Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kalona Fall Festival


Fall in the Kalona Iowa area
(notice the dragon fly in the clouds) 



Fields are turning golden, nights are cool, mornings brisk and apples are perfectly crisp.  The Kalona Fall Festival is set in this perfect time of year.  My daughter and I were having a conversation about all of our great Fall Festival memories, most of them include food.

Natalie, my daughter, told me that she can't wait to have some of that home-made apple-butter.  That got us started talking about Apple Fritters, those perfectly fried, cinnamon-sugary doughnut  hole type things.
Then we remembered the Hand Made Soft Pretzels! What could be better on a chilly fall evening than biting into a warm, salty pretzel dipped in melted cheese.  You wont find any of our local Amish at an event like this but as you can see from the picture of the Pretzel booth, there are plenty of Mennonites.

I haven't even started talking about all the wonderful music and entertainment, ranging from our local school bands and choirs to Bluegrass bands with a flare for humor.

All of us locals have a great time visiting but there is plenty of room and food for anyone that wants to join the fun!




Pictured above, faculty and staff from Iowa Mennonite school are having fun making Apple Fritters.  My son graduated from there last year, so it will be my first Fall Festival in a while that I'm not working in that booth.  I'm still buying and eating my share though!

Stop in the Mennonite Historical building and be amazed at all the artifacts and history in there.

Be sure to look inside of the little village buildings while your there.  An old train depot, a cute little Amish grandpa-house, store, log cabin, and country church (the place where my wife's grandparents used to go.) And plenty more, including a building and tents overflowing with arts and crafts for sale.  I will also be there selling and signing copies of my Amish novel, Under the Heavens.  Stop by and see me in the main office.
My Amish Horses Book Series takes place in a fictional town but if you stop by Kalona you'll see that I didn't have to dream up a lot, I had a perfect pattern right in front of me.




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Amish Girls at a Horse Show

Amish girls at a Horse Show
(this was not in Iowa)

It turns out that you will occasionally find Amish at a Horse Show.  The reality is that there are a wide variety of Amish groups, each with their own set of standards.  And within each of those groups there are individual families that are more, or less strict.  I have also found that when an Amish family is on a vacation they may go to a Theme Park, or visit a Shopping Mall, or even spend a day at the beach.  When Amish go to Sarasota, Florida for the winter they will ride bikes, even if that is banned in their home community.

I think these girls found a pretty good way to stay modest while riding horses in a dress... spandex!

These girls are sisters.  I talked to the older sister, Annie, and found out that she has a Facebook group where she sells Horse-shoe Dream Catchers.
Here is the link to her Facebook Group "Horse Shoes For Sale."  Please join the group even if you don't buy one it still may help.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/475856485884295/


 At this show in June, Annie got 1st place in Western Walk and Trot. I think she said 3rd in the Egg Race, and 5th in a "Boot Race"  I'm not sure what a Boot Race is but I've seen Egg Races before.  You balance an raw egg on a spoon and ride your horses at a walk, then trot, canter and whoever is the last one with an egg still in tact on the spoon wins. It's a challenge and there are broken eggs everywhere.
 Boot Race
 Egg Race
(notice the egg Annie is holding)

These girls, like most Amish young people, are very comfortable around horses.  Not all Amish people love horses, some only tolerate them because they have to. I can see plain-as-day that these are real Horse-girls!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Amish don't go to the State Fair


 I asked this gal how she got the job of policing the State Fair on horseback.
She said a rodeo friend got her the job.
 This is a, sign your name on the "State Fair Horse!"
I spent the whole day at the State Fair and didn't see one Amish person.  Check that, I talked to one guy that grew up Amish and now drives a six-horse show-hitch. (that is common) Sometimes I see Amish people at Fairs and other public attractions but not often.  The Amish friends I know, wont be a part of any type of competition, including 4-H shows.


These sheep are all cleaned up and ready for the show ring.




I grew up in the 1960s, when there were still "Old McDonald" farms around.  I miss the glory days of the old-fashioned farm, when everyone had diversified farming practices.  That is what sparked my interest in the Amish... they are still farming that way and I love it!

 Every child should get a chance to try milking a cow by hand!  The Iowa State Fair offers that opportunity... the only charge is that you have to wait in line.


Here are a few more random pictures from the Iowa State Fair.  I bet these manure carts have been in use at this Fair since before I was born in 1961 what do you think?

If you click on these smaller pictures, you can see them full size.
Of course, I motate to the horse barn!


No visit to the Iowa State Fair is complete without seeing the Biggest Boar and Biggest Bull.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Haymaking Day




 Here is a short excerpt from Under the Heavens, a novel about daily life on an Amish farm.


            For some reason, the sky put on a show that evening, like Lenny
had never seen before in his life. A few clouds had moved in from the
west as the sun began to set. The heavens came alive as clouds rose
higher, and everything began to glow in shades of red. At one point, the
whole sky seemed to be on fire. The Horse Boy sat behind his black
team, silhouetted in the foreground of this grand vision.
       “Did you see that?” he asked Leah as her team of mares
passed by.  Leah responded by quoting a verse from Psalm 19, “The
heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his
hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they
display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice
is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the
ends of the world.”
       He didn’t know what to say. He liked the idea of the skies
speaking about God through a peaceful sunset much more than God
speaking for himself through a thunder storm. Lenny was disappointed
when the four Yoder sisters got their hayracks ready to head home.
Before she left, Leah smiled and told Lenny, “I’ll see you on Sunday!”










                         






       When the last hay bale was finally put into the barn, it was
almost dark. A pale pink hue faded behind the barn as everyone
headed up to the house. They stopped under the windmill to wash up at
a hand pump. Sam pumped while Lenny and David stared at the spout
until water gushed out. They took turns drawing water for each other,
until everyone had washed their hands and arms. Lenny could feel
dozens of tiny cuts on his wrists from hay stems. Cold water soothed
those cuts and washed away hay leaves that clung to sweat on his
arms. Once his hands were clean, he cupped a handful to rinse off the
same mixture of hay and sweat from the back of his neck. Rosie and
Ruthie came up by the windmill, and Lenny pumped water for them.
They wanted to rinse off their feet and ankles, having been barefoot all
day. Bob lapped up water that pooled around the pump.
       Before the small group of worn-out young people even got to
the house, Aunt Lydia had come out on the porch with a large
watermelon and a long knife that gleamed in the shadows. She cut big
half-moon slices of melon for everyone. They all sat together slurping
on juicy watermelon and spitting seeds out onto the grass near the
porch; nothing could have tasted better. Lenny had never enjoyed the
cool of the evening and eating watermelon as much as he was at this
moment.
       He smiled to himself in the dark, knowing his face went
unseen. He grinned as he remembered what Leah looked like as a little
girl; he also smiled about what she looked like on the swing that
afternoon. He enjoyed sitting there with his cousins, eating popcorn
and watermelon. They sat watching fireflies light up, the way town
people would watch a movie.




Here is a link to Amazon reviews of Under the Heavens
http://www.amazon.com/Under-Heavens-Thomas-Nye/dp/1936746794/ref=la_B00LP6V9QW_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409786056&sr=1-1

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Percheron Horse Show



During my recent visit to Des Moines Iowa and the State Fair, I got an eye-full of beautiful Percheron horses.

This year our state fair hosted the National Percheron Show.  I am a Percheron horse owner and a big fan of the breed, so it was right up my alley.  I took so many pictures, it may take several blogs to share them all.
Most of the preparations for this event are done way before show week.  All year long horses are on special diets, they are trained, and carefully shod to give them the best chance at success in the show ring.





In fair week, everything goes into beautifying mode.  Manes and tails are braided, coats are sometimes dyed, hooves are perfectly shod and then painted, and everyone gets a good bath.



There are black and dapple-gray Percheron horses. I can't decide which are my favorite but since Coke and Karma are blacks, I'll go with that.

Someone may say, "These aren't Amish horses are they?"  Actually, quite a few of these horses have been raised by Amish families.  You may also be surprised if you knew how many of the big horse hitches are driven by someone who grew up Amish.


Many of these horses have been trained by Amish and ex-Amish handlers.

When I first got interested in draft horses, there were a lot of old-timers around, who grew up farming with horses.  There are a few of those folks still around but most of the people with experience farming with horses, nowadays, grew up Amish.





The gal in the picture above is a horse chiropractor; I watched her work on this horse for a while.  I'm sure the goal was to get all four legs moving freely and ready for the big show ring.


I hope you enjoyed my pictures.  I highly recommend making a trip out to your own state fair, to take in some of these sights for yourself.  These horses are even more impressive in real life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Horse named Fire

 Last week I had a chance to go to the Iowa State Fair.  I had a perfect day enjoying the National Percheron Show, that happened to be held on my day off from the Post Office.  I will share pictures of that in an upcoming blog post about Percheron show horses.  The Budweiser eight-horse-hitch makes a yearly appearance out our state fair.  As the old movie song goes, (movie titled, "State Fair") "Our state fair is a great state fair... it's the best state fair in our state."

These Clydesdale horses are breathtakingly beautiful.  I watched them prance perfectly through a crowd, complete with yells and screams coming from a nearby midway, and a band playing rock-n-roll at the bandstand.

I took pictures of the process of un-hitching this team and a video of the Dalmatian being helped off the big wagon.

Yes, this is me! I took a "selfie" because I happened to have on a red shirt and it looked like I was part of the crew. I wish!



 I took a lovely video of these horses parading back to their home-base horse stall area.  You can view this video by clicking the link below. You may need to have a Facebook account to view it.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=275887645937785&set=vb.135416786651539&type=2&theater
 I love the feathering on the fetlocks of Clydesdale horses, as seen here. You won't find many of this breed of horses on an Amish farm, mainly because of this feathering.  Imagine what they look like after getting into a cockle-burr patch.

Clydesdale horses were "bred up" over the years as a carriage horse, with long legs for transporting loaded wagons quickly.  Belgians and Percheron horses were traditionally bred with shorter, heavy boned legs for strength in pulling plows and doing field work.
 Nowadays, you will find many Percheron and Belgian horses have evolved (selective breeding) into "Hitch Horses" with long slender legs, ideal for the show ring.  I'll show some pictures of that in my next blog post.

My own Percheron team is more the old-fashioned type of thick-bodied heavy-legged horses made for pulling a plow.  I prefer the old style but don't get me wrong, I love to go see these amazing creatures at the State Fair.

 While I was watching, snapping pictures and taking videos, I overheard a young couple talking to their children beside me. They were very friendly people and had three cute daughters. I heard them telling their little girls that the big horse nearest me was raised by their grandfather.

I told them politely, that I'm sorry to be eaves-dropping but did I hear you say that your dad raised this beautiful horse.  The woman said, "Yes, my dad raises Clydesdale horses and sold this horse named "Fire" to Budweiser.
 I asked if I could snap a photo of her and Fire for my blog, and she was happy to oblige. Fire is one of the "Wheel Horses" the team closest to the wagon and the biggest.  She told me that although her dad doesn't live in Iowa, she and her husband live here.  They came to the fair not knowing they would see their family horse, Fire, but were pleasantly surprised when they recognized him.