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   http://www.uvm.edu/morgan/

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."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Organic Farm

Aunt Bethany holding Isaac. Big sisters Lyla and Kinley close by.

Just down the road from the home-place, our Mennonite neighbor has an organic farm. He puts a lot of effort into raising livestock in a healthy, natural way.

My 2nd daughter recently had her 4th child, a new baby boy. My 3rd daughter gave a helping hand by taking her nieces and nephew on a field trip to the organic farm. Aunt Bethany asked if I wanted to come along.
Grandpa and the new baby boy, Leo. (middle name, Thomas)

Our neighbor raises a type of sheep that shed their own wool. They are a meat type and don't need to be sheered like most sheep. He also raises cattle and chickens.
 Yes, there is a lama in with the sheep. Lamas are very aggressive and are often kept with sheep as a "watch dog." They will chase off coyotes and dogs that may otherwise chase or kill sheep.
 In the picture below you can see a portable chicken shed. If you look really close you can see free range chickens near their portable home.
 We had fun visiting our neighbor's organic farm and bought a few frozen chickens and a couple of steaks. My grandchildren said good-bye to the cattle and we headed to a nearby Amish farm to pick up more fresh farm products. My grandchildren enjoyed talking with the Amish children. However, out of respect for Amish beliefs, we didn't take any pictures there. I stopped near the barn, where my Amish friend was milking a goat. We had a short chat while his children crowded around, visiting with Aunt Bethany and my grandchildren. This Amish family has a Chihuahua farm dog that was holding the other goats at bay, while one was being milked. He seemed so bold and confidant for his size. My Amish buddy finished milking and we were heading over toward the children, but we heard a terrible, "Yelp!" My friend said, "Oops, our little dog got too close to the geese!" I looked back just in time to see the poor little Chihuahua running away from a flock of geese.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Big Day at the Sale

 Amish horses came trotting into town early on the morning of the big Draft Horse Sale in Kalona. Spring field work is underway, and this sale is a good place to pick up some extra horse-power to help finish the job.


 Nice looking horses were slicked up, dressed in harness, matched with a compatible teammate, and made ready for their new homes.


A horse is a living, breathing, tractor with a big heart and bright eyes. They nicker when you walk into the barn, work for hours in sweltering heat, and nudge you with a soft mussel as you brush them in the evening.




Yes, there are some horse wrecks, but there are mechanical accidents as well. I've heard stories of a good horse sensing a problem and saving their handler's life. I've never heard of a tractor doing that!



This sale is a great place to pick up a new plow. (a very, very old one, but new to the person buying it) If you farm with horses, you may be looking for new or used harness. That's here too!





All you have to do is lift a hand and waive one more time than the next guy, and you earn the right to take home a horse that weighs around a ton.