Camping offers delights of food and family

My husband, Joe, returned to his job at the RV factory after being on vacation for a little over a week. Daughters Elizabeth, 20, and Susan, 18, are home a few more days before they will return to their jobs at the RV factory where they work.

Lovina's three youngest children got creative and took a water hose to write these words on the side of their barn.
Lovina’s three youngest children got creative and took a water hose to write this message on the side of their barn.

We had an enjoyable vacation, but it went way too fast. A lot of fishing was done, but we also accomplished a lot of work. Joe and sons Benjamin, 14, and Joseph, 11, put a new metal roof on the back of our barn. The roof had been leaking. It’s where we keep the chickens and calves, so it will sure be a lot better to not have a leak in the roof.

We put up almost 800 bales of hay in our barn over this past week. Hay is still expensive, and farmers are having a hard time getting their hay in between the rains. The rains are helping things grow and gardens are doing well.

During the camping trip, the Eicher family put the tripod and kettle that the children recently gave to their father to good use.
During the camping trip, the Eicher family put the tripod and kettle, which the children recently gave to their father, to good use.

One evening we went camping with my sister Emma and her husband, Jacob, and their family and my sisters Verena and Susan. We cooked supper out on the open fire with Joe’s new tripod and kettle. We deep-fried fish and had lot of food, with everyone bringing something. The children loved sleeping in tents. We cooked breakfast outside on the fire. Our menu was sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sliced Swiss and Colby cheese, hot peppers, sliced tomatoes, watermelon, muskmelon, caramel cake, pudding, coffee, milk and orange juice.

Today we are washing laundry, and it turned out to be a beautiful day for drying clothes. We had a thunderstorm during the night and some more rain.

Son Benjamin is helping Susan’s friend Mose at his sawmill for a couple days. It seems quiet without Benjamin home. He does so many jobs for me when Joe is working.

Joseph, Lovina and Kevin are cleaning out the chicken coop, which is always a stinky job. But it has to be done. They are also cleaning out another area for our four new pigs, which will come today. We will raise them for meat this winter.

If it’s the Lord’s will we will have beef, pork and chicken to fill our canning jars and freezers for another year once it turns cold again. How thankful we are for having plenty to eat. It isn’t like that everywhere, and we pray that God will provide for the ones less fortunate as well. We need to thank God for our many blessings daily!

How thankful we are for having plenty to eat. We pray that God will provide for the ones less fortunate as well.

The rest of our week will be spent sewing for niece Irene’s wedding next week. I will help prepare for the wedding on Monday and be a cook at the wedding on Wednesday. Daughter Elizabeth and her friend Timothy will be tablewaiters at the wedding. Tablewaiters are friends and cousins who are chosen by the bride and the groom to serve food to wedding guests seated at the tables.

I’ll share the recipe for batter that I use to deep-fry fish. We also use this for onion rings, zucchini, and other vegetables.

Batter for Deep-Fat Frying

½ cup milk
1 egg
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt (or seasoning of your choice)

Mix together all ingredients and stir until lumps are smooth. Dip fish filets or sliced vegetables in the batter. Drop in hot oil in a deep frying pan or Dutch oven and fry until golden brown.

Pie filling to store up summer sweetness

Strawberry pie filling
Lovina’s strawberry pie filling, ready for the freezer.

It is a quiet morning at 5:30 a.m. Our two oldest daughters, Elizabeth, 20, and Susan, 18, just left for the factory a few minutes ago. All is quiet with the six other children still asleep. My husband, Joe, left for work before 4:00 a.m. and is probably hard at work already. They start working by 5:00 a.m. at the RV factory where he has worked for the last 9½ years.

My dad was always an early riser and loved the early morning hours. He never liked going to bed late. There is so much beauty and peace in the morning hours.

“There is so much beauty and peace in the morning hours.”

Yesterday we made 12 quarts of strawberry pie filling. We put it in the freezer instead of cold-packing it in jars. The strawberries came from my sister Emma’s strawberry patch. So many people are having a good supply of strawberries this year. The rains seem to be frequent enough.

Our garden is doing so well already. But when everything grows, so do the weeds. It is so hard to keep up with them. Son Benjamin took the tiller through the rows of sweet corn, and that looks so much better. He also used the weed-eater to trim the weeds around the buildings that we can’t get with the lawn mower. That looks better too.

It is just hard to believe Benjamin has grown so tall and can handle all these jobs. I think he is taller than I am. Benjamin’s school days are in the past now. He finished with eighth grade, which is usually the last grade the Amish children take.

Benjamin was four years old when we moved to Michigan from Indiana. He was always full of energy and gave us quite a few scares during his younger years. Daughter Loretta was born 11½ months after Benjamin, and those two were quite the team when they were toddlers. Before Loretta could walk, I would put her in the playpen if I had to leave the room for a little bit. One time when I came back, I was surprised to see Loretta crawling around on the floor. Benjamin had managed to find my scissors and cut a hole in the playpen so Loretta could get out to play with him! I am so thankful neither of them was hurt. Needless to say, we needed a new playpen.

Joe and the boys are fishing every chance they get. For Father’s Day the children gave Joe a tripod that has a chain to hang a kettle on. They also gave him a cast-iron outdoor kettle. Joe deep-fried fish in it one evening. It worked really well. Joe enjoys cooking outdoors and I have no objections when he offers to cook.

The tripod and kettle that the children gave to Joe for Fathers Day.
The tripod and kettle that the children gave to Joe for Father’s Day.

On warm evenings it is so nice to eat outside. The children made s’mores after they were done eating fish. We had bluegill, perch and bass. I prefer the bass and Joe would rather have the bluegill. Son Kevin, 8, wanted me to know that he caught the perch. At first he couldn’t remember the name of the fish. He said, “It starts with a P!”

I’ll share my strawberry pie filling recipe with you readers. God bless you all!

Strawberry Pie Filling

  • 6 quarts water
  • 4½ cups Perma Flo
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4½ cups strawberry gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 quarts strawberries, mashed

Put 6 quarts water in a 12-quart kettle and bring to a boil. In bowl, mix Perma Flo and 4 cups cold water. (Perma Flo is available at some Amish-run stores and online, but Clearjel can be substituted. Perma Flo works better for freezing.) Stir into boiling water, stirring constantly. After it thickens, remove from heat and add sugar, gelatin and salt. Add strawberries and stir until mixed well. Freeze in containers.

This also works well as an ice-cream topping and in puddings or cobblers.

Blueberry variation: Replace strawberries with same amount of blueberries; add 1 teaspoon lemon juice; replace strawberry gelatin with raspberry and blueberry gelatin (in equal amounts); and use 3½ cups Perma Flo.

Peach variation: Replace strawberries with 7–8 quarts sliced peaches and replace strawberry gelatin with peach and orange gelatin (in equal amounts).

Cherry variation: Replace strawberries with 10 pounds cherries; use 3½ cups Perma Flo; and add 1 teaspoon almond flavoring.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 or at Editor@LovinasAmishKitchen.com.

Diary of a Day in an Amish Household

Sugar Cookies
Lovina’s daughter Susan baked these sugar cookies for a friend.

My name is Lovina Eicher. I have been married for 21 years to my loving husband, Joe. We feel blessed to be parents to eight sweet, wonderful children: Elizabeth, 20; Susan, 18; Verena, 16; Benjamin, 15; Loretta, 14; Joseph, 12; Lovina, 10; and Kevin, 8. We are members of the Old Order Amish church in Michigan. I hope you will continue to enjoy my writings under my new column name: Lovina’s Amish Kitchen. I thank each of you for your continued support, and may God bless each of you!

For this week’s column, I will do a diary of a day in our life.

3:20 a.m. Our alarm rings, letting us know it is time to start another day here at the Eichers. I pack lunch for my husband, Joe, and fill his water jug with ice and water.

3:55 a.m. Joe leaves for work. One of our neighbors has been picking Joe up to take him to work for over nine years. It is a 40-minute drive to work. I go back to bed after Joe leaves.

5:00 a.m. I get up again before daughters Elizabeth and Susan leave for work.

5:20 a.m. The girls leave for their jobs. I decide to catch up on some writing and reading until I wake the rest of the children. Since school is out, I let them sleep later.

6:30 a.m. Everyone is up now. Benjamin, Joseph and Kevin are doing the morning chores. We have four big calves and five small calves, three horses, six ponies and about 40 chickens that need to be fed. Lovina is taking care of daughter Elizabeth’s puppy, a Yorkshire Terrier. Verena and Loretta are making scrambled eggs and toast for our breakfast.

7:30 a.m. Breakfast is ready to eat. We have a full day planned ahead.

8:15 a.m. Loretta and Lovina are washing breakfast dishes and cleaning the floors. Verena and I are washing laundry. It looks like a very nice drying day.

12:00 p.m. Laundry is on the lines. The house is looking better: floors are mopped, dishes are washed. The boys are cleaning out the horse stalls. They come in for lunch, which is vegetable soup and bologna sandwiches. It is a hot day, so after lunch we all take a break.

2:00 p.m. Verena and Loretta are getting the laundry off the lines. Lovina is cleaning out Elizabeth’s puppy’s playpen area.

Elizabeth's new puppy, the first indoor dog for the Eicher household.
Elizabeth’s new puppy, the first indoor dog for the Eicher household.

Her puppy, Izzy, is usually loose in the house when the floors are clean. She isn’t allowed to have table food, so we always make sure no crumbs are around the table after we eat. She will always be a small dog and weighs less than two pounds. We never had a house dog before. So far it hasn’t been too much of a problem. She is litterbox-trained, so she doesn’t have to be taken outside. The boys go back out to the barn and I finish up some sewing. With two nieces getting married in July, it makes for a lot of new outfits to be sewn.

4:00 p.m. The girls come home from work and Joe soon after them. Susan wants to bake sugar cookies for one of the girls who brought her home from work. She mixes up a big batch and puts it in the freezer while she showers. The recipe says to chill dough for a few hours or overnight, but when we are in a hurry, we put it in the freezer to chill.

5:00 p.m. Joe and the boys leave to go fishing by a nearby lake. Susan is baking cookies. Elizabeth is sewing a dress for an upcoming wedding. The other girls are folding laundry or helping with supper.

7:30 p.m. Supper is late tonight. Joe and the boys came back with almost 40 fish, so they cleaned those first. Susan is almost done frosting the cookies, and we will finish the rest tomorrow. On the supper menu are mashed potatoes, beef and noodles, lettuce salad, cheese, fresh strawberries and sugar cookies.

On the supper menu are mashed potatoes, beef and noodles, lettuce salad, cheese, fresh strawberries and sugar cookies.

8:30 p.m. Most of the children are biking. Loretta is swinging on the porch swing and I’m on the porch, writing. Joe is resting on his recliner. It’s been a long, warm day, so it feels good to relax.

9:30 p.m. Everyone is in bed, so I think I’ll head there too. I’ll share the sugar cookie recipe Susan made. My oldest sister, Leah, always made these. I just love them but never had any luck making them. Susan makes them just like Leah does.

Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups lard (or use 1 cup margarine, softened, and 1 cup lard)
  • 3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9–10 cups flour (just enough that you can handle dough)

Mix all ingredients except flour. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Chill dough for a few hours or overnight. Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until bottom is golden. When cool, frost if desired.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at Editor@LovinasAmishKitchen.com.