Friday, May 29, 2015

A Real Amish Paradise

 Shipshewanna, Indiana may be a tourist trap in some people's minds, but to me, an Amish fiction writer, it is Paradise! 
 There are so many beautiful views everywhere you drive! I took the small paved road between Shipshewanna and Middlebury to place copies of my novels in local hardware stores, and I was stunned by the vistas that surrounded me. If you decide to take a trip to the area, stop in and pick up a copy of "Under the Heavens" at Varns & Hoover Hardware in Middlebury, or  Town & Country Hardware in Shipshewanna, right along the main road near the Blue Gate Restaurant. If you can't get enough of the Amish countryside ,take home the experience through the pages of my novels.
 If you want to see the quiet beauty of God's creation go to the rocky mountains, an ocean shore, or just head down a side road in the Amish community of Shipshewanna. (I don't work for the local chamber of commerce either. LOL)
 These are only a few of the many photos I took while visiting the area last week, keep checking my blog for more! I put up a new post about once a week.
 Shipshewanna may be just a quiet county community, but for you and me, Paradise!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Amish Horse Trivia

Did you know that many Amish buggy horses began their careers as racehorses? Yep!

       Standard-bred horses have been carefully developed over the past several hundred years for sulky racing. At one time this was a huge attraction at local fairs. Almost everyone in the old-days drove a buggy and admired a good horse that could move really fast at the trot. When you see a jockey sitting on a horses back during a race, those horses are galloping. That galloping motion is not desirable when a horse pulls a cart, it is way too jerky. Therefore, the trotting horse was developed; a horse with a fast, long stride in the trot. Standardbred horses are the king of that motion and have great endurance. The same traits that make a great racehorse, translate into the makings of a wonderful buggy-horse.

Actually, this blog post is not about Amish horse trivia, but trivia about the Amish Horses Series.

       Did you know that the horses pictured on the covers of Under the Heavens and Catbird Singing actually were born and raised on an Amish farm? The horses on the covers belong to me, Thomas Nye, the author of the Amish Horses Series. I purchased Karma and Coke from an Amish family that lives a few miles from my home. Karm and Coke have never been in a horse trailer. A son of the guy I bought the horses from helped me drive them home to my place. I describe that experience in a short story you can read on this blog. On the "tool bar" above click on "Back in Time". The young man protraying Lenny on the cover of Under the Heavens is my son, Dallas. We purchased his hat at the local Amish "Country Store" as well as a pair of suspenders. The young girl, who is on both Under the Heavens and Catbird Singinghappens to be my daughter, Natalie. We borrowed an Amish dress from a local Amish girl (who will not be named here) for the first book. The dress she is wearing on Book II was also made in a local Amish home and given as a gift to our family friend. (Thanks for loaning us your dress, Meredith)

Another interesting bit of trivia: The character "Aaron Burr" in Catbird Singing, was named after my wife's great-grandpa, Aaron Burr Gingerich, who happened to be Amish. My wife's great-grandpa also had a brother with the name George Washington Gingerich. I know these are odd names for Amish men to have, but it's true. The historical Aaron Burr was infamous, as he killed a man during a duel. My wife's great-grandpa lived a few miles from where we now live. One of his great-grandsons  is still Amish and farms his home-place

Thomas Nye &
Karma and Coke wearing the bridles made by Jess Peachy
       I patterned the character "Grandpa Jesse" after one of my favorite Amishmen, a man named Jess Peachy, who is now deceased. This Jess Peachy was a harness-maker who lived not far from my home. He was very kind and willing to talk about his faith openly, and also shared excellent horse advice with me. Whenever I had an incident with my horses and needed harness repair, I would go to him to get my harness fixed, and more importantly, to get horse wisdom. We had many wonderful conversations while he worked on my harness. In fact, he made the bridles that my horses are wearing on the cover of Under the Heavens. I also patterned Aaron Burr (the harness maker in the Amish Horses Series) after this real life Amishman. It just so happens, the story of Fanny Ella's pony, Dusty, is based on a true story Jess Peachy told me. He had a pony that would climb steps into their home, jump onto a hay-rack and go for a ride behind a team of draft horses. He was offered a great deal of money for that pony and turned it down. (just like in Catbird Singing) and the true-life story (of his pony) ended just the same way it ends in the Amish Horses Series.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nylon Harness Shop

This past February, I brought my draft horses into the barn to harness them up. I was planning to hitch them to this little sled that my harness is hanging on.
Coke (one of my horses) reached to the ground to get a mouthful of hay that she had dropped and broke a snap off her harness.
When you weigh almost a ton, it's easy to break things without meaning to.
The next thing I knew her harness was draped over her head. Being the good horse she is, she stood still and waited for me to unsnap everything.
I knew that I was going to be making a trip to my friendly harness man.

While he looked at what needed repaired, we had a chance to visit about other things. He told me about a new team of Percheron horses they had recently purchased. This is a picture (above) of one of those mares and her new colt. You can see her teammate in the background with some other horses. He told me that they seem to be good horses... if you can catch them. They were purchased at the Sale-barn in Kalona and he didn't know anything about their history. He said, "We normally catch our horses when they come into the barn for grain, but they don't come in with the others." That is unusual, most horses love to come in for grain. I'm sure they will get used to their new routine soon enough.

While I was getting my harness repaired, I remembered that my steel bits were getting rusty. So, I bought this new set of stainless steal bits. Not that I wanted to spend the money, but these are like the brakes on a car, if they go out your done! You can see a copy of my repair bill below. The Amish church-bench wagon was parked at the harness man's house, and he told me that they would be having Church in their home in a few weeks. I got a call about a week later, asking me to please pick up my harness as soon as possible. I knew what that was about. When an Amish family hosts Church in their home they want everything on the farm immaculate, even in the harness shop.

Yes, he did misspell my name, but I was honored that he remembered my name without asking.

Another footnote: When I arrived to pick up my harness, the shop had an open sign in the window, but nobody was anywhere in sight. I could hear what sounded like a large group of children. Just then, Monroe came out of the big barn. He told me, "Our goats are kidding!" I asked him,"How many kids?" He told me around 40. I don't know if that was a total or if more were on the way.

In my novel Catbird Singing, Lenny visits a harness shop multiple times. His good friend, an aging Amishman, gives him good advice about more than horses and harness.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Making Hay (the old way)

In this old photo you can see small square bales being hoisted up in to a hay mow. The man on the ground has the trip rope. When the hay bales are inside and close to where he wants them, he will pull his rope and drop the bales. This type of hay system was designed for loose hay and used that way from around 1890 until about 1950. In the 1950's everyone started using small square bales and found that they could continue using their "hay trolleys" to hoist those into the mow, six at a time.

(These pictures were loaned to me by a good friend named Jeff, he is one of the boys sitting on the tractor)
For years, horses pulled the hay hoist rope. In this picture a small tractor is being used. My wife remembers her grandmother driving an old pickup to pull the rope. She said that she used to ride on the tailgate much like these boys are riding along on the tractor. I had an opportunity to help a Mennonite farmer put up hay this way in the early 1980's. I know that many Amish farmers still use hay hoists to this day. Some Amish farmers still put up loose hay, including one of the families I bought draft horses from. I enjoyed watching them do things the way it was done around the turn of the last century.

We have a local resident that collects hay trolleys from all over the country. The Kalona Mennonite Historical Society held a meeting in this display barn a few weeks ago. I asked for permission to take some pictures and blog about it.
In the picture below you can see a few sets of "Iron Claw" hay forks. I still have an old set that were used on our home-place even though the big barn is gone.

There were many companies that made hay trolleys, and over the years each company made numerous models. Our local collector told us that he has over 300 distinct trolleys, and some duplicates.

I thought I would throw in this picture of me standing below a few of the old hay forks. This style was used for loose hay.

I've included a short excerpt from my novel, Under the Heavens. This is a short story that was told to me, by a good Amish friend, almost exactly as I put in in the book.

If you have a few minutes, check out this wonderful video by simply clicking on the words below.