Linked by a backyard fence and 4-H

The chain-link fence that envelopes my back yard does nothing to close me off from my immediate neighbors. We lean on the fence, toss balls over the fence, their dog runs under the fence and, well, during the ice storm, their big tree branches fell on my fence.

It’s all good, though. The fence isn’t quite the physical barrier it was likely meant to be by previous owners of my house.

In the half-a-dozen years the Lira family has lived next door to me, we’ve forged a friendship — a bond strengthened by the 4-H program and the busy summer days of getting projects finished for the fair. I’m lucky enough to be their 4-H mentor.

After hours of adventures in their photography project, months of Alyssa stitching, tearing out and then restitching her cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery projects, and last-minute finishing touches thanks to Andy’s procrastination, the projects that were piling up in my house are now proudly on display in Benton and McCarvel halls on the Nobles County Fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, I have my nice, small house back in order. No more walking around half-finished display boards, no more stacks of mat board and construction paper piled up on the table, no more needlework working area (except for mine, of course), no more mess!

Aaahh, now that’s the sound of relief.

As I relaxed in my lawn chair Monday night in the backyard, Alyssa sauntered over from her backyard to confess she was bored. With all of her projects completed, she could barely wait for Wednesday and the conference judging to talk about everything she’d worked so hard on this past year.

For a fleeting moment — emphasis on fleeting — I thought about bringing out my stash of needlework books and having her look for a project for next year’s fair. The key is to find a project small enough to hold her interest, and fun enough to make her want to finish it!

I suppose I was the same at her age. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I could sit for hours working on a cross-stitch picture. Now, I can’t imagine my life without my needlework hobby.

I can only hope Alyssa has found a lifelong hobby in needlework as well.

I snapped this photo of my neighbors, Alyssa and Andy, Wednesday afternoon in my backyard. They are surrounded by the ribbons they earned in Performing Arts, Dog project and general projects.

It’s kind of like the story Brandon Weidert shares in this edition of the Daily Globe. Brandon is in his last year of 4-H, but he will take what he’s learned in the program with him. All those years of raising and showing cattle will lead Brandon into a career in animal genetics or nutrition.

I can’t tell you how many former 4-H’ers I know whose career choice was impacted by the work they did in 4-H, the leadership and communication skills they learned and the dedication they developed to see a project through to the end.

Nobles County has a great crop of 4-H kids, and they’ve all worked hard on their projects. Please come out and see their work, whether it’s a walk through the livestock barns or time spent learning from their projects displayed in Benton and McCarvel halls. While you’re there, be sure to check out the entries in the Open Class building as well.

Better yet, perhaps you can get some ideas and create a project to bring to the fair next year. Open class exhibits can be brought by anyone, of any age.

The 4-H program is open to students in second grade through one year past high school, and there’s a Cloverbud 4-H program in Nobles County for children in kindergarten, first and second grades.

4-H Ambassadors will lead a Passport to 4-H Fun program Saturday afternoon for families interested in exploring what 4-H has to offer. Come on out and see for yourself! Registration begins at 12:45 p.m. between Benton and McCarvel halls.

I hope to see you at the fair!

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