Mail Call: November/December 2011

Benefits of 4-H

My name is Mariah Shultz, and I am a 12-year member of the Burlingame 4-H Club in Osage County, Kansas. I started 4-H when I was 7 years old, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I live in town, and I never had the opportunity to take on any type of livestock project, but that certainly hasn’t kept me from having an incredible 4-H experience.

At 7 years old, I took projects like foods and nutrition, photography, reading, and clothing buymanship. I kept several of these projects throughout my 4-H career, and I learned many life skills. I also added several projects along the way. My dad is an electrician, so I started taking the electricity project a few years ago. One year I built a coin-operated siren, and another year I built a Jacob’s ladder.

We work hard to come up with fresh ideas that will be interesting and hopefully get younger members excited about trying a new project.

I also built a multirocket launchpad with warning lights and an alarm. The launchpad was an electricity project that complemented another project I have enjoyed for several years, rocketry. I built more than half a dozen rockets myself and, true to 4-H form, my entire family has gotten into rocket building and launching. This year I am helping my little brother and sister build their first rockets.

I have a goal of trying as many new things as possible in 4-H and in life, so this past year, I tried robotics for the first time. I built two robots myself, and then my brother and I teamed up to build a programmable robot. It was a new and interesting endeavor. The little robots were easy to build and fun to play with. The programmable robot wasn’t that hard to build, but the programming proved to be a bit of a challenge. We had a great time, learned so much, and now we are driven to try it again this year.

While projects are great, 4-H is about so much more than the projects in which you choose to participate. Among other things, 4-H is about service and learning the importance of giving back to your community. I’ve grown up doing club food drives, adopting needy families, doing clean-ups at the local parks and museums, and one year we even kept flower gardens going at three locations in town.

I also spend time volunteering with younger club members. I teach the first-level foods and photography projects and help wherever there is a need. I’ve served as a club officer, and this year I’m the club president. I’ve also held almost every office in the County Junior Leadership program and on the County 4-H Council. All of these activities have given me opportunities to learn and put to use my leadership skills.

Being in 4-H has offered opportunities to build my public speaking abilities. I remember being scared stiff when I was 7 years old and had to give my first talk at a club meeting. Now I actually enjoy leading groups. Last year, I taught food safety and the importance of proper hand washing at a couple of 4-H meetings. I ended up creating a PowerPoint presentation and conducting a safety meeting for more than 60 railroad maintenance shop employees, and I loved it! I am so thankful for all the years of talks and demonstrations.

No matter what projects you take, 4-H gives your whole family opportunities to work, serve and learn together – and have an absolute blast along the way!

Mariah Shultz
Burlingame, Kansas

You’re a model citizen already, Mariah, and we applaud your willingness to get out there and make our world better! Thank you. – Editors

Replacing sugar with honey

Sure enough, the results of the recipe in GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey were great. Although it calls for “coffee granules” in the torte (Chocolate Torte With Honey), I merely eliminated it and still got delicious results.

In using honey in a recipe instead of granulated sugar, such things as cakes and muffins are springy and moist – and they stay fresher in taste and texture much longer, if they “last” long enough. Foods sure don’t last long around here.

Experimenting with replacing granulated sugar and such with honey is a “win-win” situation – just remember to use less honey (by measurement) than regular sugar, and remember that different honeys have much different tastes. Only overwhelm your recipe with honey’s taste when you want to.

I’m not currently an apiarist, but, thanks to GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey, I’ll soon have one or three top-bar hives in the shady backyard, rather close to the big pond. Bees and I will go into business together.

Guess who will benefit the most? I’ll do my best not to harm or alarm them, and the worst I’ll get from them is a sting or three. So what! To “cure” the pain, I’ll just munch down on some comb honey. That will take care of it all.

Bees are very busy honey factories, and I am a honey lover. Plus, look at all the other things bees make. And they’ll pollinate my entire garden and maybe a neighbor’s garden. We’ll all benefit. Watch out, world, I’m starting to buzz! Thank you.

Liz Cole
Georgetown, Illinois

First-time canning

We really enjoyed the U Can Can article in the July/August issue. I read bits aloud to my husband, and we had to laugh at the “riot shield” when pressure canning.

My first year using a pressure canner, every time the timer would go off to switch batches, I would have visions of those stories where tornadoes blow a piece of straw through a tree, imagine my own corpse speared by green beans, and tell my husband, “If I don’t make it back, remember that I love you.”

It’s nice to know that other people shared the same fears and survived!

Jen Ubelaker
Yakima, Washington

Grit lifer: raising bees and more

I am including some digital photos of my acreage/hobby farm in the neighboring county, including my only viable honeybee hive. I lost my second hive in Illinois over the winter. I suspect that the swarm outgrew the hive and abandoned it.

I am a rookie and trying to become proficient at beekeeping. I’m not into honey harvest yet. I have enjoyed watching them and listening to the hum of the hive on warm days. Bees are so good for the environment and food production.

This place, Rock Creek Farm, is the realization of a boyhood dream. I get energized by it and communicating about it. I have begun a journal about my experiences there.

My long-range plan is to work with my preschool-aged grandchildren planting hardwood trees for them to selectively harvest when they reach retirement age. In the meantime, alfalfa grows on it.

I currently subscribe to more than 12 outdoor and environment-oriented publications. GRIT is my favorite. I have extended my subscription through 2025. 2025 is not a typo. My challenge is that I don’t assume room temperature before my subscription expires. I also give GRIT subscriptions as gifts. Thanks again.

Richard Wahlstrand
Davenport, Iowa

Richard, thanks for the kind words, and we hope you’ll send us letters from time to time to let us know what you’re up to and how things are evolving on Rock Creek Farm. – Editors

What is a cushaw?

I made the Orange Slice Candy Cake, the Gumdrop Cookies, and the No Bake Chocolate Cookies from the May/June 2010 Recipe Box, “Desserts and More: Goodies You’re Looking For.” All three recipes were a hit and enjoyed by all. I have a question: What is a cushaw? Are they grown in gardens, and would a local farmers’ market have a supply? Thanks. Our subscription is our gift to ourselves.

Beverly Keller
Aurora, Colorado

Cushaw is a winter squash that has a curved neck, but it also can produce a spring harvest. It’s predominately found through the Southern United States, so depending on your location, it’s very possible to pick one up at a local farmers’ market! – Editors

Retirement paradise

In 2006, my husband and I purchased a home and 21 acres in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Since our younger son was about to enter his sophomore year in Fairfax County, Virginia, our plan was to continue to work until 2010 and his completion of high school. We fell in love with Grit magazine as we searched for resources to prepare ourselves for the transition from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to our new rural setting.

I retired from my 32 years with the Smithsonian Institution in May 2010. In June, my husband retired from his 33 years with Prince William County schools, and our son graduated.

I was enjoying the July/August 2010 issue of GRIT and the article on preserving the Silver Fox Rabbits (Preserving Silver Fox Rabbits) when I was tickled to see that two of the photos were our very own Kids Farm rabbits at The Smithsonian’s National Zoo where I worked the last 10 years of my Smithsonian career.

Patti Young
Piedmont, North Carolina

Kind words

I have just spent the most enjoyable day reading your magazine. I always enjoyed your paper, and my daughter, who is now 44, delivered it around our small town when she was 10 for extra money just like the St. Joe News Press. I do believe at one time she may have had more readers than they did in our little town. Thank you for producing such a good magazine. I will be sharing mine with my grandchildren, who are discovering canning and ways to save money with their new families in this money-crunch time. Thank you again for something worth picking up and reading.
Nancy Schank
via email

A light-hearted play on words

Seeing the article on pigs in the July/August issue (Hog Wild) reminded me of an incident that happened to me a few years ago. Remember three things as you read the little story below: My name is Birney, I’m not a pig, and I’m not a bore!

My wife and I went to the Minnesota State Fair with Mark and Grace Monson, a young doctor and his wife home on leave from our mission station in Liberia. In due course we arrived at the pig barns. There was a giant pig, weighing more than 1,000 pounds, with a sign above his sty: BERNIE, THE BIG BOAR.

Mark turned to me with a fiendish look in his eye and said, “They’ve misspelled two words in that sign: Bernie and boar!”


Birney Dibble
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Thanks for the chuckle, Birney! You and Mark are living proof that boys will be boys, and we love it! – Editors 

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  • Published on Oct 7, 2011
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