“Chwistmas” Sausage

MeatI was in the midst of Christmas preparations Saturday afternoon when I heard a timid knock at the door.

I opened it to discover two adorable Amish children on my step, a little girl about seven and her five year old brother.

All rosy cheeked with big eyes – I decided that they must be from Herman’s, our southern neighbors, since the youngest ones to the north are all boys.

I couldn’t help but smile at their cuteness as I said, ” Well hello. How can I help you?”

The adorable little Amish girl looked terrified as she handed me a plastic grocery bag, “This is for you.”

I smile again and said, “Oh, thank you!”

My response must have given her courage, because she gave me a tentative little smile and added, “It’s ‘fwesh’ sausage.”

Then I understood – Herman’s had butchered that week and the older ones were all busy helping, so the younger ones were given the task of delivering a gift of sausage to the neighbor lady -me!

I gave them an even bigger smile and said, “Oh – that sounds yummy!”

She smiled a little bigger and said eagerly, “It’s ‘alweady’ salted and peppered!”

“Oh , so all I need to do is cook it and eat it?” I ask.

She’s nodded and added, “It’s for your Chwistmas!”

“Oh, Christmas sausage! That’s the best kind!” I say.

I’m rewarded with two very big, very relieved smiles.

“You stay right there!” I tell them – and walk into the kitchen and find two of the most sprinkle-covered sugar cookies.

Their eyes got big and they grinned from ear-to-ear as I put one in each of their mitten-covered hands.

“Thank you!” was their heart-felt response as they turned and started the half- mile walk home.

I smiled as I watched them go.

“Chwistmas” sausage, indeed!

Hearing Elephants

I heard an elephant last night.

No – seriously – I’m not crazy.  I was sitting on my back step and heard an elephant, a lion, and some unknown wild bird.

And I’m not the only one. Pedro heard it first. I told him it was probably just the guineas at the Amish neighbor’s. But there it was again – an African safari in our barn yard.

Jan heard it. Angel Girl heard it. Buddy heard it. I heard it.

Maybe we’re all crazy?! Can eating too many ears of fresh sweet corn cause one to hear strange noises?!

No, of course not. We really heard it and we have a sneaking suspicion we know where it’s coming from.

Are you ready for this – (lowers voice to a whisper) – our Amish neighbors.

Yes – I’m serious. You remember these neighbors – the ones with the train horn that they blow at all hours.

Those Amish.

We think they may have – (lowers voice to a whisper) – a hidden tape player.

Or a CD player, or a record player.

They have something that they’re playing -probably battery operated – and this isn’t our only evidence.

A while back when my friend Kimmer was here to visit with her kiddos, we all heard what sounded like an auctioneer practicing- and it was coming from their house.

We knew there wasn’t an auction for miles.

Mystified, we jumped in her pick-up (so they wouldn’t recognize our vehicle) and drove slowly up the road – checking out their property without looking like we were checking out their property.

The place looked deserted and the sound disappeared when we got closer. It started again later when we got back at home. It sounded just like it was coming from their back building.

Very suspicious.

Now – some time later – we hear the sounds of a safari coming from the very same location.

They have to be hiding something back there.

Unless of course – they actually have an elephant in there – and a lion – and some strange bird – and an auctioneer.  Which sounds more like the plot of a crazy 1960 Disney movie.

No – I’m thinking they have something hidden back there – and sooner or later we’ll discover just what it is.

I’ll keep you posted.

Stay tuned…

The Great Horn Battle of Middlefork Township

It seemed like such a normal Saturday – at first.

I had just returned from a quick trip to town. The kids were all doing their regular Saturday work. Jan was in the workshop. I was standing in my bedroom talking to my sister on the phone when I heard it.

A train horn.

It was so close it sounded like a diesel engine was running through my living room!

My mind raced. We were at least 45 minutes from the nearest still-working railroad. The tracks in the nearest towns had long since been pulled up and bike trails developed.

What in the world could it be?

The sound died as quickly as it started.

I shook my head and tried again to concentrate on what my sister was saying.

Later, as I was walking down the stairs it started again.  I rushed into the kitchen and asked the Angel Girl if she heard it too.

“Oh yeah – it’s been doing that all morning long. We can’t figure it out!”

Again the horn ended but at least now I knew that I wasn’t the only one hearing things.

I pulled on my shoes and went out to the shop to see Jan.

“Did you hear that sound? Where is that coming from?”

He smiled, “The Amish kids must have gotten hold of a train horn somewhere. They’re probably blowing it using an air compressor.”

Mystery solved.

The horn sounded again.

“That is so annoying!” I said.

Jan smiled again – a little sheepishly this time.

“You know,” he said, “I have that old semi horn in the back building.”

I grinned. “Let’s find it!”

By the time their horn ended – we were ready with an answering one.

Honk Honk Honk Honk!


Honk Honk Honk Honk


Honk Honk Honk Honk

And the Great Horn Battle of Middlefork Township continues!

Train photo by Dan Hershman. Semi photo by PRA.

Strawberries – We Hit the Mother Lode!

Would you look at those berries!

There’s 14 ice cream buckets of berries there – yes 14!

Would you believe our 8 little strawberry plants produced such bounty?! Yeah – I didn’t think so.

Actually – they didn’t come from my pathetic patch. Our good friends Laverne and Caroline offered us the opportunity to pick their patch. They moved into an Amish house a few months ago – and with the house came an Amish sized strawberry bed.

This was the first big picking – and we were all amazed at the size and number of berries.

We picked 15 buckets total – they  just kept one and sent the rest with us. Laverne just smiled and said, “I know where we can get some more!”

Oh yeah – they will be picking strawberries enough for an Amish family of 12 every other day for the foreseeable future! 🙂

So what did I do with all those berries?

The first thing we did was to wash a handful and one at a time we dipped them in sour cream and rolled them in brown sugar before eating them.  Heavenly!

Then it was time for the real work to get started.

Angel Girl and Buddy  were the only kids at home – so we sat them at a table hulling strawberries all day long. They started at 11:00 – had about a half hour break for lunch – and finished at 5:30.

They had a great time! Seriously – they did, mostly because I let them watch movies while they worked. So, other than being covered with sticky strawberry juice and having sore fingers, they were happy campers. Being able to watch TV for 5 hours straight was a real treat!

While they were enjoying their Veggie Tales marathon – I took their finished berries and made 2 fresh strawberry pies, 11 pints of jam, 10 quarts of sauce, and froze 10 quarts of berries. The rest we ate fresh or I put in a huge berry bowl in the fridge.

I think I can honestly say that that is more strawberries than I have ever worked with at one time in my life!

I think I can also say that I used to really envy those Amish strawberry beds – but no longer.  My dream strawberry patch has gotten much, much smaller! 🙂

Bless you Laverne and Carolyn!

Cock’s Comb

Cock's Comb

Living among the Amish does have it’s benefits.

The teenagers who like to drag race down the gravel road are in horse and buggies and they don’t have loud rock music blaring out of the open windows.

They’re quick to lend a helping hand and don’t mind my laundry flapping in the breeze as some of my city neighbors did.

And they grow amazing gardens!

Even this year when most of their “English” neighbors (including myself) had sorry-looking excuses for a vegetable patch, they harvested beautiful vegetables.

Even when a vegetable is done producing, they don’t leave the garden idle. They go in and plant annual flowers so that in the late season, right up until the first frost, their gardens are beautiful.

One of my favorite Amish flowers is the Cocks Comb. It’s deep vibrant colors create an eye-catching display that flaunts itself in front of the browning countryside.

It’s so perfectly and tightly formed that as a cut flower people are amazed that it is real.

The seeds of the cockscomb are formed under the brilliant flower in little seed pockets. As the flower dries, the seeds will fall. The Amish will dry the flowers upside down and harvest those seeds to plant again the next year.

I have tried for several years to grow cocks comb but have so far produced only anemic looking specimens that pale in comparison to their Amish cousins.

So, for now, I enjoy the beauty of their gardens.

Every year I get one or two cut flowers from the neighbors and enjoy them fresh before drying them and saving the seeds.

Then next year, I’ll plant those seeds again because hope springs eternal in the heart of a gardener!

Amish Work Night

Our road was quite busy tonight with a parade of Amish buggies.

Since our nearest neighbors to the north and the south are Amish, a buggy sighting is nothing unusual. But to see this many in one evening, told us that one of the neighbors was having a work night for the young people.

A work night is a big social event in the community. The young people all gather at one of the homes. Then the girls help the lady of the house with whatever job she has (quilting, canning, snapping green beans) while the young men help the man of the house with something (digging fence posts, laying fence, a building project).

Then after they’ve worked awhile, they gather together and play volleyball and enjoy refreshments provided by the host family.

It is pretty late when they return home. We will often hear the buggies on the gravel as we lay in bed. But we don’t mind. It’s refreshing to know that these youth had an evening of service and good clean fun.

And we also wonder if there’s any courtin’ being done down there in the moonlight…

Finally in the Garden!

It’s a very good feeling to finally have some garden planted! The rain hold off long enough for the ground to dry so we could get in some of our early spring garden. (Although it is pretty late in the season!)

We have had a very cold and wet spring here in the Midwest which has delayed almost everything from the lilacs and tulips to the farmers in the fields. But the cold is slowly losing its grip and the apple trees are in full bloom and the daffodils are dancing in the wind!

Because our soil is very heavy and clay-like, it holds water for a long time. It also severely clods up if worked too wet. We needed several days with no rain and some warm sun and strong winds to dry things out enough to get the garden planted.

We finally had a small window of opportunity one evening and we took it! The entire family was out and worked diligently to plant our peas, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli.

It was a good thing that we did because more rain came in the next day and it’s been raining every third day since.

The calendar says that it’s time to get my tomatoes and pepper plants, and put some corn and beans in, but the ground temperature says otherwise. It is still much too cool for my warm season plants, so they, too, will be late this year.

I buy all of my plants from 2 small Amish greenhouses in the neighborhood. Not only are the plants nice and hardy, they come with lots of great advice! I’ve learned to ask any gardening questions I might have and watch their gardens carefully. Usually they are harvesting peas and eating fresh salad about the time that I get mine in the ground!

These year, thanks to my handy-dandy cold-frame, we are enjoying fresh baby lettuce and spinach already! Although my peas are in the ground, I noticed yesterday that theirs are already about 5 inches high. Oh well, at least I’m gaining on them!