The unforeseen rewards of sleeping in

Amish homes
Pleasant morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I slept in. It was Saturday after all. It’s the way lots of folks begin their weekend.

For me, though, arising after 7 a.m. was abnormal even on weekends. I like to beat the sun to its dawn.

I needed the sleep after two consecutive late night outings. Now, the terms “late night” take on significant and liberal interpretation when you are a grandparent and not a teenager.

Thursday I attended another fun night in Cleveland with a good friend. I arrived extra early to avoid the guaranteed congestion since the Indians weren’t the only act in town. Sir Paul McCartney was playing next door to the Tribe, and the Browns lost another football game in front of their faithful mass of masochists.

In other words, the town was full of excited folks. Having lived and worked in the city many moons ago, I walked around the downtown area a bit to kill time and to view the remade public square. I was impressed with the space and the all-around cleanliness of the place.

Downtown Cleveland
Fun in Cleveland.
People sat at street side tables in front of restaurants enjoying the cuisine, drinks, and one another. I found the corner where three decades ago I had crossed the street with 30 first and second graders and their teacher. A religious street barker with hand-printed signs and tracts stopped his doomsday bellowing and moseyed up to me. He quietly asked me if the children were Pilgrims. I stoically replied that they were Amish, and followed the class across the intersection.

I spent a marvelous evening at the ballpark with my friend Rob. Happily, it was another last at-bat win for the Indians.

Elvis, Mark Lonsinger, Millersburg OH
Elvis.
Friday evening was just as much fun. My buddy Tim and I went to hear our friend Elvis perform his last gig for the summer in Millersburg. We weren’t disappointed and met lots of other friendly fans.

Both nights I was up way past my bedtime. So I wasn’t surprised that I had slept through sunrise on Saturday. I needed the rest.

Well behind my usual start time, I wanted to get my walk in before the late summer Saturday warmed too much. I discovered that being tardy had its enjoyable rewards.

I usually walk uninterrupted. Not this day.

morning walk
Where I walk.
Good neighbor Mary was already weeding her roadside flowerbeds. We chatted a while as Baltimore Orioles chased one another in the grove of trees at the south edge of my property. Their brilliant orange blazed neon in the sharp-slanting morning light.

An Eastern Phoebe called from a cluster of hardwoods just as I ran into Brian, another neighbor. We talked about his work, the warm weather, and the exhilaration of yet another fantastic Indians comeback victory.

I turned the corner and met my next-door neighbor, Trish, who was in the home stretch of her morning walk. I didn’t delay her long.

Girls in cerulean dresses pedaling bicycles and families in jet-black buggies silently greeted me with head nods and quick waves of hands. It felt good to be alive.

On the return trip to home, another young neighbor caught up with me on his four-wheeler. He was out scouting hunting spots with the season about to begin. A mourning dove sat atop a snag of a dying ash tree, perhaps eavesdropping on Tyler’s hunting secrets.

Annie Yoder
Annie.
I floated with elation the short distance remaining to my house. I was that invigorated by the gorgeous morning, the multitude of spontaneous interpersonal connections I had had, all after two enjoyable evenings with friends.

In the afternoon, I drove to Wooster to celebrate with my friend Annie on the release of her new album “Thousand.” True to form, she belted it out to the delight of all who attended.

Maybe I need to sleep in more often.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Contrails, Clouds, and Cows.

August sunset, Ohio's Amish Country, contrails
Contrails, Clouds, and Cows.

The title of this photos says it all. The August sunset illuminated the contrails and clouds and silhouetted the cows grazing on the hillside pasture.

“Contrails, Clouds, and Cows” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Sights, sounds say August is waning

field corn
Rows and rows.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I don’t need a calendar to know we’ve past August’s midpoint. The sights and sounds, signs and symptoms abound.

Day by day, the sun rises brilliant and bold closer to the center of the horizon. Ghostly layers of morning fog drift above row after row of tan tasseled field corn, the stalks stunted by the parching summer heat and subpar precipitation.

Teachers’ cars already sit early and stay late in school parking lots while their masters slave away in the sweltering classrooms on their own time, already preparing for the year ahead. Mothers, brothers, cousins, nieces, and nephews accompany the fortunate ones, cutting out letters for holiday bulletin boards or hanging artwork to brighten the sterile schoolroom.

Workdays and evenings repeat the same preparations at Amish parochial schools. Schoolyards get mowed, windows washed, desks and books readied, backstops repaired, all to ensure everything is a go for the teachers and scholars on day one.

The busy buzz of back to school sales replaced the monotonous cicada chorus. Youngsters were glad for both.

The Holmes County Fair is over, this year celebrating not just another successful week, but its new digs. Farmers secretly wish the county commissioners would move up the start of the fair by a month just to get the rain when it’s needed the most. It poured right on schedule.

Multi-shades of brown paint the landscape. Flowers, well watered in the morning, wilt by afternoon.

Applesauce, sweet corn, and tomatoes are canned and frozen within days of one another. There is no rest for the gardeners, chefs, and lovers of all things natural, homegrown, and home-cooked. Succotash in January is the plan.

Orange barrels multiply overnight. Everyone’s pace quickens, except in construction zones. Time is fleeting, but we can neither increase nor decrease its speed.

At night, windows are thrown open even in homes with air conditioning. The concerts of the katydids and crickets are the reward.

The Perseid meteor showers, even more spectacular this year than most, are waning, along with the lightning bugs. Nature’s fireworks announce autumn’s awakening like an opened wedding invitation.

The boys of summer are sorting themselves out in some divisions, and bunching up in others. It’s marvelous to see the Cleveland Indians giving it ago, and those annoying Yankees not so much.

Footballers, pro, college, and high school, practice in the heat. Come playoffs, you can see the quarterback’s breath bark out the plays, we’re that close to the cold.

This year the Olympics caught the tail of summer’s dog days if one cared to watch. I chose to view the evening sky’s gold, silver, and bronze as the insects sang.

American Goldfinches, some of the last birds to incubate, escort their young to the feeders. Their thistledown nests will soon weather away in the forsythias.

August sunsets try hard to outdo the sunrises. Often the orange ball simply slinks out of sight, leaving only contrails glowing in the west.

From month’s beginning to end, nighttime quickens, too, and we wonder where both August and the summer went. They’re still here, just in shorter increments.

Despite the mini-drought, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables color local produce stands. Yellow, gold, crimson, and purple early blooming mums clash with the ubiquitous Bubblegum petunias. No one complains.

Wildfires burn out west, the result of global weirding and human intrusion on wildlife habitat. Like the drought, the fires will end though the intrusive expansions will not.

As August fades, life’s steady heartbeat thumbs its way into September. Are you ready?

Olympic sunset
Gold, silver, and bronze.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Signs of change

Amish farmer
Signs of change.

There is no greater visible realization of change in the Amish culture than on the farm, at least for the mainline Old Order Amish. Mechanization is the most obvious.

The grain harvest, wheat, oats, and corn, required manpower. Community circles were formed to help with bringing in the crops. The men and boys went from one farm to another until everyone’s harvests were completed. This happened over a period of weeks.

Because agriculture is no longer the number one source of income for most Amish families, the rules have changed to make the harvest more efficient, requiring fewer sets of hands. The majority of Amish men now work in shops, either on their own property or away from home. Or they work on construction crews, and in local businesses. To make it easier for those still engaged in farming, which is less than 10% of the population, motorized equipment like this Bobcat are permitted to assist the harvesting process.

In this case, the farmer lifted the large round bales of straw onto the horse-drawn wagon guided by his younger brothers. Previously, several farmers lifted rectangular hay bales onto the wagon, and then unloaded them into the barn, also by hand. The workhorses are essential to keeping the Amish farm Amish. They are the tie that binds the Amish to the land.

It may seem hypocritical to some, but to the Amish, it’s simply a way to keep the agricultural lifestyle. Change happens, and I suppose this young Amish farmer is glad it does.

“Signs of change” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

A real road trip down history’s highway

Port Washington Rd., historical trail
Following the trail.

By Bruce Stambaugh

If ever there was a road trip, our day outing down history’s lane was it.

We knew we would encounter historical remnants as we drove the length of Port Washington Road, Ohio’s first state highway. We didn’t anticipate the surprises we found.

Port Washington Road was created to connect Millersburg, Ohio with Port Washington, Ohio. That seems logical enough. Nearly 180 years ago, an accessible route was critical to local farmers who wanted to get their goods to market.

Back then travel was tough. The dirt roads that existed were rutted, dusty, and dangerous. Carrying your product to market was extremely problematic.

The opening of the Ohio and Erie Canal to Port Washington in southern Tuscarawas Co. was designed to improve that process. The canal system, hand dug in the 1820s and 1830s, speeded Ohio’s development. In turn, goods were shipped to New Orleans and New York City, enhancing the local economy.

Another couple joined my wife and me on the excursion. I had driven parts of the road many times, but never the full length. With directions secured from literature about the road, we began our trek across from Millersburg Elementary School on a diagonal street, Port Washington Road.

Signs marked the way we should go. It was a good thing, too, because there were more twists and turns, curves and hills than on any of Cedar Point’s many roller coasters.

Our air-conditioned van took us up, down, and around steep grades. I gasped at the thought of driving a team of horses pulling a fully loaded wagon with a season’s harvest aboard. It was hard enough for me to maneuver.

How in the world did they negotiate those hills safely? No wonder it was a two-day trip from Millersburg to the canal. The halfway mark was a layover in Baltic. That’s where we had lunch, in more comfortable accommodations than those early travelers.

We traversed village, township, county, and state highways. We visited curious crossroads romantically named Saltillo, Becks Mills, Meadow Valley, and Fiat.

Most of the roads were hard-surfaced in Holmes Co. But once we headed southeast out of Baltic, gravel roads became the norm.

Not long after leaving Baltic, we came upon a bald eagle foraging on a carcass in freshly cut oats stubble. I imagined sitting on a hard bench seat glad for the beautiful distraction from the dusty, bumpy road. The magnificent bird flew in sweeping loops over the field until we left.

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The scenery alone was worth the trip. Other than the open areas on high ridges, the landscape likely compared to what those wagon masters must have encountered. We passed through tree tunnels, and by old homesteads long abandoned, well-weathered clapboard siding showing more patina than paint.

We found several cemeteries along the route, too. We couldn’t help but wonder if some of the hopeful farmers didn’t end up deathly disappointed from the ruggedness, and maybe even being waylaid by bandits.

In the middle of nowhere, we discovered a church with a golden dome. The names on cemetery’s tombstones revealed former parishioners. Farther down the road, a sign marked another church cemetery. The structure was long gone.

In the meandering 37 miles we trekked, we had to have traveled in every direction of the compass. The roads were that convoluted. Nevertheless, we made it to our destination, now a sleepy, residential hamlet.

With the actual canal filled in long ago, the only hint of the waterway was a slight depression that paralleled Canal St. Between there, and the Tuscarawas River laid the railroad tracks, the steel trail of the invention that killed the canal.

The steel tracks left the canal to history and the curious to rediscover.

Amish children, pony cart
Pony cart fun.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Reverse Sunrise

reflected sunrise
Reverse sunrise.

A fellow blogger friend of mine hates Monday mornings. I laugh at his social media ranting and memes about having to start a new work week. I laugh because he’s funny, and I’m mostly retired. What “work” I do do, I do from home.

I’m pretty sure my friend would have loved last Monday morning. The sunrise was brilliant, the colors changing by the moment. Of course, I hustled out with my camera. However, it was what I saw in the western sky that caught my fullest attention. Much like beautiful sunsets reflect in the eastern heavens, the morning’s pinks and blues danced off the neighbor’s buildings and the clouds hanging in the west.

“Reverse Sunrise” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

The joys of a perfect midsummer day

oat shocks, Amish farm
Field soldiers.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The day began as another sleepy sonnet in a series of hot, muggy, midsummer dog days. It turned out to be an inspirational novella.

In keeping with my fair weather routine, I took my morning stroll. I typically immerse myself in the sights, sounds, and morning fragrances of field corn and fresh laundry.

Not this day. The air was thick, moist enough to ring it out and still be left holding a damp rag. Breathing even became a chore.

Already sweated, I dove into necessary yard work back home. I wanted to complete it before the elements became even more oppressive.

I donned my trusty work gloves. Out came the noxious poison ivy. Out went the volunteer walnut and oak seedlings sprouted from the nuts that the squirrels and blue jays had planted in the flowerbeds last fall. They conveniently abandoned them for my birdfeeders.

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Even with little rain, the shrubs seemed to have grown a foot while we were away. I grabbed the trimmer and snipped the wiry branches.

After cleaning up, I took breakfast in the shade of the back porch. With the high humidity, the chances of rain looked promising.

I checked the progress of the road repair in our rural township, the prettiest in the state. No, I’m not up for reelection. As a trustee, I just enjoy inspecting the roads, conversing with folks, and breathing in the beauty of the picturesque landscape.

My camera is my faithful sidekick on my rounds. I’m mindful of respecting Amish ways when it comes to photography. I focus on the agricultural artistry. The golds and greens are at their peak of brilliance even in this mini-drought.

While away, the neighbor mowed the adjacent alfalfa much to the delight of the swooping swallows and the purple martins. They harvested insects in concentric circles around the sturdy workhorses and their mowing master.

To the east, thunderstorms built fast and furious, their anvil tops reaching 60,000 feet. Our meteorological ingredients fed the liquid fortunes of folks 100 miles away.

In the afternoon heat, I turned to writing in the comfortable air conditioning. I confess to guiltlessly adding my two cents worth to global warming.

Neva worked her magic with dinner. We enjoyed a summer feast of fresh veggies and fruit washed down with freshly brewed garden mint tea.

As the storms moved further east, the air here cleared and cooled, if only because the dew point and humidity took a temporary break. Feeling refreshed, we walked around the parched flower gardens and discovered the season’s first monarch caterpillars.

It was about that time that a friend rode by on his bicycle and waved hello. We returned the gesture and moseyed into the house. We weren’t in long when the doorbell rang. It was Mark. He had turned around, and come for a spontaneous visit, the best kind.

Mark was a former student of mine. With more tea poured, we began a marvelous time of reminiscing on the back porch. He filled us in on his family and former classmates. We happily learned that he is now a grandfather.

We cherished his presence and friendly update, despite the unintentional reminder of how old my wife and I are. It was one of the main perks of living and working in the same community over time.

Rank and location have their privileges. So does having a view to the west. A stunning sunset proved a fitting end to a perfect summer’s day.

sunset, Holmes County OH
Stunning sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016