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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shaklee Chris Goes to the Car Show

My husband recently traveled from our home in Illinois to Ohio to meet some old friends at a hot rod event, and he decided to break his journey in Amish Indiana, where he could have some great pie and stay at one of our favorite B&Bs (Songbird Ridge).   

His stop was to be over a Thursday night, so he decided to go to the huge cruise-in that happens at Essenhaus Inn in Middlebury on Thursday evenings in the summer.  A “cruise-in,” for those of you not married to a “gearhead,” is when owners of old cars show up at a designated place and spend the evening checking out each other’s cars.  Sometimes there is music, food, and/or trophies.  Lots of spectators show up at the bigger cruise-ins, and the event at Essenhaus is huge.

I remarked that “Shaklee Chris,” one of our older Amish friends (how he got that nickname is a story for another day) had been wanting to attend that event, but it was too far by buggy and his adult children didn’t want him to ride his bike there alone!  (He is 85.)  My husband Gary left a voice mail for Chris, and soon it was arranged.

Gary arrived in Amish Indiana in time for some pie-eating before picking up Shaklee Chris.  They proceeded to Essenhaus, where Chris treated him to dinner.  They then spent some time wandering up and down the rows of old cars.  My husband said that Chris was the only Amishman he saw there.

Later, on the way back to Shipshewana from Middlebury, Chris told Gary stories about the local Amish—and about some of the local business owners who were now “English” but had grown up Amish.  They made a couple of stops, including an Amish buggy shop run by one of Chris’ grandsons.  He makes a good living making buggies for the locals, and he picks up extra money from an arrangement that a tour company made with him.  They stop by with busloads of tourists who want to look around his buggy shop, and he gets paid a small fee for each tourist.  He said he often sees two groups a week.

I was glad to see my husband so comfortable with the Amish.  It was his first trip into their world without me, and he passed the test with flying colors.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Amish Sense of Whimsy

Amish sense of whimsy... The window on the left side of the barn is fake, just painted on - as are the white cross-pieces on the barn doors. So is the white triangular vent at the peak.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hidden Creek B&B: A Hidden Treasure

In a previous post I mentioned Songbird Ridge B&B, one of our favorites places to stay in Amish Indiana.  Songbird Ridge is run by Gwen Newcomer, a second-generation B&B owner.  Her daughter Gretchen has followed in the family tradition with her own B&B, which she calls “Hidden Creek.”  It is located near Songbird Ridge, north of Shipshewana on State Route 5, but on the other side of the road.

Hidden Creek is well named.  The first time we stayed there, we drove by the sign two or three times before we saw it.  The house is located at the end of a long lane between two Amish farms.  The front side of the house is where Gretchen and her family lives, but around back is the entrance to one of our favorite hideaways in Amish Indiana.

I’ve mentioned before that my husband isn’t a big fan of B&Bs.  He doesn’t like the feeling of “staying in somebody else’s house,” and he’s not fond of socializing with strangers at breakfast.  But Gretchen’s B&B is perfect for guys like him; it is a self-contained unit with living room, kitchen, and two bedrooms, each with its own bath.  (One bedroom has a queen bed and the other has a pair of twins.)  It is pretty and comfy and quiet, and we sometimes bring DVDs to watch on the TV while we make some popcorn (provided) or munch on that day’s purchases of caramel corn or baked goods.

Early in the morning, Gretchen appears from upstairs with a basket of homemade bran muffins, cheese, meat, fruit cups, cereal, orange juice, and coffee.  We sit at the table, looking out at the meadow behind the B&B with its sheep and frolicking goats, while we talk about our plans for the day and check our email (Hidden Creek has free wireless, which is a rare thing at B&Bs).

Hidden Creek doesn’t have a website, and Gretchen doesn’t take reservations directly.  Her mother handles that task via her own B&B, Songbird Ridge; and ordinarily, Hidden Creek isn’t available unless Songbird Ridge is booked.   

We sometimes stay at the large inns in Amish Indiana, and they do have their advantages, especially for those with children in tow.  But it’s nice to have an alternative, and Hidden Creek is a good one.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kettle Korn


Sometimes it’s the little things in life… and for my husband, one of those things is fresh homemade caramel corn.  See the smile on his face?  Caramel corn put it there.

It would be easy to drive by and not see the Kettle Korn building—it’s set back from the street on a promenade that cuts through the middle of the block, in the middle of the downtown shopping district.  But we always make a point of stopping there.  If the older Amish gentleman who makes the popcorn treats is busy with the big kettle, then the wonderful aroma drifts out to greet any pedestrians on the main street.  There are jars with free samples, as if the aroma isn’t enticing enough!

Even if he’s not on duty, the treats are for sale, on the honor system.  A wooden box sits near the various kinds of popcorn (caramel corn, kettle corn, cheddar cheese corn), with a sign above it giving the prices for small, medium, and large bags.  You put your money in the slot and take your treat.  We’ve resorted to asking total strangers for change for a big bill, so we don’t go away empty-handed!

There’s another wonderful popcorn stand south of downtown, Vernon Miller’s Blue Ribbon Kettle Korn, located in the parking lot of the Red Barn Shoppes.  Someone is usually standing by giving away samples—often a young Amish woman, probably a daughter or niece...  Warning—if you try it, you will buy it.

We have found that caramel corn is a nice snack to much on during the three-hour trip home.  So with a cooler in the back full of pies, meat, cheese, and other goodies, we make our way back to everyday life, with a taste of Amish Indiana to get us home.