Sunday, October 30, 2016

Amish Tour of Wisconsin

 The last several years, my wife and I have taken a fall trip to Wisconsin. We have a secret, inexpensive hideaway up there and it's only a few hours from home.

 We go as a weekend retreat, not to tour Amish farms. However, when you are married to an author who writes about the Amish, guess what happens.
 My wife and I were driving along enjoying a nice conversation about our children and grandchildren until my keen eye spotted horse manure on the road. Like a scout in the old west, my eye is trained to notice tiny details that clue me in about my surroundings.

We came around a bend in the road and I blurted out, "There's an Amish farm!"
There are certain tell-tale signs that are a dead-giveaway. Of course, horse manure lying along the shoulder of the road is one. White boxy looking houses with white tin out-buildings, another. Windmills that are still functioning. And then, of course, buggies or other slow-moving horse-drawn equipment.
Sure enough, buggies began to come into view along our scenic route. We passed a long line of buggies that seem to have all just left a function of some kind. They all gave us a friendly wave. My wife said, "That would've been a great picture."

"I know, but I can't make myself take pictures of Amish folks."
 Most Amish groups have strong rules about pictures. They are considered to be a form of idols. As the Bible teaches, "Thou shalt make no graven images." I reminded myself and my wife, "Oh well, I'm not a photographer, I'm an author. If I were a photographer I couldn't pass up a pic like that."
 We came up on these buggies traveling together. Very often, large Amish families crowd into two buggies, because they can't all fit into just one. Maybe this family had been invited to another Amish home for an evening meal? Something that is quite common among the Amish.
We passed these buggies and continued on our way. More Amish farms and buggies came into sight. As you may have guessed, your's truly was on cloud nine. My wife patiently put up with her husband's fascination with Amish culture.
 After all, the views were breathtaking, even if you are not totally infatuated with the Amish.

We enjoyed the fall weather, a quiet drive along a beautiful road, good company, and I took all of these great photos to share with my Amish Horses friends, like you.

I noticed some Amish men working on that large barn beyond the cattle. I snapped a photo of them. It may seem like a contradiction to what I said earlier. It's not, I know the Amish well enough to know that they don't mind photos that are taken from a distance. It is important to them that the faces are not visible, or are indistinguishable because of distance. Most Amish groups don't mind photos being taken of children. That doesn't mean that they appreciate people treating them like circus monkeys. Please, if you take pictures of the Amish, be respectable and kind about it.

 After we finally passed by the last Amish farm, we came upon a beautiful park. I saw a sign along the road that read, Country Park. That caught my attention and we pulled in. We were not disappointed. We took a long walk around a lake and sat in the shade on a park bench.

We took a couple of "Selfies" and some other nice photos of the area. I will share a short video of me, pumping water.

(footnote) If you click on the photos they will appear larger and you can enjoy the details a little better.

The park is in the Amish area and I'm quite sure Amish families have reunions at this spot regularly. The little drinking fountain is powered by a hand pump. Hand pumps are fun to operate. They are a thing from days-gone-by unless you are Amish, then it is just another part of daily life.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Amish Autumn

       During the next number of days, even birds seemed to be restless; change was happening everywhere. Small birds crowded into branches overhead, fluttering, chirping, and then took flight, bursting out through leaves in small groups. After the little flocks circled around, they came clamoring back into the same boughs they had just left. A full blown argument ensued in tree limbs above Lenny’s head. Part of the troubles seemed to be that whole flocks had moved in from more northern lands, crowding out those that had lived on Noey’s farm all summer. Lenny’s horses noticed the bird troubles too, shaking their manes at all the commotion.
 Around the same time birds began to be disturbed, soybean fields began to show yellow patches. Those lighter colored areas spread out further and further until everything turned a brilliant gold. Every breath of air drew crisp. Canada Geese flew back and forth across the sky in partially formed V’s, not always south, but in every direction. It was clear that it wasn’t time for them to leave, yet change was coming.
       Lenny sat behind a team of horses, with an unsettled feeling in his heart, watching the whole thing unfold before him. He told his horses, “Living the Amish lifestyle in autumn is a new experience for me, and winter sounds like a nightmare. Grandpa already told me how brisk weather affects horses, making you all flighty and frisky. Maybe Amish young men look forward to their horses being more lively and willing to move quickly without being coaxed, but for a guy like me it’s downright scary.”
       Lenny wondered out loud, “Why couldn’t summer last forever?”  Misty nodded her head up and down, possibly in an effort to stretch out driving lines that held her bit too tight. Lenny chose to see her head shaking as an agreement with his comment. “I was dreading fall. Now that I told Noey I would help with harvest and give him an answer before winter, I hope autumn lasts forever.” He clucked and his horses stepped off quickly. Lenny and his team finished feeding cattle. He tossed off hay as the horses circled through the herd.

You have been reading an excerpt from English River, Amish Horses Series book III

English River is an Autumn story. Let Lenny and his horses take you away... out into Amish farm fields during the harvest season.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Romantic Buggy Ride

 What could be more romantic than a moonlit ride behind a trotting horse? Even a quiet Sunday drive through a small town, or down along a gurgling stream, can seem quite romantic.

I'm a helpless romantic, both forms of romance:

 1)My books are dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, and a touch of chivalry.

2) My writing may be characterized by a preoccupation with love or the idealizing of love.

What better backdrop could exist for this type of story, than an Amish countryside?

Horses don't interrupt a couple's conversation. Instead, they produce a rhythmic sound, much like a heartbeat. They pull a cart or wagon with a gentle rocking motion. No loud roars, no distracting radio, or any other electronic devices, unless you bring along your cell phone.
(not bad to have along... just be smart enough to silence the thing!)

They go slow enough that you can look into each other's eyes for a moment and not miss a turn or run a red light.

Bring along a light meal or a refreshing drink. Stop down by the creek and give the horse a much-deserved rest. After you wade in the stream for a while, your horse will be ready to make the return trip.

If it's warm out, leave off those heavy shoes. If it's chilly, snuggle.

 I might want to mention something of the downside to all of this...

You will be behind the horse all the while. Notice the view is always of the backside of a horse. Don't forget, they are living creatures that need to relieve themselves every now and again. Although, they don't use gas... they do produce quite a bit.

Horses don't seem to have a problem with privacy and are not shy about taking care of whatever business is at hand. They don't check with your human conversation to see if their contribution is timely, or not. I have even imagined that my horses use these functions on purpose if they don't like the conversation.

 None of those little issues seem to bother our Amish friends. In fact, they are so accustomed to those things that they may not even notice any of it. If you are really in love, and in tune with nature, you ought to be able to embrace the whole experience.

 Maybe I should have mentioned that, although I'm a romantic, I also enjoy a little humor and a reality check every now and then.