Lehman’s Hardware

This week’s Spin Cycle is all about technology.

I love technology – it makes the life I live possible.  My kitchen is full of some of my favorite technology – my dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, stand mixer, food processor, ice cream maker (just to name a few).  I would not be employed without it; since we develop software for a living, it is absolutely necessary.  And, of course, there would be no blog without modern technology.

Living less than a 30 minute drive from the largest Amish settlements in the world, though, gives me a chance to see – and appreciate – those who chose to live without many of the conveniences provided by the modern technology most of us take so for granted.  I find the Amish culture simply fascinating, and the people themselves are warm and friendly.  We make several trips a year to Holmes County, sometimes just to drive around and enjoy the sights, often filled with tiny horse-drawn buggies and Amish farmers working in their fields – sans tractors – but often, believe or not, to shop.

Lehman’s Hardware is almost always at the heart of our shopping excursions, and for good reason.  Founded in 1955, Jay Lehman opened a small hardware store in Kidron, Ohio to supply the Amish with many of the things that were disappearing in a post-World War II era of automobiles , central heat and television.  In the 55 years it’s been open, it has developed and expanded into a 32,000 square foot “low tech superstore.”  Indeed, Lehaman’s Hardware is the largest purveyor of historical technology in the world.

And they let you take pictures.

West Entrance

Lehman’s has several entrances, but the West entrance is the one fronting their rear parking lot, and usually the one we use.

Windmill and Gazebo

This windmill and gazebo sit next to the entrance – the entire outside of the store is studded with the quaint and old fashioned.  But don’t let this modest looking entrance fool you, the place is absolutely massive.

Main Corridor

The store consists of four pre-Civil War era buildings, the largest (as far as I can tell) is the barn, the entrance of which is posted above.  The view here looks down the main corridor with it’s high ceilings crisscrossed with large, wooden beams (and yeah, a fake pigeon or two).

Look Up!

Every room and passageway in the place is lined with shelves way above patron’s heads that hold treasures of a bygone era: here we have what seem to be several old ice-boxes, a washing machine and I’m not sure what that thing to the far left is.  But it’s old.

Butter Churns

Need a butter churn?  They’ve got lots of them!

Hand Plow

How about a hand plow?

Oil Lanterns

Or some lovely, yet functional, oil lanterns?

Wood Fired Cooking Stove

Or perhaps an old-fashioned, cast-iron, wood burning cooking stove.  Yes, the price tag reads $5,250 – no one ever said this old fashioned technology was cheap.  I paid considerably less for my modern gas range – which I imagine will break or wear out many years before this baby does.

Of course, not everything is so arcane that the average schmoe off the street wouldn’t buy it.  Lehman’s is first and foremost a hardware store with a huge selection of the things that most hardware stores carry – hammers and saws and nails and screws; and if you can buy a pitchfork and a scythe there, too, well – hey, historical technology!  They also have what I consider the absolute best part of the place:  a large and varied housewares department.

Old Fashioned German Pottery
Lots O' Ladels
Cast Iron Skillets

I’ve bought every piece of cast iron cookware I own at Lehman’s, including my enameled cast iron – and a wok!

You can also buy edible goodies there, many of them handmade by the Amish and some produced specifically for the store.

Hot Pepper Jelly
Chocolate Granola

These pictures only represent a fraction of what you can find here – there are cookbooks featuring Amish and Mennonite recipes and old-fashioned toys and hand-cranked ice cream makers and the list goes on and on and on.  You can literally go in there and not come out for hours, there’s so much to look at.  Oftentimes, you’ll find Amish craftsman in the parking lot, selling handmade goods such as baskets and there’s a flea market right next door that operates on the weekends in warm weather.  If you’re very lucky, you’ll visit on a Saturday when there’s a farm and livestock auction going on – Amish buggies for as far as the eye can see.

If you should ever find yourself in northeast Ohio, make time to drive to Holmes County and visit Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron.  It’s a fascinating and fun experience.

Read It and Weep

BooksThis week’s Spin Cycle is “Favorite Books” and since I’ve written about this subject before and am yet again (still?) overwhelmed at work, I have decided to repost this.  Written nearly a year ago, the first half of the post is still relevant.  The second half?  Well, let’s just say that I read the saga I mentioned, and was singularly unimpressed. In fact, the books in question alternately amused, disgusted and pissed me off.  Would I recommend them?  Not for their intended audience, no.

~~~~~~

Further Proof I Am Weird

If any is needed.

I love to read.  I’ll read just about anything – books, magazines, blogs, cereal boxes, junk mail…even the Podunk Suppository, when I’m in need of a good laugh or feel a burning desire to bathe in provincial ignorance.  To say the local newspaper isn’t exactly a hotbed of unbiased, professional journalism is something of an understatement. Oh, the culture shock…

But I digress.

Mostly I read books, a passion Beloved and Darling Daughter both share.  Two walls of our family room are literally covered in books, and our next large purchase in the way of furnishings will be custom-built bookshelves.

Before I met him, Beloved read non-fiction almost exclusively.  Oh, he’d read everything Ayn Rand ever published, including her cumbersome novels,  as well as a good many of Gore Vidal’s historical novels, but that was about it.  And while I have introduced him to the likes of Stephen King and Jean Auel, non-fiction remains his chief source of reading material – because of that, we have books on such diverse subjects as economics, American History, philosophy, religion and quantum physics on our bookshelves.

I read my share of non-fiction, although it is mostly in the form of cookbooks (which are a marvelous source of information on other cultures), web development and associated software, biographies, paleoanthropology, medieval history, art and film, but to be honest, most of my reading material is pretty damn plebeian.  I don’t read “mainstream” literature very often, although I own everything ever written by Stephen King, Jean Auel and J.K. Rowling, but most of the books I own are of very specific genres, and the authors I read reflect that: Robert B. Parker, J.R.R. Tolkein, Philip Jose Farmer, Anya Seton, Kenneth Robeson, Ed McBain.  We do have a lot of the “classics” on our shelves as well, which simply means that when the kids are required to read them for school we don’t have to hunt them down (nor are they permitted to get away with Cliff Notes).  We’re also fans of Shakespeare and have several volumes devoted to his works and the analysis of them.

Not that I’m claiming weirdness because I read – I’m well aware that I’m not alone in my love of books; it’s more a matter of what I read, which is sometimes pretty damn obscure…even if I am poised to read all of Stephenie Meyer’s teenage vampire novels (hey, you can’t pass up what’s being hailed as the “next Harry Potter”). (*Note – yeah, you can.*)

One of the reasons I’m only poised to read Twilight and it’s sequels is because of Beverly Lewis.  The covers of her books claim she is a NY Times bestselling author, but I’d never heard of her until I moved to Ohio.  Basically, she writes fiction (I suppose you could call them “romances”) about the Amish.  I’ve seen her books on countless shelves in stores down in Amish country, where they are prominently displayed; in Podunk, she’s been relegated to the tiny “Christian fiction” section of Borders.  Her books are a wealth of information about the Amish, who are absolutely fascinating…at least as far as I’m concerned.  She also writes very well, and really knows how to tell a story.  So much so, she has me – the least religious of people – picking up each new book in the Abram’s Daughters series, exclaiming things like, “Oh, I hope that bitch of a sister of hers gets what’s coming to her in this book!”

Probably not exactly in keeping with the steadfastly held Amish beliefs of forgiveness and pacifism.

And yes, I am ALL caught up in what amounts to an Amish soap opera.  In fact, I finished the third in the five book series last night, and since I found myself out and about today at lunch, I decided to see if they had the remaining two on hand at the local Borders.  They didn’t have both, but they did have the fourth, so I’m good for at least another two or three days (they’re very quick reads).  While I was there, I picked up the first two Stephenie Meyer books – I’d have bought all four, but they were out of the third book in the series and I’m positively anal about things like that.

Checking out was interesting.

Clerk:  Did you find everything you needed?

Me:  Well, you didn’t have all of the books I wanted in stock, no, but you had enough.

Clerk:  Oh, we can look for you – what did you want?

Me:  The third in this series of vampire books and the last in this series of Amish romances.

Clerk: …Oh, well…I suppose we can check…are these gifts?

Me:  No, they’re for me.

Clerk (eyeing me warily):  Okay…(pushes a piece of paper and a pencil towards me)…just give us your name and phone number and we can notify you when they arrive…

Me:  Nah, that’s okay – I’ll just check back in a few days; I’m still looking for “Nuclear Armament for Dummies” and the collected works of Anton LaVey.

I don’t know WHY he ran off like that…

Driving Miss Crazy

This week’s Spin Cycle is all about driving.  I thought about writing about my golf game, but a blog post should consist of more than just the words “I suck.”  I could also wax semi-poetic about my experiences attempting to teach Darling Daughter how to drive, but I figured you’re all traumatized enough during the course of daily life, so we just won’t go there, either.  (Although, can I just say how extraordinarily grateful I am that Beloved and Good Ex will take over the task of teaching The Young One to drive?  Yeah.)

Fortunately for all of us, I can tackle this subject from another perspective.

When I moved to Ohio four years ago, I experienced a bit of culture shock.  I went from living in a large, diverse, southern metropolitan area of about 3,000,000 to a small, insular, northern city (town?) of barely 50,000.  It has taken more than a little adjustment on my part, and it has not been easy.  My pastimes have changed – in some cases, quite drastically.  And while it’s taken me some time to learn to cope with a new lifestyle (to say nothing of a new climate), I’ve come to appreciate the things I can do here in Ohio that I could not do in Texas.

Driving for pleasure is one of those things.

Texas is a very diverse place.  You’ve got the Gulf Coast, the Rio Grande Valley, Mid-Texas Hill Country, the Panhandle Plains and Canyons, the Piny Woods of East Texas, and the West Texas Desert, just to name a few regions.  The problem is, you have to drive very long distances to get to any one of those areas and while the destinations themselves can be quite spectacular, the drive getting there is often less so, simply because it is so time consuming.

Ohio may not be quite as diverse, but it is a beautiful place.  It is one of the most populous states in the country, but you’d never know it driving through it.  There are really no unpopulated areas in Ohio; however, most of it is so rural you tend not to notice that you pass no completely empty countryside.  What there are, in the land between its major cities, are gently rolling hills interspersed with  green, wooded areas and carefully cultivated fields full of corn, soybeans and impressive vegetable gardens; small, quaint towns and white, narrow houses with large porches, all of which look as if they came right off of the cover of an old Saturday Evening Post.

Since Ohio is almost 6 times smaller than Texas, you can drive across the entire state in less than a day.  And drive we do – mostly to north central Ohio where Holmes and Wayne counties are located, home of the largest Amish settlement in the country.  (Uh, Pennsylvania and Indiana?  Our Amish can totally kick your Amish asses.)  Frankly, I love it – if it weren’t for the the isolation and lack of electricity I’d move there in a heartbeat.

Driving down to Amish country is a very zen-like experience; the minute we turn off of highway 30 into Kidron and see the first horse-poop on the road, I just mellow out.  Why, you ask?  Because I get to see things like this:

Old-Fashioned Thresher and Haystacks

An Old-Fashioned Thresher and Haystacks

And this:

Grass and Haystacks

Fields of Grass and Haystacks

And of course, we see a lot of this:

Amish Horse and Buggy

Amish Horse and Buggy

Seeing the Amish drive their horse-drawn buggies around is part of the charm of visiting this particular area.  However, when we went out this last Saturday, we were completely unprepared for the site that awaited us just down the street form Lehman’s Hardware and the Kidron Flea Market.

Because the area is so dependent on farming, both on a small and a large scale, many activities revolve around this occupation.  One of these activities are the periodic farm auctions that occur during the warm months.  I’d read about them, but I’d never seen one.  However, on the Fourth of July, there was a huge one going on in Kidron and as we rounded the corner to one of our favorite money pits places to shop (the aforementioned Lehman’s Hardware) we came across this:

Amish at the Auction

Amish at the Auction

Literally rows and rows of identical, black Amish buggies in a huge parking lot outside the auction grounds.  We pulled into the parking lot ourselves,  and Beloved trekked up to take a gander at the auction while I crossed the street to take pictures of the largest gathering of Amish I’d ever seen in one place, although since the Amish do not like to have their pictures taken, I settled for taking pictures of their buggies.  And trust me, this picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice – there were literally hundreds of buggies parked in the large, gravel parking lot of the auction grounds.

So after awhile of wandering about, pursuing our separate interests, we met back at our car, climbed in and headed out of the parking lot onto the street.  As we turned, Beloved glanced over at me and noted the amused and bemused expression on my face as I took a last, long look at the rows upon rows of buggies.

“What?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “how do they tell which buggy belongs to who?”

Further Proof I Am Weird

If any is needed.

I love to read.  I’ll read just about anything – books, magazines, blogs, cereal boxes, junk mail…even the Podunk Suppository, when I’m in need of a good laugh or feel a burning desire to bathe in provincial ignorance.  To say the local newspaper isn’t exactly a hotbed of unbiased, professional journalism is something of an understatement. Oh, the culture shock…

But I digress.

Mostly I read books, a passion Beloved and Darling Daughter both share.  Two walls of our family room are literally covered in books, and our next large purchase in the way of furnishings will be custom-built bookshelves.

Before I met him, Beloved read non-fiction almost exclusively.  Oh, he’d read everything Ayn Rand ever published, including her cumbersome novels,  as well as a good many of Gore Vidal’s historical novels, but that was about it.  And while I have introduced him to the likes of Stephen King and Jean Auel, non-fiction remains his chief source of reading material – because of that, we have books on such diverse subjects as economics, American History, philosophy, religion and quantum physics on our bookshelves.

I read my share of non-fiction, although it is mostly in the form of cookbooks (which are a marvelous source of information on other cultures), web development and associated software, biographies, paleoanthropology, medieval history, art and film, but to be honest, most of my reading material is pretty damn plebeian.  I don’t read “mainstream” literature very often, although I own everything ever written by Stephen King, Jean Auel and J.K. Rowling, but most of the books I own are of very specific genres, and the authors I read reflect that: Robert B. Parker, J.R.R. Tolkein, Philip Jose Farmer, Anya Seton, Kenneth Robeson, Ed McBain.  We do have a lot of the “classics” on our shelves as well, which simply means that when the kids are required to read them for school we don’t have to hunt them down (nor are they permitted to get away with Cliff Notes).  We’re also fans of Shakespeare and have several volumes devoted to his works and the analysis of them.

Not that I’m claiming weirdness because I read – I’m well aware that I’m not alone in my love of books; it’s more a matter of what I read, which is sometimes pretty damn obscure…even if I am poised to read all of Stephenie Meyer’s teenage vampire novels (hey, you can’t pass up what’s being hailed as the “next Harry Potter”).

One of the reasons I’m only poised to read Twilight and it’s sequels is because of Beverly Lewis.  The covers of her books claim she is a NY Times bestselling author, but I’d never heard of her until I moved to Ohio.  Basically, she writes fiction (I suppose you could call them “romances”) about the Amish.  I’ve seen her books on countless shelves in stores down in Amish country, where they are prominently displayed; in Podunk, she’s been relegated to the tiny “Christian fiction” section of Borders.  Her books are a wealth of information about the Amish, who are absolutely fascinating…at least as far as I’m concerned.  She also writes very well, and really knows how to tell a story.  So much so, she has me – the least religious of people – picking up each new book in the Abram’s Daughters series, exclaiming things like, “Oh, I hope that bitch of a sister of hers gets what’s coming to her in this book!”

Probably not exactly in keeping with the steadfastly held Amish beliefs of forgiveness and pacifism.

And yes, I am ALL caught up in what amounts to an Amish soap opera.  In fact, I finished the third in the five book series last night, and since I found myself out and about today at lunch, I decided to see if they had the remaining two on hand at the local Borders.  They didn’t have both, but they did have the fourth, so I’m good for at least another two or three days (they’re very quick reads).  While I was there, I picked up the first two Stephenie Meyer books – I’d have bought all four, but they were out of the third book in the series and I’m positively anal about things like that.

Checking out was interesting.

Clerk:  Did you find everything you needed?

Me:  Well, you didn’t have all of the books I wanted in stock, no, but you had enough.

Clerk:  Oh, we can look for you – what did you want?

Me:  The third in this series of vampire books and the last in this series of Amish romances.

Clerk: …Oh, well…I suppose we can check…are these gifts?

Me:  No, they’re for me.

Clerk (eyeing me warily):  Okay…(pushes a piece of paper and a pencil towards me)…just give us your name and phone number and we can notify you when they arrive…

Me:  Nah, that’s okay – I’ll just check back in a few days; I’m still looking for “Nuclear Armament for Dummies” and the collected works of Anton LaVey.

I don’t know WHY he ran off like that…

Okay, So I’m NOT Cheap

I hope everyone in the States is having a lovely holiday weekend, and everyone else is having a good Monday.  I’ve been so grateful for a 3-day weekend, and we’ve done very little in the way of work work – just housework and yardwork.  Today I’m baking, mostly cheddar bread and brownies at They Young One’s request for his school lunches this week.  And my Southwest Spoon Bread for brunch today, which has become one of Beloved’s favorite dishes.

Smuckers Authentic Jam and Jelly Tourist Trap

True to his word, Beloved took me down to Amish country Saturday.  We took a lot of back roads that we hadn’t traveled before, so we saw a lot of scenery we hadn’t seen before, and a lot more buggies.  First, though, we went to visit Smucker’s.  Yes, the Smucker’s jam and jelly people; their company was founded in Orville, Ohio (“Reddenbacher must be right down the road,” observed Beloved) in the late 19th century and they have a storefront/museum you can visit and – of course – buy things.

We now call it Smucker’s Authentic Jam and Jelly Tourist Trap, becasue there wasn’t a darn thing in there that you couldn’t get in a regular grocery store (unless you count the flannel pajamas I saw one elderly lady purchasing), and the museum part was bland and stuck in the back of the building.

Oh, well; at least we can say we’ve been there now.

After that came the back roads, and because they were back roads, you tend to see a lot of this.  We take a great deal of care around the Amish buggies; most of these people, especially on Saturdays when they do their marketing and run their errands, have their children with them and it really pisses us off when other vehicles – especially big 18-wheelers – go speeding down the roads there, especialy over hills when you can come up behind a buggy very quickly.

We soon found ourselves at Lehman’s Hardware, which is always fun and fascinating, no matter how often we go there.  I didn’t get any pictures, it was just so crowded, but an older Amish couple set up “shop” out in the large gravel parking lot out back of the store, selling the most beautiful split wood, hand-crafted baskets, as well as homemade cookies and jams.  The Amish are usually friendly but reserved, but this couple was downright outgoing.  The man ambled right over when he saw us looking at some tall, oval baskets with lids and leather handles (we were considering one for a laundry hamper) and started showing us how the lids fit, since they were obviously hand-carved.  The woman cheerfully asked us where we were from and chattered away.  The baskets weren’t cheap, so we went on in to the store where I bought 3 Beverly Lewis novels, a new flour sifter and some popcorn seasoning.

We bought the basket on the way out.  Because we’re gullible easy that way.

Next we did some more winding around back roads we hadn’t traveled before, taking a lot of pictures and playing a lot of Cow Rummy.  Before I knew it, Beloved was taking a back road, trying to get around the traffic into downtown Berlin.  I think he took my assertion that he probably wouldn’t want to go there as a personal challenge…in fact, I know he did.  I like that about him.  And the next I knew, we were here.  Yes, that’s Beloved, being the very, very good sport he is.

Here are just a few of the very beautiful quilts sold here.  All of them are handmade by the local Amish women.

And you know that old saying “Lust for Ask and ye shall receive?”  Look at what I got.

Yup, that’s our bed and my new quilt.  Here’s a closeup.

I love it!  It makes that hideous furniture in our bedroom (no, I didn’t pick it out – it was Beloved’s before I met him) almost bearable.

The only thing is, now I feel compelled to make the damn bed every day.