Friday, June 28, 2013

A little girl after her Grandpa's own heart. . .

There is a special connection between a girl or a grandpa and their horses. I don't know whether or not it is a born-in-trait or something that's learned but at any rate it's unavoidable to recognize. I captured this special little horse-lovin'-granddaughter playing, playing, reading horses all day yesterday at Grandpa and Grandma's house (that has no lack of horses for that matter).


I really can't see how it could be any sweeter than this.
  all photos on this post are ©RubyEllenPhotography 2013

Dusk on the Farm {A story through Pictures}

I always love going out to "the farm" to spend time with my mom and dad and siblings. There is something I miss about coming home after a ball game and sitting on the porch swing, watching for fireflies, enjoying the sunset, weeding the garden and watching the horses. I had the privilege of sneaking by for a couple of minutes after my brother's ball game last night. So pretty.



Dusk on the farm... A sight to behold.
 all photos are ©RubyEllenPhotography 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hoof in Mouth

                    I don't know about you but I have a big issue with putting my own foot in my mouth!
          We had some good friends over for supper one night, my wife had made a delicious meal. (her Mennonite background at work) After supper my wife told me to go to our basement and get a big container of ice cream out of the freezer.  I was to put a little beside everyone's piece of pie.  Both families were waiting patiently for desert when I opened my big mouth.  "Honey, this ice-cream is a little freezer burned."  She told me that it would be fine, get it scooped.  I told her again, "NO, this ice-cream is bad!"  My wife calmly informed her husband, "Hun, it's fine... they brought it."

          This picture above is my good ol' mare Karma, rolling to get rid of some pesky flies.  Looks like she is rolling with laughter!  I'm sure Karm and Coke have wanted to laugh at me many times.  After growing up on  an Amish farm, they know how real horse-drawn farm equipment should work, yet, they patiently endure my slow learning curve, as I try my hand at it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Part 3

Part 3

                    My heart was pounding, in time with the pulse of the milking machine; I didn't like trying to talk Abe down.  I was actually ashamed to tell him how much less I was going to offer.  First, I explained to him again, “I am not a horse trader; I think your horses are worth all that you are asking. I'm just a guy who really wants to buy these horses, and this is the best I can offer.  If you don’t feel you can accept it, I totally respect that and understand.”
When I gave him my price, he looked down at the black-and-white  Holstein cow he was milking and thought for a moment.  Slowly looking back up at me, he said...

(To read more click on, Back in Time, tab on menu bar above.)  
If you already read part 1 & 2 scroll down to part 3                                       

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Part 2                                                                                

                    During the next few days, I worked out a plan where I would be able to afford Abe’s mares, if I could only talk him down a little in price.  After work one afternoon, I sped quickly down the highway and turned down the gravel road leading to the 1800s again.  I parked my truck, awkwardly near the hitching post and rolled out, back in time.  On this visit, I only talked to Virgil.  I found him out in the barn.  It was milking time and large black-and-white Holsteins, each in a stanchion, waited patiently to be milked.  I drew in the sweet smell of hay and cows; Michael was milking and told me where to find Virgil.
Only too happy to show me the horses again, Virgil slid open a large door and the line of big black horses clomped into their stalls and calmly let the young man put on their halters and tie them.  I asked if we could take the two mares I was thinking about buying, outside, so I could see them in full daylight...

(to read more, click on Back in Time tab on the menu bar above)
If you already read part 1, scroll down to part 2
Part 3 will be added 6/26

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Short Story


                            In a small, gray S-10 Pickup, hustling down gravel roads over Iowa’s rolling hills, I had one of my experiences with time travel.  In a cloud of dust, I crossed a time warp and found myself somewhere in the late 1800s.  Stumbling out of my little truck, I headed toward a large, white barn.  I looked for signs of life inside.  Some voices could be heard coming from within, and I followed the sound until I found a young man and woman having a conversation.  The woman stood there, barefoot, with a long, plain, green dress, playing with her apron strings.  The man had his thumbs under his suspenders, his face hidden by a straw hat.  Unnoticed, I listened for a moment, and couldn't make out a word they were saying.  They spoke in a foreign tongue, but their conversation seemed quite pleasant, as laughter filled the air.
  Suddenly, they saw me and the room fell silent.  They looked me up and down, as if I were some kind of alien.  “Is your dad around?” I asked.  “He’s up at the house.” The young man answered in broken English.  I left them behind, heading up toward a very large, white farm house.  Everything seemed familiar; I knew I had been here, on an earlier voyage, but didn't know if those living here remembered  me.  Passing under spinning shadows of a windmill that clattered rhythmically...

           (To read more... click on, Back in Time, tab on the menu bar above.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chore Time!

       Anyone who ever spent time on a farm knows those words, chore time!
       My wife's dad is an older Mennonite man in his eighties and loves to tell stories of the old days.
       One Sunday, over a delicious home cooked meal he told me, "If you ever want to see something amazing, go to an Amish farm at chore time!"

He said that he had taken his push-mower to a local Amish farmer, who also has a small-engine repair shop. When he got there a young boy told him that "Dad" was gone but due to return soon. My dad-in-law decided to wait in his truck.
       He told me,"I was upset that I had to wait, until I realized I wasn't going to be bored! There were children everywhere doing a whole variety of chores. Everywhere, all around me! Some were feeding chicken, others feeding hogs. I saw a little girl, not much more than 5 lead a tall buggy-horse up near my pickup truck. I was amazed that she wasn't afraid to handle that big horse. She tied it to a hitching rack near my truck and left. Pretty soon she comes back with a screwdriver and proceeded to lift up each of that horses feet, cleaning them out with her makeshift hoof-pick." He laughed and repeated himself as he usually does. "That little girl picked up each of that big horse's feet and cleaned them out! I was almost disappointed when their dad came home and we loaded up my lawnmower."

       There are dozens of small businesses on Amish farms in the Kalona area!  I highly recommend taking a trip to any Amish community and doing business with the Amish.  I can almost guarantee you will come away with a great story of your own!  Just look for a sign along the road advertising rhubarb, brown eggs, rabbits, puppies, or a million other similar items for sale.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Buggy Etiquette

       You may be thinking this blog post is about how to behave while riding in a buggy.  When I was a nineteen-year-old, single man I took my very first buggy ride.  I had become friends with an Amish family and asked one of their daughters some questions about what Singings were like.  She invited me to come along with her to a Singing the next Sunday.  She suggested I come early enough for Church and stay until evening and go to the Singing.

       When we climbed into the buggy and started down a gravel road, their horse lifted its tail and began to drop, what we in the Kalona area call "buggy exhaust" on the road.  Let me just say I wasn't used to that view!  I let out a chuckle and those teenage girls looked at me to see what was so funny.  Immediately I knew that this was part of everyday life for them and I felt like a city slicker!
       Now, years later, when I give wagon rides to friends, I am surprised that they laugh when my horses lift their tails to take care of business.  I guess it is all what you are used to!

       I actually want to address the issue of how to act around buggies.

 1) When you are in an area with horse and buggy people, please remember that they are only going a fraction of the speed of a car.

2) Remember that horses have a mind of their own and no two horses' minds are exactly alike!  A horse can act up at anytime about something as simple as a plastic bag blowing out of a ditch.  Pass carefully!

3) Understand that Amish are not trying to attract attention.  They are just living their everyday life in the way they have grown up living it.  I'm like you, very curious about it, but at the very least give them some respect and don't treat them like a circus attraction.

4) Don't ask, "Can I take your picture?"  Amish have strict rules about having pictures of people.  Every Amish group has their own rules and some Amish people have different standards.  Some may not mind you taking their picture but that is rare.  That is why I only take pictures with no faces showing.

(Those pictures in my blog of our cover photo shoot have non-Amish actors in them.  That is why those pictures were taken with faces showing.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Heavens Declare It

God is the artist I just have a cell phone to capture this. :)

       These are Amish cows (cows owned by an Amish farmer)

        My wife and I went out for an evening drive the other day and saw this unbelievable Iowan sunset.  I would like to recommend coming to the Kalona Iowa area and taking a scenic drive down gravel roads.  There are some great places to stop and shop too!  We have a country store, owned and run by Amish, as well as a dry good store, Stringtown.  The best donuts I've ever eaten, from Golden Delight bakery, also Amish owned.  We have Amish run greenhouses and lumberyards.  Stop in at one of our three harness shops and look around, maybe even have them make you a new leather belt.

      The Kalona area also has some great restaurants and fantastic gift shops.  I don't think anyone should come to the area without stopping at Sisters Garden and The Rug Cottage, both on Highway 1, south of Iowa City.  Petals is a really delightful little florist shop just west of Kalona in Amish country and also has home crafted art and gifts.

       Nobody comes to Kalona without stopping by the Cheese House for some squeaky cheese curds!  I am not paid by anyone to promote these places, I just love them and want to share the experience with my blog friends!

Sunday, June 2, 2013


       In our community it's called "jumping the fence!"  I am not looking to stir up controversy here but hopefully to dispel it.  I would love to play advocate for Amish and ex-Amish. There is almost no way a non-Amish person can comprehend what it would be like to leave the Amish.

       Living Amish is a lifestyle that is absolutely all encompassing, every aspect of life is affected.  If a person leaves they have to give up the good parts well as undesirable things.  Having grown up with close friends and tightly-knit extended family groups, it is very difficult to walk away, especially when you would afterword become an outcast.  There are many pleasant things about a slower paced agricultural lively hood, such as great food and a secure future.  A close comparison would be our ancestors that came over from the old country leaving family, friends and home, knowing they may never get the opportunity to return. This transition is even more extreme. It would be more like our ancestors leaving Europe in the late 1800's and coming to modern day USA.

       I really like watching Breaking Amish but at the same time it makes me sad!  I see these young people  going through an unbelievably difficult transition, with all of us watching.  I'm happy no one watched me that close during my teenage years!  Imagine growing up in a society that defines every boundary and then all at once you are having to figure out how to set your own limits.

       Most of all, on the topic of Breaking Amish, I want to say that I am friends with dozens of people who have left the Amish.  Almost every last one of them is a kind, hard working, well adjusted member of our community.  On behalf of all of these people I want to say to everyone, don't think that Breaking Amish is a comprehensive view what it means to "jump the fence."  There are many who have left the Amish in a very slow transition into a less strict Mennonite group without all the fanfare.

       As with any reality show, these are extremes. There are things that are cut for just the purpose the directors are looking for and most of the circumstances are designed to push the people being filmed to their limits. The show may or may not portray the kids correctly but I just want you to stop and realize that there are extremes, as with any controversial topic. I am hoping to give you a glimpse into what I have seen in my own experience with the ex-Amish, and to speak on the behalf of the good situations that I have seen.