Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sometimes You Just Shouldn’t Quit

Hello everyone, with all the negative currently surrounding us all in the news, I thought you might enjoy a heartfelt story that surely should brighten your day.  Did you ever have one of those times that you just thought, hmmm, maybe, just maybe, I ought to give this a chance?  Well, recently that happened for me.  The result was a wonderful surprise, I affectionately call Lil’ Nugget.  You see, I raise Angoras, all four breeds.  As many of you may or may not know, Giant Angoras aren’t always the best mothers; however, I had one last year that I bred, she kindled, and believe it or not, all kits were in the nest box!  Whew, I couldn’t believe it.  I should have continued to hold my breath because on day 5, the doe kicked one of the kits out of the box.  I found the little kit the next morning, cold, dehydrated, and well, not looking so good. 

I’m a sucker for the runt.  Always have been!  So, I decided to give it a chance; of course, the odds were slim to none.  I took the little kit inside, warmed it up, and, since I raise dairy goats, warmed up some milk.  Once it pinked up a bit, I offered it a bit of the milk.  Ever so carefully, I managed to squeeze several drops into the dehydrated kit.  A few hours later, I repeated this process.  In fact, I repeated this four times a day for weeks.  After a few weeks, the kit actually helped me hold a small bottle I had made for it!  By week four, the kit actually passed the size of its siblings and I was able to tell that it was a doe I named Lil’ Nugget! 

Lil’ Nugget and I have been on several adventures.  She joined me at our local extension office for a summer camp, several shows including my county 4-H fair, and yes, even ARBA Nationals this year in San Diego.  I proudly brought Lil’ Nugget with me to show her.  I was also quite proud of the fact that at 9 months old, she weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds 11 ounces!  Even after her long trip to San Diego, she remained in a beautiful show coat and went on to win a few Best in Shows and Reserve in Shows in my area.  I recently clipped her down and am looking forward to breeding her.  I’m thinking she might be a great mom!  If not, I’ll be there to help her, bottle and all.  So, the moral to my story, is just sometimes, we should give a chance to the little guy, they might just surprise you.
Lil Nugget Drinking from her bottle

Winning 2nd Reserve in Show at Apple Country

She's just beautiful!

Best in Show at Tri-County

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Choice

Every day, I have a choice.  Do I wake up, feed my animals, work, do what is best for me because no one else will do it if I don’t, or do I stay in bed and wait for things to be handed to me?  This whole race to become the next President, senator, or representative has turned into a nightmare.  A very one-sided, I’m right, you’re wrong situation that some people don’t even feel comfortable voicing their own opinion.  Many people have such a strong opinion and feel so passionately about it that it is dividing friendships, families, and more. 

Trump’s slogan during his entire race was, “Make America Great Again!”  Hillary’s slogan was, “Stronger Together.”  This isn’t something that Trump and Hillary would be able to succeed in doing alone, nor is either idea any less important because the other one lost!  We all have a responsibility to “Make America Great Again!” and we are definitely “Stronger Together!” 

This is a task that every American has to contribute towards.  We have to be kind to each other and all work to achieve a balance on what is best for this wonderful country and do it together.  Instead of fighting with others over their differences, we need to respect them, embrace them, or at the very least try to understand them.  Yes, we will run into hurdles and we won’t always succeed in what we may be attempting to accomplish, but we won’t always fail either.  Take Thomas Edison for example.  With very limited resources, he used multiple products to create the first successful light bulb which was actually economically viable.  While others had also created them before him, his perseverance helped him build a better product we take for granted today.

  If you’re looking for someone who is a bit more modern day, look to James Dyson for an example.  He worked and worked for five years to build a vacuum that would actually clean a floor.  He failed a lot, 5,127 times to be exact, but when he finally succeeded, he didn’t stop and retire, even though he could have, he is still working to improve his original model.  Will a vacuum change the world?  No, but it did make things a lot easier for us.

 I am always told the 4-H motto which is, “Make the Best Better,” and I always strive to do just that.  You know, America was founded because Christopher Columbus failed to sail his proper route.  Failing isn’t always a bad thing and everything happens for a reason.  So now, we can all make our plans to flee the country or complain about Trump being the new President, but I am going to continue to be kind and work hard because my opportunities aren’t just handed to me and I have to work for them.  I will continue to “Make the Best Better”. Will I be able to change the world, by myself?  No, but I will work hard to make my dreams come true because, no matter what, the government can’t change that. 

Journey Supporting the United States of American!

Friday, August 5, 2016


Every day its in the news, all this talk from our two Presidential elects who are planning to make America great again.  I began to think that where I just was fortunate enough to be, America is great!  So, where was I?  What was I participating in?  Anyone who knows me, knows that it either had something to do with animals, rabbits, goats, or sheep, or I had to be at a 4-H event, or a combination of both.  Well, if you guessed both, you guessed right.

This past week, I enjoyed every minute of participating in the 2016 Pa 4-H State Achievement Days.  I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that 4-H has to offer. This is an event, held at Penn State Campus, where 4-Hers can go and compete in one competition such as rabbit bowl, livestock skillathon, horse judging, chicken BBQ, questing, and so much more. This year, I participated in the Rabbit and Cavy bowl.  We are judged both as an individual as we make our way through a skill-a-thon that contained a section of Breed I.D., nest box scenarios, test your knowledge, and more.  Next, we gathered with our team and we participated in a quiz bowl.  You really have to be quick to answer because the competition is tough.  I placed first in the junior individual division and my team placed second overall in the quiz bowl.  We had a great time!

You know, though, 4-H State Achievement Days isn't just about the competition.  We attend opening ceremonies where there is always a very inspirational speaker who works to instill leadership skills in each of us.  This year's speaker shared his story all the while teaching us about setting goals and being persistent to achieve them.  I began to think that if more youth had opportunities like I and my fellow 4-H'ers had, perhaps we wouldn't be worried about our youth or our country. 

I've been blessed to have many opportunities as a result of 4-H and many other wonderful organizations that I've been a part of.  I am so very thankful to all the people who have helped me achieve many of my accomplishments such as recently earning my registrar's license at age 14 through the American Rabbit Breeders Association!  I could not have done that without the help from Mrs. Ruth-Ann Bell, Matt Bishop, Ashley, my sister, and my mom.  They were always there for me when I needed help to study or go to a show to work with another judge.  My accomplishments at 4-H State Achievement Days were made possible with the help of Mrs. Lori Jo Whitehaus, my 4-H rabbit leader. She put together my team and held study sessions at her house, which I've attended for several years now. 

The volunteers in the organizations I've been blessed to be a part of give endless support to the youth.  Many of them have their own children who grow up and go on to help as well.  I've also appreciated the additional support I've received from the judges and registrars who worked with me as I strived to complete my license.  Mr. Eric Stewart has always been available to answer all of my questions, Mr. Rob Frizzell, Mrs. Bonnie Burdick, and Mr. G. Joseph Colucci who all allowed me to work with them in judging, and Ms. Danielle Barbacow who worked with me in the registrar process.  There are many other individuals who have worked with me too.  I don't mean to slight them, but I do want to call attention to the fact that so many people help provide opportunities for the youth to learn and grow.

I've seen several posts on Facebook lately speaking about how kids aren't learning basic life skills because those classes have been eliminated in the schools.  Well, 4-H, PaSRBA, The American Rabbit Breeders Association, and many other youth organizations are out there doing just that, teaching kids the value of a strong work ethic and so much more.  I'm so thankful to be a part of it all.  Maybe that's how we start to make America great again.

My Rabbit Bowl Team!

My club leader, Mrs Lori Jo Whitehaus, my 4-H Rabbit Club Leader, and Mrs. Christy Bartley, Assistant Director of Programs at Penn State

Fellow Dauphin County 4-H'ers - Archery Recurve Junior winner - Harmony Biehl, (left), Me - center, Addison Neff - Turkey BBQ and Presentation winner

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Great Day!

Hello everyone! I am on the home stretch! I can see the light! I have nine days of school left before that summer vacation begins! I can't believe that I am almost finished with my freshman year of high school. Man does time fly. I feel like I just started to homeschool yesterday and here I am with the end of freshman year just around the corner! Along with almost being finished with school, I have also been working a lot with Iris. She is improving and learning a lot. I really am having a blast with her and I can't wait to see what the future will look like with her and I. 

I've been working a lot with my goats as well. I finally have Angora goat does and one dairy goat doe too! There must be something in our water because we don't usually see a lot of doe kids born here!  Every kidding season, there will be a ratio of 1 doe to 3 bucks born if not more bucks! I was just glad to finally see some does especially out of Cocoa, who I've only ever had one buck from. This year, Cocoa had triplets! One doe, Mo Mo, and two bucks, of course, but at least there is a doe in there. I also have little Shadowcat who had twin does. Shadowcat is an Angora goat that always had does. This year, she had two jet black kids, Sabrina and Nixi. Sabrina has a little white spot on her head but Nixi is all black. There is also Elle who kidded for her first time this year. She did a great job and, she even had a doe! Her little doe kid's name is Ondina. Then there are the bucks, Cam, Cocoa's two little boys who still need names, and Little Squirt who will be going to a new home with his mom soon. Queen bee, my Leicester Longwool sheep, had her first lamb this year. If you haven't already guessed, it's a ram. I haven't named him yet, but he is a noisy little guy. I think he takes after his mom on that part.

I am really looking forward to what will come of this years kids and lamb. I can't wait to show them at the 4-H fair this August!

Little Ondina!

A close up of Sabrina

Boo enjoying the day!


Cam in all of his handsomeness! 


Miss Photogenic!

Elle and Ondina!


Cocoa's little boy again!

Dale even jumped in on the action!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Update on Iris!

Hello everyone!  I have been very busy lately with one special friend.  Her name is Iris and she is my puppy.  In case you don't know the story about Iris, the following is a little summary:

"Lily had her puppies. She had a litter of six and they are all healthy." I contacted Kelly, from Hopping Acres, a few times just checking in on them and every time, she would make sure that I knew that there was a waiting list for these puppies. I wasn't too thrilled to hear that, but I was glad that all of the puppies were going to permanent homes. After two weeks, Christmas came around. Every year, we go on a scavenger hunt for one of our presents. This year, we did one for mom, then Tyler, Ashley, and finally me. I was a little bit confused when mom sat me down in a chair in front of the computer and started to play a slideshow of all of my animal projects through 4-H. Towards the end, there was a picture of Dexter, our Bichon we lost earlier this year, and it said, "Gone but not forgotten." The next picture was a picture of my favorite puppy out of Lily's litter and it said, "Do you have room for me?" I balled my eyes out! I couldn't believe my eyes! I named her Iris and she was going to be my puppy! Iris is a Karakachan puppy.  Karakachans are a Bulgarian breed that are rare.  I couldn't wait to pick her up on January 31st! It's safe to say that I had the best Christmas ever."

Since January 31st, I have been working very hard with her.  In fact, she already knows how to "sit", "lay down ", "stay" and "give paw"!  She is a very smart dog and I really look forward to agility with her.  I have started introducing her the agility equipment already!  I think that her favorite so far is either the bridge or the tunnel.  She is also trying to learn how to be off leash without running off.  Sometimes she is a perfect angel, but other times she likes to check things out I guess, but she loves treats when she listens!  One of the challenges so far is the teeter totter. She is scared of the fact that it drops down when she is still on it. I am desensitizing her to the idea and she is warming up to it. I am very proud of her and I really look forward to our future.


Monday, March 7, 2016


The first weekend of February was filled with friends, family, lots of rabbits, and more. It was time for the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association convention. The excitement for this event starts in December as I prepare my applications for competing in the royalty contest. There are three applications which include the following: management (you have questions about the management of your rabbitry), achievement (you have a few questions to answer about your accomplishments in your project), and finally royalty (questions on why you are running for royalty). These applications take a lot of time and effort. I always complete my applications and try to get them in early in case there are any computer glitches.   Once my applications are sent in and I am signed up for the contest, it's time to study!  I study a lot for this event because there is a lot that I have to put into each contest. I always enjoy participating in royalty.  I also have to groom and prepare my rabbits I think are in top condition to go to PaSRBA. I definitely try to pick rabbits that I have worked really hard with as angora rabbits take months to be ready for a show. 

The first day of PaSRBA is Friday. We usually go around lunchtime considering that mom helps immensely with the youth contests, Ashley helps with the the show, and I help unload the rabbits and with the show set up. 

When we started the youth contests, it was a little bit crazy since some of my times were a little bit close together. I participated in the first Art Sweinhart Memorial youth award. Art was very big influence helping youth improve with their rabbits and always being there for anyone who needed him. He was very special to my family and always will be. I was honored to be one of the ten chosen to prepare a presentation on their rabbit project. You had to bring a doe and two of her offspring for your presentation. I had a PowerPoint presentation and I talked about a project in which I introduced Satin rabbits into my Satin Angora lines to improve the faults I was having with my Satin Angora rabbits. The Art Sweinhart Memorial Contest was the first thing that I completed on Friday night. I then participated in Breed-ID. Breed-ID is a contest where you have to completely identify 25 rabbits or cavies. I thought that I did very well.  I then participated in rabbit showmanship and I was very happy on how that went. I now had time to compete in judging. For judging, you have to judge four classes of four rabbits or cavies and hope that you place them in the as close to the order as an ARBA Certified Judge has placed them earlier in the day.  Many breeders loan their rabbits to the youth for these contests, making it possible for them to even take place.  Once all the "borrowed" rabbits arrive, the judge will go through them and give his placings and reasoning to the chairperson of the event in preparation for the youth to go through in groups of 4 to try their hand at it as well.   After all of the contests, it is time to relax until everyone is finished.  I then help the volunteers load up and pack up.  The volunteers are great because they are always there helping to run things smoothly. 

On Saturday morning, it was test and interview day.  I always get a bit nervous for the interview, but this year, I was excited!  I don't know why, but I was; surprisingly, it was the best I've felt after an interview yet!  I was very proud of myself and how I competed in everything!  I also thought that I did very well on the test.  Now, we  had to wait until the evening when they announce the awards at the banquet.  During the day, I showed my rabbits.  I showed two American Fuzzy Lops, two Satin Angoras, one Giant Angora, one English Lop, and one Californian.  All of my rabbits placed well, but my one Satin Angora, Bow, won best of breed and received excellent comments.  I was so proud of that since she was out of my own rabbits and she is 100% from my rabbitry. 

The day was coming closer and closer to the banquet so I left to prepare.  When I walked in, I was greeted by a lot of my friends and we sat down to wait before we ate.  After dinner, the awards began.  The first award given was the Adult and Youth Service Award and to my surprise, I was announced as the recipient!  I was very proud to except that award and couldn't believe all the wonderful things that Mrs. Valerie Mayle had to say about me. Next, they announced the Art Swienhart memorial youth award. I was nervous to see who won because I wanted someone that knew Art very well to win. I was not expecting my name to be called, but it was! All of that work, and I won for the first time! I was so proud!  It was a very humbling moment for me as Art has been so influential in the rabbit world.  He is missed dearly and I will treasure that award always.  I also will continue to work on my project to continue improving my lines.  The next award given was the sweepstakes award and rabbit youth exhibitor of the year was awarded to me! I was shocked!  After that, youth choice award was announced and my mom, Angie, won! I am so proud of her! 

Art Sweinhart Award

Finally, the youth contest awards were given. They always start with the Management and Achievement applications.  I placed second in both categories.  Next, they announced breed ID.  I won Breed ID in my age category! Can you believe that? Also, my Breed ID team won second against all of the other teams! In judging, I did not place, but a lot of my friends did and I am proud of them for it!  I also placed first in showmanship.  They began announcing the royalty... When they begin, they start with the youngest category and work their way up to King and Queen. They began getting closer and closer to my category. I knew that I was competing with a lot of girls who work hard in their projects too so I wasn't sure who would win. The announcement was, "And your 2016 PaSRBA Duchess is Madison Shaw." I was speechless! The 2016 royalty court is wonderful and I can't wait to see how this year unfolds.
Youth Exhibitor of the year

Getting my sash and crown

I just won!!
I love my family! 
The 2016 royalty court

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Week Well Filled

Farm Show of 2016 is history already. It feels like the year of 2015 just started and here we are in 2016! This year is flying by and it just started. It was a great Farm Show week and I am glad that I was able to spend it with the people I did. The week started out amazing because of the rabbit show. All of my rabbits did really well, but one of my rabbits that participated is very special to me. His name is Zo, a Giant Angora. When Zo was born, his mom didn't take care of him and he was the only survivor out of a litter of ten. Zo needed a lot of special care in order to live. Today, Zo is about 10 1/2 pounds and he was ready for Farm Show. I showed him in his class and he won best of breed! As if that wasn't an accomplishment in and of itself, he went on to win Reserve in Show! That means that he placed second of all the others shown in all the breeds in the youth show! I am so proud of him. 

On Saturday, the opening day, I started by participating in a sheep skill-a-thon. In this skill-a-thon, it was my first year competing and I wasn't really sure how I was going to do. I am proud to say that I placed 8th in my category! After the sheep skill-a-thon, I participated in rabbit showmanship. I was really nervous because it was my first time in the senior division and I was using Zo for the first time as well.  Normally, I participate in showmanship with a smaller American Fuzzy Lop.  Even though I had those things pondering in my mind, I still went up and tried my best. I waited in suspense until I knew how or if I placed. They announced the senior category last starting with 5th place and as they worked their way to first, I could hardly believe when they announced my name as the first place winner! I couldn't believe it and my mom even shed some tears! I was thrilled!

Sunday consisted of a lot of presentations in the rabbit room.  Also, checking in with mom at our Blue Mountain Farms booth, which did very well throughout the week.  Sunday led into Monday very quickly.  On Monday, I spent most of the day in the rabbit room trying to promote PaSRBA, Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association, as best as I possibly could and I also participated in a demonstration about the fiber aspect of rabbits.  I also volunteered in a 4-H Information booth on Monday.

Tuesday was fulfilled with Potato Judging in the morning.  Yes, I did just say potato judging, who knew?  I participated in that contest with a team of three from Dauphin county.  I was very proud of my team because we placed fourth and it was only our second year!  Tuesday night was spent packing up and preparing for Wednesday's Fleece to Shawl and Sheep to Shawl.  Of course that was the night that it snowed as well.

On Wednesday, we started very early and ended very late.  We had three youth teams participating in Fleece to Shawl and one adult team in Sheep to Shawl.  My team's theme was the 80's since that was the year that the Sheep to Shawl was first held.  We built on the theme a lot.  Our team's name is the Twisted Sisters so we incorporated that a lot. The other teams had themes of mermaids and lanterns.  We all did very well and I am proud to be a part of Tri-County 4-H Fiber Artists club.  My team finished with only three minutes to spare!  Sadly, we were five inches short so we placed last, but we also walk away with the weavers and overall spinners award!  Also, our shawl sold for $1,650!  We were proud of how we did and we are already talking about next year.  I am also so, so proud of my mom and sister's team.  They finished and did very well too! 

Thursday came and went.  In the morning, I showed my sheep, Queen Bee and Queen Polly.  I thought that they did very well.  I didn't place very well because the judge wasn't judging them on their wool, he was judging them on meat  which is not their primary use.  We did the best we could and that's all that matters.  That night, I also helped usher at the rodeo for a fundraiser for 4-H Exchange club.  I had a great time and I even was able to watch a little bit of the rodeo!  I hope next year, I can sit down and watch the whole rodeo. 

I couldn't believe it, but it was Friday already!  With Friday, came the Open sheep show.  I showed my two sheep and it was the same story on Friday as it was on Thursday.  The Judge was looking for more size and structure, but it's okay, I had the chance to walk around and enjoy the day then.  I walked around with some friends and I had  good time.  Once the evening rolled around, I participated in the Angora Palooza.  Angora Palooza is an event much like the Sheep to Shawl, but we use rabbits instead of sheep and we construct scarves instead of shawls.  This was the first year that we held this event so we only had four teams.  Since we had four teams, we thought that it would be a fun idea if we used the four seasons as our themes!  I served as the weaver of the spring team.  All of the teams finished in time and my team placed second!  Tyler, my brother, was the auctioneer of the scarves and he did a wonderful job; he even set a record!  The Angora Palooza was a very fun event and I hope we have it next year so it can grow.

We blinked and it was the last day, Saturday was here!  I spent the morning in the rabbit room.  I was sad that it was the last day already.  I wished that it was a little bit longer, but at the same time I was glad that I didn't have to wake up early and I could stay at home.  It was crazy that night because we had to load up and get everything together plus, Tyler, Ashley, Matt, and I all had to usher at the rodeo.  When we went home, mom made dinner for all of us, and we had a Farm Show after party. 
Oh! I almost forgot! My shawl won Best in Show!

After the showmanship awards!

Zo in the Champion row! 

Zo and I in an interview for PCN

Two of my meat pen rabbits in a presentation

Judging the rabbit hopping contest

My team for Fleece to Shawl

Queen Bee and Queen Polly getting ready to show!
I love my family!

I only have to wait for ten more days then she comes home!

Monday, January 18, 2016


Some of the best things come when you wait. I have wanted a puppy for a long time now. I wanted a puppy to teach agility and have as a friend. I've asked and asked and asked and asked when finally, mom said, "We will go to a shelter to look into adopting a dog after Farm Show."  I was okay with that, so I started looking at dogs available in shelters. I found one dog. His name was Dino, a Border Collie Labrador Retriever mix.  Right away told mom about him and we started filling out the adoption application for him. I was really hopeful about Dino. Once we finished the application, we sent it in. I emailed the place that he was housed and asked what his story was. They emailed back saying that he was a stray found in Georgia. They also said that they did not receive our application so they sent us a different form we started to fill out the form, but at the bottom, it said,"All animals on the property that the animal will be kept on need to be spayed or neutered." May I just add, I live on a farm?  So, Dino didn't work out. 

About a week later, my mom, sister Ashley, her boyfriend Matt, his mom Deb, and I all went to an open house that Kelly Anderson, the same person who gave me Queen Bee and Queen Polly, my sheep, was hosting. Kelly lives in West Virginia, so we had an early morning start. Once we arrived, we presented her with a gift that was very special to her. Ashley, my mom, and I all worked together to construct a hand knit blanket from animals, sheep and rabbits, that she had given us! We also processed the fiber in the fiber mill! She was thrilled with her gift! After the surprise, we went outside to see some of the animals. Needless to say, I went over to her dogs. She has a breed of dog that are on the conservancy list much like the Leicester Longwool sheep, the Karakachan which originates in Bulgaria. Little did I know, Lily, one of her dogs, was due to have a litter the next week! I was so happy for Kelly! I spent the afternoon talking to her husband, Rick, about how Karakachans would be with agility.  I talked to him for a long time. After my conversation with him, I decided that Karakachans were the breed that I needed to work with. I kept up with Lily on how she was doing and when she was going to have her puppies. 

The following week, Lily had her puppies. She had a litter of six and they are all healthy. I contacted Kelly a few times just checking in on them and every time, she would make sure that I knew that there was a waiting list for these puppies. I wasn't too thrilled to hear that, but I was glad that all of the puppies were going to permanent homes. After two weeks, Christmas came around. Every year, we go on a scavenger hunt for our biggest presents. This year, we did one for mom, then Tyler, Ashley, and finally me. I was a little bit confused when mom sat me down in a chair in front of the computer and started to play a slideshow of all of my animal projects through 4-H. Towards the end, there was a picture of Dexter and it said, "Gone but not forgotten." The next picture was a picture of my favorite puppy out of Lily's litter and it said, "Do you have room for me?" I balled my eyes out! I couldn't believe my eyes! I named her Iris and she will be my puppy! I can't wait to get her on January 31st! It's safe to say that I had the best Christmas ever. 

 I can not wait to meet her! Just look at her face!