All in the family

Three kids, two parents and a lot of animals are immersed in 4-H
News-Argus Managing Editor
Friday, July 20, 2018

Creative Critters 4-H Club members Hailey, Tristan and Cody show off some of the animals they raise as 4-H projects. The sheep and calf will be shown at the Central Montana Fair.

Photo by Deb Hill

Cody England’s bucket calf, Sundance, sniffs CK the bunny. Both animals will be on display at the fair next week.

Photo by Deb Hill



Sundance the bucket calf gives a little hop of excitement when he notices CK the bunny sitting on the sheep stand in the Gallagher-England backyard Tuesday morning.

“Stop that,” teenager Cody England said, twitching Sundance’s lead rope, a cue to settle down which the four-month-old black calf seemed to ignore.

Sundance and Cody were quickly joined by Cody’s younger sister, Hailey, along with her three sheep. Brother Tristan watched from a distance as mom Chris England attempted to arrange kids and animals for a group photo.

All three kids, the five animals, other members of the family’s menagerie and both parents were gearing up for Central Montana Fair, the highlight of a 4-Her’s year.

While some might call the family’s tiny farm on the edge of town a “hobby farm,” helping a trio of 4-H kids rise to the levels required to perform well at the fair is not a hobby. It is a labor of love, with emphasis on the labor, according to Chris and husband Pat Gallagher.

“Today isn’t too bad,” Chris said. “Today is somewhat of a down day. We just need to wash the calves and lambs and make sure the kids’ books are up to date. Yesterday – now that was a little crazy.”

Chris was referring to Monday’s interview day, when 4-H participants are expected to go over each of their projects and their project goals with 4-H leaders. Chris had the job of shepherding her kids to the fairgrounds, making sure each of them had their 4-H project books with them. 

Just getting three kids ready and out the door might be enough for some, but Monday was also the 4-H cat show, so five of the family’s felines had to be rounded up, contained, and moved to the Ag building.

“Sometimes it gets to be a little much,” Chris said, “but I believe in the 4-H program and I see first hand how it is helping the kids to gain leadership skills.”


Projects, projects, projects

Each member of 4-H can sign up for a wide variety of projects, everything from livestock to dog, cat or bunny training and from sewing to baking or crafts. Each project requires the 4-H member to complete certain tasks, developed by the national 4-H organization, and record the outcome in a three-ring binder known as “the book.”

Books include goals for each project, photographs, records of income (if any) and costs, ribbons or awards won and lessons learned. At the end of the 4-H year each fall, members submit their books for review by 4-H leaders. Leaders nominate outstanding 4-H members for higher honors based on their books.

As a 4-H leader herself, Chris knows the value of “the book” for documenting successes and failures and teaching kids to set and review goals.

As a 4-H mom, she knows it’s not so easy to convince an active 4-Her to stay inside and do what feels a bit like homework when they could be playing in the creek instead.

“It’s kind of hard sometimes to get the kids motivated to work on their books,” she said. “That’s part of why Monday was so crazy – we had to get some things caught up.”


Showing and more showing

Updating the books means a lot of sorting and recording because the England-Gallagher kids are nothing if not ambitious.

Cody, age 13 and in her sixth year of 4-H, is involved with four projects this year: replacement sale heifer, bucket calf, rabbits and cats. 

Tuesday’s cat show netted Cody three blue ribbons, a purple Best of Show banner for her Scottish fold cat, Fuzzy, and a medallion in showmanship. 

Next week Cody will be showing CK the rabbit in both rabbit agility and showmanship, Sundance the calf in bucket calf class and Cassidy, her Angus heifer in the beef halter classes. 

Cody has shown Cassidy before, at the Montana Winter Fair. Apparently the heifer was not so easy to handle there, but she has since been bred and Cody hopes she has settled down a bit. Besides being shown, Cassidy also will be sold at the fair.

“She’s bred for a February calf,” Cody said. “It will be very hard to sell her, though, after all the work I’ve put into her.”

Cody’s project book records, among other things, Cassidy’s experience at the Winter Fair Youth Beef Show, as well as receipts for feed, vet work and other costs of raising this heifer. Cody is hopeful Cassidy’s sale price will cover these costs and help finance next year’s projects.

Hailey, age 11, has been working on five projects this year: bucket calf, cats, gardening, sheep and rabbits.

Already having earned a medallion in cat showmanship, Hailey will be showing her bucket calf, Moondance, vegetables and flowers from her gardens, two bunnies and her Suffolk sheep, Luke and Hans Solo.

“This is my second year of sheep,” Hailey said. “I had to learn to shear them and care for them. Last year we showed at NILE and I learned a lot there.”

Tristan, age 9, did not have a livestock project, or even an animal project. His focus was on construction, and he took Woodworking I, which required him to build something only using hand tools. Working with pine boards, Tristan cut them to size with a hand saw, glued and nailed them into shape, then sanded and finished what became a planter box of his own original design.

“My dad helped,” Tristan said, “but I did most of the work. Sometimes it was not so easy.” 

Next year Tristan is looking at doing a project in Woodworking II, which allows power tools.


Why they do it

Neither Chris nor Pat were involved with 4-H when they were young, but both are staunch supporters of the program now.

“It’s about what it teaches the kids,” Pat said. “It teaches them to be responsible, to do what they need to do, and they get a lot of skills that will help them in the future. It’s an amazing program. I wish I had done it as a kid.”

“You make a lot of friendships,” Chris added. “This is about families helping families. When you start a project and you don’t exactly know what to do, there is someone else there who has the knowledge to help. We’re not just about competing with each other; we’re helping.

“We do it for the kids. It’s a lot of work sometimes, and there’s a cost. We probably have $900 tied up just in the animals alone. But 4-H is so good at teaching the kids accountability and responsibility. I’ve seen first hand how dedicated the kids are to their projects. It’s definitely worth it.”



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