Roy and Rex Get Tacked Up!

I am the artist painting the life sized mural of the team of Belgian Amish work horses at  Lehman’s in the ‘Buggy Barn’.  These last two days ‘Roy and Rex’ took some major steps forward.  I worked on getting more definition and depth on the horses yesterday and then today, I began painting on the harness.  Saddles, bridles and harnesses are referred to as ‘tack’ so today the horses got tacked up!  The team will be painted with a full harness so this will be a long process but very important!  Already I can see how impressive these horses will look hitched up and ready to go!

If you go to  http://empty.lehmans.com/author/suesteiner/  you can see the progression of the mural from blank wall to the current post in reverse order.  I will post updates on the mural every couple days so stop back often!

Also mark your calenders for Sat. July 12, 2008.  Lehman’s will be having an Art Festival featuring myself and other local artists.  I will be bringing equine and amish art to show and sell.  To see some of my artwork visit www.amish-art.com

 Thanks for stopping by!

Sue Steiner

Lehman’s in Natchez, MS

Kathi and friends

Kathi and friends

While on sabbatical leave from Lehman’s, my friend Judy and I traveled 1000 miles south to participate in an Elderhostle in Natchez MS along the Mississippi River. While there, it was my pleasure to visit with a couple who have been customers of Lehman’s for many years. Due to my schedule our visit was brief, but being with this delightful couple certainly made my trip more memorable. It was the first time I actually visited with one of my customer friends…..how special ! Oh, we drove down in the blizzard of the decade (even snowed in Natchez) and as we left Natchez it was 83 degrees with blooming azaleas, iris and red bud trees only to return to more Ohio snow.

Natchez MS has been ruled by five different nations and is a town that has been forgotten by time. It is at the southern end of the Natchez Trace and established in the 1700’s but is best known for their many Antebellum mansions dating from the 1800’s which are still as they were when they were first built ! It wasn’t burned during the Civil War and has been preserved for all of us who want to experience authentic living history. Throughout the year a few of these homes are open to the public, however, during their Spring and Fall Pilgrimage about thirty of these private homes are open to the public.

Survival: Caring for Orphan Lambs and Kids

I have a strange dance that I’m doing most days in my kitchen. It’s a step, slide, step, slide, turn around, lift over, step slide. If I stand still too long, I get chewed on – either on my knee or calf, through my pant leg.And why, do you ask, am I doing this strange dance? Because of little critters in my kitchen!

On Valentine’s Day this year, my husband Norm brought home a newborn kid for me to care for. His mother was a youngster herself and didn’t know how to care for him, much less have enough milk to feed him. As I held him and warmed him in my arms, I got to thinking – if YOU were given a newborn goat or sheep, could YOU care for it properly? Continue reading

How to Teach Green (Part I)

This is the first of a three part series on how to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle. Entitled “How to teach green,” it will help you instill respect for the earth in your children.

“I can use both sides of paper for drawing.” Allison, age 8

“If you turn the water off when you brush your teeth, over a year’s time you can save a lot of water.” Brandon, age 12

The first step is let your children learn about the environment. Learning is the path to caring.

Start simply. Instead of taking your preschooler to a massive nature preserve for a three-hour tour, collect a few leaves from a favorite tree and examine them under a microscope. Let the learning process begin (literally) in their own backyard. Find something they are already familiar with and learn more about it.
Go outside. It may sound simple, but send your children outside. They need to immerse themselves in the environment before they can care about it. If your children are outside at least once every day, they will become attuned to the seasonal changes, as well as the daily changes. When is the sun the brightest? Why? When does dusk fall? Does it change as the seasons change? What color are the leaves? Is the ground muddy or dry? Continue reading

A Bedtime Story – The Ides of March

Springtime. The very word conjures up visions of spindly legged lambs bouncing about, chickadees squabbling around the feeder, and trees breaking out in song while the sun beams down benevolently. All very Disney-esque. Unfortunately, I’ve long since been disabused. There’s not going to be a Laura Ingalls look-alike tripping down any of the snow drifts in my backyard any time soon. I have to think that Julius might have gotten to put in the garden come spring of 44 BC if he’d paid better attention to the season- a couple of months of cabin fever is likely to make even the most stoic of Roman Senators a bit cranky.

But there are some undeniable signs that spring is in the air and, rather than hiding under our togas, all that can be done is to grit our teeth and get on with it. Continue reading

Jay and his Antiques – The Thresher

Lehman’s retail store in Kidron, Ohio features a multitude of authentic historical products for sale. Did you know that the store is also decorated with actual antiques?

As folks walk around the store these antiques are prominently displayed. Some of these antiques are familiar to us, they resemble items we use today in our daily lives. The purpose of other antiques is sometimes not so obvious. Such is the case with one very large antique displayed above the checkouts at the West entrance to the store. Jay Lehman (Lehman’s founder) proudly takes us on a tour of this enormous machine here in this video. Enjoy!

Secrets of Success: Do it better for less

Inside the farm house

Inside the farm house

Recently Galen Lehman took several weeks off from his job as president of Lehman’s. He spent this time visiting suppliers and other businesses he knew and admired. The companies he visited ranged from 1 employee to 300 employees. Most were owned by Amish or Mennonite families. At each stop, he asked, “What is the secret of your success?” This is one of a series of postings about what he learned.

High on a round bump in southern Pennsylvania that locals call the red hill stands an Amish farm house surrounded by a jumble of outbuildings. Each of the outbuildings is dedicated to one part of the process of efficiently producing the best clothes drying rack in the world.

Custom made conveyor belt

Custom made conveyor belt

There’s a shop where dowels are turned out from raw lumber that was milled on-site. In fact, each component of the racks are made here…nothing but the screws is bought from any other vendor. (That’s right, rustproof plated screws, not cheap staples that rust like on competing dryers.)

In another building the frames are cut, planned, drilled and sanded. A custom-designed homemade conveyor system delivers the parts from one work station to the next, something I have never seen in an Amish-owned shop before.

Modern equipment run by hydraulic oil pressure to avoid electricity.

Modern equipment run by hydraulic oil pressure to avoid electricity.

Like most Amish shops, the entire operation is non-electric. Modern cutting equipment and the dust vacuum system have been converted to run on motors powered by hydraulic oil pumped by a huge diesel engine.

They know things about drying racks no one else does. For example, they use maple because it’s a good, fine-grained local wood. But oak, another fine local wood, is never used because it can stain your clothes.

Racks stacked high and ready for boxing and shipping.

Racks stacked high and ready for boxing and shipping.

Every step in the assembly has been analyzed and fine-tuned to eliminate wasted labor, wasted material and inefficiencies. In fact, they’ve done nothing but make exactly the same drying rack here for 30 years. During that time, they’ve constantly improved the process so that in all those years, the price has increased only slightly. This is the case even though the quality has gotten noticeably better.

The secret of their success is a single-minded focus on making one product in the best way possible. This is one business where new product ideas are not entertained. They already have “their” product. The only question now is how to make it more efficiently.

Roy and Rex, Amish Work Horse Mural

Things are moving along on the matched team of belgian horse mural I am painting in the ‘Buggy Barn’ at Lehman’s in the Kidron store.  I am still working on the base and ‘blocking in’ and defining muscles and the bone structure of the horses.  My hope is this will be a place that the visitors coming into the store stop to have their picture taken.  Lehman’s gets visitors from all around the world and even though the Amish sights are common place here in Kidron it is a unique experience for many people.  In the last photo you can see the beginnings of the collar and harness for the horses.  The harness used is quite elaborate so I have a lot of detail still to do in this area.  The horses learn what job is expected depending on the tack they are wearing.  In the field and on the farm these animals play a very important role.  One of the things I most enjoy is seeing the partnership between animal and people.  In the spring during plowing and planting season the farmers are often seen resting their team at the ends of the rows.   Slow and steady is what gets the work done.  It is quite a different mind set than what is often seen in our world today.  The horses also thrive on the routine and when treated with respect enjoy their job.  I know with my own horses they enjoy the stimulation and challenge of training and being ridden and in return, as a good horse person, I provide them the care they need.  To see more work in progress pics click on my name above under the title of this post and you can see the progression of this mural and others I have painted at Lehman’s.  Thanks for stopping by!

Secrets of Success: Don’t be seduced by growth

Amish farm where our wagons are made

Recently Galen Lehman took several weeks off from his job as president of Lehman’s. He spent this time visiting suppliers and other businesses he knew and admired. The companies he visited ranged from 1 employee to 300 employees. Most were owned by Amish or Mennonite families. At each stop, he asked, “What is the secret of your success?” This is one of a series of postings about what he learned.

Modern wood cutting equipment run by hydraulic oil pressure to avoid electricity.

Modern wood cutting equipment run by hydraulic oil pressure to avoid electricity.

To visit our Amish wagon maker, you really must travel “over the river and through the woods.” His “factory” (really just converted farm buildings) is on the farm where he raises his family. All of his employees are family members.

This ensures a level of commitment to quality that you just won’t find from other manufacturers. Everyone wants to do a good job because everyone is in it together.

I talked to him about the seductiveness of growth.

“Our people,” he said, meaning the Amish, “like to keep things small.” I knew what he meant. Church rules banning electricity and computers make it very hard for companies to grow past 10 or so employees.

Giant diesel engine powers the hydraulic pump system and a generator to run the welders.  Fuel cost: $1000/month.

Giant diesel engine powers the hydraulic pump system and a generator to run the welders. Fuel cost: $1000/month.

The Amish like to keep things small because staying small means they can minimize undesirable contact with outsiders. Being able to provide employment and income for the entire family brings self-sufficiency. Family stands as a single unit, pulling in one direction.

In fact, when I arrived the first person I met was his teenage son. When I introduced myself, he said without resentment, “Let me get my dad. He’s the boss here.”

Paint room (parts are dipped to ensure thorough coverage)

Paint room (parts are dipped to ensure thorough coverage)

While he fetched his dad, I weighed his words. What was the meaning behind them? Dad rules the roost? Dad’s a bully who demands respect? Once I met the “boss”, I knew for certain it could not be the latter. He was one of the gentlest men I ever met. I finally concluded that it was just the sons way of humbly stating, “I honor my father,” and, “This is a family business.”

His father told me that at one time they had as many as three employees. But, he didn’t think that worked very well. He found them hard to manage and hard to motivate. In the end, he felt that working with family was just a lot more fun.

Final assembly. Here pneumatic pressure is used for power tools.

Final assembly. Here pneumatic pressure is used for power tools.

And, this is a family that knows how to have fun while they work.

The sign below is displayed in their display area. I asked his wife if it was true that he made a lot of mistakes. Without hesitation or a trace of false humility, she laughed and said, “We all make mistakes!”

“We all make mistakes”

 

Hitching Post Mural Part 2

Today was a productive day in the Buggy Barn.  Roy and Rex, our matched team of belgian Amish workhorses are begining to take shape!  The store was busy with lots of visiors into the Buggy Barn.  Everyone was energized and in a good mood in part I am sure to the spring like weather we had today.  The man who sells homemade ice cream in the parking lot across the street opened for business today signaling spring is on the way!  Another favorite spring sight of mine around the Kidron area is seeing the beautiful work horses, like those in the mural, plowing the fields.  I do hope when the mural is finished people will  take their picture standing beside the horses and get a sense of how big, strong and steady these animals are!  Speaking of draft horses you may want to mark for July 5th to see the Horse Progress Days in Mt.Hope on July 5th.  Draft horse people stop by and see how I did on the mural!