Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

Saturday, 10 March 2018

8 tips from a novice entering a country show.

After visiting the  county show  in  our beautiful  little  town as  a spectator  for a number of years, I decided I had to be a participant in the show this year; it was a yearning to be part of the community, which should be the overriding reason, but...... I think, no I know, I am a tad competitive.....So much so I practised chucking a gum boot all around the paddock the day before the show.  The goats decided it was safer not to  hang around me!  When hubby saw me practising he had a chuckle then started to offer constructive tips. By the 10th throw I had figured out the best way to hold the boot and the exact angle to let it go for best trajectory distance.  I was sure I had this event in the bag!

Well I guess that is Tip #1 – Practise. The old saying practise makes perfect. If you have your eyes set on the baking section use the family as guinea pigs before hand. Write down every little alteration you may make to a recipe so you can duplicate the home winner.

Throughout  my schooling  years I  was a good  sprinter so I intended to  enter the  adult running races, mind you, I have not run since leaving school, and all that sprinting has ruined my knees. My husband was not so keen for me to enter this one; he is recovering from a hernia operation and said he was not carrying my broken down body back to the car.

Tip #2 –Realise your limitations (hubby’s not mine!!)

A neighbour told me the pavilion program did not change from year to year; with this in mind I perused last year’s guide for the pavilion exhibit sections to decide what I would enter.

Highest on my ‘must enter’ list was ‘A county ramble’ in the floral and decorative section.  All content had to be from the roadside or paddock, nothing to be from a garden, and displayed in a suitable container. I was in bliss, our paddocks yield up the most interesting and beautiful treasures.  My container was to be a beautiful half piece of naturally hollowed tree limb. All year I collected amazing pieces - colourful bird feathers, nest, sculls, broken pieces of discarded small farm implements, lichen covered twigs.  To my huge disappointment when I checked the new guide a month ago ‘A country ramble’ had been replaced by ‘In the backyard’ a design to resemble a backyard with accessories....Are they kidding??  Good luck with getting entries for that one!    

Tip #3 – Check the new guide before getting carried away...

And no, there were no entries for that class! Here follows the next tip.

Tip #4 – If you are aware a category is not highly contested or popular, enter it. Chances are you will get a first or second placing.  Although I notice where my daughter lives the local country show is huuuge! This particular show society have a rule if only one item is entered for a class it may not be judged. Again check your local show society guide for their rules.

I decided on twelve items to enter in the show. Four of photography, a handmade teddy bear, two covered coat hangers, two chutneys, a lemon butter, a steamed pudding and a boiled fruit cake. 
The day before the show the hall was abuzz with people dropping off their entries.  Many entries were already in place, it gave me a chance to have a wee bit of a preview to see how talented the people in our town are.

On the day we parked at the far end of the showground, stopping on our way to the pavillion to watch the sheep and cattle judging. I was being a cool customer, what will be will be, racing to the pavillion to check out how I went would not change the outcome. 

Finally at the pavillion the first display on entry was the baking section. 

When I had dropped my entries off a neighbour was helping to take the cakes in the baking section.  In conversation she gave me a clue as to what I was up against with judging in that section. Oh my!  How could I have the audacity to pit my novice competition cooking skills with that of the Country Women’s Association judge?!  Big mistake!  

The judging criteria by these CWA judges is strict, rigid and pedantic, do not stray from the guidelines or for that matter, from my observations, from the absolute traditional. 

I was told this particular judge was ‘extreme’ in her criteria, wanting to disqualify entries. I suspect my untraditional boiled fruit cake was one.  I am reliably told she went on and on about how much she hated the decoration on my cake, ripping it all off, and how entrants must follow the rules. Nowhere in the guide lines did it state I was not allowed to decorate my boiled cake so possibly this was a foible of the judge.

This one did not impress the judge

My steamed pudding has been a huge favourite with family and friends for years. It is sticky, super rich, chock full of fruit deliciousness but it didn’t pass muster either. What on earth do the judges know if they don’t bother to taste the entries!

In both classes there were only three entries, with only a first and second place awarded. Never mind, hubby and I are gorging ourselves and enjoying immensely my self awarded third placed cooking efforts.

Tip #4 – When it comes to the baking section in this class, do not decorate anything unless it states ‘iced’, you will upset the sensibilities of the judge. Traditional recipes appear to be more favoured. 

My mango chutney was awarded third place in the ‘other chutney’ category. I did enter another variation of the mango chutney that was not placed.  I really didn’t think the chutneys would do well as usually chutney needs three months to mature, lose the acidic taste and for the flavours to meld. Mine were only 8 weeks old.  What I noticed was the chutneys placed were of a ‘honey clear colour’ where as my chutney that did not place was cloudy.

Tip #5 - Apple cider vinegar in chutney rather than normal vinegar boosts the chutneys colour and reduces the time the chutney needs to mature. Yay for my chutney in 3rd place!  The use of ground spices rather than whole spices in a spice bag will make chutney cloudy or muddy as in the case of my second chutney.

The sunshine captured in a jar, aka lemon butter was hotly contested. Mine did not place; it sure wasn’t for lack of anything but an egg yolk or two.  It was obvious to me all the winning jars used extra yolks; they had a creamier, thicker appearance than mine.

Tip #6 - A mixture of whole eggs and yolks offers an ideal combination of lightness and richness for lemon butter and it appears this may be what the judges are looking for. Whole eggs produce a lighter result. Don’t forget to wash the wax off bought lemons, before zesting them and be careful not to grate into the pith as this is bitter. Straining the cooked lemon butter is super important to remove any bits of cooked egg.

I was trying to be cool and calm taking a stroll around the pavilion looking at all the exhibits rather than running straight to mine. That was until hubby grabbed me by the arm and said, “You have to see your teddy bear, now!” 
Before my astonished eyes was a purple grand champion ribbon draped around my bear. I had won the highest award over every other hand made item in the section! Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this.

I love my teddy bear

Hubby raced off into the room displaying the photography leaving me in joyous tears in front of my bear. He came back out to me urging me to leave my bear to see the photography. 

Really?  Was that a first and blue ribbon attached to my triptych (three photos in a series) entry? I looked to see if I was mistaken, surely it was for the one under mine, but no, the first card had my name on it! I had only entered this one half heartedly, thinking it was not good enough.

Husband turned me 90 degrees to the back wall and there was my photo entered in the ‘Braidwood Perspective’ with a highly commended card under it. I walked over to it in a daze, with my mouth open.  

Yet again my husband came over to me and asked ‘if I was feeling clever and was my head growing with my success?’ I just nodded dumbly. He replied to my nod, “then get ready for your head to get bigger” and took me to another wall. There was my nature photo of a wattle bird with a second award!  Don’t even ask me what the first place photo was; I was too stunned to take it in. 

Tip #7 – Don’t under estimate your photos, if you particularly like a photo you have taken then enter it. After studying the photos entered, particularly some with a similar subject to mine, I still can’t figure out exactly what the judges are looking for.

Did I say I was trying to be cool and calm? That disappeared when I excitedly hurried back into the main pavilion room to see how my covered coat hangers had done.  Woo hoo!  A first and second placing! 

I floated around the pavilion on cloud nine, looking again at all the exhibits, still bewildered but excited at my successes.

You may ask how I went in the gumboot and running events.... I totally missed them because I spent too much time drifting around the pavilion!

The Show Society was running an Instagram challenge with a first prize of $150 and second prize of $50 for the best photos taken at the show on the day. It is always hard to know what sort of a photo depicts and encompasses the image of the country show. What the heck, I was feeling buoyant so I entered five photos I shot of the day.  

My hay bale stacking photo won second prize!!!

Tip #8 – Just do it! Be part of the day, the show’s success depends upon participation, the more participation the more enjoyable the day!

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