We have this cow; Gene calls her Spot. She is our rogue, fence walker, gate checker, “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” cow.


This morning as Gene and I were standing at the patio doors looking out over the pasture he said, “here comes Spot”! We watched her march up the driveway from the back pasture, heading straight to the gate.  Occasionally she would stop and glance towards the house as if she was checking to see if anyone was looking.  It was obvious what her mission was.


 She looked the gate and noted that it was closed and then looked around to see if anyone was watching before going back the way she came.  (She didn’t see me catching her on security camera!).  She walked all the way up the pasture just to look at that beautiful closed gate!




If Gene goes through the gate and leaves it open for awhile, she is the one who will find it even if she is nowhere in sight. There is this alarm system that goes off in her brain- boss has left the gate open-go for it.

Quite often in the summer time we see her down on her front knees, head stretched under the fence eating grass even though there is plenty of grass on her side of the fence.  It is a defiant “just because I can do it” attitude.


Maybe it is her spots-she is the unique cow in the herd of mostly black angus.  Somehow the spots fit her well, individualist bovine that she is!


Bunk Feeding with Vertical Mixer Wagon

IMG_6847 IMG_6869 One of the joys in the life of a farmer is getting a big project completed. My farmer hubby has been dreaming, planning and researching this bunk feeding project for months. While I surfed facebook in the evenings, he was browsing the web looking at other farmers’ ideas and equipment, trying to figure out what he wanted, was economically feasible and would work best for his situation. We have approximated 150 plus brood cows plus young stock. For years we have been using round bales feeders  but the cows make a terrible, muddy mess around the  feeders in the winter which means there is hay that gets wasted.  Gene felt he needed to have a something different before this winter. Finally the pieces began to fall together and this weekend he completed the bunk and it was ready to use.


I climbed up on that ladder and looked inside…..


There were some serious looking blades inside the mixer.



The mixer will grind and hold 2 round bales at a time.  It takes about 20 minutes to grind a load and he can grind on the go.





The mixer grinds the round bale into small pieces and mixes it all together; the best with the not so best of the hay.

This keeps the cows from wasting hay-they eat it all and all the cows get to eat the same thing. The more timid cows who stand back and wait will get the same mix of hay as the more aggressive ones. They say you save about 30% doing it this way.  Last year he baled 1900 bales and this year he only got 1200.  He had to figure out a way to stretch the hay!

You can also mix feed supplements such as Purina Superlix, corn or other commodities such as brewers grain with the hay.


At first the cows paid no attention. They were laying out by the hay rings waiting on their supper!

Suddenly one cow who was off in the woods on the side caught on to what was happening. She came out with her calf and started bawling-alerting her herdmates that food was now on the table!


It wasn’t long until the whole herd was bawling and coming to the bunk.

(We even had a neighbor email and wonder what the ruckus was about with the cows tonight and if everything was ok!)


Gene talking to his cows as they came to the bunk.


The first to the bunk!


It wasn’t long until they were lined up munching away.






My view from the house.

It took 2 batches (4 bales) to fill the 288 foot bunk.


Below is a video of filling the bunks.

A note about the video: First you will see Gene filling the bunk and then you will see a cow from the side figure out supper was being served. She starts bawling and then you can see the other cows start to get restless and start bawling. When Gene calls them they start coming. They know the tractor means feeding time but something different is happening. If you notice they are laying around their empty bale rings waiting for them to be filled.


All fall he has been working hard …..

First there were a few trees to be removed. Our son, Keith, did the tree removal, grading and setting of the bunk.



Gene is removing a fence that was in the way and will be relocated.



Setting the bunks on a good base of ground up asphalt from a highway project.


Graveled the driveway.



The long term goal is to have a roof and a concrete slab but sometimes things have to happen in stages!



280 foot loooooooong! Gene figured he need 2 foot per cow.


Building a fence to keep the cows off the drive through side.


Finishing touches.


Making an electric cattle guard.


He has an electric cattle guard at each end of the bunk. The wires are maybe 6″ above the ground and he can drive over it.

The cattle won’t cross it as they can smell the electricity. They use this method out west on roads where cattle roam the open plain. Time will tell if this works.

Gene says the cattle will tell him what they like and don’t like, what works and doesn’t work and he will make adjustments.

A farmer knows how to interpret the actions of his cows!

Note: When you do something different there are always things to learn.  We are now on day 2 and Gene is very pleased with what he sees happening.  The cows are contented, eating off and on all day and not crowding the bunk.  The four bales lasted 24 hours. He had been feeding 5-6 bales.  We will see how this figures out-whether this trend continues. This evening he added some water and Purina Superlix to the hay as it was mixing. He really liked the results. We will add an update after a few days.


Shoo-fly Cupcake Recipe

I can not take one ounce of credit for this recipe-it came from a friend, Joyce Lehman, who says she got it from Evie Hostetter.  Recipes passed from friend to friend are the best and this is an incredibly delicious cupcake and gets even better after a day or two. So sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy!

Mix together and reserve 1 cup to sprinkle on the top

2-1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup butter, soften

1-1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. baking powder


Add remaining ingredients and beat well:

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1-1/2 c. boiling water

1 tsp. soda


Fill cupcakes 1/2 full and sprinkle top with reserved mixture. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Yield: 22-24 cupcakes.

Cake: 13″x 9″ pan. Bake 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Thanksgiving Letter from Ryan

Today we received a very special letter in the mail from our grandson. As a happy grandma, I just have to share it-just as he wrote it.


(This picture is from the memory he refers to in his letter. His face is just glowing with pride!)


November 24, 2014

Dear Grandma,

At school we’re writing a letter to someone we’re thankful for and I chose you. I want to thank you for teaching me on how to drive the golf cart. I enjoyed it so much I wrote about it for “The First Time I” story. I also remember the time you made the storage room into a room that I felt very comfortable in.

This year Thanksgiving is going to be partly Christmas to me because the other half of my family is having Christmas at my house. I can’t wait for spring break to come, so Karla and I could possibly stay a week at your house. (Not like last time.)

Grandma, How’s the store going? Are you selling a lot?


Dear Grandpa,

At school we’re writing a letter to someone we’re thankful for and I chose you.

I want to thank you for when you took me on a tractor ride in the morning. Also when we were on the hay ride and we saw the new born calf. (At least we thought.)

Scan-Ryan (2)

Grandpa, how’s the farm going? Are the cows going well?


Ryan Hostetter

Light One Star

“High on my list of favorite things is lighting the nativity star on our farm the day after Thanksgiving.


The star is one of the most popular Christian Christmas symbols.  As a star shines light on a dark night, the nativity star represents the light of Jesus in a dark world. Since the beginning of time stars have been used for navigation.  Over 2,000 years ago, one particular star guided the wise men (astrologers) to the promised Messiah.  When they entered the house where the young child lived, they fell to their knees in holy awe and worshipped the Son of God. (Matthew 2).

There is nothing glamorous about the nativity star, but it radiates a silent holiness as it shines forth a message of remembrance, of hope and of promise.  Sadly, it has been removed from most Christmas decorations. It no longer has the place of honor on top of Christmas trees or shines from rooftops.  Santa has not stolen it’s glory, nor has it’s meaning been distorted; it has just simply, quietly, disappeared. The last several years I have looked for stars as we travel during the month of December.  You can travel hundreds of miles and see just a handful.

I am reminded of the song “Light One Candle” written by Peter Yarrow and sung by Peter, Paul and Mary in the turbulent 60’s. It was a protest song but I found myself singing the chorus this week.

Light One Candle


Don’t let the light go out

It’s lasted for so many years

Don’t let the light go out

Let it shine through our love and our tears.

I have lit my star.

May I challenge you to light one star?

If every Christian in America lit a star there would be millions of glowing, radiant stars giving testimony to the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.

I am the light of the world.

If you follow me, you will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.


(John 8:12)

Don’t let the light go out!

Like A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

white water raftin

Today a friend called and we exchanged the normal “how are you today” greetings. Then she said, “do you really want to know how I am?”  She dared to give me a glimpse into her soul and what she is dealing with.

Just this past week I had stumbled across a note written in my Bible. “Faith is not a bridge over troubled waters but a path through it.” For the last week I have been mulling this over in my brain.  In 1970 my high school graduating class choose “Bridge Over Trouble Waters” by Paul Simon as our class theme song.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you

I’ll take your part
Oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl, sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine

Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

 As I have matured and struggled along the path of life’s journey I have come to realize that this may be a nice sounding song but the reality is there is usually no mystical bridge over troubled times in our life where all my dreams come true and the stars are shining. Neither can I lay myself down so that a “silver girl can sail on by”.  No, we each have to brave the current, wade into the deep and take the path that goes directly through the frothy, white water rapids.  It may be the ride of our life with the boat careening out of control and banging into rocks. There may be times when we wonder if we will make it through or become trapped under our capsized canoe.  We may feel helpless, lonely, discouraged and fearful.  Maybe we need a friend who doesn’t sail behind us but walks beside, shining a little light on our path; praying, encouraging, helping and cheering.

I love the words to the popular song by Casting Crowns which so much so poignantly speaks to God’s presence our lives in the midst of the storm.

Praise You in This Storm

I was sure by now God,

You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say, “Amen” and it’s still raining.

But as the thunder rolls I barely hear Your whisper through the rain, “I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls I’ll raise my hands

And praise the God who gives and takes away.


And I’ll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands

For You are who You are no matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand

You never left my side and though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm.

I remember when I stumbled in the wind You heard my cry,

You raised me up again

But my strength is almost gone

How can I carry on if I can’t find You


But as the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain, “I’m with you”

And as You mercy falls I’ll raise my hands

And praise the God who gives and takes away.

And I’ll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands

For You are who You are no matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand You never left my side and though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord The Maker of Heaven and Earth

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The Maker of Heaven and Earth.

And I’ll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands

For You are who You are no matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand

You never left my side and though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm

And though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm

Faith grows when we go through something.  Faith happens when I release my inability to control to my Heavenly Father.  God promises His presence and in His presence I find strength, peace and security.

  • Isaiah 41:10  Fear not, for I am with you. be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will hold you with My righteous right hand.
  • Isaiah 43:1b-2  Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.
  • Psalms 23:4 When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.

Faith is the hope that I will make it through. Faith is trusting in the promises of God-the evidence of things I can not see. Faith is the path through troubled waters. (Hebrews 11)


Deafening Silence

Recently the Supreme Court refused to make a ruling and by their silence overturned the laws of the states. A news article blasted the right-wing and conservatives for abdicating on the issue.  The writer accused the opposition of simply ducking the issue and surrendering to increasing public opinion and said,” the silence was deafening”.

I have mulled the phrase over and over in my mind…..”the silence was deafening, the silence was deafening”. Does the writer realize what he wrote? In silence, the voice split the ear drums.  Sometimes to fight and argue is counter productive.  Maybe by demanding, shouting, fighting, and belittling, one side thinks they have won and maybe they have by the laws of the land. But the stroke of a pen does not change the truth of the Word of God.  Jesus invites everyone to come to the fountain of living water where sins are washed away and lives are transformed.

To fight back with unkind words, mutilates the issue.  Public opinion does not change the morality of right living.  Jesus invites us to love people as he did and treat them with respect so that they are drawn to Him.  Somehow, meeting Jesus always changes lives, cleanses the heart and transforms desires and attitudes.

I am sadden, frustrated and disappointed with the moral decline in our nation.  I am frightened at the reign of terror and evil threatening to take over the world. I am mad at the gross corruption at all levels of our government.  I am worried that the voice of Christians is being silenced. But what can we expect when we remove God from every fiber of our nation.

The writer of the article basically said the “right” has quit talking. Have we not observed that the voice of truth is no longer heard and appreciated?  Have we not observed that the words that are spoken are twisted into strangling ropes of hate and rejection?  Being against seldom makes people want what I am for.  Being against somehow seems to give credence to the opposition and emboldens their stance. Being against is like shooting a gun that backfires.

Maybe, just maybe, the best weapon of defense is not fighting against but striving for. If you care to listen, I tell you what I am for.  I am for loving my enemy and forgiving those who offend and hurt me. I am for kindness, gentleness and self-control. I am for sanctity of life, faithfulness in marriage, purity in relationships and dignity of life for all people. I am for justice, peace and discipline. I am for truthfulness, respect and integrity.  I am for the freedom to pray and gather to worship with other people of faith.

My voice will not echo down the halls of Congress or reverb off the wall of China. But my voice can make a difference when I hug someone who is hurting, write a note to a weary friend, speak words of encouragement,  or share precious truths of God’s Word. My voice will make a difference in the quietness of prayer.

Be still and listen. You just might be amazed at the deafening silence.

Heatwole Family Gathering-2014

Each year my extended family gets together for 1-2 day weekend-usually in the fall. Each of us siblings takes turns hosting the gathering. This year Ed and Eileen were the gracious hosts in their spacious house.  The cool, damp, misty weather kept the adults from sitting around the fire on their patio but the children still enjoyed playing outdoors.





Scotch tape and sticks kept the children busy and creative for quite a while.







Our train fanatic!








Do you think she is taking a “selfie”?


We had a pantry shower for the newlyweds-Aaron and Brittany- and grandmother gave them a quilt she had made.

She made each of the 13 grandchildren a quilt and Aaron, the youngest, was the last to receive his.



Someone is cleaning up his spill!



We had a catfish fry and homemade hush puppies for supper along with lots of other good food and homemade ice-cream (chocolate, grape-nut and butterfinger).


True southern Alabama style hush puppies, made by Krista Heatwole,  ready to fry.


 My siblings & spouses, along with my parents, met for breakfast on Sunday morning.

This has become a special time for us.


Mother and Daddy (Dwight and Fannie Heatwole).

They had 4 children.


Pat and Gene Hertzler


Rich and Marj Heatwole


Phil and Ev Borntrager


Ed and Eileen Heatwole

Now we are a family with 13 grandchildren and 23 great-grand children.

Note: to those who couldn’t make it…you were missed and hope you enjoy the preview of the day.

Family Camping-2014

This was the first time our family did a little vacation together. We went camping at Paradise Lake Campgrounds in Appomattox, Virginia.


Obe, Jill and family were the true campers and thanks to them we all had a good time sitting around the campfire and eating from the grill over the firepit.




The rest of us were “sissyfied” or “comfyfied”-and proud of it!


Keith and Alivia, Noah & Lauren had a cabin. It had a small refrigerator and microwave.


Gene and I, along with Emily had the only cottage. (Only 4 people were allowed per site). It had a kitchenette with stove, refrigerator, microwave and sink. We also had our own bathroom with shower!!!


We took the golf cart along and thoroughly enjoyed cruising the trails and grounds.



Fished all morning, caught no fishes…fished all morning,  caught no fishes….the problem was Jesus didn’t stop by and tell them to cast on the other side of the pier!

(The ladies, except for Lauren, went antique and thrift store shopping in historic downtown Appomattox)






We celebrated three birthdays, Ryan, Noah and Grandpa.


The chain goes around and it makes a noise!  He played all afternoon with it, pretending to cut down trees.



Noah also got his first legos which the children had fun putting together.


Playing with legos


Ryan wanted tools and he got a real cordless drill.


Surprise!  Grandpa got cashews!!!


Obe, Karla, Ryan and Lauren braved the COLD water.




Lauren…I think I will, I think I will….


Karla keeping her head above the water.  She finally after much encouragement took the plunge into the cold!






Grandpa-tuckered out!


Lauren and Karla


Lauren, Karla and Noah


Jill and Ryan


Obe-I wonder what he is thinking???

I looked around the campfire and liked our feet!









November, 2004


A voice on the phone said, “I just got a call from Denbigh and the homeplace is on fire.”   Suddenly time stands still, horrible images flood the mind, the heart skips two beats and then the mind says “it can’t be true.”

“What do you mean the house IS on fire?”  You suddenly realize it is NOW, right now, happening at this precise moment.  A special house of memories and treasures is burning 90 miles away and you cannot do a thing about it.  Is it a small fire on the kitchen stove or a fully engulfed, raging inferno?  Is everyone safe?  How long has it been burning?  What happened?  Ten minutes later we were on the road racing towards Denbigh.

As we traveled our minds were on one situation. We had few answers.  We were told the fire started around noon. It is now 3 o’clock and the fire is still burning.  The travel conversation became questions that neither of us could answer and reflections on the “what ifs”, and “has beens”.  The useless babblings were somehow soothing to the nerves and unsettling all at the same time.

The house is the Hertzler homeplace. The house was built by H.P. Hertzler  (Gene’s Grandpa) in the heart of what used to be a rural Mennonite colony.  In 1897 Isaac D. Hertzler and D.Z. Yoder bought a 1200-acre run-down plantation.  The land responded to the farmers and a colony of Mennonites farmed, prospered, multiplied and worshipped in a tight-knit community.  As the surrounding city grew, houses and shopping centers began encroaching on the farm community.  In time the colony began to disperse in search of other farming land.  Today there is an urban Mennonite community in the heart of the city.

About a mile from our destination we rolled down the windows and sniffed. A pungent burnt odor permeated the air.  We rolled up the windows and rode in silence.

As we turned on Colony Road we could see the flashing lights of the fire trucks.  Then the house came into view. People were everywhere.  The house was still standing.  It almost looked normal!


The firemen did a wonderful job of saving the house. It was bad but it could have been so much worse.  It is repairable.  In the midst of the overwhelming devastation there was relief and hope.  It was sad what was lost and amazing what was saved unscathed.  Friends and neighbors were offering words of comfort and help.

Stuff. It is JUST stuff.  But no, it is so much more than meaningless possessions. Pictures, photo albums, family heirlooms, homemade keepsakes, comfy clothes, financial records, handmade quilts, china set, mismatched chairs, refinished furniture, books. That stuff is precious, priceless treasures!

A new chair may look better and fresh pictures may glow but the “sentimental value” can never be replaced. We know God will give strength when we are weary, His grace will be sufficient, and His peace will calm.  We have no claim of tomorrow even though a new day beckons.  We are pilgrims with roots and homes in a foreign land.  Sometimes we discover how fragile life is and yet how settled we have become.

Written: November 18, 2004












That evening a friend and neighbor, John Henry Brenneman,

 pulled in his camper so that they had a place to call “home” for the next months.



Five days later we went down and dad had already begun the work of cleanup and restoration.

Front Door


Dad had an incredible overcoming spirit. He was 85 years old when the fire happened and he tackled the overwhelming job with determination. Friends rallied to help him but he did a lot of the work himself.  When the job was done, the house had been restored. It was amazing how much was salvaged even though every room in the house suffered some kind of damage. Almost all of the household items sold at the estate sale had survived the fire.

The fire started in the basement from a faulty electrical box and quickly spread to the main floor and then to the second. The third floor had smoke damage. The nic-nac rack I got at the sale survived and was on the wall in the living room where the fire was most intense. It was amazing the old timber-frame house was able to withstand the flames.  It was also amazing how some items could be so close to the “hot-spot” and come through unscathed. But everything-every piece of china, plateware, clothing, etc. had to be cleaned. Amazingly the photo albums also survived and they also were in the center of the fire.

This past weekend at the sale I remembered the fire and had to revisit pictures and my journal post from that day.

Related post: Estate Sale-Bringing Closure

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