Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pony Progress Days

"Horse Progress Days" is a two day Amish organized event, featuring anything related to farming with draft horses. Every year, around the 4th of July, Amish from all over the U.S. and Canada gather near an Amish community and trade ideas and merchandise, all horse related. One of my favorite parts is the pony parade. Each morning, local Amish children drive their ponies to the event. They line up and parade them in front of a large crowd of onlookers. I can't imagine any event where 50, or so, ponies can be driven into one arena by children and not have a disaster. These children have been riding in horse-drawn vehicles since the day they were born. They've grown up watching Dad and Mom handle horses in almost every situation imaginable, and have learned how to do the same.
Do you notice how calm all the children seem to be?

Amish children seem to be like all children were years ago. I have a theory that goes like this: Children used to want to be adults, they tried hard to act grown up and strove to be like their dad, mom, older brother, or sister. Nowadays, our culture glamorizes youth. Even old ladies try to look like teenage girls. Why would we expect our children to want to grow up when many adults don't act grown up. We don't give honor to the aged like we should, instead we idolize immature singers, actors and athletes. Okay, maybe I've said too much, but all you have to do is go to one of these events and you will be wondering where the rest of us went wrong. 
As you can see, most of the carts or wagons have a group of passengers. These children were all very quiet and well behaved, to the point where it is stunning! They are smiling and having fun, yet they don't feel compelled to fight with each other or throw fits and temper-tantrums. I mentioned how well behaved the children were, to my Amish friend. He humbly said, "Our children are children too, they have their moments." Well, if they do, they sure don't have them in public like most modern children do.
This tiny pony above started to act up just before I took this picture. He reared up several times and tossed his head. The little man driving didn't panic. He talked calmly to his pony and brought everything back under control. His little female passenger sat quietly without fear. They sure do have a cute load on behind. It looks like a miniature horse-shoeing-stocks with a horse loaded in waiting to have new shoes put on.
In this picture above, you can see the line of ponies and children waiting their turn to enter the arena. I wish my picture was a little more clear, but I can see about 25 ponies and carts in this photo alone.

More ponies and children wait their turn.
This photo above is from last year's pony parade.
The photo below, is one of my favorite pictures I've taken yet. These little Amish girls were walking a pony foal around like a puppy. I named this post, "Pony Progress Days" because these Amish children are making progress with their ponies, while the rest of the world seems to be falling apart.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Amish Church

I recently had the opportunity to visit Amish church. Early in the morning we climbed into a buggy and set off down quiet country roads.

My Amish friend has a young family. He and his wife visited in the front while his little sons stood near my feet in the back and we watched their horse trot and beautiful scenery pass by.

These horses (pictured below) had the day off and enjoyed the pleasures of a mutual back scratching.
 If you ever visit an Amish church, prepare yourself for a peaceful treat. I will warn you in advance to quiet yourself and be ready to sit still for several hours. You can do it, their children do! Four part harmonies are sung very slowly. No, I mean slower than you can imagine if you have not been to an Amish service before. Let the sounds seep into your soul. Bible reading will be in German. Preaching will be in Pennsylvania Dutch. I happen to understand just enough Dutch to almost guess what was being said during both sermons. At one point the minister was moved to tears and even the small part I understood moved me to tears as well.
Men sit on one side, women on the other. Elders were facing us from a bench up front on one side. In front of the women, a row of little girls around 10 were facing us. I couldn't help but notice the little girl nearest the ministers. She sat quietly through both sermons and listened intently, watching the speaker with an angelic face. I couldn't and wouldn't take a picture, but when I got home I drew a sketch of the moment to help me remember it. Oh yes, and another wonderful treat, lunch after the service. My favorite part is the amazingly sweet, creamy, Amish peanut butter on homemade bread.

This is a shortened version of my experience with Amish church. If you want to really experience life on an Amish farm consider reading one of my novels. Amazon Link

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ice House

 Cutting ice from rivers, lakes and ponds was a big part of life back in the 1800s and early 1900s. By around 1950 everyone in America had electricity and a refrigerator/freezer, well, almost everyone.

Most of us modern Americans have never lived more than a day or two without electricity. We get really upset when our power is interrupted by a storm or construction. Our Amish neighbors chose to not connect to electric power-plants back in the day, and they still don't use it!

I visited my son in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a few weeks back and we toured this really "cool" museum. (a pun was intended) It was right around Fathers Day, so Dallas asked, "What would you like to do?" He told me that there are several museums in town. (He knows that I'm a history buff.) When I heard about the Ice House my mind was made up.
 When I visit museums that depict life in the 1800s, I can't help but think of my Amish neighbors.

Artifacts that are on display for us to marvel at, are still being used daily on Amish farms.

Many "modern day" Amish do have gas powered refrigerators, but some are still cutting ice and have ice-houses.
 When I took this pic of my son, I didn't notice the sign about Mother's Best Flour. It seemed somehow fitting, because this son is made up of the best ingredients. Dallas appears on the covers of  Under the Heavens and English River
 This is a photo of a horse-drawn ice cutter. It was really fascinating to learn about the process of how ice was cut into big chunks and stored in this huge building. Horses wore shoes with spikes to keep their footing on the river.
 Just the structure of this building was worth stopping in to see! If you are ever near Cedar Falls, take the time to learn about our past... and our Amish neighbor's present.

The museum tickets are replicas of order forms people hung in their windows. The ice delivery-man then knew how many pounds of ice to bring into the house.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Barn Sale

My wife has trouble getting me to stop at "Garage Sales" but she is clever enough to suggest stopping whenever she sees a "Barn Sale" along the highway. Old barns hold an allure that I can't resist.
This barn sale in Monticello, Indiana turned out to be well worth the stop. My wife enjoyed looking at a huge variety of antiques while I circled the barn and started taking pictures. A very friendly young woman turned out to be the proprietor of this Barn Sale and a nearby antique shop. She noticed me taking photos of her barn and seemed happy that I was so enthused. I asked if I could climb the ladder into the mow and she looked at me for a moment before giving the go-ahead. "I wouldn't let most people climb up there for "safety reasons" but I get the feeling you can handle it."
We ended up buying an antique children's swing that we hope to hang in our own barn. If you are anywhere near this area, stop in! The owners are super friendly, they are willing to dicker on prices and they have an amazing selection of beautiful artifacts and antiques. Here is the link for their Facebook page... check it out and "Like" it.      Cornerstone-Antiques on Facebook

Doesn't this barn seem to be alive? I could almost feel, years of good stories bound up in the wooden structure. Every old barn has its own personality, most of them seem as sweet and friendly as a grandpa. This old guy was built to last. I can only imagine how excited the family was when this barn raised around a hundred years ago.
It turned out that the barn wasn't for sale, or on sale, but I'm still glad my wife tricked me into stopping in!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Quiet Moment in the Garden

Is this a painting?

 Nope, I snapped it with my iPhone. I'm trying to imagine what they are talking about. More than likely speaking in Pennsylvania Dutch, and discussing the layout of their garden while their sister finishes up a row. What do you suppose girls their age are doing in the big city at this same moment? (I took the photo on a Saturday evening)

This picture could have been taken when my grandma was a teenage woman in the early 1900s, except they didn't have iPhones back then. This is why I write Amish novels: Amish farms are glorious settings for a story, that could've taken place last week, or last century... like this photo.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Perfect Amish Horse

Have you ever heard of Justin Morgan? If not, you need to read the book Justin Morgan had a Horse. This man, Justin Morgan, was given a small colt as payment from a debtor. His horse never got very tall, but could out-run, out-pull and out-trot any other horse.

This is a true story and took place in Vermont back in the early days of America. This little colt became the father of a breed of horses, we know them as Morgans.
During the 1800s a certain wealthy man took it upon himself to establish the Morgan breed. He built this barn (that you see pictured here) on his Vermont estate, and set out to find and maintain all breeding records connected to these Morgan horses. Later, he deeded the farm to the State of Vermont.

My wife and I recently toured this farm in Vermont. (If you ever get up in that part of the country add this to your list of things to do!) We thoroughly enjoyed our tour
 Above: One of the UVM college girls attends to the horses under her care. Below: Every year UVM raffles off a foal. I purchased a few tickets and if I win this little gem named "Yankee" I will bring him home to my mares Karma and Coke. We can start our own new blood-lines, and maybe a whole new breed of horses!
This little colt is "Yankee" 
You may wonder what this has to do with Amish horses. It so happens that many Amish use Morgan horses as buggy horses. Several Amish farmers in my home community have Morgan stallions that are often crossed with Percheron mares. The resulting "cross" is a very durable, all purpose horse, which can be used to pull a buggy or plow a field. One of our neighbors has a whole line of black horses. Huge black Percherons, middle-sized crossbreds (that can be used in the fields with his Percherons or on a buggy,) and smaller Morgans that can be ridden or hitched to a cart.

Morgan are the perfect Amish Horse

I posted a few more pics for your enjoyment, as well as the link (at the very bottom of this post) for this Morgan Farm which is part of the University of Vermont, but located near Middlebury. You can click on the link and find out more accurate details about this farm and the Morgan Horse Breed.
One of the college girls let me take a closer look at a mare
My wife takes in the view of a few Morgan mares and foals

More of the farm's mares and foals in a nearby field

This is not the original mansion, but the hired men's quarters. Imagine what the mansion was like!

Our tour guide

 Here is the link

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Amish Girl / Horse Whisperer

Horse whisperer, is a title we give to people who have an amazing ability to communicate with horses. My friend, Annie, has this gift.

 Amish children grow up around horses and seem to understand how to work with them from an early age. Some just deal with it because that is part of the life they were born into... others thrive in the Amish world because they have a special bond with horses. Obviously, Annie is one of those.

I can still remember how excited Annie was, two years ago when this little filly was born, and she named her Angel. Yes, that's right, this horse is only a two year old! Angel has turned out to fit her name perfectly.
Annie tells me that Angel is just really smart. I have another theory, which I share throughout the Amish Horses Book Series: Horses thrive when they feel loved and understood by their handler.
In the photo below, Annie takes her first cart ride with Angel.
Angel is not only smart but she is growing up to be quite a beautiful horse.

I especially like this photo below. It was taken last summer when Angel was only a yearling. Annie wanted her young horse to be part of the fun, but Angel was too young to be ridden. They let her run along with the other horses while going over some jumps.

No wonder this horse is thriving!!!

Annie read my first book, Under the Heavens, and really enjoyed it. I used a photo of her going over a jump, with her older horse Copper, for a drawing that appears in my second book, Catbird Singing. The picture is at the beginning of a chapter named Dog and Pony; all about a young girl much like Annie. A horse whisperer.

There is a drawing of Annie and her boyfriend in Amish Horses Book III, English River.  I'm not gonna share that photo, yet. Book III will be out this summer and you can look for the picture yourself.
By the way, some of you will say, "I thought Amish don't want to be in photos." That is true with many Amish. Some Amish do have cameras and take their own pictures. I asked for permission to use these photos. My rule for myself is to not take any photo of an Amish person without asking permission, unless it does not show their face, or is from a distance. Most Amish don't mind photos taken of children who have not yet, "Joined Church."