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

Friday, December 1, 2023


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My Amish Indiana!

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Thursday, November 9, 2023

A Change in Direction: Keeping Up With the Times

 A lot has changed for Gary and me lately...

For the last ten years, we've had a bookselling business on Amazon which we are now in the process of closing.  Gary also did quite a bit of Amish taxi work the first five years we lived here in Indiana, but he's retired from that in year six.

Our focus lately has been on the tour guide business (both private tours and step-on bus tour services).  It has been a lot of fun, and we're expanding that business next year.

Between marketing the tour business and doing social media (see links below), I've got quite enough irons in the fire, thank you very much, so I'm afraid this blog is just gonna have to go.  Blogs are the past, it seems, and social media is the future.  

I've also published a book, and soon I'll begin work on a second one.  About 80 of my posts from this website have already disappeared from here and reappeared in my book!  And the same thing is happening again as I put together a second book.  But there are still several dozen posts below.

So, go to if you like, and type "My Amish Indiana" in the search engine.  You'll find my book(s) in both electronic and paper formats.   

You can also follow me on Instagram and/or on Facebook--and I hope to see you on a tour some day!  

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Weaver's Produce Stand


Last week I took a bus tour group from Wisconsin around the Shipshewana area.  Since it’s fall at the moment, the tour director requested that apple cider be included in our day. 

 I’m not an apple cider fan, and I’ve never included that in a tour…  But my husband Gary said that Weaver’s Produce, on State Road 5 and 200 South, had good cider.  So off went Gary and I to check it out a couple of days before the tour.  I talked to the owner and told him we would be coming, and he was more than helpful. 

He said that he lives a little bit to the west on 200 South, but he rents this space because it’s on the main road.  He’s been at this location since 2011.  The stand is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Sunday, and there’s plenty of good parking.

 The tour day came, and we stopped by with our big tour bus, which they helped our driver park off to the side.  Mr. Weaver had extra help on hand, so it didn’t take too terribly long to get everyone through the line.  He had also fresh-pressed some apple cider that morning to be sure we’d have enough to go around, so it was really fresh!  He even offered a drawing for anyone who spent over $20, and most of our folks did.  The winner got a box of fry pies, a local specialty.

This stand is known for its pumpkins, mums, and apple cider, but they have much more.  The small building had a variety of produce and locally made canned goods, and lots of other good things. If you’re looking for a break from all the sweets and baked goods Shipshewana is famous for, this is where you need to go.

Mr. Weaver said that his stand is open from mid-July until late October.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Adventures in Tour Guiding

This is my third summer doing tour guide work (both bus and private tours).  It’s been an interesting summer!

I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way, as has my husband, who also does tours—but I’ll stick to my stories today.

It all started out when the local tourism board—the Lagrange County Convention & Visitor’s Board in Shipshewana—came across my website and gave me a call…  Apparently there is what’s called a “gap in services” in this area of tourism.  Nearly no one with my knowledge of the Amish culture is giving private tours!  I had done a few every summer in recent years, so I had a “rack card” made up for the Visitor’s Center in Shipshewana.

Soon the tourism board for Elkhart County was carrying my rack cards and recommending me also.  Between that and also having cards at Farmstead Inn, Essenhaus Inn, and a few other places, that got the ball rolling.

My husband has a strong knowledge of the local culture also (most of our friends are Amish), and he’d done a few bus tours also, and done them very well—so before long, we were partners in this project.  Next year his name will be on the rack card, too!

But back to my adventures:

I’ll leave out the names to protect the guilty and/or clueless here, but there really were some amusing moments this summer!

I remember the three folks visiting from Indonesia whose daughter had been a tour client the previous year.  She wanted her family to have a buggy ride, since she had enjoyed it so much the previous year, and I can occasionally arrange one of those…  But her elderly mother was having none of it!  That buggy horse might as well have been a T Rex, as far as she was concerned.  The others had to take the ride without her!

Another delightful lady who grew up in the Philippines and had spent her adult life in a couple of American cities had a different experience with the local horses.  We went to a farm where she and her family could get “up close and personal” with Belgian work horses, the typical Standardbred buggy horses, and also the smaller ponies popular with the Amish children.  After we left, she said to me, “Well, this is embarrassing to admit.  I didn’t know there were different breeds of horses.  I though all horses were the same!”  Then I knew why she’d seen a pony there and asked, “Is that a baby one?”

I bet you never thought of going to a junkyard on a tour!…  But I’ve had more than one client who wanted that very thing—and they loved it!  See if you can pick out my client in this photo of the wonderful antique stuff at my favorite place.

One of my newer stops is at an Amish farm where rag rugs are made (below).  As the two wives in our party walked over to the rug workshop with me, the weaver’s wife was out in in the gravel drive.  The two husbands, who were trailing behind us, met up with her and then one of them called out to us, “You guys go ahead!  We’re gonna go milk a GOAT!”  That was the last we saw of them until we were ready to leave.

Not all the memories are ones I’d want to repeat, though...  I remember the time we had an Emotional Support Animal with us at an Amish workshop, and I used up half a roll of paper towels cleaning up a big puddle of Golden Retriever pee from the floor of the workshop!  The shop owner was very nice about it, though.  (I’ll spare you a photo of that one!)

I had a wonderful extended family of one man and seven women from Chicago this summer, on a very hot day.  It was my first and only tour with more than one vehicle involved.  Between our stops, I gave my running commentary from the front seat of one car, while the second car had me on speaker phone.  One of our stops was E&S Bulk Foods, the giant Amish grocery store in Shipshewana, where one of the ladies wanted to buy some chicken to take home.  As we entered, our man said to the women, “Ten minutes!  Ten to twelve minutes!”  At that point, the seven women all grabbed carts and scattered in all directions like a covey of quail!...  Twenty minutes later there was still no sign of any of them at the checkout counter.  Let’s just say they didn’t buy out the store, but they went home with a lot more than chicken.

All in all, it’s been a great year as a tour guide, and my husband has enjoyed it, too.  (He gets better tips than I do!)  The tourist season isn’t over yet, and as the weather gets cooler, touring will be even more pleasant.  We plan to advertise more widely for 2024, so maybe one of us will see you then!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Young Man With a Past

  This is the third of several Amish-related posts I wrote for my old genealogy blog...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He was the last person I would ever have expected to be interested in genealogy—and what I found out about his roots was the last thing I would have guessed. 

It was late 2011 and I needed a new genealogy project.  My husband had mentioned my hobby at the manufacturing plant where he works, and one of the young factory guys asked him, “Do you think your wife could find out more about my family tree?”   Bruno (not his real name) was young, wild, and festooned with tattoos.  I was intrigued.  I decided to take on the project until my next paying client came along.  Bruno provided me with a few names and dates—that’s all he had.  He was particularly interested in his father’s ancestry, which he thought was German.   Perhaps he hoped for a few skeletons in the family closet.

A few days into the project, I came across the World War I draft card of Bruno’s great-grandfather Albert in Livingston County, Illinois.  I did a double-take when I read the answer in the space reserved for “Do you claim exemption from draft?  Specify grounds.”  Albert’s answer was “Religion—Mennonite Church.”

More digging connected me with the generation before that—and sure enough, before long I’d “struck Amish.” Others had blazed this particular trail before me, so at that point I was able to connect with the research of fellow genealogists who were willing to share… and so I was able to follow Bruno’s paternal line all the way back to a small village in Switzerland in the 1600s, where his 7th great-grandfather Peter had been part of a group of Anabaptists led by Jacob Amman himself—the original founder of the Amish church.

Bruno took some ribbing on the factory floor for all of this. “Chill out, Bruno—remember, you come from a peaceful people.” But he was happy to know more about his roots, and I was happy to be able to share the gift of such a wonderful and surprising heritage with a young factory guy from Ottawa, Illinois.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Remembering Dad

 August 10, 2023

Today’s post is what I would call “off topic”—but I have a lot on my mind.  Thirty years ago today, on Tuesday, August 10, 1993, I said goodbye to Robert Milo Wallin—my dad. 

Dad died at 70, when I was just 38 years old, and not ready to lose him.

Being raised by a former army boot camp officer wasn’t always easy.  I took a lot of heat as the oldest child of parents who didn’t have children until their thirties (and didn’t have the best father and mother role models growing up)...  The pressure to excel in school was relentless, as was the pressure to deal with the food issues that have continued to dog me since infancy.  There were some great memories—but sometimes guilt and fear were the parenting techniques of choice.  By the time I went away to college, I was glad to be 650 miles away from the pressure at home.

But the wisdom that comes to twenty-somethings when they realize that they don’t actually know everything!—along with a year of therapy—resolved my anger and restored me to the parent who gave me so much of his own personality (as I’ve been told over and over through the years by those who knew him). I realized that Dad was only human, and doing the best he knew how to do—and that he truly, deeply loved me, as no one else could.  I thank God that I got twelve more years with him after that.

Courage.  Integrity.  Generosity. 

After Dad left us, I pondered what I most wanted to exemplify in my own life, that I had learned from his...  I have these three words written in the front of my Bible, and for all the years since Dad’s death, I have tried to live out these three qualities, as a way to honor his memory. 

Courage—I’ve always trusted my own instincts, as he did, and they’ve never let me down, even in risky situations...  Integrity—I’ve tried to live out my Christian faith as well as he did, in my financial life, my personal life, and on the job, handling the money for a million-dollar law firm...  Generosity—I’m still working on that one.  I can be selfish with my time and money, but I strive not to be. 

I just realized that these three words spell out the first three letters of “cigarette.”  Dad was a lifelong smoker, much to his own embarrassment, as he felt it was not a good Christian witness nor a good example to his own children.  But he started in World War II, where, he once told me, cigarettes were a part of their daily K-Rations in the front lines in France.  He said, “The cigarettes were necessary to calm our nerves, in order to do what they asked us to do.”  It’s a habit he wasn’t able to break—and forty years later, it killed him, as lung cancer took away his breath and then his life.

Dad used to say, “My job isn’t to raise happy children; my job is raise well-adjusted adults.”   That made me pretty annoyed as a teenager, but I can appreciate it as an adult.  I wish we’d had more years together!  I’d give almost anything to have even an hour with him now. 

My sister had a dream the night after Dad died.  In it, our family was walking across a big, open meadow, towards a beautiful castle on a hill.  Halfway across the meadow, we paused...  Then Dad continued walking towards the shining castle on the hill, and the rest of us turned around and began walking back the way we had come.  But I know someday I’ll walk that meadow, too, and see him again in a better place.  In the meantime, I’ll miss you, Dad.

In Loving Memory

Robert M. Wallin

January 23, 1923 - August 10, 1993


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!