Sunday, July 8, 2018

Amish (Horses) Paradise

 If you love horses... you need to visit Shipshewana and the surrounding area.

My wife and I visited Middlebury and Shipshewana last weekend and for me, it's an Amish Paradise!

Draft horses are everywhere! I saw a few Percherons but for the most part, the Amish here use Belgians.
 My wife is not horse crazy like me. However, she enjoyed our drive that lasted for hours... I mean hours! There are miles and miles of Amish farms. Gardens with vegetables and flowers. Hundreds of shops to visit in town and on Amish farms. Buggies coming and going to and fro. Amish people on bikes. Little children driving ponies. Yes, I kid you not, it IS an Amish Paradise!
 Pastures were lush and green.
 White houses and barns set off the green fields.
 Fences and horses are close to the road in areas.
Streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes make everything even more heavenly. This is the area that inspired my novella, Amish Park. A story about one modern family's experiences as they vacation on an Amish farm. This part of Indiana is an Amish (Horses) Paradise!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Famous Without Knowing It

 If you follow my blog, read my books, or if you "Like" the Amish Horses Facebook page, then you know about Karma and Karla, my team of Percheron mares. I purchased these horses from an Amish friend of mine. Thus, the Amish Horses title. These mares were raised and trained on an Amish farm. They are full-sisters born one year apart. Karma and Karla have never been any further than a ten-mile radius from where they were born. Yet, they are known the world over! Not because they have fancy blood-lines or perfect conformation. Their claim to fame stems from having huge hearts.

 Obviously, you can't see their hearts or personality in a photograph. (Well, maybe you can?)
The way people have come to know these horses are through my books. Karma, Karla and their niece Coke inspired a book series titled The Amish Horses Series.
This set of books share the adventures of sixteen-year-old Lenny Gingerich as he leaves his city life behind and spends time with his Amish relatives.
Lenny's Amish grandpa teaches valuable lessons about life and horses. Lenny learns even more about life and himself from a team of Percheron horses named Tug and Train. My books have been read in several countries. The Amish Horses blog has been viewed by thousands of people all over the world. Without Karma, Karla and Coke, I wouldn't have a story to tell. Their pretty faces are why people click "Like" on my photographs. They have been the subject matter in hundreds of pictures, including several book covers. They were recently filmed to appear on a TV show. (Stay tuned and I'll share more info on that later.)
When it's all said and done, Karma and Karla are just an ordinary team of farm horses. However, that is what makes them so special. They are just real! 
(They probably have seen a camera more than most Amish horses.)
Karma and Karla take us back to the good-old-days of family-farm history and have enriched people's lives all over the world.
And they don't even know it. (Or, maybe they do?)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Plowing with Horses

 Although I've had draft horses for years, this is the first I've owned a sulky plow.

This past April, I purchased an Emerson plow at the Kalona Draft Horse Sale. It is probably more than 100-years-old and works amazingly well.

A "sulky" plow has one plowshare (digging blade) and a seat for the driver. (as opposed to a walk behind style)
There are also "gang" plows which have more than one plowshare. In my novel Under the Heavens, main character Lenny drives a "gang" plow with six-horses. Unfortunately, I tell the readers that he is driving a "sulky" plow. I mention and correct the error in book II, Catbird Singing. If you have read or want to read the Amish Horses Series, this blog post should help you visualize what plowing with horses is like.
After I got my plow home, I needed to come up with a tongue. This type of plow needs a tongue and mine didn't have one.

 I stopped in to visit one of my Amish friends. He and his boys dropped what they were working on to search through their collection of old plows for a tongue that I could use this spring. They plan to make a new one for me before next summer.

This tongue is longer than I need for two horses. It was made for a six-horse-hitch. I had to add a section of chain-links so I could use it.

You may notice that my furrows aren't that straight.
Well, I'm a novice.
I have plowed with a six-horse hitch on an Amish farm. However, they set everything up and gave clear instructions on how to proceed. This time I was on my own.

My experiences of plowing with a six-horse hitch on an Amish farm are shared in detail with my readers in the Amish Horses Series.

 You can see a light section of soil that was plowed a few days earlier. The darker area was just plowed, and I finished up the grassy strip after I snapped this photo.
Karma and Karla patiently waited while I took pictures. They are 18 and 17-year-old sisters and happy for a break in the action.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Very Expensive Faucet

 Our kitchen faucet broke in February. I thought, how expensive can that be?

My greatest concern had to do with whether or not I needed to hire a plumber.
Not to worry, my wife solved that problem. She called our daughter, Robyn, about the issue.

Robyn's husband is a handyman, so I thought, good this will be cheap!
 My daughter texted me: Send pics of your kitchen.
That should have been a clue that my world was about to turn upside down for a month.

I sent this pic to the left and the one just below. Little did I know that she and my wife were planning a kitchen remodel job.

My wife explained, "If we are going to get a new faucet, we might as well get a new sink."
Except, she wanted a black sink, which then required a new countertop. We compromised and my daughter helped me refinish our counter with a Rust-Oleum Countertop kit. A simple project that only lasted two full days. LOL

I will say the results were beautiful and gave "Your's Truly" a sense of accomplishment. My wife is in her work-clothes below, painting cupboards. (Notice that big smile.)
 If you have read the children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, then you will know what happens next. In that delightful story, we learn that things escalate. If you give a mouse a cookie, it will want a glass of milk to go with it. Obviously, the walls and flooring will need upgrading...
 Why not put up shiplap on one wall? My daughter (the designer) and my son-in-law (the handyman) pictured above, each using their God-given skills in our kitchen.
Our old floors were pretty bad but we made them worse by painting the ceiling, walls, and cupboards without the best protection. Like the rest of the kitchen, nothing had been remodeled in years. These floors were probably installed in the 1980's.

I planned to do the floors by myself. (If you know me at all, you might laugh at this point.)
 I placed all the pieces down as instructed and began snapping them into place. I made it about 1/3 of the way across our kitchen before I accepted the reality that I needed my son-in-law's help.

He came to my rescue and we now have everything complete.

Actually, the faucet wasn't expensive at all. In fact, our remodel job turned out to be relatively cheap.

As the book goes, though, if you give your wife a cookie, she'll need a glass of milk to go with it. And, if you get her a new faucet, she may need a new countertop... and so forth.

Here are a few pictures of our completely renewed kitchen below. Everything, including the light fixture, ended up being replaced. Oops, I have to admit, the ceiling fan is leftover from the old scheme.
 My blogs are usually about Amish or Horses. The only thing Amish in this post is the table that our Amish friend made for us. To read about that, type Amish Built up on the search bar on my website. (top left)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tiny Amish Clothes

Amish children are born into a culture within a culture.

Think about it. If I told you about a person, who grew up in a time where his family farmed with horses and used a buggy for transportation. This individual grew up without electricity, an automobile, television, radio, air-conditioner, or even a fan, what time in American history would you think of?

These children don't even learn to speak English until they are five.

We have a particular image in our mind, of modern American children. Yet, these are children born in America in the postmodern era. That very word means: subsequent to or coming later than that which is modern.

These children live in a time when being modern is not new, yet, they are still growing up in a very old-fashion way.

I try to guess how Amish parents explain to their children what is going on around them.

Why do so many people drive by with cars? Why do they dress that way and have tattoos?

Amish children look so cute in their tiny Amish clothes. They also seem so innocent and protected from the sex, drugs, and violence other children hear about in songs and see on TV and the internet.

I personally know many Amish children. When I visit neighbors, their children gather around and listen as the adults have a conversation. I'm always careful about topics because I know how hard my friends work to keep their children protected from outside influence. They are incredibly selective about what their children read. Many do not even want their children to know about animal reproduction, which is a difficult thing to avoid when I stop to talk about horses and colts.

Many Amish adults have read my books. (Which happen to fit in the category of G rated.) Yet, my Amish friends have been upfront about letting me know they don't want children under the age of 18 reading them. They don't like younger people to read anything with romance in them. In the Amish Horses Series there are only a few mentions of a kiss... just a few too many for their liking. There are also discussions about the bloodlines of individual horses. In my Amish community that is outside of the boundaries of "Good reading material" for children or even young teens. Other Amish communities would be less strict, but not much less.

If you visit an Amish farm, please try to be careful about topics. The Amish have something amazing going with their children. If you know any Amish children you know what I'm talking about. Polite, respectful, and hardworking children are hard to find in the postmodern era. Let's do our part to keep this going.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Amish Characters

Sony: Character in Whispering to Horses.
 I've met a few Amish characters in my life. Here are a few drawings of characters in my novels.

When I write Amish fiction, I create characters that remind me of real people that I've had the pleasure of knowing. As my story progresses, I add personality traits borrowed from other acquaintances. Suddenly, a character begins to emerge with a personality completely unique and separate from anybody I've ever known.

Many authors experience this strange sensation, of having created characters seem to take on a life of their own.
I guess it makes sense? We spend so much time trying to make characters seem real that we end up believing it ourselves.
Afterall, if we don't, why would our readers?
Eli and his horses.
 As far as names are concerned, I try to use common Amish/ Mennonite names. In fact, the names I use are so typical that anyone with an Amish/Mennonite background will, quite likely,  have friends with the same names.

Please be assured, my novels are from my imagination and none of these characters, or names, are people you know. Yet, they all have characteristics of someone you might know.

One evening I received a phone call from an older Mennonite fellow. He had read Under the Heavens and wanted me to tell him who the real-life people were. I struggled to convince him that they didn't exist in our community, or anywhere else.

Lenny and Leah, Amish Horses Series.

Lenny and Noey talk horses.
Yes, there are some interesting Amish characters out there in the real world. Mostly, they have shown themselves to have incredible integrity.

Sometimes, Amish folks word things in such a way that sound odd to English people. This might make people chuckle. Keep in mind, what you say may seem odd to them.

A sweet moment: (I'm not telling what story this is from.) I drew this while looking at a photograph of a real-life Amish couple, the moment he proposed. They are friends of mine.

Fanny Ella and her beloved pony.
One common aspect of my writing, I always have characters in a variety of ages. Amish families are usually quite large. Communities are tight-knit and old folks interact with young children. Teens hold babies and care for toddlers. Everyone seems valued. This drawing below doesn't appear in Amish Park, however, this scene does. I drew this after visiting an Amish church service and witnessing a little girl seated near the minister and listening intently to him preach.
Jonas speaks, and a little Amish girl listens intently. Amish Park.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Amish Built

My wife's dream came true! Shari has been longing for a table big enough that our whole family can gather around it. We recently hired an Amish woodworker to build this Maple table. Shady View Woodworks. That is our son, Dallas, you see in the picture. 

It's as smooth as silk, and as you can see, it extends out quite a long way. 20 feet to be exact. Our family ate Christmas dinner around it a few weeks back and still had 5 table leaves left out. We have 5 children, 4 sons-in-law, and only 2 couples have given us grandchildren. So, we are thinking we may need the other 5 table leaves at some point. LOL

We also had these Maple church benches made at the same time. The legs fold up so they can be stored if necessary.

Amish church benches are usually made of pine which is much lighter to lift and move. And, folding legs make them easier to be loaded in a church-bench wagon and moved from house to house for meetings.

The craftsman happens to be the son of my Amish friend who sold Karma and Karla to me. I'm sure he has driven my horses on a manure spreader many times.

When we moved the table to our house, the carpenter's four young sons came along to help. They seemed quite excited about the trip... even though we are only a few miles from their house.
Their names are, Junior, James, Jacob, and Joseph, ranging in age from about 12 to 6 years, I would guess.

All four were super polite and hard workers. (What I've come to expect from Amish children, and I've yet to be disappointed.)
They really seemed to enjoy looking at my wife's Christmas village and our Christmas tree. Those are things Amish families wouldn't usually have in their homes.

When we finished setting up the table, the boys wanted to go out to my barn and check on their grandpa's old horses, Karma and Karla.
Whenever I drive past Shady View Woodworks, Junior, James, Jacob, Joseph, and their other 6 siblings wave at me. (They are usually riding ponies!)