Have you heard of The Mennonite Game?

The author's Mennonite Grandparents. An Amish couple would almost never pose for a photograph, but Mennonites have accepted most forms of modern technology.

The author’s Mennonite Grandparents. An Amish couple would almost never pose for a photograph, but Mennonites have accepted most forms of modern technology.

“You’re Amish!”

I glanced back to see where the words came from. The kid was staring straight at me.
“No, I’m not,” I replied.

I had just taken my seat on the bus the first day of attending a new school. Twelve years old, and going into the seventh grade, this was a day I had been dreading. It was not easy to be around new people. Now this.

The kid who spoke appeared to be a couple years older than me, and kept staring accusingly. He wasn’t backing down.
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Our Amish Neighbors

All Amish groups are not the same - but why, and what are their differences?

All Amish groups are not the same – but why, and what are their differences?

How about a little lesson? We’ll keep it short and interesting. Let’s call it: Some

things you always wondered about the Amish and Mennonites, but didn’t know who to ask.  

I am a Mennonite who lives in an area of Ohio with a very large Amish and Mennonite population (in fact, it’s the world’s largest).  Allow me to share a very brief overview about the Amish and Mennonites in these parts.

There are four distinct groups of Amish living in the Kidron, Ohio area.
These are:

  • Swartzentrubers
  • Dans, also called Danners
  • Old Order
  • New Order

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Positively Downton!

Downton Abbey House

Downton Abbey House

Many of us here at Lehman’s enjoy the ragingly popular “Downton Abbey” series. And maybe it’s our trained eyes, but when we see something on the set that could be straight out of our store, we get a little excited. As some of you know, Lehman’s has become sort of a “one-stop shopping” destination for many film crews and set designers, especially for period pieces like “Downton Abbey.” And while it would take quite a bit of digging to find out if any of the things we spot came directly from us, we still like to point them out – “Hey, that’s just like the one we carry!”

If you’d like to bring a little bit of Downton to your home, you may be interested in some of the things we’ve noticed on the show. Read on… Continue reading

4 Ways You Can Learn From Great Depression Wisdom

White BeansMy 85-year-old grandmother was a young girl during the Great Depression, and her family, like many others, went through some extremely hard times. Her father, an aspiring truck farmer, lost everything, and several of her six siblings were literally “farmed out” until her parents got back on their feet and could afford to feed them again. Her only brother went to stay with a farm family at the tender age of eight, to work for his room and board. As the baby of the seven, my grandmother stayed at home. She remembers sitting on her father’s lap as he read the newspaper, perhaps scanning the help wanted ads.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” but I wondered if Grandma could give me some specific examples of what her family did to get through those hard times…joyfully and happily, even!

I’m blessed to live right next door to Grandma, so I recently asked her about ways I can apply some of that hard-earned wisdom to my own life, in 2015. Here’s what I learned.

Our dried yellow corn makes excellent corn meal or corn flour. Add to recipes or use as a stand alone baking ingredient.

Buy in Bulk. According to Grandma, during the Depression her mother would go to the store and buy a 25-lb bag of soup beans. Several times a week, she would send one of her children over to the neighbor’s farm to buy a quart of cream, which cost a dime. She would then make a large pot of “bean gravy” for supper, along with cornmeal mush (the cornmeal ground from their own homegrown sweet corn). Grandma must have continued the tradition with her own children, because “your dad still loves that meal,” she told me. (Now I know what to make for my father’s next birthday dinner – but the cream will cost me a lot more than a dime!)

The point is, buying in bulk makes sense on so many levels. It saves you grocery money, gas money, and — sometimes just as importantly — it saves you time. Not having to run to the grocery store once or twice a week is huge in my house, where evenings are precious and should be filled with much more important activities such as reading aloud to each other by the fire.

Here’s some great advice on 10 staples to buy in bulk.

Buying in bulk also forces you to…

Use up what you have. This seems obvious, but I know I don’t always think this way. In our modern day terms we like to call it “thinking outside the box,” “upcycling,” “repurposing,” “shabby chic” or other popular terms. During the Great Depression it was just plain necessity. Even later in her life my great-grandmother saved everything that could be reused. Long after she could afford flowerpots, she still planted her geraniums in used tin cans. Imagine what a chic Pinterest idea and photo shoot that would be today! “She didn’t even bother to take the labels off the cans,” said Grandma. “And did those things bloom!”

Geranium in pot

Give the gift of a life skill.  When my great-grandmother was growing up, her parents gifted each of their children with some type of lessons when they turned 16. Her sister Lizzie got sewing lessons. Later, during the Depression, when Lizzie had a family of her own to support, “she could sew something out of nothing,” Grandma told me. No doubt this was a skill that came in very handy! This is an idea that translates beautifully to our time, when many parents want their children to learn self-sufficiency skills. There are so many skills our modern-day youngsters could take a shine to: growing a garden for food, “lost” kitchen skills (think canning, making yogurt or cheese, even home butchering); knitting, sewing or quilting, chopping and storing wood. Even the skill of building a good fire could someday prove a great help to them. Find what they like, then find someone who knows and can teach them.

Appreciate. A little frugality in 2015 could go a long way to reminding us how much we take for granted. Oranges are everywhere this time of year. But think just what a luxury they really are, to be shipped to us in Ohio, in the dead of winter, from so far away. Back in the Depression era, a single orange was what my grandmother and her siblings got for Christmas. What a treat it must have been after many, many meals of beans, potatoes and cornmeal mush! This month, my children have been eating oranges every day and they think nothing of it. I’m not saying we should deprive ourselves of readily available, healthy food. But thinking carefully about where it comes from changes our mindset, makes us appreciate it more and waste it a lot less.

Orange“People weren’t very particular in those days,” Grandma said of the Depression. (Indeed, most of them couldn’t afford to be!) “We expect so much today,” she continued, with a wry smile. “But I’ve always believed, the more you’ve got, the more trouble you’ve got!” Wise words for a modern-day mom like me.


What “Amish-Made” Really Means

What’s so great about Amish-made?

Lehman’s, in Kidron, Ohio, is located in the heart of the largest Amish community in the world.

Many people think of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania when they think of large Amish communities, but Lancaster’s community of 30,000-35,000 is actually second in size to the approximately 40,000 Amish that live in southern Wayne and eastern Holmes County, Ohio. These Amish people are our neighbors, our friends, our customers and our vendors. Continue reading

Grandma’s Apron: Nostalgia Lives At New Year’s Eve

Our friends at the Antique Stove Association published this in their newsletter some time back, and for me, at least, it certainly captures the spirit of the holidays that I want to pass along in my family. Do you remember Grandma’s apron?

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year from all of us at Lehman’s and Country Life!

Grandma’s Apron
I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. Continue reading

Sights Along The Road: 2013 Fall Vendor Tour

Bingo Travel Game

Choose an appropriate theme among the eight provided, slide a card into each game boards and pay attention to the passing scenery! Includes two game boards and four double-sided game cards.

Sure, there are lots of photos of our “Made In USA” small businesses and the great stuff they make to come. But in between stops, there are all kinds great things to see. Here are a few that we’d like to share with you!

Spied along State 31 between Brownsburg and Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Spied along State 31 between Brownsburg and Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

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Behind The Scenes At Lehman’s: The Cover Cookie Recipe

Pearl Taylor

Pearl Taylor

Recently, Lehman’s sent out a fall catalog with our Steel Nutcracker on the cover. Sharing space with it was a plate of cookies. And it appears that people went (pardon the pun) nuts for them: we got requests from all over about the cookies!

Below, you’ll find a Lehman family cookie recipe that will give you cookies very like those shown on our catalog cover. A big thank-you to Pearl Taylor, sister of our founder, Jay Lehman, for sharing the recipe. Enjoy!

Don't have your fall catalog yet? Click the photo for a link to get it!

Don’t have your fall catalog yet? Click the photo for a link to get it!

Swiss Cookies or Swiss Bon Bons
1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. powered sugar
1 beaten egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. soda
1 t. cream of tartar
Nuts or maraschino cherries for the tops

Cream butter and powered sugar. Add remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly. Chill dough 1 hours. Make soft balls, flatten slightly.  Top with nuts or cherry halves. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Makes 5 dozen.

Re-enactors Camp In Style With Help From Lehman’s!

With a riveted bail and 'helper handle', our Enamelware Kettle is ideal for frontier portrayals. At Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

With a riveted bail and ‘helper handle’, our Enamelware Kettle is ideal for frontier portrayals. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

My husband and I are living historians and demonstrate our “old time” crafts at historical rendezvouses.  We also used to work for Three Rivers Park District (formerly Historical Murphy’s Landing), a living history museum.  We have been trained to present ourselves as people living in the past and try to get there as closely as possible.

It’s challenging to keep up a “period correct” portrayal. But for us, it’s easy too!  The difficult part is the research to make SURE that what we use is accurate in every detail.  The easy part for us is  that Lehman’s has many items that are necessary to carry off the illusion of living “back then.”  We do not have to scrounge around in antique shops, hoping to find something rare and expensive to use. 

Our chosen time period is the 1870s.  In that time period, enamelware was common so I can use some lovely enamelware pots for cooking.

I also use water pitchers, hand basins and wash basins in enamel. I prefer the black or grey, but blue is acceptable. What I do NOT use is enamelware cups for hot liquids.  You will soon find that you cannot hold a hot cup!

I mostly cook with cast iron.  I have several frying pans in several sizes.

Husband Norm fusses that I have so much weight for us to haul around, but how can you fry an egg in a 10″ frying pan?  Oh, no!  I use a size 3 for that!  I also have two Dutch ovens; one for my soups and stews and the other for desserts.

Many people, when visiting our site to watch Norm carve spoons or to watch me spinning or weaving, ask “Do you actually SLEEP here?”  As if sleeping in a tent (or camper) is not done.  Our tent is set up to look like it came from the 1870s but it also is very comfortable.  After all, people wanted to be warm and comfortable then too!

Our tent is made of canvas, which actually is more waterproof and warmer than a nylon pop-up tent that most modern campers have.  It is about 12 feet by 14 feet which gives us room for spreading out.  We have a double bed.  The frame is an antique bedstead but under the hand-tied quilt and wool blankets rests a foam mattress, not a straw tick.  A straw tick is very comfortable but difficult to pack.  We don’t show under the blankets and flannel sheets so we are comfortable but look correct.

Blue Enamelware Water Pitcher

Perfect for the dinner table, this blue enamelware pitcher makes serving water or other cold beverages easy.

I have curtains made with reproduction material and behind the curtain is a reproduction commode (old-fashioned porta-potty) that is VERY handy on rainy nights.  I also have a washstand with an enamel wash basin and pitcher for washing up.  Showers aren’t necessary if you know how to take a “spit bath.”  Even washing hair is not hard with a basin of hot water.

We have a lovely 4-dog stove to keep us warm on cold nights.  The trappers and mountain men would judge the temperature of the night by how many dogs on the bed it took to keep them warm.  The stoves that are used in our tents are sized by dog-size.  A 4-dog stove keeps our place nice and cozy warm; we have had water freezing outside and been toasty inside.  The stove breaks down to a small rectangle with the legs and stovepipe stored inside; great for travel.  It has a flat top so that I can have hot water and coffee cooking in the morning (enamel coffee pot, of course) and can even cook inside if it’s too cold to go out.

Tripod with Chain for Cast Iron Cookware over an open fire

Tripod with Chain for Cast Iron Cookware over an open fire

Outside, I have a brazier; this is a long rectangular box of metal that has legs and stands up tall enough for me to cook on so that I don’t have to bend over an open fire pit on the ground.  This, like all of my cooking supplies, is totally correct.  It tears down to carry the legs and grate inside the box.  I do cook over an open fire, but it’s just not on the ground. Some folks use a tripod, and suspend their Dutch ovens from it for cooking.

I also have a kitchen box and an ice box.  The ice box is insulated, inside, with a high density foam and holds ice for about 3 days, unless it’s very hot.  I can keep my perishables in this, although I’m careful not to open the box when there are “outlanders” (non-rendezvousers) around, as the foam is not period correct.  This lovely box was made by my talented husband.  My kitchen box holds non-perishables but these are stored in the correct type of storage tins and jars so that I can keep the box open if I want.

For cooking utensils, I have wooden spoons and wooden spatulas (also made by Mr. Talent!).  We have eating utensils that are either silverware (not stainless steel like our modern tableware) or pewter.  My favorite spoons are pewter, as they are lighter weight than the heavy silver.

Dishes are ironstone or pottery; so are the cups.  I have some flowery ones but most of them are plain, as I worry about breaking the pretty ones.

Of course we wear clothing like the ones that our ancestors wore in the 1870s.  A lot of research has gone into the clothing of the different time periods.  It would not do to wear a dress that was worn in 1812, for example, or a dress that was worn in the 1890s.  Fashions changed then as well as they change now-a-days.

The men can get by with a lot because a working man in any time period wore nearly the same styles.  Most guests to our area would not know the difference, but other living historians would, and I would get a “look,” if not an actual scolding for trying to pass myself off in the wrong clothing!  I have made all of my clothing and most of Norm’s.  It impresses people when they see me in all my “regalia” as I tell them, “Yes, I made this myself!”

As I said, we try very hard to keep ourselves correct for our time period.  If I had a plastic spoon on my table or a “Hello Kitty” tablecloth, most people wouldn’t notice, but I would know.  Besides, if everything isn’t correct, it’s almost like lying to the public, pretending that something modern was actually around in the past.

With all my “modern” conveniences of the 1870s, I am quite comfortable.  I keep my husband fed and warm as well.  We have lived in this set-up for over a week at a time and could go longer if we had the need.

And I have places like Lehman’s to thank for making my search for good, period-correct items much easier!

Editor’s Note: As someone involved in historical portrayals too, I can agree that it’s great to have a resource like Lehman’s to turn to when something’s hard to find. Many re-enactors and cosplay enthusiasts have found Lehman’s in Kidron and Lehmans.com a great source for all kinds of things from utensils to wheelbarrows to throwing knives to wool socks. If you’re a re-enactor, cosplayer or LARP fan, check out what we have to offer. You’ll be surprised.                                   –Karen Johnson, Editor, Country Life

Handbuilt Since 1878…and 1993

On left, #78, Lehman’s Own Reading Peeler. On right, an original Reading, c. 1976.

One of the Lehman’s products with the longest known history is Lehman’s Own Reading 78 Apple Peeler. It’s one of those cool gear-driven Victorian era contraptions that does one thing — peeling apples — and has done it exceptionally well for over 130 years! Continue reading