Archive for the ‘Amish areas’ Category

We never got the storms overnight Friday into Saturday, at least not in Berlin, Ohio. It was gray out, but the pavement was dry. I personally felt the dreary adrenalin drain that always comes on the morning of the last day of vacation when the excitement is over and you’re heading home. We’d lightened our load for the one night at the Comfort Suites, so it wasn’t that hard to get packed up. We dined across the road at the Farmstead Restaurant for their breakfast buffet, where everything was tasty but often blindingly sweet. Example: killer cinnamon rolls, but the icing on top was an inch thick. I saw bowls of something that looked like chocolate pie. I don’t know what it actually was; absolutely delicious, but what I thought might be meringue was another thick, sweet cream of some kind. Fortunately I had enough sense to counter the sugar with scrambled eggs and sausages.

J.Hooligan was thrilled to try the cinnamon rolls, too, but was cross-eyed sick after just one (and they aren’t typically huge rolls, more dinner roll size). There was a concoction made with Oreo cookies, but J. had to give up halfway through. S.Hooligan, on the other hand, continued her rotten ways from the day before and decided she didn’t like the good bacon from the buffet, so her mother brought plate after plate of purple grapes. S. spotted a giant gumball machine as soon as we entered the restaurant, and her mother said she could have a gumball if she behaved during breakfast. She didn’t. In fact, she outdid herself with obnoxious behavior, then couldn’t understand why Diamondqueen would deny her the promised reward.

We finished up our experience with me trying to flush the toilet in the restaurant bathroom and having the handle come off in my hand and fall to the floor with a clatter. I was alone in the bathroom, fortunately, but had just broken the toilet in the handicap bathroom without successfully flushing, unfortunately, so I ran right to the cashier and told her the problem. Later Diamondqueen was in the bathroom with S., and S. hollered, “Hey, THAT’S the toilet Chester broke!” (It’s a long story, but S. started calling me Chester last September and delights in annoying me with it.) One of the Amish girl servers came into the bathroom, and S. yelled at her, “Don’t go in there, that toilet’s broken!” Diamondqueen pointed out the girl already knew that since she had a sign she was going to put up on the stall door stating that fact. We scurried out to the van and burned rubber out of town, convinced we’d left the same mark on Amish country that we’d left on Sandusky, Marblehead, Put-in-Bay, Cleveland…

I’d thought maybe we’d make the traditional stops Mom and I enjoy on the way to Columbus – the longest covered bridge in Ohio and the Velvet Ice Cream factory grounds – but at that point everything seemed anticlimactic. The kids were absorbed in their videos of Tru Jackson and SpongeBob, and Diamondqueen just wanted to get home. We made it back without incident and steered into the Hooligan driveway around two o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Since I live with Mom now, at least I didn’t have to return to an empty apartment and feel blue in my post-trip decompression. In fact, Mom had a serving of leftover chicken and dumplings and small apple pies waiting for my return home, sure medicine that will cure anything.


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We checked out of Great Wolf Lodge within minutes of the 11 a.m. time and stole a final visit to the arcade so J.Hooligan could show me how he plays Guitar Hero. The incomparable animatronic show was playing as we walked out the door, which was somehow fitting.

Late breakfast at Bob Evans, and then we started our drive. Backroads the entire way; we took 250 through Wooster because Diamondqueen decided she wanted to see Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron. The kids fell in love with a couple of old-fashioned jack-in-the-boxes, except S. chose Curious George and J. chose a sock monkey. Expensive, but they both had their own money to spend.

We took a few backroad detours on our way to Berlin to see some of the Amish farms up close. J. seemed interested initially, especially in the fields of horses and cows, but he and S. were too distracted by their new toys to pay as much attention as they should have. We staggered into the Comfort Suites in Berlin around 4 o’clock. The hotel is fairly new and the room is spacious and pleasant.

After a rest, we drove up to the Troyer market for their hand-dipped ice cream. We tried to visit around downtown Berlin, but most of the shops appeared to be closed by then, even on a Friday evening, so we gave up and returned to our hotel, which is just a short flight of steps downhill from the shops.

We lounged around for several hours, which included me taking a bath and reading Thurber, me stopping up and clearing the toilet, and S. locking the bathroom door from the inside and then pulling it closed behind her so we couldn’t get in. Diamondqueen and I fiddled with a credit card and small pocketknife. We wound up completely taking the knob apart (not necessarily on purpose), but finally the knob came loose and we had bathroom access again.

S. then turned the bathroom into her private art studio/office, sitting on the toilet bowl with the lid shut and using the top of the tank as her desk. Diamondqueen suggested a drive around the area before it got dark. When I went to the bathroom, I could see that S. was working on her own picture book about a caterpillar, with the words sounded out so they reflected her unique spelling style.

We took a nice dusk-time drive down through Charm and back. We saw a big gathering of Amish young people playing volleyball in a schoolyard, and another gathering at someone’s house. By the time we came back the same way, the house gathering had broken up. There was a constant stream of carriages with headlights coming at us on the left, and Amish families wearing reflective wristbands walking along the right side of the road. J. saw lots more horses and cows, which he seemed to enjoy. S.Hooligan, who seemed to have taken an extra dose of Rotten Pills this morning, talked loudly the entire time. She got onto the subject of heaven and something about being allowed to ride in the trunk when she died and went to heaven. Both kids agreed they thought heaven meant getting to do anything you wanted to do.

We finished out the evening quietly back at the hotel, hoping to get to bed a little earlier. However, it appears there’s a line of thunderstorms headed this way, so we’ll see how restful our night’s sleep turns out to be.

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As we celebrate our bounty troyers_produce3-small-web-view.jpgwith gratitude this week, my thoughts go back to the trip my mother and I made to Holmes Co., Ohio, in October. I was impressed by how the Amish celebrate abundance from their fields. Their produce markets aren’t just crates of vegetables, mountains of pumpkins, and offhand stacks of bagged apples. Everywhere there’s a presentation, beautifully arranged, of a sampling of everything the market offers for sale. Sure, it’s good advertising, but these presentations were so opulent, so colorful. It was easy to imagine a proclamation behind the rich displays: Look and see how good and generous God is, how much He cares for us!

Many of us decorate our porches and yards with pumpkins, gourds, or corn. I was surprised to see similar displays in many Amish yards. I don’t think of the Amish as trying for decorative effect, although maybe that’s just ignorance on my part. Knowing how they make use of everything, I wondered about them sparing even a couple of small pumpkins or squash for a yard display.

My mother suggested that maybe they take in the displays before the things go bad so they can still use them. That may be. I like to think, though, that those compact clusters of orange, yellow, and green were like small altars in tribute to the pumpkin-truck-small-web-view.jpgabundance of Lord and land. Maybe I was simply affected by the spiritual imprint of a largely religious community, but there seemed something sacred about the yard displays; and, for that matter, about the carefully assembled presentations at the produce stands. I couldn’t help feeling that it took spiritually rich folk to celebrate abundance in such a grand and shining way.

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hersh_buggy_pumpkins-small-web-view.jpgExcept for shopping (especially at the quilt fabric stores) and eating at the good “home cooking” restaurants, Mom and I have never gotten into the “tourist” aspect of Amish country in the Holmes Co., Ohio area. We never toured a recreated Amish homestead, took a buggy ride in the middle of traffic, or went to an exotic petting zoo.

Last week, though, we were at the Hershberger’s, a produce stand and truck farm, on the same day they were having a “family fun night,” staying open past their usual five o’clock closing time until dark. They had pony rides, a variety of animals to pet and feed, and offered free wagon rides to their enormous pumpkin patch (with the purchase of a pumpkin).

I had my heart set on riding that wagon to the pumpkin patch. Even at four in the afternoon, though, it was blazing hot. I didn’t cotton to the idea of that open wagon under a fierce sun; and Mom didn’t want to ride at all because she has trouble getting in and out of wagons and wasn’t sure what kind of conditions we’d have for seating (a real hayride is impossible for her these days).

We walked around the produce store, inside and outside, admiring the displays of pumpkins, gourds, mums, apples, grapes, chili peppers, and more. We were going to dinner in awhile and resisted the temptation of freshly churned ice cream, and kettle corn right out of the black iron kettle.

We ambled over to look at the animals, including the horses in the huge barn, when I saw a sign offering buggy rides for $4 apiece. The buggy was covered, so we wouldn’t be melting in the sun, and Mom thought maybe she could endure the actual, secure seats of a buggy.

A bearded gent in a wooden ticket booth peered at us from beneath his straw hat and said hello. “Can we get a buggy ride?” I asked.

“Sure you can get a buggy ride!” The gentleman emerged from behind his window to take our money, then turned to unhitch the glistening horse waiting nearby. There was no stool, and the iron step on the buggy was surprisingly high. Mom hoisted herself up, then wavered when the buggy listed on its springs as if it was going to pitch her back out. I had as much trouble climbing up with my short legs and weak back, but at last we had settled ourselves within the narrow, but shady, confines of the buggy.

The elderly gentleman climbed in front. “Come, Dale,” he commanded with a ripple of the reins. “That’s Dale,” he said by way of introduction, and soon we were rolling through the gravel past a large pen of assorted beasts.

“We have some sheep there,” the gent explained in an economical effort at tour guide patter. “There’s some geese. Over there we have a brahma bull.”

Once we rode through the pasture gate and left the menagerie behind, I tried to break the ice by asking about the weather. Everything was so green here, while at home the grass was brown from the drought. “Yeah, we’ve had pretty good rain,” the gent said, relaxing. He sat sideways with his back against the side of the buggy and one knee propped up on the front seat and gave us a thorough accounting of the precipitation in Holmes Co. since the middle of the summer.

He also explained that we’d be detouring through the grass since an electric fence blocked our way onto the usual gravel run. “Have to keep out the goats,” he said, “they’d eat the pumpkins.”

He showed us where the Hershberger farm ended and the Troyer farm began, and related how the goats usually rushed the big wagon because they knew they were going to be fed by the tourists. “They climb right up on the wagon,” he said, chuckling, “but see, they don’t even look up when I go by. They know they’re not going to get anything.”

I enjoyed gazing at the variety of sheep, and asked about the spotted one the gentleman had pointed out earlier as a Jacob’s sheep. “Why is it called that?”

The gentleman hesitated as though turning the matter over in his mind. I thought maybe he didn’t know either, but then he spoke. “Um, there’s the story of Jacob and the spotted sheep in the Bible…”

“Oh, I remember!” I said quickly, groping back to dim memories of Bible history classes in grade school and a reference to the sheep I vaguely recalled from somewhere. I wondered if our buggy driver had seemed uncertain because he was trying to decide the most diplomatic way to explain the Jacob reference to the godless heathen who didn’t know her Bible.

We’d circled back to the pasture gate. Instead of returning us to our departure point, though, the gentleman guided the buggy into the big horse barn. We rattled between the rows of stalls, past a tethered colt so close we could have reached out and petted it. When we emerged into the sunshine, our buggy rolled on around the far end of the produce store, crossing in front between the mountains of pumpkins and parting the crowd of shoppers who were milling around.

“We have lots of pumpkins,” our driver said. “Lots of mums.”

Finally our buggy ride ended. “You’ve got another load waiting,” another bearded man in a straw hat and galluses called to the old gentleman. We thanked him, he thanked us, then he turned his attention to his new passengers while Mom and I executed several gymnastic maneuvers trying to lower ourselves down out of the buggy.

On the way back to the car, I turned and saw Dale drawing the buggy through the pasture, where no doubt the old gentleman was telling his passengers about goats and pumpkins and Jacob’s sheep.


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My mother and I just returned from two gorgeous days in Holmes Co., Ohio, also known as Amish Country. The weather was superb (although hot), the fields are still green as opposed to the dry, crinkly grass of drought-ravaged Southwestern Ohio, and bright leaf color is exploding into view.

I haven’t had a chance yet to work with the photos I took, so instead I thought I’d share a few observations. Although this was our fifth trip to Holmes Co. since 1998, I don’t recall seeing or experiencing these things before:

  • Some of the Amish wear flip-flops: I thought I was seeing things when I noticed flip-flops on a young girl in a market, but today I spotted an older Amish woman wearing them as well. (I hope I wasn’t openly staring at her feet.) I’m pretty sure I’ve seen walking and running shoes, especially on the kids, but the flip-flops came as a surprise.
  • It sounds funny to hear the Amish say “you guys”: I heard this at least three times, usually from young women dealing with the public at the market, in shops, or in restaurants. “Did you guys enjoys your meal?” “Did you guys find everything you were looking for?” In at least one case, the girl who said “you guys” had just been speaking Pennsylvania Dutch to her co-workers. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. It just seemed so familiar and colloquial, even in an area where I’ve always found the Amish to be extremely friendly. 
  • There are a lot more sheep in Holmes Co. than there used to be: I may be completely wrong about this, but I swear we saw more sheep this time as we drove the rural backroads, admiring the scenery. I love sheep, as I described in this post! I certainly notice when there are just one or two grazing in a small pasture. Large flocks, or even a few dotting farms at regular intervals, would not have escaped my attention in past visits. Naturally, I was in my glory, but I did come away wondering whether there was some growing agricultural trend regarding sheep in Holmes Co.
  • Dresses worn by younger Amish girls and women are more stylish: I admit I’m not always certain if I’m seeing an traditional Amish or a Mennonite girl or woman based on dress alone. However, the dresses that seemed “stylish” were being worn by girls in the yards of rural farms as well as in the businesses in Berlin. Since I don’t have much of a fashion sense or an eye for fashion detail, it’s hard for me to describe how these dresses were different. Sometimes the fabric seemed something other than solid cotton (I swore I saw an oyster-colored knit used for one dress), the dresses themselves seem more form-fitting, and often the short sleeves have a breezy flourish to them. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the bright colors of the dresses and the men’s shirts, but this was something entirely different.
  • Chapel veils instead of caps: Again, I may have been seeing this on Mennonite girls and women instead of traditional Amish. The circlets of lace were usually black and reminded me exactly of the chapel veils we girls had to wear in Catholic church in the 1960s and earlier. In one case a middle-aged woman wore the veil covering the top of her head, but I saw younger women wear the veils folded and pinned near or over buns. From the front, it was impossible to tell the girl was wearing any head covering at all. (We used to fold our veils in half, too, although I don’t think the nuns would have allowed us to expose the tops of our heads by tying the lace around our ponytails.)
  • Are the Amish allowed to use computers and other electronics?: This question arises out of the many instances when I observed Amish girls and women using computerized cash registers. Also, in one traditional small hardware store where I’d purchased a few gadgets, the girl checking out my items couldn’t get a slotted spoon to scan correctly. She grabbed a microphone and called, “Mary, assistance at the front register, please. Mary, assistance at the front.” Her voice was broadcast throughout the shop full of bearded farmers browsing the aisles. It just gave me pause, this slim girl in her lavender cotton dress, with her severe hair tight under her white cap, peering through plain dark-rimmed glasses — holding a microphone and speaking with the unconcerned but officious manner of a Wal-Mart cashier. One of these things is not like the other.

It was a terrific getaway. More to come…

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