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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My Amish Greenhouse

I got a call a few weeks ago.  My husband was doing some plant-hauling for my favorite local greenhouse, Miller’s Greenery (61177 CR 43, Middlebury).  The owner wanted to know—was I free on Saturday morning?  The family needed to attend their daughter’s 8th grade graduation.  Could I run the greenhouse for a couple of hours?

I’ve never worked retail a day in my life—so my first thought was, “What an insane idea!”  But that was followed by, “If they think I can do it, maybe I can.”  And then, “I wonder how many plants I could buy with what they would pay me?”

So, Saturday morning I showed up, and with a total of ten minutes’ training, I was off to the races.  I kept this diary…

7:00 a.m. – I just woke up to see that my prayers for rain went unanswered.  Rats...

9:15 a.m. – Arrival time.  I munched on a couple of chewable Alka-Seltzers on the way over to calm my tummy.  Mrs. Miller wished me luck and off she went.  No customers in sight, which is good, because I’m not sure I can pull this off!

9:30 a.m. – Still alone here.  I took some photos for my blog post…  Didn’t want to do that with customers around, since the Amish don’t take kindly to having their pictures taken.

10:10 a.m. – My first sale!—a bottle of Sevin.  I’m glad the first one was easy.  Another customer is browsing outside.

10:30 a.m. – I just made myself useful!  A customer was looking at a “Celebration Maple” but wasn’t sure and asked for more information.  I whipped out my cell phone, gave him the rundown, and he bought four at $48 each.  “Cha-ching!” said the cash register.  (Actually, there’s no electricity at the greenhouse, so it was a solar calculator and a cash drawer.)

10:55 a.m. – Just did big sale with a long sales slip...  So far, customers have come in one at a time with space in between, so I might just make it until noon without driving customers away who got tired of waiting!

11:00 a.m. – Trouble just pulled into the yard in a pickup truck...  An “English” customer says that she got ten Bartlett Pears last year and paid $40 each instead of the marked price of $48.  Can I sell her ten more at the same discount?  (Nope.)  She walked away empty-handed—I can’t authorize that!

11:15 a.m. – A lady wanted to know which watermelon seed variety grows the sweetest fruit.  My smartphone to the rescue again!

11:25 a.m. – More customers.  A couple more successful sales.  Tick, tick, tick…

11:40 a.m. – A woman just bought a 50-pound bag of seed potatoes.  Normally, the cashier carries purchases out to the customer’s buggy and loads them.  But I have no upper body strength whatsoever—so I was glad to see that she could heave that bag like it weighed nothing!  Amish farm wives are the best! 

11:45 a.m. – And here comes the owner’s son to take over the store...  I’m glad to report that I didn’t do any harm (that I know of)—in fact, the owner called to ask me if I’d do it again if they’re ever in a pinch!  One thing for sure: I’ll be back soon to cash in my earnings for plants.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Tragic Death

The local Amish community here has been badly shaken by the death of a young man... He was headed home on his bike Monday night of last week when he was killed by a drunk driver. 

The two young men (the victim and the driver) grew up Amish together, went to school and church together... The two of them made up the 8th grade graduating class of their Amish elementary school. 
At age 23, one had joined the church and one was "living wild." This accident was the result. 

The funeral was this morning, after a wake that lasted two days and drew countless hundreds of people. The driver of the car came to the wake and met with the family and friends of the deceased young man, to express his great sorrow and regret.  The whole community has a broken heart for both families.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Back to the WOLF Co-op

So, last weekend my sweetheart Gary and I drove our best and oldest Amish friends down to the little town of Wolcottville, to the organic livestock feed mill there.  The photo below shows why...  A big white tent out in front of a local retail establishment can mean only one thing:

It’s open house season!

Gary really likes open house season, also known as “Customer Appreciation Day” season—so much so that he keeps ads torn out of The People’s Exchange on our refrigerator to keep track of upcoming ones.  Many local businesses that cater mainly to the Amish hold these special events, which usually involve free food, door prizes, vendor booths, and special sale prices.  We’ve had many a good meal at these events!  Usually the meals are hot dog/hamburger/pulled pork lunches, but this one was a pancake and [organic] sausage breakfast.  Yum.

This event was held at Wolcottville Organic Livestock Feed, also known as the WOLF Co-op.  I wrote about it a while back, here.  When this feed mill was about to go out of business a number of years ago, a group of local farmers purchased it, including our friend Glenn.  Since then it has thrived!  They now have added a beautiful retail area, selling organic feed, bird feeder supplies, organic groceries, and other products.

 The mill operates from this feed processing plant behind the retail store and office building.  Organic feed is a huge business around here, since many of the local Amish farmers are producing organic milk, eggs, meat, and other products.

Farmers can sell their organic grain here, as well as buy whatever type of feed they need for whatever livestock they are raising.  The WOLF Co-op has been a great way to keep the money in the local community.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Ligonier, Indiana

So, the other day I drove my best and oldest Amish friend Ruth down to Ligonier to the dentist.  From what I remembered of Ligonier from a dentist trip years ago, there wouldn’t be anything to see or do, so I brought my ipad and figured I’d sit and read in the dentist’s office or in my car.

The first thing I realized as we drove into town from the north was that the huge, decrepit, depressing old factory on the north end of town was gone, and in its place were some very pretty condominiums.  Nice improvement!  As we pulled into downtown and I dropped her off, I noticed a couple of very cute coffee shops.  That’s promising, I thought. 

As I left my car, I noticed this mural nearby (below).  It looked almost three-dimensional!  I saw why when I walked over for a closer look…  The people along the bottom are cutouts attached to the main mural.

And this one, next to it…  I heard later that the locals say the train is coming at you no matter where you stand.

In front of the nearby police station was a map and a brochure—for “Ligonier, The City of Murals.”  Turns out there are about 30 murals around the downtown area!  Each one is signed by the artist and has a plaque on the lower right which tells who sponsored it.  Many seemed to be painted around 2008.  Most are painted directly onto the bricks of the old buildings.

Here, below, are a few more that I especially liked.  The second one below was tucked in next to a door.  The third one depicts a horse thief!  The schoolhouse one had seen some damage and repair, but it was still very pretty.  (Only a few murals were moisture-damaged, from what I could see.)

 Ligonier has some surprising ethnic elements for a town so close to Amish Country.  Some of the early citizens were Jewish immigrants, and they are pictured in several murals.  There is also a more modern Latino element to the town.

Strolling further south on the main street, I passed Ligonier’s long-standing B&B, Solomon Mier Manor, named after one of the early Jewish merchants.  I’ve never been there, but it looked very pretty from the outside.

I almost forgot about marshmallows!  Ligonier has a Marshmallow Festival each year on Labor Day Weekend.  More information about the festival can be found here.  

Walking south out of downtown past the beautiful green clock, I came to the Ligonier Visitor’s Center (open Tuesdays through Saturdays, May through October), which is also a gift gallery and museum of Ligonier memorabilia. 

The murals brochure said this:  
Tour our former Jewish Temple, one of two original temples in Indiana.  Arrange to tour an 1890s home.  Discover the city’s five sculptures.  Stroll the walking paths of the Jennie Thompson Garden to see the fountain and 27 flower beds.”  

I think I just might!

More information about visiting Ligonier can be found here.  

Friday, May 3, 2019


My husband Gary was in downstate Allen County, Indiana the other day - the main area where the "Swiss Amish" can be found, along with nearby Adams County.  (Notice the buggy in the background; the Swiss Amish allow only open buggies.)

He saw this Belgian draft horse mare with her twin babies- a female in the foreground, and a male in the middle of the photo.  (I hope I got that right.)  Apparently this scenario is very rare.  Gary was told that the veterinarian who delivered them said that he had never in his 30-year career seen twin draft horse colts who both survived, until now.

I checked around...  The website Rural Heritage says that only one half of one percent of Belgian draft horse births result in a set of twins who both survive.  In this case, the female is smaller than the male (hard to see from this angle), but both are healthy.