Beauty in the background -- Challenging my 4H'ers and me to look beyond the black and white

In October, everything in a 4-H mom's world seems possible. 

It's the start of the new 4-H year. In this county, it's been 60 days since the last fair, and it's usually long enough for me to forget about all the things I said I would never do again during fair week. (Although I admit there are some years when the forgetting takes until March. Once, the forgetting process took me two years.)

The other day, I spent an hour at the 4-H office, eagerly flipping through the program guide picking out which projects I'd like to lead and which projects I'd try to talk my kids into so I can live vicariously through them. I brainstorm with the 4-H staff about great camps and fundraisers. It's like New Year's Eve for a chronic volunteer like me.

In October it's all a great idea. On July 1, when our fair is three weeks away, I'm not only sure I need institutionalized, I will swear on every four-leaf clover in the world that I'm NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.

My children are onto me. Each year, when I come home with the long list of projects I am sure they'd love, they roll their eyes and say "no."  My oldest, at 14, completely avoids me and starts to call her FFA teacher "mom." The middle child, 12, reminds me of my most recent minor meltdown and starts to cross all the projects off my list which she refuses to do. Then she calls her friends to tell them, once again, how crazy her mother is. My youngest is the most gentle of the three. He sits down with me and says, "Mom, I just want to focus on one project. That way I can do my best." 

He's 10. Who taught him that kind of logic? It wouldn't have been me.

One of the projects I’d like to take on this year is photography. I’ve never led that project before but always wanted to. I’ve been inspired by the recent success of some online photography sites that feature incredible photography as well as quotes and facts about farming and agriculture.  Check out these sites: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl and Agriculture Impressions  They’re beautiful.

I think it would be great fun to have kids build similar graphics and feature local people, places and facts. At the same time, I also want the kids to look for beauty in places all around them -- even in unusual places. To prepare my proposal for the leaders meeting for our club, I went out and explored our dairy for ideas.

The thing is, everyone has cute cows. (Although I’m pretty sure our cows are, by far, the cutest cows in the land.) We’ve all seen the charming picture of the little girl with her calf. For this experiment, I wanted something different. I looked for shadows and negative spaces. I found shapes and designs in barns and commodity yards. I want people in general and the kids in my club to see beauty in the mundane. Our lives are filled with complex simplicity – hard work and partnerships that look easy to the outsider but are so much more from the inside.

Here are the photos I came back with.

I challenge you to do the same. Where do you see unexpected beauty on your farm? You can send your pictures to and we’ll select a few to post here. Let me know what you think of what I found.





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