Two weeks, 5 states, 15 communities.
Five (plus) pounds.
It was a whirlwind trip as I packed a month of visiting into 2 weeks of time. I spent the past weekend zonked out and resting up (3700 road miles will do that to you).
But I’ve recovered enough to put together a collection of highlights from my recent Amish trip:
- Dessert at the home of the Amish Cook, Lovina Eicher. Actually, three of them. I asked Lovina if she didn’t feel a lot of pressure every time someone like me showed up for food, being that she was the Amish Cook and all. She just laughed. The three desserts were Sugar Cream Pie, Oatmeal Pie, and Cinnamon Sticky Buns. All excellent. The good Kevin Williams, Lovina’s editor, explained that Oatmeal Pie is like a poor-man’s pecan pie–it has the same type of gelatinous filling (which I love) minus the nuts. Kevin and I also did a short (5 min) talk which Lovina’s daughter taped for us, in front of Lovina’s home. Will let know when Kevin posts that.
- Finally seeing my “home community” of Amish in North Carolina. Over the past 8 years I’ve been all over the country to about 4 dozen Amish communities, some as far as 1000 miles away. But never had I visited the little community at Union Grove, NC, just a bit over 2 hours from where I grew up in Raleigh (not quite 2 hours from Asheville, 45 min from Winston-Salem). I had a great talk with the owner of the Windsor Country Store, and left with a couple bottles of Muscadine Cider (he had plied me with a free sample as I walked in the door, nice move!). Those were destined to be gifts for Amish friends in Ohio I’d be seeing later that day. The cider is completely non-alcoholic, but comes in wine bottles. “I brought you something from my cellar,” I declared as I presented the bottle in the low light of the evening to my friend’s father. Friend said his dad was speechless–New Order Amish don’t drink, and in the dark, seeing only the silhouette of the bottle, he assumed it was wine. We got a chuckle; they loved the cider. Muscadine grapes are an NC classic.
- Sitting down for a cup of java with Bruce Stambaugh, a Holmes County local who writes a blog called Roadkill Crossing, and other tales from Amish Country. I didn’t realize that Bruce had been principal of the (heavily-Amish) East Holmes school district for over 2 decades, lending him a unique perspective on Amish education issues. Bruce writes for a number of publications, and he did a nice piece based on our chat which you can read in a few places, including his blog.
- Witnessing the once-a-year brewing of apple butter at a farm in Hardin County, Ohio. This was the absolute best smell I experienced on the entire trip. A heavenly roasted apple burning wood aroma. I just had to take some shots of the process–they were at boiling-down stage–and the ladies happily obliged. Of course I had to pick up a jar as well. You read about companies, especially food companies (but not only), intentionally pumping out smells to tickle the senses and encourage buying. Well it worked in my case, though I was lucky to catch the scent on the one day a year it’s available, and it was accidental rather than intentional. I’ll have a post on that.
- Visiting new communities–besides the above-mentioned Union Grove, others included Adams County, Indiana, Branch County, Michigan, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and Belleville, Ohio. There are over 400 Amish settlements in America. With Adams County I’ve been to all of the top 10 size-wise.
- Paying a visit to the father of another Amish friend who’d recently been run over by a buggy. He had jumped out to grab the reins which had slipped away. You see Amish getting out of buggies sometimes; in Indiana a driver in front of me jumped out to do what I would call a “kick start”–he got out, gave the horse a little shove to get it going, and then jumped back in. It didn’t look too safe, but I guess you have to do it sometimes. In this case my friend’s father slipped, fell, and two wheels ran over his thigh. It didn’t break anything but he was laid up pretty good, and has been for a few weeks now. Not a happy time for him but I hope we gave him something to do, as he can’t read much either right now. “Don’t you get tired of visitors?” I asked him. I always wonder this–Amish are visiting people, but it seems like it could get to be too much. He admitted that sometimes, yes, it just depended on his mood and energy.
- Sitting in on a sale in Adams County, Indiana. Good food and a packed event. And if you were in a bidding mood, deals were there to be had. I felt bad for the home owner though. Bidding started at $250,000, quickly dropped to $100,000, and had trouble finding any bidders even at that price.
- Discussing, with the owner of a bent ‘n’ dent in Steuben County, Indiana, everything from heart operations (he’s had two) to outsiders joining the Amish (he knew one or two; didn’t work out). An older fellow with a good attitude to life, and a real appreciation for what he’s got. Always good to have those doses of perspective scattered through your days. Thank you, Bent ‘n’ Dent man.
There were many more highlights, but that’s probably enough for now. I’ll be sharing more, though, in the weeks and months to come, so stick around (Like this blog on Facebook or subscribe by email, and you won’t miss a thing).