One Room School

one room school, Amish school, private school
One room school.

In one way, this is a typical one room Amish school. In another, it’s not.

The school is plain white, as is the custom among the Amish. This particular one was once a public school until the school consolidation wave hit Ohio in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When the local schools were closed, the Amish often bought them and started their own schools. That way their students weren’t far from home and could walk to school.

The atypical aspect of this school, at least structurally, is that it has a metal roof. Most Amish schools have shingled roofs. A metal roof would cost substantially more than a shingled one.

Another point of interest is that this school was closed yesterday, a Wednesday, when I took the photo. Why? It’s harvest time, and the school was closed for three days so the youngsters could help husk corn at home. Apparently most of the students who attend this school live on farms. Otherwise the school board, made up of five fathers of the students, wouldn’t have closed the school in the middle of the week.

“One Room School” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Buggies at Rest

Amish buggies, Holmes Co. OH
Buggies at Rest.

I was out taking shots of the changing leaves when these Amish buggies caught my eye. I liked the randomness of how they were parked, creating marvelous angles that nicely contrasted with the striations of the barn’s siding and roof.

“Buggies at Rest” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Delicate Delicata

delicata squash, squash, farmers produce auction
Delicate Delicata.

Living in the country all of my adult life, I like to think that I know vegetables. When I came upon these beauties, I had to ask what they were. The Amish woman said they were Delicate Squash. Given their intricate and varied variegated coloration, I could see why they got that name. However, when I saw the same squash being sold at the Farmers Produce Auction near Mt. Hope, Ohio, I checked the tag for the name. It read, “Delicata Squash.”

Of course, I Googled it when I returned home and discovered some tasty recipes. Next time, I won’t just photograph these artsy veggies. I’ll buy some, too.

“Delicate Delicata” is my photo of the week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Rare birds and rare birders

birdersatsunrisebybrucestambaugh
A beautiful sunrise greeted these birders in search of a Snowy Owl.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Birding is one of my many hobbies. I’m no expert birder to be sure. I merely enjoy the sport, and try to weave birding into every travel opportunity.

Birding is an activity enjoyed by folks of all races, religions, cultures and countries. I’m usually side-by-side with men, women, boys and girls wherever I bird.

When these good folks discover I’m from Holmes County, Ohio, I often am asked the same question. Why do you have so many rare birds there?

I smile, pause, and give them my standard answer.

“It’s not that we have any more rare birds than other places,” I say. “Rather, we just happen to have a lot more rare birders.”

That’s when I get the looks. Some vocalize their consternation. The nonverbal cues from others reveal their puzzlement. Still others get it right away.

I believe that the Holmes County, Ohio area has so many unusual bird sightings because it has so many outstanding birders. Many of them are teenagers or young adults.

bird habitat, Ohio's Amish country
Attractive habitat.

The varied habitat of the Killbuck Valley and adjoining manicured farmlands east and west create familiar, safe harbor for a wide variety of birds. Marshes, ponds, brushy fencerows, and extensive stands of woodlots provide excellent cover and feeding grounds for birds big and small.

Birders who reside here know to keep a look out for anything extraordinary. If they see or hear something unusual, they tell someone. An authoritative local birder identifies the bird, and the word spreads near and far.

Many of these bird watchers are Amish. It’s a hobby embraced by their culture and family structure. To be sure, birding is an exercise in which all family members can participate, and be out and about in the nature that they love and embrace.

It’s no coincidence that Amish folks have discovered many of the rare birds sited in the area. Now, it’s not simply because they are Amish that they find the birds. No, they see the birds because they pay attention to their surroundings.

Swainson's Hawk, Holmes Co. OH
Juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.

Take the latest rarity, the juvenile Swainson’s Hawk discovered recently in a newly mown alfalfa field half way between Berlin and Walnut Creek. Workers at Hiland Wood Products noticed particular peculiarities about this bird, its behavior, its flight pattern, its coloration, and its diet.

When the bird was pointed out to skilled birder, Ed Schlabach of Sugarcreek, he easily identified it. Ed works at the company and is a reputable birder.

Ed not only knew what the bird was; he knew that it was a very rare find for Ohio. In fact, the typical range of this buteo is well west of the Mississippi River, and mostly in the southwest, and only in summer.

What the hawk was doing here was a mystery. Ed knew that birders everywhere would want to see this magnificent specimen. The word went out through phone calls, birding lists, emails, texts and social media.

There is always a rush to see a rare bird. Most often such birds do not hang around for very long. This young bird chose to stay for several days, and also picked a spot to easily observe it, whether on the ground or in the air.

For many birders, the young Swainson’s Hawk was a “life” bird. That is, it was the first time they had ever seen this species.

Once again, we can thank the many rare birders who reside and work in our pastoral abode for this latest mega-rare find. Rare birders find rare birds.

Amish birders, Holmes Co. OH
Amish birders.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Details in Patterns

Amish farm, details
Details in Patterns. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I love to look for patterns in photos. There are plenty on display here, even if you only look at the various textures of the roofs on the congregated buildings. Also note the details that enhance the plain red and white buildings. Did you see the brown horse against the barn wall? How about the Rock Doves, aka pigeons, on the roof of the outbuilding in the foreground? Or the smoke coming out of the chimney?

See how many other details you can find as you explore this photo.

“Details in Patterns” is my photo of the week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Sleepyhead

sleeping barn owl, juvenile barn owl
Sleepyhead. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

When the farmer called me the other morning, I was away from home. He said he had two juvenile Barn Owls sleeping near his barn. My wife and I finally arrived at the Amish farm two miles from our home. The owls were still in the same place. Both were still sound asleep despite being only a few yards from a busy highway.

The owls had recently fledged from their nest box in the farmer’s barn. Rather than be disturbed by their younger siblings, still too young to fly, each owl found a personal, private spot to snooze. This one chose a silver maple tree in the farmer’s yard. The afternoon sun highlighted its breast feathers and some of the tree’s leaves.

“Sleepyhead” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Gathering hay

haying, making hay
Gathering hay. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I was on another assignment when I saw this scene recently. I lowered the window of my vehicle and took the photo. It’s the iconic image of Amish gathering hay that most folks envision. The truth is, the way Amish farm has changed drastically in recent years. Most mainline Amish bale hay, either in rectangular bales or big round bales. Only the most conservative of the sect, the Swartzentrubers and those who belong to the Dan Church, continue to use the method pictured to gather hay.

I especially liked that the grandchildren were driving the team of horses while Grandpa properly balanced the huge stack of loose hay.

“Gathering hay” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015