Monday, August 23, 2010

A Pleasant Outing

"The Cabin" serves as the sales office for the greenhouse and for the produce which is kept in a cold storage facility located behind the building.
Note the "Porta-Potty" for the convenince of shoppers and workers.

I wish that I had photos of my three companions of the afternoon.  Since they are Amish, I couldn't offend them by flourishing a camera.
There are a number of people in our area who make a bit of money by transporting the Amish families on the errands where a horse and buggy wouldn't be practical.
Daily we see an old van going by which takes several young men to work on a neighboring farm.
Others take the Amish men to work at a furniture factory near town and deliver them home again.
On Friday afternoon our neighbor, Joe Yoder, phoned and asked J. if he could drive him in to the bank and then to Wal Mart.  J. was not especially busy and was happy to do so.
[Apparently the usual drivers have been much in demand and not always readily on call.]

Joe offered him 10 dollars--the standard fee for that distance.  J. declined but told Joe he would appreciate his help when the basement family room is finished and furniture needs to be moved down the stairs.

This morning Joe's wife, Delilah, phoned to ask if she could have a ride to Russell Springs to pick up frozen fruit and several boxes of tomatoes.
J. volunteered my services.
Joe gets off work at 2:30 and would be home to stay with the three little boys.
[Sylvanus, Ephraim and Enoch.]
Joe and Delilah's two oldest children are girls--Elizabeth and Caroline.
[Lest you wonder, there are five children and the oldest is barely 7!]

If I had any qualms, they vanished when I saw the little girls who were obviously freshly dressed and combed, beaming at me in happy anticipation of their outing.
Their identical frocks and pinafores, ankle length, were of a soft golden brown. Their curly hair was braided and tucked under sheer white caps which tie under the chin. Each carried the traditional stiff black formal bonnet which the Amish women wear to church or in public.
Delilah, who is a portly young woman, wore a dark green gown in the traditional Amish style--full pleated skirt, high neckline and long sleeves, with a detachable matching over-bib.  She also was carrying  her black bonnet.
[None of the three donned their bonnets at any point and I didn't like to inquire about proper bonnet etiquette.]

As we settled ourselves in the car, after various admonitions regarding our route, helpfully supplied by Joseph, I realized our destination was the area of Mennonite-owned shops in Casey County--about 30 miles away.
These enterprising families own a splendid greenhouse, garden seed sales and fresh produce outlet, a bakery and bulk foods store.
J. and I have been there several times and the photos on this post are from our visits there earlier in the season.

Vegetable and annual flowering plants for sale in one section of Hillside Greenhouse--photo taken in late April.

That's J. headed into the bakery and bulk foods store.
The place smells tantalizingly of fresh-baked goods, of spices and grains.
Golden honey gleams in ranks of shining quart jars.
One area of shelves holds dried herbs and botanicals neatly labeled in cello packets, along with tins of herbal salves and ointments.

I have been puzzled by some of the items--bagged portions of "doughnut mix", dry "gravy base"--and most colorfully---plastic bags of rainbow-hued "jello."
Delilah, who keeps the local Amish store in one end of her house, explained that all manner of these mixes are available in bulk wholesale, to be weighed out into smaller batches.
Apparently there is a sisterhood of cooks who know the proportions of mix and the amount of eggs, shortening, liquid to be added, as there are no instructions included.

The Sunny Valley store also has  several glass-fronted coolers containing fresh butter put up in paper-wrapped rolls, gourmet cheeses, buttermilk and ungraded local eggs.
Some of the pre-packaged foods such as a variety of noodles and pasta, bottled juices, snacks, are trucked in from small Amish or Mennonite production plants in Indianna or Ohio.

The Sunny Valley Bakery store also has a supply of colorful sunbonnets for sale.
I believe these are locally made.
While our Amish neighbors wear modest dresses in solid brown, blue, navy, purple or green, the Mennonite women are usually seen in dresses made of  calico prints--blue, lavender, aqua, rose pink--with an apron in a coordinating print.  They too, wear the sheer white cap.

A rack of colorful "ready-made" aprons.
Delilah told me that she, like most Amish women, makes the dresses and pinafores for her daughters as well as her own voluminous gowns.
The men and boys wear suspendered pants with front buttons.  Their shirts --usually blue or green--appear to be "store bought."
The males sport black-banded straw hats in warm weather--and black felt low-crowned hats for Sunday or in cooler weather.
The hitching rail outside "Misty Mountain Sales" another neighborhood emporium which stocks bolts of fabrics for dresses, aprons and men's denim pants; needles and notions; canning jars, pressure canners, small, hand-cranked churns, a nice line of bake-ware, cutlery.
Also available here are children's coloring books, story books [themed to the "plain people" lifestyle] Bibles, greeting cards.
At the back of the store are racks of lovely quilts--hand-finished.  There are rocking chairs, Amish made bedroom furniture, desks, benches, hutches--nice quality. There are also massive nickle-garnished wood-fired "ranges" and rather less regal "chunk stoves."

Delilah asked if I had time to stop there and I was pleased to oblige.
We agreed that there are advantages to leaving the males--of any age--behind and enjoying a "ladies only" shopping trip.
The little girls were so well-behaved--both in the car and in each store where we browsed.

Casey County is on "fast time"--as it is locally called. We live in Adair County which is on Central Time.
Thus, although the bakery where Delilah needed to collect the 5 pails of frozen cherries and "The Cabin" where the boxes of tomatoes waited in cold storage, were ready to close when we arrived, they had agreed to wait on us when we got there.

The tomatoes on offer were of good quality, grown on a Mennonite farm which we had passed driving up the ridge, and were appealingly priced.
Since the tomato crop in our neighborhood has been disappointing, I was prepared to buy more to can.
The Cabin had 12 boxes ready.  If Delilah and I would buy them all, a dollar was knocked off the price of each carton!
It took some effort to stow 12 boxes of tomatoes, 5 pails of frozen fruit and the oddments we had both purchased. Delilah ended up with my box of eggs, fresh butter and a slab of maple fudge [for J.] tucked in at her sensibly black-shod feet.
The little girls had a treat of ice cream on a stick--which, I am glad to report, they ate promptly and tidily.
Delilah knew the scenic route home--by the back roads.  She expressed pleasure at one stretch of the road which lies straight between towering green trees---while I expressed my hope that I didn't overtake a horse and buggy on one of the tight curves that wind around the ridges and swoop into the valleys.

Said Delilah, "We buy buggy horses that know how to behave on the highway!  They aren't afraid of cars!"

Our conversation was easy and domestic;  there was a sense of shared pleasure in each other's company and in our thrifty purchases squeezed into every available space.
As we neared home, Delilah mentioned that the standard driver's fee for this round trip is 40 dollars.
I couldn't take it.
I assured her that if I drove her there again I would accept a donation for gas, but that the afternoon had been gainful for me--I wouldn't have realized I could get the tomatoes there--we got a better price--I had enjoyed a favorite shopping place--and we had spent the several hours
 at our own leisurely pace, without heeding the hurry of men!

The grounds of the greenhouse and sales cabin as well as the bakery are beautifully landscaped with shrubs and ferns, roses and flowering plants from the greenhouse.
This glowing red hibiscus was in bloom when J and I were there last month.

If you don't hear from me for several days--you may assume I am canning tomatoes!


  1. Fascinating. We lived in a Mennonite community in Canada, north of Toronto. In fact we rented the upstairs of one family's home. I was ill most of that winter. I was expecting our eldest son and had to be hospitalized for weeks. The 9 months were no picnic and I lost a lot of weight but the family were so kind and thoughtful. Wonderful people.

  2. I enjoyed every word of this post wonderful it must be, to be part of this comunity. I would not have been able to take the money either but I agree that if its regular, gas money or help, like J aked for is the answer....a good deed for a good deed. You had a great day out too in, what sounds like, great company.xx

    I am so nosey that I would have asked about the hat tradition lol

  3. Great post, I have to say I admire the Mennonite and Amish, what a beautiful lifestyle. How interesting!

  4. What a beautiful day out you had. We recently visited Lancaster county in PA, and it's very similar to what you have there. When moving day gets here, I think I'll try to find an area with Amish folk, they seem to be such good neighbors. And it must be lovely and quiet there - no thumping stereo or boom box in their homes, nor do they have cars with auditory assaults roaring past your home...sounds like Heaven to me!

  5. This is a lovely post, I'd love to visit an Amish area and see stores like the ones you visited. Your description of the sort of things they sell makes them even more appealing. There are a good many positive aspects to the Amish way of life.

  6. It sounds like you had a lovely day out in nice company! There are some Mennonite communities in the southern part of my county; i learned at some point that my house was probably built by Mennonite carpenters which explains why the little house is so sturdy and quality but not fancy. There are quite a few Mennonite and old order Amish all along the Shenandoah Valley and the local quilt shop that we go to while on our annual quilt retreat has a wonderful mix of Mennonite and "English" employees and customers.