Amish Country

Photo: Rosemary Covert

Photo: Rosemary Covert

Lodi is situated in an area populated quite heavily by people of the Amish and Mennonite faith. Ever since I can remember it was a common occurrence to pass a horse and buggy on the country highways around Lodi.

In recent years there has been an influx of even more Amish and Mennonite families to the area and so the chances are very good that you will need to make a wide pass around a buggy carrying a couple, sometimes with curious little ones peering out the back window, their young faces framed by the traditional bob haircut and black-banded straw hat.

This increase in the Amish population of our area has meant nothing but a boon to local food and gardening aficionados. Among many different kinds of businesses that serve the Amish and non-Amish populations there are several excellent produce sellers that grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables in greenhouses powered without use of electricity.

We’ve been buying fresh produce from our local Amish produce stand for many years but last year we also relied on them heavily for the plants that started our garden. In addition to having excellent quality produce and plants their prices are often the most reasonable you’ll find in comparison to grocery stores and farmers markets.

Last year we were thrilled when our garden tomato patch was spared the blight that was sweeping the countryside. Many of our friends and neighbors had their tomatoes wiped out completely but our tomatoes were blissfully unaware of any of that nasty blight business.

The story we heard was that the blight affected plants that went through the industrial food chain and were purchased at places like grocery stores and Wal-Marts. Since ours came from small independent greenhouses we were in the clear and enjoyed many pounds of tomatoes. (It actually wasn’t the best year for tomatoes blight or no blight, but that’s beside the point).

The population of Amish fits the rural farming landscape perfectly. Teams of six to eight Clydesdale horses farm on properties adjacent to those farmed by the most technologically advanced farming equipment. Seeing them at work in the fields gives us a glimpse at how perhaps our ancestors lived on and worked this land.


Lodi by the Numbers

Lodi Historical Building

Lodi Historical Building, aka 1 of 2 de-consecrated churches

Thinking about what the different Lodis of the world might be like got me wondering how our Lodi would stack up in the statistical analysis.

Here are the cold, hard facts about Lodi, New York

Population: 1476
Number of libraries: 1
Number of post offices: 1
Number of bars: 1
Number of museums: 1
Number of ice cream shops: 2
Number of de-consecrated churches: 2
Number of active churches: 1
Number of de-consecrated churches for sale: 1
Number of wineries: 5, Kings Garden Winery, Lamoreaux Landing, Wagner Vineyards, Silver Thread Vineyard, Shalestone Vineyards
Number of gourmet restaurants: 2, Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca
Number of craft breweries: 1.5 (Wagner Valley Brewing Company and rumour has it that a store front on Main Street of Lodi is going to be a brewery, but that rumour’s been going on for at least 2 years)
Number of empty store fronts on Main Street: 5
Number of boat slips at Lodi Point State Park: approx. 18
Number of annual bluegrass festivals: 1, Pickin’ in the Pasture
Number of Blue Moon Festival (precursor to Pickin’ in the Pasture) t-shirts my brother owns: at least 4
Cost of annual membership in the Lodi Historical Society: $10
Number of different kinds of meat on the menu of the Lodi Rod and Gun club breakfast: 3
Number of Lodi residents named Jim Covert including my Dad (until a few years ago): 3
Number of sheep, cows, horses, chickens and barn cats combined: hard to know, but my guess is that it rivals the number of humans
Number of blogs about Lodi, NY: 1

Are there any factoids I missed?

The Lodi Historical Society

Lodi Historical Society

Lodi Historical Society

The Lodi Historical Society is one of the main cultural organizations in Lodi, and does more than just the name suggests. The Lodi Historical Society aims to preserve the history of our town, but also organizes events, concerts and is the social glue of the community to a certain extent.

When I was young we would always participate in Lodi Historical Society events with my grandma, as she was heavily involved in the organization. Some of my fondest Lodi memories are of the “Dish-to-Pass” suppers in the Lodi Historical building where people would come together with their signature potluck dishes and the food and conversation would flow. My grandma would often bring a large slab cake and jello with fruit and/or vegetables in it: nectar of the gods!

The Lodi Historical Society events are a large part of their year-round activities in Lodi. Concerts by the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble occur a few times a year, and the annual art show and artisan show are very popular as well.

The Lodi Historical Society building is a gorgeous former church with a raised stage, seating for hundreds and a fully restored Hook Tracker Organ, as well as reception areas for more casual meetings. It’s a great venue for weddings in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country and frankly a steal at $400!

In the interest of full disclosure I should explain that my dad is the co-president of the Lodi Historical Society but I can assure you my opinions stated here are completely unbiased. And let me tell you, the perks of being the daughter of the co-president of the Lodi Historical Society are numerous… to numerous to go into here, really…

The Lodi Historical Society is a great example of a volunteer-run organization that has been around for many, many years that keeps the life of our little town going with recurring activities that are both for Lodinians as well as being a way to attract new visitors to Lodi.

To become a member of the Lodi Historical Society, visit their website to learn more.

Oh Lord…

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival

You know the song, right? The chorus goes “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.” It’s catchy, it’s recognizable and somehow it always seems to express the sentiment applicable to being in Lodi, whichever Lodi you may be describing.

When I mention that my family’s from Lodi or my cottage is in Lodi people often respond with a blank stare or a furrowed, confused brow, which is fair enough. Sometimes this is followed swiftly by a glimmer of recognition and a recollection of an old tune from the 60s. “Oh yeah! Like the song!” they might say.

The song, simply called “Lodi”, is by Creedence Clearwater Revival and isn’t necessarily as well known as some of their really big hits like “Bad Moon Rising” and “Down on the Corner”. It does make it on their Greatest Hits compilations, however, and has certainly worked its way into popular culture.

As it turns out, the song was written about a Lodi in California, not our Lodi. The song is about a young musician who is trying to make it in the music business but unable to raise enough money to leave this town which doesn’t seem to have a whole lot going for it.

As it also turns out, there are a lot more Lodis in the U.S. than you might think. I once counted at least 13 Lodis in the US atlas. I’ve been through Lodi, New Jersey and perhaps whizzed past another Lodi at some point on a road trip.

Our Lodi is probably amongst the smallest with a population hovering around 350. In that there are not many businesses or much commercial infrastructure you can see how someone might express resentment about being stuck here. You could almost see how they could write a song about it. In that is is the beginning of the gorgeous Seneca East wine trail, home to stunning historic architecture and a thriving, supportive community atmosphere you can see how it wouldn’t be too bad to be stuck here, really.

Hurd’s of Lodi, a prominent local business and hardware store located on Lodi’s Main St. for many years used to sell a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Lodi, NY: Where it All Happens”. This sentiment seems to go hand in hand with that of the CCR song. We love to poke fun at the places we come from or get stuck in from time to time.

What do you think? Do all Lodis inspire the statement “Oh Lord, stuck _here_ again?”

Summer Visitors

Tomatoes from the garden for dinner

Originally uploaded by j-co

This summer has been the summer of visitors to Lodi. I don’t know why, but we’ve been lucky enough to have a steady stream of friends visiting Lodi for summer mini-breaks over the last month or so.

Most recently we had a house full of 8, including 2 kids, and we had a wonderful time lounging about the house, poking around in the barns, swimming in the lake and touring around the area.

My friends said they had no idea the Finger Lakes were so close, which I think is part of the reason people love coming here: it’s still a relatively unknown little hidden gem of a vacation spot. It’s odd because it is so close to many larger cities: only 5 hours from both NYC and Toronto, 4.5 hours from Ottawa, 6 or so hours from Boston.

I love to show my friends around Lodi and the area. There is so much family history that the stories are amazingly realistic when you can say “My grandfather’s Wallpaper store was right there, across the street”. I feel proud and happy to have the luxury of being so clearly connected to my ancestors and their lives.

Most fun, of course, is showing off the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes with the rolling hills, vineyards and amazing lake views. The wineries are always enjoyable to visit and so convenient with 20 or so within a 20-mile stretch of Route 414 near Lodi. There are fabulous restaurants featuring ingredients procured from local farmers. And there’s always the outlet mall for a little retail therapy, if that’s what you need.

But best of all is gathering together with friends and infusing this house that’s seen so much of my family history over 100 years with the laughter of children, the smells of great meals cooking with ingredients picked fresh from the garden and the enjoyment of warm, wonderful friendship.

So, when are you coming?

The Infamous Eagle Hotel

Eagle Hotel

Originally uploaded by j-co

Lodi is a small town with a population under 400 year-round. If you’re travelling on Route 414 in the North-South direction you don’t even have to stop at any point as you travel through Lodi. Many people don’t even slow down much.

There isn’t much commerce on Main St. in Lodi. There’s a Post Office, an ice cream stand, a printing shop and a den of ill repute: the infamous Eagle Hotel.

The Eagle Hotel is a building with an incredible amount of history–it’s been around as long as Lodi itself. The Eagle is a bar with a dining room that’s open on Fridays and Saturdays but those two areas are worlds apart, as far as I can tell.

I have been to the dining room a few times for the Friday Night Fish Fry which was great. The ambiance is set with a woman playing old-timey music on the piano as you enter the building. The rest of the experience is just about as old-timey; the food is good and the service friendly.

I have never–and proabably will never–set foot in the bar portion of the Eagle Hotel. This is the kind of place that has regulars, a horseshoe pit out back and neon signs blinking incessantly. There is no really good reason that I couldn’t go in there, except for the fact that I’m not sure it’s really my kind of place. It’s just that I can’t imagine what my grandmother would say if she knew I’d done such a thing (she passed away 15 years ago).

My grandma was Temperance Union and abhorred alcohol in her house (sorry Grandma, that rule’s been broken!). The Eagle Hotel represented a repository of all that was unacceptable in my grandmother’s eyes–or at least that’s how I remember it from when I was little. You could often, and still can, hear the Eagle’s loud, pulsating music from our house a block away and hear the revellers getting into all sorts of mischief. It all just seemed like a *bad* thing when I was little.

Often when my friends come to visit they really want to go to the Eagle to get some local flavour and enjoy a cheap beer. My brother’s had the same experience. But if they are able to get up the nerve to go we refuse to go with them. I just can’t! I can’t bear to think of Grandma’s reaction, looking down from wherever she might be!

Main Street, Lodi

Lodi Museum on Main Street

Lodi Museum on Main Street

We have some friends from Lodi visiting us in Ottawa this weekend and it was great to show them the sights like the Tulip Festival and the Parliament buildings. But it’s also great to catch up on everything that’s going on in Lodi from thier perspective, to get the news and hear about what’s been going on recently.

Now there’s always lots going on in a small town, but what’s funny about Lodi is that there is not much in terms of commerce on our Main Street so you don’t neccessarily see the activity on of the town on the Main Street. Apart from the post office, there aren’t a lot of chances for people to meet in town to see each other and chat, like a coffee shop or a diner or a grocery store.

Over the years there have been lots of different businesses that have come and gone on Main Street of Lodi of course. My dad remembers when he was little and there was a large dry good store and hardware store on Main St. I remember when I was little there was always a little corner store on Main St. where you could pick up milk, bread, the newspaper etc. Actually, when I was little the main things I was getting at the store were Atomic Fireball candies and Italian Ices.

There are curently no businesses on Main St. except for the Post Office and the Eagle Hotel, which is a bar and serves a fish fry on Friday nights and other dinner items on Saturday nights. The bar and the dining room are in different areas of the building, and in fact the hotel portion is no longer in operation, but it’s one of the oldest establishments in Lodi. There are several other store fronts, one of which is now occupied by the Lodi Musuem, which was opened last year. It’s a lovely little building stuffed with local lore and artifacts.

There is a building that was recently purchased which we all beleived was being turned into a microbrewery. They did a lovely job of redoing the facade but it has sat empty for a few years now. We were speculating as to the reasons, but no one knew for sure what’s going on there. It would be so cool to complement the great wineries in the area with a microbrewery and to draw more people to Main Street.

Tonight we all agreed that locals could really benefit from having a small grocery store or corner store. The nearest store is at least 5 miles away, which is not far, but a bit of a pain nonetheless. It would also be lovely to have a little coffee shop or bakery, maybe a gift shop where you could pick up Wine Trail information… so if there are any budding entrepreneurs out there, think of Lodi as a prime spot, ready for some local businesses!

Country Living

Dad on the Ride-on Mower

Dad on the Ride-on Mower

I have never actually live in Lodi for more than the summer months. If I add up all the months I’ve been in Lodi over the years it would total┬ámany years. But those months have never been consecutive other than July to August. I know that living in Lodi full time would be a very different kettle of fish than being there just in the summers.

It is my goal to live in Lodi for one full year at some point in my life, if not for longer than just one year. I’d love to experience living in a town of about 350 people more than just when the population swells during the summer months with wine trail visitors, boaters and cottagers.

I would definitely need to adjust a lot of things about my life and lifestyle if I were to commit to country living for more than just summer months. It sounds cliche, but things really are different in the country. Things just don’t work the same way as they do in the city.

One major adjustment would be how much driving is neccessary in the country, for obvious reasons. Lodi is located abot 10 miles from a town with amenities like a grocery store, gas station etc. So for the very basic needs of life, you have to get in the car and drive. In the city I am used to walking to work, to get groceries generally getting around with ease. I think it would be tough to have that added layer of complexity for your basic needs.

There are fewer people around, but everyone knows you in a small town. Would I feel isolated because I’m not surrounded by people packed in apartment buildings, cars and motorcycles whizzing past all day long and the ambient noise of city living? On the other hand people in Lodi have known my family for decades, so even though there are fewer people, they would know a lot more about me and therefore be more friendly to me than the strangers that surround me here.

Things do move a bit differently in the country when dealing with people as well. My dad is the king of how to get things done in this context. When he heads out to talk to someone about something we roll our eyes and know that he’ll be back 45 minutes later. The key seems to be that things take a lot longer and that you rarely ask a direct question. I know that I would need some adjustment in this area if I were to take on country living.

One thing is for sure, living in the country is an experiment I’d love to try at least once in my lifetime. I’ve lived in a few different small, medium and large cities, but never in a town the size of Lodi.

Running on Country Roads

The Lake Road in Winter and Carolyn's Cottage

The Lake Road in Winter and Carolyn's Cottage

I’m a runner. Not a very fast or athletic runner, but I run consistently and frequently participate in running events. So it will take quite a bit for me to miss one of my thrice-weekly runs. I often bring my running gear with me on trips to Lodi.

There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to running trails that I have discovered so far around Lodi, though I’m sure there are some hidden gems. When we stay at the cottage, I run along the lake road which is rough, gravel in parts and also one lane wide in certain areas. However, it is a great advantage to be able to jump right in the lake at the end of hot run.

When we are staying up in town I typically choose to run along the two lane highway that runs through Lodi, Route 414. This is not the world’s best running route for a number of reasons. It is a highway: cars, trucks, motorcycles, farm machinery and tractor-trailors all pass by at an alarming rate for a small little human chugging along on the shoulder. I often feel like I take my life in my hands when I take off on my country highway runs.

Another aspect of running along the highway route is the fact that I pass by farmers fields. I certainly get a unique perspective on the crops and livestock as I pass by. I see chickens, sheep, horses and sometimes wave at the farmers at work in the fields. Sometimes the more curious animals will even come down to the fence by the road to get a better look at me. I try to say hello but rarely get a response.

An Amish Carriage

An Amish Carriage

Which brings me to the most interesting and potentially dangerous aspect of my running along this route. There has always been a population of Amish and Mennonite in our area of the Finger Lakes, but it has been growing in recent years. It’s a common occurrance to see members of those communities at work in thier fields using Clydesales or families riding along the shoulder in thier horse-drawn carriages.

Every time I set out on a run I wonder if this will be the day that I meet one of these carriages up close and personal, unable to hear them approaching because I’m listening to my iPod while running. Will I see the shadow of the carriage bearing down on me? Will I feel the horses’ breath on the back of my neck? Will I be able to get out the way in time?!

I expect this will never happen and that I will have plenty of warning should a horse-drawn carriage ever approach. But it certainly does add a level of excitement to my regular running routine!