When Things Pile Up

This has been a rough six weeks and it is not over yet.

The end of June Gene’s shoulder suddenly got very, very painful. Extreme would be a better description.  He had all the classic symptoms of a torn rotator cuff  but he didn’t know how he had hurt it.  They did a MRI and it showed a tear.

When asked on a scale of 1-10 how bad it hurt, he would say, “15. I have had kidney stones and this is worse.” He had constant excoriating pain with no relief. A week later they did surgery and discovered that instead of a torn rotator cuff, he had calcified tendonitis and bone spurs. The layer of calcium on his tendons was 1′ thick. They had to scrap all the calcium off the tendon and remove the bone spurs. The layers of calcium on the MRI had the illusion of a tear and the symptoms were the same as a torn cuff except the recovery is much quicker and easier.  The surgeon said it was the worse case he has seen.

Recovery. Therapy. Tired. Aching muscles. More recovery. More therapy.

Two weeks ago on Sunday morning he woke up feeling terrible. He had pain in his groin and his back hurt. He thought it was sore muscles from his therapy exercises but the next morning proved him wrong. He passed a kidney stone!

Ten days later (this past Wednesday evening) at 5:30 the ominous pain hit again. Four hours later I was in the ER with a man in terrible pain. He said,  “I take back what I said. I had forgotten how bad kidney stones were.”

Pain. Terrible pain. Horribly miserable. Pain meds. No relief.

To make a long story short, Gene has seven more stones between his two kidneys. They kept him overnight and on Thursday they did surgery to put in a stint to see if it will help him pass the stones. Right now there is a large one causing the problem. If he does not pass it in the next several days they will do a lithotripsy next week to break the stone into smaller pieces.

We are not out of the woods yet with this ordeal.  Gene has to finish getting over the shoulder surgery and therapy and kidney stones all at the same time. We don’t know what kind of trouble the seven little stones will cause. Gene told someone tonight that he is now in the mining business!!!

When things pile up it helps to count your blessings. 100 years ago people died from kidney stones and there would not have been a solution to his shoulder issue.  We are so blessed with modern medicine and we do not want to take it for granted. But more than anything I want to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for allowing us the privilege of benefiting from these blessings.

In the year of 1976

The other day when I was cleaning a book shelf,  I found a notebook where I had recorded “stuff” from 1976-1982.  It was a treasure of information; my weight, several grocery store receipts, expense ledger, pregnancy records, how to feed newborn lambs and treat sick ones and the menu and expenses for a New Years Eve Banquet at church in 1975.


When I became pregnant with our first child in 1975, I weighed a mere 137 lbs. I gained 16 lbs and I  remember one man told me I was the biggest pregnant lady he had ever seen!!!  Guess what, I still remember who that man was! He got by with it because he was a friend!!! The doctor’s fee for the pre-delivery visits, delivery and 6-week check up was a whopping $475. The hospital expense for my 5-day stay (which was the normal stay) was $750.

By the time of my second pregnancy a year later the doctor’s fee went up to $550.


Grocery Expenses: Spring 1976.

For the Powhatan folks, my three grocery stores were Maxeys in the village where Four Seasons Restaurant now is, Mays at Flat Rock and Giant on Midlothian Turnpike on the other side of Chippenham Parkway (150).  I loved Maxeys and Mays. They were small, family-owned grocery  stores where you were called by name by all the employees. All three of these stores are now just memories.

  • My grocery bill averaged $120 a month. Now I often spend that a week!
    • Margarine 43 cents lb.
    • 10 lb. sugar $2.37
    • Box cheerios 63 cents
    • Bottle Ranch dressing 25 cents
    • Loaf of bread 34 cents
    • Aluminum Foil 81 cents
    • 10 lbs. Potatoes $1.49
    • Roll paper towels 49 cents
    • Bag of Potato Chips 89 cents
    • 5 lb Flour 95 cents
    • Tooth paste 26 cents
    • Bag of Nestlé’s Chocolate bits 65 cents
    • 1 lb. peanuts 89 cents
    • Box of Ice-Cream $1.09
    • Ajax powder 30 cents
    • l lb Bacon $1.33
    • Bar soap 63 cents
    • Kraft Mayonnaise $1.15
    • Bag of oranges 55 cents
    • Box Kix cereal 67 cents.

Folks, I didn’t make those prices up and this is only 40 years ago. We did have our own farm-grown milk, beef, eggs and garden produce.


These were the days when there were no stoplights or shopping on Route 60. The first stoplight from Powhatan was at K-Mart & Giant on the east side of Cloverleaf Mall which was under construction.  (Gene doesn’t think K-Mart was there yet-it was another store but he can’t remember what it was). They broke ground for the mall after we were married in 1972.  This was a big deal as the closest shopping was at Southside Plaze, a very small mall on the Boulevard (168) or in downtown Richmond on Main Street.

Heading east on Route 60 there was Watkins Nursery, the burg of Midlothian with a drugstore on the main drag along with a few other small stores behind it. If you blinked, you missed it.  and then there was nothing else but open land. It felt like a long drive to town.

Garden Seeds:

  • 1/2 lb. sweet corn seed: $1.61
  • 1 lb. pea seed: 85 cents
  • Pkg lettuce: 49 cents
  • 1 red azalea, 8 pansys and 2 yellow tomatoes: $2.86


Another memory.

When we got married in 1972, we stopped on the way home from our honeymoon to buy groceries at Giant. We purchased two grocery carts full for $100. We thought we had spent a fortune!!! The next week we went back and spent another $100. I felt like I was now queen of my kitchen (just like my mother) and had everything I needed: spices, cleaning supplies, baking supplies, paper ware and a stash of other basic food necessities.


Church New Years Eve Banquet-1975

We fed 85 people for a cost of $109.95 and purchased flowers for $5.00.

Our menu was salad with crackers, roast beef & gravy, baked potatoes with sour cream, butter beans, rolls, apple pie and ice-cream.

The ninety baking potatoes, 11 pies and drink were donated.

For some reason I have no recollection of this event. My notes say Marvin and Fern Hertzler donated the potatoes and Janis Ranck, Cheryl Hertzler, Nancy Moyer and Bev Burkholder made the pies and Sheila Schaefer and Carol Landis provided the drink. I think this was probably a youth event since the youth girls made the pies and Gene and I, along with Dave and Nancy Moyer, were youth leaders during this time.

And that my folks, is the way it used to be!

Remodeling the Bathroom

Out with the old…


In with the new…wow does it feel good!!



Besides being outdated, our bathroom was in dire need of a redo. Who knows how old it was, probably as old as me.  The shower tile was cracked and tired, the caulking gross, the toilet seal had leaked and the sink old fashion. There was no insulation in the outside wall or floor. We decided to totally gut the room.

Before pictures…



IMG_0521 (2)



You served us well, rest in peace.

Tearing out….is nasty!




In with the new…

We insulated the walls, floor and duct work under that area, hung new sheetrock and did a total redo of the shower.  We decided to remove the tub and just go with a shower.  New vinyl, vanity, toilet, shower fan & light combo, fixtures, mirror, heater and light complete the makeover.

I was even able to recycle some of the old. The toilet went to a friend, the sink to Goodwill and the tub to Bermuda to scald pigs in a butcher shop.





Now, I have this problem; I keep going to the bathroom…. well, just to look!!!  It feels so clean, bright, pretty and inviting.

Cousin Joe Hertzler, you did an awesome job! Thank you.







Lost in thought, concentrating on his work.


Joe is a very meticulous, neat and experienced master of his trade.

Alma Hertzler’s Funeral

For the Hertzlers who could not make it to Alma’s funeral on June 21 in Fair Play, South Carolina, I took a few pictures.


She may have lost the fight with cancer, but she did not lose the battle.


Alma… back in the day!

 I took a few pictures of Uncle Harry’s tribe.


David and Ilva Hertzler


Joe and Norma Hertzler


John Paul (JP) and Alma Hertzler  -taken from a picture.


Daniel Hertzler (I failed to get a picture of Ruth)


Michael and Kay Hertzler


Philip and Lois Danner


Henry and Gwen Hertzler


Cousin Bob and Marie Hertzler talking to Henry.





The church was packed to overflowing and the accapella singing was heavenly. I recorded one song, “Shall We Gather At the River”.

It was so obvious that this sweet, gentle lady was so  loved by many and will be greatly missed. But because of the awesome, incredible love of Jesus Christ, we will be together again!



A Little Less of Me


It really is embarrassing to admit the “unfit” shape I let myself get into. But I am going to be honest and tell you about it and also show some before and after pictures.  If this motivates someone else to make the choice to take control of their eating habits and health, it will be worth every word, every pound, and every mile on the treadmill.


2016-02-27 19.14.43

These two pictures were my real wake-up call.



You can read my first post, My Fitness Pal, to see my motivation to get started and what I did. I started using My Fitness Pal the beginning of February and weighed 187 lbs.  It is now June 6th, four months since I started, and I am within a few pounds of my goal, 40 lbs of weight lost.  Set out ten 4 lb. bags of sugar or a 40 lb. bag of dog food.  Yes, that is the extra weight (oops, I was going to be honest…”fat”) I was toting around on these aching bones and knees. I can hardly believe it.


Me hugging my weight!!!  That is a 40 lb. bag. I can hardly believe how heavy it is-and it was on me.

I can honestly say my knees no longer hurt and they were on my mind 24/7.  The doctor said I had arthritis in my knees and put me on medicine which had some very bad side effects for me.  What she should have said was “you are too fat and need to lose weight”!  I no longer get out of breath walking up the hill from the chicken house.  I no longer feel I “have” to ride the golf cart every time I go to the garden. I can now get on my knees and wash up the kitchen floor. I can bend over and pick up sticks in the yard.  I can go get groceries and not feel like I can hardly put one foot in front of the other.  I am no longer tired and feel like I am an old woman. I am no longer ashamed at how I see myself in the mirror.

I wanted a diet plan that was not a “fad” plan and deprived me of eating food groups or starve myself half to death. I knew that would only set me up to fail-I’ve had experience with those. I wanted a plan that changed the way I thought and ate and helped me to continue on a healthy path after I reached my goal. I have lost weight several times in the past and I could never keep it off.  I am very optimistic that by continuing to record everything that goes into my mouth, I will maintain a healthy weight for the rest of my life.

I stumbled on to MyFitnessPal.com when I was trying to find the calorie count of a certain food.  I set what I thought was an attainable goal of 165.  I have changed it three more times; 160, 155 and now 147! You may wonder why the odd number. I wanted to be in the forty’s and 147 was 40 lbs. of weight lost.  It has been years and years and years since I was in the 40’s! This is truly the best weight management tool I have ever found as it allows me to manage what and how much I eat as long as I stay within my allotted calorie allowance. It is like my husband says, “calories in, calories out. It is as simple as that.” I have adjusted some cooking methods but we already used very little sugar, pasta, bread, corn or potatoes because Gene struggles with diabetes, however,  I will eat them in moderation. I have had to make some choices and sacrifices on what I eat.  There were times I really, really, really craved a bowl of ice-cream or a candy bar and knew I did not have the calories left for the day to eat it.  I have also found on this plan that if I really blow it one day, it is ok.  When eating at fellowship meals, restaurants, cook outs or special meals is almost impossible to stay within my calorie allowance.  I am learning to just relax and let be what is. One meal does not mess up a diet as long as you let that one meal be that one meal and then continue on the next day with your management plan.

It also helps to have an encourager or partner in crime.  My husband has been very supportive and I have a friend and her husband at church who have joined me on this quest. Ruth is going to be the “mother of the groom” in the fall and I am cheering her on every pound lost.

A little less of me is just fine. I have gone from a size 14 to size 10 (size 8 in jeans). Just think, I get to go buy some new clothes and I have the approval of my husband!!!!  What woman doesn’t like that!



The new “little less” of me!

(I am seriously considering going just a little further- I would be so happy to lose a few more pounds but I am watching that I don’t start looking haggard)

Pansies in a line


Note #1: If this challenges you to get with the program, please write me a note in the comment section. I want to cheer for you!

Note #2:  MyFitnessPal.com ask you to record your measurements. I did not do that and now I am sorry and really wish I had. I also wish I had gotten a good picture of the “before” me to compare with the “new” me.  But when you are overweight you tend to avoid the camera!


A Good Day


Yesterday was one of those days.  When we went to bed the night before,  we knew that in the morning  we had more to do than you want to imagine!  We both had a list that needed to be accomplished.  Driving both of us was a beautiful, sunny day before the forecast said it was going to start raining again.  Gene had cut one small field of hay on Saturday afternoon. He knew he had only a narrow window of two nice days before the next rain but he felt he could get it done as he was planning to put the bales in a plastic tube. You want the hay to have more moisture (35-50%) when you tube it.

Gene is an early riser and by the time my feet hit the ground at 7 a.m, he was already hard at it, feeding cows. Of course when there is a time crunch, things go wrong. He had a flat tire on the mixer wagon that had to be fixed so he could get the cows fed.  While he was feeding,  he found a cow with wire wrapped around its head and feet. He had to catch her and cut it off.  Soon afterwards he got a call from Steve, an employee and fellow beef farmer, who had a cow tangled in barb wire and he needed help.

Back on the farm, he tilled my garden with the 6′ tiller so that I could plant.  The ground was still wetter than I like but it is the middle of May and I still do not have my garden planted.  The weather does not look good for another week or more so I felt I had to get it planted in this window of opportunity. The sun was bright and warm with a gentle breeze and by late morning the soil was nice and crumbly.

Just as he was heading to the field to rake hay, he got a call from Mr. Willis saying our big tractor that was in for repair was fixed.  Gene was very happy for that call and left immediately to pick it up as he was really needing that tractor in the hay field.  Back on the farm, he raked the hay, grabbed a bite of lunch and then baled the hay.   Just as he was finishing, Steve arrived from hauling a load of cattle to market and together they gathered the hay off the field.  By 7 PM all 27 bales were tubed and sealed. Done!













Me. I was just as busy. Between helping in the store and doing chores (fed the pigeons and hens, gathered eggs, and watered the greenhouse), I got my garden planted, strawberries, radishes, onions and asparagus picked, roses fed with Bayer 3-n-1 Rose Care, the bird feeder filled with seed, the deck swept and a strawberry pie with no crust (to help save calories since I am on a diet) made for supper.


By supper time we were both exhausted, but like Gene said, “it was a good day”. My feet hurt and every muscle in my body ached.  I didn’t get his usual help in the garden today and I had to push out my own rows but like they say, “I got ‘er done”!!! Let me tell you, it was an Advil night!  After checking facebook and email, I crashed on the sofa and Gene stretched out in his comfy recliner. Next thing I knew it was 11 PM!  Gene said I sure did seem to enjoy my snooze! If I had been awake, I can guarantee that I could tell you, he enjoyed his also!!!






Yesterday Gene and his nephew, Micah, went to a bull sale at the Rockingham Country Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg. He wanted a white-faced red Hereford to replace “Big Red” that I wrote about in “Big Red’s Last Ride”. It was dark last evening when Gene came home with BBF Harkradar 34X B29, a white-faced red Hereford bull. As Gene backed the cattle trailer up to the pen to unload him, he started making “I am here” big boy bull noises.  He could smell the other cattle on the farm. We put him in a small lot with some younger bulls and heifers for the night and what a ruckus they created. They romped and played and they chased him round and round the pen as they tried to figure out who he was. We decided to call him Radar.


This morning Gene opened the gate and let him wander into the “big boy” pen where the other bulls are resting and putting on weight before they are turned out to the cows and heifers in a few weeks to begin the intense breeding season.


He ambered out to pasture as the other bulls came running to check out the new intruder.


Within seconds, all mayhem broke loose.  Big Boy Angus stumped his feet and pawled the ground throwing dust high in the air while lowering his voice 3 octaves as if to say, “who do you think you are, I am King Tut here” as he stormed out to alert the other bulls who were quietly resting under the trees about the “young squirt” who had just entered their domain.


The bulls/steers in the feedlot pen beside the bull pen went absolutely berserk.  Radar was more concerned with them then he was the bulls and became very vocal as he expressed his manhood. We sure were glad there was a very hot electric fence in between but held our breath it would suffice.  (You can see the action in the video at the end).


Forget Radar…the bulls barely acknowledged his presence in the field. Instead, they instantly went after each other; bullying, dualing it out, heads locked together, their testosterone raging!




The white-faced bull is a home-grown offspring of “Big Red”.


While the big boys dualed it out, Radar wandered around checking out the turf before finally getting into the tussle.

Radar was born September 19, 2014 in Goochland, VA.  We thought it was neat that he got to come back east to make his home 30 miles from where he was born and raise.

Click on the link below to watch a video of the bulls in action.


Follow up note: The next morning all was peace and calm in the bull pen. Maybe they simply worn themselves out or else they figured out their status quo…. at least for this moment!


Recycling Plastic Bags = Mats for the Homeless

Plastic Bag

Would you like to do something useful with the stash of plastic bags you carry home from the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Target and many other places besides stuffing them into drawers or putting them in the trash and filling up landfills?  I have a very useful and creative idea for you.

Wanda Starke and plastic mat

Several of the ladies at our church are crocheting plastic mats for the homeless to use as a moisture/warmth /comfort barrier between the ground and their sleeping bags.  It can make the difference between life and death for these folks. And yes, it is made out of plastic bags. It is amazing how soft and durable they are, plus they are washable.  Each mat takes approximately 375 bags-depending on the size of bags.

You can use any lightweight plastic bags including the yellow bag they stuff your newspaper in on rainy days.  The short video clip below shows how to cut the bags and join them together into a long yarn.  Our ladies use size “N” to “P” crochet hooks.  With the “P” hook you start with a chain of 40 stitches across and make it 6′ long.


A completed mat, ready to be delivered.


If you are interested in crocheting mats, you can google “plastic bag crochet” and find numerous websites that tell you how. Here is one:



You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

This picture and information periodically makes it way around social media. It is full of totally false and misleading information. Let me tell you why….

False Info on Calf Hutches

This is not a veal or beef operation. Veal is not raised this way and beef calves are raised by their moms. This is a very large dairy operation.  The person who took the picture took it from the back instead of the front.  Let me tell you about the hutches….

If you notice each hutch is immaculately clean which is amazing for such a large operation but it shows the care and respect that the farmer has for the welfare of his livestock.  Each hutch also has a ventilation vent in the back with the fronts open and is 79″ long, 54″ high and 46″ wide.  If you figure the size of the hutch and the size of the newborn calf, the calf has more square foot for its size than a horse in a 10’x10′ stall.  With the hutch, the calf has protection from the weather (rain and sun), ventilation, an exercise area and its own private space which helps prevent disease.

If you look very closely at the first row at the bottom of the picture, you will notice there is a wire fence area in front of each hutch for the calf to have a romping area in the sunshine.  The picture below shows similar hutches from the front.


If the picture had been taken from the front, you would have seen happy calves napping on a pile of clean straw, with feed and water close by.  The calves are bottle fed milk twice a day.

Before they are taken from their mothers, they have gotten several good feedings of colostrum milk (a mother’s first milk) which is essential for healthy calves to thrive and survive.  The separation of calf and mother is seldom stressful. Within a few minutes or hours, she has forgotten about her calf and the calf almost never reacts. But if they are weaned at several months, that is a different story. We have found beef cattle to be much more protective of their young.

One thing people have to remember is the importance of animals in our own existence and health. We need milk to drink.  A cow can not produce milk for a nursing calf and for human consumption as the calf would get it all. For us to have milk to drink and the many other wonderful and necessary food items such as butter, cheese, ice-cream, baby formulas, yogurt, cottage cheese, puddings, cream, etc. the calf has to be raised by hand-feeding.  This is true if you have one backyard cow, a medium size herd or a very large operation.

The calves live in the hutches for several months until they are weaned. They are then moved to a larger fenced-in pasture area with other calves where they grow to maturity in two years and become dairy cows themselves.

I personally would love to visit a farm like this. I can’t imagine feeding that many calves and how much time and the number of people it would take.  There is some speculation the photo is photoshopped. Maybe. Maybe not.  Very large farms will produce a lot of calves.





Brown Eggs Versus White


There is a big misconception in people’s minds that brown eggs are better than white eggs. Let me explain.

There is no difference between a brown and white egg. It is simply a difference in the color of the shell.  The difference comes in what a hen eats.

Commercial growers use White Leghorn hens.  They are smaller in size,  have the best feed to egg conversion, and lay white eggs. They are a flighty, more high-strung bird. Backyard and producers of free range eggs prefer more colorful, docile breeds such as Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, Red Sex Link, Buff Orpington, etc. that lay brown eggs.  The more grass a hen eats, the richer and darker the yolk.

People think brown eggs are better. That is often true simply because of what the hen eats.  Because hens grown commercially aren’t fed grass, their yolks are lighter in color. White Leghorns that free-range or are fed grass have the same rich color of yolk.

Some frequently asked questions:


  1. Are blue and green eggs cholesterol free? There is no scientific proof that this is the case. Again, it is simply the color of the shell. Americana and Aracauna hens lay colored eggs. The quality of egg is determined by the diet of the hen. Hens fed Omega enriched feed, have added omega health benefits.
  2. What determines the size of egg? The amino acid balance in the feed helps determine the size of egg. Some hens, such as bantams,  naturally lay smaller eggs. I feed Purina Layena. It is formulated for extra large, jumbo eggs. However, I have found that you do not want to feed it to Bantams or Leghorns or you will have trouble with “blow out”.  I recommend you use Purina’s Country Acres or Homegrown formulas for these birds.
  3. How do I know what color of egg my hen will lay?  A hen will only lay one color of egg. Most hens are brown egg layers.  White egg layers have white ears.
  4. Why are fresh hardboiled eggs hard to peel? Fresh eggs are almost impossible to peel. An egg has to be about one week old before it peels easily.  If you need to hardboil fresh eggs, put 1 tsp. baking soda in the water and tap the egg on the side of the pan to put a crack in the shell before cooking. They will peel much easier.
  5. How many eggs will a hen lay each day? At the most, a hen will only lay one egg a day. They go through cycles and a hen will not average an egg every day.
  6. Why do they quit laying in the winter?  A hen has a light-sensitive gland in its eye that determines their laying cycle. When the day length shortens, they stop laying and molt. And yes, this is in the winter. As the day starts lengthening, they feather out again and start laying.  You can prevent this by putting a light on a timer and lengthening their day to 18 hours. Do not leave it on all night as they need time to rest and sleep.
  7. How can I get a double-yolk egg?  The first several weeks a hen lays what we call a “pullet” egg.  It is very small and helps to get the hen adjusted to laying eggs. As she starts to lay larger eggs you will find some double-yokers.  Once she is adjusted to laying, the eggs are more consistent in size. As the hen ages, you may again see some double-yokes. I actually have had some triple yolks and several times I have had a complete egg, including the shell, inside of an egg. That was exciting!
  8. What is the best white egg layer?  White Leghorn.
  9. What is the best brown egg layer? Golden Comet or Red Sex Link. They are the same hen, just called different names. They are a cross between a White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red. You get the egg production of the Leghorn with the disposition and brown eggs of the Rhode Island.
  10. Why are the beaks clipped on some ready-to-lay hens?  They do it to prevent cannibalism. That is a very bad problem with hens.  If they see a hint of blood or sometimes for seemingly no reason, they will attack and degut one of their own. This is an awful problem. I personally will not buy ready-to-lay hens that aren’t debeaked. It does not hurt the chicken nor does it hamper their eating. Animal rights activists will disagree but I prefer a nipped beak to having a hen that is literally degutted live by another hen. With free-range or only a few hens this is not a big problem.


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