5 signs of spring in Amish America

Today is the first day of spring (also known as the furthest day possible from next winter).

Depending on your latitude, you may need the calendar to tell you that.  But even if your weather this morning doesn’t seem so springy, it will be here soon enough.

With spring, plants know the wait is over.  They may now officially begin to sprout and grow. Of course, some have already gotten a jump on things.  Greenhouses kickstart the process in winter.

Last month in Lancaster County my Amish friend Abe was busy re-potting thousands of tomato seedlings.  The temperature outside the greenhouse was frigid, but inside was toasty.  A wood furnace keeps things warm.  But he’ll be needing that less and less these days.

Here are 5 more signs of spring in Amish America:

1.The birds are back in town. Many Amish are avid birders.  The departure and return of certain species mark the seasons.  Amish bishop and farmer David Kline describes the arrival of the “Wings of Spring”–the Canada Goose–in his book Great Possessions:

Along about March even the most enthusiastic of us outdoor people are beginning to feel the monotony of winter.  Only a few new birds have been added to the list since January.   The birds that visit the feeder have been with us all winter, and even they are showing signs of restlessness. We strain for signs of spring–anything that gives even a hint that winter is relinquishing its hold.  To one of my neighbors spring is the rich aroma of newly turned earth, to another it is the rising and rolling steam from the sugar camp.  I got my assurance yesterday–the geese returned.  I was pushing down the straw for the cows last evening when I heard them arrive.  I got out of the barn in time to hear the wind whistle through their set wings as they came honking in to the pond.

2. Haymaking. In spring, hay season kicks in. Hay gets “made”–cut, dried, bundled and bustled off to hungry animals–about once a month in the warmer months.  I just came across a semi-humorous post about making hay in Amish Ohio I’d forgotten from a few years ago.  It’s hard work.

3. Flower gardens and stands. Amish gardens pump out a rainbow of fresh flowers, many of which they sell at roadside stands.  Prices are usually quite low–you might pay a few dollars a bunch (flowers are my mother’s #1 request when I visit PA).

Certain kinds are popular among Amish.  I don’t know much about flowers, but my favorite is the Celosia cristata, better known as the cockscomb, which you’ll see in Amish gardens everywhere:

4. Auctions. The mud auctions, happening in Lancaster County and elsewhere, are among the best-known.  But Amish also hold a variety of other sales in spring, including school auctions and Haiti sales in some communities.

This year the Arthur Amish community will warm things up at “Mini Haiti Sale” (previewing the full Haiti Sale in autumn) on June 4th, from 9-3pm at the Arthur Otto Center, along with a “Strawberry Social”.

5. ??? (fill in the blank–would love to hear your suggestions here)

And what else–Amish-related or not–signifies spring for you?

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    1. Richard

      For the first time this weekend, ive seen farmers Amish and non Amish start to work the fields.Ive been to 2 markets and both have removed their bags of salt that they sell up front at their stores. These sault bags have been replaced with flowers and potting soil.So no one has to hit me over the head to tell me that spring has arrived, im just not packing away my snow shovel just yet. Richard. from Lebanons Amish community.

    2. Mary Brandenburg

      Actually, Erik, when you said #1 was the Birds are back in town, I thought you meant the SNOW Birds are back from Florida!! 🙂 I can just picture the bus loads starting to depart for the north, filled with Snow Birds that need to get home and open their Amish Ohio birdnests for the summer months.

    3. Debbie Welsh

      So excited to see the crocuses, daffodils, hyacinth, and forsythia bushes in bloom! Just put out two pots of beautiful pansies, too. It does the soul good to see the animals and the earth come back to life again.

    4. Forest

      Well, down here most folks are getting their tractors in shape and, depending on the almanac, planting things like onions, potatoes, and cabbages. It’s nice to smell the ground again, while harrowing the field, especially since last year at this time all I could smell was disinfectant and other hospital smells (bypass operation). It was good to be on the tractor again, and I thank God I got to see another Spring.

    5. It is true, the snow birds are leaving Florida and going north by the bus loads.

    6. Marilyn in New York

      I have friends who got aquainted with some Amish in our area. The husband was raised on a farm and although he grew up and went into business and later the ministry he still loved to smell the soil after it had just been plowed in the Spring and Fall. They pulled over to the side of a road so he could smell the soil and an Amish man came out to make sure everything was okay with them. The men got talking and the Amish wife came out and invited my lady friend in the house for coffee and pie while the men talked. That was several years ago-my friends and the Amish are still friends.

    7. the grass is beginning to show around the foundations – but we still have about a foot of snow on the fields. The first sign of spring is that I went to town to get seed starting soil! We have to start many things indoors here if they have any chance of maturing before fall frosts. We are blessed this year (and for many years to come, I hope) with a large, warm kitchen that has west-facing windows.

    8. Alice Aber

      The grass is greener, daffodils are showing their pretty yellow dresses, crocuses in purple and yellow, trees with tiny buds on them. Spring bushes have buds on them and will be opening soon.

      The temperatures fluctuate, bringing along those spring showers that bring May flowers. Ah yes, and spring time in Illinois means lots of thunderstorms and tornado watches and warnings of which we have had both already, several times.

      The robins are back in full force pulling beneficial worms from my garden area the little thieves, LOL JK. Canadian Geese have been arriving for a few weeks now. They love the lake here.

      Spring is in the air, soon it will be time to mow the lawn for the first time this year.

      Have a good night everyone!!

      Blessings, Alice

    9. Deb Posthuma

      Oh and the Robins are back as well, not to mention the moles are burrowing under the lawn already. Since we live across from a corn field, the squirrels are hunting for the left overs and i had one on the deck railing this morning. HAPPY SPRING TO ALL !

    10. Al in Ky.

      Baby sheep and goats! For many years we raised
      sheep on our farm and the lambs were born in late
      winter. I loved it in the springtime when they
      would run behind their mothers on the fresh green
      pasture. Sometimes they seemed like they were
      actually bouncing on the grass. Several of the
      Amish farmers I know raise sheep and/or goats
      and I love to drive by their farms when the young
      sheep and goats are running out in the pasture.

    11. Kristin Jager

      I have heard all about the mudsales, but have never been to one. What exactly do they sell? Quilts, home -made goods? Food? Is it like a yard sale or is it like a real auction with an auctioneer? Do they have them in April? This inquiring mind wants to know:)
      Signs of spring….so much in common–the return of birds, sprouting of periennel plants in the gardens, warm sunshiny days….God’s blessings to us all, Amish and Non-Amish.

    12. Alice Mary

      Although we’ve had some warm weather already (60’s), the ground is still way too wet to work (especially after yesterday’s drenching rains—I got soaked just running 50 feet to my car, under a golf umbrella–haven’t seen it rain like that since last summer). Daffodils are about 8″ tall today, though not blooming yet. Alas, they’re calling for colder weather (upper 30’s as a high) later this week, so I won’t be putting my shovel away, either! Can’t wait to start the broomcorn seed I got from Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio. I’m itching to see growth! Oh,, and the chipmunks have come out of hibernation (did you know that they’re the only TRUE hibernators in North America?—bears aren’t, despite what we used to think! National Wildlife taught me that a year or two ago…check it out.)

      (Alice Aber: my first visit to your area (Arthur, IL) was during the broomcorn festival several years back. It was a spur of the moment trip, and I had no idea what I’d be running into, otherwise I’d have bought a new broom, for sure—a nice, hefty, well-made one from the broomcorn capital of the world…or did I get that wrong? Let me know, Alice!)

    13. Mary, Katie, that is hilarious. I am kicking myself I didn’t think of that too 🙂

    14. Inquiring-mind-Kristin, they sell all sorts of things–I think this site will give you some more info on the mud sales, including the 2011 schedule: http://www.padutchcountry.com/members/Mud_Sales.asp

    15. It was great reading all the spring favorites. And Al don’t you mean “kids”? That is a classic Amish joke, ha-ha.

    16. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      No one has talked about weather personalities on TV complaining about winter weather suddenly changing into spring weather, a-k-a rain, it my neck of the woods the uber-tanned fellow complained that we are expecting more snow in the coming days, and then, as he did last year, and the other weather chirpers on the channel, will bemoan spring time rain when the snow is really done. I’d rather be reasonably and seasonably wet than have drought and dry dead lawns. But it happens every year, the complaining on TV about this time.

    17. Ex-Amish


    18. kristin jager

      Thank you so much Erik for posting the website. I did check it out. I am amazed that the sales are scattered all the way into October. I just assumed they were in the Spring.

    19. Shom I think that unless it is a perfect 70 degrees and sunny, weather complaining is the default setting for many folks (at least in Poland!)

      I try to find something to like about every season (ie, the winter cold is not my favorite but breathing in the frigid air is invigorating in its way) though I can’t say I’m completely immune from complaining 🙂

    20. Ex-Amish I did not know antiquing was a spring pastime but maybe it’s a logical time to go through attics and pull out old stuff?

      Kristin on the mud sales you are right, don’t know how muddy those are. I am not up on the history of mud sales but I wonder if those later ones might just be tapping into the wide appeal of the “mud sale” label 😉

    21. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I’m not complaining, I half expected it sometime this month, myself, but Southern Ontario got a good helping of snow today (Wednesday), and it actually seemed to snow pretty much consistently all day in my neighborhood. The best part of my day however, was watching my Toronto Blue Jays on TV (another sign of spring), sure they lost to the Bronx Bombers, but they did it in fine style, and seemed to have a good running game. I hope they keep it up.

      Erik, they say Canadians love to talk about the weather, its one thing we all have in common in this country. I hope Europe won’t get stuck with massive heat-waves, I hope my area is comfortable.

    22. marie b

      Depending where the amish people live, its the beginning of maple syrup season. In St. Jacobs Ontario Canada, here we have the Elmira Maple syrup festival on Saturday April 2nd. Something for everyone to enjoy and the best maple syrup around!!

    23. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Lately, another sign of spring has been the international “Earth Hour”. Did anyone take part in their homes?
      I turned off my computer and all but three essential lights in my place. I think I did okay.
      I think of it as sort of living Amish for an hour, I feel the same way when we accidentally lose power and everything is down wither we like it or not.

    24. Mona

      I don’t know about anyone else,but I got up to a white ground covering this morning….(in Ohio)….not enought to shovel, but was slick out…..and just walked down to pick up a paper and it is freezing out…….how much longer till spring ?????