Slices of Cheese and Life in Lancaster County

“Bird in the Hand” and “Intercourse” are unusual names for two towns in Lancaster County where we spent time exploring.  I was curious as probably many visitors are as to the origin of these names.  The first town I mentioned supposedly got its name when two men surveying the Old Philadelphia Pike road between Philadelphia and Lancaster in the 1700’s found themselves at a tavern or Inn.  They had a discussion about whether they should stop there for the night or travel on to Lancaster.   One of them said, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” meaning it is better to to keep what you have than to risk getting something better and ending up with nothing.   I really like the name of this town as it reminds me of something whimsical.  There are different ideas for how Intercourse was named.  One idea is this word comes from the informal fellowship and coming together during the day.  Another possibility came from horse racing that was once held on one side of the town on a long straightaway.  This was the “Enter Course” for the race with the name eventually getting changed to “Intercourse.”  Finally the name could have come from the fact that two roads in the town intersected.   However these names came about, they provide an interesting introduction to this part of Lancaster County.  The photo above is the Leaman Place covered bridge built in 1893 and located in the Intercourse area.  I have always been a fan of covered bridges!

In my earlier Lancaster County post, I talked about how enjoyable it was to drive around the countryside admiring all the homes, farms and scenic beauty.  It was also fun to stop in at  farms and roadside stands open for business.  We made stops at an Amish farm to get eggs, another one for strawberries, a specialty shop next to a home that made the best flavored popcorn and a roadside stand for pound cake to go with the strawberries we bought earlier.  (We couldn’t resist the molasses cookies there either, an Amish specialty).   One of our favorite stops was at a goat dairy that produces a variety of cheeses.  We loved their blue cheese so much that we had to make a second trip to get more when we ran out.  To get to the farm we drove down a long dirt drive way and when we arrived found noone in the tiny shop.   This is a self serve business where you fill out the log book as to what you are purchasing and then put money in the cash drawer, making change as needed.  I always get a kick out of these self pay opportunities because they are so rare.   I think the last time was when we were traveling in North Dakota some years ago and stopped at a pottery shop.   No one was in the shop and we made a self payment for a small vase.   I actually received a nice email from the owner apologizing for not being at the shop to wait on us!

Later on the owner of the goat farm did come out and talked to us.  Almost everyone we have met in Amish country is friendly and talkative, genuinely interested in conversation.   After getting our cheese and some soap (I love goat milk soap), we headed over to visit with the goats.  They were very friendly also, a little too friendly as one proceeded to rip a hole along the bottom hem of Mark’s shirt.   In the picture above, you can see a tiny tan colored building behind Mark.  That is where the owner went to make a phone call while we saw the goats.  I will write more about Amish phone usage in a paragraph below.  At this farm I also took a picture of the clothesline, a common sight at Amish farms and homes.   The clothes are dried on long lines that are operated by a pulley from the house.

Another great farm stop was at the Lapp Valley Dairy, well known for their homemade ice cream which was so fresh and delicious!   Visitors are free to roam around this beautiful farm and check out the animals.   It was an idyllic scene seeing the Jersey cows grazing on green pastures.  Visitors can also come and observe the evening milking if they wish.

My favorite animal encounter here was visiting with the calves which were so cute.  Here is a little guy I had a chat with.

I really enjoy checking out gardens to see what people are growing.  In this part of the country it seems every home has a garden and they all looked well cared for.  Below is a photo of the Lapp Dairy home and garden.  I believe those are potato plants located closest to the house.

Amish homes do not have phones as they are seen as unnecessary and a link to the outside world which they strive to be separate from.  But phones are still needed in order to conduct business and for emergencies.  As a solution they use a “community phone” located in a tiny building resembling an outhouse and placed at the end of a road or in a field.  One phone might be used by several neighbors.  Below is a photo of a phone shack in a field next to a home.

I found the Amish school system to be very interesting.   Children attend one room schools with about 30 students from the 1st through the 8th grade.  There are many of these schools that can be seen as you drive around, although school was out for the summer when we were visiting.   The Amish teacher is usually an unmarried woman who does not have more than an 8th grade education herself as the Amish do not believe in higher education.  Religion is not formally taught in the schools.   Subjects include reading, arithmetic, spelling, grammar, penmanship, history and geography.  The classes are conducted in English but the German language is also used in their studies.  Below is a picture of an Amish school. You can see a bell on top of the roof used to announce the start of school.

In 1972, a Supreme Court ruling exempted Amish school children from having to attend beyond the 8th grade.  The schools receive no government funding and therefore the parents have to pay any expenses associated with their children’s education including the teacher’s salary.   There is a local board made up of fathers that supervise and manage each school.   When students finish the 8th grade, they receive some home schooling as well as vocational education.  The schools use outhouses and below you can see the outhouse painted white.  This school sits alongside  the road or driveway leading to the goat dairy farm we visited.

Thanks for following along during our exploration of Lancaster County!  In the next blog I continue with more of our Pennsylvania adventures!

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