Amish Country Journal

Reports and musings from Indiantree Farm, in Holmes County, Ohio -- the largest Amish community in the world. See more about author Larry D. Miller and Amish Country at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Two-Wheel Weekend

Vintage Motorcycle Days is a three-day exercise in two-wheel euphoria.  Tens of thousands of motorcyclists from across this continent and beyond, converge on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Mansfield, Ohio.  All of the motorcycles honored and most in attendance are antique . . . as are a majority of their owners.

I slipped the surly bonds of the farm for a three-day getaway and encountered one eye-opening experience after another. 

The absolute topper of all was the Trials Competition.

Trials is the slow-speed, ultra-precise maneuvering of a motorcycle over deep woods obstacles that appear insurmountable.  But the lightweight, high-torque bikes can be made to dance over rocks, logs and slippery, muddy terrain . . . all on an incredibly steep hillside.
It's accomplished with amazing balance and a high level of finesse.  Put your foot down and you pick up a point.  The rider who finishes with fewest points wins.

The riders - most in their 30s, 40s, or 50s - pretty much slipped, bounced and skidded their way through the course.  Some "dabbed" a foot, some paddled unashamedly, some dropped bike and dignity into the mud.  They were riding 60s and 70s Hondas, Ossas, Yamahas and Suzukis.

Then came the last rider.  The engine note was unusual . . . a slow, thumping beat.  The exhaust pipe was low-mounted, not up high as were all of the others.  The front fender tag proclaimed it a 1946 BSA.  53 years old but with the strong, thumping heartbeat of a teenager.

It moved slowly.  Slower than most of the others but with delicate precision, threading its way over, around or through the obstacles.

Then as the rider moved closer, the crowd of observers collectively sucked in their breath as they clearly recognized that he was at least 17 years older than his bike.  A tall, slender man with a deeply furrowed face, standing on the footpegs throughout, he had the calm, steely, focused look of a gunfighter.

His bike lost no traction, his feet never left the footpegs, his body english was spot on and he aced the section.  Zero points.

No other rider had commanded such applause.

Lesson learned: never underestimate an old guy on a motorcycle.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tarp Shop Is Gone - - Temporarily

Erb's Tarp Shop disappeared yesterday!

Our neighbor's long-standing business headquarters, where boat owners and others from the Midwest have purchased custom-fitted tarp covers for nearly half a century, is gone.

But wait . . . there's more!

Actually, the shop was demolished to make room for a new, larger building. Meanwhile, David Miller (owner) and his family are working out of a smaller shop beside their house, just across Rt. 515 from the tarp shop site.

A foundation footer for the new building is being poured today and unless I miss my guess, a new - and much bigger - tarp shop will be ready for occupancy in about two weeks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Indiantree Hill Gets A "Haircut"

The hilltop high-altitude haircut is finished.

Twenty-two of our tall trees - including our cherished Indian Tree - have been shortened, pruned and thinned, yes to give them better shape and strength but mainly to make them less vulnerable to the high winds that howl across Indiantree Hill when storms whip in out of the Southwest.

Riding an 85-foot-tall "Cherry Picker" and swinging from branch-to-branch on a rope looped over a higher limb, the Amish trim crew amassed more than an acre of trimmings, piled six feet high in places.

Now the trimmings have been reduced to wood chips and a stack of firewood, the squirrels have relocated to new living quarters and the woodpeckers are back to rapping on the old snag in the East tree line.

We relished breakfast on the front porch this morning, watching new patterns of dappled sunlight created by our "opened" trees

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Amish Tree-Singer . . . A Surreal Moment On The Hill

My trees are alive with the sound of music.

Amish music . . . and yodeling.

The cast and crew of Yoder's Tree Service are singing, slicing and shredding the 60-foot-tall Maples surrounding the farm house, the barn and the guest house.

Indoors, on Channel 3, Queen Latifa is quoting Maya Angelou in memory of Michael Jackson. Outside - and I am not making this up - one of the Amish trimmers is singing and yodeling, "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder."

At the top of his voice.

Truly surreal.

Marvin Yoder is a wiry guy able to hold a running chainsaw at arm's length as he lops off branches while dangling from a rope looped through the crotch of a branch 10 feet higher. He swings from branch to branch, sometimes standing on a limb, sometimes dangling by the rope.

Singing all the while, not for an audience because there is none, but for the pure joy of singing and because he genuinely enjoys his work.

My lawn is eight feet deep in branches, the tree that was hit by lightning (the one I pondered for hours, trying to figure how it could be dropped without damaging something) was down in nine (yes 9 !) minutes and it fell exactly into a narrow corridor between the split rail fence, the electric power lines and the guest house.

Now Jennifer Hudson is singing a moving tribute to Michael Jackson and I stand transfixed at the window. One of Marvin's crew members, 50 feet above ground, has lapsed into an extended yodel, nearly drowned out by the wood chipper.

Truly surreal.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fruit crop is looking good this year

We pared the grape vine back to the nub in the spring, and the same for the apple and cherry trees. It was cold and dreary in late March when we did that.

Now, it's sunny and warm, and the grapes and apples are coming on strong. The thought of grape pie is making our mouths water, but we'll have to wait a few months for that.

Unfortunately, we didn't have so much luck with the cherries. They looked good for a day -- but the bird crop outpaced the cherry crop and they got them all.

We saw a blue bird today!

The grandkids arrived today, and pulled in the lane to see the first blue bird in their 19 years on this earth. It was a moment to celebrate.

We stood in the front yard and applauded as the blue bird with the red and white breast flew across the pasture toward Walnut Creek.

Let's hear it for the red, white and blue!