Little Lessons From Anna’s House

amish farm spring_bruce stambaugh

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Anna*, a longtime friend of my grandmother’s. Penpals for decades although they live just a few miles apart, they met in an apple orchard and immediately bonded over their shared frugal ways.

Anna is a 70-ish widow who belongs to one of the strictest orders of the Amish, so I expected her house to be very bare, almost austere. But I was wrong. Like Anna, her house was a delight in the purest and most innocent sense. In fact, Anna’s house taught me… Continue reading

Very Cool Customers … and Their Stories

karen g at may daze

Organic Gardener Karen Geiser enthralls a crowd at Lehman’s May Daze Celebration this past spring.

Organic gardener, author, blog contributor, and mother of five, Karen Geiser, is no stranger to country living. She shares her expert advice with customers just as if they have pulled up a chair on her front porch. . . and all the while shelling peas, pitting cherries, or churning butter (depending on what is in season on her farm). 

We always enjoy hearing about fascinating customer connections that happen in our store. And Karen certainly has the pleasure of interacting with many visitors and hearing their stories!

Here are some recent tidbits she reports:

  • Last week I met folks from Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil (Must have been Latin America day).
  • A fellow from Pennsylvania visits frequently and always tells me about his garlic (which he got from me) that has won several blue ribbons at the county
    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family's Jersey cow.

    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family’s Jersey cow.

    fair.

  • This week there were many good conversations over edible weeds – around the table were an herbalist from New Mexico and a family from West Virginia who really knew their plants.
  • An interesting couple from Virginia who has lived off grid for many years visited the store to finally buy the luxury of a gas refrigerator – mainly to have ice. It’s hard to believe they could live without a fridge for so long, and they described how they can their butter.
  • This week a lady said she was there from Robinson, IL because she heard me speak at the Master Gardener conference over a year ago. She had no idea she would run into me, and we had a good laugh together as she told me about the things she grew because I recommended them (like mouse melons). I helped her figure out other places to hit for her first adventure in Amish country. She said some of her girlfriends have visited Lehman’s after the conference, too. 

Stop by Lehman’s on Thursdays, from April through early November to visit Karen and learn from her wealth of hands-on knowledge. 

Our Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread (Glenda’s Secret Recipe!)

Glenda Lehman Ervin, our vice-president of marketing, swears by this ‘family secret”

Our natural stoneware loaf pan gives professional results every time - just as if you were baking in a brick-lined oven. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Our natural stoneware loaf pan gives professional results every time – just as if you were baking in a brick-lined oven. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

bread recipe.

“My mother baked bread for us each week.  How many times I came home to bread still rising in the dough pan, lightly covered with a damp cloth… or better yet, the smell of freshly baked bread, wafting through the kitchen.”

“I don’t have time to bake bread each week,” she says, “but I want my daughter to have those memories.  So I use this recipe and we bake together, on lazy Sunday afternoons or cold winter evenings. Because if I don’t teach her how to bake bread, how will she teach her daughter? The last time we baked bread, the entire loaf was gone by bedtime!”
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Craft An Upcycled Christmas in 2015

It’s no secret that our landfills are overflowing. I take every opportunity to reduce the amount of waste I produce by reusing and repurposing whatever I can. Over the holidays I get to exercise my creative muscle to make beautiful wrappings and tags from what would otherwise be junk into decorative items that can be reused year after year. Continue reading

The Coming Storm

Metal and plastic lantern bird feeder, red

Made from real lanterns (the globe is hard plastic), these charmers light up the yard! At Lehman’s in Kidron and at Lehmans.com.

Even without the relentless warnings I would know a storm was coming. The air is damp and heavy. The sun peeks out from time-to-time but the light is weak and watery as though it isn’t willing to try too hard.

Birds are scuttling about, filling up on the seed from the feeders, while the squirrels haul off the last of the acorns.

I’m preparing too. Wood will be carried in from the outside pile and one final load of laundry washed. I will check the fuel levels in the hurricane lamps and make sure to have a box of matches at the ready. We run off grid as well as on grid, so a storm poses no hardship. I will confess however that, as a Nor’easter barrels up the coast, I am mighty glad not to live in Buffalo. Continue reading

Let’s Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling!

Authentic Solid Brass Sleigh Bells

Handmade, with a full, rich tone, these brass bells on a leather harness strap are available from Lehman’s in Kidron and at Lehmans.com.

I always wanted to have a horse and cart. The idea quietly thrilled me. Whenever I would catch a driver and his trusty mare in a movie or documentary part of me felt a tiny ache. It seemed like the perfect pace to take part in the world. Slower than a car, faster and gentler than a country stroll, and unlike seeing the world on horseback you could bring along a few friends and pack a picnic lunch as well. What could be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in pleasant (or even snowy) weather? Only two problems with this dream. First, I didn’t own a horse or cart. And secondly, I had no idea how to drive a horse and cart. This does not a teamster make… 

So I let this dream sit on the shelf in a tiny box I knew I couldn’t open. Horses and carts were for movie extras and county parades, not for everyday people. I had a station wagon that smelled like wet dogs and the idea of someday parking a horse cart next to it in the driveway seemed as realistic as a space shuttle. 

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Upcycle Old Tshirts for Thoughtful Gift!

Children's Tshirts

Sure, they may outgrow them, but you can make cute quilts with them afterwards!

If you’re like the folks who work here at Lehman’s, you like to make things with your hands. And for the holidays, you really like to make gifts for those few people who make your life complete.

This year, you might need their cooperation, a few Tshirts, and some basic sewing skills. We love the idea of a quilt made from well-loved or outgrown Ts that aren’t really past their prime.

In fact, one of our own staff members, Elaine, created a beautiful, very warm comforter using the Lehman’s t-shirts she wore to work for years!

Elaine's "Lehman's Ts Quilt."

Elaine’s “Lehman’s Ts Quilt.”

See the tutorial here:
http://www.favequilts.com/T-Shirt-Quilts/Classic-Memories-T-Shirt-Quilt

Let’s Play “The Mennonite Game”

Justina Dee, the talent behind lydiaglick.com

Justina Dee, the talent behind lydiaglick.com

Country Life met Justina Dee, the grandaughter of an Amish preacher in October, and immediately knew she was “our kind of people.” We’d like to introduce her with her light-hearted entry about “The Mennonite Game”, when…well. She’ll tell you. We just want you to know: click to her site and see the video. Be sure the family’s gathered around, because they’ll love it too.               –Karen Johnson, editor, Country Life

One of my favorite things about being born into a family with Amish-Mennonite roots is the deep appreciation of family history and belonging which you are given. As a young child with Anabaptist ancestors, you quickly learn there are two things of great importance.

Lesson one – your family genealogy. My father is a brilliant steward of our family’s history and stories. One year he purchased the most recent edition of something we call “The Fisher Book”. (A record with thousands of Amish-Mennonite relatives.) My little brother was so excited to find his name in the new printing of the “Fisher Book” that he circled the text in dark black ink – not something you typically do in a very expensive and significant ancestral document. I’m sure someday his descendants will enjoy seeing the mark he made on history!

Read more here, and don’t miss the video:
http://www.lydiaglick.com/the-mennonite-game/

Youthview: Loving Traditional Family Thanksgivings

Alli Ervin, Youthview blogger.

Alli Ervin, Youthview blogger.

Last year we hosted Thanksgiving at our house for the first time in several years – I enjoyed the holiday more than I ever had before and that’s saying something because it’s one of my favorite occasions. It makes me feel warm and loved to have family (I am talking aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole gang, ranging in age from four years old to 84 years old) at our home.

I love helping my mom prepare the food and put out seasonal decorations. We live in a woods so tree branches, leaves and pine cones, artfully arranged in a large glass bowl, add great fall touches. I always get to choose which music we are going to play and what drinks to serve (a simple one is grape juice and 7-Up, garnished with orange slices) and, when everything is ready and the house smells like turkey and stuffing, we wait for the doorbell to ring.

The turkey is always a centerpiece of my family's traditional meal.

The turkey is always a centerpiece of my family’s traditional meal.

I have such a big, fun family and I love it when we’re all together*. The food is always amazing, especially at Thanksgiving. My mom and I often bake bread together, which is what she used to do with her mother. Our Thanksgiving menu is very traditional – we briefly discussed doing something different (how about a baked potato bar?) but the outcry was heard for miles. Turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, seven-layer salad, fresh bread, and more pies that you can count. My mom made deviled eggs last Thanksgiving (that’s one of her specialties) and forgot to get them out until after the meal. We enjoyed a round of appetizers after dessert and had a good laugh.

Even though it’s more work, hosting the holidays at your house is a great experience. It’s all about being with family and friends so if the cooking stresses you out, make it a pot luck carry in, or even call ahead and order something. Enjoy a meal and then, afterwards, (at least in my family), the men retire to watch football and yell at their favorite teams and the women do a craft (we had a fun one this year – more on that in the next blog).

No many how many times I get asked what grade I am; how I am doing at school or how tall I am (I grew 5 inches over the past year and am 5’8”, by the way) it’s always so much fun when my family is all together.

*Editor’s note: Allison’s grandfather is Jay Lehman, founder; her uncle is Galen Lehman, president; and her mother is Glenda Lehman Ervin, vice president.

Seasonal Storms Readiness Primer

This article originally ran in summer 2012. There are useful tips for year-round storm preparation, though, and I hope that you’ll use them and be ready for incoming winter weather. — Karen Johnson, Editor, Country Life

From our preparedness/homesteading blogger Kathy Harrison! In stock now.

From our preparedness/homesteading blogger Kathy Harrison! In stock now.

Like most young boys, I often dreamed of living without modern creature comforts. In my ideal world I would use candles for my light, cook over an open flame, and eat canned goods and jerky.

Eventually I got my wish- about five years ago during an exceptionally bad winter when the power lines came down. For five days my family endured frigid temperatures with no phone service or electricity. The grocery and hardware stores in the nearby towns were in the same shape, leaving everyone to find their own way to survive. Continue reading