Monday, October 1, 2012

Amish Tour

This weekend, 4 of us loaded up my husband's car and headed to Columbia County to do the Amish tour.  There could not have been a better match of friends for a road trip through rural Wisconsin in the fall.  It was cool sunny weather and the leaves were beginning to turn.  It turned out to be a very scenic drive.  We had a map of the Amish businesses in the area but no real plan to get there.  Johanna had also mentioned the area had plenty of barns painted with quilt squares on the sides so we tried to make an additional map of some of those.  We didn't have a highway map yet, but we had a GPS in the vehicle and a couple of smart phones.  Wasn't that enough?  We took off on highways from Milwaukee and drove just south of Horicon Marsh.  I thought we might see some birds, but apparently they are mostly gone by now.  I've heard that if you want to see them, go in August.  We got off track as we got closer.  The conversation was too good, we didn't have a big picture map, and we really didn't care how we got there.  We went off on some side roads and never really did the exact route the Amish tour dictates, but it was a heck of a lot of fun anyway and we saw a lot of Amish farms enroute.

We saw this windmill farm in the middle of rolling wooded hills
The first stop we made was at an Amish house selling eggs and honey.  As we drove in, a barking dog greeted us.  A woman had a young girl perched on a stool outside the front door and she was braiding her hair.  There were 3 small children outdoors with her and another 3 older kids inside watching as we stood there talking.  It didn't seem like the younger children spoke English.  I've heard they speak a German dialect in that area.  Unfortunately, you won't get to see many photos of the farms and the people.  It's considered inappropriate to photograph the people.  They were all very friendly though.

We stopped at another farm to buy fried pies for $1 each.  Small hand size fruit pies in 5 different flavors, coated in sugar icing wrapped in a wax paper bag.  We tasted one each and I ended up taking some more home with me.  Delicious!


Fried fruit pies for sale
quilt square on a barn

There were three bakeries in the area and we had been warned that some things sell out by noon.  They are only open Friday and Saturday.  The smell was heavenly, even from the parking lot.  Once you walked in the door, there were metal baker's shelves with pies, bread, cookies, and sweets.  Everything was fresh, locally made, and reasonable priced.  There were also some hand woven baskets and wood crafts for sale on the other side of the floor.

From there we headed to the "Amish row" where there were many businesses clustered one after the other.  We didn't stop at all of them, but peeked in on a few.  We had a demonstration on a 25 year old wood loom from a single woman who makes rugs.  She said it was hard on the back, and although she also sews, she has to make choices.  She can weave rugs for sale or sew for her own needs and make nothing.  She rarely makes new outfits, although her store was well stocked with socks, fabrics, threads, etc. - everything anyone who sews would need.  She explained that the women don't wear buttons so their clothing is pinned together.  She took care of her mother whose home shared the same land.  Her shop was attached to her own home, and that made it hard to leave the shop and truly relax.  She thought her loom would need some parts replaced that had rusted, but that would mean finding a ride in a vehicle with someone outside the community to go to Fond du lac where she thought she might find the necessary parts.

The smell from the parking lot was heavenly
The produce and flowers were absolutely beautiful.  There were varieties of vegetables that I had never seen before- a multitude of squash and even some purple peppers.  Everything was neatly displayed, organic, and very cheap in comparison to our local grocery stores.  I was amazed that you could go pick your own bouquet at 10 cents per stem.  At the general store, everything was sold in bulk.  You could find homemade mixes for anything you could imagine.  I bought some peanut butter made with honey roasted peanuts and got a bag of wheat germ for 79 cents.  If you wanted to do some BIG shopping you could buy 25 pound bags of oatmeal.  There is no electricity in the whole building, yet it was very light inside because of many skylights.  Most of the customers were like us who drove in with cars, but there were several buggies and Amish people inside shopping too.  You had to pay cash or a check, and the check out girls just had adding machines.  We met another of my classmates and long time neighbor/friend Kathy there.  She lives not far from this community and knew of a great Mexican bar in the area where we headed after we'd filled up the entire back of the SUV with our treasures.  It was fun seeing her and sharing stories with the 5 of us.  Then we headed back to Milwaukee- a different way than we had come, but not necessarily on purpose.  We did manage to find Waupun enroute and saw a variety of historic statues, but even better yet- a coffee and chocolate shop!  It was a great day with lots of fun and laughter.  I'm already wondering how we can do something like this all over again!
Flowers for 10 cents a stem
Beautiful flowers and horses everywhere


I was surprised to see Longhorn cows at the furniture store


Pretty funny!

This is the SUV equivalent of a buggy


The general store has no electricity but skylights are adequate


Cornstalks drying


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