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

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Another Amish General Store

I've written about Amish general stores before, here and here.  Nearly every sizeable Amish settlement has one.  Recently I spent some time at the one in Topeka, Indiana—L-n-R Footwear & Gifts.

L-n-R does indeed have footwear (and gifts), but so much more.  Like other Amish general stores, it has just about everything the Amish family needs in terms of dry goods.  Visiting one is like visiting a museum of contemporary Amish life—many of your questions about the Amish life will be answered by strolling up and down the aisles.  But I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

As the above photos show, there’s lots of footwear—mostly black.  Skechers are a favored brand in this area, perhaps because of the excellent arch support.  Crocs (or generic copies) are also favored, since they wash off easily after chore time on the farm.

Prayer coverings, or “koppa,” the normal female headwear when not at home on the farm, can be made at home or purchased.  Many women have their favorite “brand”—thus the labels like “LaVon Katie” and “Edna Slabach.”  Men also wear their heads covered much of the time, often with straw hats, either natural color or the more dressy black.

As far as outwear—much like Henry Ford said about the Model T, “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.”  The same holds true for men’s “Mutza suits,” which are the coat and vest and pants sets that the men wear to church along with a white shirt.  (They look gray here, but they're actually black.)

The safety vests are worn not only on the job for some people, but also by many of the Amish when riding their bicycles.

The first photo above tells you how Amish babies are dressed (much like ours, as you can see, for their first year or two).  The second tells you how popular tractor and truck toys are, which surprises me, since the Amish don't own cars or trucks, and tractors are allowed as vehicles in only some of the more liberal ("high Amish") church districts. 

This photo tells you quite a bit about the reading habits of the adults (who have no movies, radio, TV, or internet).  Many of the Amish are avid readers in their spare time, after chores are done.

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L-n-R is located at 496 E. Lake Street in Topeka, and they are open six days a week until 5 p.m. (noon on Saturdays), but closed on Sundays.  More about the store can be found at their excellent website, located here.  While you’re in Topeka, have a bite to eat at Topeka Pizza or Tiffany’s Restaurant, and perhaps see if there’s a horse sale going on at the Topeka Auction Barn located nearby.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Quilts: The Real Thing


These quilts are the real thing.

Last fall Gary and I happened to find ourselves at Leanna's Quilts, north of Shipshewana on State Route 120.  Leanna happened to be there, so we went in and had a chat with her.  I've sometimes been asked where a person can purchase a bona fide Amish-made quilt, and I wasn't sure where to refer them; not too many retail outlets carry the real thing.  Even in Shipshewana, some are "Made in China."  

But now I know where people should go to find an honest-to-goodness, locally made Amish quilt. 

Leanna works with a number of local Amish quilt makers—a quilting co-op, you might say. Lots of quilts are on display, and they also do custom work. 

The quilts are displayed on two beds--one queen sized and one king.  All are folded in half, so that Leanna can unfold them one at a time, like a book—very clever!  She also has a few smaller items such as wall hangings.  A typical quilt costs about $1,000-$1,200—not bad, considering that 100 hours of work can go into one.

I took some pictures, which I will share below. 

This isn't a regular retail shop with regular hours, and she doesn't take bus tours.  Quite honestly, I wouldn't take tourists there "just to look"—the quilts are too valuable, and I wouldn't want to take up Leanna's time.  But for those of you with a grand in your pocket, an eye for quality, and the desire to purchase an heirloom—this is the place to go!

Leanna’s Quilts is located at 8340 W State Road 120, Shipshewana, Indiana.  If you’re looking for the real thing, give her a call at (260) 768-7798.  More information can be found here.

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Potter's House


A few months ago I had the privilege of being invited to an event being held at the farm of some friends of mine.  Every spring they host the annual sixth grade class of a Christian school called “The Potter’s House,” located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It was my second time to join in, and this time, I took some pictures.  (Some of the faces are blurred for privacy.)

Two busloads of kids arrived in the afternoon.  As they unloaded, they gathered with their chaperones and the host family, the Millers, in the front yard.  They were divided into three groups.  One group got a chance to milk a cow; another group visited the hen house; and the third group took a hay ride.

But the highlight had to be the hay ride!  The kids were taken far back onto the acreage of the farm, seeing lots of farm sights along the way.  The driver narrated the tour so the kids would know what they were seeing.

The kids also had a chance to see various farm animals “up close and personal” in some temporary pens that the Miller family had set up in the yard.  The baby animals were a big hit!

Afterwards, the kids and chaperones gathered in one of the larger outbuildings on the farm for a traditional Amish supper lovingly prepared by the Miller family.

The leader of the group told me that this is the first of three trips that their students take. In sixth grade, they travel here as a day trip.  In seventh grade, they take an overnight trip to one of several cities in Michigan such as Detroit.  And in eighth grade?  A weeklong trip to Washington, D.C.!

Many of these kids don’t get very many chances to travel—much less travel back in time to an Amish farm.  But the kids were polite, respectful, and well behaved, and I look forward to seeing the next sixth grade class in spring of 2024!

You can find out more about this remarkable school at their website, here.