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

Thursday, March 9, 2023

My New Brochure

This is my 2023 brochure ("rack card"), front and back sides.

It can be found at both the Lagrange County and Elkhart County Visitor's Centers, as well as on the racks at the Farmstead Inn and Essenhaus Inn.


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Pleasant Ridge Equine

Horses are a big business around here!  After all, every Amish family owns a few, and there are over 6,000 Amish households in this settlement (Elkhart/Lagrange/Noble Counties in Indiana).  Therefore, there’s a need for all kinds of horse-related services.  And outside our local community, there are many “English” horse aficionados out there, and I’m learning that they are very serious about their animals!

My Amish friend “Emmon,” who has an amazing dog kennel, also works at Pleasant Ridge Equine—he likes to keep busy!  I took a walk around there a few weeks ago, and here’s my report.

Pleasant Ridge is located near Goshen, Indiana.   Their main business is horse breeding and foaling out mares (helping them give birth)—and they have a lot of amazing and valuable mares and stallions there.  The animals are usually not owned by Pleasant Ridge, but instead, are owned by investors.  Some of the mares are valued at very high dollar amounts.  I asked Emmon why, and he said, “Mainly because of their pedigree.”

There are 80 or 90 mares boarded here full-time, and they are typically bred once a year.  I was told that the typical mare who boards here is worth over $20,000—wow!   An ultrasound guy comes around three times a week to check on the mares.

In addition, there are quite a few mares who come to Pleasant Ridge to be bred and then are returned home afterwards. 

Many of the stallions are quite valuable, too. Most are owned by investors and boarded here for a monthly fee, but for some of them, Pleasant Ridge owns a share.   

The stud service season runs from February to June.  Semen samples are gathered from the stud horses on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, assisted by a pummel-horse-looking apparatus that I nicknamed “Dolores.”  One draw can produce up to 5 saleable vials of semen.  (Microscopes are on site in the lab to check semen count and make this determination.) 

The samples are shipped out in refrigerated packaging to the buyers.  None of the stallions are mated in the old-fashioned way… when a stud is worth that much money, no chance is taken of injuring a stud horse who gets a little too enthusiastic about his job!  A mare typically has one foal, after a gestation period of eleven months.  

Most stud horses are between three and twelve years old, although one stud horse is 28 years old!  Most are Standardbred horses, although a few are trotting race ponies.  What are the prices for a sample?  Ponies start at about $400, with some stud horses fetching up to $4,000 per sample.  So as you can see, this is big business, and very serious business.

Horseshoeing is done on site too, in this room.  Horseshoes come in different sizes, and are hand-customized for each animal.

Lots of feed is needed for all these animals, and hay is stored indoors in this room.  This kitty helps keep the pests away.

Another valuable service Pleasant Ridge offers is “Sale Prep.”  If you have good horse to sell, and you want to get top dollar, you hire someone to do the sale prep so the horse makes as good an impression as possible.  This involves exercise (arena or treadmill), training, grooming, and anything else that will help a horse put their very best foot forward for the sale.

The same kind of prep might be done on the stallions who board at Pleasant Ridge, before a “stallion presentation.”  This is a type of sales event where stallions are shown in the ring in order for potential stud service buyers to see them in action and then order semen for artificial insemination with their mares at their own stables.  This service isn’t cheap, but a  top-quality stud horse will improve the bloodlines of any mare. 

A little backstory:  Lloyd Yoder started Pleasant Ridge on his 30-acre farm in 2008, after previously owning a business called Pleasant Creek Belgians.  His young son Owen, who was a teenager at the time, loved horses just like his dad, and started his own business, First Start Acres, with a Standardbred stallion named Rex.  After Owen grew up, married, and moved to his own place three years ago, he continued First Start Acres, but after two years, his dad built a dawdi haus on the home farm for himself and his wife, and Owen moved his family back home, and the two businesses merged. Things were cramped in year one, but in year two, the stallion count went from four to fourteen, enabling the construction of a fine new facility.  Now in year three, the business continues to grow and thrive.

These days, Lloyd (and my friend Emmon) mainly handle the administrative duties, while Owen handles the training and prep for shows and sales.  Several other employees complete the team—including Sadie, who is essentially a equine beautician!  She braids the long manes and tails of some of the horses, between stallion presentations, to keep it untangled.  This horse is a special breed called a “Gypsy Vanner.”

Most of us will never have the need for Pleasant Ridge’s services, but I love learning about new local businesses, especially those that help the Amish community thrive and do what they do best.  Thanks, Emmon, for the tour and the interview!  

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

My Favorite Facebook Photos: 2022 Edition

So, I put lots of photos (taken by me) on my Facebook page that don’t make it to this blog page.  Here are a dozen of my favorites from 2022…  Which is your favorite one?

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I saw this creative birdfeeder stand along the road near Middlebury.

This is an old-fashioned apple cider press, seen at my dog groomer's house.

I managed to get this stealth shot at an Amish schoolhouse one afternoon.

This is my friend Glenn saddling up a horse to give my friends a buggy ride.  

Tractors are making their way into our Amish community, little by little.

It takes about 7 wagon loads of firewood to heat a house for the winter.

My friend Freda strung twine up this old silo and planted morning glories.

This is my friend Rosemary's garden, along 250N near Shipshe.  It's been featured on postcards!

This schoolhouse put sheep in the schoolyard for the summer, to keep the grass short.

This is the laundry for my friend with six sons!

Trust is a part of the culture in Amish Indiana.

This young man can drive a team of Belgians with ease!

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Thanks for looking at my pictures!  Find more on my Facebook page, here.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Taking a Tour

Hello, dear readers!

Spring is coming, and some of you may be planning a visit to Amish Indiana.  If you’re here to dine and shop, have fun!  But if you have lots of questions and want to take a deep dive into learning about the Amish culture, I am available for private tours.  More information below.


FAQ on Private Tours

1.      Where do we start? 
     Typically I pick you up at the location of your choice—usually at your hotel.

2.     1.      How much do you charge?

            I charge $30/hour with your vehicle, or $35/hour with mine. Some people hire me for just a couple hours, most for all day--it's up to you!  My SUV can hold myself and three passengers comfortably (or four if we squeeze a bit).  

3.      Can I take photos?
     Definitely.  The Amish don’t pose for photos and don’t want their pictures taken, but there are still lots of opportunities for photos—farms, gardens, animals, scenery…  I wrote a post about that, which can be found here.  For an example of the kinds of pictures I take, look at my Facebook page, here.

What will we see?
     That totally depends on you.  We will likely drive around the Shipshe/Middlebury area, making various stops, while I talk about the culture and answer your questions.  Possibilities include: produce stands (in season), cemeteries, bakeries, Amish wooden toy shop, Amish jam shop, gardens, dairy farms, schoolhouses, Amish general stores, meat/cheese shop, Amish honey shop, Amish grocery store, quilt shops, Amish leather shop, popcorn shop, local log-cabin prayer chapel, sheep farm, Amish birdfeeder and birdhouse store, Amish herb shop, Amish greenhouses, horse auctions, a scenic drive through the countryside with photo stops, or a drive through Shipshewana to see the 14 Walldogs murals. (More about those here.) 
     A great way to figure out what you want to see is to read my blog posts.  I’ve written about 200 posts (including most of the abovementioned topics), so just skim through the titles and read the ones that interest you.  An example: After reading a post about it, I had one couple ask me to take them to the Amish junkyard!
     Some people are new to the area and are more interested in an hour or two of “reconnaissance” to familiarize themselves with it—so in that case you can pick me up and we can take a driving tour around Shipshe and Middlebury and I can I tell you the best places to eat, shop, and see things.

5.      Can we meet some Amish people?
     Yes.  I know a dozen local Amish families well enough to stop by with visitors, particularly if I give them a little advance notice.  [One note:  Dress modestly and conservatively if you are interested in this option.]
     If you visit on a school day (August through April), we may be able to visit an Amish school in session.  If we are touring at 4 p.m., we can watch cow-milking time on a farm.  I may also be able to arrange a buggy ride (if you don’t mind paying the driver for his time). 

6.      What about a lunch break?
     I know several smaller local places that are fun for a lunch stop, if we are touring all day.  A favorite with my visitors is Topeka Pizza, but there are plenty of others.

7.      Is there a best time of year to visit?
     Any time of year is good.  Each season has its special features.

8.      How can I contact you?
     Email is the easiest—swmosey (at)  You can also text me at 630.728.5308, or call me at that number.  I am retired, so my schedule is pretty flexible.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Saying Goodbye to Katie


Late Sunday Evening, January 29, 2023

Yesterday I attended the funeral of my young friend “Katie”… How do I put my feelings about that in words?

I first wrote about “Katie” (real name, Kathy) in this post, and again in a few other posts after that.  I already wrote about the night before the funeral in my last post, called “Keeping Vigil For Katie.”  Read that too, if you didn’t already.

So after my all-night vigil, I came home Saturday morning, slept for an hour, put on my best black dress, and went back to their family farm.  Although the funeral officially started at 9:30, many buggies were already there at 8:00.  I was shown to the large outbuilding where the funeral would take place.  The extended family had been there an hour already, saying their last goodbyes.

The seating arrangement at these events follows a certain protocol.  I was shown to a special area where Wheelchair Mary (her name for herself, not mine) and a few other special friends of Kathy and the family would be seated.  The only other Englishers I could see were Kathy’s hospice doctor, who sat with his family in front of me.  The outbuilding (recently remodeled and updated by Kathy’s father in time for this event) held perhaps 400 people, and nearby was a second venue with hundreds more.

The coffin was closed and the funeral started at 9:30 with a series of two or three sermons and a prayer—all of this in “Dutch.”  Then at about 11:00, Kathy’s obituary was read aloud in English.  After that, each section of people in the assembly filed row-by-row past Kathy’s coffin, now open again, starting with the several hundred who were gathered in the building nearby; then the home church group and other groups in the main building; then the extended family of Kathy; then lastly, her parents and nine siblings ages 4 to 21. Never in my lifetime have I seen such an outpouring of grief…  As Kathy’s parents and siblings gathered around her coffin, clinging to each other and weeping, I doubt there was a dry eye in the building.

After the funeral, 50 or 60 of us headed to the cemetery while the others shared a meal.  Slowly the dozens of buggies entered the road behind the hearse buggy for the several-mile drive to the cemetery on a hill behind an Amish farm, where the grave had been dug and a tent set up.  As we gathered around, the minister said a few words, and then—according to Amish tradition—the pallbearers lowered the coffin into a wooden casket which was already in the ground, and the top of the casket was put in place.   

Then the pallbearers took up shovels and gently began shoveling the soil back into the hole over the casket.  As they grew tired, other men stepped forward to take a turn.  Many of the teenaged boys who were present did their part too, as the family stood silently and watched.  Then Kathy’s littlest brother, four-year-old Caleb, stepped forward to take a turn.  His 21-year-old brother bent over behind him, helping him hold the shovel and drop the soil down.  After that, Kathy’s other brothers all took a turn, as well as her normally shy ten-year-old sister.  (Well done, Jane!) 

After the soil was replaced and a marker put in place, a few songs were sung—the beautiful harmonies being carried out over the farmland—and then our procession of buggies returned to the home farm for a meal. 


Now it’s Monday afternoon, and I want to finish this post.  Today the Miller family is taking another day to rest.  Then tomorrow it’s back to school, work, and farm chores. 

Last night I took their three oldest to a Sunday night singing in my car; it was 15 miles each way, in bad weather, so I gave them a lift to make their lives a bit easier.  They invited me to come back early and listen to the singing, and I took them up on the offer.  As I sat in the back with the moms, I made this recording (no video) of one of the songs the 80 or so young people sang—so  I’ll end this post with their words—“When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown, in the new Jerusalem.”



Monday, January 30, 2023

Keeping Vigil for Katie

Saturday, January 28, 2023

As I write this, it’s 1:15 in the morning.

A few hours ago I returned from nine days with my sister in Los Angeles.  But I didn’t go home to husband and puppy—not yet anyway…  Because while I was gone, my dear young friend Kathy (“Katie” in previous posts, to protect her privacy) finally lost her nearly-three-year battle with cancer of the spine.

So here I sit, in a comfy chair in Kathy’s old bedroom…  But instead of singing by her bedside, her bed is empty—and she lies in a coffin beside me, finally at peace.  Her parents slumber in a bedroom nearby, and her nine siblings are upstairs—except for one brother, who fell asleep on a couch in the living room and was left there, undisturbed.

I’ve written before about how I got to know Kathy, here.  But how do I write about how much she—and her family—have come to mean to me?  I’ve lost one friend, but I hope (and expect) that the Miller family will be lifelong friends.  That’s part of the good that came from this tragedy.

But right now I am keeping vigil by lantern-light for my young friend as the night passes on, writing and remembering…


When this chapter in my life began, it was June of 2020 and I began to stop by the Miller farm to sing to Kathy every week.  She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a couple months before and given three weeks to live.  But she was a fighter, and she was not only alive, but regaining the use of her upper body, which had been paralyzed by a blood clot.  Her lower body, however, was permanently paralyzed by the cancer, and at this point, she was still in a rented hospital bed, breathing oxygen through a tube.  She listened to me sing, tears in her eyes at times as she struggled to breathe.

So I sang to her… and as the months passed by, she grew stronger, and soon she was joining me on the choruses—she knew nearly every song in the books by heart.  She was back in her regular bed, and she had a wonderful new power wheelchair, and she was helping her family with chores and projects, and even teaching school that fall!

Before long it was summer, and I bought matching hymnbooks for us, and we were singing together—she on the soprano melody line, and I on the alto harmony line. 

Two years went by, as Kathy turned eighteen, and then nineteen.

Then late last summer, after a wonderful train trip to Montana with her family, her mind started to get more and more spotty.  Before long, as autumn progressed, her vision slowly disappeared, as did her strength and health.  She was moved back into a rented hospital bed and her mother’s heavy caregiving load became even heavier.  

As the cancer spread and got the upper hand, soon I was singing to her once again, as she joined in on the choruses, but less and less as the autumn wore on and the morphine doses increased.

Towards the end, it was difficult to know how much Kathy heard or understood—but who can know for sure?—so I kept on singing.

Then, not knowing how many more times she’d confound the doctors and stick around, I went to Los Angeles to see my sister… and now she’s gone, and I missed the two days’ visitation.  But tonight as I keep vigil by her side, I’m having my own visitation, as I try to write down even a tiny fraction of what she meant to me.

In a few hours the sun will come up, and the Amish community (along with a few like me) will gather for Kathy’s funeral—a service of worship and remembrance and thankfulness for a precious young lady and a life well lived. 

In the meantime, I’m going to pick up the hymnbook her mother left here for me, and I’m going to sing to Kathy—one last time.

I last saw Kathy alive a few days before I left for California.  My new friend “Wheelchair Mary” (I wrote about her here) was also visiting Kathy that morning.  She told me how wonderful it was that I sing to Kathy...  and that made me wonder if Mary’s days sometimes get long and lonely.

So now I know clearly what I am meant to do...  Next week I’m going to grab my hymnbook, hop in my Jeep, and head down to sing for Wheelchair Mary.

In loving memory

Kathy Miller
March 4, 2003 – January 25, 2023

O come, angel band, come and around me stand
O bear me away on your snowy wings
To my eternal home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Who Knew?!

I moved to Amish Indiana from suburban Chicago five years ago, after retiring from administrative assistant work at a law firm, and before that, two decades of classroom teaching.  (My backstory can be found here and here.)  One thing I’ve learned since I moved here is this:  My childhood visits to Grandpa and Grandma Erickson’s farm, and 30 years of being a tourist over here, didn’t teach me everything there was to know about country life!

Here are ten City Girl things I believed until embarrassingly recently.  Feel free to laugh at me—I can’t hear you!  Or, feel free to learn something, if you’re a City Slicker too.

1.    There are two types of corn.  Some corn is “field corn,” which is used for silage (animal feed—the entire plant while still green), or seed corn, or ethanol production, or it’s ground up for corn meal.  Other corn is “sweet corn,” and that’s the kind that becomes corn on the cob.  Don’t try to boil up field corn and eat it with butter!

2.     Corn stalks usually have only one ear of corn per stalk.  This is not how we drew corn when I was in elementary school!  There was always an ear on the left, right, and left again.  But no…  One ear of corn per stalk is the norm.  A couple of my Amish friends had a laugh over this one. 

Apparently, if corn is spaced out when it’s planted (which it isn’t these days), a plant may send up a second stalk with a second ear of corn, but that’s not seen as much anymore.  An Amish friend told me that, these days, the Amish plant their rows 30 inches apart with between 28,000 and 32,000 kernels (seeds) per acre.  Wow!  And commercial “English” farms often plant them twice that dense!

3.     Hay vs. straw.  I’m really embarrassed about this one. But if I can give my Amish friends a laugh, then it’s not all bad!  “Hay” is one of a number of plants, mostly grasses, that are harvested while still green and baled up for animals to eat.  “Straw” is typically leftover dried-out wheat or oak stalks after the grain is harvested, and it is used for animal “bedding”—under their feet in the stalls to keep things absorbed and cleaner.  So, you might say hay vs. straw is like the difference between food vs. toilet paper!

1.     Commercial laying hens don’t live long enough to retire and move in with their kids.  There are dozens of free-range egg houses around here these days.  I should write about that—it’s a recent development.  Each egg barn can hold as many as 20,000 laying hens, as this one does—these long, narrow buildings are huge!  My friend Glen told me that the hens (his are Lohman Browns) start laying at about 4 months old, quickly working up to about one egg a day.  At about 21 months old their egg production tapers off sharply, and so after an egg-laying career of less than two years, it’s off to the meat packing plant to be “repurposed,” sometimes for stewing meat but usually for pet food.  Backyard hen enthusiasts can keep their laying hens for many years, in spite of lower egg production, but for commercial egg producers, it’s not economically feasible to do so.

5.     Not all sheep are the same.  I talked about this in a recent post, linked here.  Some sheep are bred to have wool, and others, called “hair sheep,” are bred for their meat (lamb or mutton).  They’re not the same.  You can’t get good wool from a hair sheep, nor good meat from a wool sheep.

6.     Stallions are rare, geldings are not.  I always figured horses came in two varieties, mares and stallions.  But it turns out that, in this horse-and-buggy culture where virtually everyone owns at least a few horses, stallions are rare and the vast majority are gelded (neutered).  I asked an Amish friend of mine with a lot of horse expertise about this, and he said that for buggy horses, work horses, and ponies alike, the rate of neutering is about 90%.  He said that stallions are “unruly in the barn,” and the only reason to have one is for stud purposes. 

The same holds true for cattle—very few males are kept as bulls for breeding—bulls are far too dangerous to keep around unless absolutely necessary.  A couple of years ago, a local Amish farm wife was killed by their bull for no worse offense than just being in his pasture when he was in a bad mood.

7.     Horses get hit by lightning.  Both buggy horses and draft horses have the habit of heading for the biggest tree when a thunderstorm hits, to try to stay dry.  Consequently, they sometimes can get hit (and killed) by lightning.  My friend Glenn has lost one this way, and he once told me about a friend of his who lost four at one time, when they huddled under a tall tree that was struck. 

8.     Horses also get West Nile Virus.  Mosquitoes can bite horses and infect them with West Nile, just like they can do with people.  There’s a vaccine, but it’s prohibitively expensive as compared to the risk, so it isn’t widely used.  A few years ago, my friend Glenn lost his favorite horse to West Nile.  I wrote about that here.

9.     Heating a home with a wood-burning furnace is still common around here, and it doesn’t take tons of wood.  Many older Amish homes are still heated by means of a wood furnace in the basement.  I saw my Amish friend Sam with a hay wagon load of wood a while back, and asked him about this.  He said that he can heat his large farmhouse for a typical winter with about 7 wagons of wood—and firewood is plentiful around here.  It keeps a house quite cozy, actually, and the furnace has to be stoked only twice a day—morning and evening—unless it’s bitterly cold.

10  Being a dairy cow isn’t exactly a full time job.  Or rather, it is a two-part job—producing milk and producing calves.  A dairy cow (mostly Holsteins around here, or Jerseys) don’t give milk 365 days a year.  Rather, they “freshen” for about six to eight weeks every year, when they don’t give milk at all.  Incredibly to me, about six to eight weeks before a cow is due to have a calf, the way they “dry them out” is by simply not milking them for a few days!

So, I hope you learned something today!  And I hope I keep learning!