For a bunch of city kids, they sure know their way around a farm. And its animals.
These kids know about raising cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. They clean stalls, spread straw and shovel manure.
Still, they keep using the same word to describe this hard work.
They call it "fun."
To find out about this brand of summertime fun, the Summer Tour visited these city kids down on the farm.
The kids are members of the Greenacres 4-H Club, sponsored by Ohio State University. They spend a good chunk of every summer morning and evening at Greenacres, a 600-acre working farm and educational center nestled in the heart of Indian Hill.
"We have sooooooo much fun here," said Lindsay Rosenbaum said as she skillfully guided Mocha, her 1,100-pound heifer into a stall.
"Moooooo!" said Mocha, apparently in agreement.
Lindsay, a sophomore at Indian Hill High School and a fourth-year 4-H member, filled a feed bucket and gave Mocha room to eat.
Misty, Mocha's next-stall neighbor, mooed in delight.
"They missed each other," said Mia Hughes, a sixth-grader at Indian Hills Middle School.
The same goes for Mia and Misty.
"I can tell her anything that's on my mind," Mia said. "She can always tell how I'm feeling. If I'm sad, she can make me happy just by doing something silly like nudging me with her head."
At the other end of the farm-fragrant 76-year-old barn, Hunter Higgins, tidied the pen shared by his pigs, Little Joe and Big Bob.
Before leaving for summer school, the sixth-grader at Sycamore's Edwin H. Greene Intermediate School brushed his pigs and called them by name. The pink-snouted porkers oinked, grunted and snorted with glee.
By summer's end, the 4-Hers' animals will be on exhibit and auctioned at the Hamilton County Fair.
Then it will be time to say goodbye. Forever.
"They're going to a butcher," Hunter said.
Asked how he will feel about that, Hunter replied:
"I don't know. This is my first year in 4-H."
Kelly Gawne is a second-year 4-H member and an Indian Hills sophomore.
Kelly Gawne, 15, of Indian Hill, left, and fellow Hamilton County 4-H Club member Lindsay Rosenbaum, 15, of Kenwood walk Lindsay's lambs, Java and Latte.
(Gary Landers photo)
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She raises chickens. Nineteen of them live in a room - redolent with an aroma reminiscent of hollandaise sauce - at the base of the farm's twin silos.
Tall and ornate, the silos are architectural beauties. They're girded by matching wrought-iron spiral staircases and capped by slate-covered roofs in the shape of inverted ice-cream cones.
The silos' grand style reflects the farm's grand origins. Greenacres includes Winding Creek Farm, the 1927 estate of philanthropist Julius Fleischmann. Today, Louise Nippert and the Greenacres Foundation own and administer the land and its buildings, from barns and gate houses to workers' quarters and a picturesque mansion.
On this hot summer morning, Kelly's 19 chickens, just 2 weeks old, remained oblivious to their sweet-smelling storied surroundings.
They just wanted their breakfast. So, they peeped constantly.
Kelly scurried about the room, kept cool by the silos' thick walls.
She refilled the chicks' water bottles and feed trays. She swept droppings into a garbage can.
"This is sooooooo much fun," she declared.
Kelly insisted she was not being a sarcastic 15-year-old.
Most teenagers her age would be home, getting ready for another grueling day of enjoying their summer vacation. Heading for the mall. Going swimming. Seeing a movie. Downloading music from the internet. Swapping e-mails. Laughing. Goofing off. Acting silly.
"If I didn't have these chicks to take care of every morning," she said, "I would be asleep or watching TV."
While dishing up more feed, she asked, "What time is it?"
"I would be home asleep," she said.
Instead, she's wide awake, taking care of 19 chicks. But it's not work, she said.
It's fun, because:
"You're taking care of another living, breathing thing. They depend on you. You're responsible."
Belonging to 4-H "is all about responsibility," said Alexis Ilyinsky, a fourth-grader at Indian Hill Elementary.
Alexis' 4-H projects include photography. She plans to bring her camera to the barn and photograph her fellow club members having fun.
"Whether I'm organizing my photographs or Lindsay is brushing her heifer," Alexis said, "we are learning how to take care of things, how to be responsible."
As Alexis spoke, Lindsay readied her lambs, Java and Latte, for their supervised, leash-bound walk along Greenacre's main road.
Lindsay led Latte. Kelly took Java. Alexis and Mia came along for the walk.
"This place is a fantasy world," Mia exclaimed as the troupe walked under a leafy canopy created by two rows of oaks lining the road.
Lindsay and Kelly walked ahead. The lambs took the lead.
Silence filled the air.
But only for a minute.
Lindsay and Kelly started discussing their encounters with other, more rural 4-Hers.
"Those guys live on farms," Lindsay said.
"At the county fair a couple of years ago, they said, 'You don't know what you're doing.' "
"That's when," Kelly added, "they called us 'City Girls.' "
"Then we beat them." Lindsay said.
To the victors went the right to give the competition a nickname: Farm Boys.
Cliff Radel, a Cincinnati native, writes about the people, places and traditions defining Greater Cincinnati. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer in the city
Queen City native Cliff Radel is looking for signs of summertime where you live. Suggestions are welcome from anywhere in the Tristate.
Every Monday, a different neighborhood will be selected and a different slice of summer featured. Cliff's looking for the heart of summer, the flavor that defines your neighborhood. That could be a lemonade stand or your street's green thumb sharing the bounty of her garden with neighbors.
It could be two Reds fans listening to Marty and Joe on the radio.
Serious subjects are also welcome.
Send suggestions to: Cliff Radel's Summer Tour, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202; fax (513) 768-8340; e-mail email@example.com. Please include name, neighborhood, daytime phone number and a description of your summer scene.
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