By 6 a.m. Rebecca Warfield, 14, feeds and waters nine head of cattle, seven pigs and three sheep. At 9 a.m., she blow dries her 1200-pound steer's brown hide for an afternoon show. And before lunchtime, she and sister Kristen, 12, clip a sheep's fleece, checking for any brown spots on its white coat.
With the time they spent baking 10 cakes, pies and muffins for the baked goods contest and the two dresses Rebecca sewed, the girls estimate they spent more than 200 hours in the past few weeks getting their 4-H projects ready for the 51st Howard County Fair in West Friendship this week.
The annual fair is hard work for the 300 or so dedicated 4-H members like Rebecca and Kristen, who toil all year for this sleepless week in which they hope to reap the fruits of their labors. After weeks of shoveling manure, washing pigs, fitting steers and sheering and clipping sheep, their busy week will slow down after last night's livestock sale.
As if the 40 hours a week caring for animals weren't enough, about 200 4-H Club members leave the barns and cross the fairgrounds to enter a pie, a photograph or a craft in the indoor exhibit competitions. That makes for even longer days of preparation.
"There are times when I'm putting a cake mixture in the oven or a loaf of bread in at late hours in the night and then rising a few FTC hours later to go down and lead my steers around the field or feed the pigs," said Rebecca, whose family lives just over the Carroll County line in Woodbine. "It can get hectic.
"But just as you've got to follow a recipe from the beginning to the end to make sure it turns out tasting good, it's the same thing with the animals. They have to be fed, cared for and trained each day to look good."
The number of rural and suburban 4-Hers doing both animal and indoor projects has been steadily increasing over the past few years, said Martin Hamilton, county extension service director.
"Whether it's a sewing project, a baked good or showing 300-pound pigs, there are not just the traditional farm kids doing things at the fair, but suburbanites, too, who are doing a variety of projects," he said.
"Those who are crossing over from the barns to the indoor activities are holding their own, even in a county that's not as rural or agricultural as it was 20 years ago," Hamilton said.
Most 4-Hers who live on small farms -- also called farmettes -- might enter 4-H to work on photography or a craft project. Then they venture into caring for smaller animals such as rabbits or sheep.
The cattle and pigs remain tougher projects, mostly being undertaken by those with 5 or more acres, 4-H leaders said.
Pub Date: 8/15/96