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

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Silver Star Leather

As I write this, I stopped at Silver Star Leather a few months ago with Gary.  He wanted a new belt, and I wanted to price a custom purse. 

Gary brought along his old belt, and replaced it with a much nicer new one (that Loren customized by shortening it) for $29.  He also got a new buckle put on the old one, so now he’ll have a “work belt” and a “good belt.”  The good one should last for a lifetime that way.

I have a cheap nylon purse with lots of bells and whistles on it that I like better than any purse I’ve ever owned…  How much for a custom copy in high quality leather?  (Answer: about $300—it’s a complicated design!  That’s about twice the price of an off-the-rack purse there.  I think it might be my birthday present next winter.)

But, they also have lots of other, smaller leather goods that are a big hit with tourists who know quality leather work when they see it.  So, even though I mentioned this place in a recent “Off the Beaten Track” post, Gary thought I should give Silver Star Leather a little more attention. 

The back story is a good one…   Amishman Loren Yoder started off with a harness shop that he purchased from a retiring uncle.  But one fateful day his wife Dorcas took a piece of leather into the house and cut out a purse, and the rest is history!  Loren no longer makes harnesses.  Besides the tourist trade, he has done work for such customers as the Swedish military and the Toledo Police force. 

The shop is fully solar powered and is full of good stuff.  Most of the retail area has racks of purses and belts.  On the long counter separating the retail area from the work area, there are lots of great smaller leather goods in every possible color.  I recently bought an eyeglass case there that I really like. 

The website has a photo gallery that shows the excellent quality of their purses, duffels, tote bags, leather backpacks, belts, knife sheaths, holsters, coin purses, credit card holders, money clips, notebook cases, wristlets, key chains, toiletry bags, wallets of every size and type, and other accessories. Belts start at $22, regular wallets at $25, and purses at $129.

Besides top grain cow leather, Loren uses (and displays on the wall) such exotic leathers as shark, ostrich, python, crocodile, stingray, bison, hippopotamus, cobra, and water buffalo!  All these leathers are legally sourced.  Loren buys only “CITES-Certified” exotic leathers—that stands for Convention on International Trade in Exotic Species.  The wall displays a number of exotic animal hides.

I occasionally do bus tour work (more often I like to do private tours, though), and I’ve brought both here.  Groups can schedule a tour online, and it’s quite interesting.  The website says this:  “We offer tours up to an hour long, during which we will demonstrate how we prepare and fashion our leather goods. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who’s wanted to see the inside of a leather workshop, ask questions about leatherworking tools, or understand how to make things like belts.”

So ladies, if you’re shopping in Shipshe, and your husband is really tired of girly stuff, take him here for a new belt or wallet!  You’ll probably buy something for yourself as well.

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More about Silver Star Leather on their excellent website, found here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Melinda's Pony: Another Guest Post

Hello, readers!

Today I’m sharing a second guest post from young Melinda.  I recently asked her to write up the story of her new puppy, and when she gave it to me, she also gave me the story of her beloved pony!  Melinda, you see, is quite a horsewoman for an eleven-year-old—an natural-born rider.  So here’s her story—enjoy! 

By the way, I have her mom’s permission to share her photo here (and her name has been changed).  Notice she’s holding her dog Zenny, whom she recently wrote about here.

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Pony Love

One day when I was seven years old, my family and I went to a pony auction at the MEC [the Michiana Events Center]. 

We went up the stairs and onto the second floor.  Then we found some empty chairs.

Mom, Holly, my brothers, and I had to use the restroom.  So we went down to the first floor.  I was done using the restroom before the others were.

So I went up the stairs to sit by my father.  When I got there I saw this beautiful brown and white pony come into the ring.  I told my father I wanted that pony!  He asked me if I was sure, because he had just gotten a brown one.  I told him I was sure and that I had always wanted a brown and white pony.  He then told me that I would get the pony if I would take care of him.  I told him I would.  So he got the pony for me. 

I named the pony Teddy.  I love him very very much.

He loves barrel racing, monkey-in-a-tree, barrel pickup, and also jumping.  He’s very good at all of them.

With Love,

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Here are a couple of photos I took of Melinda and Teddy in June 2021…


Friday, November 18, 2022

Melinda's Puppy: A Very Special Guest Post

I have special treat for you today!  This is a guest post by “Melinda,” a young lady I’ve written about before.  She is now eleven years old, and quite a writer already—especially considering that English is her second language!  Here’s how it happened:

I was having lunch at Das Kaffe Haus in Shipshewana the other day with Melinda, her younger sister, and their grandmother Rosanna, who is a good friend of mine and the daughter of my late and beloved Mrs. R.  (Names have been changed here for privacy.) 

Melinda was telling me about their new puppy, and her enthusiasm was contagious.  I asked her, “Could you write out this story so I can publish it on my website?”  That very same evening I got a call from her saying that her story was already done—along with a second one about her pony, which I will publish soon.

So here it is, just as she wrote it except for a couple of spelling corrections—and thank you, Melinda!

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Puppy Love

One day I was reading The People’s Exchange, wanting to buy a Maltese or toy poodle.  Finally I found a Maltipoo for sale in the back of the People’s, for $600.

My siblings and I decided to put all our money together.  Holly (age 9) had $251.21; Caleb (age 7) had $11.07; Ben (age 5) had $10.02; Elam (age 3) had $3.00; I (age 11) had $289.49.  So our total came out to $564.70.

Oh, no!  I called the people who owned the puppy and told them I wanted the puppy very much but had only $546.70 without thinking and being a little nervous.  At the time it was almost dark.  I went to bed and then it crossed my mind that I had told her $546.70 instead of $564.70!  So early the next morning I called her and told her I actually had $564.70.

On Tuesday morning she called back and told me I could have the puppy for $564.  I called the owner and told her we would pick up the puppy the next day at 1:30 p.m.

So the next day my aunt Katherine took me to get the puppy.  When we got there the owners told us that 15 minutes before we got there another woman had come there to buy the puppy.  The owners of the puppy told the lady that they had sold the puppy to me already. 

We named the puppy Zenny.  We are now having a very very lot of fun with Zenny.  : )

With Love,
Melinda and Holly

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One more thing—The girls’ mother was kind enough to give me permission to show you a photo of the girls, so here’s a rare treat!  (Melinda is the one on the left.)

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Bride Wore Purple: A Guest Post

It is my pleasure to share a guest post today!

This post was written by a fan of my Facebook page, Cindy Cosmo, describing the Amish wedding she attended recently.  I hope you enjoy her description as much as I did.

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The Night Before

Larry and I arrived in Shipshewana on Thursday, October 27, the night before the wedding. Vera (mother of the bride) called me on their outside phone…  When she found out we were staying the night, she invited us to come over that evening so she could show us around.  I'm so glad we went; we haven’t seen her or Clyde in three years and I wasn't sure if I would recognize her (or vice versa)!

Vera told me if I wanted to take pictures to take them that night, because it would be too hard to do them the day of the wedding. (The Amish do not like the English taking their pictures.) The dinner settings were set up in the banquet building and it was amazing! She told me they could fit around 400 people, so it was set up with very long tables and benches. (The benches, which are also used for church, are stored in a bench wagon; every church district has one.)

Gray plastic tablecloths with darker gray runners covered the tables, and sprinkled on the tables were flat back glass stones. Huge vases in the middle of the tables were filled with beautiful array of flowers. The plates and silverware were just gorgeous.

In an Amish wedding they have wedding wagons that come and family/friends to help with all the cooking. The china settings and silverware are rented.  I did take a couple of quick pictures of the tables; there was a red stepladder in the middle which of course would be gone the next day.  

As I was leaving, Vera pointed out a guitar shape plaque on the wall with the names and the wedding date of Brenda and Merlin and also the names of the Table Waiters, Coffee Servers, Water Boys, Special Helpers and Day Brighteners—more about that later. Vera told me I could take a picture of it, which I did.

The Wedding Day

This was my first Amish wedding and it took place on Friday, October 28, 2022, and it was a wonderful experience!  Larry was invited, but he has been fighting a cold so he just dropped me off and took a distant picture as I was heading for the Amish church service/ceremony. There had to be at least 100+ Amish men standing and waiting outside.

I felt sheepish but I looked at one man and said, can I go in the building, and he said yes. As I entered, I saw that all the Amish women and children were already there. The women and the girls were dressed in shades of pastel blues, greens, brown, grey, and purple; one little Amish girl had on a bright yellow dress. All the women except the bride wore white caps, the bride had a black cap.

The young boys wore white shirts and had either black or grey pants with matching suspenders. The Amish men wore dark pants and coats with white shirts; they wear suspenders and not belts. The Amish men take off their hats and hang them outside before entering the building. 

In the Amish services, the men sit on one side and the women on the other.  When I entered, an Amish woman asked where I wanted to sit, and my reply was anywhere you want to put me. The woman said, would you like to sit so your back can be against the wall and I said yes—phew, that saved me from a backache!

Amish services are three hours long—you sit on backless wooden benches and it is all in a form of German called “Pennsylvania Dutch.”  There was supposed to be another English couple at the 9 a.m. service and three people from South Carolina were joining us at 10.  But the 9 a.m. couple never showed up, so for a good hour I was the lone Englisher in a church full of Amish people!

An Amish man came over and handed me a hymnbook, all in German. The service started on time, at 9 a.m. The ceiling was metal and they love to sing—so when they sang, the rafters almost shook!

I sat there and listened, holding the hymnbook, when two Amish women showed me the page, so of course I opened it up and stared at it—I don't know German. For the first two hours they sang, no talking. I found out after they sang for quite a while and then were silent for a minute, that it meant we were changing songs/pages in the book. So I was still on page 55 and when the next round started, the two women showed me we were on page 170—LOL!  

The future bride and groom and their witnesses came in around 10 or so. There were six metal chairs in front for the bride, who sat in the middle, and her two witnesses, who sat opposite of the groom and his two witnesses. The bride looked lovely wearing a purple dress with what I believe is called a white cape with an apron over her dress, with a black cap, stockings and shoes. Her two witnesses were dressed in matching gray dresses.

Around 11, the servers and the cooks came in the building.  There were 15 empty long benches reserved for them, and they filled all of them.

Several large bowls of candy were passed around at that time for the children—and seeing the smiles on their faces, you could tell they really enjoyed the treat.

The father of the groom started to speak in front of the couple and the witnesses.  Since it was mostly in Pennsylvania Dutch, I didn't understand what he was saying, but every so often an English word was said, so I kind of got the gist of it—he welcomed Brenda to the family. He spoke at least 20 minutes and then another minister spoke.  After that the Bishop performed the ceremony, which was short, I think less than 10 minutes. It was serious—no  flowers, no wedding rings, no kisses or clapping for the newly married.

Soon afterwards, the servers left, then the bride and groom’s families left, then Brenda and Merlin, and then all of us. I was quite impressed that the children were so well behaved and when it was time for prayer—silence. Some people were surprised when I told them that the three hours actually went fast—maybe because of all the singing they did, which was beautiful to hear and listen to—or maybe it was just the experience itself, but it the time did go by quickly.

After the Ceremony

It was a beautiful day—the sun was shining and other than being a little nippy in the shade, you couldn't ask for a more perfect day for a wedding!  I was standing outside with Vera’s sister, waiting until we would all go in to get seated for the meal. Vera’s sister told me that the bride, groom, and four witnesses were inside her parent’s house.

When they came out, Merlin’s young niece threw rose petals on the path they were walking on. Brenda now had a white cap on instead of the black cap, meaning she was now a married woman.  Before the men get married, they do not have beards, but now Merlin will be growing his. Young children were opposite each other on the path, and as Brenda and Merlin went by, the children handed them a single rose—it was cute and quite touching to see.

I mentioned above about Day Brighteners on the guitar plaque. Brenda and Merlin decided to give the small children a part in the ceremony, passing out the roses to the bride and groom, and they wanted their names mentioned on the plaque.

We finally gathered in the banquet hall…  The Amish men were seated first, followed by the women and the four English people who attended. We Englishers sat across from some Amish women and when we asked some questions, they were very nice and helpful.

Before luncheon was served, they sang “Gott Ist Die Liebe,” which translated is, “God Is Love.”  Afterwards we were all talking when a prayer was about to be said—and suddenly, just like that, the whole room was quiet—I was very impressed!

Now the luncheon was being served.  The first thing that was passed around the table was a small piece of wheat bread with homemade marmalade jam and butter; followed by meatballs; stuffing; green beans; homemade mashed potatoes with rich gravy; and cornbread casserole. We had water and coffee with our meal.

Before long, a second round of food came our way and then finally the dessert. I didn't see a wedding cake but they had some mighty good desserts and of course I had to take a little of everything! There was pecan pie; cream pie; blueberry pie; and homemade ice cream and raspberry sauce.

As we were eating, a young Amish boy came to all the tables and we all got a pen with the names of the bride and groom and the date they were married to take home. Just after we finished eating, a huge bowl of candy was passed around.  I was “stuffed,” but I took some candy for my husband.  As we were exiting, we passed by the couple’s table and shook hands and congratulated them.

I forgot to mention that when I got the invite, I was asked if I wanted to go to the noon or the 4 p.m. seating. I later found out that they were having two more seatings that day—one at mid-afternoon (this was for the servers and cooks) and I think the last one was at 7—that was for the younger people.

I was also told that the bride and groom stay at the bride’s parents house the first night, so they can help with the cleanup the next day. Everything had to be cleaned quickly since the wedding wagons would leave around 10 a.m. Weddings are usually on a Tuesday and Thursday, but because there are so many, other days are used too (with the exception of Saturday and Sunday).

 Opening the Gifts

Another tent was set up outside where the bride and groom had their gifts. The other English people left, leaving me the only English person there. I have read that in some parts of the Amish community, only Amish are invited to the gift opening, but I was told I could go in, and I wanted to experience it all, so I followed the woman that I was talking to.

As soon as I entered, Vera saw me and invited me to sit with her up front—we had a nice chat. The bride and groom opened their gifts but did not pick them up or say what it was or who it was from—but I could see everything so that was fine.

While doing this, the Amish men once again sang. I asked Vera if that was religious and she sort of nodded and said it was a wedding song. The gifts they received were practical and things they would need for the household, and Merlin also received some tools. The gifts were mostly wrapped in towels or blankets which was a good idea and certainly wouldn't go to waste.  I was working on an afghan to give them but being self-taught, I wasn't happy with one edge and I didn't complete it in time, so Larry and I decided to give them a gift certificate to Blue Gate Restaurant.

It was after 3 p.m. and they still had gifts to open so I finally texted Larry and said I would be ready in ten minutes. I saw Vera and she thanked me for coming, along with a few other Amish women I met… but I felt like I should be thanking her, since it was probably a once in a lifetime experience and I was honored to be invited.

A Few More Photos 

As I waited for Larry, I wanted to take pictures, but I was leery because I know how the Amish feel about taking photos of them.  I tried to be careful, but I did get some of the kids playing volleyball from a distance.  I sort of hid trying to get pictures of the hanging towels.  


*** text and photos courtesy of Cindy Cosmo ***

For more stories about Amish weddings,
type “wedding” in the search box at the top right side of this page.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The Carpenter's House


There’s a little log cabin a few miles from our home, and we’ve been wanting to check it out for a long time. It sits on a hill near our local Ace Hardware, at the corner of 13 and 20 south of Middlebury.  Turns out there are now two little log cabins—but let’s start with the first and original one.

The beautiful stone sign out front says The Carpenter’s House.  The landscaping surrounding both buildings is a stunning array of flowers and water features and stone stairs and paths—it’s worth a stop just for that! 

The Carpenter’s House is a prayer chapel built by the Martins, the family who owns the nearby Ace Hardware.  It is a simple but beautiful room that is open to the public every day.  It contains some rough-hewn benches and is set up like a church.  I saw that someone had recently used it for their wedding vow renewal ceremony—how lovely!  Up front on the altar, underneath the striking stained glass window, is a wooden box containing some paper tags.  Visitors are invited to write their prayer request on a tag and attach it to the special wall on the left.  Many people had done so.

Nearby is the newer building, The Master’s Gallery.  Unlike the prayer chapel, this building is not open every day—but I was able to get a pretty decent picture of the interior looking through a front window.

I think I’ll be back here the next time I need a quiet place to sit and think and pray.  And considering the condition of my dear young friend “Katie,” whose family is now counting down the weeks or days until her likely passing, that could be sooner than I’d like.

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For the address and phone number of the Carpenter's House, look here.

For a wonderful 4 ½ minute video about the Martins and their faith and their business
and how they connect the two, look here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A June Wedding

I had the privilege of being invited to another Amish wedding this past summer, and better yet, to be invited to (a) the main event in the morning, with lunch following (as opposed to the 5:00 p.m. dinner event), and (b) the 7:00 p.m. youth gathering.   

This happened because my dear husband Gary took my place doing a bus tour all day so that I could go to the wedding… so the bride and groom invited me to come back at 7 p.m. with Gary.  The 7 p.m. youth seating has a different menu, and the added bonus of singing afterwards, so it was a treat!  I wrote about the 7 p.m. wedding singings previously, and I’ll put the link below. 

I didn’t know if I’d have a lot to write about, since I’ve written about Amish weddings a number of times before, but the bride had asked me to take some pictures of the reception venue beforehand, and that was different!  So I thought I’d share those.  The way it works these days is this: Often the actual wedding is held at a neighbor’s farm, and the reception (four meals over the course of the day) is held at the bride’s home farm, and that’s what happened at this one.  So, I didn’t take any photos at the wedding venue (that would have been frowned upon), but I was able to get lots of pictures of the reception venue, which was beautiful. 

The first thing I saw was the gift tent.  There were more gifts on tables down the side that don’t show in the picture below.  Notice that the gifts are often practical gifts, wrapped in practical ways, such as using a bath towel.  The benches are set up for those who hang around after the noon meal to watch the couple open their gifts.  Little kids, girls especially, tend to gather along the front, hoping to score a pretty bow.

It takes a team of about 40 cooks to prepare the 1,000 or so meals that are served at a typical Amish wedding.  I managed to get this picture of some of them at work, below.  They all wear matching dresses, in the usual Amish style.

This was an especially large wedding, so there were 15 pairs of table waiters.  Each pair (a young man and a young woman) is responsible for serving one table.  In the evening, there are a different set of table waiters (usually family members), so that the first set of table waiters can go to the 7:00 meal and singing with their young friends.  Here is the “cheat sheet” for the table waiters at Table #5, below:

Here (below) is the main reception venue, which was set up in an outbuilding on the farm.  Seen in the center is the table for the wedding party (bride, groom, two other couples who act as their “witnesses”).  The next picture shows the wedding party table close-up.

This wedding was large enough to need a secondary reception venue, which was a large tent set up next to the main one, near where the cooks were doing their main work.

There is always a wedding cake, which these days, is typically made at a regular commercial wedding cake bakery.  With hundreds of guests, it has to be a big one!  I believe it is typically cut and served at the 5:00 p.m. meal.

This couple also had two small cakes, which were set in front of the seats of their two surviving grandmothers.  I’d not seen grandmother cakes before!

An Amish bride doesn’t carry flowers, but there are often flowers at the reception.  Typically, there are arrangements at each table, as well as other arrangements as the bride wants to have.

And lastly, on top of the five or six delicious desserts served at an Amish wedding feast, this one also had these cute cupcakes!  I hope you enjoyed this rare peek at an Amish wedding reception venue. :-)


More posts about Amish weddings I’ve attended:

Wedding prep:

Evening singings:

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Speakin' Dutch


As I’ve mentioned before, the Amish are actually a tri-lingual people. 

There’s “Pennsylvania Dutch” or “Dutch,” the colloquial form of German that is their mother tongue.  That’s the language they use amongst themselves, and it’s the only language they know until starting school at age seven.  It’s mainly a spoken language, and is rarely written.  As time goes on, more and more English words creep into the Dutch, kind of like they’ve crept in to Spanish to make “Spanglish.”

Then there’s English.  That’s the language of their formal education, so they learn to read, write, and speak it when they start school.  Some kids start picking it up much younger, though, just by keeping their ears open.  But they are very shy about speaking it!  English is their written language when corresponding.

Then lastly, there’s “German.”  This is not German as it’s spoken in Europe today, but rather, an old German, similar to what was spoken in Europe in the 1600s.  (Think of it as the German equivalent of Shakespearean English or the King James Bible compared to modern English.)  Old German is the language of the Amish hymnbook (The Ausbund) and the Amish Bible.  Many Amish also have King James Bibles, or parallel versions which contain both.  This form of German is taught in the upper grades of their formal education, usually in grades 3 to 8.  Amish schoolrooms have the Old German script on posters on the wall, above the English ones.  This language is mainly written, but not often spoken, unless it’s to quote from the Amish Bible.  I talked more about this subject in my post entitled “Wheelchair Mary.”

So, after five years living here, I’ve become very fluent in Pennsylvania Dutch. 

No, actually, I’ve made a very poor start!  Here’s what I know, and it ain’t much:

“Vie bisht du?”  That means, “How are you?”

“Vo bisht du?”  That means, “Where are you?”

 “Hops ga du fa dich.”  That means, “I did that for you; I took care of that.”

“Esse” means “eat,” as in Essenhaus Inn restaurant.

“Mom” and “Dad” are the same as Mom and Dad in English.

“Dawdy” or “Dawdi” or “Doddy” is how they say Grandpa, and Grandma is “Mommy.”  Thus, farms might have a Dawdi Haus for the grandparents, which I’ve written about before, in this post.  Some of my little Amish friends call me “Mommy Sue,” which melts my heart! <3

“Youngies” are the “young people”—those who are 16 or older up until marriage, typically.  Some have joined the Amish church, and some haven’t.  “Youngies” might go to singings on Sunday nights, and they have lots of other social activities, mostly centered around music, sports, volunteer work, travel, and just plain socializing.  There are 2,000-3,000 youngies in this community.

“Rumspringen” is literally “running around,” and is the name for what the youngies do before they join church (as 90% of them eventually do).  But I won’t open that can of worms today!

So it’s safe to say that my Amish friends and I switch to English when conversing!…  But I do enjoy listening to them speak Dutch and try to pick out enough words to get the gist of what they’re saying.

Also interesting to me are the Amish figures of speech.  They have some of the same ones we do, but also some unique ones, and I will give an example here (in English)…  Instead of saying someone is , “not hitting on all 8 cylinders” or “not playing with a full deck,” they might say, “He’s got a couple noodles hanging off the plate.”  I wish I knew more of these!  I’m gonna start paying more attention. 

One more note about language:  The Amish in the downstate Fort Wayne area—Allen and Adams Counties—are the “Swiss Amish,” and they speak a different dialect entirely.  I wrote about that here.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Back to Krider Garden

 I live in Middlebury, which is 8 or 9 miles west of Shipshewana, and we have the most wonderful shade garden here.  I wrote about it a few years ago, in this post, but when I took my dog Velcro (also the star of a post) back to Krider Garden a few weeks ago, I thought I’d add to my previous post.  It’s still a lovely place on a hot day, and there are some new things there.

There’s plenty of parking here, and Velcro and I just started wandering around, front to back and then up to the front again. 

Here are some views we got, below.  Along with grass, trees, and shade plants, there are also lots of water features and lots of places to sit down.

Krider has always had some large art features that were brought back from the 1932 Chicago World’s Fair.  But this time I noticed some new art.  I think this column fountain and stone bench have been here forever, actually, but I’m certain the gardening man, the stork, and the tree sculpture are fairly new.  (I believe it's part of some kind of art loan program.)

Also new:  An excellent restroom building alongside the bike trail, with water available too.  There’s a rentable picnic pavilion nearby, also along the bike trail.

Krider may be pretty, but it’s not entirely magical!  I saw plenty of slug damage in a few places, and also an example of what a deer likes to do to a hosta.  Other areas needed a good weeding, but until I’m ready to volunteer there, I can’t complain about that! 

The Pumpkinvine Bike Trail runs alongside the Krider Garden.  If you follow it from the back of the garden across a wooden bridge for about a quarter mile, you arrive at Dips on the Vine, a nice ice cream place that even has pup cups for your canine friends.

Stop by this place if you need a quiet hour...  

Here's an updated map (2023), also available onsite: