Monday, August 10, 2009

Lancaster! Trains, Amish and Food, Oh My!

**If you double click on the slideshow, you can see the pictures better***

Saturday we took a long awaited trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We've been wanting to go for a while, but life has gotten in the way. I love going to Lancaster. It is so relaxing to go out into the countryside and smell the manure. We started our day out by riding the Strasburg Railroad. The train was beautiful, the scenery was beautiful and James was in heaven. I think we spent as much time watching James' face as the scenery. Katie enjoyed it too, and even Tyler stayed awake for the first half of the trip. All the railroad workers wore period costumes and we had a fun 'conductor' who narrated the trip from our very own car. At one point, the train stopped in a valley after he had given us this whole ghost tale, saying that at a certain juncture a ghost whistle was always heard. He really talked it up, and told us all to be really quiet so we could hear it. Of course, that was the one time on the entire ride that Tyler started to cry. But, he calmed down quick and we even heard the legendary ghost whistle across the valley. (an echo) We also passed the farmstead of a man who built the Conestoga wagons for pioneers. Of course, we passed Amish farms too. (You can usually tell by the laundry on the line, and the plain blue curtains, among other things) After a wonderful train ride, we had a very special adventure. We went to an Amish grocery store. I was on a quest to find bulk oats and whole wheat flour. We met up with my Aunt Sally's friends Lee and Anita, who kindly took us to their Amish friends' store. Lee and Anita are friends with the Amish community and drive them to their doctor's appointments and such, so they know where to go. Amish grocery stores are unmarked, and there is no way you'd ever figure out where to go. It was in one of the outbuildings of a farm, down their driveway. Inside, of course, there is no electricity, except for refrigeration, and just two short isles. According to Lee, the Amish shun electricity, except when they can generate it themselves. Another interesting fact we learned from him is why the Amish will not use bicycles (although I could swear I have seen them on a bike or two!). They desire to be self-sufficient, without reliance on the outside world. A bike has many parts, which require too much service/replacement. Instead of using a bike, they modify the bike by turning it into a scooter, with the platform between both bike wheels. Back to the grocery store, it was small and had mostly bulk foods, cheese and some 'convenience' foods. They carried boxed cereal, Cool Whip, and Zip-lock bags. Oh, and Mountain Dew. I bought about a dozen delicious peaches, a 25# bag of unbleached flour, about 20# of whole wheat flour, a big bag of quick oats (strangely, they did not carry rolled oats), 2.5# of cheese, cream of tartar, nutmeg, pickling spice, and minced onions, and something else I think I am forgetting, all for the price of $30.40! If I had had more cash with me I would have really stocked up! It was really a great experience to go, and the storekeeper was very friendly. She asked us where we were from and got to talking to Jeff about farming methods in Colorado. She directed us outside to their pasture so James could see their alpaca. He also got to check out an Amish buggy, and pet an 18 year old pony that was pulling a small cart. After the market, we went to our favorite place to eat, and enjoyed good old-fashioned home cooking. I was only disappointed that we missed rhubarb pie season, although I kind of saw that coming. It is August after all. On the way home, I spotted a farm supply store and got very excited at the prospect of scoring a giant tub 'o udder butter. I went in and promptly found some, nestled amongst the castration rubber bands and uterine bolus something-or-other. Stuff you just don't see around here. While waiting in line, I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore. In fact, I was in an Amish store. While the store was big and very new looking, even modern, I realized that the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling were not fitted with small light bulbs, but in fact they were kerosene lanterns. I pretty much realized that I was out of luck, because I was pretty sure they didn't take credit cards, and I was out of cash. So, after confirming my theory (to quote the Amish man 'I'm not set up for that, sorry) I left empty handed. Oh, well. We had fun, and I could go back anytime!

By the way, I spotted an older Amish woman walking along the road sporting none other than a black patent leather faux alligator purse!!! I wonder how that works out!?

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