Staying in the Amish areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio has been one of our favorites, so we were very happy to also spend time in the Amish country of Northern Indiana. All three areas have also had their unique differences. Whereas Ohio was the hilliest of the three, we found Indiana to have the flattest topography. Indiana seemed to have more creeks and rivers. Just like in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the countryside and farmsteads were beautiful in Indiana. Alas, living amongst the Amish sounds inviting, could we join? Mark actually asked our Amish tour guide in Ohio if people do convert. The answer was yes, occasionally if they are willing to adopt the lifestyle and language. Mark’s question was more out of curiosity than seriousness, but these areas definitely appeal to us.
When I called to make camping reservations in the town of Shipshewana, I was told that we would enjoy our RV site because it was near the horses. Being around horses and buggies is one of the highlights of an Amish stay, so I was happy to hear that. There also seemed to be more horses and buggies here in Indiana. Since our RV Park was off a main thoroughfare, we regularly heard or saw the Amish traveling by like in the photo above. The pasture closest to our site had several draft horses, the kind that are used by the Amish to pull the heavy wagons or farm equipment. I tried to make friends with a couple of them but they were not interested.
The draft foal even laughed at me during one of my visits 😆. So, I decided to head over to the pasture bordering the other side of the Park where a passel of ponies lived. These little guys were friendlier and more interesting and I began visiting them each evening after we were done with our days’ activities.
There were a couple of babies, including this tiny one which was no bigger than a small dog.
There is always plenty of shopping in Amish country and our stay in Indiana was no different. We were just a short distance from an Amish bulk grocery store that carried everything imaginable. Of course, Mark and I can’t shop in bulk because we live in such a tiny space, but wandering around and seeing everything for sale was very interesting. Outside was the largest collection of outdoor furniture for sale I have seen with rockers, swings, benches, tables and playground equipment. I could probably happily spend some time just walking around trying out all the comfortable seats. The possibilities seemed endless. There were also lots of outdoor decorations including weather vanes, yard ornaments and baskets. Some of the huge baskets were used as planters.
As interesting as the Amish bulk store was, our favorite was a variety shop also located next to our Park. This is the place where the Amish buy fabric to make clothes as well as already made clothing items and shoes. I had to get another serious photo of Mark trying on an Amish hat. This time it was a more proper one for church and serious occasions.
The clothing for sale featured jackets and vests made with hooks and eyes rather than buttons, an Amish preference.
Besides clothing, the store seemed to sell a little of everything including toys, books, school supplies, cards and household items. I found a German reader that is used by the children in the local schools. It was the same reader I saw in the school building we visited in Ohio. Since I studied German in school and Mark and I lived in Germany for a few years (decades ago), I bought the book to see how much I could remember.
The biggest outdoor flea market can be found here – the Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market with 900 vendors. It is so big a map book is handed out in order to navigate the complex and find vendors of interest. I thought the auctions were really interesting at a flea market we visited in Pennsylvania, so I headed inside one of the largest buildings and watched auctioneers and bidders at work on an array of collectible items. With all the people it was loud and chaotic. Mark beat a hasty retreat and I didn’t stay long either.
I was looking forward to seeing some “homegrown” plants, vegetables, fruits and flowers. But there was hardly any of that. Even the baked goods the Amish are so famous for were almost nonexistent here. We found only one place and they were selling hand pies, or what I would call fruit turnovers. Almost everything seemed to be made elsewhere, especially China. It was a huge concentrated area to buy any kind of “stuff” someone might want. Many people like that, but Mark and I really aren’t in to shopping for “stuff,” so we didn’t spend hours here. My souvenir for the day was the most “authentic” thing I could find, a discarded Amish horseshoe. It even came with a little paper describing the patches of “grit” which are placed on shoes to give horses more traction on pavement.
Mark and I couldn’t resist hitting up the Amish buffets while in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but in Indiana, we didn’t have any interest. At our age, you can only overeat so much 😜 . I was happy to see that we were staying almost next door to a soft pretzel cafe. Pennsylvania Amish country had great soft pretzels, but we didn’t find any during our Ohio stay. We zipped over to Ben’s the day after we got there. I didn’t care for the pretzels 🥨, but Mark found his way there a few more times.
We found better pretzels and more interesting shopping 🛍 at the Davis Mercantile in downtown Shipshewana. With four floors in a beautiful brick building there were many interesting shops, including the most beautiful quilt store I have seen, a store specializing in jigsaw puzzles (I do like puzzles), a candy shop, “Life is Good” T-shirt shop (my favorite t-shirts), toy store and musical instrument shop. They even have an amazing hand carved carousel. We had more fun browsing here than at the famous Shipshewana Flea Market.
And now for some musings on lawn care. One of the things I like best about the Midwest are the beautiful manicured lawns. We never saw lawns like this in California, so I was continually amazed by them. I began wondering if it was some kind of civil offense 😊 to not keep a lawn continually mowed. Driving around Ohio and then Indiana, I never saw an unmowed or less than perfect lawn. People have very large front yards and even with all the continual damp weather, residents were out in force to make sure they were trimmed. Below is a shining example of one section of lawn along a driveway next to our Park. This isn’t even the whole lawn, it extends much further than in the photo. How do Midwesterners have time for all this yard work? For this Californian, the question remains.
Hope you enjoyed a look at Indiana’s Amish Country. More to come on this special area in the next blog.
Below, a gallery of pictures of more horses and ponies as you can never have enough (in my opinion).