Taking the Bad With the Good

Usually we only talk about the good times in farming and show the beautiful pictures of baled hay, sunsets, baby calves nursing, cows grazing, flowers and building projects. It is easy to show the picturesque. But there is also the other side we don’t like to talk about; the nasty, sloppy, wet, muddy, cold days of winter or an injured cow, broken down equipment or fences.

I decided to share some pictures of the unpleasant side!   All those of you who have animals will identify. Some of these are from the very wet December we just had with 9 inches of rain but some are from my collection over the years.  I discovered I really don’t have too many “unpleasant” pictures-who wants to take them!


What can one say?


Dried mud on the calves


Sorting calves in the mud.



The cows have literally roto tilled the hill side with their hooves.


Burning trash


Recycling scrap metal


Skull of a deceased cow


Sometimes it feels like you are mud bogging!


Rain or snow, the cows have to be fed


Sweet corn patched devastated by a group of “escaped” cows. Not one stalk was left standing.


An oops moment!


Wonder what she did to her eye!!!


Run-a-way hay bale


Unplugging a hay baler, handful by handful


God On the Mountain


Another year (2015) is coming to a close.  Remember fifteen years ago??? We were told doomsday was around the corner and our computers would crash.  The “experts” in Silicon Valley just could not possibility know if our computers could read 2000!  What a scam!  Remember seven years (2008) ago? Our world was shattered by an economical crash that still has lingering effects. Remember two years ago?  Words such as racism, political  correctness, and marriage had totally different meanings.

For better or for worse, the world is still spinning on it’s axis. What will 2016 bring?  Someone asked me that question today. I said, “I do not know but there is one thing I can tell you with certainty. We are in for an unprecedented nasty political season.”  It makes me shutter to think of what we are going to have to endure the next eleven months.

This evening my mind wandered to a true story about a terrible storm.* The disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee in the wee hours of the morning when a huge storm unleashed its fury on them. Jesus was not with them as He had gone into the mountains to pray by himself. The disciples were exhausted and afraid as the waves tossed them helplessly in the middle of the sea. Suddenly, they catch a glimpse of a shadowy figure walking on the water. They screamed with fear and gasped in terror, “It’s a ghost!”  What else could it be? No human walks on walk in the middle of the sea. Jesus speaks to them above the roar of the storm and says, “Be of good cheer (be happy). It is I; do not be afraid.”  Peter stammers out, “Lord, if it is (really) You, command me to come to You on the water.”  And Jesus responds, “Come” (Come on Peter. Come to me).  Without hesitation, Peter swings his legs over the edge of the rocking boat and takes a few steps on the rolling sea.  Suddenly a lightning bolt slices through the blinding rain and Peter sees the monstrous wave rolling over the turbulent sea towards him.  Thunder crashes.  Peter instantly is intensely aware of the storm and sees his impending doom. As he sank into the sea he cries out, “Lord save me.”  Jesus instantly reaches out and firmly grasps Peter’s outstretched hands.  Together they walk through the storm back to the boat.  Peter is now walking with confidence.  And then, there is peace. Dead quiet, instant stillness.  The calming, serene, divine presence of Jesus brought them to their knees in worship.

To be honest, I sometimes feel like we are in the midst of a huge storm that is threatening to destroy our very existence. My faith trembles like Peters as I hunker down against the raging wind and shield my face against the biting rain. The noisy clang of political pundits threatens to drown out the calm voice of Jesus gently calling, “Come…walk in the storm… come to me…. do not be afraid…. I will walk with you…I am your peace.”

Where will my eyes focus?

Our pastor has reminded us several times lately. “As Christians, we know how the story will end. We do not need to fear.”  In other words, in the midst of troubling, uncertain and even destructive times, our security, our hope, our faith, our trust is in Jesus.  Jesus has told us with his own words that this world will one day come to an end. But before it does, there will be a terrible time (storm) of war, pestilence, earthquakes, lawlessness, corruption, evil and persecution of Christians. But in the end,  He (Jesus) will return and take all believers, all who keep their eyes focused on Him, to that grand and glorious place He has prepared for us-heaven (Matthew 24).

Some of the last words of Revelation 22 are an invitation to “come”.  I have a choice.  Which will I choose? Do I focus on the storm and coward in fear?  Or, do I trust Him and reach for His outstretched hand?

The storm is raging….

  • Social media slanders, belittles, intimidates and destroys
  • Terrorists stalk our comfort zone paralyzing us with fear:  killing, intimidating and destroying
  • Monstrous storms rage across the globe
  • Love is hate and hate is love
  • Truth is evil and evil is good
  • Political rhetoric spins out of control
  • Political correctness squelches freedom
  • Corruption, immorality and injustice are winked at
  • Respect for authority is mocked
  • The right to life is mandated by “personal rights”
  • Riots, killings, war, and lawlessness of every imagination

….the lightning bolts are striking close and the thunder is booming. The boat is rocking perilously, threatening to capsize.  Do you see the “ghost” on the water?  It is really the Master coming to calm our fear. Don’t take your eyes off of Him.

I love the song God On the Mountain”.

Life is easy when you’re up on the mountain
And you’ve got peace of mind like you’ve never known.
But then things change and you’re down in the valley.
Don’t lose faith for you’re never alone.

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make it right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

You talk of faith when you’re up on the mountain.
Oh but the talk comes easy when life’s at its best.
But it’s down in the valley of trials and temptation
That’s when faith is really put to the test.

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make it right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make it right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

Author Unknown

In several hours the ball will drop in Times Square and bells will chime as we welcome 2016. It will be a new year with the inherited problems of today.  There are many things about the future I do not understand, but, I know who holds my hand.

Happy New Year!

* Three of the gospels record this story: Matthew 14: 22-33, Mark 6:45-52 and John 15:21.

Weaning Time


The last several days it has been very noisy on the farm. It is weaning time and with 95 calves wanting a drink from mama and 95 mama’s missing their babies as their udders are full of milk, there has been a lot of noise.

But the time comes and it has to happen. It is part of the life cycle of critter and human babies.  The security of baby stage must give way to more independence. Those of us who have children can remember the wails at bedtime when the pacifier was “mysteriously” lost or mom had determined that the bottle was no longer necessary.  Fortunately that trying stage doesn’t last more than a few days.

Tonight on the farm it is finally quiet. The calves have adjusted to their all-you-can eat buffet of Purina Precon Starter Complete and hay and the mamas are chowing down on chopped hay at the feed bunk.


Life is good!



Getting Ready for Winter

Sometimes it feels like we work 8 months of the year for the 4 months of winter.  Starting in May, we gear up for hay season and that goes through most of the summer and into early fall. Gene needs 1200 plus round bales of hay to carry him through the winter. Then there are fences to repair, cows to sort, and the list goes on and on.

For several years Gene has been researching and figuring out how to better utilize his hay and care for his herd of Angus cows.  He has been working at this in phases and this year it really came together for him.

Phase 1:  Last year he purchased a vertical round bale mixer wagon (see blog links at the end of post) and put in a 300 ft. concrete feed bunk. The mixer wagon grinds up the round bales of hay. He can add corn, molasses or other feed commodities such as brewers grain to the mix.  Because all the bale, the bleached out brown on the outside along with the green inside, is ground together, there is very little waste. The cows chow down and eat it all.






Phase 2: This fall he put a 304′ roof over the feed bunk with wings on each end for a hay ring,  maternity/catch pen, and hay & creep feeder for young calves. He also got a bale unroller. This unrolls the bale of hay into the mixer wagon which greatly speeds up the grinding process. He cleaned up his mixing area, and built 2 shed roofs over feeding areas where the cows did not have any protection from the weather. All of this means more gates to hang, fences to repair and extend, gravel to put down and grading to be done.



Starting the project.


The roof is 304 ft. long and 20′ wide over the feeding area!  At each end of the barn is a 40’X64′ A-roof section for a catch pen, creep feeder for calves, round bale feeders, and covered loafing area.


Because of the sloop of the ground, he had to put a step-down in the roof to help the height from getting to tall.


I like this picture. It is taken from a distance and shows both ends of the barn. It looks so long!


Gravel and grading.


New fencing.


Add gates.


  Creep feeder for the calves and their own personal round bale of hay.


Round bale for the cows.


This is a platform he built for the bale unroller. It helps his mixing process go a lot faster versus dropping the whole bale in to be ground up.

He can grind two bales plus add corn or other grain products


This is another area he cleaned up. On the left is where he fills the mixer wagon. The area on the right is a holding area for turkey litter before it is spread on the fields.



Putting water and molasses onto the hay mixture.


The herd hanging out in the barn waiting to be fed.




This is the weaning area for young calves at 450 plus lbs.


 They are fed Purina Precon Starter 30-60 days before they are sold.


For 2 days it is very noisy as the calves adjust to being independent of mama.


Other blog posts:

  1. Bunk Feeding With Vertical Mixer Wagon
  2. Bunk Feeding With Vertical Mixer Wagon: Part II


Little Things or the Big Picture

The warmth of the December sun beckoned me outdoors this afternoon for a ride on my golf cart. I wanted some holly and cedar branches for my Christmas decorations and I knew just the spot on the farm to go looking.


Only the female Holly trees produce fruit and they are loaded with bright red berries. The boughs of the female Eastern Red Cedar trees were hanging heavy with dark blue berries. I had forgotten that they also produce berries.  These are technically juniper trees.  The male trees have small tan colored pine cones. Click on this link for a very interesting read on these trees.


As I was nipping branches to bring home, I suddenly became aware of the “little things” in the woods.  It is December but it was a beautiful, warm, sunny, peaceful day.  I heard them first and then saw two squirrels scampering over a log laying on the ground in the woods.  I watched as they frolicked in the leaves and chased each other over the log, up a tree and down again.

I continued to notice “little things”.



A small tree with one little leaf left at the top of it’s two tallest branches.


Another tree with brilliant red leaves at the top like a tuff of hair on a bald head.


The beauty of nasty gum balls.


There were 3 sets of paw prints in the soft dirt.


Pine Cones


Milk Weed





A squirrel’s nest high in the pecan tree.  He certainly built where his food source was!

Depending on the day and time, the big picture can be drab, barren, discouraging…….


or it can be stunning, breath-taking and beautiful……


When we look at just the big picture, we miss the simple beauty of the “little things”.

If we focus only on the “little things” we miss the scoop of the big picture.


Do You Ever Wonder…..

Why time slows down when it is on “regular time” instead of “daylight savings time”.

Why if there is a hole in the big toe spot on your sock and you put the sock on the other foot, the hole is still at the big toe.

Where all the leaves go in the fall.  (There really should be huge piles somewhere).

Why you have never met “somebody” and “nobody”.

Why one day time stands still and the next zips by.

Where time has flown.

Why you forget what you want to remember and remember what you want to forget.

Why the good ole days seem so good.

How a spider gets the first string of the web from point A to point B eight feet away.

Why you always seem to end up with the crust of bread.

Why yawning is so contagious.

How a bird knows when and where to migrate.

How a hummingbird remembers the address of your house.

Why in the world you dream what you do.

Why the best sleeping is after the alarm clock rings.









I Love My Church

It always makes me smile when I see someone wearing a t-shirt that says, “I love my church”.   In four words I have just learned that this person belongs to a church fellowship that cares about them and is dynamically invested in people and faith.

David, the Psalmist, said, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalms 122:1).  In Old Testament times, there was only one place to worship. Jerusalem.  At the appointed times, as directed by God, people would gather and travel together in large groups to the tabernacle to worship. For many the pilgrimage covered many miles and as they walked they would be joined by others.  It was a fun, festive time of talking, reconnecting and singing.  Their love for their church was showed by the spring in their step and the joy on their faces as they set their faces towards Jerusalem.

Recently our pastor preached a sermon on “Thankfulness for the Church”.  This Thanksgiving season I want to express my gratitude for my church, Powhatan Mennonite.  It is that one special building whose doors I pull open every Sunday and walk inside. It is a haven that refreshes my spirit after a week of work. It is a community where I can share my joys, fears, concerns and grief. It is a fellowship where I am comfortable to worship with other believers and seekers. It is a church family that I know and care deeply about and they for me.  But most importantly, my church is a place where I meet God.

For me going to church is something I look forward to every week.  I anticipate and prepare for Sunday.  It has been a part of my weekly routine since I was born 63 plus years ago. I am blessed that my parents always went to church; we never missed a Sunday unless we were sick or it snowed. It was not a “negotiable” activity. If the doors were open, we were there.   When Gene and I were married we had to make a conscience effort to keep this a priority for our family also.  Going to church may be a habit but it is a good habit. We know, without question or discussion, that this is what we will do every Sunday. We are not legalistic about it but we have determined not to let anything become a routine excuse not to go.

Paul gave believers a challenge to preserve in gathering together….


Together at our church we worship, learn what it means to be people of God,  pray, fellowship, and care for others. Sometimes we laugh, cry, grieve, help, play, and even eat together.

Today our church sign reads….


This Thanksgiving season I want to say, “Thank you God for my church. You are good and I have experienced Your love through my church family”.

The Class of 1970 – 45 years later.


But this is my favorite picture of the whole day….

Note: This picture is not posed but a candid shot captured by my camera taker!  Only one, Bonnie (Barnhart) Shoemaker, is listening to instructions from our official camera taker. ALL the rest of us is….well…..


Who we were….

We were a class of 77: 42 girls and 35 guys at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg.  We were thin and trim and most of us had lots of hair! We came from far and near: New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, Delaware, Iowa, Manitoba Canada, Maryland, Honduras, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and of course, all points in Virginia.  Our yearbook, called “Ember” says that 27 of us claimed the problems and complexes resulting from a ministerial heritage, nine had the privilege of traveling abroad and two had traveled across country on bicycles.  We came from diverse backgrounds. One was a missionary kid in Honduras and there was a strong agriculture blend in the mix.

Class Theme Song…

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

Who we are today….

Forty-five years later we have aged and matured.  We have experienced many bumps, bruises, joys and successes. Some have failed marriages, a few have passed on, and several have had close calls with illnesses. Quite a few have or will soon retire.  Most are grandparents and two are great-grandparents. Wow! If that wasn’t a shocker to our process of aging! We are/were teachers, missionaries, counselors, farmers, pastors, business owners, chaplains, salesperson, truck drivers, postmaster, contractors, and the list goes on.  But the one thing that stood out to me was the testimony and deep spiritual faith of most of the group.  Church and service have been important and classmates have been involved in all aspects of church life; leadership, service, ministry, music, and teaching. Some have been involved with missions traveling the world with a humanitarian care organization, or counseling, encouraging and ministering to missionaries around the world, chaplains in prison ministry and musicians with music groups.

The funniest story of the day…. (that I heard but I did have to leave before it was over).

Terry Hawk.  His parents were missionaries in Honduras and his wife’s family were missionaries in Africa. When he asked his wife’s parents for her hand, her dad said…. “In African tradition you purchase the bride and numerous tribal leaders have asked to buy her. The highest offer is 75 cows.” So he paid 75 cows for his wife. (At this point this wife chimes in saying that the story is true).  With a chuckle Terry says, “I am still paying for those 75 plastic cows”!!!

Most grandkids….

Cheryl (Maust) Yoder. Cheryl and her husband Larry have four children, As a result they have 25 grandchildren and 1 great-grand!  None of us could top that one! (There was one other in the group with a great-grand).

Traveled the furthest to get to the reunion….

Karen Smucker and her husband Jim arrived by train from Idaho.


Ed Ranck is in charge of the dairy for State Farm prison system in Powhatan. He figures he will be 91 before he can retire. He counts the years but not the days!

Most amazing work statistic….

Randy Kiser has worked for Wilson Trucking his entire career. He has logged 3 million miles and is accident free.


Jim Eby, Pat (Heatwole) Hertzler, Dennis Kauffman, Cheryl (Maust) Yoder, and Ed Ranck.

They were high school sweethearts…

  • Joe Baer and Pat (Beachy)
  • Darrel Hostetter and Sherill (King)

Classmates whose kids married…

The son (Obe) of Darrel and Sherill (King) Hostetter married the daughter (Jill) of Gene and Pat (Heatwole) Hertzler.

Parents who married…

After the death of spouses, Cheryl (Maust) Yoder’s father, Clayton, married Leon Hershberger’s mom, Thelma. So does that now make Cheryl and Leon “almost” sibs!

Lives the furthest away…

Martha (Hartzler) Picone and her native Italian husband live in Italy.

Pictures of the day….


Jim Collins and Eldon Heatwole


Larry Yoder and Ed Ranck


Wayne Showalter


Marge Maust


Sherill (King) Hostetter


Dennis Kauffman and Darrel Hostetter


Cheryl (Maust) and Larry Yoder


Edith (Layman) Rhodes

Pat & Eldon

Pat (Heatwole) Hertzler and Eldon Heatwole


Terry and Colleen Hawk talking to Eldon Heatwole


Carl Berkey and Sherill (King) Hostetter


Micki (Maxine Horst) and Roger Till


Jim Collins, Dennis and Carol Kauffman


Sherill (King) and Darrel Hostetter


Bonnie (Barnhart) Shoemaker and Randy Kiser


Terry and Colleen Hawk


Ed and Doris Ranck


Cheryl (Maust) Yoder and her husband Larry


Ron Brown


Carl and Rosie Berkey


Karen Smucker and Carl Berkey


Marge Maust and Karen Smucker


 Cheryl (Maust) Yoder and Doris Ranck looking at the class picture taken on the steps of the Capital in Washington, D.C.


Left to right: Dwight Layman, Colleen Hawk, Linda (Hunsberger) Booker, Terry Hawk, Gerry (Godshall) Fix

Thank you….

Since I am writing this blog, I will speak for the entire class…. A special, huge thanks to our class mom, Diana (Suter) Berkshire, for keeping track of all of us, fixing a delicious soup lunch and organizing all the details of our gathering.  (I can not believe I did not get a picture of Diana so maybe one of you other photographers can help me out).

A message to the classmates who did not attend….

You were missed!  We are so desiring that you come to our next reunion, the BIG 50!  Diana and Al have let it slipped that they plan to have us at their house.  We really had a good time and it really was good to see each and every one-it was like one big family.

Those of us on fb…

John Augsburger, Rose (Carl) Berkey), Diana Berkshire, Linda Booker, Becky (Ron) Brown,  Benny Buckwalter, Linda (Dwight) Burkholder, Bernie Christner, Jim Collins, Gerry Fix, Don Gerig, Terry Hawk, Eldon Heatwole, Glenna Hertzler, Pat Hertzler, Darrel Hostetter, Sherill Hostetter, Micki Till, Phil Kanagy, Carol E. (Dennis) Kauffman,  Dwight Layman, Kirk Martin, Marge Maust, Francesco (Martha) Picone, Sherrill Jantzi Rudy, Karen Smucker, and  Elaine Strite.  Also James Rush our class sponsor.

If you are not on this list, send me a message at the very bottom of the blog. Thanks.

There is a fb page for our class called “Eastern Mennonite School 1970”. This is a “closed group” so no one except classmates can see the posts.


I know some of you were also taking pictures. If you have a picture to add or corrections to the info in the blog,  please email it to me at pathertzler@gmail.com.  If anyone would like a copy of the crazy class picture just send me your email.

  • Thanks Carol Kauffman for the pictures you sent me.

The Scoundrel


This dude has taken a  liking to broccoli, lettuce and cabbage.  So do I and I do not like to share with a rodent. He has been lurking on the fringes of my yard for several years, skillfully avoiding all attempts of capture. I smoked his hole but he must have been visiting his girlfriend at the time. I baited him with fresh sweet corn, but he preferred to pick his own. He really wasn’t making a nuisance of himself so I have tolerated his presence.  But this summer and fall he began eating my veggies, digging holes in my raised beds and destroying what I planted, toting off my tomatoes (I saw him running with a tomato in his mouth) and biting holes in the cantaloupes.  He apparently doesn’t know the saying, “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”



He has been very sly and only on occasionally would I catch glimpses of him.  He has three strategically placed holes. One under the storage building by the garden, one down the hill by the pigeon pen where he can salvage seeds the pigeons dropped, and one across the driveway at the front of the house.  That gives him a fairly long run and he can haul tail!

But lately he has gotten very bold. This morning I watched him sit on his hind hunches by the edge of the garden and tauntingly eat his lunch in full view. Then he went to the sunflower stalks and helped himself to fresh sunflower seeds. He has gotten rather plump over the summer and I do not have a trap big enough to catch him.

War has been declared and he has been warned!

Plan number 2.

This evening “papa” target practiced, sighting in his rifle with the new scope.


He set up his target.


Shooting from close range.



After a while I saw him setting up sticks. At first I couldn’t figure out what he was doing but then realized he was fine tuning the placement of his shots.


He moved further away.


Finally he was satisfied that he was hitting close to the bulleye.

It was dusk and we figured the scoundrel was “holed up for the night”.  Gene went ahead and set up his ambush area for morning. The gun and shells were by the patio door and a chair was in place to lean on.

About fifteen minutes later I spied him.  On the back side of a chainlink dog kennel.


Gene quickly and quietly moved into place. It only took one shot.


Rest in peace Mr. Groundhog.

Just Another Day on the Farm

Some days you build or fix fence. Some days you mow hay or sort and haul cattle, or plant grain, cleanup trash, mix feed, haul manure, chop weeds, repair equipment, fix a leaking water trough or……. you name it, a farmer does it! He is “jack of all trades and master of most”!!! Then there is the occasional day when a new or “new to you” piece of equipment arrives. This is always a boost to a farmer’s spirit. He loves seeing that truck roll in with his needed purchase.

This past week Gene purchased a used no-till Krause grain drill from Kentucky. Because of the width, they had to remove the wheels and tongue (hitch) for transport. The trucker called before he left Kentucky and wanted to be sure he had a way to unload the drill when he got here. Gene assured him that he had a plan!


The first thing he did was put the wheels back on the drill.


Using a tractor and forklift, he carefully lifted both sides of the drill and the trucker pulled away.  When the drill was safely sitting on the ground, I heard Gene let out a sigh of relief.  It always makes me a little nervous that things are going to go the way they should. Usually they do and I have fretted for nothing but I also know Gene does not take safety for granted and it is a relief to him also when his plan works.

It was just another day on the farm.

Watch the video clip unloading the drill.


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