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.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spring Ride

 On my way home from Kalona the other day, I came up behind this Amish daddy, little boy, and little girl, out for a spring ride.

I always enjoy it when I have to slow down to "buggy speed" as a horse crests a hill. Not being able to pass, all I could do was enjoy watching this peaceful moment. This little "Sunday School" house was on my left, so I snapped a pic of that as well.

When I passed this family they all smiled and waived at me.
 Just beyond that hill, I came upon this lovely scene. Amish farms and an Amish school-house. (My horses, Coke and Karm, were born on the farm right above the school.) As I drew near the school I took this next photo of all the horses and ponies tied outside, waiting for their small owners to finish classes and take a peaceful spring drive back home.
 A few minutes later, I was pulling into my own drive, Karm and Coke were grazing out front.

The trees near our house are decked out in their spring bloom.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Amish Credentials

 Amish credentials? There are many authors writing books about the Amish, but how many of us have the experience needed to really take you there?

One author was asked, "What is your Amish connection?"and answered, "I have a quilt in my living room that is Amish made."
Is that enough for you? Not me.

My dad was a sociology professor and studied Amish and Hutterites. He filled me in on some background information when we moved to an Amish populated area in Iowa. Up to that point I knew very little about the Amish... that was 35 years ago.

My first friends in this community were Amish. I was fascinated by their culture and asked a ton of questions. I asked one of the girls about courting and Singings, her answer was, "Come along with us and see for yourself." I spent that summer going along with her family to volleyball games, catching chickens, making hay and other adventures that ended up in the Amish Horses Series.
A person born and raised Amish could tell you more about Amish culture, religion, and lifestyle than I can. Maybe even people who have Amish relatives would have a different perspective than I do. However, people who have grown up inside this culture are so close to it they may not always see what separates the Amish from mainstream America. It almost takes an outsider to come in and see it. I can take you on an adventure where you will see, feel, notice, smell, and hear everything... just as if you stepped onto an Amish farm this afternoon.

The wise older characters in these novels are based on actual Amish folks I've been blessed to know. I purchased horses from three Amish families, and they all took the time to explain many things about working with horses. In the springtime they wanted to use my horses to hitch with their teams to plow and do other fieldwork. One family invited me to come and try my hand at plowing with a six-horse hitch. On another occasion they asked if I wanted to help make hay, using my own horses to bring in wagons. That was only one of many chances I've had to make hay with Amish friends and neighbors. These experiences all end up in the pages of my books.

Another great connection I've had over the years has been with harness-makers. I ended up spending hours in their shops, while they made or repaired my sets of harness. One of my favorite harness makers questioned me about my family he was pleased to learn that he had gone through grade-school with my wife's grandpa. These men also seemed to enjoy sharing horse wisdom with me, as well as their ideas on life and religion. (They also told stories that ended up in the Amish Horses Series.)

 Over the past 35 years, I found myself constantly connected with Amish and Mennonites. Hardly a week goes by, that I don't step onto an Amish farm. I write Amish novels based on my own great experiences. I had too many wonderful adventures and couldn't keep them to myself.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Morning Drive

        Last Sunday morning we drove to Kalona to meet up with my parents, sister and family at the Kalona Family Restaurant for breakfast. It's so peaceful on Sunday mornings in our area. The roads are almost empty except for Amish buggies heading to Church.
        This intersection was especially busy! There are 10 Amish districts in the Kalona area, which means that Amish families are gathering at 10 seperate farms for Sunday morning church services. The districts have something to do with area because it's pretty far to take a horse more than 10 miles. 
        Amish families will visit a neighboring district if they choose to. Sometimes they visit another service because of something special going on, such as a relative being baptized.

         After we finished breakfast we drove past this farm. As you can see, buggies were parked everywhere. The horses are all tied in a barn. One of my favorite moments in life, was when I stepped into a barn full (and I mean full) of buggy horses at my first Amish church service. For a person that loves horses, it was an unforgettable sight!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hidden Treasure

What benefits could you reap by reading an Amish novel? You might be surprised. The Amish Horses Series reveals treasures, hidden on an Amish farm. 

Our modern lifestyle has most of us reeling as we juggle our obligations in a life crowded out by the noise of social media. We feel pressure to continually check in with our email, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

Take a few minutes and step into a slow-paced, tranquil world. You'll feel yourself relax as you drink in the sights and sounds of of a farm-orientated culture.
Slip into the pages of the Amish Horses Series and you will learn something about how life ought to be cherished. Take instructions from an Amish grandpa as he teaches his grandson time proven wisdom on handling horses. 

While you enjoy the read, you'll learn something about farming with horses. Tag along with Lenny as he finds out what it's like to live in an Amish community, visiting church, Singings, Amish weddings and other youth gatherings.

Sit on the seat beside Lenny as he learns how to observe nature while driving horse-drawn equipment along the edge of a woods. Sunsets speak to his heart, drawing him into an understanding of himself, and of God.

Our Amish neighbors chose to abstain from all the modern conveniences we thought would make life better. The joke was on us. It turns out that life's most precious gifts are those sweet moments of natural beauty, close companionship, fresh farm air, and time. Time that can be enjoyed because of the choice to live a slower-paced lifestyle.

The Amish Horses Series takes you into the world of Lenny's Amish relatives. Step inside the barn with him and let his Amish family refresh you with their patient and kind ways. Discover the "Hidden Treasure" of a life well lived.

To order a paperback or eBook, click on this Amazon link: Amish Horses Series
Or, for an author signed paperback,
send a check or money order to: Amish Horses  P.O. Box 495  Kalona, Iowa  52247

Under the Heavens:      $18
Catbird Singing:           $18
Whispering to Horses:  $8

 This offer includes shipping and handling within the U.S.A