The State Fair is More than Fried Food and Rides for Me

For many people, the NC State Fair is about fried food, rides, and giant pumpkins, but for me it is so much more. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting fried cheese, bacon pimento cheese hushpuppies, and blooming onions. I always ride the Ferris wheel and bumper cars, and always take a peak at the giant pumpkins.

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BUT…that’s not why I go to the fair.

I go to the fair to drive and nervously back trailers in the heart of Raleigh. I go to help my brothers wash pigs, watch them compete against hoards of others in the ring, and coach them along the way. I go to fluff and trim goats. I go to the fair to walk sheep in the ring, pick straw from their fleece, and to see if we’ve improved from last year. I go to compete for the blue ribbons and champion titles. I go to take a thousand photos, to see friends, and spend 6 days in a barn. I go to the fair to spend time with my family and make memories. I go for the livestock experience.

I look at the NC State Fair through a different lens than many who walk through the gates. It isn’t just a place to find entertainment or unique food. It is a place where both heartache and joy has taken place. It is a place where I have run around with so much adrenaline and energy, but also been utterly exhausted. It is a place where I have learned lessons. The NC State Fair is a place that holds a special place in my heart. This year was no different.

NC State Fair 2017 Recap

While there was a great deal that took place over the course of the fair, I just want to give you the highlights. The first day, Mom, the boys and I went to check pigs in. All went smoothly. We headed back home to pick Dad up and head once more to Raleigh to stay in a hotel. We had a super early morning and didn’t want to deal with Raleigh traffic the next morning. Although an early morning awaited, I was to have a late night.

You see, Garrett was arriving on a flight at midnight! I hadn’t seen him since I left him in Nebraska back in August. I was so excited! I am ashamed to say, that I dozed off and was 15 minutes late picking him up from the airport. It all worked out, and I was reunited with my fiance!! Fair wouldn’t quite be the same without him.

The next morning did indeed dawn bright and early, but I was too excited to be tired. Today was the pig show!! My boys did an amazing job showing Arnold and Schwarzenegger. Both pigs were in the top 10 and Isaac received a super showman pin. I may have teared up a bit.

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On Saturday, I returned once more to the fair, this time alone. I arrived in time to walk Garrett’s little red pig in the sale ring. Goodness do I miss driving a pig in a ring.

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My primary reason for coming back to the fair wasn’t to walk a pig, though.  I was set to photograph and video the Sale of Champions. I love auctions, livestock, and the fair, so being able to capture it all with my camera, is such a joy! Alec was also recognized as a scholarship recipient.

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The next day of the fair was to be on Monday. We loaded 4 little goats on the trailer during such a rainy day. Because all the goats were born within a couple of weeks of each other, they were all the same size and in the same class. Sadly, we only had 2 Linton boys, but 4 goats. They couldn’t very well show 2 at a time. Thankfully, we had friends in the barn who helped us out! Mom, Dad, and the boys went home, while I stayed in town to spend time with Garrett. He would fly out the next day.

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Wednesday arrived. We loaded 12 sheep (all of which had been washed and clipped). Because there were so many, we had to take the big trailer which is always more nerve-wracking to drive. I take that back. It is fine to drive but scary to back. I’m happy to say, though that I was able to back it perfectly! With the sheep penned and the trailer backed, we were ready for the next day.

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Another early morning greeted us. Today the entire family was able to be at the fair together. Showmanship was up first. Isaac and Gideon went head to head in juniors. Gid came out on top, which worked out well. Isaac beat Gideon in pigs. Alec received reserve champion senior plus showman despite an irritable sheep. We were off to a phenomenal start!

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Costume class followed showmanship. Isaac dressed up in a red, white and blue theme to highlight wool in America. Gideon showed off tools of the trade to raise sheep. There were so many cute costumes!

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With 12 sheep, we were in and out of the ring constantly. All of our girls did well, and I was even able to show during the open show.

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Isaac was extra proud of his Astrid sheep. He bought her with his own money earlier in the year, and she ended up winning her class! The face says it all!

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Interestingly, Alec ended up with the best sheep–Georgette. Last year, I did not like Georgette. She placed behind all our other sheep, and just wasn’t my favorite. This year, here fleece was gorgeous, and the judge agreed. She won her class and went on to compete in the champion drive along with two other of our ewes–Astrid and Evelyn.

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I held my breath as the judge looked over all the blue ribbon sheep. And then…she shook Alec’s hand.

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Georgette won Supreme Champion Junior Ewe and Got to Be NC Grand Champion Junior Ewe. I may have screamed a bit.

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We have come so close to Supreme Champion several times, and it finally happened. What made it even more special was we raised Georgette on our farm. She was Countryview Farm genetics. It didn’t stop there, though. In the open show, Georgette also won Supreme Champion Fleece, and our new ram, Church, won champion medium/fine white ram.

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It was such a good show!

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We celebrated by eating our favorite fair foods, walking around, and riding some rides.

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I found my bacon pimento cheese hushpuppies, Dad and Alec snagged them a blooming onion and Isaac and mom grabbed a funnel cake.

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Gid discovered a new favorite –Poutine (fries covered with cheese curds and gravy). This gravy loving boy was in heaven.

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And with that, the 2017 NC State Fair ended for the Lintons. We loaded up and headed home. For us, the fair is about family, livestock, friends, and some food. See you next year!!

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Sheep in the Mist||Photo Shoot

There is really no purpose to this blog post other than to show off my sheep and how awesome they look in the fog. I’m so glad I grabbed my camera, and the sheep made the perfect models. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Happy Monday!

PS Be sure to read the captions for commentary

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Georgette stops to check me out, but quickly decides the camera isn’t safe. Time to run to her friends.
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It’s a rainbow of sheep…well a neutral colored rainbow.
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I call this her supermodel look.
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Paisley is always such a diva. She’s stomping her foot at me here. So. Much. Sassiness.
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Silver and Georgette really wishing I’d go away
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The white sheep just seem to be one with the misty fog. 

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If the sheep were making a movie, this would be the cover. Evelyn is even bowing.

Livestock Lesson–What Picking Out a Show Pig Teaches a Kid

Once again, there are pigs in the building…or barn that is. We picked up two gilts from See Farms, and are so excited. I mean just look at that face!

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Picking out livestock is always a learning experience. As the boys have gotten older, I have tried to give them more responsibilities with their show animals. So, this year, I decided to give them a little more freedom in picking out their show pigs. I had already picked the two I thought were the best, but I told them they could look around and see if there was something they liked better.

They’d stare at the pen full of pigs, and discuss between themselves what they thought. Then, they’d point out one to me. I always ask them why. Why that one? Shrugged shoulders and “I don’t knows” are not an option. They also know that the pigs color or cute factor doesn’t qualify as a solid reason either. After they give me their reasons, I’ll say what I think. They also made sure to get Garrett and Dr. See’s opinion as well. We would all point out different pros and cons to the various pigs.

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After much deliberation, they decided to go with the two pigs I had originally picked out, but they had reasons for picking them now too.dsc_0922

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When we got home, they asked me questions about the good and bad parts of their pigs. I love that they are asking questions, and growing in their skills, knowledge, and responsibilities. They are doing more chores than ever, and make an effort to research about their projects.

They haven’t mastered it all yet, but I love how they are always looking to learn more. Showing livestock isn’t just about the ribbons; it’s about the lessons. Even if they don’t judge livestock in the future, they have learned to analyze a situation, reasearch, ask questions, and seek advice. And, that I think is more important than picking a good pig to win (although we are confident that we picked some good ones).

Most livestock lessons don’t happen in the ring. They happen beforehand…in the barns and homes of the stock show families. Those lessons made me into who I am today, and they continue to impact kids all over.

I can’t wait to see what lessons they boys will learn with their new pigs–Violet and Chickadee.

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When Did Farmers Become Villains?

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The picture of that little girl is me. I was about 9 years old and had just shown my first goat. I enjoyed playing dress-up, creating adventures with my Barbies, and watching Disney movies. In all my days as a child, I imagined many things for myself, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

In a world of princesses, I was Belle and Cinderella, but never the Beast or the evil queen. I was the Wendy, soaring with Peter Pan, but never was I Captain Hook. As a young girl, I imagined so many scenarios and plots that took me to distant lands and allowed me to be a princess, heroine, adventurer, explorer, or president, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

Yet, here I am at 23, and somehow, I with so many others that I hold dear, have become villains. Why? It wasn’t because of the want of power or greed. No, it was because I…we are farmers.

As a little girl, I LOVED living on a farm. For me there was no better life. I learned values like hard work, honesty, good sportsmanship, responsibility, compassion, grit, and dedication. When I looked to the other farmers I knew, I saw that in them too. So, it would come as a shock when I, along with other farmers, were grouped together and villianized.

As I grew older, I began to hear the ripples of people who condemned the farmer. And so, I decided to share with others what I knew about farming. I decided to share my passion, and my love for it. I had no idea how HARD it would be.

I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I don’t think I expected people to attack me and farming with such awful accusations. All of a sudden, I was a murderer for eating bacon. I was a rapist for allowing animals to be bred. I tortured animals, had no heart, and was even a cannibal. I was compared to Hitler, told I was participating in slavery, and destroying the environment without a care. I was a villain.

But the truth was, I was just a farmer. I was a girl who had dreamed of flying with Peter Pan, and had become a farmer. Somewhere in there, though, activist groups, individuals, and the media deemed me and so many others as the villain.

When did the farmer become a villain?

How could the farmer become a villain?

Perhaps it is because only 2% of the population are farmers, and many no longer understand agriculture. Or maybe, it is because media coverage of farming drastically diminished at the same time people were becoming farther removed from farms. So, when the media did turn their attention back to farmers, they looked much different than Old McDonald. Perhaps farmers are villains simply because social media allows people to be more bold and say horrible things.

Whatever the reason, the farmer is a villain.

But, are they truly  villains?

No.

How do I know? Because I am a farmer, and I know my heart. This is not the heart of a villain. This heart has mourned the loss of an animal, broken for the ruined crop, and toiled day in and day out, all while being told it was a murderer.

More than a farmer, though, I am a person. The other farmers–they are people too. And those names that we are called and the accusations thrown our way do not fall on deaf ears. They hurt. Because farming is not just a job or career. Farming is a way of life, and if people took the time to understand and get to know us farmers, they’d find out we are far from villains. They’d find that they have us all wrong. We are so much more.

When did farmers become villains?

They didn’t. They have always been a resilient community with large hearts and a passion for the land, food, animals, people, and their families.

So, I will hold my head high. I am not a villain or even a princess or a girl who flies with pixie dust. I will hold my head high because I am a farmer.

Lambing Season- 2016-

When it comes to animals being born on the farm, I think I get the most giddy over the lambs. There is something about those little wooly babies and their over attentive mommas.

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Aspen was the first ewe to go. We walked outside to 2 little black girl lambs.

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Meet Lace….

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and Silver…

I just knew it would be a short time before the next lamb would arrive. I checked several times a day and through the night. Alas, it was like watching a pot boil. Finally, Aspen’s sister, Fiona, had a super splashy baby girl that is all diva. Meet Paisley…

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We now had 3 more mommas to lamb. I made my predictions as to who would go next. Of course, they decided to spite me and go in all sorts of orders. Our old girl Duff, was the third one to lamb. Once again, we had another little girl, but this one was white! Meet Eve…

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We were down to our southdown sisters. Sybil went first and had a super black little girl. I’m somewhat partial to Sybil, so this baby was really exciting for me. Meet Georgette…

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The last arrival was Edith’s little white lamb. Once again, we had a girl. While we just missed her birth, we caught her right after, so she was still getting cleaned off by mom. Meet Evelyn…

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We are so in love with our 6 little girls. They are all very different, and have way cool wool. We can’t wait to show them at State Fair. They have already been on several field trips to visit kids and tell everybody about wool.

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Now that lambing season is over, shearing season is about to begin, so stay tuned! For now, enjoy all of the cuteness.

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You Have to be Brave to Raise Livestock

Two weeks ago was a tough week on the farm. We lost 3 animals in the span of 3 days, and that…. that was really hard.

I’ve been raising livestock for 13 years, and have had animals since the day I was born. And, throughout that time, there has been loss. It comes with the territory. Some of those losses have impacted me more than others, but no matter what animal it is, it never gets easier.

The other week we lost two goats- Tres and Nala, and our barn cat- Sassy. Tres was unexpected. She was fine one day, and gone the next.

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Nala, lost her battle to a raging infection, despite 3 visits to the vet, several antibiotics, and meds to control the fever.

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Sassy was 13 years old, and we knew his time was drawing near. He lived his last days as a house cat.

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Nala was the the third one to go, and at that point, I was ready to throw up my hands. It was entirely frustrating and emotional. You work so hard to keep these animals healthy. When they get sick, you do everything you can to make them better, and sometimes it isn’t good enough. When your best isn’t good enough, that can cut deep.

Nala went into premature labor. Not only that, but the baby was not in the proper position. After trying for 40 minutes to realign the baby, we decided that we couldn’t do it. We knew the baby was already dead, so we loaded Nala up to go to the vet. Those vets worked for more than an hour to deliver that fetus. Everyone was tired, especially Nala. She was registering a temperature of 105. The next few days was a series of banamine for the fever, antibiotics for the infection, oxytocin for a retained placenta, and more trips to the vet. We were hoping that it would clear up. We were hoping that we could try again for a baby next year, but it wasn’t meant to be. Nala was my best doe. I was the most excited for her baby. It would be her first and the first off our new buck. I put a lot of hopes and dreams into them, and it went up in smoke.

When you raise livestock, they have a purpose. It may be for breeding stock; it may be for showing; it may just be to go to market. Whatever the purpose, you put hopes into that animal. Sometimes you get your hopes up.

Losing an animal isn’t about the money spent at the vet. It isn’t about the money lost in the investment of the animal. It isn’t about having to dig a hole. It is about heart. I may not shed a tear for every animal that dies, but they all hit me. They all are a life, and that affects my heart. It doesn’t matter how many animals you have, or the scale of your farm.

I recently heard a story of a hog farm that had the PED virus. This virus caused 100% mortality in baby pigs. Although there are thousands of pigs in those barns, the farmers wept. Not because they were losing dollars, but because that life was gone, and that was devastating. The hope and potential of that animal was gone. Their best efforts weren’t always good enough.

After hearing that story and thinking of my week last week, one word came to mind-bravery. Raising animals takes bravery. You have to be brave to put hope and dreams into an animal that does not have a 100% guarantee. Even if it has a totally healthy life, the lifespan of animals is not the same as ours. You are choosing to love and care for a ticking time bomb. When that animal does pass away, it takes bravery to continue. You have to be brave to care for another animal.

When I was on the third day of losing an animal, I wanted to walk away. I didn’t want to put expectations or hopes into yet another animal that might not make it, but then… then I saw the other side of the spectrum. I saw little Pluto, only a week old, braving the cold weather to explore his world, and I smiled.

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Raising livestock is hard. It is frustrating. There are tears. There are also smiles, joy, and heart. Raising livestock takes bravery. In spite of loss, in spite of sadness, I choose bravery and to hope once more in an animal, because that is what it is all about.

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Ice, sword fights, and boys

Typically, I have a love/hate relationship with the weather, but right now it’s mostly hate. It is causing one heck of a mess around here. The grossness isn’t just about inconvenience, it is causing a lot more work too. The ice caused a lot of limbs to fall, and of course loads of mud. While these photos are from the first ice round, I thought it appropriate considering yesterday’s ice and today’s rain.

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During all the cleanup, there was a bit of an accident too.

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How? Well, let’s just say boys will be boys, and let the next picture do the rest of the talking…

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Yes, that is sword fighting. Everything turned out fine, though. Mom cleaned up Isaac’s wound and put some butterfly strips on it. He was good to go, and now has a cool upside down v scar.

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Needless to say, the weather is taking  bit of a toll on us. It’ll be fine, though. We’ll just keep praying for sunshine.

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Life of a Farm Boy

As I was flipping through photos, I was struck by what a great life farming provides. Sure it is hard work and dirty, but there is no better place to grow up in my opinion.

I always knew that I enjoyed the farm life, but wasn’t sure if I was an anomaly. There is a 12 and 13 year age gap between my youngest brothers and myself. This has allowed me to really take in what it is like growing up on a farm. I’m thoroughly convinced  that we are incredibly blessed to live this life.

Recently, a woman visiting the farm mentioned that this was her daughter’s dream. I mulled that over. My reality was her dream. Wow! How lucky am I? How lucky are my brothers?

Living on a farm can be inconvenient, dirty, and hard. Going on vacation means finding someone to feed the stock. After a ball game on Saturday, we return to make fence repairs, medicate animals, or clean barns out. By a young age, we kids know and have experienced the miracle of life and the woes of death. Everyday is a go outside day (sometimes it is just a matter of how fast can we feed).

BUT, living on a farm is… well, just scroll through the photos. It is the life of my brothers. It is the life of farm boys.

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When it Rains: Weather Causes Challenges for Hog Farmers

For many in the world, rain is simply an inconvenience. Umbrellas go up, feet get wet, traffic gets worse, plans get ruined. It is just plain gross.

For some though, rain devastates. We all know that a lack of rain can ruin crops. We have all heard of farmers praying for rain, but there are also the days where farmers are praying for it to stop.

Recently, it rained, and rained…and rained some more. I had two flooded pastures, and the sheep had to wade puddles that were more like rivers to get to a dry pen. I was beyond ankle deep in mud. It frustrated me, but there wasn’t a thing to be done… well except transfer the sheep. I realized that for us, though, the rain and muck was an inconvenience. It was a bigger inconvenience than someone who doesn’t live on a farm, but compared to what my dad was dealing with, it was just an inconvenience.

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An example of the standing water we had on the farm

Dad is an environmental manager for several hog farms. His job is to oversee the management of the land on the farms, the lagoons (containing area for hog waste), and all waste treatment from the pigs. In short he manages dirt, poop, and crops…with people.

Examples of some of his duties include managing innovative growing and harvesting bio-mass (e.g. miscanthis, sorghum, etc.) for bio-fuels. He oversees how land renters are managing that piece of land. He also monitors lagoon levels at multiple hog farms. Lagoons cannot rise to a certain level. This is why the waste (aka manure) is pumped out and used as fertilizer on crops. It is a great way farms use resources. They can’t pump this waste on the land flippantly, though. They follow strict guidelines and regulations set forth by the state. Dad makes sure they follow these regulations.

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Pumping on hay fields for fertilizer

One of his biggest enemies, is rain. I remember as a little girl seeing how stressed he was because of a heavy rain. Why is it a stresser? Well, rain can fill up lagoons and make them rise over acceptable levels if not managed. Managing the levels take place with proactive measures by pumping when it is sunny and the crops can soak it all up. They also occur in the midst of the rain. Sometimes, no matter how proactive farmers are, Mother Nature will not cooperate. She just keeps on pounding the rain.

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A low level lagoon

Can they just pump in the rain on the wet ground? Absolutely not! Can they throw up their hands and say oh well? Nope! They work overtime. They haul in tankers to haul the waste away to keep the lagoon level down. This is expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Add this stress onto the fact that if they ever hit a high level, they have to report it to the state. If they have a spill, they get fined. There is major stress trying to protect the environment, abide by regulations, and fighting Mother Nature.

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During Christmas, it rained. My dad was on the phone a lot, making calls, making decisions, and making the drive to the farm that was 45 minutes away to monitor it. There was the potential that he was going to have to call his guys and say you have to work on Christmas. Is pig poop so important that he would have to take men away from their families on Christmas? It is when it rains. It is when they are looking at rising levels, fines, and damages. It is important because if they ignore it, they fail, and they hurt their community. So, like the majority of individuals who farm, they go out in the rain, and on Christmas if needed.

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Pumping on sunny days is a proactive way to manage for rainy days.

Takeaway: Lagoons are in the news a lot as a pollutant and farmers are portrayed as the polluters who willfully ruin the environment. The truth, though is they work very hard to protect it. My dad has been an environmental manager for more than 15 years. He is the kind of guy who when given too much change, he returns it. If he returns a couple of dollars, don’t you think he would follow regulations, and safeguard the environment even at the expense of blowing his budget and working on holidays? I do. I’ve seen it for almost two decades.

This post is Dad approved.

NC State Fair–Part 3

An early morning dawned, as our last day of the NC State Fair came upon us. It was time to show some sheep.
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Days before the show, we had washed and trimmed up the sheep to get them looking spiffy for the show. We brought four ewes–Sybil, Edith, Aspen, and Fifi. The boys were super excited. The wool sheep show is one of their favorites. The night before, they put together costumes for the costume class. You can dress up your sheep and yourself, but it has to be worked around wool. Isaac was a fireman theme because wool is flame retardant.

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Gideon was an artist and explained how wool can take dye.

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Both were cute as could be. Gideon won first and Isaac won second. It was a great way to start the show!

The next part of the show were the ewe classes. These classes are judged mostly on the quality of the wool, but also on the ewe’s conformation. Classes are separated by white and colored wool, and long and medium/fine wool. Isaac and Alec were both in the white, long-wool class. It made sense as Fifi and Aspen are twins.

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This was Alec’s first time showing sheep. He didn’t mind it, but he didn’t like the height difference. At 6’4″ he did quite  a bit of bending. Still, he looked like a stud.

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Both the boys did good, but Isaac took home the blue ribbon with Aspen. Fifi and Alec got third.

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Gideon showed Edith in the white medium/fine wool class, and won fourth.

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If you went by color, you’d never guess that Edith’s twin was Sybil; however, besides the color, they look just the same. I showed Sybil in the colored, medium/fine wool class.

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Sybil can have a little bit of sass.

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And sometimes, we both toss our heads in disgust…

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But ultimately, she still gets kisses.

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She ended up pulling in a third. I was excited that the judge liked all of the girls conformation. He said they were really stout and well made. Because Isaac got first, he went back in for champion drive. Gid and I were also in the champion drive showing other people’s sheep.

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Champion drive is against all of the ewes–white and colored, long and fine, old and young. Would you believe it, Isaac and Aspen were named Reserve Supreme Ewe!! I almost let go of the sheep I was holding I was so excited. This was the second year in a row that one of our sheep has received this honor. It makes it extra special that we raised these girls.

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All in all, the show was so much fun, and super exciting!

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Our day wasn’t over yet, though. The boys had ride tickets left. We all got to ride 🙂

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DSC_0053And with that, 2015 NC State Fair was over for the Lintons. It was quite the ride (literally and figuratively), filled with so many memories. Despite it being a lot of work, early mornings, and stress, it is always one of our favorite parts of the year.

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