Monthly Archives: May 2013

The secret to great ice cream is no secret at all

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One of the food trailers from which Dan and Anna Bowman serve their delicious ice cream. The Bowmans are Amish, so no pictures were taken of them.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When Dan and Anna Bowman crank up their ice cream machine each year in June, it doesn’t take long for a line to form. Their ice cream is that good.

The Bowman’s operate under the business name of D and B Burgers, Fredericksburg, Ohio. Don’t let the name deceive you. They serve up lots more than tasty burgers. Their menu includes offerings for breakfast and lunch, and of course, fresh and delicious soft serve ice cream.

When asked what the secret was to their yummy ice cream, Dan didn’t hesitate to answer, though what he said may come as a surprise. His modest answer reflected his daily demeanor.

“We use the same commercial ice cream mix as several others in the area,” Dan said. “Fresh and clean is a very good combination for good tasting ice cream.” By that he meant that he keeps the soft serve ice cream machine cleaned on a regular basis.

“You can’t keep ice cream mix in too long,” Dan said. “You can only go about two days before you have to sanitize the machine.”

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The twist soft serve ice cream cone is a hit with the Bowman’s customers.

Dan said that if the ice cream sits in the well of the machine too long it gets gritty and sour. To ensure freshness, he even cleans off the dispenser to eliminate any chance of anything less than fresh being dispensed.

To keep it clean, he and Anna completely take the machine apart to clean, a process that takes an hour. The machine gets thoroughly cleaned with the manufacturer’s recommended cleanser, rinsed, dried, and reassembled.

Dan and Anna sell three flavors of soft serve ice cream, chocolate, vanilla and twist. They serve their ice cream in cake cones, cups and sundaes.

“The raspberry sundae is the favorite of customers,” Dan said. Of course, the topping is homemade by Anna.

Again, they said there is no secret to that success. Freshness makes the difference here, too.

“I just add a little sugar to the berries and turn on the blender,” she said. They offer red, black and purple raspberry.

Dan said there are four or five ice cream mixes that he could choose from in the area.

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Anna’s homemade raspberry sundae topping is very popular with customers.

“I use a mix from a local dairy for consistency and freshness there, too,” Dan said. He buys the mix through the Country Mart in Mt. Hope, Ohio. The mix is a liquid that is poured into the vat of the tabletop ice cream galvanized machine.

“We have people tell us that our ice cream tastes better than others,” said Anna. “But we use a commercial mix just like the others.”

Dan said censors on the machine tell him when the ice cream is getting low.

“That’s why we never run out of ice cream,” Dan said. “It only takes about five to 10 minutes before the ice cream is ready to be served.”

Dan said they average about 25 gallons of ice cream per day during the peek time of June to October. Dan and Anna’s stand, which he affectionately refers to as the wiener wagon, can be found at the Mt. Hope Auction during special events like horse sales. They also do some special sales and auctions.

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The ice cream mix gets poured into the machine, vanilla on one side, chocolate on the other.

The best chance to catch Dan and Anna is at the Farmers Produce Market on State Route 241 a mile west of Mt. Hope June through October when ice cream is served beginning at 10 a.m. The stand, however, opens around 8 a.m. when buyers and sellers start to arrive. D and B Burgers serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches, side dishes, donuts, cookies, candy and hot and cold drinks.

The produce market is affiliated with the Mt. Hope Auction, and Dan and Anna provide food there February to November. During the summer months, the auction runs four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

“We are very thankful to Steve and Jim Mullet for allowing us to operate at their sales,” Dan said. “My business would not be without the Mullets.”

D and B Burgers operation has been operating for 13 years. They now use two food wagons. One is stationed at the produce market most of the year.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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What a few nice words can do for you and others

springwoodsbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

You would be surprised what a few nice words can do for a person.

I recently received a hand-written letter in the mail from a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. I had taught some of her children in school, and she reminisced about incidents that I had long forgotten.

I enjoyed her well-written, personal historical commentary that reflected on the rapid changes that occurred in the 1970s when her children were my students. Those were rough and tumble times with lots of social change occurring.

My friend reflected on how outspoken I was on some of those social issues, and how she had challenged me about sharing my opinions in class. I had no recollection of that.

When I came to the words in the letter, “You did well,” I was both honored and humbled. Here was a wonderful lady who had disagreed with my viewpoints (imagine that) and still took the time to thank me for my teaching.

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The 1960 and 1970 eras were tumultuous times in our country to be sure. The Civil Right movement, the Vietnam War, the Kent State shootings, Watergate, skyrocketing oil prices, high inflation rates, and a presidential resignation were just some of the headlines of those days.

I hardly knew how to respond to my friend. After much thought, I sent a few lines of appreciation in a note card. I know they were inadequate. But I’m hoping we will have a chance to meet in the future to continue our “conversation.”

Her letter had a profound effect on me. I acknowledged in my note that I likely was too opinionated in the classroom, especially for elementary children. But the positive tone of her letter was beyond encouraging. It stirred me.

Those three words, “You did well,” charged me, urged me on. I knew I needed to share them in some equally positive way. Then I saw my chance. A teacher I had hired years ago was retiring. Given my schedule and the fact that school was about to end, I knew what I needed to do.

Since I was in the vicinity, I visited where he taught, knocked on the classroom door and strolled in. I wish you could have seen his smile. He was surprised and happy to see me. While his students worked on group projects, we chatted about old times and how much the education profession had changed since I had retired 14 years ago to begin my second career.

Between receiving the one friend’s letter and my visit with my retiring friend, I thought long and hard about the people who had positively influenced me in my life and careers. Just mentally listing their names brought back happy memories, some even during difficult times.

A hand-written letter from one friend and a visit with another served as bookends for volumes of memories, each one a special chapter in my life. Who has influenced you for the good? Who has inspired you? Have you told them how much you appreciated them and what they did for you?

The convergence of Memorial Day and the end of another school year for many across the country provides a unique opportunity. Besides placing flowers on the graves of lost loved ones, connect with someone who positively influenced you.

Whether by letter, phone call or over coffee, tell them, “You did well.” Just be ready for what happens next.

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© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Birds and birders: Two of a kind

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The west entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk is a great place to begin the birding.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Birds and birders have a lot in common. This thought struck me on my latest trip to northwest Ohio’s birding mecca, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.

Billed as the Greatest Week in American Birding, the event coincided with the peak of the spring warbler migration. Warblers, and other migrating birds, use Ohio’s airspace as their launching pad to their northern breeding grounds.

Before the birds cross Lake Erie, they tend to rest along its shores. There they replenish their strength by devouring insects that flit around the budding and blooming deciduous trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Shorebirds scour the marshes and shores for their nourishment.

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This American Woodcock chose the median of the parking lot to make her nest.

As an amateur birder, I enjoy watching backyard birds and observing passers through with equal zeal. But if I want to see a multitude of colorful migrating birds packed into one location, Magee Marsh is the place to go.

The marsh and its 2,200 surrounding acres serve as a sprawling wildlife sanctuary with varied habitat types, including estuaries, marshes, scrub lands, woodlots, rocky areas, beaches and of course the lake itself. The area also provides sportsmen with seasonal controlled hunting and fishing.

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Magee Marsh has many habitats that attract several species of migrating birds.

During bird migration season, the only shooting of birds permitted is with cameras. Believe me, plenty of shots are fired in search of the perfect picture of the incredible songbirds, shorebirds, and birds of prey.

In my meandering around the boardwalk, trails and beach, I discovered something that should have been obvious. Birders have a lot in common with the birds they watch.

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Birders checked out warbler on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh

Like their feathered friends, birders come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Just like the birds, birders sport different hues and clothe themselves in a variety of colors, including camouflage, worn more to soothe the birds than hide from predators.

There are other comparisons, too. Some birders maneuver and forage in solitude for their targets. Others travel in organized groups. Most birders are quiet, but some let loose with an effusive chatter when a flashy warbler or rare bird is spotted.

When a shorebird captures a fish, it often finds itself quickly surrounded by others hoping to also steal a bite. When a birder discovers a coveted find, others gather around hoping to capture the image through their spotting scopes, binoculars, or cameras. Those without scopes are graciously invited to better view the often-concealed bird. Birders are genuinely kind people.

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A young family took a break from their birding at Magee.

When a bird is located along the boardwalk at Magee, birders bob and weave, stretch and stoop to get just the right viewing angle. Birds do the same in search of food or checking out habitat. Most birders go in search of birds, like the many warblers that flit from limb to limb decreasing the insect population. Others sit and wait for the birds to come to them, like a Great Blue Heron patiently waiting for a fish to spear.

Camaraderie and sharing are normal in the sport of birding. Staunch birders make life lists, month lists, day lists, yard lists,

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This Cape May Warbler dined on insects before heading across the lake.

state lists, annual lists, and just about any other kind of list you might imagine. That’s how serious they take this popular sport.

If someone finds a bird they can’t identify, a more expert birder gladly assists in teaching how to properly confirm just what species it is. Teaching and learning are just as important as appreciating the birds and their habitats.

Perhaps that is why birding is one of the most popular sports in the world. During the Biggest Week in American Birding, global citizens flock to northwest Ohio in hopes of seeing a special species.

To hear the various lyrical birdsongs and behold the flashy mating plumages first hand is truly a treat. To see the smiles and satisfaction on the faces of the elated birders is equally rewarding.

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Birders tend to be pleasant, engaging people.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Celebrating a creative mother and sporting father

dadandmombybrucestambaugh

Dick and Marian Stambaugh at their 65th wedding anniversary.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I was asked to give a talk to volunteers for a local retirement community on April 23, I didn’t hesitate. My mother had died on that day at the nursing home a year ago.

I thought the opportunity more than appropriate to share about how much the volunteers meant to residents like my mother. After all, some in the audience likely delivered needed and appreciated services for my both my mother and father as they finished out their lives.

My assignment was to show some of the many photographs I had taken over the years around Holmes County, Ohio. I offered to include some shots of other places in the world where I had traveled. The organizer said just Holmes County scenes would be fine.
That would be no problem at all. I had thousands of shots from every season from around our bucolic countryside. In some cases, I had photos of the same scene in different seasons, and sometimes from multiple views. I thought that would serve my purpose very well.

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An Amish buggy crests a hill amid a rainbow of colors in Holmes Co., Ohio.

My aim was to honor my loving mother and gregarious father, not to hype my photographic abilities. Dad had taught my siblings and me to appreciate our environment, to respect nature, and to understand the careful balance between harvesting her resources and preserving the earth’s beauty. Hunting and fishing, along with conservation, had been priorities in his life, especially in his retirement years while he was still able.

Mom, on the other hand, was more reserved but equally adamant about appreciating and sharing nature. She just chose a different venue. Mom skillfully captured her love for God’s good earth on canvas.

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A shocking but typical scene in Holmes Co., Ohio.

Mom painted hundreds of landscapes from all around the country, mostly in vivid watercolors. She skillfully replicated scenery as she saw it, and if you were familiar with the local geography, you could often identify the location of the setting. Mom was that good.

Ironically, none of her five children caught the artist’s gene or desire. Mom once patiently tried to teach me to paint. But given my poor efforts, she wisely encouraged me to “paint” with my camera and through my writing. It was sage advice.

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A long, muddy Amish farm lane in Holmes Co., Ohio.

Mom taught me to have her artist’s eye by understanding perspective and composition through the camera’s lens rather than smearing colors on a canvas. Believe me, smearing was the appropriate verb for my practice runs at watercolors.

On April 23, I complied with the organizer’s wishes. Only three of the 170 shots I shared on screen with the volunteers were from outside the county. To set the tone, the first slide was a picture of Dad and Mom at their 65th wedding anniversary gathering.

Though family members were the only humans shown in my photo presentation that day, I asked those in attendance if they had seen themselves in the slides. Not surprisingly, I got looks of bewilderment.

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Draft horses on a cold, snowy day in Holmes Co., Ohio.

I told the volunteers gathered that they were the forests and the lilies of the fields, the sparkling brooks and crimson trees in the lives of those at the retirement community. Because of their individual situations, the residents may not be able to express their appreciation for the little things the volunteers did. But speaking from personal experience, they do.

I am certain I am not alone in my gratitude to them for all their good efforts. I also wanted them know how much my folks had blessed me with a rich and rewarding appreciation for the Creation in which we live.

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© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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The little things of spring are spring

springinholmescoohiobybrucestambaugh

After a long, chilly and wet winter and early spring, true spring has arrived in Ohio’s Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Finally, it really is spring! I was beginning to think we would never receive its blessings.

I for one am certainly glad to embrace May. In Ohio, it’s the calendar’s conduit between a long cold, wet winter and early spring, like we have experienced this year, and summer’s usual balmy offerings.

Springtime has much to offer nature lovers. She is especially mesmerizing. Spring lulls you to sleep with her vivaciousness, her lusty beauty and verdant perfumes.

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Once the weather warmed and the days brightened, the leaves of the deciduous trees quickly unfurled.

However, you have to be alert, or you could miss a few of her best offerings. In our hustle and bustle to catch up to what we think is important we may miss her most amiable samplings.

May is one of the main accomplices to this annual transition from hibernation to horticulture. The month has a lot to offer.
We have to pay attention though to absorb it all because the transforming processes evolve so quickly. One day we notice the maple tree buds swelling. The next, it seems, the full canopy has unfurled. How and when did that happen?

To grasp the full measure of spring requires the honing of all of our senses. For those poor souls with pollen or grass allergies, no reminder is likely needed.

Spring, and especially May, is anything but quiet. The spring peepers are the first to break loose. Their noisy outbursts are their celebrative acknowledgements that spring has arrived. The amphibious cacophony is music to our ears.

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Wild yellow and purple violets are in full bloom now in Ohio’s woodlots.

Just one sunny spring day beckons buttery coltsfoot and dainty spring beauties. They brighten dusky roadsides and carpet forest floors and spacious yard-lots alike. Yellow and purple wild violets and lacy trilliums soon follow in all their grace and glory.

Clumpy lawns have already been mowed, evening the emerald patchwork from one neighborhood to the next until the prodigious dandelions appear and reappear. Try as you might, there is no obliterating them. Overnight, their yellowy blooms turn to silky seedpods, which succumb to certain spring gales and find a home just around the corner.

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The beautiful sights and calls of the Baltimore Orioles fill the woods and neighborhoods in Ohio’s Amish country in and around Millersburg, OH.

For avid bird lovers, this is prime time for migrating birds, especially songbirds. A whole host of magnificently colored wood warblers, Golden-winged, Yellow-rump, and Black and White among them, pass through our area on their way north. A few, like the convivial Yellow Warbler and gregarious Baltimore Orioles, will stay to nest and brighten the days with their vigorous choruses.

American Robins have already chosen their first nesting spots, and not always in the choicest locations. Mud-based nests on door wreaths or porch lights are only temporary inconveniences to those who enjoy their early morning wake up calls without setting the alarm clock.

The sooty Chimney Swifts have returned and chatter as they snatch dinner with spring’s first batch of insects. American Goldfinches seemingly changed to their day glow yellow and contrasting black overnight.

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For once the magnolias bloomed without fear of a killing frost in northern OH.

Native shrubs and ornamental flowering trees light up the landscape with their rainbow of colors. One day the neighbor’s giant Magnolia is bursting in pink bloom. The next, her Cinderella gown morphs into a colorful comforter spread on the ground beneath.

Just like a fast moving thunderstorm, the rubies of spring don’t last long. Will we grant ourselves the privilege to gather them in?

It pays huge personal dividends to be alert and watch as spring magnifies the hills and hollows with sights and sounds and fragrances for all to behold. Spring is here. Let’s enjoy it before it’s gone.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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