Throughout the last year, my family kept tossing around the idea of going on a trip as a family. We simply wanted to enjoy a little vacation together, all 18 of us. Finally, plans were made to visit Mom’s brother Marcus and his family and some of Dad’s relatives in Pennsylvania before traveling on to Niagara Falls.
It seems unreal to think that my family of six siblings along with our parents don’t all fit in a van anymore. We have even outgrown a 15-passenger “maxi-van,” thanks to my sister-in-law, nephews, and nieces. So we took time to travel on a mini-bus driven by a non-Amish driver. We all enjoyed the experience.
Everyone was picked up by 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning and we were all eager for the days ahead. Most of us had never been to Niagara Falls before. And my husband Daniel and I had never been to my Uncle Marcus’ large dairy farm in Pennsylvania, which was also on our itinerary.
By mid-afternoon, we arrived at their farm in the Amish settlement outside of Greenville, Pa. We watched as they wrapped 67 large round bales of hay with white wrap to protect it from becoming ruined by rain. It brought back fond memories of when I was a young girl and we were farming, before my dad started the rustic furniture business.
Soon it was chore time. It took them about an hour to milk all 60 of their milk cows. Julia’s favorite part was watching as they gave the hungry calves their milk. The 34 calves were separated into groups of 5 according to their size and age. They hooked a large, oblong container with 5 nibbles onto the inside of the gate where the calves each claimed a nibble and drank their share of warm milk. I can’t blame the calves for becoming excited over fresh milk, who doesn’t like fresh milk off the farm? I do prefer having mine cooled off, though!
After the chores were completed and everyone was cleaned up it was time for supper. Marcus’s wife, Rosanna and her daughters, had taken time out of their busy schedule to fix supper for our whole crew. Her warm, hearty meal was a treat after traveling all day. Rosanna prepared “Hobo Delight Stacks,” which were a big hit. You’ll have to stay tuned to a future column for that recipe! For dessert a refreshing mixed fruit dish was served and also cream cheese chocolate cake and butter pecan cake. Not only did they make supper and dessert for us they invited us to stay for the night. My parents and siblings were told that they could sleep in the upstairs of their large farmhouse where seven of their children usually slept.
“And where will your children sleep?” we asked.
“Oh they’ll find room,” Rosanna assured us.
And then she really touched us with her hospitality by offering Daniel and I their bedroom on the main floor.
“Aw, you don’t have to give up your room, “ I said, unsure whether I should accept such a generous offer.
The following morning when we awoke there were blankets here and there in the living room and basement. Their family had spread out on couches, on the floor, on blankets, wherever they could find a spot comfortable enough to accommodate them for the night. I felt unworthy of the kindness they showed to us, sacrificing their personal comfort in order to give us a warm welcome. It was an excellent motivator for me to exercise heartfelt hospitality whenever possible. By the way, if any of you known or unknown friends have a chance to visit our area, please let us know, we’d be happy to have you stop by.
After bidding Marcus’s family goodbye we headed for Dad’s brother Wayne and his family in Cochronton, Pa., where we once more received a hearty welcome as they served a scrumptious breakfast consisting of a tasty breakfast casserole, crescent rolls, yogurt, pumpkin roll, coffee and grape juice. We chatted awhile, catching up on news, then soon it was time to go once more.
Niagara Falls was next on our list. Several hours later we were nearing the Canadian border. As we crossed the Niagara River we could see the spray from the falls several miles away. Excitement reigned, we were almost at our destination! It had been fun traveling together as we sang, played games and visited but now we were ready to get off the bus and go for a walk down to the falls and see what we could discover.
The next day and a half we toured the falls and various points of interest in the area. The next two night were spent at a motel. On Friday morning, we visited more Amish friends in Lyndonville, N.Y., then headed to Danville, Ohio to my husband’s family. They had prepared a tasty supper for all of us an included on the menu was a delicious chicken casserole. My husband Daniel, our two little ones, and myself stayed in Danville because Daniel’s brother, Tobias, needed a little extra help finishing some landscaping jobs while the rest of my family spent the following day at the Columbus Zoo before heading on home.
I asked Daniel’s sister, Mary, for her chicken casserole recipe. It is similar to another one I like, so I combined the two. Be sure to give it a try; it is so delicious, yet easy.
YODER’S FAVORITE SOUR CREAM CHICKEN CASSEROLE
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 10-ounce cans of chicken soup or 2 1/2 cups of your own homemade
8 ounces of sour cream
2 cups shredded cheese
1 sleeve of snack crackers (i.e. Ritz, Club, etc)
1/2 cup butter, melted
Fry or grill chicken breasts until cooked through and no longer pink. Place in a 9 x 13 pan. Mix chicken soup and sour cream together. Spread over chicken. Layer cheese and crackers on top. Drizzle with melted butter.
Heat at 350 for 30 minutes or until heated through.
Readers with culinary or culture questions or stories to share may write Gloria Yoder, 10568 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427.