Summer in Minnesota Amish Country

Amish Produce
Amish Garden Produce

Summer is a very busy time for the Amish people.  The Amish women and children tend to their large gardens, keeping them free from weeds and picking ripe fruit and vegetables.  Many of the Amish farms we stop at tend to have small garden plots near their home with  larger gardens elsewhere on the farm.  After nine years of giving these tours, I’m still amazed at the size of their produce – imagine onions the size of  softballs!

A hard frost damaged some of the strawberry plants this spring, so strawberries have  not been as plentiful for the Amish as they had wanted.  It looks like many of the raspberries are ready and are quite abundant.  Most Amish women are canning raspberry jams, jellies, and pie filling this time of year.  One of my favorite berries they often sell  are wild black caps (black raspberries).  The Amish folks venture out into their woods to pick the sweet, wild black raspberries. Their arms often bear lots of scratches from the brambles, showing their hard work in finding the berries.  One of my favorite desserts is vanilla ice cream topped with fresh, Amish-picked, black caps!

While the Amish women and children are busy tending gardens and canning produce, the Amish men and boys (and sometimes the women) are busy cultivating corn, mowing, raking, and loading hay from their fields.  All of this field work is done with a team of work horses.  They do not use tractors in their field like their English (non-Amish) neighbors.  It is tough work loading cut, loose hay onto the hay wagon only to  then unload it into the upper level of the barn in the hay mow.  Hot weather is needed to dry the hay before it can be brought out of the field and placed in the barn.

Amish Field of Shocked Oats
Shocked Oats

While on the tour, I spied a couple of Amish men shocking oats in their field.  The oats are cut with a binder pulled by a horse and bundles of oats are dropped on the ground.  The Amish men and boys walk the field, stacking the oats into shocks to dry.  Once again, much walking and hard work is done in the field.  When the oats are dry, the Amish farmers will collect the oat shocks by tossing them onto a horse-drawn wagon and bringing them to the farm to harvest.  The Amish farmers use a large engine-and-belt-driven threshing machine to separate the grain.  Often they set the thresher in the barn and  toss the oat bundles into the thresher.  The threshed grain is unloaded into one bin while the straw is blown out in another bin to keep for livestock bedding.

Don’t just take my word for it, though!  Join us on our Bluffscape Amish Tours and be transported to another time as you watch the Amish farmers labor in their fields. See  how the strong, beautiful horses pulling field equipment behind them are the ultimate Amish hybrid vehicle.  Witness Amish women work tirelessly to produce and preserve food to feed their families, run a household, and craft beautiful quilts, baskets, and other goods for sale. The scene may  spark a memory for many of the guests as they, too, worked in a similar fashion on the farm once, or recall parents and grandparents sharing stories of the days before tractors.  So take a step back in time with me and book your ticket today!

August Harvest and Canning

Another summer is soon coming to a close and once again, I haven’t had a chance to write on my blog. Amish tours have been keeping us busy everyday in August. I did get a chance to sneak away on vacation with the family. Thanks to Eric and Vern for their guiding expertise while we were away. Our family had a wonderful time in SD, NE, WY, MT, ND, and MN. Lots of driving, but well worth it!

Now is a great time to go on an Amish tour as the Amish are working in their fields binding corn, chopping and blowing it into their silos. The also can be found loading alfalfa and baling it right in their farmyards. All of this is done with stationary diesel or gas engines and horse drawn equipment, no tractors. Many Amish have garden produce available for purchase at their farms. Melons, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers are a few veggies from their garden they have for sale. Amish ladies have been canning bushels of tomatoes, tomato juice, and tomato salsa. The peaches have been canned and now I have seen that pears have arrived and they will be next on the list to preserve.

One Amish lady on our tour has finished two new quilts–dahlia and lone star patterns. She also takes custom orders for quilts as well. She pieces the quilts with her treadle sewing machine and hand stitches the top. They really are a work of art.

Enjoy the end of summer! Soon the kids will be back in school and our schedules will revolve around school activies as well as work.

Amish Strawberries

Gardens, gardens, gardens!!! The Amish gardens are big, beautiful and bountiful. Strawberries are ready and available for sale at some of the Amish farms on our tours. I’ve had my share of berries from a couple Amish families this week. The strawberries are plump and sweet! Kirsten and I are hoping to use our new dehydrator this week to make strawberry rhubarb lace–like a fruit roll-up.

Fresh picked vegetables that are for sale include peas, green beans, and lettuce. One family gave me a bunch of broccoli this week. I prepared the broccoli on our grill for dinner tonight and it was delicious!
The Amish are back working in their fields after many days of rain. They have been cultivating corn and mowing hay with their team of work horses. I think it is amazing to watch them drive their team between the rows of corn. I had a fellow on the tour that had grown up farming with horses and he remembered the hard work involved. My dad has many stories to tell about farming with horses as well. Maybe that is why I’m fascinated with watching them–I haven’t had to work with the horses!
Happy Father’s Day to my dad and all dads!