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

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Country Barn - A New Store in Middlebury

Some time I might write about the old Wanberg Popcorn Company building on the eastern edge of  Middlebury.  You can still see the silos at the bend in the road on County Road 16, headed east towards Shipshewana.  There’s a new shop called Joyfully Said in there now, and a farmers’ market outside on Saturday mornings in the summer.

There also used to be a shop that sold a lot of bird feeders and bird food, but they’ve moved down the road a bit and are now in a newly built store called “The Country Barn” (above).  It has become my favorite stop for bird-feeding supplies for our fancy backyard setup.

 The owner is an Amish couple named Lavern and Sue Graber.  In 2017 Lavern bought the stock of the bird feeding store that was in the old Wanberg popcorn building.  Then in December 2018 he opened a newly-built store across the road and a bit to the east and named it “The Country Barn.”

Sue had always wanted to own a store that stocked unique and hard-to-find items.  When her husband built the new store building, they decided to use the space to fulfill both their dreams.  So—the left side of the shop has all the bird-feeding supplies you would ever need (and a lot more animal-related stuff).  And the right side of the shop has all kinds of hard-to-find and useful gift items for the home.

I asked Lavern how he ended up in the bird business.  He said his background is in farming, but he always loved nature.  A few years back he helped and advised the original owner of the bird feed shop in the old Wanberg building—so when the owner decided to sell out, Lavern decided to take over the business.  It wasn’t long before his plans outstripped his floor space in the Wanberg building, and so he moved down the road.

Update:  I am writing this in July 2022.  This past year, the Grabers completed a major expansion to their store, so it's even better than ever!

More info here:

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Rusty Junk

I have a big woodland shade garden in my back yard.  In addition to a few hundred plants and some benches and a hammock chair, I have filled it with what I call “garden art.” My husband, however, prefers to call it “rusty junk.”  Perhaps that’s because like to buy my garden art at an Amish junkyard.

The business card for Glick’s Lawn Furniture says “antiques and primitives.”  But make no mistake, it’s a junkyard!  A few months ago I posted a photo of it on my Amish Indiana facebook page and captioned it, “This is where buggies go to die.”  It was a very popular post!

Anyway…  I stopped there recently for some garden d├ęcor, and had a wonderful hour wandering around.  I was looking for something round to put under my ball of barbed wire, along with anything else that caught my eye…  There were three other cars there.  One couple was looking for a working water pump for their uncle’s farm.  The others seemed to be looking for old things to “repurpose,” as they call it these days. 

 I saw lots of interesting stuff that I didn’t buy (this time), including every kind of wheel imaginable…

This place isn’t for the fainthearted.  It’s not an antique shop—it’s a junkyard.  The good, the bad, and the ugly all find a home here.  But you can’t beat the prices, and it’s always an adventure.

Here are some more of the many things I saw on this trip:

There’s also an indoor area, where things have price tags.  (Outside, things seem to be a bit more negotiable.)

So what did I end up buying?  A wheel (to put under my barbed wire ball), a wheel rim, and some kind of a screen:

This isn’t the usual place a tourist might go, but it’s part of My Amish Indiana...  And if you’ve got a sense of adventure, a creative mind, and an up-to-date tetanus shot, you might want to stop by Glick’s some time!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Making Amish Buggies, Part Two

Recently I drove a young Amish friend to a buggy shop south of Shipshewana where he was going to order a brand new buggy.  He’d been waiting a while, since waiting lists are long at most local buggy shops, but his buggy was going to be built next week, so it was time to go in and work out the details.  Just like with cars, there are many options to choose from.

My young friend (I’ll call him “Joni”) is 24 and has been a church member for a few years already.  His present buggy is 3 years old, but recently his younger brother, a brand-new church member, bought a new buggy with some nice new options, so now Joni wants one like that!  He sold his present buggy at the Yoder Consignment Auction a few weeks ago and it fetched $7,000+.  His new buggy will cost around $10,000—and that’s including some nice upgrades.

After we arrived and Joni settled down to talk options with the owner, I wandered around and took a few photos (camera on silent mode).  This first one shows a finished buggy that was about to be rolled out.  It’s a double—two seats.  I talked more about single, double, and queen buggies in my older post about buggies, which you can find here.)  Very nice!

This small cargo bin (below) is attached to the back of the buggy.  For more cargo space, a trailer can be hitched up to the back of most buggies.

Here’s the beginnings of an open buggy, below—something which is relatively new in this area.  Many families have both an open and a closed buggy now.  Some open buggies have a metal mesh base with the seats attached, but this one is a more traditional wood-floored buggy.

The young man below was working on the upholstery for the open buggy above—a dark green woven fabric.  Buggies more often have vinyl upholstery, usually in a dark color.  Tools in the shop were mostly run from an air compressor (“Amish electricity”) but battery power is also used.

Three other men were working in the shop while I was there.  One was sweeping the floor with a push broom, so I took over and finished that job, to make up for being such a nuisance!

I liked this display of the various dashboard and exterior light options available.  There is generally a car-type battery in a buggy, to run the electrical components.  An approaching buggy has yellow flashing lights, and the back view of a buggy shows red flashing lights.  There is also plenty of reflective tape on the front and back of newer buggies, as well as other safety features.  Some buggies have upgrades such as heat, cup holders, all-metal wheels, a smoother suspension, or a fold-down back seat (if it’s a double).

Joni finished his order in about an hour and we were on our way.  The buggy will be delivered in a week or two, and I hope it’s not long before I get to take a ride in it!

P.S.  Not all Amish buggies are the same!  See these posts about the Yellow Buggy Amish and the White Buggy Amish of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, for example.