My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Another Amish Wedding

A few months ago I attended my third Amish wedding.  This one was for a granddaughter of “Mrs. R.,” whom I talked about in another post, and that's how I got my invitation.  I’ve watched the happy bride (and her busy mother) get ready for this event all spring, and I looked forward to the big day!

An Amish wedding starts out with a regular Amish church service, which lasts about three hours.  Things began at 9 a.m. in the basement of the farm next door, which is the home of one of the bride’s aunts.  (This is where they hold church whenever it’s their turn to host it—about twice a year.)

The women sat on half a dozen benches on the right side of the entrance.  The men and older boys sat on benches on the left side. The young unmarried girls, along with the half dozen “English” guests such as myself, sat on the third side. The ministers sat in the center, with the couple and their two pairs of attendants.  One of the highlights of the service was the fact that the bride’s father was one of the two ministers who preached.

At about noon the regular service ended and the bride, groom, and their four attendants (or as they say, “witnesses”) stepped forward.  The bishop for their church district performed the short ceremony; only Amish bishops are allowed to perform Amish weddings.

Now the guests made their way from the wedding farm to the farm house next door, by way of a wood-chip path that had been laid down between the farms, just for the occasion.

The wedding dinner (actually a series of meals over the course of the of day) took place at the farm of the bride’s parents, shown below.  I was there for the first meal, which happened about 1:00 in a large building on the farm.  The bridal party sat on a raised table under a canopy of flowers.  The ten pairs of servers chosen by the couple served the food—being chosen as a wedding server is an honor.  There was a large tent set up nearby for the work of the cooks, and a third tent for the gifts.

 The Amish drink their coffee black.  I forgot about that fact, and asked one of the servers for some sugar and cream.  He looked baffled—which caused me to say, “Never mind!”  But a few minutes later, the mother of the bride came around with sugar and cream, which she had gone to the house to fetch, just for me. 

I left after the meal, but Amish wedding celebrations last all day.  There was a second meal sitting for those who weren’t invited to the ceremony due to lack of space; then a third sitting for the cooks and servers; then later in the day, the opening of gifts in a special tent; then in the evening, another meal sitting for the young unmarried people.  At many weddings, a game of volleyball occupies the teens in the afternoon, as the younger kids run around and play.

The wedding season ends about now (late October).  By the time I got around to writing this, the new couple are settled in their new home and, I hope, living Happily Ever After! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Winter Is Here

Saw this at a friend's house this morning... Time to bring in the winter firewood!

Many older Amish homes, like this one, are heated using firewood, coal, or wood pellets in a basement furnace. Newer Amish homes might be heated from a propane tank, or in some districts, perhaps even from the public natural gas utility.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Krider World's Fair Garden

Right down the road from our new Middlebury home, near downtown, is an enchanting place called the Krider World’s Fair Garden.  It’s a beautiful place to spend an hour or two, even without knowing the story behind it—but here's the story.

Krider Nurseries was an up-and-coming business early 1900s, and they had big dreams.  They created a display garden at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair.  From the guest register at that display, they collected over 250,000 names and addresses—and using that list, Krider Nurseries became the biggest mail order nursery in the country.  They practically invented the concept!

After the World’s Fair was over, many of the plants and other features were brought back to Middlebury, and the display garden was recreated across the road from the nursery headquarters.  It served as a display garden for the retail business.

At Krider’s peak, in the 1940s and 1950s, they employed over 100 people.  They obtained the patent for the very first thornless rose, which they named “Festival.”  Krider’s shipped plants all over the United States and overseas.  But the rise of big box stores in the late 1900s signaled the end of the business.  Krider Nurseries closed their doors in 1990, and five years later, the family donated the garden to the Town of Middlebury.  It is a popular spot for outdoor weddings.

 The map below shows some of the main features of the garden.  Those marked with * were part of the 1930s World’s Fair display garden, either originals or reconstructions.

1 - The Dutch windmill *

2 - The quilt garden – one in a series of Elkhart County Quilt Gardens
3 - The toadstools *
4 - The Pergola and sunrise benches *
5 - The lily pond *
6 - The “Garden with a Cause”
7 - The English Tea House *
8 - The goddess of youth statue
9 - Three historical markers
10 - The mill house *
11 - The Krider Garden fountain (1935)
12 - The gazebo (2015)
13 - The rose garden
14 - The pavilion
15 - The rain garden
16 - Restrooms
17 - The historic 158-foot trestle bridge, part of the original Pumpkinvine Railroad and now part of the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail, which runs through the park.

For more on the Krider World’s Fair Garden, check out the Middlebury Parks Department website, or go to, where there is a 53-page book (readable online) called “A Walk in the Garden,” several videos, and other information.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Very Delicious Truck

This afternoon my husband parked his Silverado in a horse corral (he had a good reason) -- and his truck was covered with a dusting of ground-up animal feed from a stop earlier in the day -- and then this happened!...

After more horses gathered around, licking his truck, he finally had to get out and shoo them away, because one of them was trying to munch on his vinyl truck bed cover!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Singing for Mrs. R. – Part Two (and Three)

A few weeks ago I was thinking about driving over to Shipshewana (10 miles away from my home in Middlebury) to sing for Mrs. R.—I’ve written about that previously.  I try to stop about once a week at the farm where she lives with her son and daughter-in-law.

I left a message with the daughter-in-law, asking if Thursday was okay.  (I’ll call her Mandy.  She has become a good friend.)   Mandy said, “I’m taking Mom to her elderly aunt’s house on Thursday.  Her sister and some nieces will be there, too.  Why don’t you come over and join us?”

So the next morning I found myself driving to the address Mandy gave me, near Shipshewana, with my hymnal on the passenger seat.  My destination was a snug little Dawdi Haus on an Amish farm, home of Mrs. R.’s 92-year-old aunt.  (I’ve written about the Dawdi Haus tradition before, also.)

I walked in to find a snug little dining room with long table full of food.  Around it were eleven Amish women, ages about 35 to 92, eating and talking.  A few of their small children played on the floor in the living room.  When I walked in, the room went silent and all of them looked up at me.  My friend Mandy quickly said, “We saved you a spot down here, at the head of the table!”  Yikes!...  I’m not usually nervous in any Amish situation, but this was throwing me a little.

So I made my way to the far end of the table…  The others had been eating for half an hour already, so they said, “Why don’t you have something to eat, and we’ll sing to you!”

So I sat and ate while these eleven wonderful Amish ladies sang to me…  Then I sang to them…  Then we sang together.

By the time I left, I had made some new acquaintances, and one of the ladies took me aside and said, “My mother is Mrs. R.’s sister.  I know she would really like it if you came over and sang to her some time.”  I promised that I would get her name and address from Mandy, and I will.

P.S.  Earlier today, I drove over to sing to Mrs. R. again.  This time, her widowed sister was up from Arkansas for a visit.  She’s a sweet old lady whom I’ve met before.  After we realized we both like genealogy and talked about that for a while, I got out my hymnbook to sing.  

Around the middle of my second song, Mrs. R.’s sister disappeared—and reappeared with a harmonica.  By the start of my third song, we had figured out how to start out on the same key.  So we serenaded Mrs. R. together for a little while on a dark autumn day, under an electric lantern in a cozy Amish farmhouse. 

I’ve never sung with a harmonica before, but it was otherworldly and wonderful.  And most important of all, Mrs. R. enjoyed it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Deadly Shrubs

Yesterday I stopped at one of my favorite local nurseries, Miller’s Greenery outside of Middlebury, and I was telling the Amish owner that I was picking up some deer-resistant items for my new shade garden. 

I asked Mr. Miller about a certain perennial, and the conversation turned to what plants are the worst for deer damage—something that isn’t a problem in most of the Middlebury-Shipshewana area, but it’s a big problem up in the woods where I live.  I told him that the three things the deer love best (and destroy) are hosta, arborvitae, and yews. 

He was shocked!  He said, “The deer like to eat yews?!” and I told him that they would destroy yews—eating off all the green needles and leaving the branches stripped.  My neighbor across the street planted a dozen last fall, and the deer munched on them all winter long!  We call yews, arborvitae, and hosta “deer candy,” and they don’t stand a chance in my neighborhood for anyone who lives along the deer paths like we do.

Mr. Miller said, “But yews are deadly poisonous to horses and cattle!  How can they be so tasty to deer?”  We both were very puzzled about that—but nevertheless, it’s true.

I did a little research later, and found this on The Poison Garden website:  “Though toxic to most animals, deer do graze on yew and gardeners are advised to avoid growing yew if there is a possibility of deer getting into the garden, because it is a favorite food.”  

And this from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture website:  “The needles and seeds of all yews are highly poisonous to horses, cattle, sheep and goats... Wild deer, moose and elk browse on yews as winter food and are not affected by the yew toxin. Humans, particularly children, are also susceptible to the toxins in these plants.”  This website also said that for a 1,000-pound horse, as little half a pound of yew needles can be fatal!

Mr. Miller told me an awful story.  One of his Amish acquaintances rented a house from his father-in-law.  In an effort to clean up the place, he trimmed back the overgrown yews, and he threw the trimmings into his father-in-law’s nearby cattle pasture.  The cows ate the yew clippings and died!  When Mr. Miller saw the poor man at the bank some time later; the man was taking out a bank loan to repay his father-in-law for the dead cattle!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Horses for Sale

I love looking through the classified ads in “The People’s Exchange,” which is a biweekly local Amish-centric publication.  My favorite is the horses-for-sale section.  Here’s an example (phone numbers deleted):

But what does all this mean?  I decided to find out. 

Below is a list of terms I often see in these ads.  I talked to a couple of Amish friends to find out what they mean… 
  • Stands to hitch and at corners:  It’ll stop and stay until you tell it to go
  • Traffic safe:  Not afraid of traffic and big trucks
  • TSS:  Traffic Safe & Sound
  • Been to church and town:  It’s well trained and safe
  • All pace:  Pacing means two left legs step, then two right legs – faster
  • All trot:  Trotting means front and back legs work diagonally – steadier
  • Dark bay w/ 4 whites, star & strip:  Dark brown horse with white feet and a white patch above the eyes and a thin stripe down the front of the head
  • Gelding:  Male horse who’s been “fixed”
  • Good headset:  The shape of a horse’s head tells a lot about its intelligence
  • Upheaded:  Holds his head high
  • Ready for the miles:  Ready for long trips
  • Lots of snap/lots of grit:  A faster, more energetic and aggressive horse
  • A little hot:  High strung; may balk – handle with care
  • Sticky starter:  A balker.  (My friend said, “I wouldn’t buy it!”)
  • Watches stuff beside the road:  It might lurch out into traffic if spooked
  • Chunky:  More muscular
  • Needs miles:  Needs to be used regularly to continue and maintain training
  • Average 10 mph:  This is a bit slow; 12-14 mph is better
  • Nice big stretch mare, drives w/ tight lines: Hang onto her – she wants to go fast!
  • Broodmare only:  Too old or injured to do work (or never trained to)
  • Women driver:  Very well trained
  • Boys’ horse:  Faster and more energetic and perhaps not as well trained
  • Safe for dawdi and school kids:  Very well trained; very safe; probably very slow
  • Babysitter pony:  Very tame and good around kids
  • Would make good produce team:  Draft horses which are well trained for a wagon 

There are lots of levels of “broke,” as my friends explained: 
  • Not broke:  Very young with no training
  • Green broke:  2-3 years old; trained well enough to pull a buggy
  • Good/well broke:  Typically 5 years old; most anyone could drive it
  • Broke for women:  Very well trained, and expensive to buy.  Not the fastest, though
  • Broke for anybody/dead broke:  A “dawdi horse” – good for the elderly
  • Broke, broke, broke:  A very slow horse!
  • Good broke to ride, green to drive:  A saddlebred riding horse which learned to pull a buggy later on
  • Broke to all machinery: A draft horse, usually a Belgian but perhaps a Percheron

I saw some other phrases in this week’s ads that I liked…  How about this one?  “Skittish in the barn, but get him out on the road, he’ll go all day, no problem.” 

So the next time you see an ad that says, “Dark bay w/ 4 whites, star, & strip,” you’ll know what that means!