Pipi’s Pasture: Learning from 4-H projects

Pipi's Pasture
Diane Prather
Pipi's Pasture

When my sister Charlotte and I were kids, we joined 4-H and focused our time on livestock projects. For me, it was beef cattle, fat steers and breeding animals, but Charlotte also had a herd of sheep besides her beef animals.

(Our siblings, Darlene and Duane, were younger and so not in 4-H in those early years.) Usually, when I write columns about the Moffat County Fair, it’s about showing livestock. However, Charlotte and I also completed some of the general 4-H projects.

In those early years, general projects included those in home economics, woodworking, leathercraft, tractor, photography, first aid, home nursing, entomology and more.

Since then, the 4-H program has added a variety of intriguing projects, such as robotics and model rocketry. It’s not to say that the projects in our day weren’t interesting. Most of them had leaders who held project meetings periodically where we learned a lot about the project area and worked on our fair exhibits.

My sister Charlotte enrolled in several years and levels of cooking. One year she was learning how to make jelly. She practiced diligently during the summer, working for that perfect jar of jelly for the fair.

One jar — perhaps the first one — resulted in chokecherry jelly that was so hard — no kidding — that a dent couldn’t be made in it. If she could have invented a product that required such a texture, Charlotte would have made a fortune. The problem was that Charlotte didn’t know why the jelly turned out that way, and nobody else did either.

The county 4-H agent came out on a routine visit to check on projects. He marveled at the jelly. So did everyone else. It was a great conversation piece. When the annual 4-H Conference held in Fort Collins came around the next year, Charlotte entered the public speaking contest. She won a blue ribbon on her speech about the jelly.

One year I completed an entomology project. (I would have really enjoyed the veterinary science projects offered now.) I remember that Dad made me a glass-covered box in which to keep the insect specimens I collected. I made a “kill jar” and set out to collect the required insects that were to be pinned to the cork inside the box. One insect was a great big grasshopper.

I was so proud of my entomology exhibit, but when the judge got to it, he saw a large grasshopper walking around in the box. He had a pin sticking in his exoskeleton but was not showing signs of any discomfort because the pin never went anywhere near the cork in the bottom of the box.

Obviously the “kill jar” never had any effect on the grasshopper; it apparently knocked him out for awhile.

The judge didn’t penalize me; I think I got a Grand Champion on the project. When the fair was over, I took the grasshopper out of the box, removed the pin and turned him loose.

There’s a lot to be learned from completing 4-H projects.

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