While traveling the back roads of Holmes County, the chaos of the holidays finally behind us, my husband, Jerry, and I spot a sleek structure on a hillside near Charm. To most, the saucer-shaped roofs would be a real surprise in this pocket of Amish settlements. But I recognize the place immediately. This is Holmes with a View, my best chance at escaping my ever-growing, post-Christmas to-do list.
I've always loved Ohio's Amish country in winter. It's a very different setting from autumn visits, when I've inched along with other leaf peepers in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Barns and trees are silhouetted against the snowy hills and life moves at a gentler pace. There are no long lines in the shops or restaurants, no parallel to the beauty of what a heavy snowstorm can do to the trees.
Inside Holmes with a View, owners Paul and Miriam Grossi have designed their guest suites with a pleasing mix of antiques and comfortable furnishings. A shabby-chic coatrack and a walnut wardrobe contrast with modern kitchen styling. The classic look of crown moldings, hardwood floors and a cathedral ceiling in the great room offers a sharp contrast to the contemporary exterior. A wall of windows is filled by the panoramic vista of the snowy countryside.
It isn't long before we take ownership of the place, moving back and forth from a cushy oversize chair by the fireplace to the window. I take yet another gander at our piece of Amish countryside, laid out like a quilt below. Jerry watches a game on TV while I cocoon with a new book in the bedroom, a luxurious space fitted with locally crafted beds, pillow-top mattress, soft quilts and a Jacuzzi tub. Later, sitting by the window with our coffee, we watch a weak winter sun blossom into a brilliant sunset.
The next morning, a Saturday, we awake to freshly baked cinnamon rolls, a loaf of homemade bread, jam, coffee and orange juice on the kitchen counter. After breakfast, we set out to explore. I stop at Miller's Dry Goods, with its colorful displays of readymade quilts and wall hangings, as well as the amazing 8,000-bolt selection of fabrics. I leave with a quilted table runner for my sister. Meanwhile, Jerry browses the tools at Keim Lumber, nirvana for the do-it-yourselfer.
Taking a friend's recommendation, we drive three miles east of Charm to Hershberger Antique Mall, which is made up of two low-slung buildings neatly organized with furniture, a fine collection of Millersburg Carnival glass, quilts and pottery. Jerry checks out baseball cards and cast-iron banks while I look for old china patterns.
We're deep in Amish country now and spend the rest of the afternoon searching for the work of local artisans. No knockoffs or imports â€” I'm looking for artistic wares. Hand-lettered signs point the way to homes with hickory rockers and quilts for sale. An Amish man reminds us to buy what we want today because tomorrow is Sunday and nothing will be open.
I finally find what I'm looking for in Millersburg, at Three Feathers Pewter, where we watch David Three Feathers Jones create traditional pewterware in his studio. On display in his shop are beautiful porringers, jewelry, table service, even pewter buttons. Later, I spend a fun hour in downtown Millersburg at the historic 55 West & Co., roaming two floors of antiques, vintage clothing, handcrafted pillows and jewelry. In conversation with a Middlesburg resident, I learn of another artisan business, Holmes County Pottery, and we're off to Big Prairie to visit Cary and Elaine Hulin. The Hulin variety of functional pottery is handthrown on a potter's wheel and fired on a wood-burning kiln in their barn workshop. We truly are impressed with the dinnerware and pots.
After a busy day, it's time to chow down. We could join other guests for dinner in an Amish home within a mile of Holmes with a View for a typical Amish feast of chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing with gravy, vegetables, bread, jam, pie or date pudding. But we opt instead for Grandma's Homestead Restaurant in Charm, where Jerry can get pot roast and cherry pie, always his meal of choice in these parts. Most visitors to Holmes County don't leave without picking up some cheese, and we're no exception. We stop at Guggisberg Cheese for some of their famous baby Swiss.
One more night at Holmes passes quickly and before long, I am packing the car in the crisp morning air â€” newly relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to tackle all that I left behind. Before I go, however, I tuck away for safekeeping some of my favorite memories of this place: the bucolic view, the scent of wood smoke in the air and, of course, the sound of a lone Amish buggy passing down the road.
Fun on the Farm
Experience country living firsthand on Monday, Jan. 17, and Monday, Feb. 21, Discovery Days at Lake Farmpark in Kirtland. There will be 25 different activities for children, including cow milking, horseback riding and gardening. The park, located at 8800 Chardon Road, is open every day except other Mondays January through March and major holidays. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for those 60 and older, $4 for children ages 2 to 11 ($2 on Discovery Days) and free for children under 2. For more information, call (440) 256-2122 or visit www.lakemetroparks.com.
Landoll's Mohican Castle, a medieval-looking resort in Loudonville, Ohio, offers visitors more than an unusual view of its towers peeking out of the woods. Visitors can get a massage or take a swim in an indoor pool with a cascading waterfall. Thirty miles of trails are open for hiking and horseback riding. Landoll's is located at 561 Township Road 3352. Room rates start at $240 a night. For more information, call 1-800-291-5001 or visit www.landollsmohicancastle.com.