Have you heard of The Mennonite Game?

The author's Mennonite Grandparents. An Amish couple would almost never pose for a photograph, but Mennonites have accepted most forms of modern technology.

The author’s Mennonite Grandparents. An Amish couple would almost never pose for a photograph, but Mennonites have accepted most forms of modern technology.

“You’re Amish!”

I glanced back to see where the words came from. The kid was staring straight at me.
“No, I’m not,” I replied.

I had just taken my seat on the bus the first day of attending a new school. Twelve years old, and going into the seventh grade, this was a day I had been dreading. It was not easy to be around new people. Now this.

The kid who spoke appeared to be a couple years older than me, and kept staring accusingly. He wasn’t backing down.
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Small Batch Refrigerator Dill Pickles

With such a large family, I got used to cooking everything in army-sized batches.dill pickles kathy harrison Now, with only one child still at home, I don’t need to do that anymore. But getting used to smaller batch cooking has been a challenge for me. This morning I got out all the equipment to make dill pickles when it occurred to me that I wasn’t likely to need three gallons this week. One will be plenty, and will probably leave enough left over to bring to my neighbor.

I will can larger batches for our pantry later but this early in the season I tend to make Refrigerator Dills a lot. They are crispy, tart and make use of the garlic that is just ready to harvest, and the the dill which is producing large, fragrant heads. My own garden up here in the hills is not giving us any cukes yet but the valley cukes are very good and they are just about giving them away at the farmer’s market. I bought a pound yesterday and the pickles I made are chilling now. Continue reading

Hannah Tested, Hannah Approved: Amish Furrowing Hoe

Our Amish-made furrowing hoe is  one of the best row-makers and precision weeders we've found.

Our Amish-made furrowing hoe is one of the best row-makers and precision weeders we’ve found.

My Amish furrowing hoe arrived in the mail the day before a big planting event in a community garden just down the hill from my house in the country. I woke up that morning, did my rabbit and sheep chores, made my breakfast of greens and a couple fried eggs, and brought my breakfast, a fork, some seeds, and the hoe down to the bottom of the road. I sat on a gravel pile and ate my breakfast while I waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. Conor showed up before the others; the first words out of his mouth were “You look like Walt Whitman.” The second statement was, “That hoe is calling out to me.” Continue reading

Summer Fruit Clafoutis

Summer Fruit Clafoutis

It’s the season of abundance. The bush fruit is at its peak. Eggs are coming faster than we can consume them and the cow is giving copious amounts of creamy milk. Finding ways to use it all up can be a challenge. Much fruit has been juiced and gorgeous jars of crystal clear raspberry jelly grace my pantry shelves. More has been set to ferment with sugar and yeast and will provide healing syrups during the winter cold season. Eggs have been fried and deviled, pickled and poached but still they come. We did set a clutch under our broody hen as we fear we might run into problems getting chicks due to the avian virus in the big farms out west. Cream has been churned into butter and the milk curing into rounds of cheddar cheese. Continue reading

Making It Yourself: Why Bother?

Kathy's homemade soap. Find the supplies you need to make yours at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Kathy’s homemade soap. Find the supplies you need to make yours at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

I recently taught a workshop on soapmaking at our local folk school. I was telling a friend about it and she asked a pretty profound question: Why do you bother?

It pays to ask this kind of question from time to time. The truth is that much of what I routinely do is optional. I can afford to eat without my garden and critters. I can get good quality soap and candles, hand cream and lip balm without spending my time and energy creating them. I probably save a bit of money but in truth, if I calculate my salary after expenses I would do better picking up cans from the side of the road for the nickel return.

But I do it anyway, and here is why. Continue reading

Our Amish Neighbors

All Amish groups are not the same - but why, and what are their differences?

All Amish groups are not the same – but why, and what are their differences?

How about a little lesson? We’ll keep it short and interesting. Let’s call it: Some

things you always wondered about the Amish and Mennonites, but didn’t know who to ask.  

I am a Mennonite who lives in an area of Ohio with a very large Amish and Mennonite population (in fact, it’s the world’s largest).  Allow me to share a very brief overview about the Amish and Mennonites in these parts.

There are four distinct groups of Amish living in the Kidron, Ohio area.
These are:

  • Swartzentrubers
  • Dans, also called Danners
  • Old Order
  • New Order

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What’s in Your Refrigerator?

The refrigerators of people who are trying to live on less, leave behind smaller carbon

Proper food storage prevents spoilage and throwing out good food! Food huggers fit over almost any size jar, can or even cut vegetables to lock in freshness.

Proper food storage prevents spoilage and throwing out good food! Food huggers fit over almost any size jar, can or even cut vegetables to lock in freshness.

footprints and do more for themselves look very different from the refrigerators of people who are less concerned with those ideals. You don’t see many packaged foods, name brands or fancy labels in frugal refrigerators. What you do see are Mason jars filled with home processed or bulk purchased food, home-made goodies and leftover bit and dabs that will be turned into good meals for hungry families.

I cleaned out my refrigerator this week. I had a few things that had seen better days. Those brown apple cores will go to feed our chickens or pigs. The wilted greens go to the worm farm or the compost pile. Jars of water from cooking vegetables will go into stock. Bread crusts will turn into stuffing or pudding. Hard cheese will grace a casserole. Nothing much goes to waste around here. Continue reading

Summer Vacation – Unplugged

How many people – including backpackers – go out into nature, on the trail, into the woods

This rugged, lightweight, 3-candle lantern produces a bright light and heats water on top, too. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Our lightweight 3-candle lantern produces a bright light and heats water on top, too. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

– and are completely unplugged?  Cell phones offer GPS.  How many walkers march to the tune of pop music piped into earbuds from an iPod or cell phone?

It may sound scary, the idea of unplugging for a week or so. But it is completely worth it.  Let me share how I have spent my summer vacation for several years now.

Each July, we pack as much as we can into our teeny Tardis – actually a Nissan Micra. It’s fuel-efficient, and very cozy, especially when packed for a vacation.

Then we set off for a camp in Ireland where we will join up with 500 other folks, ranging from babies to “aging hippies” who can just about remember the 1960s! Continue reading

Six Simple Tips for an Allergy-Free Picnic

A picnic should be a fun gathering of family and friends where everyone can relax

Our reusable melamine picnic plates and cups are super sturdy and dishwasher safe. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Our reusable melamine picnic plates and cups are super sturdy and dishwasher safe. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

and have a nice time together. However, for many people attending a picnic can cause stress and panic. No, I am not talking about the dreaded conversation with your awkward uncle or the pressure from grandma to find that special someone. I’m talking about coping with the spread of dishes put out for meals.

For many, the serving table full of its tasty fare, chock-full of traditional picnic dishes can cause stress. In a time when there are so many fad diets, intolerances and medical needs involving food, there are many people that can’t just eat what everyone else is eating. At our typical family gatherings there are folks with food allergies, diabetics and vegans all needing to eat. So here are six simple steps we always use to help everyone have a nicer mealtime. Continue reading

Always wanted to try ___? Start smart with a kit.

Contrary to popular opinion, it just isn’t possible to make a living selling some

Our starter set includes everything you need to make several batches - enough to wash more than 800 loads at less than 7¢ per load.

Our starter set includes everything you need to make several batches of homemade laundry soap – enough to wash more than 800 loads at less than 7¢ per load.

honey, maple syrup and candles at a farm stand. I have to do other things — many, many other things — to avoid leaving home and hearth to pay the bills. I do a fair bit of writing and I teach a lot of workshops. Some have to do with my work with children impacted by abuse, neglect and foster care (my other life) and many are focused on teaching traditional skills like soap making, candle dipping, food preservation and making herbal salves and ointments.

I teach classes on how to do these things the traditional way, but I’m definitely not a purist. In fact, I’m a big fan of beginner’s kits. There are all kinds of kits available for all of the skills mentioned and just about any other you can think of. In fact, I got my start in mastering a lot of skills by purchasing said kits. Continue reading