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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Off the Beaten Track, Part Two

So, this is the second in a possible series of off the beaten path, Amish-owned businesses that welcome tourists.  Most are open six days a week, closing in late afternoon, and all are closed on Sundays.  Some have little or no internet presence, some are listed only on the local tourism website, but others have hired outsiders to create really nice websites or Facebook pages.

Keep in mind, some of these places have a lot of tourists, but some don’t (although all of them welcome tourists or I wouldn’t put them in this post.)  It’s important that you respect the culture.  Short shorts, low necklines, tight clothing—leave these at home, or stick to the more well-trodden tourist places instead.  Dress modestly and you’ll fit in much more comfortably.

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E&S Sales Bulk Foods.  This one is right ON the beaten path, but for years, I bypassed it.  Why would I want to stop at a “bulk foods” store on vacation?!  But once I stopped in, I was hooked.  So that I don’t repeat myself, you can read my post on E&S here.  Well worth a stop. 1265 N State Road 5, Shipshe.  More info can be found here and here. 

Eash Sales.  Just to the south of E&S you can find Eash Sales.  Move past the four acres of outdoor furniture, playsets, gazebos, and more—and walk a little further south. The first larger building, The Outdoor Store, has yard and garden décor—lots of it...  But there’s another building a bit further south, which very few tourists seem to find—the building covered with painted “barn quilts” on the outside walls and a sign that says Eash Sales.  Here you’ll find housewares—or as they put it, “over 12,000 square feet of indoor displays—kitchenware, canning supplies, cast iron cookware, baskets, inspirational wall décor…”  I could easily wander in this place for an hour.  1205 N State Road 5, Shipshewana.  More info here.

Country Road Fabrics.  This is another one on the main drag that I want to mention because the name in some of the advertising causes most tourists to pass it by.  It’s a lot more than fabrics!  It’s owned by one of the sons of the Chupp family who built E&S Sales.  This place is the closest you’ll get to a museum of contemporary Amish life in this community.  You’ll see their church clothes, work clothes, baby things, caps and bonnets, favorite books, outerwear, toys, shoes (lots of black!), songbooks, Bibles, and nearly everything else needed by today’s Amish family.  (They also have a great selection of other shoes and boots.)  Wander around, look, and learn!  1205 S Van Buren, Shipshewana.  More info here (highlighting their shoes) and here.

Now, getting off the main street (State Route 5 / Van Buren Street in Shipshe) to some out-of-the-way places:

Lambright Country Chimes:  If you want quality wind chimes that will stand the test of time, don’t waste your money on the cheap stuff—save up your dollars and stop in here.  The chimes are made on location and come with a lifetime warranty, and the variety of sounds is amazing.  8340 W US 20, Shipshe.  More info here.

Lakeside Nursery.  This is one of my favorite local Amish-owned greenhouses. It’s located a bit east of Shipshewana, just south of Route 120.  Well worth a visit for annuals, perennials, shrubs, or trees.  The quality is excellent, and the prices are probably lower than you’ll see back home.  5170 N 675 W, Shipshe.  Open spring, summer, fall.  More info here.

Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park.  I never thought an Amish animal park in the little town of Shipshe could be very impressive, but I was wrong!  This place has a lot of good press, and my visiting relatives loved it.  If you have kids, and it’s the warm weather season, check it out.  6255 N 1000 W, Shipshewana.  More info here. 

B Honey and Candles.  These folks have been beekeepers since 1986.  You can find anything bee- or honey-related here, as well as décor, jams, apple cider vinegar, and skin care products.  2260 N 1000 W, Shipshewana.  Basics here and more info here. 

Silver Star Leather:  This Amishman started off as a harness-maker—but thanks to his wife, he now makes beautiful purses and other small goods—belts, wallets, etc.  Besides top grain cow leather, you’ll find goods made from all kinds of exotic leathers (all legally sourced).  A very interesting place to walk around in, and there is a place on their website to schedule a tour!  6875 N 800 W, Shipshewana.  More info here.

As an afterthought:  As you wander the area looking up these places, you’ll probably run across plenty of roadside produce stands, or other small Amish businesses, so don’t drive too fast and keep your eyes sharp.

Should I write about more Amish-owned places like this?  Let me know!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Off the Beaten Track, Part One?

I got a message the other day from a follower named Mariola, and she asked a very good question:

"I go to Shipshewana quite often but tend to stick to the main roads for shopping because that’s all I'm really familiar with (except I do go off the path to Country Lane Bakery—absolutely love this place <3 and I’ve been to Silver Star Leather a couple times). What I'd like to know: Do any Amish families have roadside produce stands that you know of? Or are there any bakeries or stores similar to Country Lane Bakery where it’s Amish owned?"

Roadside produce stands are all over the countryside in the summer, but those are hard to pinpoint.  Amish-owned businesses that are open to the public, though?  My husband and I are still discovering them, even after living here five years (and being a tourist here for 30 years before that).

I decided to answer the question in a post, since Mariola can’t be the only tourist who’s interested in getting off the beaten path!  And as she pointed out, it’s nice to spread the tourist cash around the community.  So, here goes.  I’ll describe ten or so, and if the response is good, I’ll write another post with a dozen more. 

One thing to remember:  There’s a reason I’ve managed to have quite a few Amish friends here for the last 25 years—I respect their culture.  And I suggest you do the same when visiting these places.  Shorter shorts, low necklines, tight clothing—leave these at home, or stick to the more well-trodden tourist places!  Dress modestly and you’ll fit in much more comfortably.

I’ll start with a few nearer to Middlebury, for those of you staying at Essenhaus Inn (which I highly recommend).  I don’t want to spend all weekend typing store hours, but I’ll give you a jumping off point, and you can find out more on your own…  Remember, though, that they’re all going to be closed on Sunday.

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The Middlebury General Store.  This store is in the former location of the Cinnamon Stick in downtown Middlebury.  I wrote about it in detail in this post, so I won’t repeat all its wonders in this one!  102 S. Main Street.  No real internet presence, but here’s their phone number: 574-849-6955.

Miller’s Cider Mill.  East from downtown Middlebury a mile or two, a little ways past Krider World’s Fair Garden, is an old family-owned cider mill in a lovely setting, open seasonally for apple-cider-making.  They give a one-hour tour and have products for sale.  No internet presence, but there are some nice photos (and good reviews) at Trip Advisor, here.  The address is 55514 Co Rd 8.  Call them here for their hours: 574-825-2010. 

For the rest of these, start out at the main intersection in downtown Middlebury (where the gas station is).  This is the main road running west to east between Middlebury and Shipshewana.  It’s called County Road 16 on the Middlebury side, and across the county line, it’s called 250N on the Shipshe side.

The Country Barn.  This is my go-to place for all things bird-related.  A recent expansion has made this store even better.  Location is 11742 County Road 16.  See this post, or more info can be found here. 

Dutch Country Market.  My husband calls this one “the honeybee store” since there’s a working beehive behind glass inside the store.  Their specialty is all things honey-related, but they have a lot more than that, including in-house-made noodles, baked goods, fresh produce in season, a dairy case, munchies and sweets, and locally-made rag rugs.  I wrote about this place in this post.  More info can be found here or here.

There are plenty of places on County Road 43, which crosses the main road between Middlebury and Shipshewana.  First we'll go north on CR 43:

The Pumpkin Parlor.  A really nice produce stand, open seasonally several days a week, run by a very nice family.  This and the next two places are located on CR 43, north a mile or so from the main road.  No internet presence, but there’s a sign on the main road pointing you there, and the address is 55101 Country Road 43.  Here are a few photos:

Laura’s Fabrics.  Laura has been selling fabric and everything else dry-goods related in this location for forty years.  It’s a fun place to wander, but the aisles are narrow and the merchandise is rather willy-nilly—so this place is not for the claustrophobic. But if you’re a hard-core fabric buyer, check it out.  Open Monday through Saturday until 3 p.m.  No internet presence, but the address is 55140 County Road 43, and here’s a photo or two:

Horn of Plenty.  This place is just getting off the ground.  It’s located just north of the two places above.  He’s got a variety of things even before the season for fresh produce, including displays from Garden Path Herbs, Sunflower Kitchen locally baked goods, and Glowing Scentsations beeswax candles.  They are open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 to 4.  Here are a few photos since there’s not much internet presence here:

Pretty Petals Greenhouse.  Going another mile north on CR 43:  This small family-run greenhouse (one of several in the area) is open from late April until early June and specializes in annuals and containers.  Many plants and containers are for sale, but this lady is known especially for her custom planters.  A few are shown below.  No internet presence, but the address is 54244 Co Rd 43.

Those stops were to the north of the main east-west road between downtown Middlebury and downtown Shipshe.  Now, to the south:

Country Lane Bakery.  This one is south of State Road 20 a couple of scenic miles.  It’s our go-to bakery for bread and so much more.  The retail area is small, but look over the counter into the back and you’ll get an eyeful.  There’s a white-board menu telling you what they’ve got.  I don’t need to say much here, since I wrote about Country Lane in this post.  Address is 59162 CR 43, Middlebury.  Open early morning until 3 p.m. and closed on Mondays as well as Sundays.  (NOTE:  This business is for sale as of October 2022, so I'm not sure about its future.)

Miller’s Greenery.  A little further south of Country Lane Bakery on CR 43 you come to my favorite greenhouse in the area.  Perry Miller and his wife are friends of mine, they are very knowledgeable about plants, the signage is excellent, and his greenhouse has just about everything.  I wrote about this place here.  Address is 61177 CR 43. Middlebury, IN.  Open six days a week.

Next time, some stops in or near Shipshewana.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Wheelchair Mary


We think of it as ancient history—a disease that was long ago eradicated.  But that’s not true—It was widespread around 1950, and so there are quite a few Americans still living with it, including around ten to fifteen in the Amish community where I live.

This morning I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time…  I spent some time with Wheelchair Mary (as she calls herself).  Mary Miller is the only surviving wheelchair-bound polio victim in this area, and I wanted to hear her story.

Mary told me it started one morning when she was 18 months old—in 1952.  Her mother came in to get her out of bed, and Mary (who was a vigorous walker by then) couldn’t stand up in her crib.  Her mother knew immediately what was wrong…  Eight other young children in their church district already had polio.  One  of them, a little boy, died while visiting relatives in Iowa and was brought home in a casket. 

As Mary told me, “America was rich with polio in the early 50s, before the vaccine.”  She says adults who got it typically died, but children usually didn’t.  The doctors didn’t even know what to recommend…  Keep them warm?  Cool them off?  Try to make them exercise their limbs?  Make them rest? 

Eventually, with funds from the March of Dimes, Mary was sent to the polio hospital in Warm Springs, Arkansas when she was five years old.  (This hospital was founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1927, and he continued to go there until his death in 1945.)

Mary lived in a ward which held 25 young girls—5 rows of 5 beds each.  She spent seven months at the hospital, separated from her family and everything she had ever known.  Her mother had packed her Amish clothes, but the hospital clothed her like the other girls, since she was the only Amish patient and they didn’t want her to feel awkward. 

Since only English was spoken there, Mary quickly picked it up, and before long she entirely lost her ability to speak Pennsylvania Dutch, so she had to relearn it from scratch when she returned home.  She said that when her father came to get her, she was shocked to see that, unlike the men at the hospital, he had a long beard!  Upon returning home, her closest sister, Irene, didn’t believe this English-speaking girl was her dear sister and said to their parents, “Let’s go find the real Mary!”

While she was at Warm Springs she was encouraged to use her braces and crutches in order to keep her spine strong. She had a variety of therapies while she was there.  Her knee and hip muscles had contracted to the point that she was losing her ability to stand up, so she also had surgery there to release them.  Quite a lot for a five-year-old girl to endure, far away from home!

Her brother Mervin got polio in 1955—three years after Mary did.  It didn’t affect his legs or arms, but it nearly destroyed his mind.  He spent the rest of his life under the care of his family, living with Mary in his later years, and he died recently.  No one else in the family was affected.

Mary said her school days were a struggle, as you can imagine.  She “walked” with braces and crutches in those days, but she says her arms did all the work and her legs were useless.  She went to Honeyville Elementary School for the first four years.  But grades 5 to 9 were on the second floor—so she and her closest sister, Irene, were transferred to Topeka Elementary School.  (There were no Amish schools yet.)  She says the other seven girls in her class would take turns helping her—but many times they would forget her and leave her outside at the end of recess! 

Besides using her braces and crutches, the other kids pulled her around in a little red wagon that was obtained just for that purpose.  Then in sixth grade she got a “school wheelchair” (she already had one at home), and she says that helped a lot.  But Mary wanted to run, jump, and play with the other kids.  She said she often sat off to the side with a lump in her throat, crying on the inside. 

As a youth, she couldn’t go to the Sunday night singings and other social events, and she says that made her rebellious inside.  She said she was fifty years old before it stopped bothering her.  I remarked, “It’s hard to be different”—and Mary said, “Yes—you hit the nail on the head!”  She says it’s been a lifelong struggle to let go.

What is Mary’s life like today?  After the death of her father, she and her mother and her disabled brother moved into the lovely home where she now lives alone.  She does, however, have a young niece named Amanda who lives downstairs and does her laundry and housecleaning. Amanda’s dog Cody spends much of his time upstairs, keeping Mary company.  Mary’s food is supplied by many friends and neighbors who bring her frozen leftovers to heat up, which works out well for her.

The garage portion of Mary’s home contains her special wheelchair buggy and also her “road scooter” on which she can travel a couple of miles, to go to church or to visit another home.  (Quite a few of her family members live within that distance.)  She told me she can get out of bed and into a wheelchair on her own, but she said, “It takes about twenty steps to do it!”

Mary’s life has definitely had meaning...  I was stunned to see a copy of the large book that she has authored.  With the help of an expert Old-German-to-English translator, she has created an amazing resource for the Amish community—a large reference book on the rituals, songs, prayers, articles of faith, and other treasured documents of the Amish church, translated from the Old German into modern English, side-by-side on the pages. As Mary says in the foreword:

These hymns and prayers are sacred to us, written under conditions we can hardly imagine.  We would not wish to lose this part of our heritage.  Yet we must admit, we are not as much at home in the German language as our forefathers were.  Therefore it takes more of an effort—yes, a real dedication—to keep the true spirit of these songs, prayers, and our German heritage alive…  This book is a small effort in that direction.  It is a collection of translations.

Some backstory here:  The Amish are a tri-lingual people: 

(1) The “Pennsylvania Dutch” they learn first, which they speak at home and to each other, and which their church uses for the preaching. It is mainly only a spoken language;

(2) The English they learn when they begin school at age seven and use when speaking to outsiders like us, which is also the language they use when they write; and

(3) The Old German which is the language of their Bible, their church hymnbook, and many of the rites and rituals of their church, and which they learn in the upper grades at school—but they don’t necessarily become fluent in that one.  And that, dear reader, is where Mary’s book fills a gap for the Amish community.

This incredible project took Mary about twenty years to complete.  The first edition was published in 2000, with a revised edition in 2008.  Here, below, are two samples: one of the Articles of Faith, and a portion of the Amish marriage vows.

One time as a child, Mary sat watching a ball game with her father—she loved watching and cheering, but longed to play.  Her father told her, “Don’t look so sad—try to always wear a cheerful smile.  Then people will come to you—since you can’t go to them.”  She said it was good advice…  and as she told me, “Many times, you just have to be a good listener!”  When asked if her days seem long, she said, “No!  No, not at all!”

Mary said she still has lots of visitors—which today included my friend Ruth and me.  It was one of the best ways I’ve spent a morning in a very long time.

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For more about polio, look here.  Or see a brief timeline of polio in the USA here.