EMMA BUSH COLUMN: Some things just make me feel happy and good inside

Editor’s note: Emma Bush is a near lifelong resident of the Big Rapids area. She’s written the stories of her life in a book for her family, but wants to share what life was like in Big Rapids while she was growing up. Her columns will appear periodically in the Pioneer.

The things I have written about the “Good Olde Days Gone By” are actually not really “gone by,” in the case of some families that I know, love and respect. If you are lucky enough to know an Amish family, you know what I mean.

Several years ago, I discovered the fresh garden vegetables and honey sold by the Amish families south of Big Rapids. I recently went to visit Mary Brennamann to return a basket that she loaned me the last time I was there to buy vegetables. While I was there, I couldn’t resist filling the basket one more time with a very nice variety of vegetables she had for sale. I paid a few dollars for enough vegetables to last my son, John, and I several weeks, as long as two, sometimes three weeks. Their fresh produce just seems to stay fresh longer than anything I can buy in the stores.

I once asked Mary about how she was able to have fresh, tasty produce earlier in the year than anyone else. She showed me her hothouse and her cold frames where she gets a head start with her produce during those cold early spring days in Michigan. She also showed me how she keeps those young plants from freezing. She explained that she digs away a layer of top soil from the dirt bottom of her cold frames each year, puts down a layer of naturally available organic fertilizer, and covers it over with a layer of soil. In a day or so, it begins to heat up, like organic mulch in a compost pile.

A cold frame, by the way, is a wooden box with a cover made from something like a storm window for a house that can be opened in the warm day time, and closed on cold days and nights to keep the plants from freezing. Adding the layer of “composting mulch” covered by soil beneath the cold frame adds warmth that can make the difference between plants freezing on a cold night or not.

Naturally available organic fertilizer, for those of you who may not know, is horse or cow or animal manure that is, organic fertilizer. I like the name “Dairy Doo,” a term used by a company in Sears on U.S.-10 to advertise their mix of top soil and “naturally available fertilizer” from dairy cows. It wouldn’t be the same as what Mary does by putting down a layer of what we might call her “Horse-n-Straw Doo,” but Dairy Doo is a great, natural way to build up garden top soil without using chemical fertilizers. They used to sell it by the bag or truck load, I think they still do.

Getting back to Mary and her early produce, the buried “compost” generates enough heat to protect the plants from freezing, and then becomes the fertilizer that gives the vegetables a big boost later in the year. She went on to explain that her experience has been that what she gets from the horse stalls works better for her than what is available from cleaning out cow stalls. So there you have it. You now know what to do to get an early start on your cold frame veggies. Another reason to subscribe to the Pioneer. Just ask yourself the question: How many of you “Knew-what-to-Doo” with your “Horse-n-Straw Doo” before reading this article?

Some people may think that the Amish are not keeping up with modern times and that they are “stuck” back somewhere in time. As far as I am concerned, they aren’t “stuck” any place. They are doing what they do on purpose, by choice. They are living a healthy, well thoughtout lifestyle based on what seems to me to be very practical and spiritually based choices. They live what they believe. When I say that they “Live What They Believe,” I think of the old saying “Walk like you talk.” To me, the Amish I know “walk like they talk,” that is, they don’t just say one thing and then do something else or make a promise they don’t keep.

To me, the Amish don’t just talk about raising their families in homes that are protected from modern day worldly ways, they do something about it. The Amish live the things that they believe. They become “doers of what they believe” by making choices that “make it happen.” I respect them for that . That’s just what I think.

Here I am, getting all excited about all of this, like a preacher who is leaning over the top of the pulpit getting ready to nail home the main point of a Sunday sermon. Based on my recent experiences, perhaps I should carefully climb down from my lofty, preachy pulpit before I fall off and hurt myself again. If you are still with me, let’s move on. Getting back to returning Mary’s basket, I still have it. It’s not the first time that I went visiting to return the basket and ended up filling it up again and taking it back home. I’ve been “borrowing” it for quite a while now. No problem. I will take it back the next time I go to visit.

The Amish children are quiet, but alert to what is going on around them. One time when I was visiting an Amish family, one of the older boys disappeared just as I was leaving and showed up with a jar of fresh honey and gave it to me without saying a word. He was all smiles. It always tastes better than any other honey in whole world.

When we visit, we always take our shoes off and put them with the row of other shoes all lined up by the door. One time, as I was leaving, my son, John, was tying my shoe laces when the cutest little boy you have ever seen hurried forward and asked if he could tie my other shoe. He explained that he had just learned how and knew that he could do it. So there was John, tying one of my shoes, and this little boy carefully tying the other one. It was the cutest thing.

This same little boy doesn’t usually say much around visitors, but one winter day he opened up and started talking to us while his father, Willie Brennamann, was taking several of us on a sleigh ride. As we were cutting through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh, this little boy started telling about his grandfather who had once also been driving a sleigh one wintery day along the edge of a drainage ditch. As the story unfolded, he got more and more excited as he told about how his grandfather had driven the horse too close to the edge of a drainage ditch. The sleigh slipped sideways and dumped the grandfather out! By the time the story got to the part where the grandfather was rolling down the bank and into the water, the little boy was speaking English with Amish-German words sprinkled in here and there. He was speaking so fast that I could hardly keep up with the English, let alone understand the Amish-German words. I must admit, however, that those Amish-German words certainly did add color to the picture being painted in my mind of the story being told.

The Amish may not have modern things in their homes, but what they do have is comfortable. Mary has a chair that she lets me sit in that is oh-so-comfortable. She heats with wood stoves, one of which is a wood burning kitchen range like the one I grew up with. Nothing is quite the same as sitting next to a wood cooking stove on a cold winter day. It’s hard to describe how good it feels. Its cozy, but you have to have been there and done it to really know how it feels.

I like to visit my Amish friend, Mary, and my other Amish friends. They always makes me feel happy and good inside. I sort of like their way of living. It reminds me of the way I was raised, of the things that I did while growing up, and the things that will always be a part of me.

Before I close, here’s an update in my health recovery department. Last time I described my most recent encounter with getting tangled up with the TV table while getting up and out my TV chair. Today I can report that my swollen, black and blue leg, knee and thigh have all recovered in less than a week. Everything looks almost normal, like a normal, lumpy, little old lady leg, knee and thigh again. If there is a lesson to be learned from my trip to the black berry patch and then from the wrestle with the TV table, it might be that: Even if your body continues to be able to perform recovery miracles, on-going testing to see if the miracle still works is not a good idea.

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