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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dutch Country Market

I like to share places I’ve found in Amish Indiana—places to eat, shop, stay, or see things.  Bringing food home is always a part of any trip we take there; never leave home without a cooler in the trunk! 

One of our regular stops is Dutch Country Market, owned and operated by an Amish family named Lehman.  Norman and Katie can be found on the premises, as can their six children—Merle, Lavern, Devon, Marilyn, Wilma and Wanda.  It is located at 11401 County Road 16, between Middlebury and Shipshewana (a very scenic drive).

One of the specialties there is the wide selection of noodles—four widths, two thicknesses, white and whole wheat, according to their brochure.  The Lehmans make an average of 400 pounds of noodles a day.  You can often see Katie and the kids rolling them out on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through a glass wall in the store.  But you can buy them any time!  (Except Sundays… almost everything in Amish Indiana is closed on Sundays.)

Another  specialty is honey.  According to Melissa Troyer’s book 101 Things to Do in Shipshewana, Norman has tended bees for over 20 years and produces 36,000 pounds of of honey products a year.  The store carries jars of honey in many sizes and varieties: comb honey, honey sticks, bee pollen, beeswax candles and soap, and nine flavors of whipped honey.  My husband has to drag me away from the working honeybee hive that can be seen in the store!  I find it fascinating.

Lots of other products can be found on the shelves.  My husband likes the jellies, pickles, and preserves, and I like the salty snacks.  Another local favorite is the Amish Peanut Butter.  Look for applesauce, fruit ciders, pancake mixes, salsa, apple butter, and 20 kinds of jam.  Outside, local produce of amazingly high quality can be found in season, as well as locally-made lawn furniture.  I’m not a huge shopper as a rule, but I could walk around this place for an hour, just looking at things and reading labels.

Dutch Country Market is also home of one of the area’s many summer  “quilt gardens,” and they always have a nice one on display on a piece of slanted ground out in front of their store.  It’s also a great place to get Christmas gift boxes.  We ask for an empty gift box (they have various sizes), fill it up with things the recipient would like, and then they pack it up nicely.  An added bonus is that their gift boxes end up costing less than those from the better-known places in the area.

All in all, worth a stop.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Harvesting the Corn

Years ago, before I was married, I used to have foreign college students stay at my home during the summer.  Several times over the years, I took some of them to Amish Indiana.  I wanted them to see a little more of the great diversity that makes up America.

The first time it was Oliver and Avo, two young men from Estonia.  Four of us set out for a few days of fun—Oliver, Avo, my friend Queenie, and myself.  We stayed at Green Meadow Ranch, a Bed & Breakfast at the north end of Shipshewana. 

Both young men loved it there from the first moment.  Avo said to me, “I feel like I breathe differently here—I breathe deeper.”  I was amazed, because I had often thought the same thing.

After some sightseeing and lots of good food, we ended up at the farm of my oldest and original Amish friends.  It was September, and Glenn was harvesting the corn.  The green cornstalks had to be cut down at ground level, loaded on wagons, and brought to the chopper that turned the entire plant into “silage”—food for the cattle over the winter.  Glenn put us to work right away.

The first few rows around the edge of the cornfield needed to be cut down by hand.  Glenn, Queenie, Oliver, and Avo tossed the corn onto the flat wagon.  My job was to drive the two-horse team of Belgian draft horses forward about ten feet, then stop them while corn was tossed onto the wagon, then forward again. 

Let me say here, I did not grow up on a farm or around animals—but I did my best.  As I drove forward, I alternately ran into the corn, the fence, the corn, and the fence.  At one point the two horses looked back at me with an unmistakable look that said, “What is wrong with you?!”  Who says animals are dumb?

But eventually we got the wagon loaded and Glenn drove it to the silage chopper, where we threw the stalks onto the conveyor belt—see the photo above—being careful to keep our hands clear of the chopper!

Although tractors are not allowed on Amish farms for field work, they can be used for power.  The conveyor belt and silage chopper were run with an old tractor engine which was connected to the chopper by belts.  The cornstalks became silage, and then we were done.

It felt good to be more than just a guest, a tourist, or a visitor.  And it was a great experience for my young Estonian friends, who were city boys back home.  Afterwards, as we enjoyed refreshments in the farmhouse, Glenn produced an atlas and my young friends showed him where to find Estonia.  Work was done, friendships were formed, and it was an excellent tri-cultural experience for all.