Archive for May, 2018

Drivers Ed on the Farm

Grandkids, Karla and Ryan, are here with us for several days while their folks are celebrating their anniversary in Cancun. My instructions from her mom was to teach Karla to drive. She can get her learners in March but has zero driving experience nor a good place to learn. The biggest and fastest vehicle she has driven has been my golf cart.

 

Lesson 1: I drove the pickup across the cattle guard to the driveway into the cattle pasture. I turned off the truck, hopped out and said, “Let’s change sides.”

K: Grandma, I’m terrified.  I don’t think I can do this.

G: Yes, you can. It’s not hard.

I told her how to start the truck, what the letters (P, R, N, D, L) meant and what the brake and accelerator were. Immediately the right foot went on the “go” pedal (according to her) and the left on the brake.  I smiled to myself but didn’t say anything. Sitting on the front of her seat, she grasped the steering wheel for dear life and started the truck.  It immediately started moving forward very slowly.

K; Grandma. It’s moving. How do I stop? I’m terrified!

I think she used the terrified word at least two dozen times!

G:  You are doing just fine. But you can push the brake to stop.

Her left foot instantly pushed the brake to the floor.  We were probably going one mph but we also immediately lurked to a stop! By now we are both laughing so hard she can hardly drive.  The next lesson is on using only the right foot for both petals and pushing the pedal evenly.

K: “But grandma, what if my foot is on the “go” pedal when I need to stop?”

G:  “Your foot can move from one pedal to another”.

The concept of only using one foot seemed totally unrealistic to her. After all, you have two feet and two pedals! I explained the safety issue involved with using two feet. You don’t want to push both petals at the same time!

Karla did a great job. She made it to the end of the field and back several times at the neck-breaking speed of 4 mph. I assured her she was not going fast and that on interstate you go 70 mph and that eventually she would have confidence and experience.  Suddenly going 70 mph and entering traffic on interstate seemed like an paralysising feat and she just did not know how her dad did it.

When we were done, I had her drive over the sixteen foot wide cattle guard back to the yard and park beside our car.  She was sure she was going to hit the side post of the gateway but she did it perfectly.

This was a hilariously funny event. I laughed and laughed at her crazy thoughts and expressions.

Lesson 2:  We had a lesson on reverse, signaling, the horn and windshield wipers. This time I let her drive to the field which meant she had to back out of the parking space beside our car.

K: “But, grandma, I can’t see behind and I might hit something!”

We talked about how to see behind using the mirrors or turning your head and looking. She just knew there was going to be something in the wide open space behind her that she couldn’t see and was going to hit! We made it to the pasture and this time went further; through a second gate opening into the back pasture.  We saw two wild turkeys and a coyote which was an extra little bonus.  She loved the turn signal. When we came to the end of the road and she had to turn around in the pasture, she stopped and put on her signal. We did squares in the pasture and at each turn, she signaled. But she had to stop in order to signal. I explained that when she is driving on the road, she will use the signal to let other drivers know she is planning to make a turn. This also means you have to turn it on while you are driving and before you get to where you are going to turn.

The cows were out grazing in the field and several crossed the driveway we were on. She pretended it was a pedestrian crossing. Again, she was sure she was going to hit one of them but I showed her how to keep easing forward very slow and they would move. On the last lap back to the house she reached the unfathomable speed of 10 mph. She beamed with pride!

Lesson 3: This time there was a big improvement in her confidence. She adjusted the seat and leaned back. She maneuvered the truck out of the parking spot and into the field. This time we went exploring across the pastures. She had to ford a small creek with a somewhat narrow opening and was astounded that I thought she could do it. The cattle were also out moving around and at the same time they were wanting to cross the same creek. We had to sit and wait until the last cow had crossed so that she could go. One cow was being stubborn and was standing in the way, facing the truck and still eating the grass hanging out her mouth. Karla beeped the horn and the cow, with a defiant posture and stern look, immediately responded with several loud moos. We laughed and laughed. I just wish I had my camera! Grandpa had driven in the field that morning checking the cows and left tire tracks across the field. She had great fun following them as they wandered across several different pastures.

Lesson 4: This time I handed her the keys to the car. Her eyes got as big as saucers. This was very different from the pickup. It sits lower, is smoother driving, the wipers are on a different lever and the lever to put the car in gear is on the console. She was sure she might hit something but took to the change with ease. She eased up to 20 mph for a few brief moments. This time after driving the pasture driveway, we went out and back the driveway. I noticed she actually turned on the signal while driving.

Karla is going to do just fine. We will have several more lessons tomorrow before she goes home. Each time we drove, I could see her gaining confidence and that she was very happy and pleased with herself.  It was a priceless privilege to be the one to share this first time experience with her. I will always treasure the memory.  I just wish I could have taped all her comments.

Ryan, who is two years younger was just yearning for the privilege of driving.  I told him yesterday that if he helped to complete the mulching job we were working on, I would let him drive. I had a very hard-working, willing worker! Where Karla was cautious and unsure of herself, Ryan was bubbling with eagerness and anticipation.

When we had completed our lesson, he hopped out of the truck and with a huge smile said, “that was awesome!”

Farm kids have a huge advantage over others in learning to drive. They are privileged to the open land and learn at a young age to drive a lawn mover, four-wheeler, motorcycle, trucks and other farm equipment. By the time they reach driving age, they have accumulated a vast variety of  experiences, including; backing trailers, maneuvering narrow spaces and different weather and terrain conditions.

I remember learning to drive. Daddy had an old stick-shift dodge truck that shifted hard that he let me roam the pastures in. It was almost impossible to put into gear without grinding at least a little.  The truck was parked in a narrow lean-to on the side of the bank barn that was on a downhill slope. I had to learn to back the truck into the shed which had about 12 inches (or less!) to spare on each side of the rear view mirrors and pull out of the shed without coasting backwards. Only those who have driven a stick shift can appreciate how truly difficult that was. I am still amazed I learned to do it without ever hitting the barn or coasting backwards.

50 Years Ago-The Move to Powhatan

Fifty years ago on Monday, May 20, 1968, was the official big move of the Hertzlers to Powhatan from Denbigh (Newport News), Virginia. The city was encroaching on the farmers there forcing them to search elsewhere for affordable farm land.  Gene remembers packing his 1957 blue Ford pickup with his personal belongings and heading west on Route 60, winding through Shockhoe Bottom in Richmond, and on to the farm to arrive ahead of the trucks hauling the thirty dairy cows.

When the cattle trucks arrived, they unloaded the cows behind the barn into a lot with a watering trough and a bunk full of haylage that had been cut that morning from the farm in Newport News so that the cows had no adjustment in their feed ration.  His brother drove a flatbed truck loaded with a wagon full of silage.

Months, weeks and days before, the farm here in Powhatan was prepared for the move. Spring crops were ready to green chop and corn was already growing in the fields. The Surge dealer had installed a pipeline and milking equipment in the cinderblock stanchion barn and milking house. Each work trip to the farm brought equipment, tools, and other needed supplies from Denbigh. And at the last came the three Border Collie dogs; Checkers, Pudgy, and Snickers.

Gene was eighteen when he and his older brother, Oliver, moved to Powhatan to run the farm.  Gene doesn’t remember much about the move. Gene and Oliver lived in the upstairs apartment of the house as the main part of the house was rented to another couple. There was no air conditioning in the house and Gene remembers leaving the windows open for air circulation and hearing the whippoorwills calling from the trees.

There are still several things that dad Hertzler planted in the yard that I greatly treasure; a pecan tree (two have succumbed), a row of beautiful peonies, a lilac bush and hollyhocks. Dad Hertzler loved the land and had a knack for growing boxwood shrubs, pecan trees, peonies, irises, hollyhocks and other flowers which he enjoyed sharing with people.

Gene remembers his folks riding the roads of Powhatan, Amelia and Madison counties looking for a farm. He has no idea where all they looked or traveled. He does remember his sister, sitting in the back seat of the car one day as they wandered the back roads of Amelia County, singing, “Did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned,  He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston,  He’s the man who never returned” from “Charley on the M.T.A”. (written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lamax Hawes and sung by The Kingston Trio). They ended up finding this farm, it was for sale, but for some reason they did not come the day of the farm auction.  Hugh Ownby bought the farm and was going to turn it into one of Ownby’s cattle sale farms. Several weeks or months later, the Hertzlers contacted the Ownbys and they agreed to sell the farm to them. The rest is history.

Powhatan was so different in those days. There numerous grade A dairies in the county with names such as; Bowlin, Burkholder, Cosby, Harris, Hatcher, Hertzler, Layman, McGee, Moyer, Osborne, Ranck, Schaefer, Stratton, Timberlake, Tucker, Walker, and Willis. Powhatan was truly agriculturally rural. Route 60 was still single lane into Midlothian and Interstate 64 only had sections completed.

The intersection of 653 (our road) and Route 60 the summer of 1969 as they were working on putting in dual lanes.

Another picture of Route 60 before it was dual laned.

Law and order and traffic control was maintained under the watchful eye of one sheriff (Floyd Simpson), one part-time deputy (Nelson Batterson), and two state troopers (Shirley Reynolds and M.C. Arrington).  These guys were fair but they were tough!

Grocery stores: Maxey’s (in the village where Four Seasons Restaurant is now), Nichols Store at Macon, a very small store at the corner of Route 60 and Academy Rd. and the largest was Mays Grocery at Flatrock.

Medical: Dr. Bradley was a one-man office with nurse Betty and two examining rooms. He knew us all by name and made house calls.  I remember office visits costing $12. The office was heated (or at least partially heated) by a pot-belly wood stove. When Dr. Bradley was ready to see you, you were first invited to visit with him in his office. He sat behind a large wooden desk and you sat in a wood chair at the side. If you had a sinus infection, he would open his desk drawer, take out a flashlight and invited you to step into a dark closet in the room with him so that he could shine the light on your sinuses.  Bloxton’s Pharmacy was in the white-pillared building next to Four Seasons Restaurant. I worked at Bloxton’s for awhile after we were married. Dr. Bradley had evening hours once or twice a week and Bloxtons would stay open those evenings just in case his patients needed a prescription. Dr. Bradley would call and let them know when he had seen his last patient for the day so they could close.

Car Dealers: Yates Ford was in the village, and Brown’s Chevrolet and Brauer Pontiac were on Route 60.

Farm Equipment: Davis Merchant was an International tractor dealer and there was a Ford dealership on Route 13 in the village where Mabel’s Cafe is now located.

Other:  Goodwyn’s Lumber, United Auto Parts, Yates Oil, and Powhatan Farm Supply, a Southern States franchise near the village, were all thriving family owned businesses. The Bank of Powhatan and the post office were also located in the village.

There was nothing and I mean almost nothing but open land between Powhatan and the Boulevard (160) which is several miles east of Chippenham Parkway; just a few buildings in the village of Midlothian, Watkins Nursery, and a few scattered homes and a few businesses at Buford Road.  If we wanted to go shopping, we either went to Southside Plaza on the Boulevard or Broad Street in downtown Richmond.  The year we were married, 1972, the excavating for the massive, state of the art, Cloverleaf Mall began on a dairy farm at the intersection of 150 and Route 60. This too has now given way to new and better development.

According to records posted online, there were less than 8,000 people in Powhatan in 1970.  Stores were closed on Sunday, you knew and visited with your neighbors, the elementary and high school were in the village, your address was routes and box numbers instead of street names, the closest hospital was St. Mary’s, and there was a one-lane, steel-trussed bridge across the James River on 522 at Maidens.  If you approached the bridge and someone was already coming across, you had to wait or meet them in the center where there was a place wide enough to pass. The new state of the art concrete bridge was completed in early 1972.

 

 

This picture came from Elwood Yates Jr. and is the old bridge at Maidens.

The new bridge had only been open a few months when Hurricane Agnes dropped record amounts of water on central Virginia in June 1972 causing massive flooding at levels not seen before. The James River at Maidens came within inches of the bottom side of the roadway on the bridge, washing out the approaches.  To come to our wedding June 24, Gene had to travel west on Route 60 to Buena Vista to find an open bridge to cross the river.

The new concrete bridge.

By the time we were married, the farm was established and Oliver Jr. was married. Route 60 was dual-laned and Powhatan was beginning to change. Gene gladly handed the reins of homemaking over to me.  He had bachelored for four years and was ready for a wife!

Oh the changes that have happened on the farm over the years: two 20’X60′ concrete stave silos were built, a double-four herringbone parlor replaced the stanchion barn, and a free-stall barn was built. These are now all relics from the past and integrated into warehouse space supporting our farm supply store which we started in 1983. Additional land was cleared for more cropland, the house was remodeled and a full upstairs was added, trees were planted, new fences built, the dairy gave way to beef cattle and lots and lots of love and energy went into making the farm a beloved homestead.

Now…..the homestead changes, and yes it is the same house.

Fifty years have flown by and our roots have grown deep in the soil of Powhatan County. This is truly home and we love our homestead.  In many ways we have shared our farm with the community through our farm supply store (started in October 1983) and other numerous events we have hosted through the years; Live Nativity, Evening on the Lawn, Fun Day on the Farm and the many bus loads of school children that visited through the years.

Today there is only one dairy left in the county, the old has given way to new, and family businesses are being replaced with chain stores. Change happens and time never stands still but oh the memories of days gone by.

For more of our story, read the blog post “Once Upon A Time“. My blog post “Hometown USA” is a commentary about change in Powhatan.

If there are any corrections or additions, please let me know. I would love to have a picture of Nichols Store, Hatcher’s Restaurant, May’s Grocery, Maxey’s Store.   Did I miss any dairy farmers? You can email me at pathertzler@gmail.com or use the comment section on the blog.

Peonies

I have numerous favorite flowers but I have to say the exquisite, perennial peony has to be top, even though roses and daisies follow close behind.  I can remember my mother having a long row of the fragrant bushes on the farm where I grew up.  When I got married and moved to Powhatan, I discovered that Gene’s dad had planted a stunning row of them beside the house several years prior.

I can always count on them starting to bloom the week before Mother’s Day. They don’t last more than 2-3 weeks but the fragrance is like no other flower. It just begs for you to bury your nose in the soft, velvety petals and breathe deeply. They do really well as cut flowers and make a stunning, fragrant bouquet that catches your attention when you step into the room.

 

It is best (they last longer) to pick the flowers while they are still buds. This will also decrease the amount of ants you carry into the house! Ants are attracted to the sticky sweetness and also help to open the buds. The first, “on my own,” gardening year, I sprayed them with pesticide to kill the pesky rascals. That was a mistake! I learned the importance and value of ants.  To determine when the bud is ready to pick, take hold of the bud between your thumb and first finger and gently pinch. If it is squishy, not hard, it is ready. Within a day of being cut, they will open to a full flower.  (I just recently learned this trick from a gardening friend, Lisa Ziegler).

My row of peonies is at least 48 years old, maybe older.  I have never divided them, although it probably would be a good idea. I am afraid I might mess up a good thing. They say peonies need very little care and can produce for 100 years.

In October after the stalks have died, I cut the dead foliage off as close to the ground as possible. That is all I do to prepare them for winter and the following spring.  If you are want to transplant or divide the plants, October is the month. The first year after replanting they probably will not bloom.  You need to be very careful in replanting that you only cover the roots with 2-3 inches of dirt or they will not bloom.  Peonies love sun but also like some shade protection during the hottest part of the day. Mine are planted on the north side of the house but because they are about 6 feet away from the house they have the benefit of a lot of sun and a little shade. It has been a perfect spot.

Peonies come in different colors and varieties, the most popular and hardy, being the old-fashion white. I also have a lovely, soft, light pink and a medium pink. The red I have replanted several times, I just can’t seem to keep it.

 

Rain is not kind to peonies once they start to bloom. Because of the very large flowers and multiple blossoms per stalk, the rain weights them down and the blossoms quickly turn brown. This year was especially hard on them. We have had 5 inches of rain in the last week just as they are at their peak. Even the buds hang their heads.

I like using peony rings with my plants. You can’t see them and it helps to hold the heavy stalks and keep them from falling over. I prefer the open two-ring style that looks like a tomato cage, only shorter, rather that the one with the grid top.

Resource:

 

Mutton Hollow

When I was little, my parents were asked to serve at a small church, Mutton Hollow, nestled up a hollow at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Elkton and Stanardsville, Virginia.  It is a very unique stone church built out of river rock. This was a big sacrifice for my parents who had to travel Route 33 west from Penn Laird where we lived and cross a steep, winding mountain.  It took us about an hour to go to church. I would get very car sick every Sunday, on the way there and on the way home. Mother said sometimes I could make it to the top of the mountain before throwing up. There were three of us kids and my younger sister also suffered terribly from motion sickness.  My folks had to deal with two puking kids and the mess every Sunday and nothing helped.

Today Gene and I traveled to Harrisonburg and decided to take the scenic Route 33 instead of Interstates 64 and 81 as we normally do. Times have changed, the road has been widen, straighten and the road across the mountain greatly improved. But let me tell you, it is still steep and curvy and include “run-away truck ramps” for out-of-control truckers to save their necks and loads. Gene made comment that he would not want to drive a truck across that mountain.

We had extra time and I asked Gene if we could take a side excursion. I wanted to see Mutton Hollow Mennonite Church, now renamed Mt. Hermon. At the base of the mountain on the Stanardsville side is a dirt road (Mutton Hollow Road) with a small church sign saying two miles.

I only have a few memories of attending there as it was before I was four years old. One of them was fording the flooded creek in the car and the water came up to the headlights. I remember daddy being concerned that he could be in trouble.  I remember one Sunday walking into my Sunday School class with a small red purse with a long strap dangling from my shoulder. I was so proud!

I also remember one Sunday as we crossed the mountain seeing a tractor trailer that had failed to navigate the curves down over the steep side of the mountain. Daddy stopped the car and we all gazed at the scary sight wondering how they would retrieve the truck and if the driver lived. As we were staring down the side, another church family stopped to look.  (Ike Risser family).

I also remember the pipe sticking out of the rock with mountain water flowing somewhere going up the mountain. There were several picnic tables in little coves along the road for travelers to stop and rest or seek relief from their motion sickness. I don’t remember, but I suspect that my folks had to make use of both spots to clean and calm their puking girls.

Today as we turned down Mutton Hollow Road, I was very anxious to see “the creek”.  We soon came to a nice concrete bridge crossing the creek and I had to stop and take pictures. To my surprise, we crossed the creek (on bridges) three more times.  So, I have no idea which crossing was the one I remembered! There were a few sparse houses on the road but we mostly wound through Shenandoah National Forest.  We could hardly believe that a church would be so far back in the middle of nowhere with almost no homes around.

The first concrete bridge.

The other crossings seemed to have more water.

The little mountain stream was flowing fairly well.

Two miles later, we rounded a corner and there in a clearing was the stone church just as I remembered except they now have a building program with a major addition being added. We were stunned. Where do the people live that attend there?

 

The front door of the church was wide open and you could see the preacher behind the pulpit.

It is good to know the church is still thriving and bringing God’s message to the community of Lydia.

 

Today the parking lot was full of vehicles!  I got a couple of pictures from the road but we couldn’t snoop around.  The setting was beautiful, a step back in time, with the dirt road still running between the church and the creek.  Just past the church, the dirt road ended and a paved road lined with homesteads took us back out to 33. We realized we had come in the back way, up the hollow, to the church.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip down memory lane today. And for memory sake, this is the picture of Judy Risser Pritchart (left) and I (right) at one of those crossings or down the bank beside the church.

I struggled with car sickness even up into my teens years. By the time we were married, it had mostly disappeared, however, I have to be careful especially on curvy, narrow and up and down roads. I credit several things; better roads, better cars with air conditioning and the privilege of now being the front seat passenger!  Our cars in those days were real “boats”! It can still sneak up and get me if I am not careful like the historic Route 58 in southern Virginia several years ago. I have no desire to return!!!

The following two pictures taken by Judy Risser Pritchard several years ago before they started the renovation project.

The original is the back section.  The front is an entryway with bathrooms and a library.

I like this picture as it shows the year the church structure was built. History records that the church was organized in 1936 as a mission outreach from Eastern Mennonite University and they met in a local Brethren Church.  It is recalled that the first structure either burned or flooded (at a different location) and a new building was built on the current location.

We would have attended 1951-1956.

 

Several additional pictures shared by Bertha Horst…the road up the hollow. She got better pictures than I did.

One of the few homesteads nestled in the edge of the forest.

Now you can really see why we wondered why there would be a church up this road!

Chapstick-Don’t Leave Home Without It!

I think I am addicted to chapstick. I use chapstick whether I need it or not. If I see someone putting it on,  I have to put it on.  If I open a drawer and see it, I have to use it. I have it everywhere: in my purse, in my spare purse, in my three different desk drawers, on top of the microwave, in my cash drawer, in my coat pockets (that’s at least 6), with my toiletries, in my travel bag, in my dresser drawer, by my night stand and who knows where else I have it stashed! I use it summer, fall, winter and spring, and all hours of the day! I go to bed, turn out the light, and then I remember, chapstick!  I brush my teeth and my clean lips need a dose of chapstick.

I have one kind that I like and only one kind, the green medicated tube of Blistex. On the box it says “smooth, easy-gliding protection to smooth and prevent chapped lips”. That’s why I use it-preventive care! I certainly do not want to get chapped lip disease! Blistex should like this commercial push for them! Maybe they will send me a box of free samples!!!

Come to think of it, I might also be addicted to hand lotion! I am sure that is used also for preventive care!

 

%d bloggers like this: