4-H has been a new and exciting part of our lives these past couple of years. As a 'city girl', I don't think I knew 4-H existed...nor what all it entailed. I still don't know all the ins and outs, but we're getting there.
The projects in 4-H are so much more than just showing up with your chosen project. Some of the projects takes months of preparation, not to mention the 'other stuff' that goes along with your project.
For example, with a swine project, you must obtain your piglets sometime in March. Since the weather here is still chilly, you have to have a proper place to keep your little piggies to make sure they stay nice and warm. Marlee had to clean out a stall in the barn and throw in some straw for their bedding. With the help of Dad, she also put up a heat lamp to help knock off the chill. Daily she had to feed and water the little gals (and fellow) as well as clean up their mess. The nice thing about pigs is that usa a 'potty area' away from where they sleep and eat. It is usually in one corner.
Going to check the piggies!
Once the weather warms up, she moved her piggies to a pen that she and her Dad (along with a lot of help from big brother Jacob) built. This was their home for the remainder of their stay with us. Again, she has to keep a daily check on their food (now in automatic feeders), as well as their water (also in an automatic watering system).
Checking out their new home
A new addition for next year is a 'practice arena' adjacent to their pen, so she will be able to work with moving her pigs around during the Fitting and Showing. Previous to this year, she would take her pigs on walks...but this year we did not allow this because the pigs are on our own property now. The dogs, horses, and neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate a pig on the loose!
She has to keep a record of the feed and feed costs of her pigs. As well as a record of any treatments they receive (mainly for parasites - which is normal). She has to keep alert of any stressors they pigs may have, as this can have an effect on the final meat product. She also works on finding a buyer for her pigs. She has to figure out the cost that goes into them in order to come up with a figure that will not only pay for the current year costs, but also cover the cost of buying new piglets the following year.
Another addition we would like to see in the future is an area to wash the pigs. They have to be bathed at fair every day. It is not fun for the pig or handler to get a bath for the first time! This year at fair one of the pigs jumped out of the wash area! Thankfully, it was not one of ours - but Marlee and one of her pigs was in the other wash area at the time! If she is able to wash the pigs regularly at home, our hope is they will become used to being squirted down and soaped up!
Once fair time approaches, she has to make sure she has all necessary items available at fair. She has to have feed pans, a waterer, soap, a rain suit, several brushes, a spray bottle, rubber boots, feed, towels, clippers, rake, and various other paraphenalia. Of course, you need a place to store all this stuff, as well!!
This year, she and her Dad built a show box so that all of her belongings could be stored in one area near the pig barn.
After assembling the box, Marlee painted it. We printed out her name and a 4-H logo on the computer. We then used a projector, and she traced the design on the front of the door. She and her dad 'filled in' the lettering! The project turned out beautifully, but I cannot find a picture of it any where, so I will post one shortly!
The hardest part of a Swine Project is knowing that all the piggies are piggy number one in the old nursery rhyme. 'This little piggy went to market...' Marlee has learned to say her good-byes shortly after the pigs go through the market ring. She does not re-visit the barn for final clean up until all the pigs have been hauled off. This year there were tears to soothe, but each year it gets easier to say goodbye. I(Mom) STILL can't go to the barn the last day!!!