Sunday, September 25, 2016

Family Horse

Every child needs to have at least one great horse in their life! Our family has had a number of great horses and ponies over the years.

We have two wonderful horses at the time, Karma and Coke. They are getting older and at the point where they are perfect for children to be around. It's too hard to imagine what life would be like without them.
As you can see, they are very much loved! Our grandchildren love to come out to the farm whenever they get a chance. If Grandpa is still delivering mail they start asking Grandma, "When will Grandpa get home... we want to see the horses!"

Karm and Coke know what is coming when the children come into the barn. Our grandchildren love to pour oats into the feed bunk and then give them handfuls of hay. They love to brush the horses and sit on their backs. Our oldest granddaughter tries to braid their manes.
 We had Isaac over by himself one afternoon and he climbed onto the wagon seat and said, "I wanna go for a ride!" He knew what he wanted and didn't give up until Grandpa hitched up the team.

My wife and I had our four oldest grandchildren over for a field day before school started back up.

Shari (my wife) asked if we could take the children on a wagon ride. I had the wild idea that maybe we should have a picnic lunch with the horses first.

Karm and Coke ate hay while the children had a sack lunch. I harnessed up the team right after taking this photo.

 We stopped under our big shade tree after every round we made.

While the horses rested in the shade our grandchildren traded places. Each of the four got a chance to take a round riding up front with grandpa on the wagon seat.
Little Leo Thomas was too small to go along, so grandpa made sure to give him an opportunity to play with a toy horse. His day is coming!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Your Opinion Matters

Your opinion is very important and interesting to hundreds of people! Let me, as an author, share a few words about how to post a review.

I will try to keep this as simple as I can
     to help you become a better book fan.

"I know some new tricks,"
Said the Cat in the Hat.
"A lot of good tricks.
I will show them to you.
Your mother
Will not mind at all if I do."
              -Dr. Suess

Open with a short description of the book. (Do Not give away the ending of the story!) Authors spend hours and maybe even years piecing together a story "like a quilt." The ending is meant to be a wonderful surprise, or a lesson. If you give away the ending you spoil the fun for everyone else.

You may write something like this: The Cat in the Hat is the story of two tweens (a youngster considered to be too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager) who are home alone for a few hours. These tweens hear a bump that makes them jump, and discover that they have a very interesting house guest. This is a really fun children's story about a wild adventure that took place on an otherwise boring afternoon.

 Don't just say, "I loved it!" or "I hated it!" Although that may be your opinion, and 2, 4, or 5 stars may communicate something, it's really not much help. We may have the same interests or we may have nothing in common. If you loved or hated the book may have nothing to do with how I will feel.

Tell me why, or what, you loved or hated.

For example: I loved Cat in the Hat because it was a simple, imaginary story that my children enjoyed listening to, and I had fun reading the silly rhymes.

Another person may say: I thought I was buying a novel and was disappointed that it was a short children's book. I've never been a fan of poetry and I don't have any children. You may like this book if you like sing-songy poems and funny cartoon pictures.

These examples above are quite opposite from each other, however, they both told us why they felt the way they did about the book. Now, I can use their opinions to help make a choice about whether the book is right for me, or not.

 Find a way to give your opinions in a kind, constructive manner. Some people think that they make themselves look intelligent when they bash the weaknesses of another. Instead, they only make themselves look harsh and cruel.

Please do share your feelings on Good Reads, Amazon, or Barnes and Nobel. We are all very interested in hearing your honest opinion as we attempt to decide whether to buy a book or not. Try to write it in the same way you would describe the book to your mother.

So, what would you tell your mother, or your friend,
if they asked about a book you were reading, without telling the end.

"And Sally and I did not know
What to say.
Should we tell her
The things that went on there that day?
Should we tell her about it?
Now, what should we do
Well ...
What would you do
If your mother asked you?"
             -Dr. Suess-
Here is a link to some reviews on Amazon: Catbird Singing Reviews

Check out what others wrote as a review and see what you think.
If you have read any of my books, please post a helpful review and a link!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Amish Gathering

Amish folks gather together often. If you live anywhere near an Amish community, these sights will be familiar.

Every Sunday morning multiple thousands of horses clip clop down roads around the countryside heading to Amish or Old Order Mennonite church.

That is not the only time they can be seen gathering...

For the most part, Amish people are very social. They gather for birthdays, holidays, school functions, reunions, weddings, and funerals. Funerals are huge! If you are Amish and you knew the person who died, you will most certainly make every effort to be at that funeral. Amish folks hire non-Amish drivers to transport them across the country to the funeral of a friend or relative, or for a family reunion, or a wedding.

Amish teens and young singles gather often for Singings, volleyball and other social events.
If you live close enough to the gathering, you will walk. That is much easier than hitching up a horse and it is pleasant as well. These gatherings all include food! After someone comes for a visit from miles away, in a horse-drawn vehicle, you wouldn't think of sending them away without having something to eat. 

Even the horses are often given some hay to much on while the people visit. (as pictured above)

Amish families often gather for work projects. They gather to help each other build barns and other huge tasks, but they also gather and work together on small jobs. Extended families often join forces on a butchering day. They help each other can food, make applesauce, apple-butter, cider and once it is all made, they gather just for the fun of it and share what they made together.
Most of the Amish I've had the pleasure to know cherish their friends and find a way to meet up for a visit. I will say, if you stop by the home of an Amish friend you'd better not be in a hurry to get somewhere, because most of them love to have a long conversation.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Morning in Amish Country

 Morning is stunning in Amish farm country. Imagine the sound of a rooster crowing while you look through these pictures. If you've read any of my books, you know that I love to write about sights and sounds of early morning on an Amish farm.
 You wake up at the crack-of-dawn to go out and do chores. There is nothing on earth closer to heaven than morning on a farm.
Everything is still, except for a soft tinkling of feeders as livestock wait for you to give them their morning grain. Birds began singing softly, as first, as though they also are rubbing sleepy from their eyes, too.

 Horses slowly rise to their feet and nicker deep, warm greetings to their two legged friends, "Come and open the pasture gate." They seem to say.
 Grasses are wet with dew, looking delicious even to the one that opens the gate. Kittens stretch and yawn before they scamper through the barn, hoping for a taste of fresh milk.
 Few words are spoken. Each child knows their morning duties and goes straight to work. As birds began to break into full song, human voices also rise. Some singing hymns, others laugh softly.
 A buggy horse clip-clops with a nice sharp sound on the pavement. Where would an Amish family head this early in the morning? Maybe they are on their way to Grandma's farm to help can tomato sauce or make homemade ketchup.
 Baby foals lay near their mamas until they decide to rise for some warm milk.
 When cows and goats have let down all of their milk, and kittens are full and licking their paws and washing their faces, then the Amish family heads back into the house. Breakfast is sizzling on the stove and Mama says, "Vella essa!" (Let's eat!)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Different Kind of Tale

The Amish Horses Series: A Different Kind of Tale
Under the Heavens is a coming of age story about a teenage city boy who spends time with his Amish relatives. Sort of a, Tom Sawyer meets Anne of Greene Gables. Only, instead of taking place in the old days, the setting is in this century on an Amish farm.

Drawings like this are at the heading of every chapter

 Take an adventure with Lenny Gingerich. He visits his grandpa's Amish farm for a summer and discovers a fascinating, old-fashion world exists just around the corner from our modern cities. One day he is playing video games and watching TV in a basement, the next day he is watching huge draft horses pull a tractor out of the mud. Farm dogs, horses, cows, hogs and even roosters have personalities that make a farm full of life and excitement. Add a dose of romance, as Lenny meets a sweet neighbor girl, and we have the ingredients needed to stir up an interesting platter. The table is set. Come on into the Amish farm house and pull up a seat.
Lenny will take you along as he visits Amish Church, Singing, volleyball games, and everyday happenings of life on an Amish farm.

The Amish Horses Series is a different kind of tale.
Climb up onto the buggy seat beside Lenny as he takes the ride of his life!

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, and 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