Over the fence... News travels fast in Amish country -- usually by word of mouth.
So use our high-tech version of a back fence by going to Larry's blog, Amish Country Journal, for his latest posts and for conversaton about what you've seen, heard or done while visiting with our neighbors.
Older posts to the Journal can be read below. And the next time you're in town, pick up a copy of The Budget, the newspaper published in Sugarcreek for the Amish community worldwide. It's folksy, homespun style is a treat to read. It's clear after reading a few reports from the newspaper's Amish correspondents around the world that the three most important things in the world to this agrarian community of faith are God, family and the weather.
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Amish country journal (Older entries; click on blog link above for more recent posts.) By Larry D. Miller
Aug. 6, 2008 SADNESS AT SUNRISE A light, early morning fog had brought spider webs into sharp focus on random thistles. Long shadows from the six Amish elders – and the random thistles – reminded me that the sun hadn’t yet had enough time to evaporate the effects of overnight chill. They were standing around my small backhoe on a hillside overlooking the “Goose Bottom” Valley where we were about to dig a few test holes. The mood was solemn and voices were hushed.This meeting represented the beginning and the end. The beginning of a new neighborhood graveyard. The tragic end of a 15-year life. None of us wanted to be there. What all of us wanted, but couldn’t have, was Marcus Shetler, once again running across the field overlooking the valley and the family farm where he had spent all of his 15 years. Where he played baseball, tussled with his eight brothers and sisters, learned to ride a bike. And he learned well.Stopped his bike at intersections . . . looked both ways . . . rode on the right . . . hugged the berm. But it wasn’t enough on Tuesday morning. He was on his bike, heading up the hill on Rt. 515 toward our farm.Hugging the right side, pedaling hard to gain momentum for the long hill, waving to David Miller who was working on a customer’s boat in the parking lot of his tarp shop. Neither noticed the SUV descending the hill. It drifted left so quickly their brains couldn’t process what was about to happen. Then Marcus was gone. The 16-year-old driver looked up from tuning the car’s radio just in time to make last minute eye contact. That sight will ride with him every mile he ever drives. That was 20 hours ago, and thus the seven bearded men came to be on the hillside on a midsummer morning, each subliminally wishing he could cash in the living reflected in his grey beard for another chance at life for a teenager. A teenager who would miss the thrill of hitting another home run, would not know the adrenalin rush of sitting close to a girl in a buggy, could never know the euphoria of hearing his firstborn’s first cry. But we play the hand we’re dealt, and God holds the deck. So on this morning, we were looking into the deep holes made by the backhoe and examining the layers of earth. And the Amish elders made their proclamation. “Yah, this vun over here vill be goot.You should stop digging now. “Ve vill dig the grave by hand.”
July 6, 2008 WITHOUT A HITCH
Amish Country’s biggest event of the season was a resounding success, and it happened this weekend. Horse Progress Days in the village of Mt. Hope. From all reports, it went off without a hitch. Figuratively speaking. Early reports indicate attendance topped 20,000.That’s pretty amazing for our little Mt. Hope, which has to include dogs in order to achieve a population count of 1,000. A fascinating couple from northern Germany and old friends from West Virginia stayed at our B&B and kept us apprised of the activities from their perspective. There were horses walking on treadmills, powering generators to run appliances, powering washing machines, woodworking machines and the like. That’s a concept you can take to your favorite utility company and ask them to shove it where their rate hike doesn’t shine. They had a 10-horse hitch pulling a four-bottom plow.They had live horsepower cutting hay, raking hay, producing 1,000-pound bales of hay and wrapping those bales in plastic. There were vendors of every stripe, touting their wares from piles on the ground, from card tables, and from within lavish tents. Our neighbor David Miller, owner of Erb’s Tarp Shop, set up one of his many tents for a vendor to display his new/old horse items. Another neighbor, Alvin Yoder, was set up to give visitors the hands-on experience of driving a team of horses. Throughout the summer months, Alvin conducts classes in handling horses, called “Beginners’ Horsemanship School” and we catch occasional glimpses of the equine management “newbies” learning to control more than 2,000 pounds of horsepower on a course laid out in one of Elsie Byler’s fields. A horse progress show treat for many was a lecture by Lynn Miller, publisher of “Small Farmer’s Journal,” a magazine for those who shun highly-mechanized farming techniques . . . and for those who would like to. For our new German friends, Axel and Beena, it was a weekend to remember.They had flown from Germany to St. Louis where they visited with relatives before renting a car for the trip to Amish Country. Their assessment pretty well described the looks on the faces of folks leaving the horse progress show.“It was definitely worth the trip!”
June 26, 2008 ESTA IS MARRIED
Some time ago I wrote about our teen-aged neighbor, Esta.
An Amish “wonder woman” if there ever was one. I suggested to potential sutors that she just might be the catch of the century. Aden must have read it. In fact, I think he already had an edge on the competition when I first wrote about her, about a year ago. They were married today in her uncle Eli’s woodworking shop. All the machinery, save the big sander, had been moved out and benches were set up for some 300. It was standing room only in a spotless workshop that had not a speck of sawdust to be found . . . and they make beautiful cabinetry in that shop on a daily basis. All that prep for a four-hour service On wooden benches with no backrests. The wedding feast followed, in her dad, Jonas’ workshop. The portable kitchen (fully-equipped trailer) was humming nearby.The portable freezer (also a trailer) was humming as well. I opened the door to the freezer . . . just to check it out and the mother of the bride grinned a bit sheepishly from within.She had retreated from the heat and hectic pace for a few minutes to cool down. She’s as quick thinking as her husband. Jonas and Effie lost a helper the equal of any (yes, ANY) farm hand. They’ll miss her, but as Jonas put it, “Dats vhat ve’re here for, to raise ‘em up so they can take care of themselves.” Not a problem in this case. The bride beamed throughout. The groom had a Cheshire Cat grin. Their happiness is almost certifiable. So long as he doesn’t bait her into an arm-wrestling challenge. ---
PS:On the “Amish Spring Break”: Details are slow in emerging, but it seems the group elected to shun the blatant bikini and deluge drinking madness of Lauderdale etc. and instead headed for the milder party ambience of Sarasota. They conducted themselves in reasonably acceptable fashion, returned sunburned and with little more than a few coins in their pockets. But they’ll always be able to say, “Yup, we know what Florida’s like. We’ve been there.”
March 22, 2008
AMISH COUNTRY SPRING BREAK
Spring break season doesn’t skip over Amish Country. Rising drifts lift dreams of escape. And with escape comes experience . . . and lessons. You know, experience is a unique teacher.First you get the test . . . then you get the lesson. Five teen-age Amish buddies decided a couple days ago to take a break and head for Florida. Visions of bikinis danced in their heads. With palm trees, salt water and sand not intended for a concrete mixer. So they pooled their resources and borrowed a big SUV. A gas guzzling SUV. And they had about $3,000 between them. “So long Mom, so long Dad!See you in two weeks!” Mom and Dad made eye contact and their unspoken conversation went something like this: “Well, now the tests and the lessons begin.” “Yup. They have a lot to learn.” The first test came quickly. They hadn’t made it through West Virginia when the SUV stopped dead on a curving mountain highway. They had to push it to the side of the road. After much staring and speculating about the unknown territory under the hood, they called home (yes, one of them had a cell phone, and there is a sister at home who also has a cell phone.) She giggled when she heard the story. “It is NOT FUNNY,” sobbed her not-so-adult-at-that-moment brother. With Dad’s advice, they called a tow truck. A rebuilt transmission cost them a bit more than $3,000. In the interest of education via experience, one of the Dads agreed to deposit enough money in his son’s checking account to cover the debit card expenditures. “He’ll pay it back, I ain’t vorried about dat,” said Dad. “Besides, the lessons they’re gonna learn dis week . . . shoot, them’s priceless.” I may learn the details of the “Amish spring break” later this spring. Then again, I may not. I’m not too worried that things got out of hand. Because I know that Dad floated the guys just about enough money to get the car out of hock, buy enough gas to drive to Florida and return home. . . eating hot dogs and soda cracker sandwiches all the way. I have a hunch that long after the bikinis and the beach are forgotten, the memory of being stranded, hungry and broke -- out in the cold cruel world -- will be clear. Ah, experience, what a unique teacher.
March 15, 2008 The 'Big Blizz' of '08
China certainly isn’t “across the bay,” from anywhere in Holmes County, but the “dawn came up like thunder,” because there was plenty of authentic thunder in the skies on March 8, as the heavy snowfall turned Amish Country into Ghost Country.
By 9 a.m. Saturday morning, very little of anything non-Amish was moving.
Except for the snowmobiles.
They were about the only motorized vehicles moving on Ohio 515 as it winds past Indiantree Farm.
While us “English” were squirting Instant-Start ether into the carburetors of our snow blowers . . . or huddling under blankets while watching The Weather Channel, our Amish neighbors were walking comfortably from house to barn to shed and back again.
That’s because they’d awakened and pulled on their knit caps, warm coats and boots at 4 a.m. Then they grabbed their shovels.
You know, shovels.Those giant spatulas with long handles, that our parents used but we forgot about when someone hooked a little gasoline engine to a big screw and made the first snow blower.
The neighbors had paths cleared by 5 a.m. so the milking and other chores could begin on time.
While some of us (who failed to plan ahead) fretted about how to get to the store for a dozen eggs and a yellow plastic jug of milk, our Amish neighbors were sitting down to a hearty breakfast of eggs and milk scarcely minutes old, home-cured ham or bacon, home-baked bread and butter churned right there in the kitchen.
And so on.
The dichotomy is even more apparent during a power outage.
Last time it happened, I stopped Eli as he walks behind (Belgians) Ruby and Prince, pulling a big firewood log, and I remarked about “last night’s power outage.”I couldn’t help but whine about, “the furnace was out for THREE HOURS and boy, did the house turn cold in a hurry.”
Didn’t mean a thing to him.His shop furnace works by radiating heat . . . no blower, no thermostat, no electricity.If things get chilly, he tosses another log into the firebox and returns to his work.
“Oh, you mean der vas no electricity for some time dis morning?
His smile has a mischievous but knowing look about it.
“How about dat!”
Feb. 1, 2008 How bad was winter in the old days, Daddy? Here’s one to share with your pre-teen rebellionist when he/she whines, “But Daaad, it’s too cold and the snow’s too heavy to shovel the sidewalk!” The year was 1945, and a heavy snow had fallen across Holmes County and much of the state. Snow accumulation was 15 to 16 inches and drifted areas could easily swallow a horse. Everything came to a standstill . . . especially traffic. I remember Dad shoveling a path to the barn and little more than my head showed above the snow on each side of the path. The top of the drift by the milkhouse was too far above my upstretched hand to calculate its height. But less than two miles away, a gang of energetic youths were planning a shoveling event of much greater magnitude. This was before the days of efficient highway snow removal – or salt - and for the Amish communities of Trail, Bunker Hill and Berlin, there was a feeling of severe isolation. So a group of 16 young men launched into a shoveling frenzy to clear the Weaver Ridge road from Trail to Bunker Hill, a distance of about five miles. Bunker Hill is about a mile northeast of Berlin on U.S. 62. Historian Atlee D. Miller remembers it well. “It wasn’t too bad. We just kept at it and there was a certain amount of kidding going on, (especially from Oscar “Schlim” Weaver, the resident jokester) just to pass the time. It didn’t seem like two whole days went by before we finished the job.” They worked in a “V”, sort of like a flock of geese winging through the air. Only these guys, Amish and English working side-by-side, were cutting through heavy snow. Although they were clearing only a single lane with occasional pull-outs for passing, they still had to handle the snow a couple of times before it was worked off to the side of the roadway. “The guy out front, in the middle, would throw the snow to the side and the fellow on that side would pick it up and toss it again. The man on the end of the “V” had a pretty tough job, because he was handling snow from six or eight other guys, on top of his own snow,” Atlee said. Needless to say, jobs were traded often and the hapless soul on the end of the line could be counted on to alert the others whenever he felt it was his turn to move to the light duty at the front of the procession. That snow accumulation stayed on the ground for a couple of weeks, confirming the value of the volunteer work. They reached Bunker Hill in two days (working from first glimmer of dawn to last glow of light in the sky), but there was no big celebration. The guys slapped each other on the back, turned and walked to their homes, returning their scoop shovels to their granaries and resuming their regular daily routines.
Jan. 27, 2008 Heini's getting bigger With a name like Heini’s . . . you’ve gotta have a sense of humor. Because in Amish Country . . . Heini’s are getting bigger. Sisters Lisa Troyer and LeeAnne Martin, who run Heini’s Cheese Chalet at Bunker Hill, this month (January) opened Heini’s Gourmet Market in what we used to know as Shanesville but now is Sugarcreek (the Shanesville name was absorbed by Sugarcreek many years ago). The new store is located at the intersection of Ohio 39 and 93. LeeAnne and Lisa’s granddad and great-uncle came here from Switzerland in the late 1920s and breathed new life into an existing cheese-making business at Bunker Hill.
Jan. 27, 2008 Pilgrim's paternity in doubt By all rights, there is a paternity dispute in Amish Country that should steal headlines from all the NBA, Hollywood celebrity and rock music inseminators who toss their seed with wild abandon. We’re talking here, about Pilgrim-The-Neutered, the resident lily-white guardian German Shepherd of Indiantree Farm. As we described recently, all evidence seemed to point to him as the (immaculate conception?) father of a litter of 11 puppies born to Jonas’ blue heeler “Queenie.” Well, as time goes by and the puppies fast-forward toward maturity, the white puppy with a black eye who seemed to resemble Pilgrim, is looking less and less like him and more and more like any one of countless neighborhood Canine Romeos eager to please . . . whenever the occasion arises. And it’s looking more and more like Queenie may be a paragon of promiscuity rather than our own “Monogamy Momma.” The white puppy is growing more and more black hair to replace the white puppy fluff (Queenie is VERY dark gray, Pilgrim is all white.) So now we’re beginning to suspect that maybe Pilgrim’s 2001 castration was, in fact, successful. We’ve decided to NOT tell Pilgrim. He seemed so delighted with the notion of fatherhood that we’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no valid reason to throw cold water on his dreams. After all, he was so proud when we named the new puppy, “Blanks.” How crushed would he be if we changed the name to “Nada Chance.”
Dec. 15, 2007
Pilgrim is `da man.' There’s a bit of a backstory to this, so we have to time-travel to the year 2001, when Pilgrim, our white German Shepherd, arrived at Indiantree Farm. We named him “Pilgrim” because he made a pilgrimage of unknown distance to arrive on our hilltop. After a few weeks of “trial period” it became clear that he fit right in . . . a little eccentric, a tad impulsive, highly adventurous and clothed entirely in white. He couldn’t miss.
So he visited Connie the vet, for a checkup and a date with the nip knife of neutering. And all was well with his world. Over the next six years he established an indelible presence on The Hill. And then, in midsummer 2006, I caught Pilgrim The Eunuch in a highly passionate hookup with Queenie, Jonas’ Blue Heeler damsel of disturbia. Told Jonas about it.
He said, “Well, I think you must have been seeing things. I don’t think that could happen.” “Dogs what have been castrated don’t breed.” OK, I relegated the story to that foggy memory closet reserved for things like flying saucers, Bigfoot and Ann Margaret. Then . . . in midsummer 2007, the same thing happened.
And Jonas was nearby so I summoned him as a witness. Later in the day, Pilgrim The Insatiable and Queenie The Momentarily Willing, hooked up again. Jonas said, “Well, I guess it ain’t impossible, but no harm done, eh? “
And if it is possible for my white dog of purity to demonstrate a Jack Nicholson grin of mischief, I saw a flash of it as he caught my eye as if to say, “You can take your little nip knife of neutering and stuff it, pal!” But now, fast forward to Sunday, Dec. 9, in a dark corner of Jonas’ horse stable. And there, with a smug air of insouciance, Queenie the dark grey Blue Heeler delivered 11 puppies.
Healthy puppies, with all the squeaks, mini-grunts and nudges you would expect of a nestful of demi-dogs with black-and-white markings. But wait! There, in the writhing mass of nearly black puppydom, was a white one!
A tad impulsive . . . maybe a bit eccentric and certainly adventurous. With a circle of black around one eye. Meanwhile, Pilgrim was strutting, chest out, head higher than usual and if I can translate his body language I’m certain he was saying, “Hey, so who’s YOUR daddy?”
I’ve named the puppy, “Blanks.”
Our neighbor, Ura Burkholder, rakes hay in September.
Sept. 12, 2008
Something familiar about the man in the photo Several weeks ago, the clipping arrived in the mail. It was a photo from a magazine or newspaper, showing an Amish farmer raking windrows of hay.
A friend, John Andrus, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., sent it with a note kidding me about being, "back in the saddle."
John knows we have a farm, live in Amish country and appreciate photos of our spectacular corner of the world, especially when they turn up in unexpected places.
I kept the clipping on my desk for more than a month, harboring a gnawing feeling that there was something familiar about it.
Couldn't put my finger on it, though.
Then, this afternoon, as I pulled in the driveway, there in my hay field just north of the main house, was my old friend and neighbor, Ura Burkholder.
Ura, who is 83, was raking hay and suddenly as he pulled the reins and turned the horses at the edge of the field, I recognized some key elements of the clipping photo mailed from Arizona.
"Vhere did you get dat?" he asked when I jumped the wind rows to stop his team and show him the photo.
"Arizona," I said.
"It vent preddy far, chust to make the trip back home, didn't it?" he laughed in his charming Pennsylvania Dutch accent.
Yeah, he was driving the same team of Belgians. They were pulling the same rake and he was wearing the same hat.
We're not sure about the shirt.
So, this evening I walked into the field and got my own picture (always from the back to avoid precise identification) with his son, Jonas, operating a baler in the background. (See photo above.)
Remember the old adage: "What goes around, comes around?"
Like a boomerang.
Sept. 3, 2007 Love of learning continues after one-room school stint Esta is a retired school teacher.
She taught in a one-room school for two years.
That was enough.
A good teacher, she elected to pass when considering a longer career in the Amish parochial school.
She returned to the farm, where she splits her time working alongside her mother in the kitchen and garden, and alongside her father in the barn and the fields.
She can throw bales, shock wheat and shovel manure with the best of them. And without breaking a sweat, can bake half a dozen pies so good you'll get misty-eyed with the first mouthfull.
Then again, she can butcher a hog and trim out the meat with the finesse of a surgeon.
Suitors would be willing to bloody their hands and knees crawling miles along dirt roads to gain the favor of this girl.
But she reveals the hint of a sly smile when she talks weddings, so there's a guy out there somewhere and she's already taken.
I'm figuring next summer, maybe between first cutting of hay and the start of oats threshing.
She's nearly 20, finished her own schooling at 14 and worked for one of the local food distributors for a couple years before returning to the classroom as the person in charge.
An Amish parochial teacher steps to the head of the classroom with no formal training beyond the final day of her (or his) eighth grade school year.
"Oh, we could go to a one-day workshop if we thought we needed it, but the main thing is, if we had a good teacher in school and there was good discipline in our classroom, we just remember what it was like and we do the same."
"We have the workbooks to study in the evening and maybe in the morning before class, so we have lots of guidance from printed matter," she says.
"You know, the teacher learns right along with the pupils.
"Because you have to know the subject really well before you can explain it to a roomfull of pupils who would rather be outside playing softball."
That comment comes closer to the essence of Amish education than any I've heard in a long time.
They might stop attending school at the conclusion of eighth grade classes, but by that time, most students have a real understanding of the concept of education.
It continues for the rest of their lives.
And the teacher's most important job: inspiring them to never stop learning.
Aug. 30, 2007 Early to rise... for work and fresh peaches 7:45 a.m. is not an early start in Amish Country, except for me, the driver of the blue pickup.
Jonas' cows have been milked and his family has finished breakfast. Eli and his two boys have been at work in the cabinet shop for about an hour, Atlee and his son left for their (carpentry) job site nearly two hours ago.
Their wives have finished the morning dishes and have collected sturdy cardboard and plastic boxes. They're waiting when I arrive, because this morning is what I call the "Amish Peach Pickoff."
Baby Gold peaches arrived at Miller's Fruit Market VERY early this morning and the locals began arriving shortly after 7am, nearly an hour before the "official" opening time at the market.
When we arrive at about 7:58, the place is a beehive of activity. Stay alert or you'll catch an elbow in the ribs as everyone scrambles for the best peaches and it's the nearest thing to a free-for-all since the Independence Day parade where one of the floats was flinging mini Snickers bars like chocolate coated confetti.
Think Filene's basement (in Boston, Columbus, etc.) on sale day for wedding gowns.
The baby gold peaches arrive in huge wood crates holding (I'm guessing) 20-30 bushels each. Bushel baskets are parked nearby for each homemaker to use as measuring containers.
Some fill the baskets level full. My group fills theirs slightly above the edge of the basket.
Then there's the lady in pastel purple, who heaps each bushel measure until she has a carefully stacked pyramid of peaches above the top of each basket.
With the last peach delicately stacked at top center, she immediately -- without looking up and risking the challenging eye of the market owner -- begins transferring the fruit to her cardboard carton.
The owner really hasn't time to judge who's being fair and who's pushing the peach envelope. He's busy running a forklift, bringing more huge crates out for the throng.
Buggies, cars, trucks and vans are juggling for space like jackstraws on wheels.
All the peaches have been ordered in advance. This is no time for impulse buying. There'll be plenty of other fruit for the tourists who don't show 'till after 9 a.m.
It's now 8:28am and we have 32 bushels of fruit carefully stacked in the bed of my pickup.
Oh, we picked up an extra passenger, a schoolgirl who has the day off because her teacher is attending a wedding. She just happened to be a part of the peach picking scene, offered to help and is going home with Elsie to help work up the fruit.
She and Esta sit in back, nestled in with the boxes and bags of fruit while Esther and Elsie ride up front.
I spot no English women at the market and must assume that only the Amish are willing to endure the canning process to enjoy baby golds.
These are "canning peaches" and are way too hard and sour to enjoy raw. But some magic will take place over the next few months.
After 90 days or more of "curing" in the jar, the fruit emerges as one of those rare delicacies that defy description.
Maybe it's the memory of driving through the early morning lowland fog to get to the market. Maybe it's the memory of popping the lid on a jar of last year's crop.
Maybe it's listening in on the conversation of my passengers, who often forget that I can speak and understand "Pennsylvania Dutch."
And I wouldn't think of asking for money to make the trip.
I get paid in canned peaches.
Aug. 11, 2077 Ripples of life, even in death
Cletus and Evelyn Fender were content to scarcely make ripples in the community we call Amish Country.
They were brother and sister. Neither married, and they cared for each other all their lives. They weren't Amish, but their neighbors were, and the Fenders lived pretty much the Amish lifestyle.
No telephones, minimalist lifestyles, no ripples.
They were farmers, and Cletus also was a grave digger.
No backhoes for him. The gentle New Bedford native did it the hard way, with pick and shovel . . . and a love of outdoors, the smell of the soil, the heat of the sun.
By 2005, they were no longer able to keep up the pace. The farm was too much for them, and they sold it. Mostly to their Amish neighbors.
Cletus and Evelyn checked into the assisted-living section of Walnut Hills retirement center in Walnut Creek. Evelyn had been sick for years. Cletus took care of her, but by this time he couldn't do it alone.
The nursing home was good for her. She held on for about two years and passed away quietly at age 78.
The day of Evelyn's funeral, the nursing home folks went to Cletus's room to help him get to the church, and they found him dressed in his suit and tie, lying on the bed with arms folded across his chest. He was 76.
He wasn't breathing, but there was a trace of a smile on his face.
Maybe he died thinking about how he and Evelyn would be helping others for many years to come.
Maybe his final thoughts were about the ripple effect of their surprise gift to Habitat For Humanity.
Nearly a million dollars.
When they buried Cletus, his Amish neighbors came together and gave him the biggest compliment they could think of.
They hand dug his grave.
July 29, 2007 The antiques were smokin'!
Last week's antique power show near Guggisberg Cheese on the road to Charm, was a smokin' success.
Tree huggers of the world would have needed to be wearing double Depends had they witnessed the billowing black clouds of smoke as the old steam engine enthusiasts poured the coal to their massive power machines.
The Budget quotes Clint Johnson of Marengo, who was shoveling coal into his 1911 Geiser Peerless Model U, as saying, "My grandfather liked to raise hell with his engine and I ain't no different."
And they were running antique machinery like stationary balers, giant fans or generators and . . . threshing machines just like the one now hanging on the wall at Walnut Creek Cheese!
July 26, 2007 Gone fishing?
Coming up the highway leading to Indiantree Farm the other night, we suddenly realized there were people fishing in our pond!
Now at first blush, this doesn't sound like an unusual activity, except for the fact that there aren't any fish in our pond (unless you want to count the three grass carp that I put there 16 years ago to keep the weeds down).
So we did a quick U-turn and stopped by the pond, only to see that it was our neighbor Jonas and his family. Each member, from little Wilma to Jonas himself, was holding a pole and grinning across the water at us.
Wilma, who is four and brimming with mischief, was grinning so broadly her bonnet was nearly filled with teeth.
"Are you out of your minds?" I asked, jumping from the truck, "You know there are no fish in that pond!"
The water picks up some iron and sulphur as it emerges from the hillside and I always assumed that fish couldn't live in such an environment.
The Amish neighbors continued grinning as Wilma reached down and picked up a particularly attractive bluegill on a hook and line.
I was absolutely flummoxed . . . and I guess it showed.
And they were no longer grinning, they were laughing so hard they were making waves.
"I feel bad for you, you don't even know your own pond," Jonas laughed, then added the punch line.
"Last fall, when you weren't looking, I came up here and put some fish in your pond, just to show you it would work."
June 27, 2007 Construction project
I'm standing with three Amish men, talking to an electrical engineer about construction of the new museum and library.
One Amishman is the construction foreman, another is a cabinet/furniture/casket builder, and the third is a printer. The printer lives without electricity, drives a buggy and wears a black hat with black pants, black suspenders and dark blue shirt.
I'm the retired English man in shorts, a "1993 NBA Finals" T-shirt and a cane. The last 15 years of my career pretty much revolved around computers as an emerging and increasingly important tool of my trade as a coporate executive, so I figure I know my way around things electrical and electronic.
But it's the black-hatted Amishman who is saying, "I don't think it's prudent to have the 110 volt outlet and the data port terminals in the same floor receptacle; don't you think we'll risk getting noise in our network?"
The electrician agrees as I'm pondering: "How the devil does Marvin know this stuff?" Ivan (the other Amish man) chimes in to say, "Yeah, we always seperate them entirely. We made the mistake of having them too close together a number of years ago, and our computer people had fits trying to find the cause of the problem."
I say, " Um, yeah."
That problem solved, Ivan pulls out a laptop, calls up a photo file with more than 100 pictures of buildings from all over the country and opens one, saying, "Now this is the way I'd recommend we treat the trim around the soffit. I think the dentil work -- if we decide to have any -- has got to be small and subtle. Otherwise it overpowers the architecture of the whole building."
I say, "Uh, yeah."
And so it went, for a little over two hours, listening to my friends and getting hit by reminder after reminder, that although their formal education may have ended with the eighth grade, they never stopped learning.