In August, my sainted mother and I took the kids to the state fair, braving the heat and the manure and the carnies and the hot-tub salesmen, all for a few hours of wholesome, barnyard fun. My favorite parts, other than watching Jimmy squeal and flap in front of the quail chick incubator for twenty whole minutes, were the educational 4-H poster projects lining the walls of the small animal barn. I don't know what it is about a nice poster/diorama/chart, but it really speaks to the eager young schoolgirl who lives in my soul. (Fun Fact: I was once, along with my beloved childhood horse, Sugarfoot, a 4-H-er for about ten glorious minutes before I figured out that I was required to wear a cowboy hat and neckerchief and ill-fitting jeans while dragging Sugarfoot around an arena to be judged. Judged!)
So, without further ado, here are the most important lessons I learned from the small animal barn posters at the Western Idaho State Fair.
Washing a chicken goes like this:
1. Dip your chicken in warm water.
2. Dip your chicken in soapy water.
3. Dip your chicken in warm water again.
This procedure is shockingly similar to the correct protocol for breading chicken (dip in egg, dip in flour, dip in breading) and it is strangely reassuring to know that a pretty chicken AND/OR a delicious chicken is only ever three easy steps away.
Cavy (which is apparently 4-H code for "guinea pig") are frequently plagued by fairly disgusting, pirate-y diseases (Scurvy? Lice? Overgrown teeth? Pea Eye?), which leads me to believe that cavy are the Pirates of the Small Animal Barn, or perhaps pirates are the Cavy of The Sea. Just something to consider before you welcome any cavy (or pirates) into your home.
There is something called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) which sounds awfully cute and whimsical and Beatrix Potter-y, but is actually not cute at all, people. It should have its own celebrity telethon, preferably hosted by Dave Coulier or an adequate Coulier surrogate.
If you're wondering how your kitty is feeling today, you might want to refer to this flow chart. At any moment of the day, your cat could be Fearful, Calm, Mildly Anxious, Increasingly Anxious, or Transitioning. I found it odd that our cats' most frequent feelings, Ennui and Lardassery, were omitted.
Not surprisingly, washing a hedgehog is slightly trickier than washing (or breading) a chicken, and I can only imagine that WHS complicates the matter further. Get Coulier on the horn, stat!
OK, I actually didn't learn much from this poster, but must applaud the lackadaisical minimalism on display here. Do you remember when you had a project due in sixth grade, and you forgot about the project until 8:30 P.M. the night before it was due, and you had none of the actual necessary supplies for the project in the house, and your mother had to drive you to the drugstore to purchase whatever sad, barely adequate supplies were available all while suppressing her urge to wring your procrastinating little neck? This is that project, and I love it. Plus: "Participant" ribbon!
And, finally, Lesson Seven:
Pig: it is in everything, everywhere. Right this minute, you are likely wearing, eating, inhaling, using, or sleeping with a pig. Oink, oink and sweet dreams.