Winter is about to descend upon us, whether we are ready or not. What we have to do to get ready depends on where we live, our lifestyle and what we do for a living. Our farmer friends, for example, still have thousands of acres of soybeans and corn to harvest before winter. They are not ready. Continued rains have kept them out of their fields. It's a serious situation.
Not long ago, we visited some Amish friends south of Burton. Like other farmers, they were trying to get corn chopped and into the silo. It wasn't much fun working in the muddy conditions. They also had several other things they were doing to get ready for bad weather.
Cleaning up the garden and harvesting the last of the vegetables had been done. One interesting crop, growing wild actually, was ground cherries. Several plants had come up along the edge of their garden, and they saved them to harvest the fruit.
I wasn't familiar with ground cherries but learned a lot from our friends. They had harvested quite a few and were letting the outside, papery husk dry to get the fruit inside. We sampled a couple and, to me, they had a flavor somewhat like strawberries. They can be eaten fresh in salads, made into jams, jellies or pie, and they can be dried. Our friends didn't say what they were going to do with their supply. They gave us a few to take home to enjoy.
Then, sitting in the sun on wire mesh, was a good crop of black walnuts they had harvested. They were letting them dry so they could get the outside husks off the walnuts. It is a tough, outer husk that doesn't come off easily. The walnuts would then be stored and used sometime during the winter in cakes, cookies or maybe candy.
As we walked into their home to visit, we went by the woodshed. It was packed full of wood ready for winter. Most Amish use wood-burning stoves, so a good supply of wood is an essential. Keeping it inside so they don't need to go out in the weather to get wood to feed their stoves is a big help. Not only do they heat with wood, but their kitchen cook stoves also burn wood.
My guess is these folks have to replenish their supply before winter is over. Ten degrees above zero down to zero takes a lot of wood to keep warm. And I'm not sure who has to get up on a cold night to keep the fire burning and the house warm. So I think they will have a wood-cutting day or two during cold weather.
As we walked in on their porch, there was a huge sweet potato they had harvested from their garden. They enjoyed showing it to us. It was big enough for several meals.
We had an enjoyable time sitting around in a circle, eating cookies, cheese and crackers, visiting about the garden, crops, our health and the weather. They had planted some peach stones from some North Carolina peaches they had bought and had seven small trees growing. We wondered if the trees would be hardy in Ohio weather and would survive. They want to find out.
As we were leaving, we went out through their enclosed porch. On the back wall was a pulley with a clothes line running out through a window. Another pulley was fastened to a tree some distance from the house with the double clothes line going out to the tree. They could open the window in bad weather, put the clothes on the line while they were inside the porch, then reel the line out and put more clothes on. An ingenious way to get clothes on the line to dry without standing out in cold, snowy weather. In many ways our Amish friends do adapt to keep their lifestyle yet make life a bit easier.
Our afternoon was enjoyable as we shared many things together.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.