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.


Big Red’s Last Ride


In November 2011, Gene bought a Hereford bull that was soon dubbed Big Red. That is what he was; BIG, long and stocky. He was truly a gentle giant with one speed. Slow.  I think I could walk faster than he could run but never wanted to be challenged to the race.


He has curly hair on his forehead, big sad eyes and loved to have his head scratched.


Big Red never once posed any danger or was a threat of danger but you always treat a bull with respect.  A charging bull can be lethal.


Big Red was “king” for four years, wooing the ladies and producing many offspring. You always knew which calves were his. They had white-faces. A white-faced Hereford bull always produces white-face offspring, called “Black Baldies”.  All our other bulls were Angus.



Even “Spot” had one of his babies.





Gene really liked the genetic formation of Big Red’s offspring.





Occasionally his rank as “King” was challenged by a younger “Prince”.  A bull fight is fearsome;  the head butting, foot-pawling, dirt kicking, and body pushing is accented with very distinctive bellowing. You stay your distance even on a golf cart and use your camera zoom!


Last summer we began to notice that Big Red was aging and his joints were getting stiff.  To get up, he had to rock back and forth to get the momentum needed to allow his legs to lift his weight to a standing position.  He seemed to be moving a little slower than his already slow gait.  Gene let him rest over the winter but this spring we noticed there aren’t many ‘Black Baldies” hitting the ground, Prince is now King. The enviable was here. It was time to say goodbye.

Today Big Red was loaded on the stock trailer for his last ride. It was sad and I almost didn’t want to go look. But, I had to say good-bye. I walked up to the trailer with my camera to take his picture.  Gene parked the trailer by the edge of the driveway where Red could have one last look over his empire while he changed clothes and grabbed a bite to eat. Immediately one of his ladies came running across the field and stood by the fence her eyes glued to the trailer.

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I was going to talk to him but instead he talked to me.

It seemed as if he knew what was happening.


(Be sure to listen to this short video)

The gentle giant cried and then he took his last ride.

My Fitness Pal

This never ending battle with my arch-enemy “weight” just does not seem to go away.  I made a New Year’s resolution but then suddenly January was gone and I was still procrastinating! February brought a new day of reckoning; our pastor called it “40 days of Lent”.  How do you wiggle past that one? Now I had a “righteous, spiritual” reason to get with it! It actually gave me the resolve I needed. I weighed myself and marked the calendar.

The first 4 pounds came off fairly easy but then I hit a wall which I couldn’t seem to scale. (Don’t you like that pun on words!!!).  I went searching on the computer for a calorie calculator and found myfitnesspal.com.

Let me tell you, this is my lifesaver! If you are trying to lose weight and struggling with what diet to use, I highly recommend this site. You don’t have to deny yourself food or starve to death.  You put in your weight, height, current weight and desired weight goal.  It tells you how many calories you can eat a day to accomplish your goal.  I am goal oriented so this site is perfect for me. It allows me to manage how and when I eat my calories. Portion size has been very revealing!  Of course foods like breads, snacks and sweets are calorie loaded, but having to record each food and see the actual calorie count has been very motivating to me.

Each day I record what I eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, how much water I drink and calories I burn on the treadmill. The treadmill (or exercise) gives bonus calories to eat, if you want, and still stay on course with your goal. The site has a huge resource of foods and almost everything you can imagine is there, including brands.  Homemade foods are the hardest but with some creativity you can come close. I can have 1200 calories a day and in five more weeks I will be at my first goal. I say first goal as I put in what I thought was a modest, attainable goal. Now I am very optimistic that I will be able to do better and reach my second goal.

I have tried numerous times to lose weight and did so successfully several times but could not keep it off.  I am hoping this method will have a more successful long-term outcome.

Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 2 boxes fresh mushrooms (about 16).
  • 4 slices thick sliced bacon fried and crumbled
  • 1/3 c. onions, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4 drops red pepper sauce
  • 1 T. flour
  • 1/4 c. half and half cream
  • 3 T. shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Wash mushrooms. I use a melon scoop to remove the stem and slightly hollow out the mushrooms.
  2. Using a knife (pastry blender worked great) chop the stems fine. I throw approx.. 1/4 of stems away. It is just too much to use to refill the mushrooms. Add chopped onions, salt, pepper, and red pepper sauce.  Microwave on high until mushrooms and onions are tender (2-3 mins).  Stir in flour, bacon bits and then cream until well blended, Microwave another 2-3 minutes stirring once or twice. Stir in cheese.
  3. Place the mushrooms on a paper towel on a dinner plate. Microwave 1-1/2 mins.  Fill with stuffing and microwave again 1-2 mins. Serve warm.

I do step one and two 30-45 mins before I am ready to serve them. Then 5 mins. before serving I do step 3 and it is not as big a deal to get ready to serve.



Our Group

Way back in 1972, 44 years ago to be exact, four couples from our church got married in the same year. In our small, young congregation (50-60 people), that was a lot of weddings.  Several times through the years “our group”, as we call ourselves, have gotten together to celebrate. Last evening was one of those celebrations.

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Ray and Betty Hertzler are the oldest in our group, marrying at the mature age of 37!  They were married first (in April), in Chesapeake and made their home in Powhatan on a dairy farm. They started in a very small trailer but later built a house across the road where they still reside. The Hertzlers have two children.

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Gene and Pat Hertzler were next, marrying in June, in Harrisonburg. Hurricane Agnes (June 19-24) did her best to detrail our wedding plans. As she roared up the east coat, dumping 7 inches of rain on the area, the James River flooded, big time! The old, one-way trestle bridge on 522 at Maidens had just been replaced with a new, state of the art, bridge. The water reached the roadway of the bridge and washed out the approaches. Gene had to go to Lynchburg to get around the flooding to make it to Harrisonburg. The wedding day turned out to be a beautiful, warm summer day.  We made our home on a dairy farm in Powhatan where we still live.  We have two children and five grandchildren.


(I put this picture in from my archives to show the magnitude of the height of the water)

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Harold and Elaine Alderfer were married in early September in Minnesota, Elaine’s home area.  Harold and Elaine met while she was in Voluntary Service in Chesapeake. After the wedding, they also settled in Powhatan on a dairy farm. They have moved the most.  They moved their farming operation from Powhatan to Minnesota, back to Powhatan and then to Brunswick County in Southern Virginia. After selling the dairy, they moved to Louisa in central Virginia where they now reside. The Alderfers have one son and twin granddaughters.

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Sam and Poe Powell were the last of our group, marrying in late September in Powhatan. Poe was the youngest, a 17 year-old bride. They made their home in Amelia County in a trailer on his parents family farm. They later built a house a little further back the driveway, nestled in the woods, where they still live. The Powells have 3 sons and seven grandchildren.

We had such a good time eating, story telling, laughing and catching up on our lives. Three of us still go to Powhatan Mennonite Church and even though we see each other every Sunday it is not the same as sitting and visiting at the same table.

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Our scrumptious, luscious Lady Finger Cheesecake and fruit topping made by Poe Powell

We learned some very interesting things… (for those who know us, let’s see if you can figure this out!)

  • There is only one in the group who has not had surgery.
  • There is one who is not missing any body parts or had body parts replaced. (hip, knees, hysterectomy, piece of colon, appendix, etc. Teeth did not count!).
  • As a group we take 17 prescription medicines. One does not take any.
  • We have traveled to the west coast, Argentina, Hawaii, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
  • Only one still has her parents living.
  • All but three are taking their social security benefits.
  • Two couples are still actively employed and earning paychecks.
  • One couple still have the cars they each owned when they got married.
  • All but two have had car accidents.
  • The worse accident in our group was a chain saw injury to the face and arm.
  • One has used up 3 of their “nine lives”, another had a very serious illness and another is a cancer survivor.
  • Only one does not have gray hair.
  • We have lost two children to death and suffered 3 miscarriages between us.
  • Each couple was grateful for the children God blessed them with.  Each couple in some way has dealt with some uncertainty whether age, infertility, miscarriages or genetic disease.
  • One has twin granddaughters and one has a daughter getting married this summer.

It was a wonderful evening of sweet fellowship, story telling, reminiscing and looking at our wedding pictures.  Oh my, how we have changed!!!! We wondered ….why don’t get together more often. We departed determined to do this more often.

2016….Our group… we are still celebrating and looking forward to more years to come.

Our menu:

  • Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms  (The original recipe came from http://www.cooks.com)
  • Barbecued Cornish Hens
  • Sweet Corn
  • Twice Baked Potatoes
  • Orange/Pineapple Jello Salad
  • Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls and Honey Butter
  • Ladyfinger Cheesecake with Mixed Fruit Topping  (Recipe is from Taste of Home and is actually called Cherry Cheese Torte)

My Morning Prayer

I just want to thank you for a good nights rest. But I also realize that many did not sleep well last night because of stress, worry, fear, pain or insomnia.

Thank you for safety through the night. I realize that many experienced danger, injury and harm.

Thank you for peace in our land. I realize many are living in fear and danger and some are hiding or fleeing for their lives.

Thank you for my family. I realize many are living with shattered lives and splintered families. Some may not even know where their family members are.

Thank you for breakfast, lunch and supper today and snacks in between. I realized many will wake up hungry and may not have access to even one meal.

Thank you for our warm house.  I realize many are homeless, living on the streets, or refugees fleeing a war-stricken land. I realize some are going through hard times and can not afford to pay for the basic necessities of life.

Thank you for my health. I realize many are suffering deeply today and dying from broken health.

Thank you for my husband. I realize many marriages are shattered and living in despair.

Thank you for my job. I realize many do not have a job to go to today to earn money for even the basic necessities of life.

Thank you for my church. I realize many do not know the privilege of having a caring church family.

Thank you I can live my faith openly. I realize many in the world are a part of the underground church and live with the daily reality of persecution and death.

Father, I am so thankful. I want to be more grateful and have a generous heart. I do not want to take this privileged life for granted.


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