Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Horse and Buggy

Downtown Kalona, Iowa.

       There is something soothing about the sound of horses trotting down a road.  We lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia for a few years during the 80's and our closest neighbors were Old Order Mennonites, similar to Amish.  We lived on a little paved road in the country, our view was of a dairy farm's pasture with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, I sure miss that!  Old Order Mennonites passed our house all day riding bikes or driving buggies. Our little 2 year old daughter (at that time) Bethany used to love to watch the horses go by.  When we did what parents do, and asked Bethany, "What does a horses say?" Her answer was to make a clucking sound with her tongue, mimicking the sound of horse hooves on the road.


       Here is a picture of our pony "Dusty" what a great family pony she was!  The girl driving is an Old Order Mennonite family friend, Lisa Dawn.  My own daughter, Lisa, is on the right, and my daughter Robyn is holding Lisa Dawn's little brother, Kevin.  You can see our great view in the background.  I bought this little cart at a garage sale and my Old Order Mennonite neighbor gave me this harness, I think he enjoyed seeing me and my children go past his place on this little cart.
Your's truly (it was the 80's) and my daughter Bethany on Dusty.

     My daughter Bethany was crazy about this pony, for some reason she wanted to lay back like this on Dusty for hours if I would let her, Dusty didn't mind as long as she was grazing.  You can see our Old Order neighbor's farm in the background, and beyond that the little town of Dayton, Virginia.  Beyond that is either Round Hill or Mole Hill, I forget which hill was which.  I have some great stories about this pony but I am saving those for a collection of short stories about all the horses I have owned.

My parents used to have a little Chihuahua that one of Mom's Amish students gave her. The little guy was a typical Chihuahua with bulging eyes and a raspy bark. Mom told me, "Do you know how to tell this is an Amish dog? Because he's hoarse and buggy."

Amish girl driving a buggy in Kalona, Iowa.
Amish family near Shipshewanna, Indiana.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shiloh Farm

     My sister has a wonderful antique shop near Kalamazoo Michigan.  It so happens her shop is in a carriage house.  I really enjoyed looking in the horse stalls, posts still protruding from the walls for hanging harness and horse collars.
     Her main shop is in there area where the buggies and wagons used to be stored. When I walk in here I can imagine what it was like "back in the day."
     My sister, Twila also sells artwork, craft items and unique random artifacts her brother (me) Tom purchases at the semi-annual Draft Horse Sale at the Kalona Sale Barn.

     My sister's home and shop both are like a museum, taking you way back to the old days.  If you are ever in the Kalamazoo area you don't want to miss a chance to stop in.

     My sister had a very interesting visitor while I was there, a young woman who recently joined the Amish.  It is very rare for anyone not raised Amish to be able to make that transition.  This young woman was taken in by an Amish family and she seems to be adjusting very well.

     As soon as my book Under the Heavens comes out, my sister Twila plans to have copies for sale in her shop at Shiloh Farm.

     This house was built during the Civil War.  Twila has done an amazing job keeping everything original, yet comfortably updated!  I had a great visit at your place Sis, your a great hostess!

 Here is a link to my sisters Facebook page.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Old Homeplace

     There used to be a huge barn about were my horses are standing. When I first met my wife the barn was still there but it came down in the 80's

     This smaller barn is actually a corn crib my wife's grandpa built. It makes a great horse barn.

     My wife's grandparents moved onto this farm when they got married in 1918. Her grandmother was the 4th daughter in a family of 5. My mother-in-law was born in this very house in 1928, she was the 4th daughter in a family of 5. My wife grew up in this home and, you guessed it, she was the 4th daughter in a family of 5. It so happens we have 5 children and we like to tell our 4th daughter she is destined to take over when we move off the place, but she better have 5 children!                                    

     Our old windmill isn't in use anymore but if the wind catches it just right, it starts spinning again. I hired an elderly Amish man to climb up to the top and wire it so it couldn't spin. I was surprised when he got up there and I could see that the face of this windmill was taller than a man. After all the effort my Amish neighbor put into fixing my windmill, the very next wind storm it broke loose and went right back to work, spinning.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Neighbor's Barn

            I saw my neighbor pushing his bike down the road about ten miles from our place.  He had a flat tire, so we threw his bicycle in the bed of my faithful little S-10 pickup and hauled it home.  When I pulled in his drive and saw his barn up close, all I could say was, "Wow, can I take some pictures?"
          I am a big fan of old barns!  I love to look inside and imagine what life was like back in the old days.
          That is what I like about having Amish around... the old days are still alive and well on their farms!
           A lot of time was put into building these old structures.  Look at that foundation!  Most old barns in Iowa were built with native oak lumber; such hard wood you can't drive a nail in the beams.
(At least I can't)
           If you click on these pictures you will get a closer view.

           I love barns with a ramp access to the mow. Just imagine how many loads of hay were pulled up that ramp by teams of horses over the years.

           Back in the good old days this barn would have been hopping with activity around chore time. People and livestock probably hurried inside during cold winter snowstorms, or walked out of its doors at the perfect time of evening to see a beautiful sunset.  I bet this old barn could tell some great stories and a few romantic tales too.

    Check out my Facebook page,   Look at my photo album named "Barns."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fun on the Farm

 My Grandchildren love Karm and Coke!  Whenever they come out to the farm they always ask, "Can we feed the horses?"  Of course there is nothing that makes this old Grandpa happier than his grandchildren wanting to see the horses.  They aren't afraid of Karm and Coke which is great, but I want them to have a healthy respect of how big these horses are.  Both are gentle, friendly horses, but their shear size makes them dangerous if a person isn't cautious.  For example, don't let them accidentally step on your foot!  My oldest grandson Alex and I took a ride in the wagon last Sunday evening.
           Lyla was born a horse girl, she is pictured below riding our out-door rocking pony, blowing on dandelion seeds and taking a ride on Coke.

           Karm and Coke out in the pasture, you can see my manure spreader in the background.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Amish Acres in Nappanee,Indiana

Amish Acres Round Barn

          After I left Shipshewanna I drove toward Goshen because I knew there would be Amish and Mennonites all the way down to Nappanee.  I got a chance to see some beautiful farms and horses along the way but didn't know I was in for a nice surprise.  
          When I arrived in Nappanee I discovered a place called Amish Acres and they just happened to be having an Arts and Crafts Festival.  I snapped a few pics of the old home place with my trusty cell phone, so I could share them with you.  Down below I will show a few pics of the festival.  As peaceful as this acreage looks, there is a huge crowd on the other side of the barn!

          It is so relaxing to sit on a porch in the evening after a long day of hard work.  The sights and smells of a farm leave a lasting impression on a young child's memory.
           When I was a boy my Grandpa and Grandma didn't have indoor plumbing, it was all part of a fun adventure for me.

           A farm with a variety of livestock and poultry feels so full of life and character. Now days most farms are specialized, raising only one type of livestock, and those hidden away in long enclosed buildings.  I miss driving through the countryside and seeing hogs rooting in a field or chickens scratching and pecking in a yard.

          Horses have so much more personality than a car or a tractor, they can make life more complicated but always more interesting.
          That's what I like about Amish farms... they take you back to the good old days!

          The Arts and Crafts Festival was huge!  I couldn't believe how many booths were there and what a large variety of goods available.

          Food wasn't in short supply either!  I highly recommend bringing the family out to Amish Acres for a day trip.  Even more fun if you happen to get there during the Craft show.

Check out this link for more pictures

Monday, August 5, 2013


            I swung by Shipshewanna Indiana on my way home from visiting my mom in Michigan.  These Belgian horses were part of the amazing vistas everywhere around me.  I really enjoy driving around the countryside looking at Amish farms and YES Amish horses.

           I stopped at this book store that sells books about Amish.  Hopefully my book, Under the Heavens, will be on a shelf here when it comes out later this fall.

          There are buggy rides available behind the Blue Gate restaurant and Bakery, in the heart of Shipshewanna.  The Blue Gate restaurant has amazing food, you have to try their Amish peanut butter, apple-butter and amazing pies.

          These buggy rides seems like fun too!  There are Amish buggies and local "plain-people" riding bikes throughout the streets of this little town.

           This is a great place for a day trip, I am thinking of planning a week long visit sometime.
           I was entertained by seeing buggies stopping in at the gas station and by the attendant who kept coming out to scoop up all the buggy exhaust.

           I'm not sure if the man giving horse drawn rides is actually Amish but I'm gonna guess that he is! (Pictured below)

            If you enjoy these pictures check out my Facebook page I have more pictures in albums there.  Be sure to "like" my Amish Horses page while your there.  Thanks for your support!