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.

Note:  This post was written in 2018.  I wrote another post in 2023 here, with an updated map.

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!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Recreational Vehicles and the Amish

Campers, trailers, future motor homes—acres of them.  I could have taken these photos in dozens of places all over Amish Indiana… Elkhart County is known as the RV (Recreational Vehicle) capital of the world!

The big names are Thor and Forest River, but there are many smaller manufacturers and subsidiaries, and they are everywhere—Grand Design, Jayco, Dutchman Manufacturing, Gulfstream Coach, DRV, Heartland, Keystone, Newmar, Nexus, Renegade, Winnebago, and many more.

The statistics are staggering. According to WFYI TV News in Indianapolis, more than 80% of the nation’s RVs are made in northern Indiana, and Elkhart County alone makes one out of every two RVs on the road today.   

Profits have been good for seven years in a row...  The RVIA website says that in 2016, there were 430,000 RVs manufactured nationwide, and in 2017 the number soared to 504,000.  Forest River alone employs 11,000 Hoosiers just in Elkhart and LaGrange counties.   

So, do the horse-and-buggy Amish buy recreational vehicles?  No—but they make them.  In fact, in this area, a majority of the Amish men of working age are employed in the RV industry.  The wages are high, since there is a chronic shortage of labor in this area.  The Amish population is increasing rapidly, but not as fast as the need for workers.  One Amishman we know who has worked in the RV industry for several years told us that the typical wages are maybe $45-$50,000 a year—but piecework can double that.  There are signing bonuses, and the factories have put policies in place to make their companies more Amish-friendly, like no Saturday shifts. 

So, there is a lot of money in Amish Indiana these days!  I’m no economist, but I have noticed a few results of this:
  • The price of land is very high, as is the price of housing.  This is particularly true for anyplace that is “Amish-friendly”—which is to say, at least an acre of land, and zoned to allow a buggy horse or two.  Many “English” homes in the countryside are being bought up by Amish families as the homes become available.  Middlebury, where we live, used to have just a few Amish homes, but that is changing fast.
  • Many young men start out in the RV factories, and then when they get married, they have a nice nest egg.  Some choose the RV factory as a long-term way of life—not everyone is cut out to be a farmer!—and others take that nest egg and buy a farm or start a business.  
  • Businesses other than the RV factories are finding it more and more difficult to compete for workers.  There are “Help Wanted” signs on nearly every business in the county.
  • The standard of living tends to be quite a bit higher here than in other Amish settlements.  Buggies are being sold with more and more custom options and upgrades—and the wait can be several years for one.  Younger men are buying speed boats, pontoon boats, and other recreational items allowed by the church.  Middle-aged and older Amish couples travel all over the country.  There are many beautiful new Amish homes (like the one pictured below) with in-floor heating, walk-in freezers, high ceilings, open floor plans, beautiful custom kitchens, lots of picture windows, and a large meeting room for church services.  (A garage door opens into the meeting room in many homes, so buggies can be brought in and washed there.)  Amish families here can afford to live much more comfortably than their parents and grandparents did. 

All of this could change quickly if the RV industry takes a dive, as it did in 2008-2009...  Not just the Amish sector, but the English sector would be hit hard.  In Middlebury where we live, many “English” families have big, beautiful houses paid for by RV executive or sales rep jobs. 

The recreational vehicle industry is booming now—breaking records—but we’ll see what happens long-term.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Doing Some Shopping

So, I was headed to Warsaw, Indiana a few weeks ago, to shop for books at the local Goodwill store there, when I got a call from my husband.  He’s been doing a lot of driving and hauling for a young Amishman whom I’ll call “Junior,” who has a water treatment business.

Junior is busy from before sunrise to early evening these days, and being a bachelor, he has no one to shop for him.  So my husband asked, “While you’re at Goodwill, Junior wants to know—could you pick him up some shirts?”  (Amishmen wear specially-made pants and jackets, but they can buy their shirts off-the-rack.)

I said I’d be glad to, and Junior got on the phone and gave me the proper size.  He said he wanted 10 or 20 shirts—long sleeve and short—if I could find them.  I told him it was half-price senior’s day, so I’d do my best!

Once I got there, I realized this was going to be a bit of a challenge.  Amishmen wear only solid colors—no prints or stripes or patterns of any kind.  Also, they had to be button-down-the-front shirts—no t-shirts, no polo shirts, no pullovers.  Luckily he said any color would do, so that helped.

When I looked at the short-sleeved shirts, it was pretty discouraging; not a single one in his size met the requirements.  Anything solid-color was either a polo shirt or a t-shirt.  So, onward to the racks of long sleeves.

I had much better luck there.  Lots of dress shirts from famous brands—and with my half-price discount, they were only $2.50 apiece.  I started finding shirts his size in solid colors, and came up with about a dozen.  A couple of them were thicker and softer, which I thought would be good for working outside.  I tried to get easy-care fabrics… a few of the selections were silk, which I could not see his Amish sister-in-law washing and wringing and hanging on the line! 

I got half a dozen more in the next shorter sleeve length, which he said he could use by having the sleeves cut short and hemmed.

When I gave the bags of shirts to him later, I said, “There are plenty of colors here, especially blue.”  He said, “Why do men wear so many blue shirts, anyway?”  I answered him, “Because blue looks good on almost any man.  In fact, when you have your first date with the future wife I’m praying for, wear a blue shirt!”  That brought a laugh.  (I was serious about the prayers, though.)

All in all, it was a lot of fun.  I think I should hire myself out as an Amish Personal Shopper for men who need shirts.  It was nice to able to help him out—and I hope he can use the blue ones soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The 2018 National Clydesdale Sale

A few months ago, my friend Queenie and I attended the 2018 National Clydesdale Sale, a yearly auction held by the National Clydesdale Association (  The venue had moved to a new location this year—the new Michiana Events Center (The MEC) ( in Shipshewana, Indiana.  The vendors set up in the open area of the MEC, and the horse auction was in the colosseum area on the other side of the L-shaped building.

The first photo is the front cover of the auction brochure.  It shows the highest-selling horse from last year—a mare—which brought $45,000!  The second-highest-selling mare in 2017 brought $29,000.  The highest-selling stallion brought $8,200, while the highest-selling gelding brought $18,500—which surprised me, since geldings can’t be used for breeding, but they seem to be favored for parade and show horses.  Notice in the pictures that the Clydesdales have braided-up manes and their tails are twisted into a sort of bun… This seemed to be the common practice.

Queenie is an animal lover, so we spent a couple of pleasant hours at the Saturday auction in the colosseum.  There was a mixture of Amish and “English” people in the stands, but mostly English in the VIP area at one end of the arena.  The Clydesdales are about the same size as the draft horses that the Amish use in the fields, but the Amish prefer Belgians, or occasionally Percherons.

One thing that surprised us was the wide range of prices for animals that (to us) seemed quite similar…  The first gelding we saw went for $33,000—but later ones of the same age and appearance (to us) went for as low as $2,500.  We figured it must have something to do with their pedigrees.*

Almost every horse was described in detail in the brochure.  Notice the difference between horse #45, “Rex,” and horse #46, “George’s Cristal’s Kid.”  Horse #46 has the extensive pedigree which apparently increases the value and sales price.  Quite a few of the horses came from Canada, and the rest from various American horse farms, mostly in the Midwest.

Many of the horses were described in terms of their looks, and also in terms of being broke to pull a wagon single or double, or as part of a larger team.  Some were described as being great prospects for winning prizes at the fall WCS (World Clydesdale Show).  Others were described as being good brood mare or stud prospects, or well-suited for farm and field work, and often in terms of their personality or intelligence.


Here is a link to a little of the action at the sale…

* A footnote about prices:  One of my readers said that prices can vary widely due to factors such as pedigree (quality show animals); training; proven success in prior shows; conformation; and/or proven breeding or proven brood mare capabilities.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


I was in an Amish warehouse recently and I noticed this portable gaslight lamp (above), and I thought I’d talk a bit about how the Amish light their homes and businesses. 

Until recent years (and still very often today), Amish homes and business were lit mostly with old-style kerosene lanterns and more often, gaslight from a propane tank.  The light shines out of a “mantle” made of some kind of fireproof material.  The glow is pretty, but it flickers and it’s hard to read by.

The portable gaslight I saw in the warehouse was not made to be pretty, but the ones used in homes are often built into what look like end tables on wheels.  Underneath – the gas tank.  Up above – the light fixture.  But these days, the gas tanks inside the end tables are being replaced with large batteries, and the light up above comes from an LED bulb.  Still portable, but much better.  Sometimes there is a pretty lampshade, but I used this picture because it shows the “works” better.  A second one can be seen in the background to the right.

Other types of gaslights are built into the walls of the homes. Newer and newly remodeled Amish homes often have built-in gas lines with lights like this one, seen in a bathroom.  Some local Amish farmhouses are even being hooked up to the natural gas lines that are making their way into the countryside.

I used to see all kinds of portable kerosene and gas lanterns, which were carried around and hung on hooks on the ceiling.  Many of those are being replaced by portable battery-powered lanterns such as this brand-new one I saw the other day:

Some people believe the Amish don’t use electricity at all, which is not true.  They use batteries, generators, and even solar panels, for instance.  What they don’t use is regular Com-Ed type power.  This lifestyle choice evolved early in the 20th century as a way to keep television, radio, and other worldly influences out of their homes.

If an Amish family buys an “English” home—an increasingly common event these days in our area—the Amish family has one year to remove the electricity from the home.  As one Amish farm wife (and mother of eight) told me, “I’m sure going to miss that dishwasher!”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Yoder Consignment Auction

So, my husband has been doing a lot of driving and hauling for the local Amish lately, as a way to keep busy and earn some mad money in retirement.  A few weeks ago he discovered Yoder’s Consignment Auction, and I had to check it out.

This is a twice-a-year event (spring and fall) that draws huge crowds.  Earnest and Esther Yoder hold the auction on their farm, which is located a few miles southwest of Shipshewana at 2270 S 1000W.  Friday is the day to set up, and Saturday is the auction. 

I went out last Friday (April 13)  with my husband and an Amishman who has a water treatment business.   

The trucks, trailers, and buggies were lined up down the road all day, waiting to get onto the grounds and check in their consignment items.  Vendors were setting up their tent displays or unloading items.  The public was also in attendance, walking around to preview the items for sale.  A school fundraiser group was there to feed everyone.

The fields were filling up fast with machinery of all kinds. On Saturday, there would be a mobile auction booth on the back of a pickup truck, which would drive up and down the aisles and auction off the large outdoor items. 

As many as five auctioneers would work at once, both outdoors and in the tents.  The Saturday schedule was: 
  • 8:30 a.m. – Wagonloads of miscellaneous
  • 9:00 a.m. – Hog, dairy, and farm equipment; sporting goods; new and used furniture; bicycles; shop tools; and lawn/garden items
  • 9:30 a.m. – Horses
  • 10:00 a.m. - Buggies
Besides the actual auction, there were rows and rows of tents, and our friend had rented one of the smaller ones to set up his display.  Other larger tents had goods for sale, both new and used.  There was plenty of food, both in the main building where the local Amish school fundraiser was selling both hot and cold items, and from other food vendors on the grounds.

Saturday brought more rain.  But in spite of the terrible weather, it was a good day.  The crowd was overwhelmingly Amish, and the fields nearby had become “buggy parking lots.”  The crowds were smaller than usual, but still large, and our friend sold ten water treatment units that day! 

The next Yoder Consignment Auction is some time in the fall.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Plowing Time

An Amish friend, getting ready to plow last Saturday near Centreville, Michigan.  
Six Belgian draft horses and a two-bottom plow.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Amish and Technology

Here is an interesting New York Times article about the Amish and technology.  This article focuses on the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Amish settlement, but I've seen these issues here in northeast Indiana also.  The photo above is taken from the article.

I liked the quote, "Many Amish people draw a bright line between what is allowed at work — smartphones, internet access — and what remains forbidden at home." That is very true here in Indiana, also. Also, the bright line between things which they are allowed to hire, but not own (like cars).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Going to a Horse Auction

So, one day in early January I had nothing pressing to do, and I wandered over to Shipshewana to the Michiana Events Center, or as the locals, call it, “The Mec.”  It is a big new building south of downtown, with two wings.  The first is a big, open, well-lit all-purpose area, and the second is an arena with rows of seats. Two events were taking place there that day.

I intended to go to the consignment auction in the all-purpose area—five auction rings featuring all kinds of stuff—because one of the rings had an estate sale with some Amish genealogy books I wanted.  I enjoyed sitting in the front row for an hour, waiting for my Amish best friend to join me. 

I didn’t get the books—too expensive!—so the two of us wandered over to the other wing, where the Standardbred horse auction was being held.

Wow, what a nice arena!  We watched from the area above the seats for a while, and then my friend went back to the consignment auction to bid on a piece of furniture (which she got).  I got some French fries and a bottle of water and found a seat.

As you can see, the crowd was nearly all Amish, but I’m getting used to that since I moved here and started getting deeper into the local culture.  (I said to my friend before she left, “Now I know how you guys feel when you’re in downtown Chicago!”) 

This auction was for Standardbred horses, which are the type commonly used to pull Amish buggies.  Many of them are former racehorses from Canada which weren’t quite perfect enough for a career on the racetrack.  Others are brought in from horse breeders in the Amish areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Anyway,  the whole thing was fascinating.  For instance, I loved the names of the horses.  American Anthem,  Majestic Stone, Sapphire Sue, Fear the Major, FiFi LaFleur, Hashtag Fast, Vicki Jo Buffalo, Linda’s Lucky Chucky, Decisive Moment, Gold Dust Darling, Magic in Motion—so creative!  The program listed each horse by name, consigner (seller), Sire (father), and Dam (mother). 

I also loved the comments section on some of the listings.  These stallions, geldings, and mares were being sold as Amish buggy horses, so the comments reflected that.  A few examples:  “If you’re one of those particular guys looking for that nice driving mare with looks and drive, check her out.”  “Fresh mare right off the track.  Very classy—all trot!”  “Sharp driver, stands to hitch and at corners.  Very well mannered.”  “Nice headset and front end motion...  A horse that when you walk out of your barn, he makes your bad days turn into the best days.”

Most of the horses sold for $5,000 to $8,000—but one went for $13,000!  The price depends on age, size, looks, pedigree, and level of training.  The price of buggy horses is going up in recent times, due to the explosive growth of the Amish population—from 217,000 to 317,000 in the last ten years!

There is a Clydesdale auction coming up at MEC this spring, and I think I’ll be in attendance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Amish Schools, Part Four: A Few More Things

So, this is fourth and last in my series of posts about Amish schools.  I have a booklet which I borrowed from an Amish school board member that gives lots of information, so I’ll borrow from that for this post.

This school year (2017-2018) there are exactly 100 Amish schools in the tri-county area (Elkhart, Lagrange, and Noble counties, in northeastern Indiana).  Five were new this year—Anderson Trail, Scenic Hills, Power Line, Orchard View, and Pigeon River.  The newer schools are generally built with metal or vinyl siding (white) and a shingled or metal roof.  Hot water heat is usually built into the floor, and the water well is powered by a battery pack.  Often there is a second building used for storage, power sources, and as a horse barn.

Each school is run by a three-man school board consisting of local parents.  The schools are grouped into districts of 12-15 schools, and above that, there is a state Amish school board.  The tri-county area also has special committees for special education, testing, teacher workshops, and buildings.  There is a special new “Schools for Schools” board which endeavors to help with the financing of new schools; counting land costs, a new school can cost $140,000 to build!

Who are the teachers in these schools?  They are chosen from within the Amish community itself.  The teachers (most are female but some are male) will have had only an eighth grade education themselves, but they need to have scored at the 10th grade level on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  They get further training through periodic teachers’ meetings (every six weeks) and by reading the Amish teachers’ magazine called The Blackboard Bulletin.  Some teachers live in special teacher’s quarters which are often built into the newer schoolhouses.  Their pay comes from tuition fees paid by the students.  Most of the schools have two or three teachers, but a few have four.

The 102 schools which serve the 180 church districts in the tri-county area are mostly recent, as the Amish population has exploded (and more Amish parents withdrew their children from public school).  One was built in the 1940s; one in the 1950s; eighteen in the 1960s; six in the 1970s; nine in the 1980s; seventeen in the 1990s; twenty-one from 2000-2010; and twenty-seven since 2010.  (These figures are from 2017.)

I love the names of the schools!  Most are chosen for some geographical attribute of the area.  My favorites are Cottonwood Grove, Triple Bend, Singing Hills, Peaceful Meadow, Tollway View, Sunny Ridge, Birdsong Echoes, Blue Heron, and Little Acorn.

If you drive through Amish Indiana, you’ll see one of these buildings, with their yard full of bicycles, baseball diamonds, and bells on top, every few miles.  It’s okay to slow down and get a better look, or even take photos—as long the children aren’t outside playing.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A New Little Colt

This baby colt belongs to our friend James... 4 days old!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

An Amish Retirement Estate Auction

I was writing an email to a friend this morning, explaining the Amish retirement/estate auction I attended recently, and I thought, “I have enough here to write a post!”  So, here it is.

Whenever I saw a poster in our community (Middlebury/Shipshewana) for an Amish estate auction, I thought, “How sad!  They must not have had a single son or daughter who was interested in taking over the family farm!”  But I was mistaken.

Now that I have seen the process up close, I understand it better.  The bottom line is this:  If a family has eight children, it wouldn’t be fair to just leave the house and farm and livestock and equipment to the youngest son!  (Or, whichever child ends up with the farm—I talked more about that in this post on dawdi houses.)  So, the child who takes over the farm actually purchases the farm from the parents… and if he wants the livestock or equipment, he bids on it at the auction, fair and square. 

I was told that if the other bidders recognize that son as being a bidder on something, often they will back off and let him have it without running up the price.  What a nice custom!

Anyway, we found ourselves at the retirement auction of our best Amish friends Glenn and Ruth.  It was a huge affair, many months in the planning.  For the larger outside items—which included three sets of work horses, three buggies, and lots of farm equipment—the auctioneer worked from a booth built into the back of a pickup truck.  It was very well designed, with a cabin for the auctioneer and the record-keeper, and built-in speakers on every side.  The truck could be moved down the rows as the items came up for sale.

There was also a sale going on all day in one of the larger outbuildings, with all kinds of household stuff and smaller items; these also were being auctioned off.  Ruth told me that she took perhaps three-quarters of her household things with her to their new place next door, so the other 25% were here.  I have noticed on many occasions how much more money can be made from an auction (vs. a traditional ‘English’ estate or yard sale).  It’s a great way to build a nest egg for the newly retired couple!

The son who is taking over the farm bought plenty, as you can imagine.  He bid on all three teams of horses, and got two of them—the other team, which he had worked with since his youth, went to a higher bidder from Michigan.  One of the daughters of the family bought one of the Amish buggies—it’s also going to Michigan, where they live.  Another daughter bought quite a bit of the old living room furniture.

All the family and friends were there, and there was good food served all day at reasonable prices in the large room at the back of the house where church is held.  Next time you’re in Amish Indiana with a few hours to spare, look for a sign like this one.  These retirement auctions are fun! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Maple Syrup Time

So, it’s that time of year (March as I write this)—buckets have appeared on maple trees all over Amish Indiana.  It’s time to make maple syrup!  Ads are appearing in The People’s Exchange for maple syrup supplies, and posters can be seen all over town for maple syrup festivals, maple syrup cooking demonstrations, and other ways to celebrate the spring ritual.

I wondered how maple syrup is made, so I looked to
I found out that sugar maples are the best trees to tap, but black, red, or silver maples also work.  The sap starts to flow in February or March, and the best weather is alternating warm and cold—it gets the sap flowing.  Trees should be 12” in diameter or more, and bigger trees can have multiple taps.  The sap typically flows for four to six weeks, and tapping stops when the temperatures remain above freezing and the leaves start to come out.

The basics are simple:  Drill a upwards-slanting hole 2 to 2.5 inches deep, then hammer in the metal tap and hang a clean bucket from the hook on the tap.  (The photo below uses a different kind of taps.)  Sap starts to flow immediately, and it looks like water.  It may drip slowly, or it may fill a bucket in a day or two.

Then it’s just a matter of collecting the sap buckets, filtering out the impurities, then boiling off the excess water, which turns the maple sap into maple syrup.  The syrup is done when it’s thick and golden.  The sap-to-syrup ratio varies, depending on who you ask—some sources say as little as 10-to-1, but most say much more.  Someone at our church makes a few gallons of maple syrup every year, and he gave us a pint the other day.  I asked him how many gallons of sap it took to make a gallon of syrup, and he said it took forty!

One caution—don’t try this in the kitchen!  This warning comes from Rink Mann on 

The main thing about making maple syrup is you have to boil off about 32 quarts of water in the form of steam to end up with one quart of maple syrup.  That means that if you’re boiling down a batch some Saturday afternoon on the kitchen stove and are aiming for three quarts of syrup, you’re going to put about 24 gallons of water into the air before the boiling’s done.  Unless you’ve got one powerful exhaust fan, you’ll end up with water streaming down the walls and enough steam to impair visibility across the room.  And, when things finally do clear, you’re apt to find the wallpaper lying on the floor.  Then, too, even if the batch doesn’t boil over, which it can, the sugar spray from all that furious boiling gets all over the stove and is harder than blazes to get off.  So, if you want to maintain a measure of domestic tranquility, it’s best to do your boiling outside, or in a handy garage or shed.

Rink also has a great step-by-step guide to making maple syrup in your own back yard (see the above link).

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Kids at Play

A few days ago, I spotted these boys on a school playground as I waited for their teacher...  Such joy!

Friday, March 23, 2018

More Lights on the Buggies

Here's an article about the move to add more lights to Amish buggies in Wisconsin.  (The photo above was taken from the article.)

Amish buggies here in northeast Indiana are quite well lit up, and it makes a huge difference!