I’m super excited. So many of you really outdid yourself to promote the pre-orders for Lizzie. As I promised, we crossed a great preorder milestone so I am rewarding you, my Amish fiction friends and family, by releasing another chapter. What are you thinking so far about the story? Let me know on my page. 🙂 Another 250 preorders and I’ll release Chapter 3. So please share with friends, family, co-workers, and your church members who enjoy reading.
~~ PREORDER YOUR COPY HERE ~~
“My word, Christopher!”
Phineas stood on the edge of the field closest to the barn, holding his hand to his brow as he scanned the overgrown pastures and broken fences. The sun lingered overhead, blinding his blue eyes. The rim of his straw hat was not wide enough to block the harsh light.
“Truly, we must be in a different country, never mind state,” he grumbled. “I’ve never seen such an impoverished Amish community in my entire life.”
Just the day before, they had arrived in Blue Mill and already Phineas missed Clearwater. The town of Blue Mill was small, the farms built close together, and most of the buildings edged the road. It was so unlike Clearwater where the farms were spread out and long driveways meandered through pastures and fields that led to hidden farmhouses and barns nestled between pastures. And, to Phineas’s disdain, many of the outbuildings were in terrible shape. Dirty, broken windowpanes in the barn, chipped paint, and rotting boards, heaps of trash piled three feet high behind dilapidated sheds, all caught his eye and made him long for home. It certainly did not leave a good first impression on a visitor, that was for sure and certain.
His friend, Christopher, walked up behind him and clapped him on the back in a good-natured way. “Oh Phineas, please!” He opened his arm and gestured around the property. “You see poverty and I see opportunity.” He glanced over his shoulder at his friend. “Not all of us are fortunate enough to be born the sole male child to a wealthy farmer.”
Knowing that Christopher was referencing his own situation, Phineas scoffed. “Being fortunate has nothing to do with it.” He took a few steps and knelt, his hand immediately sinking into the dirt. “Clearly no one has fertilized this soil in years. How will you ever grow any crops worthy of selling?” As he stood up, he slapped his hands together creating a small cloud of dust. “I make my offer to you again, Christopher. Abandon this notion you have and return to Clearwater and continue to help me farm my land.”
But, as usual, Christopher shook his head. “Nee, I won’t do that, Phineas.” He took a deep breath, his eyes scanning the pastures one last time. “I rented this place already and I intend to farm it. You know that.”
“But you know no one here!”
Christopher took a deep breath and exhaled. “I prayed long and hard about this. I feel as if God wants to see what I can do here.” He smiled at Phineas, his dark eyes sparkling. “Surely you can understand a man wanting to build something for himself.”
Phineas wanted to tell him that the comment was unfair. It wasn’t his fault that his father had inherited everything from his father and so forth.
Back when Phineas’s grandfather first acquired the farm in Clearwater, land had been dirt cheap. They’d moved from Pennsylvania, a place where land was increasingly hard to come by anymore. He’d had five sons and bought as much land as he could to provide for each of them. But two of them didn’t join the church, one died, and the other never married. That had left Phineas’s father to inherit everything. And he had been blessed with just two children, one son and, many years later, a daughter. Upon his untimely death, Phineas had been the sole heir to the large homestead in Clearwater.
In truth, he hadn’t built anything. He’d been handed everything. Of course, what he’d done with the land since then was another matter entirely.
“Besides,” Christopher continued, “Blue Mill strikes me as a quaint town—
“With quaint people, too, I imagine.”
Unsurprisingly to Phineas, Christopher laughed. His positive attitude always seemed to prevail, even in the grimmest of situations. Clearly that was true even in regard to Blue Mill. “I find old fashion values to be rather attractive.”
Phineas scoffed. “Old fashioned or lazy? Half of the farms around here have broken fences and overgrown fields. And more than a few have piles of garbage that need to be hauled away. You know how I detest unkempt farms!”
It was true. Phineas always worked from before sun-up until well after sun-down just to ensure that his farm was kept in the most meticulous of manners. Even though he was a bachelor, he paid a neighbor’s daughter to help with the household chores. Five days a week, Ruth would arrive in the morning to do the cleaning, washing, canning, and weeding. He knew that the day was coming when Ruth would soon settle down—and it appeared that John Esh might be the man to steal her heart. He only hoped that his only sister, Grace Ann, had learned enough about housekeeping to manage the chores alone. But before that day came a hired hand would have to do. She was, after all, only fourteen-years-old and still in school.
In the meantime, Phineas spent his days tending to his cows and crops. But, every morning right after breakfast and just before he saw his little sister off to school, he took the time to walk his entire property to make sure that no fence board was broken. Twice a week—usually on Mondays and Fridays—he carried along a gasoline powered weed whacker to trim the fence line where need be.
“Now, now,” Christopher chided gently. “My daed told me that many of these families were raised Swartzentruber.”
Inwardly, Phineas groaned. Swartzentrubers! That explained a lot about the unkempt farms. The most conservative branch of the Amish, the Swartzentrubers lived as plain and simply as possible. Most of their homes didn’t have running water while others shunned propane appliances and other conveniences that were permitted in other Amish communities.
It seemed to Phineas that the Swartzentrubers carried the weight of the world on their shoulders and, with the few that he knew, it showed in more ways than one. By the age of forty, most women walked with hunched over shoulders and appeared to be twice their age. Being in Blue Mill felt almost as though he had stepped back in time. It was hard for him to grasp that the Swartzentrubers felt that taking care of their property was a sign of vanity and pride. As a result, garbage often piled up in rear yards and rarely were the fences or houses painted.
“If that’s so,” Phineas said, “I reckon that’s why things are so disorderly.”
“Disorderly?” Christopher made a scoffing noise, his dark chocolate eyes scanning the horizon. There was something serene about his expression and, for the first time, Phineas found himself envious of his friend. Would he ever find such inner peace? Probably not for, as a child, Phineas’s father had drilled work, work, work into his brain. “Just look around you, my friend. See how beautiful this place is. See what God created. I give thanks to his plan, for it has landed in my hands so that I may tend to it as he sees fit.”
Sighing, Phineas followed his friend’s eye. In truth, he had to admit that it was picturesque and, with such great potential for improvement, opportunity abounded for Christopher. It wasn’t as flat as Clearwater and there were more tall trees to provide shade from the sun in the pastures. The white farmhouse—which looked as if it hadn’t been painted in decades—had two large oak trees on the south and west side to help keep it cool during the hot summer months.
And yet, as Phineas looked around, he also recognized the tremendous amount of work and effort that needed to be put into the farm. Fencing had to be repaired; most of it was rotted and needed to be replaced entirely. The smaller barn had two broken windows and a missing door to the hayloft. He hadn’t even entered the dairy barn yet, but he was certain the milk containment system would need to be overhauled.
There was much to do, that was for sure and certain. And not much time to do it. Phineas needed to return to Clearwater in no less than one month. After all, he had his own farm to manage and a sister to care for. Despite having Ruth help with the chores and a hired young man to tend to his animals, Phineas knew that the least amount of time away from his farm, the better. And, having sent Grace Ann to stay with their relatives in a neighboring town, Phineas knew he’d have to return soon for her sake, as well. Surely Grace Ann shouldn’t spend more than a few weeks with her cousins and miss so much schooling. That would be taking advantage of their kindness and setting her behind with her schoolwork, he told himself.
As they stood there, each man lost in his own thoughts, Phineas heard Christopher take a deep breath and slowly exhale. It was a pleasant sound, one that spoke of happiness and contentment.
“Isn’t this just grand, Phineas? I finally have my own farm!”
Giving into his friend’s determination to make this work, Phineas managed to smile back at him. He’d never been one to take his own fortune for granted. He knew how hard good land was to find in the area. Christopher, indeed, was quite fortunate to have found this farm to lease even if it was in such poor condition.
“Indeed,” Phineas said, reaching out to place his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “But before you get too comfortable, we’ve much work to do in order to make it livable for both man and beast alike.”
Ignoring him, Phineas started walking back toward the house. “I suggest we make a list of what needs to be done first and another list of supplies we will need to get the work done. Your schweister will tackle the haus, I imagine, while we start mending fencing and the barn and the—”
Christopher laughed. “It took God six days to create the world, Phineas. I imagine we’ll need much more than that to fix this farm.”
“You can be sure about that, my friend.” Phineas clapped him on the back before repeating, “You can be sure about that.”
Sarah Price is the author of the Plain Fame series and the Amish of Ephrata series, among other books. She comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, and her writing reflects accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities. Visit her at sarahpriceauthor.com and on Facebook.