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Feature Contributors

What is in your water

I remember at a field day some years ago when Jerry Perkins, one of my fellow grazing columnists, talked about how much his dairy milk production went up once he made some watering changes that increase the volume.


So much of our production depends on water. Every nutrition book lists water first as essential but we seem to take it for granted. Water is the most abundant nutrient in beef cattle accounting for approximately 98% of all molecules in the animal. Without water, they are all just jerky.


We are fortunate to have a lot water in our area and not have the issue of the western states. Water comes in different ways. Most of ours come from a well, some from a spring, pond, or creek. On my in-law's South Dakota ranch, it is all from ponds, and that can lead to water quality issues.


An experiment that Purdue did several years ago compare cattle production utilizing three water sources,   a well, a pond, and piped from a pond. Where cattle had access to pond water that they stood in, production was reduced. Cattle production with water pumped from a fenced pond was similar, but not as good, as a well.


The highest quality water in a pond is down about 1.5 to 2 feet from the surface. Cattle standing in a pond causes the water to be murky plus they add fecal and urine contamination. This not only is bad for the animals from a contamination standpoint but the excessive fecal phosphorus also leads to algae blooms.


The one of concern is called blue-green algae which is the more-properly called “cyanobacteria” as it is not an alga. Cyanobacteria produces a toxin called microcystin that causes rashes and makes people (and particularly pets) sick. There are over 2000 species of cyanobacteria and only 80 produce toxins and then they only produce them at certain times. So, you can test the water and the results are only at that point in time and could change the next day. Plus, when testing, is hard to find someone that is an expert in the area.


The toxin is generally near the surface along with the plant. This is another reason why drawing water from 2 feet down gives you better water. If you are watering from a pond, put in a structure, such as a solar panel to pull the water from the pond into a tank. They will drink from the tank before they will the pond.


For all water, the closer to the water source the cattle remain, the more often they will visit and each visit would be of shorter duration. According to a Missouri study, cows with water available within 800 ft at all times, drank 15% more water daily than cows that traveled over 800 ft to water.


On my farm, I did not follow that rule and cattle would come up as a group from over a thousand feet away. The boss cows would stand at the tank and chase the others away even though they were done. Eventually, after several fights, the cows would water and turn to go back to the pasture leaving the calves behind where they would get a short drink and then scurry back to their moms. Without adequate water, they would be trying to reach what little is left in the bottom of the tank, they could hardly reach. Calves are the money part of the cow/calf business and the part that should be getting adequately watered.


Adding extra tanks with free-flowing valves or putting in a creep gate that allows calves their own water is what was needed. I added more tanks.The real key is to get the water closer to the grazing cattle. Several USDA programs will help you achieve that goal.


Even well water has its issues with livestock. Sulfur can be of concern. Looking for a source of water,my South Dakota in-laws drilled a well 4,000 feet deep only to come up with stinking sulfur water. Lots of volumes but useless water. Sulfur is even more of a concern as cattle feed that includes distiller’s grains is higher in sulfur.


My well has a slight smell due to manganese. If the water is allowed to set for a day, brown coloring develops and precipitates out. It also forms a black slime almost like crude oil in water troughs. I do have to clean my water often. Livestock seems to drink this water with no problems.


The other well pollutant is nitrates. Many years ago, we had nitrate test strips at a farm show and we invited people to bring a water sample. Although not an official experiment, people with well depths of less than 25 feet tended to have nitrate issues. A lot of those are the old 2-inch wells. Knowing about this issue, I rented a house that had a shallow well. When our first child was born, I had the water tested for nitrates and found it to be over two times the acceptable limit for nitrates. We made sure his formula came from bottled water as well as our drinking water. Babies are the ones really susceptible to nitrate problems.


Livestock can also have nitrate issues. There are two scales used to indicate levels. In humans, drinking water tests can be expressed as a 10 mg/L standard expressed as nitrate-nitrogen (N) or its equivalent of 45 mg/L expressed as nitrate. Know which way they are expressing the number. Water nitrate-nitrogen (10 scales) levels of 100 ppm or less are generally considered safe, while levels between 100 and 300 ppm are questionable for livestock consumption. Nitrate-nitrogen levels in cattle drinking water of more than 300 ppm are generally considered unsafe. What can be affected first are pregnancy rates. Thinking back my landlady told me they use to have issues when they had cattle with low conceptions. Cattle also get nitrogen from feed sources. You have to look at the total picture. 

Pond weeds

Pond scum; now those are some words that can have many different meanings.


I have people describe what is floating on their farm ponds in many different terms. That may be due to the fact that there are many different plant species found in a pond.


When we talk about controlling pond weeds, we need to break them down according to where you find them; things floating on top, ones that are rooted on the bottom and still seen on top of the pond, and others that stay below the surface and those, like cattails, that grow along the edges.


The scum at the top is generally algae. It is also known as phytoplankton. A phytoplankton population that colors the water is called a “bloom.” In quiet water, blooms can produce surface scum as well as green, red, black, or oily streaks. When these algae die off, they can cause fish kills as they use up the oxygen in the decomposition process.


Blooms occur in waters that have abundant nutrients. These nutrients often come from nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers that reach the water. The best practice for managing blooms of microscopic algae is to prevent these nutrients from entering the water. Many lawn fertilizers have no phosphorus and that is fine as there is generally enough phosphorus in the soil for an established lawn.


Every year we hear about poisonous blue-green algae. It is really not technically an alga but a group of organisms called cyanobacteria. These have the ability to produce toxins, but it gets very complex as they can turn on and off production. Even though cyanobacteria are present that does not mean the toxins are being produced. You cannot tell if a bloom has toxins by looking at it. Even an analysis of the water is only good for a short period of time, because these plants are floating on the surface that is where the toxins can be found. This is why animals drinking from scummy surface waters can be exposed to toxins.


One plant that is often confused for algae is duckweed. These are referred to as free-floating plants. It is good to know the difference because the type of chemical control varies for each plant type. Duckweed can be distinguished by two very small leaves whereas algae is a type of mat where no one plant can be distinguished.


Algae are best controlled by copper products such as copper sulfate and copper chelate. They need to be applied just as the waters are too warm in the spring for best control. During this spring warm-up algae that have dropped to the bottom floats to the top. These products do no good on other pond weeds like duckweed.


There is a wide variety of pond weeds and chemicals that can be used for their control. Some of these chemicals are very expensive and also very good. Identifying the plants, you are dealing with is essential for control. It is important to use the right herbicides as some of the non-active ingredients in these products can be toxic to fish. Just because you can use a product on your lawn or farm does not mean it can be used around ponds.


Purdue has put together a very good publication on pond weeds. If you are interested in this area, give the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service office at the fairgrounds a call at 574-223-3397. We can help you out

Too much of a good thing

This past month I was at one of the rural schools in our community doing a program on trees. In the end, we checked on a couple of trees in the yard. Students arrive at this school by bicycle or horse-drawn buggy. Consequently, this is a lot of horse manure and they were mulching the trees with ample amounts.In life, we learn that too much of a good thing is not necessarily good.

A great example is too much sugar. A little bit of candy or pop is great tasting. A little more and we are now overweight and our teeth are beginning to deteriorate. I once read about a person that exhumed centuries after their death and could identify them as nobility due to their rotten teeth. They were one of the few that could afford sugar.

Horse manure is a great source of organic matter and fertilizer that can be added to the soil. Horses are fiber consumers but their digestive systems do not allow them to be as efficient digesters as cattle, sheep, and goats. Rather than have a big rumen fermentation vat at the front of the digestive process like in cattle, they do their fiber utilization in another smaller structure called a cecum between the small and large intestines. That hay that passes through a cow is a lot less digested coming out of a horse. It has a lot more form when it hits the ground, hence the term road apples.

Because of all that fiber, there is a lot more decomposition to be done. Placed in any type of pile, the manure will further decompose and part of that process is heat production. That heat can be detrimental to plants it is allowed to touch. If the manure is placed in a pile and allowed to compost for 6 months, a lot of decomposition takes place and it becomes an excellent soil amendment.

The yard tree had an additional problem with the manure, it was touching the bark. That moisture directly against the bark will eventually cause the tree to rot. Bark tissues are different than roots and cannot handle as much moisture. The bark is dead, dry tissue that protects trees from a wide range of challenges such as dehydration, oxidation, and direct access to the living tissue beneath plant pests and pathogens.

Organic mulch may be the most important component in a healthy landscape but if not properly done, it can be detrimental. Some people pile mulch against a tree in a form we call volcano mulching. The damage is irreversible if not recognized and corrected early. It can start changes to a tree’s root system that can remain throughout life.The tree would like for you to spread the mulch out from a few inches to several yards from the trunk.

A tree can use no more than 4 inches of loose mulch. Tree roots need air to survive and too deep of mulch will stop air from getting to the roots. Also, the tree will send roots up into the airy mulch, then if we do not keep the moisture adequate, they will dry out. There is more of an art behind mulching than most people think.

Horse manure mulch fails several tests, but I do enjoy writing a column that compares it to sugar. I think some dentists might agree.

Spring Farm Challenges

The month of March was cold and wet.


From an agricultural perspective, the cold is fine as it has slowed the growth of fruit trees and other overwintering plants. Otherwise, they may have a tendency on a warm day to start their biological process toward blooming only to have that bloom killed in a late spring cold weather snap. Several years back, we had three 80-degree days in March and no fruit crop that year because of the late cold.


The wet part has its good and bad issues. We needed the moisture recharge after a dry fall, but our livestock producers would rather forego the muddy lots and they would also like to do some field applications of manure.


Manure has become a more valuable asset as fertilizer prices have increased over the past few years. Many farmers in our area purchase chicken manure to be spread on fields.It has become a hot commodity in some areas, there are even chicken manure auctions. Besides its organic and nutritive values, it also contains trace minerals and is considered organic fertilizer by certifying agencies. This not only includes the conventional farmer but the organic ones into the auction. One auction in Pennsylvania had 40 bidders this past year.


Input prices are now the main concern of farmers. Leading this list are fertilizer prices. The index Purdue Economist uses for inflation shows general economic inflation at 5.5%, while agriculture production costs increased at 12.5% this past year. The University of Illinois reported: Fertilizer costs for corn were $175 per acre using September 23, 2021 price and increased by $72 per acre to $247 per acre (a 41% increase) using September 22, 2022, prices. Soybean costs increased from $85 per acre to $110 per acre, an increase of $25 per acre. Prices have decreased over the past several months but still are sustainably higher than in the past. Around 21% of the cost of growing corn is the fertilizer charge.


Around 40% of production cost is in the machinery that is needed to produce a crop. With the Covid shutdowns of many manufacturing plants in 2020, coupled with the lack of steel and computer chips, used equipment soared in price. This market is still red hot. Manufacturers have ramped up production but are still years behind as demand far exceeds supply. Today’s higher interest rates are having little effect on demand with some farmers having cash and nowhere to invest. That means taxes are being paid on income that normally would have been reinvested in the same tax year.


The increase in interest rates is having some effect on the farm economy. As we come back to what economists call a more normal historical rate, those farmers needing an operating loan to put in a crop will feel those higher interest rates.


These interest rates are also negative for land value. However, there are so many other positive factors such as cash rent returns, buying land as an inflation hedge, and outside investors, diversification have been supporting increasing land values.

Farming is a risk and along with that risk we are in an uncertain environment. There are many outside worldly factors entering into agriculture that affect the cost and the prices of our grains and livestock. One of those is the Ukraine situation and in general, our relationships with other countries. On any given day our trading with another country could be disrupted by some international event.


On one side we may be badmouthing China while they are our second largest import market. Soybeans accounted for nearly one-half of U.S. agricultural exports to China. They also purchase corn, beef, chicken meat, tree nuts, and sorghum. Just under 20% of our agriculture exports go to China.


Let's just hope that, unlike the Russians, cooler heads prevail in international relations.

Got Your Scales On

The world is beginning to come alive. Each spring we have a front row seat to a rebirth of our landscape as it comes back into life.

All winter long the tree has packed up itself into a dormant shell to protect itself from insects, diseases, and the environment. As we start the spring growth process, the plant is now making itself more vulnerable to the world. Right now, buds of trees and shrubs are beginning to swell as hormones within the plant start the process.

The bud scale is a hard structure that has been protecting the leaf buds through the winter. They will be the first to fall and, in some cases, they can be large and easily seen. While other smaller one’s float to the ground and are less visible. With these protective coverings gone, the potential leaves become more susceptible to cold damage, insects, and diseases.

One of the issues I see in our area is a disease called Peach Leaf Curl. Later on, in the late spring, you can find leaves that have puckered with an assortment of colors including reds, yellows, and a light gray. This is a bacterial disease that infects the plant just as bud swelling starts. Fungicide applications must take place before plants break dormancy.

There are many insects that take advantage of trees that have just lost their bud scales. There are over 1500 species of galls on a variety of plants. That newly expanding leaf tissue is an invitation for gall makers. These are certain species of aphids, midges, mites, psyllids, or wasps. Galls result from an intricate interaction between the highly specialized gall maker and a specific part of the host plant. It results in a distortion that is distinctive to that insect. That benefits the life cycle of the bug. Galls form at the time of plant cell multiplication in growing tissue. Normal plant growth is abruptly changed and the unique, identifiable gall replaces the ordinary growth.

If you ever marvel at how a caterpillar turns into a moth then this is another awe-inspiring insect process. They inject a chemical that causes deformities at the right time and the plant tissues actually form a structure that protects a developing insect.

The oak apple gall is a large ball about 2 inches in diameter that looks like a green apple on an oak tree. If you cut one open there is a small single wasp larva at the center surrounded by stringy foam.

Why all this protection for a single larva? This insect has a predator wasp that will feed upon the larva with a long egg-laying ovipositor. The apple-like structure has to be big enough that the ovipositor will not reach the larva inside.It is amazing how the structure is formed, to begin with then add to this, its defense mechanism.

With spring here, the tree armor comes off and another issue will be potential cold damage. As the leaves start to emerge cold damage is a possibility. Should that occur, many trees will just send out new leaves, but flower buds that have reached advanced stages can be thinned. This is especially true on all fruit trees and berries. Reports from Purdue this spring have pointed already to a reduction of grape buds stemming from the December 2022 cold spell. Even with their scales intact, grapes are more susceptible to cold injury than other fruits.

It is similar to humans curling up under the blankets in bed. You may feel protected from life’s issues but someday you will have to get out and go meet the cold cruel world. There are a lot of challenges and I would like to say there is nothing wanting to sting and deform you to carry their egg. Unfortunately, we humans also have several parasites. That is a topic for another day.

Cognitive decline

Recent studies have revealed a strong link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
This link has been found in both older and younger adults, suggesting that hearing loss
may be an important risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.
One study found that older adults with hearing loss were more likely to have cognitive
decline, including a decline in memory and thinking skills. The study followed over 1,200
adults aged 60 and older for an average of 12 years and found that those with hearing
loss were more likely to have cognitive decline than those with normal hearing. The
study also found that the risk of cognitive decline increased with the severity of hearing
Another study found that older adults with hearing loss were more likely to develop
dementia. The study followed over 2,000 adults aged 70 and older for an average of 12
years and found that those with hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia than
those with normal hearing. The risk of dementia increased with the severity of hearing
A recent study also found that hearing loss could be linked with cognitive decline in
younger adults. The study found that adults aged 18 to 35 with hearing loss were more
likely to have cognitive decline than those with normal hearing. This suggests that
hearing loss may be an early indicator of cognitive decline, even in younger adults.
“I have spoke to many younger adults, within the age similar to the study, who have
complained of trouble hearing in certain situations,” said Chuck Smith, owner of
Affordable Hearing. “The fact that there is now a study that has concluded that
untreated hearing loss is definitively linked to early cognitive decline is alarming.
Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss wait to seek treatment ‘until it gets bad’ by
that time, though, the damage is done when it comes to their cognition,” he noted.
“The age of the patients we see at our Rochester and Logansport offices are
significantly younger than when I started in the hearing healthcare industry over 23
years ago,” Smith added. “Folks see how their parents waited too long to address their
hearing needs and have learned from their mistakes and are more willing to invest in
their own hearing needs sooner.”
The exact mechanism by which hearing loss leads to cognitive decline is not yet fully
understood. However, it is believed that the brain has to work harder to process sounds
when there is hearing loss, which can lead to cognitive decline. The brain has to use
more resources to process.

Why Does my Hearing Aid Whistle?

Why Does my Hearing Aid Whistle?


Have you heard someone’s hearing aid make an embarrassing, high-pitched noise? A blockage or leak in the transmission of sound results in an annoying, squealing sound called “feedback.”

Below are a few reasons for feedback along with some simple solutions.


Excessive ear wax is one common cause of feedback.

Hearing aid microphones have the job of picking up sound, which gets funneled through the ear canal. When the ear canal is filled with wax, the amplified sounds make their way back to the microphone. Removing earwax should remedy the problem.


Check the plastic tube if your ear mold is designed that way.

A small tear in the tube can be the culprit. Wear and tear of an old tube can result in shrinkage, leaving a gap between the mold and tubing. A new tubing can easily solve the feedback issue.


Misaligned hearing aid microphones can create feedback.

Your Hearing Care Practitioner can troubleshoot to determine if the problem requires a repair. This malfunction is typically covered under the manufacturer’s original warranty.


A poorly fit hearing aid or earpiece can be the root of feedback issues.

A too small, too open, or ill-fitting earpiece can create feedback. Designing a custom earpiece can easily correct this or changing the style of disposable dome may help.


When a hearing aid is set too loud, feedback can result.

This problem can be resolved by visiting an Hearing Care Practitioner . There are tricks to remedy this, or it is possible that you may need a different solution with more power.


Don’t accept feedback as normal. There are solutions. Ask an Audiologist. We’d love to help.

How to know if our loved ones have a hearing loss

Our loved ones mean the world to us, and it can be difficult when they start to pull away from social situations. As we watch them age, we may notice changes in their behavior that could indicate a hearing loss. Hearing loss is a progressive condition that can go unnoticed for years, making it essential to identify the signs of hearing loss as early as possible. Here are some signs to look out for:

  1. The "Huh's" or "What's"? One of the most common signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing conversations. You may notice that your loved one is always asking people to repeat themselves, or they may complain that others are speaking too softly. They may also turn up the volume on the television or radio to levels that others find uncomfortable.
  2. Avoiding Group Situations If your loved one starts to avoid social gatherings or group settings, it could be a sign of hearing loss. This is because it becomes increasingly difficult to follow conversations when there is background noise or when multiple people are talking at once. You might notice that they nod along to conversations without engaging, or they may not participate in discussions as actively as they once did.
  3. Forgetting Things Hearing loss can also impact memory retention. If your loved one starts to forget things more often, it could be because they did not hear the information in the first place. This can lead to feelings of frustration and may also cause them to withdraw from social situations.
  4. Asking for Repetitions If your loved one often asks people to repeat themselves or complains that they are mumbling, it could be a sign of hearing loss. People with hearing loss often rely on lip reading and facial cues to understand what others are saying, and if they cannot see your face when you're talking, they may not hear you well.

If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, it's important to approach the issue with empathy and understanding. Start by asking them how they feel about their hearing and be open and honest about what you've noticed. Encourage them to have a hearing test to understand their hearing ability and what they can do about it.

In Australia, it is recommended that adults aged over 50 should have an annual hearing check. Having a supportive person by their side can make all the difference in their health and wellbeing. Help them take the first step to better hearing and better relationships. Book a hearing test appointment with your local ihear clinic.

Remember, hearing loss can be managed effectively with the right treatment, and by addressing it early, you can help reduce frustrations and improve your loved one's quality of life.

Cerumen management

Cerumen, also known as ear wax, is a natural substance produced by the glands in the ear canal. While it serves a protective role in the ear, excessive or impacted ear wax can lead to hearing difficulties, discomfort, and even infection. In such cases, cerumen management, including ear irrigation, may be necessary.

Ear irrigation is a safe and effective method for removing excess ear wax. It involves flushing the ear canal with a gentle stream of water to loosen and flush out the wax. You can schedule and appointment with your physician an ENT or other hearing healthcare professional, like myself, to assist you if needed. At Affordable Hearing, we utilize the first ever automated and FDA-cleared ear cleaning device to help get the job done quickly and painlessly.

If you are going to attempt to perform an ear irrigation at home, you can simply follow these steps.

Before irrigating, it is important to soften the wax for several days by using over-the-counter ear drops, such as mineral oil or a brand like Debrox. This will help to make the irrigation process more comfortable and effective. We ask our patients to make sure to do this 3 to 5 days prior to their appointment.

Here is a step-by-step guide to properly irrigating your ears at home:

  1. Fill a bulb syringe with warm water (not hot) and add a pinch of salt to help break up the ear wax.
  2. Lean your head to the side with the affected ear facing upwards.
  3. Hold the bulb syringe with the tip pointed toward the ear and gently squeeze the bulb to release the water into the ear canal.
  4. Keep the head tilted for several minutes to allow the water to penetrate the ear canal and loosen the wax.
  5. Tilt your head to the opposite side to allow the water and wax to drain out of the ear.
  6. Repeat the process for the other ear, if necessary.

It is important to avoid using cotton swabs, paper clips, or any other foreign objects to try to remove ear wax, as this can push the wax further into the ear canal and potentially cause damage.

Additionally, it is essential to avoid using irrigation if you have any of the following conditions:

  1. A perforated eardrum
  2. A history of eardrum surgery
  3. An ear infection
  4. A foreign object in the ear canal

If you have any of these conditions, it is best to seek professional assistance from a hearing healthcare professional. They can safely remove the wax and determine if there are any underlying issues that need to be addressed.

In conclusion, ear wax build-up can be a common and frustrating problem, but it can easily be managed through proper cerumen management techniques, such as ear irrigation. By following the steps outlined above, you can help keep your ears healthy and free of excess wax. However, if you experience any discomfort, pain, or hearing difficulties, it is essential to seek professional help from a hearing healthcare professional. They can evaluate your ear health, provide safe and effective treatment options, and help you maintain good hearing health.

When should we get our hearing tested?

Hearing is an important sense that plays a crucial role in communication, balance, and overall quality of life.


As we age, our hearing abilities can decline, which can contribute to cognitive decline and even increase the risk of developing conditions such as dementia. That is why it is essential to get your hearing tested regularly and address any hearing issues as soon as possible.


According to recent research, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to when and how often someone should get their hearing tested. The frequency of hearing tests will depend on several factors, including age, lifestyle, and overall health.


Here are some general guidelines to help you determine when and how often you should get your hearing tested:

  1. Age: As you get older, your risk of developing hearing loss increases. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) recommends that adults over the age of 50 get their hearing tested at least once every decade. If you have a family history of hearing loss, it is recommended to get your hearing tested more frequently.
  2. Lifestyle: If you are regularly exposed to loud noise, such as music or machinery, you may be at an increased risk of developing hearing loss. In such cases, it is recommended to get your hearing tested at least once every three to five years.
  3. Overall health: If you have any medical conditions that can affect your hearing, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, it is recommended to get your hearing tested more frequently. Your healthcare provider can help determine the appropriate frequency of hearing tests for your specific needs.

In addition to these guidelines, it is important to get a hearing test if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  1. Difficulty hearing conversation or sounds around you
  2. Trouble understanding speech, especially in noisy environments
  3. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  4. Dizziness or balance problems

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional assistance from a hearing healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough hearing assessment and determine if you have a hearing loss and if so, what type and to what degree.


When it comes to getting your hearing tested, there are several types of hearing tests available, including:

  1. Pure-tone audiometry test: This test measures your ability to hear different frequencies and is typically conducted in a soundproof room using headphones.
  2. Speech audiometry test: This test measures your ability to understand speech and is conducted in a quiet room.
  3. Tympanometry: This test measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure and can help identify problems with the middle ear, such as fluid buildup.

Hearing tests are quick, painless, and non-invasive, and they provide valuable information about your hearing health. By getting your hearing tested regularly and addressing any hearing issues as soon as possible, you can help maintain good hearing health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.


In conclusion, getting your hearing tested regularly is an essential component of maintaining good hearing health. The frequency of hearing tests will depend on several factors, including age, lifestyle, and overall health. If you are experiencing any hearing symptoms, it is important to seek professional assistance from a licensed hearing healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough hearing assessment and provide you with the information and treatment options you need to maintain good hearing health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Keeping Active During Winter Months

If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It…Keeping Active During Winter Months


Editors Note: Amy is Physical Therapist at Woodlawn Hospital. If you would like to schedule an appointment with her or one of her colleagues, please call 574-224-1160.


Indiana winters seem to drag on forever during the early months of the year, and those few warm days send everyone outside to get some much-needed Vitamin D and fresh air. These brief periods of high activity during an otherwise sedentary time of the year can put you at increased risk of injury. Staying active during the colder months will allow you to safely jump right back into those spring activities, like golfing, hiking, pickleball, or gardening.


Here are three tips to keep you moving this winter.

1. Try indoor workouts. There are thousands of free online exercise programs available to meet all levels of physical activity.

2. Park far away from the supermarket entrance and walk briskly through the parking lot when weather conditions allow. Avoid icy areas and watch for traffic.

3. Set ‘activity reminders’ on your phone or smartwatch to encourage walking throughout the day. It’s easy to get cozy on the couch and without realizing it, be inactive for hours at a time! Little reminders throughout the day can be super beneficial to increasing your activity.


You don’t have to hibernate during winter months. Stay active and spring will arrive before you know it!

Orthopedic Update

In my practice, I occasionally get asked to explain the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as osteoporosis. It is a good question and it is important to understand the difference, as these diseases are diagnosed and treated differently.

Osteoarthritis (OA): The most common form of arthritis and often referred to as the "wear and tear" arthritis. The smooth, protective cushion of cartilage on the bones gradually wears away and this leads to stiffness and pain and eventually, difficulty with activities. It is commonly found in the middle to older age groups. Other causes include obesity, prior injury, and family history.

Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed with an x-ray.

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are treatment options that can offer benefits for pain relief, and to help with strength and mobility. These treatments may include over-the-counter or prescriptive anti-inflammatories; such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, Celebrex, or Mobic, etc. Other treatments include physical therapy, weight loss, steroid and lubricant injections in the arthritic joint, bracing, ice and elevation, and vitamin supplements. Finally, when nonsurgical medical management of the osteoarthritis is no longer effective, total joint replacements are considered. Treatment is provided by primary care and orthopedic specialty

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): The lining of the joints and surrounding tissue swell and eventually attacks and destroys the joint surface. This has an erosive effect on the cartilage and leads to deformity and pain. While it is not believed to be hereditary, there may be a gene that makes some people more susceptible to RA. Joint stiffness, pain, and swelling, including ultimate deformity are common symptoms. Triggers may include infection or environmental factors, and susceptible genes. The immune system then, designed to protect, begins to attack the joint instead.

RA is diagnosed with physical examination, medical history, x-rays, and labs including Rheumatoid Factor.

Again, there is no cure for RA, but treatment options include: physical and occupational therapy and medications. Surgical joint replacement can also be considered. Treatment is provided by a primary care provider and/or a rheumatologist.

Osteoporosis: Condition where the bones become thin and weak, and more prone to fracture. The bones decrease in strength and quality as we age and the bone remodeling process is slowed down. More common in women, than in men. Loss of estrogen in women at menopause causes rapid bone loss. Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle can cause adverse changes in the bone mass at earlier ages.

Osteopenia (Low Bone Mass): This is a "pre-osteoporosis" condition. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are sometimes diagnosed when a person experiences a bone fracture with a minor injury, that would otherwise not cause a fracture in a healthy person. Causes include aging, hormonal changes, and a genetic disposition. Certain medications can increase your risk for osteoporosis, so this should be discussed with your primary care physician when starting a new medication. Health conditions and lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol use, smoking, and inactivity can also increase risk of osteoporosis.

Diagnosis includes a physical examination, medical history, family history; specialized x-ray called a bone densitometry or DXA scan.

All information was gathered from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) website. Free patient teaching guides on these diseases and more are available at


What goes on back there, anyway?

Editors Note: Emily Schouten is the Laboratory Director at Woodlawn Hospital.


Did you ever wonder what happens to your blood sample after you leave the lab? I recently asked my teenagers what they thought happened to samples in a lab and my daughter asked, “Do you have vampires in the lab?” Fortunately, we do not have any vampires in the lab. We do have staff who want to give the best possible care to our patients.

What happens to a blood sample in the lab after a phlebotomist draws your blood?

At Woodlawn Hospital, a blood sample’s first stop is in the Chemistry department. A lab technologist, who has extensive training, reviews the doctor’s order to make sure the correct samples are collected by the phlebotomist. Next, the sample is processed so that it is ready to be tested on one of the many machines in the lab, called an analyzer. There are many analyzers with cutting edge technology in the lab and each analyzer tests for very specific items in your blood. Some analyzers measure material in your blood such as glucose or cholesterol. Other analyzers count the red blood cells that carry oxygen and the white blood cells that fight infections.

Not every blood sample is tested on an analyzer. Many samples are handled by the lab technologists, stained with special dyes, and looked at under a microscope to help identify unusual cells in the blood or bacteria growing inside the body. A lab technologist is trained to identify common problems such as bacteria from a person with a urinary tract infection to unusual parasites like malaria.

Woodlawn Hospital has a microbiology department on site inside the lab. Microbiology is a specialized department where samples from the human body are placed in petri dishes to grow the bacteria that are causing infections. Once the bacteria grow, the lab technologist places the bacteria in an analyzer that can determine which antibiotic is best to treat the infection.

Most lab tests are completed on the same day they are collected. All results are reviewed by the lab technologists before the report is sent to your doctor. Sometimes there are tests that are not finished at Woodlawn Hospital. These tests are sent to a reference lab for more testing.

The next time you are in the lab at Woodlawn Hospital ask the phlebotomist about what happens to your blood sample, but please do not expect to find any vampires.

Over the counter vs prescription hearing aids

Today, I want to talk about hearing aids. Have you ever heard of someone wearing a little device in their ear to help them hear better? That's a hearing aid! But did you know there are two different types of hearing aids? Yes, that's right! There are Over The Counter (OTC) hearing aids and Prescription hearing aids.

But what’s the differences???

Let's start with OTC hearing aids. OTC hearing aids are the type of hearing aids you can buy without a prescription from a doctor or a hearing specialist. They are usually a little less expensive and easier to get because you don't need to go to the doctor first. Just like you can buy glasses without a prescription, you can buy OTC hearing aids without one too.

Now, let's talk about Prescription hearing aids. These are the type of hearing aids that you need a prescription from a doctor or a hearing specialist to buy. This is because prescription hearing aids are more powerful and can help with more serious hearing problems. They are also custom-fit and programmed to your ear and your specific prescription of hearing loss, so they are more comfortable and work better for you.

So, what are the differences between OTC and Prescription hearing aids? Well, for starters, OTC hearing aids are designed for someone with a ‘perceived’ mild to moderate hearing loss and are less powerful than prescription hearing aids. They are also a little less expensive and don't need a prescription, which is why some people choose them. But, if you have a more serious hearing problem, struggle to understand in group settings and in background noise, than an OTC hearing aid might not be strong enough to help you hear properly. That's why prescription hearing aids are a better choice in that case.

Another difference is the level of customization. OTC hearing aids are not customized to your ear or your specific type and degree of hearing loss. They come in different sizes, but they might not fit your ear perfectly. This can make them uncomfortable to wear, and they might not work as well as they should. There is also no state mandated return period and you have no one to help you when you have trouble. On the other hand, prescription hearing aids are custom-fit to your ear and custom programmed to your individual needs. This means they are made to fit your ear perfectly and are much more comfortable to wear.

Prescription hearing aids also have more features and settings than OTC hearing aids. This allows you to adjust the hearing aid to your specific needs. For example, if you have trouble hearing in noisy places, a prescription hearing aid can be set to help you hear better in those situations. OTC hearing aids don't have these extra features and settings.

Another important difference is the level of support you receive. When you buy an OTC hearing aid, you are basically on your own. If you have trouble using it or if it's not working properly, you may not be able to get the help you need. On the other hand, if you buy a prescription hearing aid, you will have the support of a hearing specialist. They can help you adjust the hearing aid and make sure it's working properly. They can also help you if you have any questions or concerns. Many people are unaware that hearing aids need to be maintained since they are exposed to the elements and to heat, perspiration, dirt, dust and cold. Having your hearing aids cleaned and professionally serviced on a regular basis ensures not only that they are working properly but also helps to extend the longevity and life of the hearing aids. The average life of a hearing aid ranges between 5-7 years, when properly cared for and maintained.

So, which one is better? It really depends on your specific needs. If you have a mild hearing problem and just need a little extra help, an OTC hearing aid might be a good choice. But, if you have a more serious hearing problem, a prescription hearing aid is probably a better choice. It's more powerful, custom-fit to your ear, and comes with the support of a hearing specialist.

In conclusion, there are two types of hearing aids: OTC hearing aids and Prescription hearing aids. OTC hearing aids may be a little less expensive and easier to get, but they are less powerful and not custom-fit to your ear. Prescription hearing aids are more powerful, custom-fit to your ear, and come with the support of a hearing specialist. Which one is better for you depends on your specific needs, so it's important to talk to a doctor or hearing specialist to determine what type of hearing aid would be best for you.

Remember, taking care of your hearing is important. If you have trouble hearing, don't ignore it! Talk to a doctor or hearing specialist to find out if a hearing aid could help you. With the right hearing aid, you can enjoy all the sounds of the world again!

In summary, the differences between OTC and Prescription hearing aids are:

1.    Power: Prescription hearing aids are more powerful than OTC hearing aids.

2.    Customization: Prescription hearing aids are custom-fit to your ear, while OTC hearing aids are not.

3.    Features: Prescription hearing aids have more features and settings than OTC hearing aids.

4.    Support: When you buy a prescription hearing aid, you have the support of a hearing specialist.

If you or someone you know has trouble hearing, don't hesitate to talk to a doctor or hearing specialist. With the right hearing aid, you can enjoy all the sounds of the world again!

Depression-You are Not Alone

Editor’s Note: Ginger Richard is a Nurse Practitioner for Woodlawn Hospital at the Shafer Medical Clinic. She is accepting new patients and you can schedule an appointment with her at 574-223-9525.


Depression is a common emotion that, at one time or another, we have all felt. Sometimes the stigma of admitting one's concerns or feelings keeps us from speaking up. Rest assured that depression is the most common mood disorder causing disability in the United States and throughout the world. When depression is left untreated, an individual is at risk of developing other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, thyroid disease, and diabetes. Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of despair and sadness, and it can lead to a loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities as well as a loss of interest in relationships.


The following are some signs and symptoms of depression:

• Feeling sad or anxious frequently or all of the time

• Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun

• feeling irritable, easily frustrated, or restless

• Having difficulty falling or staying asleep?

• Waking up too early or sleeping too much

• Eating more or less than usual, or having no appetite

• Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment

• Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions • feeling tired, even after sleeping well.

• Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless • Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself


When any of these symptoms last over a period of time, one needs to seek help from a medical provider as they can interfere with one’s quality of life. Depression can be caused by a variety of factors, including a life stressor, trauma, the death of a loved one, suffering relatives, or financial stress. While no one person handles depression alike, there are different therapies to help cope with it. The first step is to seek help in dealing with the issue at hand. Therapy or counseling can often help sort through the thoughts and feelings one is experiencing in their life. Counseling helps with behavioral change and finding solutions to the issues at hand.


To help improve coping skills and mood, antidepressants and other medications can be started. There are many different drug classes available for your provider to try in treatment. While taking these medications, it’s important for the patient to know they may not feel the benefit in a few days and that it takes up to four weeks for the full effects.


The most important thing is to realize you are not alone, and resources are available to help. Contact your primary care provider, as they can perform a depression screening to determine if you fit the diagnosis of depression.

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Thousand miles of whole lot of Differences


With my 44-year association with South Dakota, I have gotten to observe the many differences in species from that part of the country to ours. The Dakotas are part of the Great Plains, an area once covered by prairie grasses and not trees. That is by far the most noticeable difference, but when you start to dig a little deeper the less conspicuous non-Indiana plants such as crested wheatgrass, lead plant, buck brush, and sage fill the prairie.


The wildlife variations are even more unique. Yes, they do have cotton-tail rabbits but they also have jackrabbits. In fact, the South Dakota State University mascot is a jackrabbit. Their main rival South Dakota University has a coyote as their mascot. An animal that I can hear announcing their presence, nightly, around my Indiana house.


That area of the country is well known for its rattlesnakes. Back when I was in college in South Dakota, I had just finished watching a parade when I was invited into a downstairs apartment by some guys I knew. They were talking about their rattlesnake adventures and said they had some snakes. Fully expecting something fake to jump out at me, they dumped a burlap sack with five rattlesnakes into a big garbage can. They were not fake. Consequently, I didn’t stay long.


One animal I guess I can't say I have run into is the porcupine. I never recall seeing one but the tire sidewalls of a relative's car were filled with quills. I always wondered if that was a near miss or the animal's last desperate act. 


Desperate would describe my wife’s sister's dog that had 5 quills stuck in its nose. It had gotten too close to a porcupine and suffered the consequences. This dog was very people shy so it took a while to catch it. After suffering for the better part of a day, it was finally caught and I had to use a pair of plyers for plucking the quills from its nose. The dog did not like the process but was greatly relieved in the end.


Wild turkeys are now a part of our agriculture landscape in Indiana after being missing since around the year 1900. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, between 1956 and 2004, wild trapped birds were released around the state. Wild turkeys are now found in all 92 counties. Spring density over most of Indiana ranges from 1 to 14 birds per square mile, with an average of 4 birds per square mile in recent years.


Walking one cold frosty winter morning near the Dakota cattle feed yard, I spied several turkeys roosting in a tree. I took their picture and years later in a conversation with a wildlife specialist, I mentioned seeing these turkeys. After looking at the picture, I was told they were not the eastern wild turkey historically found in Indiana but another closely related species, the Merriam turkey.


Probably the most despised species by ranchers is the prairie dog. Prairie dogs are stocky burrowing rodents that live in colonies called “towns.” French explorers called them “little dogs” because of the barking noise they make.


Prairie dogs are social animals that live in towns of up to 1,000 acres with 30 to 50 burrow entrances per acre. They primarily eat grass and can lay the ground bare within their towns.

Because of their unwantedness, most ranchers are receptive to out-of-state prairie dog hunters that frequent the area. One of the reasons for their disdain comes from the potential of a horse stepping in a hole and breaking a leg.


Prairie dogs have flea problems. Last summer I lay down on the grass in an area of prairie dogs. Several days later I came up with multiple flea bites on my torso.

Prairie dogs are susceptible to a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. You may know it better by the name, Black Plague. I can say that I am lucky that the town did not have disease issues, but their fleas knew how to bite. Luckily, my grave marker will not say “Done in by the bubonic plaque.”


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County



The Merriam turkeys roosting in trees overlooking a feedlot in South Dakota.

Photo provided by Mark Kepler


Tinnitus is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, characterized by a ringing, buzzing, or other noise in the ears. While the exact cause of tinnitus is not always clear, recent research suggests that undiagnosed hearing loss could be a significant contributing factor.

Hearing loss is a gradual process that occurs over time, and many people may not even realize they have it. As the ear becomes less sensitive to sound, it compensates by sending stronger signals to the brain. This can cause the brain to perceive phantom noises, such as ringing or buzzing, which is known as tinnitus.

One study found that nearly 80% of people with tinnitus also had hearing loss. In addition, people with severe hearing loss were more likely to have severe tinnitus symptoms. This suggests that hearing loss and tinnitus may be closely linked, and that treating hearing loss could lead to a reduction in tinnitus symptoms.

“Many of my patients, myself included, have complained about suffering with tinnitus,” said Chuck Smith, owner of Affordable Hearing of Rochester and Logansport. “Most of them have stated that they don’t notice or ‘hear’ the tinnitus when wearing their hearing aids.”

Another study found that older adults with tinnitus were more likely to have age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. This type of hearing loss is caused by the natural deterioration of the ear as we age and is characterized by difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. The study suggests that as the ear's ability to hear high-pitched sounds deteriorates, the brain may compensate by creating phantom noises, leading to tinnitus.

It's not just age-related hearing loss that can cause tinnitus. Exposure to loud noise is another common cause of hearing loss and tinnitus. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the delicate hair cells in the ear are damaged by loud noise. These hair cells play a crucial role in transmitting sound to the brain, and when they are damaged, the brain may create phantom noises as a compensation.

Many people who experience tinnitus due to noise exposure may have been exposed to loud noise in their workplace, such as construction workers, farmers, and musicians. However, exposure to loud noise can also occur in everyday life, such as attending concerts, using power tools, or even listening to music at a high volume.

There is a good news for people with tinnitus and hearing loss, treatment options are available. If a person's tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, treating the hearing loss can lead to a reduction in tinnitus symptoms. This can be done through the use of hearing aids, which amplify sound and make it easier for the ear to hear. In some cases, a cochlear implant may be recommended, which is a small electronic device that is surgically implanted into the ear to help improve hearing.

Another approach is tinnitus masking therapy that can help people with tinnitus learn to manage their symptoms. Tinnitus masking therapy is a treatment that involves the use of external sounds to mask or "cover up" the phantom noises associated with tinnitus. The goal of tinnitus masking therapy is to reduce the perceived loudness of tinnitus and make it less noticeable. This can be done through the use of various sound therapy devices, such as white noise machines, tinnitus maskers, and hearing aids with tinnitus masking features.

White noise machines produce a constant, neutral sound, such as the sound of a fan or a waterfall, that can be used to mask tinnitus. Tinnitus maskers are similar to white noise machines, but they are specifically designed for tinnitus and can be worn in the ear like a hearing aid. They produce a sound that is specifically tailored to the individual's tinnitus, and can be adjusted to match the pitch and loudness of the tinnitus.

Hearing aids with tinnitus masking features can also be used to reduce the effects of tinnitus. These hearing aids are designed to amplify external sounds, making them easier to hear, while also producing a masking sound to cover up tinnitus. The masking sound is typically a low-level noise that is specifically tailored to the individual's tinnitus.

Tinnitus masking therapy can be effective in reducing the perceived loudness of tinnitus and making it less noticeable. This can help improve the quality of life for people with tinnitus by reducing the impact of the condition on their daily lives. However, it's important to note that tinnitus masking therapy is not a cure for tinnitus, it can help to alleviate the symptoms, it's important to consult with an audiologist or a hearing professional to evaluate the best treatment options for you.

“As a trained Tinnitus Therapy professional, I have helped hundreds of people address their needs through the use of hearing aids and tinnitus masking devices.” Smith added. “Hopefully we are going to be able to help even more people once our Logansport office is up and running,”

In conclusion, undiagnosed hearing loss could be a significant contributing factor to tinnitus. If you are experiencing tinnitus, it is important to have your hearing evaluated by a Licensed Hearing Healthcare provider. If hearing loss is identified, treatment options such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can be considered to help reduce tinnitus symptoms and improve your quality of life. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be helpful in managing tinnitus symptoms. By addressing hearing loss, we can improve the lives of millions of people who are struggling with the debilitating effects of tinnitus.

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Where's the Beef Cows


Where’s the Beef Cows


The big news in the cattle production world is that cow numbers are at the lowest in this country since 1962. At first glance, that sure is amazing since the United States human population was 184 million in that year and today it is 334 million.

One would expect that with those huge increases in the human population and a cut in the number of cows that beef consumption would also be drastically cut. In 1962 the average consumption of beef per person/year was 62 pounds. In 2022, the average beef consumption was 55 pounds. A definite drop but nothing like the number of cows.

How could that be true?

For me, 1962 is only a few memories away. It would have been in 1965 that I would have shown at my first county fair. I remember those beef steers of that era. Even though I was small and they were big, they were nothing like the steers of today. Steer carcass weights increased from 656 pounds in 1960 to 907 pounds in 2020, an average increase of 4.2 pounds per year. Today’s cow produces much more beef.

Our cows have also gotten better reproductive efficacy. I read in a journal article that comparing numbers from 1977 to 2007, the same amount of beef is produced with 69.9% of the animals, 81.4% of the feed, 87.9% of water, and 67.0% of land in the US. These numbers tout that today’s beef producers are utilizing our environmental resources better.

Even though we have become more efficient, one of the big reasons for the reduced number of cows is the western drought. The persistence of this dry weather will carry even more cows to the market next year and will also result in a few heifers retained for reproduction.

All this has led to some of the highest beef prices in the past few years. It is ironic that these western cattle producers have an opportunity to make more money but the weather is just not cooperating. Welcome to agriculture.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County

Heather Bartrum happy she answered call to become 'surg tech'

When Heather Bartrum was a student at Ivy Tech Kokomo, the professor leading the Surgical Technology program knew she had a lot of potential.

“Heather was a great student,” says program chair Jia Hardimon-Eddington. “She jumped right in. She worked hard. She helped other students and she contributed to everyone’s success. I knew she would be a great ‘surg tech’ and I’m so proud of all she is doing.”

Today, nearly 11 years after graduation and certification, Bartrum does work full-time as a surgical technologist, serving as “private scrub” for Dr. Thomas Reilly, an orthopedic surgeon in Kokomo who specializes in the care of patients with spinal and nerve disorders of the neck and back, and working at the Indiana Spine Group in Carmel. It’s a job she loves … but not one she ever thought about before a life-changing mid-life accident and a spiritual “battle” that led her to Ivy Tech Community College.

Bartrum was born and raised in Howard County. After graduating from Western High School in 1992, she attended Indiana University Kokomo for a year before going to work, first as an “eye tech” at New Vision Optical and then as a teller at First National Bank. Marriage came in 1996; a daughter arrived in 1997 and a son followed in 2000. She was a full-time mom, later working part-time at Northwestern Schools when the youngest went to kindergarten.

Then, in 2008, came that life-changing accident. While washing her dad’s pick-up truck, she fell from the back and shattered her leg. “Surgery … and three months, no weight bearing. It was a humbling experience,” Heather remembers. “That’s when God first spoke to me. He told me to go into surgery. I was called to help other people going into surgery.”

Bartrum says she fought the idea for months, but, she adds with a smile, God eventually won and her faith took her forward. She had been out of high school for more than 15 years; she says she didn’t think she was smart enough. She knew nothing about surgical technology or what it entailed, but she came to Ivy Tech to see what was available and was soon enrolled in the pre-requisite courses for the program.

“The professors were all phenomenal,” she said, remembering among others a great math teacher and her English professor, Ethan Heicher, who is now Ivy Tech Kokomo’s chancellor. “I wasn’t just a number in the class. The professors helped me. I got into some great study groups.”

With her pre-reqs achieved, Bartrum was admitted into the surg tech program, then located in one room in the Inventrek building on East Firmin Street. She recently visited Ivy Tech’s new Surgical Technology laboratory in the Health Professions Center on the transformed campus at 1815 E. Morgan St. and talked about her very different experience.

“Oh, my gosh, it would be awesome to go through the program as a student in this new facility,” Bartrum said. “They get so much more hands-on experience. We had a big classroom but the lab was very small, just one bed to practice on …” The new Surg Tech lab includes four surgical suites fully outfitted in current technology that offer training opportunities to the same number of students that were in Heather’s class.

“Jia helped me a lot,” Bartrum said. “When I started, I didn’t do very well testing. Jia would go over the tests with me afterwards. I could answer the questions when talking to her and she helped me figure out what I needed to do to capture the correct answers on the tests.” She also credits the partnerships Ivy Tech has with local medical facilities to offer clinical rotations and internships, particularly citing Joyce Hughes, now retired, who, as Heather’s preceptor at Dukes Memorial Hospital, provided great experience.

Bartrum graduated from the program in 2012, 20 years after graduating from high school, earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology and passing her certification exam on the first try. She was hired as a certified surgical technologist at St. Joseph Hospital and within six weeks was working with Dr. Reilly.

Bartrum offers two pieces of advice to those who follow her. First, always verify the sizes and dates of equipment and material used in the operating room; don’t rely on others. Second, “if you ever mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Write it up, think about how you can do it better and then don’t ever do that again.”

She encourages others to follow their dreams. “By the grace of God, a lot of studying and determination, and pushing yourself, you can do it,” she says. In addition to her “day job,” Bartrum works with her father raising cattle and has been involved with 4-H in Howard and Carroll counties.

“I just love my job. I feel like I’m doing something not just for the person going into surgery but also for my community,” Bartrum adds.  “As I’ve told my kids, a job is something you get and have to go to. A career is something you don’t mind getting up and going to every day, something you enjoy and that is fulfilling to you. I love my job and I don’t regret anything. There are days that are hard, that you’re tired and worn out and your body hurts. But I am blessed.”


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns to the needs of the community. The College provides seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor’s degree. Follow Ivy Tech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for the most up-to-date information.


Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, Pulaski and Tipton counties, including the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, Rochester, Tipton and Winamac.



Heather Bartrum couldn’t help being a little jealous of current students during recent visit to Ivy Tech Kokomo’s new Surg Tech classroom and lab


Surg Tech program chair Jia Hardimon-Eddington shows off new surgical suite to alumna Heather Bartrum



Jia Hardimon-Eddington and Heather Bartrum shared memories and perspectives during Heather’s recent visit to the new home of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Surgical Technology Program

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Winter with Cattle

Winter with Cattle


On Saturday, February 4th,2023, the record for the lowest recorded wind chill in the United States was set at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire at minus 108° F. I do not know what my personal record is for the lowest wind chill I have experienced but I do remember December 23, 1983, in Little Eagle South Dakota.

That day it was 20 below and winds up to 40 MPH and I found myself helping unroll large round hay bales for cattle on the prairies of South Dakota. We were in and out of warm trucks while those cows did not have that luxury.

A healthy beef animal in winter with a full coat of hair and no wind, rain, or mud on them is comfortable down to around 18 degrees. If they are being fed an adequate diet with hay and other fiber sources, their big old stomach, called a rumen, will be producing a lot of body-warming fermented heat.

When brutal cold conditions happen, cattle will escape the wind by standing in the draw between hills. When arriving with a large round bale of feed on a sunny day, it was difficult to lure those sunning black-haired animals out to the feed.

The Dakotas are no strangers to the cold. Back in the harsh winter of 1886-87, the great cattle barons including Teddy Roosevelt suffered pronounced losses that ended their investment in the Dakotas. Teddy did not know of the loss until he showed up the following spring to find half of his herd dead.

The turn them out and let them roam way of ranching is long gone. When winter comes the ranchers pick specific pastures for their cattle, with adequate areas to escape the wind. Teddy’s method is replaced by winter feeding and moving cattle to areas where they can be better sheltered from the elements. In those temperatures, more hay bales need to be fed to meet the energy needs of the animals.

With the current drought situation in much of the west, large amounts of money were spent purchasing hay this year in anticipation of the cows' winter energy needs.

What I find amazing is the insulating ability of the cow. Many times, cattle will have snow on their backs. The thicker the hair coat and variations in, age, size, wind speed, and numerous other factors will affect their ability to insulate. Cattle with a wet hair coat, regardless of how heavy it is, will have a lower critical temperature of around 59 degrees because the hair coats lose their insulation ability when wet.

Chopping ice is a daily ritual. Cattle in that area are watered out of dams. Cutting through a foot of ice with an axe in multiple locations allows the cattle a chance to have a good long drink before the ice freezes over again. From one day to the next, 10-12 inches of ice can refreeze in the previous day's ice hole. Wheeling an axe in those temperatures can help to warm a person up but at the same time, breathing in that cold air will frost the nose hairs.

I was better equipped to perform that task 39 years ago than I am today. But there are cattle still there and I am sure that this morning my brother-in-law could still be found chopping away. A memory for me, daily winter life for him.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County





****photo provided by Mark Kepler****

Caption for photo:


Hay bales purchased to maintain cow health through the potentially cold South Dakota Winter.


Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Wild Ideas


Wild Ideas


 Did you ever have a wild idea? Now some people have wild ideas, others have them and actually act on them. There is really no definition for the term, but I suspect the thought of a light bulb was considered a wild idea at one time. Even the ancient thought of the world being flat was gradually disproven starting in the 4th century BC with the wild ideas of Plato. By the time Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, most scholars maintained that the Earth was a big ball.

In agriculture, there have been a few wild ideas, I will go back to my youth when I was subjected to one, not of my own doing. Mowing hay is normally done by one of two methods. One most prevalent today is a series of rotating horizontal knives slicing the crop off a few inches above the ground in a system called a disc mower.

 Traditionally, the other was the one-long-piece cycle bar mower where jagged cutters remove the plant from just above the ground in one single stem piece. That is what we had on the back of the International H tractor. It laid the cutoff plant on the ground to dry. We then raked it several days later and baled it the same day. Our baler was one that produced what is today referred to as small square bales. An Allis Chalmers WD-45 tractor pulling an International baler followed by a flat rack wagon with generally two people stacking was our setup. I was always one of those stackers doing the manual labor behind the baler.

We had a neighbor that used a third type of mower called a flail chopper. It is a vertical mower that has chains that hang down with knives on the end. When it cuts off a plant it throws it into the air and can cut it multiple times before it hits the ground. Rather than a single stem it slightly pulverized the crop.

Red clover is an excellent Northern Indiana forage crop we have been planting on our farm for many generations. It can be a little fine and what we refer to as dusty. I still have an item called a clover seed buncher that farmers of the past would use to collect clover hay, mowed down by one of the cycle bar mowers, gathered, and threshed for the clover seed that farmer would then plant for another hay crop or sell to a neighbor. 

Clover hay is great feed for cattle, sheep, and goats. It is easy to grow, but it only lasts for two years (some seeds now three) before it has to be replanted. It adds nitrogen to the soil, and this makes it perfect to rotate with corn. A very win-win situation. 

Flail chopping clover, as my neighbor did, was a win-lose battle that I can still vividly recall 55 years later when I was on that wagon baling on a windy day. It was easy for the neighbor to cut, but I was the looser as my eyes were just full of dusty, aggravating, itchy clover. 

For me, one of the most physically taxing jobs on the farm was picking rock. I could have easily left that wagon and gladly hitched up the stone boat. Whoever it was that had the wild idea of flail-chopping clover needed to have found himself on that wagon. We could have put a stop to that notion. That is one idea that never needs repeating

That is unless I wish to not suffer alone, and facetiously, start the Clover Flailing Society that promotes clover mutilation. I can be like the Flat Earth Society, which really does exist today. I just hope I don't go over the edge.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Chemicals of the Past


Chemicals of the Past

Occasionally I receive very old agriculture books. Looking through them gives me an opportunity to compare agriculture practices of the past. In some cases, we talk about how better things were in the good old days. That is not always an accurate statement when we look at the pesticides of the past.

The book I was recently looking at was printed in 1945 and was an individual compilation of many people’s ideas. They refer to it as “The Book of a Thousand Authors.”

One of the first remedies was a sheep dewormer. Parasitic worms are a serious issue in sheep and goats that have caused many deaths. Since 1945, several dewormers have been developed that can be used on livestock. Unfortunately, it seems almost as quickly as they are developed, the parasite builds up a resistance to these miracle products and treated animals may die.

The worm reduction product of the past that is no longer is Black Leaf 40, a 40% solution of nicotine sulfate. As a child, I would see people feed an eager goat a cigarette or cigar and pronounce them dewormed. Nicotine is an insecticide that can be very harmful if not given at the proper dosage. The actual dosage of the product needed to control the parasites is near the toxic level for the animal. Giving the animal a cigarette may kill a few worms but there is no scientific determination of the actual dosage or just how many cigarettes it takes to kill most of the worms.

Today’s insecticides are designed to be less toxic to animals and more toxic to pests. The old days of DDT, lead arsenic, and mercury chloride are thankfully behind us. Today’s pesticides are safer for humans than those of 70 years ago. But they still need to be treated with respect. Even products that are relatively low in toxicity might, over time, result in other human or environmental issues.

The 1945 book also recommended a change in pasture for sheep every year. A great idea but further research now has sheep producers rotating several times a year and keeping sheep off pastures for over a month. This keeps the plant tall and the worms less available to the animals that would naturally graze grass to the ground.

With all pest control, it is not just about the chemicals, it starts with other cultural changes. We need to bring in the chemicals as the last resort.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Adapting Buckwheat Apples




If there was an area of the world I would like to see, it would be on the Asian continent. I would love to learn about places where agriculture started and the transportation system that developed along the silk road. One of those places that attract my interest is Nepal and Tibet.

Sitting on top of the world in the Himalayan Mountain range is this ancient culture that has subsistence agriculture. They only grow enough to survive and make very little selling to others. Livestock, such as sheep, goats, and cattle that feed off the grasses growing in that area is their main source of food.

A magazine article I recently read about a trip to Tibet and Nepal had the author explaining the locals were going into fields of buckwheat and apple orchards. He was in Kali Gandaki River valley located at an elevation of around 8,000 feet above sea level. How perfect. The crops grown in that area are ideal for the inhospitable country they live.

Buckwheat is a fast-growing and maturing plant native to northern Asia. It will produce a seed crop in about two months. Historically, its flexibility and wide adaptation led it to be grown on more than a million acres in the U.S. in late 1800s. Today it is around 70,000 acres.

The number of acres is increasing as buckwheat has also been used widely as a cover crop to smother weeds and improve the soil. The crop seems to improve soil tilth and is reported to make phosphorous more available as a soil nutrient, possible through root-associated mycorrhizae. Buckwheat flowers profusely, making them popular with bee keepers and an attractive crop in the landscape. Buckwheat is also quick to die following a frost, further contributing to its short life. I also have noticed that it seems to reseed itself quickly.

Of all the fruit trees, apples seem to take the cold weather the best. This is one of the coldest hardiest plants in our area. Add to that its native range is also in Asia. They originated in Kazakhstan, in central Asia east of the Caspian Sea. The capital of Kazakhstan, Alma Ata, means “full of apples.” I suspect the apples in Nepal are shorter-season varieties that we would call summer apples because they mature quickly.


Going to a far-off land, or staying home, we can see the same crops. The arable farmlands of Nepal only account for 2% of the region’s total area. Although the main crop for the region is barley, there is also corn, millet, wheat, and canola. We grow them in Indiana, but there has to be something majestic about looking at a buckwheat crop with a snow-capped mountain of 26,000 feet in the background.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County

Purdue Extension of Fulton County-Fertilizer




It was September 1962, according to my grandmother's writing in the family record book, 20 bags of 12-12-12 fertilizer had been bought for $39.35. Based on the time of year, it was probably fertilizer for the upcoming planting of wheat.

We have all grown up with a bag of 12-12-12 at the local store. Many of us have used it as the starter fertilizer for our vegetable garden and frequently it is the choice of people for their lawns. But is it the product we should be reaching for?

Many times, we hear as humans about eating a balanced diet. A balanced diet does not mean eating the same amount of everything, but consuming things in proportion. It really is no different in the plant nutrient world. The first number in fertilizer is nitrogen, then phosphorus, and finally potassium. Plants need those nutrients in various ratios. For a home lawn, the preferred ratio of these elements is 4:1:2. That would translate into buying a product with a label of 24-4-8. This would be more in line with what most all plants need and that is greater levels of nitrogen, a little phosphorus, and potassium a tad bit higher.

When we use 12-12-12 on our lawn, we short the plant's nitrogen, give too much phosphorus and get the potassium about right. In today's world with issues of excess phosphorus in our lakes and streams and the subsequent alga blooms. Some lawn fertilizer contains no phosphorus. In many situations that is just fine as there already may be adequate levels of phosphorus in the soil.

Soil testing is what tells us what amounts of phosphorus and potassium we need. Nitrogen is so water soluble it must be added yearly at rates that have been scientifically determined through years of research.

Today's farmer does not use 12-12-12. They have done extensive soil testing and put on the amounts needed by the crop based on what is already in the soil. Today those 20 bags of my ancestor's fertilizer would cost almost $1000.00. It has become expensive, and we cannot afford both financially and environmentally to over or under-apply it.



This past summer I was out at a horse farm looking at a pasture with our Purdue forage specialist. When asked what fertilizer they use, it was 12-12-12. I have heard this person give many programs on the potential vices of 12-12-12. I think he did a really good job of calmly explaining why this program should not be repeated.

In the leadership programs I teach, I talk about how many things stymie us today that are rooted in the past. Included in that is the keyboard arrangement I am typing on that was derived in the late 1800s. In order to stop the mechanical keys from jamming they came up with this more cumbersome arrangement to slow down the typing speeds. We are still encumbered with it 150 years later.

We do not have to repeat what my grandparents did 61 years ago. Soil tests are under $20, a small price to pay for a large fertilizer investment. Unlike my typing on this keyboard, when using fertilizers, we do not have to be stuck in the past.


Mark Kepler

Purdue Extension Educator, ANR

Fulton County


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