Category: Farming

Before the fall

Gourds
Gourds

So I’m driving around early this morning thinking about the big questions in life: Is a pumpkin a gourd, and just how do you spell gourd? Between that and the meaning of the new Taylor Swift song my mind was reeling.

Then I saw two Amish kids setting up a farm stand. They had some big Turk’s Turbans which look like pumpkins but are actually squash, and all kinds of gourds for sale. I stopped to take a quick photo while these kids talked my ear off about everything from corn to camel’s milk.

It turns out that pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the same family but they are actually all squash. As for the correct spelling, the Amish seem to think that gourds are spelled ghourds, unless this only applies to mini ghourds.

Later I read more about Taylor’s new song and decided I couldn’t care less, but the important thing is that fall is coming and these mini gourds (ghourds) are only five for a dollar. The turbans were $3 each so I passed, but I may go back because I could be the first kid on my block to have one.

Big Stereotypes

Big Amos
Big Amos

This is Big Amos, the Barefoot Amish Giant and he stands at the Hershey Farm Restaurant in Strasburg, Pennsylvania misleading tourists and locals that know nothing about the Amish culture.

The definition of a stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified idea of a particular type of person or thing, and like all stereotypes this is as wrong as wearing a straw hat backwards.

First of all Amos is fifteen feet tall, very few Amish men are that size except for a few on the big, big farms where they spend most of their time making giant chairs and scaring the cows.

Amos also stands there and smiles while you take his photo, which does not happen in real life. Some Amish men will let you photograph them but they look at you like they know you stole their chickens but can’t prove it.

This kind of misinformation only confuses tourists who expect all Amish men to look like this and leads to disappointment when they discover that the average farmer is normal sized and wears shoes or boots (very important around well fed horses).

It’s been said that ignorance is bliss, which brings to mind the story of the Amish farmer and the tourist. Pay attention because there’s a moral in there somewhere.

A tourist stopped in at the farm where old Elmer Yoder was busy pumping water with his hand pump. “Where’s route forty?” the tourist asked. Elmer ignored him, continuing to draw water. “Where’s route forty?” the tourist now shouted. Old Elmer continued filling his bucket. “Are you ignorant or deaf?” the tourist shouted next. “Both,” Elmer said, finally turning around. “But at least I’m not lost.”

Buying the Farm

The Farm
The Farm

As I get older I find myself thinking a lot about buying the farm. There are two ways to do it: one is to quit your job (if you have one) and literally buy a farm in the middle of nowhere, the other way is to stop breathing.

I know that everyone will buy the farm sooner or later and to deny it is futile, but I have to wonder what it will be like. Will it be an endless succession of meaningless working days like Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for eternity, or will it be more like Green Acres?

I like to imagine that being on the farm with my wife Lisa will be frustrating but there will still be good times. Mr. Haney will finally sell me a washing machine that works. Sam Drucker will eventually get those seeds I ordered, and the girls from Petticoat Junction will move into the guest house (Lisa is fine with it).

And one stormy day while sitting around the general store, Eb will ask me if I think the rain will hurt the rhubarb. And I’ll smile because I learned the answer to that question long ago working with a Polish house painter. Not if it’s in the can Eb, not if it’s in the can.

Were you born in a barn?

Barn find
Barn find

When I was growing up my father was very fond of the phrase: Close the door, were you born in a barn? I felt this was rhetorical so I never answered, but I always wondered about the barn lifestyle.

It must be a great place to live I thought, because for one thing you apparently didn’t have to close the doors. But we lived in Levittown, Long Island in the 60’s and there were no barns anywhere to be found.

Later we moved further East to Setauket, and in the woods behind our house was a real barn, doors open and everything. The owner was said to be insane and shooting trespassers was not out of the question so I never had the nerve to see it up close.

Here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania there are almost as many barns as soccer moms who drive like Indy Car racers. And I still wonder what it would be like to live in one. I have a feeling it’s probably cold in the winter, hot in the summer, smelly and buggy.

Of course some people renovate old barns to perfection, complete with heat, air conditioning, windows and even doors that close and lock. But I think that most of the people who can afford that were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth. The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south. The simple things I see are all complicated, I look pretty young, but I’m just back-dated, yeah.

The Camels of Lancaster County

I'd walk a mile...
I’d walk a mile…

Yes Virginia, there are camels in Lancaster County on a very large farm off Mill Creek School Road in Bird-In-Hand. I’ve been there before but the big ones always seem to be way off in the field doing whatever camels do.

Yesterday I was in the area, which is not far from the daring cow escape I witnessed on Friday, and discovered three baby camels frolicking just a few feet from the barn. This one may not look like a baby but a baby camel can weigh up to 90 pounds at birth, the other two were much smaller.

In the past I would have gladly walked a mile for three camels, maybe more if I knew they would be posing in good light. But they share the same problems with horses and Alpacas: crud in their eyes and unless it’s late in the season, flies all over those pretty faces.

At one point a tour bus called The Amish Experience pulled up and let three passengers off to take selfies. I thought nothing of it until one woman insisted on kissing the big one, not once but several times. I hope it was good for her because he seemed a bit confused by the whole thing.

I found out that these are dairy camels and are raised for their milk. Also available are camel milk yogurt and camel milk soap which is made by a local company. I didn’t really smell them but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to smell like a camel right out of the shower.

It’s really something to see if you’re not expecting it, but for a local like me it’s as normal as a tourist making out with one. Maybe they should set up a kissing booth because that tour bus passes by every day. It’s all good until someone gets their nose bit off though; I guess they could sign a waiver.

Desktop to Instagram the Easy Way

Mowing the lawn
Mowing the lawn

The Amish don’t care about Instagram but a lot of people do. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get on there but I don’t have a smart phone believe it or not, and I looked into the workarounds.

Most are complicated and involve either setting up a Dropbox account or using an app to mimic a mobile device. But I found a Firefox add-on called User Agent Switcher which impersonates a mobile device, takes seconds to install and works perfectly.

After installing the free add-on you’ll see an icon on the toolbar with a dropdown menu to choose your preferences, choose Android / Crome 40 before signing in and you can upload, crop and caption. Use hashtags with abandon but the maximum allowed is thirty per post.

Instagram used to insist on a square format but now lets you upload landscape and portrait-oriented photos, although not with this method. So either crop to square in editing or change the aspect ratio on your camera to 1:1.  Photos should be 1080 x 1080 pixels but can be less if necessary.

If you’re already on Instagram this can save you a lot of time, but if you’re thinking of starting ask yourself why. I met a guy named Steven Maerz who owns thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, posts absolutely stunning shots of bald eagles among other things, and has 464 followers while Love Food has 6.9 million followers.

So if you’re the competitive type consider posting a lot of photos of your lunch, because not surprisingly, a grilled cheese sandwich is much easier to compose square than an Amish man mowing his lawn.

Check out the User Agent Switcher Add-on for Firefox here. You may want to check out Love Food for inspiration but not if you’re on a diet, there’s a lot of cake.

Listening to the Amish

Amish Horses
Amish Horses

I was driving down the local back roads this morning watching the Amish farmers get their fields ready for planting. They don’t like to be photographed but it’s hard to resist, fortunately he hid behind one of the horses and all you can see is his hat (I planned it that way).

It took a few minutes for him to get close enough and I heard him singing an old song I recognized. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed as clear as day and it went like this:

“Green Acres is the place to be. Farm livin’ is the life for me. Land spreadin’ out so far and wide, keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”

There are eight million stories in the naked county; this has been one of them.