Thursday, January 22, 2015

Working with horses on an Amish farm

Under the Heavens, is all about that!

This was one of our cover options for Under the Heavens 

Have you ever looked through the pages of a Draft Horse Journal? If not, you are really missing something wonderful. The Draft Horse Journal is a beautiful magazine that is published quarterly. It is full of well written stories, articles and best of all pictures! Yes, even the advertisements are full color pictures of the most amazing draft horses you've ever seen.

Here are the links to their Facebook page and main website
DHJ Facebook page                    Draft Horse Journal

They also review books!

I took a snapshot out of my copy of The Draft Horse Journal so you could read this review. (with permission from the nice folks at The Draft Horse Journal)

Amazon Link for Under the Heavens

If you are interested in reading about life on an Amish farm, or working with draft horses... this book was written just for you!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter on the Farm

Wild horses thrive out west, even in the worst conditions. Yet, people worry about horses on a farm getting cold. Horses are as tough as deer or buffalo. They have it made on a farm where people are providing food and shelter.

Up until around 1920 almost everyone depended on the horse for transportation year around. The Amish help us "Englishers" get an idea of what our great-grandparents lives were like. It wasn't quite like... getting in a warm car, in a heated garage, and jumping out to run into the mall.  Someone has to harness up a horse and hitch it to the buggy before going anywhere. Those buggies don't have a heater in them either.

When you get home, no matter how late, someone has to un-harness, brush and feed the horse. Wintertime is get-by mode on a farm. Amish are hardworking people, who are rarely caught unprepared for cold weather. Barn full of hay, crib full of corn, pantry loaded with canned goods, woodpile heaped up, they are ready for whatever winter brings. When the weather is really bad, chores can take all day. 

You might have to use an Ax to chop open the water tank. Spend extra time bedding down livestock with a fresh layer of straw. Plow snow or shovel the walk. Imagine how nice it is, to finally get inside after fighting the cold for hours, and then sit close to a wood burning stove with the smell of homemade bread circling around you like a wreath. 

 In the picture below, you can see that we have a few Amish homes in Kalona. The city is accommodating for Amish, even providing a shelter for tying horses while shopping.

James (pictured below) is using a team of draft horses to plow snow out of a drive. He is 16 and not sitting on a couch, playing video games, or texting his buds. It was -4 when this picture was taken and this young man is getting a job done. Molly and Mary (his team of Belgians) are more-than-likely happy to have something interesting to do, rather than standing around looking over a fence.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Erwin Gabbert
Interested in reading about Draft Horses and Amish? Read my novel...
Under the Heavens

Friday, January 2, 2015

Horse Barn

My wife's grandparents moved to this farm in 1918, when they got married and left the Amish. They became Mennonites, which was not a very big jump back in 1918.

This building is actually a corn-crib. We are not sure when her grandpa built it but it seems by the type of structure, that it must have been in the 30's or 40's.

My wife's parents moved into a small house out back when they got married in 1948 and farmed as partners with their parents for a number of years.

My dad-in-law tells stories of the two couples working together, milking a dozen cows by hand. I can just imagine that scene. He said that he would sit on one side of the cow and his new wife would milk from the opposite side.

Like most farms in 1948 they had 12 cows and 12 sows.

When my wife and I moved here in 2000, I converted this corn-crib into a horse barn. My dad-in-law was also a plasterer for a living. He stuccoed the outside of the crib making it very tight and useful as a horse barn.

I store hay in one of the cribs and made a hallway out of the other. You can see my horses reaching their heads into the feed bunks in the hallway.

My sweet little granddaughters love our draft horses and beg to sit on their backs. Karm and Coke don't seem to mind at all. In fact, I believe they love all the attention my five grandchildren give them.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Pony

The Christmas Pony

              Viola skipped toward the barn. She held her hands up as though holding the reins of a pony while moving in a loping motion. Her brother Aaron called, “Viola, get off of your pony and do your chores.”
Viola dismounted her imaginary pony and tied it to the hitching-rack next to a real buggy horse. Snow fell quietly, covering her family’s Amish farm with a fresh, white blanket. Chores needed to be done on Christmas Eve morning just like any other day. Viola got to work mixing up powdered milk for calves that bawled loudly for breakfast. Two younger sisters came to help. Mary was eight, two years younger than Viola, and Katherine was one year younger than Mary. Katherine asked her oldest sister, “Viola, why don’t we have a real pony?”
“Because they cost a lot of money. Dad says that he has been watching for a cheep one at the horse sale, but he doesn't want to buy a mean one, just because it’s cheep.” Her answer seemed to satisfy her little sister. Her own heart still ached, wishing for real pony.
When the baby cows were finally all fed and quiet, Viola untied and climbed aboard her pretend pony and clucked. She skipped off between the barn and chicken house dashing through newly fallen snow. Her rubber boots sloshed with a rhythm similar to that of a pony. She rode her imaginary horse out to a field entrance, her little chore-dress flapping in time with her apron. The little Amish girl pulled open a large metal gate, letting a waiting herd of cows out to graze on cornstalks. Huge black-and-white Holsteins lumbered through falling snow, nibbling on brown corn-stubble that stuck up through drifts.
Viola tightened her black head-scarf which matched her heavy coat. She lifted her arms, feigning the motion of turning a pony and loped back to where her little sisters were. Mary and Katherine were gathering firewood from a massive stack that leaned against the buggy shed. Viola dismounted her pretend pony and tied it beside the real buggy horse again. She didn't notice a huge milk-truck had pulled into their lane and backed near the milk-house. Falling snow had muffled all sounds, including those of the milk-house generator and a large white truck.
Milkman Tom called through the falling snow, “Viola, come here.” The little Amish girl walked from the hitching-rack toward Tom. The milkman came to haul away milk every third day, year around. Viola always enjoyed talking to him while he drained the milk tank. He spoke with a smile, “I suppose you want a pony for Christmas?” Viola gave him a blank stare for a moment, and then explained, “We don’t have that kind of Christmas.” She looked at Tom and saw that he was puzzled. She tried to explain better, “We usually exchange a few small gifts at Christmas, not things like ponies.”
“Oh, I see. I've noticed that you have been riding an imaginary pony lately.” Viola blushed. Tom asked, “Don’t you children have a pony?”
“No, but my dad has been watching at every horse sale. He knows that I want one really bad. He said that he’s not willing to buy just any pony, because some of them are mean.” Tom smiled and Viola thought that she saw a tear in the corner of his eye. He finished his work and climbed into his big truck. Viola helped her little sisters, who were loading firewood onto a sled. Viola pulled and her little sisters pushed their load toward the house.  Milkman Tom waived to them as he drove out of their lane. All three little Amish girls waived and began to unload their sled. They pushed firewood through a chute that dumped into their basement. The girls went inside and took off their chore coats and boots, heading downstairs into the warm basement to stack firewood. This was all part of what they did for chores twice everyday.

The scent of cinnamon rolls filled their kitchen as the family gathered for breakfast. Their home was warmed by firewood the girls had brought inside and that their older brother Aaron had loaded in the wood-burning furnace. They were all in a cheerful mood because it was Christmas Eve day. Tomorrow, between morning and evening chores, they would spend a relaxing afternoon together as a family. During breakfast, Mother made a statement, “Girls, I believe we will make cookies today.” Viola and her sisters smiled at each other. Aaron and Dad made plans to clean out the horse stalls. The little boys were too young to help, but when breakfast was over they pretended to clean out horse stalls in one corner of the living room.
Viola, Mary and Katherine helped their mother mix up cookie dough. They enjoyed rolling out large slabs of dough on the table, and using a round cookie-cutter to make dozens of Christmas cookies. Viola gathered some of the left over pieces of dough and made a horse shaped cookie. Her mother smiled and said, “Let’s put your little horse on the cookie sheet, too. Tomorrow, it will be your Christmas pony.”

* * *

It was easy for little girls to jump out of bed on Christmas morning, even though their bedroom was cold. The girls ran downstairs to finish dressing near the warm stove. The whole family put on heavy coats, gloves and boots. They stepped out into the crisp morning air to hurry through chores. Viola headed to the hitching-rack to untie her imaginary pony but stopped in her tracks. There stood a real live pony. The whole family exclaimed their surprise, jabbering with each other about where the mystery pony may have come from. Viola didn't speak. She stood perfectly still, as though one wrong move might make the vision disappear. “Daddy, did you get us a pony?” Viola finally got the courage to ask.
“No, I don’t know anything more about this pony than the rest of you.” The small, light-brown pony had big, dark eyes. Viola and the pony stood looking at each other until Aaron said, “Look, there is a note tied to the pony’s halter.” He read the note, slowly, because it was still dark out.

        Merry Christmas,

My name is Ginger. Last Christmas I was a gift to a little girl who was very sick. She loved me a lot and I gave her rides, even though she was not feeling well. The little girl kept getting more weak all the time. She always wanted to touch my soft muzzle, even when she couldn't ride me anymore. My little girl is no longer suffering. I have been very lonely, standing in my pasture with no one to play with. Please take me for rides and pet my muzzle.

Viola reached out her hand and touched Ginger’s soft nose. The pony’s dark eyes glistened. Viola said, “If the little girl isn't sick anymore, why doesn't she play with her pony?”
Mother answered softly, “I believe the little girl is in heaven now.”

This story is written as fiction. Any comparison to actual names, places, or events is purely coincidental.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Catbird Singing

Catbird Singing

Book II of the Amish Horses Series

Here is a peek into Catbird Singing, coming soon...

              "Should I help someone else get together with the girl that I love, for Uncle Noey and Aunt Ruth's sake?"

       Lenny is faced with a dilemma of epic proportions, when he learns about his cousin's affection for Leah. At first, the answer seems simple, Lenny only plans to be around his Amish family for a few weeks. Bishop Mose gave clear instructions for the "English" boy to stay away from Amish girls, but try as he might that is difficult. Lenny and his new buddy, a dog named Russell, have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. A series of adventures and a love triangle turn into a tangled mess that isn't easily ironed out.

       Catbirds have two modes, singing in the spring, and meowing like cats in the summer. These opposite sounds have a deep affect on Lenny while visiting an Amish farm. Familiar characters from Under the Heavens and some new friends join Lenny on his second journey into the world of the Amish. Horse drawn vehicles take Lenny back in time, visiting youth gatherings and working in fields, all within earshot of a Catbird Singing.

This picture was taken during the cover photo shoot.

Catbird Singing is due to be released early in January.
 "Like" Amish Horses Facebook page, or check in with for updates. Click on the blue "Join this site" button on the right hand column for automatic updates!

We will post the cover for Catbird Singing as soon as it's complete. 

click on the link below

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mennonite Wife

My wife and I,
at Oak Alley Plantation
My wife's home frozen applesauce

Shari's home canned peaches

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, get a Mennonite girl for a wife.

I didn't grow up Mennonite but my wife did. I don't have pictures to show you everything my wife cooks and bakes, but my five children and five grandchildren can vouch for me, she's the best!  Her homemade pies and cinnamon rolls are ridiculously amazing.  These canned peaches have ruined store bought peaches for me. I will never be able to eat store bought again.

Shari also makes homemade applesauce.  She only will use Yellow Transparent apples for her applesauce, which are hard to find. I've tried applesauce made from other varieties and she is right, they don't compare.  Homemade Bread, crescent rolls, kolaches, homemade caramels and chocolates at Christmastime, "perfect" chocolate cake for birthdays, and numerous other delightful goodies.

Home canned pizza sauce is a family favorite, on her made-from-scratch pizza dough.

You younger fellas should take note, Amish and Mennonite girls know how to bake and cook!

These cinnamon rolls, pictured below, melt in your mouth. They are best eaten right after they come out of the oven.  Just pour a glass of milk or a cup of hot coffee to go with them and you are in paradise!

Pumpkin pies for our family's Thanksgiving dessert
(note the tiny clothesline my daughter painted on our pantry wall)

My wife Shari, preparing cheesy potatoes, yum!
 Grandma cut balogna and cheese with a cookie cutter, in the shape of horses.
How clever is that? (Specially made, for our horse loving granddaughter.)

Our grandchildren often have tea parties and also get to play with this homemade play-dough.

So from my personal point of view... get a Mennonite girl to marry you!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gift Idea

 Do you have someone on your Christmas list that is difficult to shop for?  Here's an idea!

This book is 6"x 9"

A book is the perfect gift, because a person can never own too many of them.

Under the Heavens is a story of city boy visiting his Amish relatives on the farm.

Grandpa and Grandma will enjoy a trip down memory lane, and others will enjoy visiting an old-fashioned farm for the first time.

Perfect for horse lovers.

Under the Heavens is about twice the size of old paperbacks and all double-spaced.

Click on the words below to read reviews of Under the Heavens.

Amazon Link and reviews

Or, send a $20 check or money order to:
Amish Horses
P.O. Box 495
Kalona, Iowa 52247   (This offer only valid within the U.S.A)

If you live outside the U.S.A. and want a copy; or for any other questions.

We will send you an autographed copy.  In fact, the author Thomas Nye would be happy to personalize your gift.  Just include a the name of your loved one, and something about them and/or what you would like the message to say. Thomas Nye will hand write a personal note on the title page!
Be sure to also include a clearly marked name and address of where the book should be sent, if other than the person to receive the gift.