock is all a part of this adventure and we can't wait to learn more. It has also been fun to see the personality of the cow...she has her days that she just does not want to walk or do anything and she has her days where she gets into everything...

Here is one of her days she reminded me of a little kid letting us know without words she was NOT happy with us...She was mad we brought her in one morning and she dumped her water bucket over...she then rolled it all around her pen and as you can see rolled it through the mud and rubbed her face in it.  Defiantly a bath day after that...

 We are excited to continue showing and hopefully Austin will have an animal in the next couple years (he is too young right now).  It is a lot of work but we enjoy the family time we get to spend outside making memories with our first show cow and all the other animals and activities around the farm.
Gotta get stuff ready for the show this weekend...Good Luck to the girls and their cows:)