DAY TRIP TO AMISH COUNTRY, OHIO
We have been doing day trips to the Amish County in Ohio for over thirty years. We have seen the towns grow and change and prosper yet the countryside remain steadfast in staying the same. White farmhouses with rows of laundry flapping in the wind, huge square and round barns and teams of thick Percheron and Belgian horses pulling planters through fields of brown turned soil never change from spring to spring.
There is a peacefulness, a calming that comes over us as we drive down back roads so small they have numbers for names. Road #13, Road #7. The area is clean, white, pristine in the manor in which it is kept.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
Amish children, boys dressed in black trousers and blue button shirts and girls in pale colored dresses and white caps, eagerly chase chickens and each other around the yards. The clippity-clop of horse hooves on pavement can be heard off in the distance and everywhere the strong smell of manure and freshly baked bread blend together and permeates the crisp air.
We arrive from the south so we start our day trip at the north and work our way back down. Our first stop is always Lehman’s General Store in Kidron. It is our favorite store in the Amish Country and we never tire of going there and strolling through their many rooms of non-electric gadgets. The original part of the building is an 1800’s log cabin that is still intact and is worth the trip just to see that if nothing else. Huge rough-hewn beams and wide plank wood flooring also give the general store an old time charm. Cookware, tools, wood stoves, candles, gardening supplies, book store and so much more are all great sources of amazement and learning. It is world renowned as the non-electric store. We have subscribed to their catalog and look forward to receiving it several times throughout the year.
Our second stop is always Heine’s Cheese shop and the bakery that is nestled across the road. We hit these two favorites early because they set out samples of all the cheeses and baked goods and we are almost full when we leave. We don’t do lunch, but rather work our way on out later in the day to where we will eat a huge Amish buffet dinner. Going to Heini’s early allows us time to get hungry again before we hit the buffet later. We buy big rounds of Swiss, Colby and Cheddar cheeses and several varieties of breads, pies and cookies and when we get home we cut them up and share with my dad and Stan’s mom and freeze the rest. Some people are surprised you can freeze cheese but we do it all the time and it always thaws out as fresh and as good as the day we placed it in the freezer.
In Walnut Creek we hit Walnut Creek Foods, it is a grocery store, but it is also sooo much more. It has a bulk foods area that is to die for. Bulk prices on every kind of spices, baking supplies, candies, snacks, dips and sauce mixes and everything in between. We stock up with months worth of supplies every trip.
In Berlin we hit Sol’s. It is a huge craft mall divided between two buildings. Crafters from all over the country send their homemade goods to be put on display in small booths throughout. We have found some really awesome items on several occasions.
Down in Charm we stop at Millers’ Farm Market. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available year round. They have a great bakery inside as well as row after row of jars of Amish jellies, jams, pickles, sauces and everything else they can think to throw in a mason jar. Outside the air is filled with the smell of kettle corn and grilled burgers and brats they grill and sell on site. Next door is a combination antique/ leather store. The excited squeals of children can be herd coming from the massive barn as they pet the horses, pigs, lambs and goats on display there.
On down the road we stop at Guggisburg Cheese. Heine’s doesn’t sell Gruyere cheese so we always stop and purchase it at Guggisburg Cheese anytime we are up at the Amish Country. Gruyere is a little more expensive than most white cheeses but the smooth, creamy, nutty flavor lends a very distinct flavor to Italian dishes that I have not been able to get from any other cheese. It has a very strong note and so little is more and therefore because you use less of it than other cheeses it really ends up not being more expensive after all.
If we are visiting on a Tuesday or Thursday we will drove on over to Farmerstown and hit the flea market and auction. It is always exciting to see buggy after buggy lining the streets and the cages of critters lined up to be sold at the auction.
Stores of every sort line the streets of the tiny towns and drive down any back road and you will find signs pointing down long lanes to Amish houses with goods for sale. No matter what you are shopping for – furniture, candles, bulk goods, canned goods, cheese, fresh baked goods, bushels of fruit and vegetables or homemade quilts you can find it in one or more of the store in Holmes County Ohio.
Once we have hit our favorite – must stop at – places we spend the remainder of the day exploring small craft shops or driving the back roads and enjoying the scenery. The stores close at 5 and the restaurants at 7 so we plan the day to be at Dutch Valley, just off 39 East in Sugar Creek in time to eat dinner. It is a beautiful restaurant anchoring several stores and a hotel. It is a “Scratch Kitchen” where everything is made fresh and from scratch by local Amish women.
Broasted chicken, roasted beef and turkey, tons of sides, salads and deserts all bring back memories of eating at my Grandma Rose’s “Scratch Kitchen” at Thanksgiving. For just a moment, standing there smelling the old familiar smells I am transported back in time to that little pink house with the Scioto River running through the back yard. Adults crowded around the living room with plates full of food balanced on their knees. Dogs barking and kids yelling as they run in and out of the kitchen. Me sitting shyly in the back ground as my older cousins bravely swung out over the bank of the river on a truck tire hung from an old rope thrown over a tree branch. As quickly as it comes the memory fades away.
There is a reason that in thirty years we have never tired of day trips to the Ohio Amish country. It fills us with a longing of a simpler time and a simpler place. It brings pictures of our childhood rushing back and gives us a renewed sense of home and family and faith.
With our heads and our hearts full of contentment and our car full of goodies we make the three hour trip home, happy for the new memories just made and already planning our next day trip Amish Country, Ohio.