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Article Number One

Visit the Snyder County Farmers’ Market with Me

I want to welcome all my Amish/Mennonite fiction fans to the THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY link. By reading these few little articles, you hopefully will enter the world of the kapped folk and see what it’s like to live as if in “days of yesteryear.” This link is a sample of what you’ll read on THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY page at either of my two blogs: or, where we’ll visit with Old Order Amish all the way to progressive Mennonites and share details of these folks in their every day lives. I post something new on THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY page at both blogs every Tuesday.

I’m fortunate to live in Snyder County, central PA, where many Amish and Mennonites live. Every Tuesday just five minutes from my house, quite a few of those folks gather at Keister’s Farm Market and Auction both to buy and to sell. If you’ve read BACHELOR’S CHOICE (Volume One in THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY), then you’ve already vicariously visited a farmers’ market, which I describe in detail in the book. Well, guess where I got all that information. Of course! From the real-live market that I frequent every week. Here’s the actual scene from chapter fifteen in the book, BACHELOR’S CHOICE:

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Every Tuesday, Bowser’s Auction and Market on route 35 outside of Mapletown was the place to be!

On the large open field next to the massive red barn complex, rows of vendors, Amish, Mennonite, and English, had set up their stands and were selling their wares by eight a.m. Mounds of fresh, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage, and baskets of fresh fruit, some shipped in from the south, some local, covered tabletops. Dozens of other tables, under canopies, displayed baseball cards, stuffed animals, old sleds, dolls, antique lamps, used clothing, carpenters’ tools, welcome flags, and a menagerie of “treasures” that wooed bargain hunters from near and far. Behind the stands were rows of trucks, vans, and Amish buggies, resting from their earlier arrival and hasty unloading.

As Katrina neatly arranged her baked goods on a wooden table, she took in a deep breath, her senses filling with a hint of grilling hot dogs and bubbling French fries. A gentle breeze sifted through the grounds, and a strong waft of horse manure invaded Katrina’s nose, the fumes trying their best to overpower the pleasant aromas of frying foods and her own baked goods.

I truly do love to come here. Katrina surveyed the passing crowd, snaking in and out among the tables. There are so many wunderbaar things to see and so many friends to meet. I’ll sorely miss this place. She stationed herself at the stand, waiting for the passersby to check out her wares. Sitting on a stool, she studied the scene before her, one that always made her heart pump a little fast.

Eager vendors were already making their pitch to a steady flow of shoppers. Other marketers lounged in the shade of their beach umbrellas, preparing for another hot August day. Hands folded on their round bellies, they scrutinized every person who came near their stand.

Katrina examined a steady stream of English folks who milled about the tables, including her own, like ants after sugar cubes. Some toted large empty bags, their eager faces betraying their desire to buy something, anything. Sunburned farmers in baseball caps mingled with plump women in tank tops and shorts. Wide-eyed kinner stared and, when mamms turned their backs, touched every toy they could reach.

As usual, the market had drawn a large gathering of local Amish. Bearded men in straw hats, white or blue shirts, and black trousers with suspenders exchanged the latest news in their Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. The women, in white kapps, granny glasses, royal blue dresses with black aprons and work boots, also chatted in their own little circles. The kinner, carbon copies of their parents, stood close to the adults and eyed the tables with wonder.”

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So there you have a taste of what a farmers’ market in “kapped country” is like. If you are living in a part of the world that has no Amish or Mennonite folk, I trust that you’ve enjoyed your little trip “to market” here in Snyder County.

Please sign up for my blog posts at  or at the THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY page to read more about the “Plain Folk” in central PA. I have blogs about these interesting folks, including pictures of an Amish Farm Tourist Attraction in Lancaster, PA, more pictures of my Snyder County market, and just interesting stories about some of my Mennonite friends and their simple lifestyle, which includes a LOT of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

Article Number Two

Quilting Circles: An Amish/Mennonite Tradition

Would you pay $1500 for a quilt? How about just $800? What is it about quilts that make them so expensive?  

In LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN, the third book in my LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY SERIES, the main character, Louellen Friesen, a married Amish woman, attends a regularly scheduled quilting circle with family and friends in her Amish community. Let’s do a little eavesdropping and see what takes place:

“You must needs go to Old Frau Gutenberg,” Mamm Bee said to Louellen as they sat with a group of ten ladies at a quilting circle in the living room of the Bidleman home on Tuesday evening. Louellen’s sister Esther, showing her fourth pregnancy more every day, sat to Louellen’s right and Mamm Bee on her other side. “Old Frau’s got powers,” Mamm said again to Louellen, “and she’ll drive the evil spirit away so you can conceive.”

“But I am not certain that an evil spirit is the cause of all this trouble,” Louellen said. “It might not be God’s time for a child. It could be as simple and plain as that.”
“But I believe Old Frau Gutenberg could get to the bottom of it all,” Mamm Bee said. “She just knows about these things.”

The other women, all intense in their stitching of the quilt that had been stretched on the huge square wooden rack, joined in.

Jacob Knapp’s wife, Emma, sitting across from Louellen gave her opinion as she stared at Mamm Bidleman. “Now, Rachel, the Good Book says nothing about anyone having special powers like Old Frau Gutenberg. So, if those ‘powers’ do not come from God, where do they come from? Think on that.

“What Louellen and Eli need to do is just keep praying. I have had five healthy children, and, mind you, none of them got here by that old woman’s powers. I tell you to pray. Just pray, and the good Lord will answer in his time.”

Martha Romig, Ezekiel’s wife added her thoughts. “I must agree with Emma. The good Lord has blessed us with six, and no powwow doctor had any part of it.”
Esther, noticeably irritated by the last two comments, began stitching her quilt section in record pace. “I must needs disagree with you because I have seen Old Frau Gutenberg myself. When Zeb and I were first wed, I could not conceive for several months. All I can tell you is that after our one visit to the old woman, I conceived and have never had any concern since. I believe God has endowed her with special powers.”

Sadie Miller, Jake’s wife from the next farm over, put in her two cents worth. “All I know is powwowing works. Jake had the old woman come and pray over our lame plow horse, and the day next, that horse was back in the fields.”

“Ach, go on with ya,” Marie Bidleman, Louellen’s sister-in-law said. “There ain’t no such thing as healing powers aside of the Good Book and Bishop Mueller’s laying on of hands. The horse would have been better in a day without the old woman. A good dose of rubbing liniment probably did the job, if we knew all the ins and outs of the situation.”

With that said, the sides were drawn, and for the next hour, a hot debate raged. When the afternoon drew to a close, Louellen was more ferhoodled than she had ever been before. But confused or not, she was absolutely certain of one thing in her heart; she had to do everything and anything it would take to have a child. Her marriage and her own happiness depended on it.

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You just visited a tradition that we “English” have long forsaken, that of making beautiful quilts by hand. But in the Amish/Mennonite communities today, quilting circles are still an important part of everyday life for the women as they were back in the late 19th C.

Amish and Mennonite ladies gather regularly to make quilts, usually for gifts for young married couples, for visiting missionaries, or just as special gifts to be treasured by a certain family in need. If you talk to anyone from those communities about the importance of quilting circles, the foremost answer you will receive is that it’s the primary source of socialization (“gossip”) for the ladies other than attending church functions.

So how is a quilt made by hand? After the quilt patches have been sewn together to form the “blanket,” the real work of quilting begins. An adjustable stretch rack that supports the quilt base (single or double bed size) is assembled either in someone’s front room or in a church social room where the fledging quilt is securely fastened. With needles, shears, thread of all colors, ruler, and thimble in hand, the quilters sit around the rack and begin their tedious work of stitching every flower, star, grape cluster, or other colorful patterns that have already been determined. The quilting bees can be an all-day event or just for several hours on a weekly basis until the project is complete. Quilts can take dozens of hours to complete, even with six to ten ladies. If you calculate the number of hours times the work force required, $1200 is a bargain!

As a child I remember going with my mother to her weekly quilting circle in our church basement. I was not Amish or Mennonite; yet, over 50 years ago quilting was still quite popular with us English folks. I’ve never been a seamstress of any kind, but I fondly remember attending those quilting circles and watching the ladies do their refined and gorgeous work.

My mother passed away in August of 2010 at the age of 94, but she left with me several quilts she had made. One is a beautiful grape cluster-and-vine quilt that is stunning. Whenever I pull that quilt from the cedar chest, fond memories of Mom and her quilting circle transport me back to a time that I’d love to visit again.

Sometimes change in our modern day is not so good. The Amish and Mennonites have held onto a tradition that only serves to bring their communities closer together. But our TVs, computers, and Wii’s somehow just don’t fit the bill quite the same way.

For more information on quilting circles, visit:

Article Number Three

Home-made Pot Pie from a Mennonite Friend!

As the author of the Amish/Mennonite fiction series THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY, I’m fascinated by the lifestyles of the Amish and Mennonites in central Pennsylvania. I have several friends who are Mennonites, some who claim to be “Mid-Atlantic” and others who say they are “Anabaptists.” All these friends are what we English would call progressive or modern Mennonites because they drive cars (all dark colors-mostly black), they have electricity in their homes, and most have cell phones. But all have similar lifestyles and orders of worship. Their dress is traditional with the “kapp” on the women’s drawn-back hair in buns (some kapps are black, others white) and the capes on their dresses, but the dresses can be multi-colored pastels including flowered prints.

Of course, we’re not talking about Old Order Amish or Old Order Mennonite here at all. Old Order folks are the horse and buggy folks, the Plain Folk who have no electricity, cars, or phones. These Ordnungs usually dress in dark clothes, and the men and women often have long sleeves even in the heat of the summer.  The men wear straw hats or black hats with large brims while the women often wear dark colored bonnets over their white kapps when they are outside. The Amish sects like this and the new order Mennonites parted company a long, long time ago and probably will never meet on common ground again.

But back to my Mennonite friends. Recently I visited Brenda and Grace, Mid-Atlantic Mennonite ladies who invited another English gal and me to lunch. My friend and I thought we’d be having a sandwich or a small salad topped off with cottage cheese, but the Mennonite gals surprised us with home-made pot pie with tender shredded pork, corn on the cob, apple sauce, three kinds of canned pickles, and spiced zucchini slices that tasted that spiced apple rings. For dessert, Brenda opened a jar of canned peaches, topped off with that cottage cheese we were expecting on a salad. The meal and fellowship were heavenly, to put it mildly.

Mennonites are known for their hospitality and home cooking. Believe me, my friend and I were given the red carpet treatment by two of these gentle, soft-spoken folks. The pot pie was some of the most delicious I’ve ever had, and it’s a luncheon engagement that I’ll remember for a long time.

Mennonite Pot Pie Recipe
Boil chicken, beef, or pork until soft.
Make pot pie noodles by adding one egg to 1½ c. flour and ½ tspn. and mix.
Add approximately ¼ c. water and mix; then form dough into ball.
Roll out with rolling pin, let dough dry for an hour or so.
Slice rolled-out dough into one-inch squares.
Remove boiled meat from large pot full of meat broth.
Cube three raw potatoes.
Add individual pieces of dough to boiling broth with cubed potatoes and keep stirring between the adding of the noodles.
Simmer for about 30 minutes then add meat back into broth and noodles.
Stir every few minutes to prevent noodles from sticking together.
Serve piping hot and enjoy.

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Please sign up at either of my blogs at THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY page for more Amish/Mennonite trivia, which includes photos!

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