GIRARD —  Their siblings were in various sports and other activities, however, Natalee and Alex Blake opted to try 4-H.

For the past few years, Alex and Natalee have participated in 4-H.  Each year the two take on various projects. This year, they signed up for the dog show, geology, sheep and horticulture projects.

Taking on some of these projects, however, were no easy task and without the help of the 4-H volunteers, their mother Mary Brake said, the projects would have been a difficult task to complete.

“We absolutely couldn't do it without them,” she said.

Alex and Natalee said along with learning all about their animals, plants, rocks and more, the fair has given them confidence and taught them to be independent.

Dog show

Natalee and Alex said they had always wanted to be in the dog fair.

Now, they both have a Shetland Sheepdog, one named Hazel and the other Finlee.

The siblings have worked on training the dogs on showmanship, obedience and agility.

On Sunday, the siblings showed the judges how they can lead their dogs and know the answers dog related questions.  

Alex, who is a St. Mary’s Colgan 8th grader and Natalee, who is a SMC High School senior, are in different age categories. Being older, Natalee also serves as a mentor to the younger fair go-ers, including her brother.

Both placed Grand Champion in Showmanship in each of their age divisions.

Sheep

Alex and Natalee also raised lambs this year.

On Thursday, the siblings must present the sheep in front of a panel of judges. They must display how to properly hold and lead the sheep and they must be knowledgeable of sheep vaccines, parts of the sheep and the food it needs. The sheep should be properly exercised to grow their muscle mass and during the presentation the sheep’s legs are to be “set square.”

Alex said, since the sheep were lambs, it was important to handle them often to make sure they are comfortable with people during the presentation.

“The lambs are really skittish, so it’s vital to get them used to touching them all of the time,” Alex said.

The two hope to score well on Thursday. Afterwards, Alex will be selling his sheep and Natalee’s ewe will be kept to birth lambs.

Geology

The geology project is Natalee and Alex’s favorite project, they said.

Both have been on the counsel for state.

The project entails searching and identifying rocks across Kansas, which are then placed in a display box for everyone at the fair to see.

Some things they must be knowledgeable of are the properties, rock formation, where it came from and the different minerals and fossils.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Natalee said. “I get to see friends from 4-H across the state and we look for rocks together.

“It is interesting to see how Kansas was 10,000 years ago, it was an ocean.”

This year, Natalee and her group found shark teeth near Concordia.

Her group also found “giant bones” of vertebrae, which they believed to had belonged to bison or possibly mammoth.

Horticulture

For the first time, Natalee decided to take on a horticulture made a garden which grew tomatoes and peppers.

She had to build a garden bed, then plant the tomatoes and peppers. They were watered every day, trimmed, trimmed and an eye was kept on their soil.

“The hardest part was it really dry because of the sun,” Natalee said. “I had to go out and water it twice a day.”

For Natalee, this will be her last year in the fair but it doesn’t mean she will not be around. After “aging out” of the fair, she has an opportunity to be a volunteer.

“I’m really sad about 4-H has been a big part in my life and I’ve made a lot of great friends,” she said.

 — Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.