Touring Amish country

July 3, 2012

Faith Outdoors

As my wife Julie and I drove westward on Highway 44 toward the southeastern Minnesota town of Mabel, we saw a most unfamiliar sight on this back-c0untry road – a black, horse-drawn buggy.

We were in Amish country. After slowing down and circling widely around the buggy, we continued on our way to St. Olaf Catholic Church for 10 a.m. Mass.

The liturgy celebrated by the parish’s new pastor, Father Shawn Haremza, was a nice way to cap our 15th wedding anniversary celebration. It began with a nice drive down Highway 52 toward Lanesboro the day before. We stayed at a very nice bed and breakfast in Harmony, just about 10 miles from Lanesboro, called the Selvig House. It is owned by Carol and Ralph Beastrom, who not only are gracious hosts, but fabulous cooks!

Our appearance on their front doorstep was an answer to prayer. On Friday, Julie had been doing research on the Lanesboro area and was interested in spending the weekend there. But, most of the B&Bs in town were booked. By the time I left in the evening to pick up our daughter Claire from a friend’s house in Apple Valley, Julie was discouraged about her search for lodging.

So, I said a simple prayer as I drove southward on 35E: “Lord, you can make something out of nothing. Please help Julie and I find a nice place to stay.”

On the way down, I stopped at an outdoor archery range for some practice with my bow. Then, about 9 p.m., I headed to Apple Valley. I got to talking about our weekend plans with the parents of Claire’s friend, who perked up when I mentioned Lanesboro.

“That’s where we went for our honeymoon!” the mom replied. She said she and her husband stayed at the Selvig and really enjoyed it. The town of Harmony is quieter than Lanesboro, they said, but close enough to take advantage of everything this small tourist town has to offer.

On the drive back home, I decided to call the Selvig. I figured I would get an answering machine and planned on leaving a message, hoping for a call back on Saturday morning. Instead, Carol picked up and said they had vacancies.

In fact, all four of the rooms were open. She said we could come down and look at them, then pick the one we liked.

Praise God! What an answer to prayer. And, this fit in perfectly with Sunday’s Gospel passage from Mark, in which Jesus raised the daughter of a synagogue official, Jairus, from the dead. His words to Jairus were, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Sometimes, it is so simple. Just bring our requests to the Lord and believe. Father Haremza, who originally is from the Twin Cities, echoed that sentiment in his homily, exhorting those inside the small church to act on Jesus’ words.

For us, the weekend seemed to be about simplicity – the landscape, the small towns, and, especially, the Amish lifestyle.

We found that both appealing and refreshing. There are a number of Amish tours in the area, and we took one out of Harmony. The guide got into our van and we made a loop just east of town. We visited a number of farms and got to talk to some Amish folks. Unfortunately, they do not allow photos of themselves to be taken, so I had to leave my camera in the van for most of the tour, which was painful.

But, we got to visit two different farms where furniture is made and sold. The craftsmanship was remarkable – and each piece was made of 100 percent, natural wood. The Amish find trees locally, have them cut down and brought to an Amish sawmill, where planks are cut and kiln dried.

After seeing so much beautiful furniture, I couldn’t help but dream of buying some. For about $1,500, you can have a gorgeous red oak dining room table.

For sure, the way to get the best price is to buy directly from the Amish. There are stores that sell their stuff, but there is some hefty markup involved.

I think it would be fun to go down again and do some serious furntiture shopping. Perhaps, in the fall, we can drive there to see the colors change, then take home a table or dresser.

I wonder: Do the Amish sell scratch-and-dent furniture?

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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek
  • Kathyschneeman

    The Amish country is truly beautiful. I haven’t been there since I was a kid. Thanks for putting a great idea into my head for a future adventure!