Sunday, April 26, 2009

Being Amish - A visit to Wisconsin's Amish Country


Visiting the Amish

My friends have frequently told me about their trips to Amish Country, so I made a pledge this spring to make the journey. Last Friday, my sister in law and I arose at o'dark thirty, to drive from Waunakee to the Pardeeville area of Wisconsin. We were told that it is of the utmost importance to arrive at the Pleasant View Bakery as soon as they open for business at 8 a.m.

Driving to the bakery, we passed an Amish school. The "parking lot" was filled with several parked buggies, while the horses stood idly by. Out in a field, many Amish children, boys and girls, were involved in a game of baseball. They were dressed in the traditional black and white clothing. When we drove by their game in our little red Miata convertible, a good number of the children stopped playing to stare, and to wave at us.

Note: Even though you may be busy gaping, drive slowly and alertly. Cars in this area share the road with the Amish's horse-driven buggies. I must admit, this is an unusual sight to behold the first several instances.

When we pulled into the "bakery's" driveway, we noticed many farm buildings and a house. There was no sign that pointed the way to our baked goods destination. Fortunately, another vehicle arrived within seconds. We asked this older German couple, who appeared knowledgeable, where to find the bakery's entrance. They said, "Stick with us, we're old pros and we'll show you the ropes." They took us around to the back screen door of the home. When we entered, our olfactory senses were assaulted with the smells of cinnamon and freshly baked bread. To our right, were hundreds of loaves of all shapes and varieties of breads. Straight ahead, were the infamous cinnamon rolls and sticky pecan rolls, as well as pies. On the counter to our left, freshly baked glazed donuts, and cartons of brown, extra-large farm eggs! I immediately gravitated to the plate of six freshly baked cinnamon rolls. When I picked them up, I exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! These are still WARM!"

We engaged the young Amish clerk in a bit of conversation about the bakery. She told us that they started baking at midnight every Thursday and Friday evenings. Yikes! (The bakery is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Pricing: We spent $11.00 on 6 cinnamon rolls, 6 sticky buns, and 2 cartons of eggs.

Our newly found friends advised us, "We bring along our coffee mugs, and then enjoy some warm rolls in the car, before we go to our next destination." What a wonderful plan! We too oohed and aahed over our gooey, sticky delights, before hitting our next stop.

Our next stop was an Amish grocery store named Mischler's Country Store. (Side Note: Sis-in-law stated the first of many times, "I don't think they're open...there isn't any lights on." My new reality show: "Crazy Aunt Peggy Meets the Amish." *sigh*) While they have the typical grocery fare, they also have many bulk items in plastic bags. For example, you can purchase the following goods in bulk: spices, cereal, baking staples (flour, sugar, etc), nuts, popcorn, snacks, etc. Pricing example: 5 pounds of popcorn = $3.95. There are bargains to be had at this fine store.

Next, on our agenda was to return to Miller's Greenhaus. The place was packed and we soon discovered why! I have never seen so many plants in so many varieties at such reasonable prices. Hanging baskets with gorgeous blooming flowers that were 2-3 feet across in diameter were $20. These would be upwards of $40+ in our area. Vegetables in every possible size and variety. Annuals! Perennials! Pricing was easy - a 3" pot = $1.75; A 4" pot = $1.95. I purchased the following for $6.00: 1 bi-color butterfly bush (6" height), 4 ground cherry tomato plants (4" hgt), and 6 strawberry plants. I felt like a thief! My sister-in-law was delighted to find asparagus ready to stick into the ground, as well as perennials that would normally have costed $5-$10 per plant!

Did I mention yet how pleasant our hosts were? When I mentioned that I was looking for ground cherry tomatoes, the older Amish gentlemen stated, "Oh! That is my very favorite pie." Confused, we asked, "Tomato pie?" and inquired what was in the pie. He said, "Oh, let me get my wife to help you with that information." He collected his wife from the back room, and she told us that she would be more than happy to copy the recipe for us. While we continued shopping, she wrote out the recipe onto a card from memory. Later on, she brought us both the recipe AND a bowl of the ground cherry tomato pie filling to sample! Of course, we were shocked by her kindness. My sis-in-law, not thinking before she asked the question, said, "So, can you freeze the pie filling then?" The Amish lady, smiling politely, replied, "I just can our pie filling." Sis-in-law did an internal mental slap which equated to "Duh, they don't use freezers."

After we paid for our items, young Amish boys aged about 4 and 5 years old, helped us carry our purchases to the car. Sis-in-law stated that next planting season, she's coming to the Miller's Greenhaus for all of her vegetable plants.

Enjoy the return to a simpler, friendlier, and slower time and place. Take time to have a conversation with your hosts. You just might learn something from these gentle, hard-working people.

The sights are plentiful here, too. Besides the numerous buggies, there were many Amish plowing their fields with large draft horses. ENJOY! My next trip to Amish country will be with my daughter.

At the intersection of Hwy 22 and CM/Barry Road, there is a restaurant named "Ludlow's Kountry Korner." It is not Amish-owned. My burger was reasonably tasty and fairly priced, but I would pass on the french fries from the freezer next time. Dining options in Amish country are limited at best...unless you can live on cinnamon rolls...yum!

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From Waunakee, take Hwy 51 N. At North Leeds, take Hwy 22 all the way through the town of Pardeeville. At CM (which only goes left), turn right, which is Barry Road. On this road, here are the following Amish businesses:
  • Schmucker Sewing/Canvas Shop
  • CVS Windows
  • Fairview Doors
  • Weaver Cabinets
  • Katie's Carpet Shop
  • Miller's Greenhaus* - See above
  • Schrock's Sawmill
  • Miller small engine
  • Mast's Bent & Dent
  • Miller Cabinet Shop
  • Mast's Buggy Shop
  • Mischler's Country Store* - see above
To reach the Pleasant View Bakery, turn right off of Barry Road onto Kiefer Road. You will see a sign for the bakery.

There are many other Amish destinations in the area. If you would like a map, I can provide one to you, if you provide a SASE. Send me an email if you need my mailing address. (Email: niesgirl@yahoo.com)