Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bridge of Dreams...

What a fabulous Saturday! Me and the ladies packed up our wallets and a picnic lunch and traveled up to Amish country yesterday - I cannot tell you how much fun we had! Me, Tonia, Candi, the Pattys (that's my sister and Tonia's best friend), and Tonia's mother, Gail, all piled in the van and away we went. Sadly, our friends Elma and Cassi could not make it this time around (of course they will be present at our next ladies' outing under threat of death and dismemberment), however, there are more wonderful events to come with all of us ladies in attendance - watch out world!

Ohio has the second largest population of Amish in the United States, and a whole tourist and craftsmanship industry has been build around this community. Most of our Amish are located in the north-eastern part of the state, particularly in Knox and Wayne counties. This region of Ohio is stunningly beautiful, rich with forests, marches, wildlife reserves, rolling hills, terraced farms, charming towns, and Amish intrigue. It's a trip we ladies try to make a couple times a year, if anything just to wonder at the Amish way of life, to escape the chaos of the city, and to enjoy the sense of peace we all feel while there. It's odd arriving home, sometimes, after a day in Millersburg, Berlin, or Martinsburg (where my dad lives) - the big cities seem so polluted and our lives overly communicated and stressful...how many times have Tonia and I said, "One day I will live here" (or some place like it)?

Unfortunately, Ohio, like other states with significant Amish populations, is in danger of losing hers - over the last few years, there has been an exodus of eastern Amish moving west of the Mississippi and settling in states such as Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The Amish claim the land out west is cheaper, their communities are more isolated from the general population, and they mean to escape the overpopulated, tourist trap communities for peace. Indeed, a whole tourist industry has been built around the Amish communities here in Ohio, and honestly, it is far more a tourist experience than an Amish one. However, the thought of losing our Amish population to another state is simply dreadful - the Amish are one of the many distinct groups that make Ohio such a uniquely diversified state - I cannot imagine Ohio without Amish. And heaven help the northern half of the state, which has been home to the Amish for 200 years - that region will certainly feel their absence the most, both culturally and economically. I can only hope the Amish remain.

Despite the Amish moving west, the crowded shops and traffic lined streets of the many towns and villages that run along route 62 indicate that at least for now, it's still business as usual! The first stop we ladies made was at the Breitenbach winery right off of old state route 39. We sampled their many fruit wines before each of us indulged in a glass of our favorite. How wonderful to shop for wine while drinking it! lol! Oh, it was lavish, let me tell you, and oh so good. Breitenbach makes delicious fruit wines, the cherry wine being my favorite and Frostfire being Tonia's. This time around (and this is why I love going in the fall!), the winery was featuring their warm spiced apple wine - it was a hit among the ladies and each of us walked out with at least one bottle! In the end, we left with two cases of fruity spirits and some good cheer of our own! 

By the time we arrived at Walnut Creek general store, we ladies were stripping off layers of clothes, quickly warmed up from the wine tasting! There are other general stores around the area, like Swiss Market (which is about 2-3 miles up the road), and they all specialize in something unique, like grains and cereals, bulk and dried goods, fresh produce, and feed, etc. I like Walnut Creek because they have food samples everywhere, a country store with loads of over-priced merchandise I love drooling over, and every kind of candy and dried food you can imagine! So, needless to say, I stock up! This time around, it was red and blue popping corn for me (last time it was whole wheat flour and corn meal). I love open markets - I love sampling the products for freshness and quality, I love not just seeing my food, but smelling it, touching it, tasting it, and knowing where it's coming from. I wish our supermarkets acted more like an open market (getting their products locally, even if that means having seasonal items) - I'd feel better about shopping and feeding my family! 

Our last two customary stops were Zinck's Fabrics (a disappointment this time around) and the Guggisberg Cheese Shoppe. As usual, I bought the beautiful hubs his 2lbs brick of smoked Swiss cheese, while the other ladies loaded up on their favorite cheeses, confections, and sausages. We arrived just before the shop closed, so we missed out on the sampling (drats!), but thank heaven we got there! lol! Guggisberg is a must stop every time we go up - no exception! What good is all the wine we ladies buy with each visit without the complimentary meat and cheese? 
Of course, the Amish countryside doesn't rotate and revolve on city-folk time, which means most shops close promptly at 5 o'clock on Saturday and nothing is open on Sunday (I remember when all communities observed these rules - the days before 24-hour convenient stores and extended banking hours). We stopped at a couple little country stores as their owners were cleaning up and preparing to close. Tonia and PJ bought themselves a quilted handbag while the rest of us milled around sticking our noses in fragrant candles and admiring the beautiful handwork. Eventually we all piled in the van very tired, ready for the long drive home, and making plans for the next trip up, of course...

It was a good day - a very good day - made wonderful by the company of dear friends...

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