Young Amish couples tend to a community garden and harvest friendships and love along the way in this new story collection by bestselling author Amy Clipston.
Spring Is in the Air: As the young people of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, plant a garden in memory of their friend, Katie Ann begins to worry that her older brother, Ephraim, is dating her best friend. What if she somehow loses them both? But Christian, a new boy in the community, also works in the garden—and falling for him may be exactly the distraction, and lesson, that Katie Ann needs.
Home by Summer: Clara Hertzler is surprised when Jerry Petersheim, her old friend, comes to the garden to drop off his younger sister—especially because Jerry has been gone for years, and now seems to be living as an Englisher. As the friends get to know each other again, Clara pushes Jerry to examine why he abandoned his Amish beliefs. Will Clara help Jerry renew his faith in God, and will they find love beneath the summer sun?
The Fruits of Fall: Tena Speicher has come to live in Bird-in-Hand after her fiancé left her for an English woman. When a stranger comes to the fruit stand one day and asks for food, Tena is not sure how to respond—but Wayne intervenes and offers to let him stay in the barn. Afraid to trust Englishers, Tena must learn, with Wayne’s help, that everyone is a child of God and deserving of kindness.
Winter Blessings: Ephraim and Mandy have dated for some time and now have plans to marry. But after a series of unexpected events and misunderstandings, they wonder if they should go their separate ways. What will happen when their friends at the Amish garden conspire to bring them back together?
Each story in this sweet, contemporary collection can be read as a standalone, but the stories are best enjoyed together. Book length: approximately 95,000 words. Also includes a reading group guide and an Amish glossary.
“One story slides into the next, woven together effortlessly with the author’s knowledge of the Amish life. Once started, you can’t put this book down.” —Suzanne Woods Fisher, bestselling author of The Devoted
About the Author
Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery, Hearts of Lancaster Grand Hotel, Amish Heirloom, Amish Homestead, and Amish Marketplace series. Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan University and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and four spoiled rotten cats. Visit her online at AmyClipston.com; Facebook: AmyClipstonBooks; Twitter: @AmyClipston; Instagram: @amy_clipston.
Read an Excerpt
Katie Ann Blank's stomach tightened as she marched up the steps leading to Emma Bontrager's back porch. When she reached the door, she squared her shoulders and swallowed a deep breath. The brisk April breeze sent the ties of her prayer covering fluttering over her shoulders, and the crisp air seeped through her black sweater, black apron, and blue dress.
Today was an exciting day, and her older brother Ephraim's thoughtlessness wouldn't tarnish it.
Or would it?
Shoving the thought away, she knocked on the storm door and then did her best to force her lips into a smile. The door opened, and Emma stood before her.
"Katie Ann!" Emma pushed the door open wider. "I was beginning to wonder if you were going to join us." Her warm brown eyes sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight as she stepped out onto the porch. Although Emma was in her late sixties, Katie Ann had always thought she looked a decade younger because of her smooth skin and the dark hair that revealed only a hint of gray.
"I was delayed, but I'm here now." Katie Ann held up the plate of peanut butter cookies she'd baked yesterday. "I brought kichlin."
"Danki." Emma pointed toward the inside the house. "I have barbecue meat loaf in the oven."
"My favorite." Katie Ann smiled. "Did the meeting start?"
When Emma nodded, Katie Ann felt her shoulders deflate.
"But you haven't missed much," Emma added quickly as she beckoned her to enter the house. "Kumm."
Katie Ann followed Emma into the house and set the plate of cookies on the mudroom bench before removing her sweater and hanging it on a peg. The aroma of the meat loaf filled her senses, and her stomach growled its approval.
As voices filtered in from the kitchen, renewed disappointed buzzed through her veins. How could her own brother have forgotten to pick her up for the meeting? After church, Ephraim had taken his girlfriend, Mandy, home to visit with her family. But before going to the Benders', he'd promised to pick up Katie Ann on his way to Emma's house. Katie Ann had waited and waited for Ephraim's horse and buggy to appear in the driveway. When he was more than thirty minutes late, the truth hit her like a thousand bales of hay falling from the loft in her father's largest barn — Ephraim had forgotten her. And the oversight cut her to the bone. Her brother had never left her behind before.
Surely he'd apologize as soon as he saw her, and then everything would be okay — more like it was four months ago, before he began dating her best friend and everything changed.
Mandy's voice sounded from the kitchen. "Now we need to make a list of what we want to plant in the community garden."
Katie Ann followed Emma to where Ephraim and Mandy sat at one end of the table. Mandy was writing on a notepad while their friends Wayne King and Clara Hertzler looked on. Another young man, someone she didn't think she'd ever seen, sat beside Wayne.
"Katie Ann!" Clara waved her over and pointed to the empty chair between her and the young man Katie Ann didn't know. "I was wondering where you were, but Ephraim thought you'd be here soon."
"Did he?" She shot her brother a glare, and he shifted in his seat as his golden-blond eyebrows lifted, a question in the honey-brown eyes they'd both inherited from their mother. At twenty-three, he might be two years older than Katie Ann and much taller than her at six feet, but he had to know when his little sister wasn't happy with him — even when he didn't seem to know why.
"Katie Ann." Mandy's bright blue eyes sparkled as she smiled. "I'm so glad you made it."
"Ya, I am too." Katie Ann divided a look between her brother and her best friend. Surely Ephraim had told Mandy he was supposed to pick her up.
Katie Ann set her plate of cookies on the counter, and then she walked around the table and sank onto the empty chair. She set her tote bag on the floor and began to dig through it for her notepad and pen. When something soft and furry rubbed against her leg, she looked down at Emma's fat, orange tabby cat and grinned. Hank the cat had invited himself to move in with Emma on Christmas Eve during a snowstorm, and despite her efforts to shoo the cat away, Hank had stayed, becoming the widow's sweet companion. Emma had named Hank after her late husband, Henry, using the nickname Henry's friend Urie sometimes called him.
"Hi, Hank." Katie Ann rubbed the cat under his velvety-soft chin.
He responded by closing his eyes as he purred. Then he tilted his head to the side so she could rub his cheek.
"He likes you."
Katie Ann looked up, and her gaze collided with the mysterious young man's dark eyes. His handsome face lit up in a kind smile, and an adorable dimple appeared on his left cheek. She was speechless for a moment, stunned by his friendliness. His thick dark hair complemented his eyes. Who was he? And how had he found out about their meeting today to plan the special garden they were going to plant in Henry's memory?
She dismissed her questions and shrugged while continuing to rub the cat's cheek. "He likes everyone."
The young man shook his head as a sheepish expression overtook his strong jaw. "No, he hissed at me when I tried to pet him."
Katie was surprised. "Really? He might need to get to know you before he'll let you pet him."
"Maybe you can introduce me to him after the meeting."
"Okay." But I'll have to know your name first. Katie bit back a grin as she turned to the cat and rubbed his ear. As if he suddenly had become bored with the attention, Hank sauntered off toward Emma's family room.
Gathering up her notepad and pen, she sat up straight, opened her notebook, and prepared to take notes.
"I've drawn a map of the garden," Mandy continued, "and I have suggestions on what we can plant where." She held up her diagram. "Carrots here, cucumbers here, corn over here, lettuce here, and melons over here."
Katie Ann glanced down at her notepad. Last night she'd spent two hours mapping out where she thought they should plant the vegetables and fruit. Beside the diagram, she'd listed some issues they needed to tackle, such as putting up fencing. She held her breath for a moment and stared at her notepad as Mandy continued reciting her plans.
Suddenly, a wave of confidence overwhelmed her. She had to interject her thoughts. After all, this garden had been her idea. When she and her friends visited Emma on Christmas Eve, Emma talked about how much she missed her late husband. Together, they decided to plant the community garden to both keep Henry's memory alive and help Emma navigate her grief. They would donate their crops to the Bird-in-Hand Shelter for the homeless.
"I have a suggestion," Katie Ann said.
Mandy stopped speaking, and Katie Ann felt everyone's gaze hone in on her. Her cheeks heated.
"What is it?" Mandy asked.
"We need to put some sort of fencing in. Otherwise our crops will be destroyed by animals, such as rabbits and deer."
"That's a gut point," the young man beside her said.
"Oh." Mandy's eyes widened as she glanced at Ephraim. "I hadn't thought of that."
"I can work on finding fencing," Wayne offered.
Clara rubbed her hands together. "I can't wait to get started."
"Does this all sound gut to you, Emma?" Katie Ann turned to her friend, who stood at the kitchen counter, filling the cat's food bowl while he walked in circles at her feet and rubbed at her shins.
"Ya." Emma set the bowl on the floor beside Hank's water bowl. "Whatever you all want to do is fine with me."
"Great." Ephraim grinned at Mandy.
"I have another idea." Katie Ann sat up a little taller. "We could have a stand down by the road to sell our vegetables and fruit. Here's why: I found out we can't donate food to the shelter, but we can sell what we have and then give the money to the shelter in memory of Henry. Emma, I remember you told us Henry always made a donation at Christmas."
"Really?" Mandy's eyes were wide again. "I didn't know shelters needed money instead of food donations."
"I was surprised, too, but I'm glad I asked. We can also use the stand to sell baked goods, such as pies and cookies. We'll donate all the proceeds to the Bird-in-Hand Shelter. We'll have to get our parents' permission to use our own supplies for the first round of sales, and then we can use some of the money we make for supplies as well as any costs associated with keeping the grounds running."
"I can talk to our local grocery store owners about getting some baking supplies donated," Clara said.
"That would be fantastic." Katie Ann wrote down the idea.
"The bake stand sounds great." Wayne pointed to the other young man. "Chris and I can build the stand, right, Chris?"
"Ya. That's no problem at all." Chris leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his wide chest. "And I can get wood and supplies from mei dat's cabinet shop."
Katie Ann turned toward him. So his name is Chris and his dat is a cabinetmaker.
"Great!" Katie Ann wrote on her notepad. "That helps if the supplies are donated. Now we just have to buy the seeds for the vegetables."
"I can help with that too," Clara said. "Mei onkel owns a nursery. I can get the seeds from him. He might even donate them."
"Fantastic. When do you think you can get them?" Katie Ann asked.
Clara shrugged. "I can go to his store tomorrow."
"That means we can start planting Tuesday afternoon," Ephraim said, chiming in. "I'll bring our gardening tools. And I'll see if I can get someone to plow the area. Our neighbor has a plow." He pointed to Mandy's notepad. "Write that down, okay?"
"Wunderbaar." Mandy wrote on her notepad and then tapped her pencil on the tabletop. "I think that's all we had to discuss." She turned to Ephraim. "Did I forget anything?"
Ephraim tilted his head and looked up at the ceiling. "I think the only other issue was inviting other youth groups to help us. We decided the six of us would have our meetings with Emma on Sundays, like today, and workdays with a bigger group will be on both Tuesdays and Saturdays. Right?"
"That's right!" Mandy snapped her fingers. "I knew I was forgetting something. We need to invite the members of our youth group and then ask them to invite people they know."
"I brought my cousin." Wayne gestured toward Chris. "Does that count?"
Cousins! Katie Ann looked at both men. While they both had dark-brown hair, the similarities ended there. Wayne's eyes were dark blue, and Chris's reminded her of melted milk chocolate.
"Ya, that counts, but we need more people to help with the planting and the harvest." Ephraim tapped the table. "Let's all plan to invite at least one person to join us at our next meeting."
"I will." Clara held up her hand as if answering a question in school.
"I don't have any other freinden," Wayne joked, and Chris chuckled.
Katie Ann looked down at her notepad. She was thankful she'd made a list since Mandy hadn't mentioned the fencing or knew about not being able to donate the food they were going to grow.
"The meat loaf and potatoes are ready," Emma announced. "Do you all want to eat now?"
"Ya," Ephraim said, and the rest of the group agreed. "Danki."
Mandy stood. "Emma, let me set the table."
"I'll get the drinks." Clara followed her to the cabinets.
"I'll help serve," Katie Ann said as she pushed her pencil and notepad into her tote bag.
"Katie Ann," Chris said.
"Ya?" She looked up at him.
"I haven't had a chance to introduce myself." He held out his hand. "I'm Christian Lantz."
"Hi. I'm Katie Ann Blank. Ephraim is mei bruder." She shook his hand, and when his skin touched hers, she felt a strange fluttering in her chest.
"It's nice to meet you." Chris smiled.
"You too." Katie Ann's cheeks heated as she hurried to the counter and scooped potholders from a drawer.
"I'm so glad you got here okay," Mandy said as she gathered a stack of dishes from the cabinet. "Ephraim and I were worried about you."
"What?" Katie Ann turned toward her. "Are you joking?"
"Why would I joke?" Mandy blinked as she looked up at her. Although they were the same age, Katie Ann was nearly five inches taller than Mandy's five-foot-two, petite stature.
Katie Ann paused and glanced toward the table, where the three young men talked about plans for the bake stand. Did her brother truly not remember that he'd promised her a ride? If so, what did that say about their relationship? She and Ephraim had always been close. Did Katie Ann not matter in his life anymore now that he was dating Mandy?
Mandy took a step toward her. "Why did you ask me if I was joking?"
Katie Ann turned back toward her friend. "Ephraim was supposed to pick me up on your way to Emma's."
"We were?" Mandy's forehead pinched.
Katie Ann rested her hand on her hip. When had Mandy and Ephraim become a we? They weren't married. They weren't even engaged!
"I discussed it with Ephraim after church," Katie Ann continued. "He was supposed to drop by the haus and pick me up at four. When he wasn't there by four thirty, I realized he had forgotten me."
"I'm sure he didn't mean to." Mandy touched Katie Ann's arm. "We were visiting with my parents and mei schweschder, and we lost track of time. We didn't leave mei haus until after four."
The excuse sounded so ridiculous that Katie Ann just turned back to the counter, picked up the potholders, and lifted the meat loaf pan. "I'll take this to the table."
Emma rushed ahead of her. "Let me put a trivet on the table for you."
Katie Ann delivered the meat loaf and side dishes to the table, and Clara poured glasses of water while Mandy set out plates and utensils. Then Katie Ann took a seat between Clara and Chris. Ephraim brought a folding chair from the utility room and squeezed in between Mandy and Emma.
After a silent prayer, they filled their plates, and conversations popped up around the table. Katie Ann peeked at her brother and found Mandy whispering to him as his lips pressed into a thin line. Was she telling Ephraim he'd forgotten his sister?
"Emma, you make the best barbecue meat loaf," Clara said after swallowing a bite. "What's your secret?"
"It's all in the barbecue sauce," Emma responded before revealing the recipe.
"How's your family, Wayne?" Clara asked a minute later.
Katie Ann stabbed a forkful of meat loaf. As she chewed, she pushed around the pile of green beans on her plate.
"Do you like to cook and bake?"
Katie Ann's head whipped up, and she found Chris looking at her. "What?"
His dark eyebrows lifted. "I asked if you liked to cook and bake."
"Oh." Katie Ann nodded. "Ya, I do."
"Will you make pies and kichlin to sell at the stand?" he asked before taking a bite of meat loaf.
"I will." She studied his handsome face. Was he always this friendly with girls he'd just met? She ignored the question as the urge to know him better piqued her curiosity. "Are you a cabinetmaker like your dat?"
"Ya, mei dat owns a shop, and mei bruder and I work there." He buttered his baked potato.
"Is your bruder older or younger?"
"He's three years older than I am. He's married, and he and his fraa live just a mile away." He finished buttering his potato and then offered her the butter.
"Danki." She began to butter her own potato.
"I think the plans for the garden sound really gut," Chris said.
"I do too." She tried to smile, but her disappointment in her brother continued to nip at her.
"I can't wait to see it when it's harvesttime," he added.
"Ya," she said, agreeing.
They made small talk while they ate. When everyone had finished, they drank coffee and ate the cookies Katie Ann brought and the chocolate pie Clara brought.
After dessert, the three young women helped Emma clean the kitchen, and the young men went outside to continue talking on the porch. Katie Ann kept her head down as she washed the dishes and set them in the drying rack. Mandy worked beside her, drying the dishes and setting them back in the cabinets, while Clara wiped down the table and swept the floor. No one said much.
"Danki for supper, Emma," Clara finally said when the kitchen was clean. "I'll see you Tuesday."
"Gern gschehne," Emma said. "Be safe going home."
Mandy looked at Katie Ann, and her expression clouded with what looked like concern. "Are you going outside now?"
"I'll be there in a minute."
Mandy hesitated and then nodded. "All right. Gut nacht, Emma. Danki for supper."
"Gern gschehne." Emma gave her a little wave before Mandy disappeared through the mudroom. Emma turned to Katie Ann.
"Was iss letz? Why didn't you walk out with Mandy?"
"Nothing is wrong." Katie Ann busied herself by folding the damp dish towels. "I just wanted to make sure you weren't left with a mess."
"Katie Ann." Emma touched her shoulder. "I've gotten to know you very well during the past few months, and I can tell when something is bothering you. I don't mean to pry, but you can always talk to me."
"I know." Katie Ann bit her lower lip as she debated how much to share. "I'm just upset because mei bruder forgot to pick me up today. He and Mandy visited with her family after church, and they were supposed to get me on the way here. That's why I was late. When Ephraim didn't show up, I had to ask mei dat if I could use his horse and buggy."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Seasons of an Amish Garden"
Copyright © 2019 Amy Clipston.
Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Spring Is in the Air, 1,
Home by Summer, x,
The Fruits of Fall, x,
Winter Blessings, x,