Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lost Canyon (horse-drawn attraction in Wisconsin Dells)

This is an AWESOME experience!

Anyone who loves horses will really enjoy Lost Canyon in Wisconsin Dells area

 There are so many attractions in the Wisconsin Dells area but this one is a MUST DO family friendly experience. At just over $10 a person it has to be one of the cheapest too. The canyon that the horses pull your wagon through is beautiful and so are the horses. My visit to Lost Canyon last week was at least my 3rd time and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I was there. The guides are always funny and friendly, Kevin who you see pictured in these photos was a great young man and his love for his team of dapple-gray Percheron draft horses was obvious!

There are usually several teams of horses waiting to give rides through a cool wooded canyon. It doesn't seem to matter how hot it is everywhere else, this canyon stays nice and cool.  The horses trod through shallow pools alongside a creek on a nice sandy path, and almost seem to be having fun too!

It's fun to meet up with the other teams of horses and wagon loads of tourists. Everyone seems to have a smile on their faces and the guides usually stop for a moment to tease each other.  Be sure to ask lots of questions while on the ride.  I always do; and I learn a lot about the place, horses and even the guides.

There are many places along the trail where you wonder if the horses can even fit through the narrow canyon walls, they do!  This narrow confined area actually makes for a very safe horse drawn wagon ride. I have given wagon rides commercially in the past and I know that there is a risk when you take a large group of people for a ride with horses. Most horse drawn rides are either in town or out in wide open spaces where plenty can go wrong.  I am jealous of this spot because distractions are very limited as well as places for scared horses to go! I could see that whoever set things up here, took many precautions to keep everything safe.


 It is really fun to watch the other teams pulling through the canyon as you meet them along the way! I love watching horses in harness, so this place is easily one of my favorite tourist attraction of all time!
Down below is my favorite picture of Kevin with his horses!  He is a really nice young man and got excited when I told him he (and his horses) would be making an appearance on my blog.  He seemed happy to promote Lost Canyon even though he was working his last week, after being there for several years!  We wish you all the best where ever you end up Kevin!  By the way, I think you have draft horses in your blood. Once you have that bug, it doesn't seem to ever leave you.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Road Apples and other signs your nearing Kalona

Road apples, a little nickname we Kalona people give to what horses leave behind.
Also known as buggy exhaust!
This is a good sign you are nearing Kalona.

The Cheese House, known to the locals as "The Cheese Factory"
famous for squeaky cheese curds!

A large variety of horse drawn vehicles.
This is a horse drawn sprayer. 
(vehicles like these leave road apples behind)

Signs along the road, reminding us to watch for horse drawn vehicles.

Dozens of signs advertising home grown products, almost exclusively Amish signs.
(My little time-machine S-10 pickup can be seen in this picture)

Just past the "rumble strips" you roll up to the "Four-Corners" 4 way stop.
From here you can see our famous, Puller Inn motel,
JW's grocery,
and English River Pellets.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Buggy Horses

Some standard-bred horses are born on Amish farms

          Almost all buggy horses come off the race track. In most major cities in the U.S., there is a horse-racing track. Thoroughbred horse racing, puts the rider on the horse's back, such as the Kentucky Derby style of racing. However, there are more tracks that specialize in Sulky racing. Standard-bred horses are used in harness to pull a little cart called a sulky, in this type of racing.

          These Standard-bred horses are bred up and trained to have a very quick trot. A trot is the best gate for pulling a sulky or a buggy for a long way as fast as possible. Race track horses usually have a very short racing life, after that has run-its-course, they are sold at auction and most end up on Amish farms. These horses often end up pulling buggies for years.

          My dad bought one of these horses at an auction, with intentions to use him as a riding horse.  Dad worked with him for a while but after Danny threw him one day, the horse was handed down to me. I worked hard to finish breaking him to ride, until I took a job on a local dairy farm and gave up all free time completely!  I put him in the paper, advertised as:  Standard-bred horse, for sale. I will trade for a riding horse.

                                 These horses are grazing on the playground of a one-room school                              

          I received a number of calls from local Amish. Twice, I visited Amish farms with prospective riding 
horses, as a possible trade. One of the families had a nice sized, riding pony. I enjoyed my visit to their farm; they were very friendly and showed me around a little. When it came to, wheeling and dealing, both Amish families let their sons do the talking.  These were boys about 12-14, and I was quite impressed with their knowledge, and that their dads gave them this kind of respect. The family with the riding pony encouraged me to take a ride, to see how I liked their pony.  I'm not that proud of my riding skills, so I suggested that one of the boys ride the horse, while I watched. The man of the house told one of the boys to get on. His face instantly looked pale, and he said, "No Dad, he bucks!" Needless to say that was a deal breaker, I went on my merry way. I sold Danny at the Kalona Sale Barn later, and he fetched a handsome price.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Green Beans Are Ready!

Today was another trip out to the "Home Place" for me (Robyn) and my boys as well as their cousins. My boys LOVE spending time with Grandma Shari in the garden and today was no exception. They were all so cute to give a hand in picking. We later enjoy ours steamed in the microwave and topped with butter and salt. Oh so yummy!
Take a peek at the green bean picking.

 Time in the garden is always rewarding!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Amish Singing

The word "singing" is usually a verb but to the Amish it's a noun!

         Amish young people meet on Sunday evenings, usually on the family farm where Church service was held that morning.  As soon as chores are finished, they hitch up their fastest horse and hurry to meet up with all their friends and sing hymns. These gatherings are called Singings.  The best part of the evening is giving  the girl of your choice a buggy ride home, if she accepts your invitation.

          My wife and I were out for a Sunday drive a few weeks ago and came across the location of one of these Singings.  We could hear the beautiful sound of Amish young folk's singing, coming from a large machine shed on a scenic Amish farm.  We didn't take a picture of that side of the road because there were a few people out in the yard, that didn't seem polite.  So we took a picture opposite the farm, of these buggies.

Just a half-mile away we took this picture. So you can see what a spectacular evening it was!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bountiful Harvest {Making applesauce at the Home Place}

Greetings from Robyn about the "Home Place" this warm July morning.

Growing up in the countryside by Kalona there is one sure event to take place each year; the harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables. Last week my mom and dad (Tom the author and Shari his wife) had my boys overnight for a special treat for both me and my boys. When I went to pick them up Grandma Shari was in the process of "working up" some apples into delicious homemade applesauce. My boys had helped pick apples that morning and then Grandma got right to work. Noticing that she had hours of work on her hands I got right to work helping her.

Along with "working up" apples we worked up some memories too. As I carefully pressed the apples through the Victorio Strainer I began to reminisce of all the years I sat watching my mom and Grandma Ruby crank the apples through. When I was very little (ages 3-5) I sat opposite "helping" pull the waste from the end and guide it into the bowl thinking those mashed up seed and peels were so neat to touch and squish. As I grew older my job switched over to using a spatula to gently guide the hot applesauce to the opposite end of the pan as it poured down the spout. And then as I was a teenager my job became the cranker and masher which involves pushing scalding hot apples through the top dish while cranking to grind the seeds and peels through one end and creating smooth streams of hot applesauce out the main spout.

The best part of "working up" apples is the opportunity for women of all ages to sit and have conversation with each other which usually involves stories of the women in past generations doing the same. For instance, I think that every time since I was a little girl the story of my Great Grandma Kinsinger having a Victorio Strainer tip and pour scalding hot apples on her arm and burning her badly was topic of discussion when asking us to stand back while the apples were transported to the strainer.

And then, there are the memories of that big bowl (or two or three) of warm applesauce with heaping spoonful's of sugar on top, sometimes resulting in a tummy ache from over-indulgence. The hum of box fans ring clear in my memory too as the kitchen heats up quickly from the apples on the stove top in mid-July. As well as the sweet aroma of fresh warm applesauce that lingers through the entire farm house, always keeping your tummy hungry for more.

Take a peek at the process.

Starting with the beautiful blooms in the trees earlier this spring. We knew that there would be a bountiful harvest.
One of the 6 bags full of apples that the boys picked with Grandma Shari.
Apples soaking in the sink, waiting to be cut and stemmed then boiled.
Scalding hot and straining the extra liquid out just before being put into the Victorio Strainer.
And the process begins. . .

Even the "waste" is pretty to look at with the shades of green and brown and red. This also makes great compost for the garden!
And the bowls and bowls of applesauce waiting to cool then be mixed with sugar and poured into freezer bags for yummy applesauce all year round.

Why add sugar? Well, just ask my oldest son Alex! After offering him a bowl of freshly made sauce he turned it down saying it was too green and he wanted the jar of the unsweetened sauce from the grocery store. I asked him why? When this is so yummy? A couple of days later I told him he needed to try it one more time because I think that he is missing out! After adding in a "touch" more sugar he licked the bowl clean! He said "Mom, those apples must have just been a little too green and after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days the applesauce must have "ripened" up!" Haha! Pretty cute logic coming from an almost 6 year-old. The texture is what makes homemade sooooo good and the sugar helps balance the sour from the green apples.
I hope you enjoyed seeing the process we use to make homemade applesauce. Although I am sure Amish would not freeze their applesauce but can it instead. Which involves even more work and another process in addition to "working up" the apples.
Mom ended having up with 60 quarts of applesauce that remains stocked in the deep freeze for all of use to enjoy!

all photos in this post are:  ©RubyEllenPhotography 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

One Room School

          My step-mother used to teach in a one-room Amish school.  She did a fantastic job and stays in touch with many of her students and teacher aids. (who were also Amish)  Her teacher aids were a great help, especially because her kindergarten students often didn't know English.

          This turned out to be a great experience for me too!  I really enjoyed going to spring music programs and other events.  My mom constantly tried to come up with fun learning experiences for the children.  On one occasion, she told the oldest boys that if they put out good effort, at the end of a quarter, her son Tom would take them on a field trip.  The boys seemed excited about it, even though it was a unique twist.
        They succeeded in their endeavors
and so I came and picked them up in my car... to take them to see my horse.  I had a half Arabian, half Quarter Horse, riding mare at the time.  She was a great horse but probably not anything too special for those 7th and 8th grade Amish boys to look at.  They seemed to be having fun.  They politely showed interest in my horse, and were really happy when we stopped for ice cream.

          I had to think that it would be like taking an average, modern kid in a buggy to go see an ordinary car!