Sunday, May 27, 2018

Plowing with Horses

 Although I've had draft horses for years, this is the first I've owned a sulky plow.

This past April, I purchased an Emerson plow at the Kalona Draft Horse Sale. It is probably more than 100-years-old and works amazingly well.

A "sulky" plow has one plowshare (digging blade) and a seat for the driver. (as opposed to a walk behind style)
There are also "gang" plows which have more than one plowshare. In my novel Under the Heavens, main character Lenny drives a "gang" plow with six-horses. Unfortunately, I tell the readers that he is driving a "sulky" plow. I mention and correct the error in book II, Catbird Singing. If you have read or want to read the Amish Horses Series, this blog post should help you visualize what plowing with horses is like.
After I got my plow home, I needed to come up with a tongue. This type of plow needs a tongue and mine didn't have one.

 I stopped in to visit one of my Amish friends. He and his boys dropped what they were working on to search through their collection of old plows for a tongue that I could use this spring. They plan to make a new one for me before next summer.

This tongue is longer than I need for two horses. It was made for a six-horse-hitch. I had to add a section of chain-links so I could use it.

You may notice that my furrows aren't that straight.
Well, I'm a novice.
I have plowed with a six-horse hitch on an Amish farm. However, they set everything up and gave clear instructions on how to proceed. This time I was on my own.

My experiences of plowing with a six-horse hitch on an Amish farm are shared in detail with my readers in the Amish Horses Series.

 You can see a light section of soil that was plowed a few days earlier. The darker area was just plowed, and I finished up the grassy strip after I snapped this photo.
Karma and Karla patiently waited while I took pictures. They are 18 and 17-year-old sisters and happy for a break in the action.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Very Expensive Faucet

 Our kitchen faucet broke in February. I thought, how expensive can that be?

My greatest concern had to do with whether or not I needed to hire a plumber.
Not to worry, my wife solved that problem. She called our daughter, Robyn, about the issue.

Robyn's husband is a handyman, so I thought, good this will be cheap!
 My daughter texted me: Send pics of your kitchen.
That should have been a clue that my world was about to turn upside down for a month.

I sent this pic to the left and the one just below. Little did I know that she and my wife were planning a kitchen remodel job.

My wife explained, "If we are going to get a new faucet, we might as well get a new sink."
Except, she wanted a black sink, which then required a new countertop. We compromised and my daughter helped me refinish our counter with a Rust-Oleum Countertop kit. A simple project that only lasted two full days. LOL

I will say the results were beautiful and gave "Your's Truly" a sense of accomplishment. My wife is in her work-clothes below, painting cupboards. (Notice that big smile.)
 If you have read the children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, then you will know what happens next. In that delightful story, we learn that things escalate. If you give a mouse a cookie, it will want a glass of milk to go with it. Obviously, the walls and flooring will need upgrading...
 Why not put up shiplap on one wall? My daughter (the designer) and my son-in-law (the handyman) pictured above, each using their God-given skills in our kitchen.
Our old floors were pretty bad but we made them worse by painting the ceiling, walls, and cupboards without the best protection. Like the rest of the kitchen, nothing had been remodeled in years. These floors were probably installed in the 1980's.

I planned to do the floors by myself. (If you know me at all, you might laugh at this point.)
 I placed all the pieces down as instructed and began snapping them into place. I made it about 1/3 of the way across our kitchen before I accepted the reality that I needed my son-in-law's help.

He came to my rescue and we now have everything complete.

Actually, the faucet wasn't expensive at all. In fact, our remodel job turned out to be relatively cheap.

As the book goes, though, if you give your wife a cookie, she'll need a glass of milk to go with it. And, if you get her a new faucet, she may need a new countertop... and so forth.

Here are a few pictures of our completely renewed kitchen below. Everything, including the light fixture, ended up being replaced. Oops, I have to admit, the ceiling fan is leftover from the old scheme.
 My blogs are usually about Amish or Horses. The only thing Amish in this post is the table that our Amish friend made for us. To read about that, type Amish Built up on the search bar on my website. (top left)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tiny Amish Clothes

Amish children are born into a culture within a culture.

Think about it. If I told you about a person, who grew up in a time where his family farmed with horses and used a buggy for transportation. This individual grew up without electricity, an automobile, television, radio, air-conditioner, or even a fan, what time in American history would you think of?

These children don't even learn to speak English until they are five.

We have a particular image in our mind, of modern American children. Yet, these are children born in America in the postmodern era. That very word means: subsequent to or coming later than that which is modern.

These children live in a time when being modern is not new, yet, they are still growing up in a very old-fashion way.

I try to guess how Amish parents explain to their children what is going on around them.

Why do so many people drive by with cars? Why do they dress that way and have tattoos?

Amish children look so cute in their tiny Amish clothes. They also seem so innocent and protected from the sex, drugs, and violence other children hear about in songs and see on TV and the internet.

I personally know many Amish children. When I visit neighbors, their children gather around and listen as the adults have a conversation. I'm always careful about topics because I know how hard my friends work to keep their children protected from outside influence. They are incredibly selective about what their children read. Many do not even want their children to know about animal reproduction, which is a difficult thing to avoid when I stop to talk about horses and colts.

Many Amish adults have read my books. (Which happen to fit in the category of G rated.) Yet, my Amish friends have been upfront about letting me know they don't want children under the age of 18 reading them. They don't like younger people to read anything with romance in them. In the Amish Horses Series there are only a few mentions of a kiss... just a few too many for their liking. There are also discussions about the bloodlines of individual horses. In my Amish community that is outside of the boundaries of "Good reading material" for children or even young teens. Other Amish communities would be less strict, but not much less.

If you visit an Amish farm, please try to be careful about topics. The Amish have something amazing going with their children. If you know any Amish children you know what I'm talking about. Polite, respectful, and hardworking children are hard to find in the postmodern era. Let's do our part to keep this going.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Amish Characters

Sony: Character in Whispering to Horses.
 I've met a few Amish characters in my life. Here are a few drawings of characters in my novels.

When I write Amish fiction, I create characters that remind me of real people that I've had the pleasure of knowing. As my story progresses, I add personality traits borrowed from other acquaintances. Suddenly, a character begins to emerge with a personality completely unique and separate from anybody I've ever known.

Many authors experience this strange sensation, of having created characters seem to take on a life of their own.
I guess it makes sense? We spend so much time trying to make characters seem real that we end up believing it ourselves.
Afterall, if we don't, why would our readers?
Eli and his horses.
 As far as names are concerned, I try to use common Amish/ Mennonite names. In fact, the names I use are so typical that anyone with an Amish/Mennonite background will, quite likely,  have friends with the same names.

Please be assured, my novels are from my imagination and none of these characters, or names, are people you know. Yet, they all have characteristics of someone you might know.

One evening I received a phone call from an older Mennonite fellow. He had read Under the Heavens and wanted me to tell him who the real-life people were. I struggled to convince him that they didn't exist in our community, or anywhere else.

Lenny and Leah, Amish Horses Series.

Lenny and Noey talk horses.
Yes, there are some interesting Amish characters out there in the real world. Mostly, they have shown themselves to have incredible integrity.

Sometimes, Amish folks word things in such a way that sound odd to English people. This might make people chuckle. Keep in mind, what you say may seem odd to them.

A sweet moment: (I'm not telling what story this is from.) I drew this while looking at a photograph of a real-life Amish couple, the moment he proposed. They are friends of mine.

Fanny Ella and her beloved pony.
One common aspect of my writing, I always have characters in a variety of ages. Amish families are usually quite large. Communities are tight-knit and old folks interact with young children. Teens hold babies and care for toddlers. Everyone seems valued. This drawing below doesn't appear in Amish Park, however, this scene does. I drew this after visiting an Amish church service and witnessing a little girl seated near the minister and listening intently to him preach.
Jonas speaks, and a little Amish girl listens intently. Amish Park.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Amish Built

My wife's dream came true! Shari has been longing for a table big enough that our whole family can gather around it. We recently hired an Amish woodworker to build this Maple table. Shady View Woodworks. That is our son, Dallas, you see in the picture. 

It's as smooth as silk, and as you can see, it extends out quite a long way. 20 feet to be exact. Our family ate Christmas dinner around it a few weeks back and still had 5 table leaves left out. We have 5 children, 4 sons-in-law, and only 2 couples have given us grandchildren. So, we are thinking we may need the other 5 table leaves at some point. LOL

We also had these Maple church benches made at the same time. The legs fold up so they can be stored if necessary.

Amish church benches are usually made of pine which is much lighter to lift and move. And, folding legs make them easier to be loaded in a church-bench wagon and moved from house to house for meetings.

The craftsman happens to be the son of my Amish friend who sold Karma and Karla to me. I'm sure he has driven my horses on a manure spreader many times.

When we moved the table to our house, the carpenter's four young sons came along to help. They seemed quite excited about the trip... even though we are only a few miles from their house.
Their names are, Junior, James, Jacob, and Joseph, ranging in age from about 12 to 6 years, I would guess.

All four were super polite and hard workers. (What I've come to expect from Amish children, and I've yet to be disappointed.)
They really seemed to enjoy looking at my wife's Christmas village and our Christmas tree. Those are things Amish families wouldn't usually have in their homes.

When we finished setting up the table, the boys wanted to go out to my barn and check on their grandpa's old horses, Karma and Karla.
Whenever I drive past Shady View Woodworks, Junior, James, Jacob, Joseph, and their other 6 siblings wave at me. (They are usually riding ponies!)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Amish Vacation?

        Morning light faintly glimmered on window shades. A 5:30 a.m. knock on the door woke Pete from a deep sleep. "Time to rise and shine," a voice called from beyond the door.
       "Lisa, they are trying to wake us," Pete said.
       She pulled the sheet up over her head.
           Pete spoke louder, "Lisa, wake up."
           She moaned and sat up on the edge of the bed. "I hope they don't plan on waking us up this early every day."

        (What would it be like to vacation on an Amish farm for a week? Pete and Lisa Heller, and their family find out!)

       Pete and Lisa headed out into the kitchen and were greeted by the wonderful aroma of breakfast food sizzling on the stove.

       Carrie snuck close to her dad and whispered, "My phone is almost out of power."
       "Plug it in," Pete answered with what seemed a simple and obvious solution.
       "They don't seem to have electricity anywhere in this house."
       "Oh, that's a problem." Pete looked at his phone and realized it would be dead soon, also. He asked out loud, "Is there a place we can plug in our phones? They are about ready to die."   
       "We have a phone booth less than a mile away if it turns out you need to make a call," Cephas said.
        Pete tried to think of how he could explain that he used his phone for a lot more than calling people.
        Lisa smiled at her husband and commented, "That will be enough phone calls for our family this week."       
       Carrie pulled her dad aside, whispering angry words into his ear. "They shut off their lanterns at 9:00 last night. I couldn't get to sleep for three hours, but at least I had my phone."

       You have been reading a snippet from Amish Park.
Take this short novel along on your family vacation and read a chapter every day.
       Pete and Lisa's teenage daughter, Carrie, is a cell-phone zombie, like most American girls her age. An Amish lantern sheds a strange light on a whole new world, once her phone dies.
       This trip to an Amish theme park is ten-year-old Natalie's idea. She loves horses and thinks that a visit to an Amish farm might save her parents marriage and keep their family together.

Is God still in the miracle business?
Let the wisdom of an aging Amish man encourage you and your family.
(click on the highlighted words) Amish Park, and join the Heller family's Amish vacation.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Join Our Thanksgiving Frolic

This Thanksgiving you can spend a little time with three Amish families... through the pages of Love's Thankful Heart, a collection of three Thanksgiving Amish stories.
Here's a sampling:

 On Thanksgiving Day, Monroe could only think of Rosemary. He listened to the sounds of his mom and sisters toiling in the kitchen as they prepared a Thanksgiving feast of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls, scalloped corn, and multiple side dishestoo many to count. 

The house was warm and moist because of all the simmering pots on the stove. So much so, the windows fogged over and dripped condensation. The aroma of baking turkey seeped into every room, tantalizing the entire family.

Finally, Esther called everyone to the table for the late afternoon meal. The whole family chatted and laughed as they gathered around, squeezing together closely in an effort to fit every member in. When they were finally seated, the talking hushed until the room became filled with silence. Even the smallest children sensed that it was time for prayer. Instead of saying let’s pray, as he usually did, Joe cleared his voice and began to speak...

 Monroe loaded his plate with everything his mother and sisters had fixed. He poured gravy over a mound of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, letting the steam rise under his nose. Esthers table fell silent except for the tinkling of spoons and forks as everyone fellowshipped in the abundance of Gods provision. Everything in the world seemed perfect, except for one thing.
Just as the meal came to an end, a knock sounded on the door. Monroe stood up before anyone else could move.
Ill see whos here, he announced. He didnt know if the others suspected what was on his mind. He didnt care. His heart swelled with hope, expecting to see Rosemarys sweet face. He pulled open the door and there stood...

You have just read a section of The Thanksgiving Frolic
One of three Amish Thanksgiving stories in,