Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Horse Progress?

My book signing booth
 Have you heard about Horse Progress Days?

I'm super excited about my upcoming trip to southern Indiana for this event! Horse Progress Days is the Amish equivalent to the Farm Progress Show, a national event for farmers to learn about the most up-to-date farm equipment and practices.

I will be there with my books, which happen to be about farming with horses.

Obviously, farming with horses does not qualify as "the most up-to-date" farming practice. However, farming with horses is an extremely "Green" style of agriculture that should be embraced by the most forward thinking people.

If you are going to be at the 2015 Horse Progress Days, look for my booth, stop in and say, "Hello!"

If you can't make it to this year's event, visit the website and start planning for next year.

In the meantime, order a copy of Under the Heavens and start reading about farming with draft horses. Under the Heavens is a "Huck Finn style" Amish adventure-novel about a boy that spends a summer on his grandpa's Amish farm.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Amish Children (and Ponies)

      Amish children seem to love their ponies! I drive by Amish homes everyday on my way to work and I regularly see Amish children riding or driving their ponies. I know that they often use them as a means of transportation, but I've seen too many riding around the farm to think that it is always about being practical.

     These Amish girls are taking their ponies over some jumps. The paint is a half draft yearling filly, she is learning the ropes while having fun.

We passed this group of Amish children driving a pony along a busy road in Indiana.
The oldest child looks about 7 or 8 years old.

        One cold fall afternoon, my son and I were waiting to meet up with some friends. We were in a car-pool parking lot near an Amish farm. We noticed a couple of children in a pony cart taking laps around their barn. I didn't think too much about it until we got out of the car and realized just how cold and windy it was. I was very impressed that those little children were taking a "joy ride" in that cold wind.
         One of our family ponies, Dusty. Two of my daughters are in the cart with some family friends. This picture was taken when we lived in Virginia, years ago. Our neighbors there were Old Order Mennonites. (They drive buggies but the men don't have beards and the women wear patterned dresses.)
         I stopped to take a picture of this herd of Amish draft horses (above) and a boy came around the corner of their buggy shed, riding a pony. (If you zoom in close you can almost see him) I can't help but think that his whole world is about horses. Obviously his dad farms with horses, they drive horses on the buggy, and he rides a pony for entertainment in the evening.

  I'm fiends with the oldest of these three Amish girls. They love their horses and ponies and I know they ride just for the fun of it, even if they also drive a buggy for transportation. They love to take their ponies over jumps.

This littlest sister is soooo cute... and her pony is cute too!

 There is nothing quite as cute as little Amish children, especially when you see them with their ponies. It's no wonder they become horse experts, they work, play and live with horses and ponies all day!

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Favorite Blurry Pictures

 There is something about this picture that I love. I like how up close and personal it is, without invading anyone's privacy. The Amish are not looking for attention, however, that draws us to them even more. I like how you can see the driving lines in his hands and the female passenger's bare feet.
  Father and son, harnessing up a horse as part of their daily work routine. Maybe they're having a conversation about life, or working without words? When I drive by a scene like this one, I feel like I'm seeing a vision of my grandpa working with his dad in the early 1900s.
 I was heading down a highway when I noticed these children going for a pony-cart ride. I snapped the photo first, and then realized that they were on their way to look at a camel. I'm not sure if they are going for fun, or if it is part of their daily chores.
 My wife took this picture while I was driving slowly past an Amish Singing. It was a perfect evening and we slowed down because we could hear beautiful four-part harmonies. We could see into a long pole building filled with Amish young folks (that is what they call themselves), opposite this buggy scene. When I look at this photo, I can still hear their beautiful voices.

 I barely caught this moment, as an Amishman drove his four-horse team around a corner with a full load of manure. I like the action of his horses bumping into each other as they round the intersection. He really shouldn't let his driving lines drag like that... if he runs over them with a wheel it may jerk them out of his hand.
This photo is not only blurry, but crooked. These girls stopped at a four-way intersection and waited for me to go. I waved and they all waved back. I was hoping to catch their friendly gesture, but it didn't work out that way. I was also hoping that the buggy disappearing behind them would show up better. Oh well, I'm an author, not a photographer.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Plowing with Horses

        Farming with horses is aesthetically pleasing as well as environmentally friendly. Gas fumes released from this six-horse engine pass almost unnoticed and have no ill effects on actual air quality. This young man is driving six Belgian horses in two rows of three, a very common hitch method for Amish farmers.
        Below, you will see six horses hitched abreast. (the sixth horse didn't make it into the picture) This is the hitch method I describe in the Amish Horses Book Series. When I write about farming with horses, in my novels, I use my own experiences. I've been blessed with opportunities to plow and disc with a six-horse hitch on an Amish friend's farm. My own horses were part of that six-abreast Percheron team. Unfortunately, I didn't feel free to take pictures.
        You will notice in the "six-abreast photo" that Belgians, Percherons, and buggy horses are working together to get a job done.
        Notice in this hitch formation, two horses have to walk in the plow furrow, the other four horses walk on sod. In the six abreast style, one walks in the furrow, two on sod, and the other two on plowed ground. All of this becomes important in the story-lines of my novels, Under the Heavens and Catbird Singing. I try to keep these blog posts short and to the point. If you want to read a whole book filled with horse-drawn adventures on an Amish farm, you'll have to check out the Amish Horses Book Series.

        A friend of mine (Laurie) took these photos on her neighbor's Amish farm in Wisconsin. She told me that all six of these Belgians are mares. Another wonderful thing about farming with horses: Not only can these six horses help raise their own fuel, they can reproduce and raise their own replacements. They also produce organic fertilizer in large quantities. We have not yet come up with a tractor that can do that.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fathers Day Gift

 Most of us dads would be happy with a crayon-colored homemade card, and a big hug on Father's day. We wont be upset if you buy us another tie, or more socks. However, if you really want to get dad something unique, here's an idea. Send him on a trip to an Amish farm through the pages of a novel.
       If your Dad or Grandpa grew up on a farm, or visited relative's farms and wished he lived there, then he will enjoy reading these books.

       "Under the Heavens" is about a 16 year old city-boy who spends a summer on his Amish grandpa's farm. Main character, Lenny, is so scared of Grandpa's huge horses his pants are quivering. Wise old Grandpa knows just how to build up his grandson's courage and instill self-confidence. This is a story of restored relationships between a man, his son, and grandson.
       Lenny also meets an adorable Amish neighbor-girl and sparks are flying... but that won't bother your dad or grandpa, us old guys like a little romance. Lenny previously spent most of his young life watching TV, until he ends up out "Under the Heavens" plowing with horses, making hay, and experiencing a number of adventures on the farm. He discovers that actually living-his-life instead of watching movies, is more rewarding. Send your dad or grandpa back in time with Lenny for a summer on an Amish Farm.

Click on the words below to order in time for Father's Day.

Or, if you prefer to order through Amazon... click on the book title in orange:
 Under the Heavens

If he really likes Under the Heavens, you are all set for the next few years. You can get him Book II, Catbird Singing, and Book III is on the way!

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Real Amish Paradise

 Shipshewanna, Indiana may be a tourist trap in some people's minds, but to me, an Amish fiction writer, it is Paradise! 
 There are so many beautiful views everywhere you drive! I took the small paved road between Shipshewanna and Middlebury to place copies of my novels in local hardware stores, and I was stunned by the vistas that surrounded me. If you decide to take a trip to the area, stop in and pick up a copy of "Under the Heavens" at Varns & Hoover Hardware in Middlebury, or  Town & Country Hardware in Shipshewanna, right along the main road near the Blue Gate Restaurant. If you can't get enough of the Amish countryside ,take home the experience through the pages of my novels.
 If you want to see the quiet beauty of God's creation go to the rocky mountains, an ocean shore, or just head down a side road in the Amish community of Shipshewanna. (I don't work for the local chamber of commerce either. LOL)
 These are only a few of the many photos I took while visiting the area last week, keep checking my blog for more! I put up a new post about once a week.
 Shipshewanna may be just a quiet county community, but for you and me, Paradise!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Amish Horse Trivia

Did you know that many Amish buggy horses began their careers as racehorses? Yep!

       Standard-bred horses have been carefully developed over the past several hundred years for sulky racing. At one time this was a huge attraction at local fairs. Almost everyone in the old-days drove a buggy and admired a good horse that could move really fast at the trot. When you see a jockey sitting on a horses back during a race, those horses are galloping. That galloping motion is not desirable when a horse pulls a cart, it is way too jerky. Therefore, the trotting horse was developed; a horse with a fast, long stride in the trot. Standardbred horses are the king of that motion and have great endurance. The same traits that make a great racehorse, translate into the makings of a wonderful buggy-horse.

Actually, this blog post is not about Amish horse trivia, but trivia about the Amish Horses Series.

       Did you know that the horses pictured on the covers of Under the Heavens and Catbird Singing actually were born and raised on an Amish farm? The horses on the covers belong to me, Thomas Nye, the author of the Amish Horses Series. I purchased Karma and Coke from an Amish family that lives a few miles from my home. Karm and Coke have never been in a horse trailer. A son of the guy I bought the horses from helped me drive them home to my place. I describe that experience in a short story you can read on this blog. On the "tool bar" above click on "Back in Time". The young man protraying Lenny on the cover of Under the Heavens is my son, Dallas. We purchased his hat at the local Amish "Country Store" as well as a pair of suspenders. The young girl, who is on both Under the Heavens and Catbird Singinghappens to be my daughter, Natalie. We borrowed an Amish dress from a local Amish girl (who will not be named here) for the first book. The dress she is wearing on Book II was also made in a local Amish home and given as a gift to our family friend. (Thanks for loaning us your dress, Meredith)

Another interesting bit of trivia: The character "Aaron Burr" in Catbird Singing, was named after my wife's great-grandpa, Aaron Burr Gingerich, who happened to be Amish. My wife's great-grandpa also had a brother with the name George Washington Gingerich. I know these are odd names for Amish men to have, but it's true. The historical Aaron Burr was infamous, as he killed a man during a duel. My wife's great-grandpa lived a few miles from where we now live. One of his great-grandsons  is still Amish and farms his home-place

Thomas Nye &
Karma and Coke wearing the bridles made by Jess Peachy
       I patterned the character "Grandpa Jesse" after one of my favorite Amishmen, a man named Jess Peachy, who is now deceased. This Jess Peachy was a harness-maker who lived not far from my home. He was very kind and willing to talk about his faith openly, and also shared excellent horse advice with me. Whenever I had an incident with my horses and needed harness repair, I would go to him to get my harness fixed, and more importantly, to get horse wisdom. We had many wonderful conversations while he worked on my harness. In fact, he made the bridles that my horses are wearing on the cover of Under the Heavens. I also patterned Aaron Burr (the harness maker in the Amish Horses Series) after this real life Amishman. It just so happens, the story of Fanny Ella's pony, Dusty, is based on a true story Jess Peachy told me. He had a pony that would climb steps into their home, jump onto a hay-rack and go for a ride behind a team of draft horses. He was offered a great deal of money for that pony and turned it down. (just like in Catbird Singing) and the true-life story (of his pony) ended just the same way it ends in the Amish Horses Series.