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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Selling Walnuts

Did you ever wonder where your grocery-store walnuts come from?  They may have come from Amish Indiana.

I have an Amish friend who we’ll call Lily, who cleans a few wealthy people’s houses for extra income.  At one of them, one of her yearly tasks is to remove the hundreds of fallen walnuts from the lawn.  This year, she collected them in old feed bags and brought them home.

A few days after this task was completed, Lily phoned me, and we loaded six or seven bags of walnuts into the back of my SUV.  Off we went to a nearby Amish farm located between Middlebury and Shipshewana, Indiana.  (Or should I say, she loaded them—I’m a city girl by birth and I have about one-tenth the strength of the average Amish woman!) 

The farmer had an ancient Hammons black walnut huller – a big green machine that could crack the tough outer hull but leave the inner shell that we’re all familiar with, intact.

So, the gas engine was fired up, and the bags were unloaded into the machine one by one.  The walnuts went up a conveyor belt and into the depths of the machine. 

Down a chute on the left side came the walnuts 
and into green bags.

Out the other side came the shredded hulls, which went by conveyor belt into an old wooden farm wagon, to be spread on the fields.  Nothing is wasted! 

In the end, Lily sold a little over 200 pounds of walnuts, so at $15 per 100 pounds, she was written a check for $32.  I remarked that it was a lot of work for $32—but as she pointed out, the homeowner she cleans for had paid her by the hour to pick up the walnuts, so this was just frosting on the cake! 

She said that sometimes, on Amish farms with walnut trees, selling walnuts is a nice project for the children of the family—they can all help gather up the walnuts into bags, and then the money can be used for something special and fun.

By the time we were ready to leave, there were two Amish buggies in line behind my SUV.  The owner said that last year on the last day of walnut season, there were buggies lined up all the way down the gravel driveway and then down the road—a three-hour wait!

The walnuts are then sent off for further processing along the farm-to-table food chain.  So think of that next time you buy a bag of walnuts!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Day Before the Wedding

Several months ago, one of my Amish friends was one of a group of women who were cooks for a wedding.  It takes a large team of cooks to get this done, since a typical all-day Amish wedding event involves serving around 1,000 meals over the course of the day!

The other cooks had arrived by buggy, but my friend lived too far away, so when I drove her there, I got a chance to look around.  One farm building and a large rented tent were used as the food preparation areas.  I wanted to stay out of their way (and I couldn’t have taken pictures of them anyway), so I headed over to the building being used for the post-wedding dinner.  Here the tables were already laid out:

Nearby were racks holding additional rented china—after the first seating, there would be two more later in the day.  Everything needed for such a large event can be rented.

An Amish bride and groom choose ten single young men and ten single young women to be “servers” for their wedding dinner.  This means a long day of work, but it is considered a great honor to be chosen to be a wedding server.  Each paired-up couple has specific assigned tasks.  I saw ten of these signs all over the room, at the different serving stations, helping the servers know what to do.  Notice the menu varies slightly for the first sitting (for those who attended the three-hour wedding ceremony) and the two later sittings (the first one for guests who didn’t attend the ceremony earlier in the day, and the last one for the young Amish singles).  The servers responsible for each station also change.

I stopped to look at the area where the wedding party would sit—bride, groom, and two pairs of witnesses (similar to our best man and maid of honor).  It had been done up beautifully in silver and white.

How is so much food cooked in a farmhouse kitchen?  It isn’t.  A wedding wagon (or two) is rented, which contains multiple stoves, refrigerators, and sinks.  The day of the wedding, the hot food can be prepared there.  I got a chance to take a peek inside the wagon while the women were doing the food prep in the other building.

The entire farm was a beehive of activity, as the men did their part to prepare for parking many dozens of buggies, bicycles, and probably a few cars, and finished other outdoor tasks, and the women prepared the food.  The bride circulated around, taking time to introduce herself to me before heading out to the lane to talk to her groom.

I was amazed at the organization, the teamwork, and most of all, the overall atmosphere of calm!

I wrote about attending an Amish wedding here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Favorite Dozen

Happy New Year!  Here are a dozen of my favorite photos from the last year, taken and posted on my Amish Indiana facebook page during 2019.


Happy New Year from My Amish Indiana!