That's a basket tomato plant, about to flower, in my south facing window, with the snow covered yard in the background. the variety is "Tumbar". I didn't plant it myself. My own tomatoes are barely 2 inches high. I was given the plant by Ralph, father of Nathan, one of my 4-H Chess Club kids.
Ralph gave me the plant on the day of 4-H Expo. We have a Northern Michigan Fair, but for many of the non-livestock clubs, 4-H Expo is the premier event. This year's Expo was at Suttons Bay School, on a lovely March day when it seemed that spring had truly sprung. Expo is a chance for 4-H kids to show off what they have learned, and what their projects are all about.
I'm afraid I don't put too much into preparing for Expo. One of the nice things about being a Chess leader is that your project is much more transportable than, say, a llama. All I need to do is lay out some boards and wait. Kids always show up and want to play, or to learn. In our chess club I put a lot of time into teaching kids how to teach chess, so Expo is a good time to practice teaching.
Nathan has a hard time adopting that teaching role. He wants to win! I almost didn't continue with Chess Club this year. In the fall, the entire 4-H program was in jeopardy, and I worked long and hard to make sure the county operations millage passed. By Christmas vacation, the housework had piled up, the paper work had piled up, and I hadn't played piano since forever. I would have been happy skip chess this winter and be a homebody, every time I saw Nathan in school he would give me a big hug and start bugging me "When are we going to play chess?"
I spent a lot of time this winter contemplating carbon footprints, local food chains, and, as always, how the human race will survive when we've forgotten so many of the old survival skills. At 4-H Expo, I found kids who were excited about all kinds of skills. We had a horse group who had sewed show regalia when they found that they couldn't otherwise afford it. We had kids in chef's hats making homemade pasta, and another group handing out samples of their homemade peppermint stick ice cream. (Now I know what to do with leftover candy canes.)
I saw a demonstration on how to show a steer, and another on how to trim my rabbit's toenails. Nathan dragged me outside between chess games to ride in a wagon pulled by two draft horses. I spoke to the kids in the rabbit group about how keeping and breeding a rare breed of rabbit could be a community service, too. I was once again tempted by the kids who made hats out of their llama's wool, but raising a llama will have to wait until I have a little more time.
I always think that I don't have time to be a 4-H volunteer, but every year I find that I'm getting a lot more out of volunteering than I'm giving up. This year I even got tomato plants.
Oh! And of course the camera! My digital camera was broken. When I turned it on all the LEDs in the display would light up and then it would shut down seconds later with the batteries drained. I gave it up for dead and spent most of the winter trying to figure out how to scrape together enough money to buy a new one. One of my former chess club kids, James Zeits, now in college, came by to play a game of chess and mentioned that the battery terminals on the camera might be dirty and that I could clean them with a pencil eraser. I tried it and it worked, so I can post pictures again!