by Laurie Sherck
It seems that people are quite interested in the birds and the bees when they come to Shipshewana. I wanted to find out for myself the curiosity surrounding this interest, so I took a quick drive out into the Shipshewana countryside to talk with the experts themselves.
Green Meadow Houses and Feeders
My first stop took me to Green Meadow Houses and Feeders, located at 0725 N 840 W, Shipshewana. There I spoke with owner, Myron Hochstetler. Myron’s father, John, never dreamed that his childhood interest in birds would eventually lead to a generational family business of building bird houses and feeders. What started as a simple request to build a couple of birdhouses has led to a family operated business that makes approximately 60 units of bird houses and feeders a day that are sold locally, and shipped all around the United States.
Locally Designed and Hand-Made
John’s love and interest for birds has been passed down to his son, Myron who now owns the business. Myron has inherited his father’s love for birds. It was interesting to watch the bird feeders and houses being crafted, hear about how the business got started and to glean all sorts of bird facts from Myron and his father, John. All of Green Meadow’s feeders are made out of long-lasting eco-friendly polywood.
Ask the Experts
Myron shared with me all sorts of tips & tricks on what I can do attract the type of feathered friends I most enjoy. Perhaps it’s songbirds like finches, chickadees, nuthatchers, or purple finches that you want to attract. Maybe you want Blue Birds, Gold Finches, Blue Jays, Cardinals or Woodpeckers to visit your back yard. You name it. The Hochstetlers know exactly what type of feeder you need, the type of food to put in the feeder and the season that you are most likely see certain birds. Put out your feeder with the right kind of food to attract the bird you want—and Waalaa…just watch what happens!
Select your Favorite
The Hochstetlers have expanded their bird house production to include bat houses and butterfly houses. Here’s something new I learned: Place a Blue Bird house up in early April and Blue Birds will build nests up to 4 times a year. I also found out, to control the insect population, put up a bat house. Bats feast on insects. And, did you know butterflies use butterfly houses to take shelter during the rain to protect their wings?
Plan Your Visit to Green Meadow Houses and Feeders
The more I talked with Myron, the more I appreciated and loved the idea of a bird feeder in my back yard. His enthusiasm for bird watching is contagious. Green Meadow bird feeders and bird houses are sold at various locations around Shipshewana, including booth #419 at the Shipshewana Flea Market. However, if you have time, it’s a special treat to head to the location where the feeders and houses are actually made and talk with the bird experts themselves.
“B” Honey & Candles
My next stop lead me across US 20 and down another country road to B Honey & Candles, located at 2260N 1000W, Shipshewana. Perry & Rosetta Bontrager own and operate this family owned business. Perry chuckled when I asked him what made him decide to raise bees. He smiled and shared that his interest in bees began with a “show & tell” project in 3rd grade. He caught some bees, placed them in a jar with flowers, took it to school and shared what he knew about bees. That was the “seed” that sparked his interest. Therefore, it didn’t take him long to say yes to a business opportunity to purchase his new wife’s family beehives nearly 35 years ago. As the saying goes, the rest is history!.
Nature’s Natural Sweetener
Today the Bontragers gather honey from approximately 50 different bee hives. Their products are sold around the Shipshewana area and shipped all over the U.S. The amount of honey produced per year varies greatly depending on the weather. Perry told me they can harvest over 100 lbs of honey per hive in a good year. Summer months are the busiest when it comes to producing honey. The worker bees only live about 3 weeks in the summer. They literally “work themselves” to death gathering the nectar that makes the honey and then using their wings to fan the nectar in the honeycomb that causes evaporation creating sweet liquid honey. “That’s likely where we got the term “busy as a bee’”, smiles Perry.
That’s just Pure Beeswax
The Bontragers operate a small family shop on their property where patrons can purchase the pure honey direct. Honey production slows down in the fall and winter months, and that is when the Bontragers concentrate on making their all natural honey products. They make pure beeswax candles, honey soap, chapstick & lotions and other all-natural products right there on “the home place”. They also sell honey combs, beeswax, pollen and make and sell Apple Cider vinegar ( an all natural vinegar that take about 10 months to process).
Visit the Farm
I’m so glad I took the time to visit with Perry & Rosetta at “B” Honey & Candles. It was a very interesting and informative visit, and gave me a new appreciation for Honey and Honey products. If you visit Shipshewana in the fall you may find The Bontragers selling their honey and hand-made items at the Fall Crafter’s Fair in Shipshewana, and occasionally at other small fairs and markets. If you miss those opportunities, feel free to visit their little shop on the farm.
So there you have it. I certainly found out why people come to Shipshewana to learn about the Birds and the Bees. The journey was fun and interesting, but don’t just take my word for it, come to Shipshewana and travel the backroads and discover all that awaits you.
Laurie Sherck, Director of Shipshewana Retail Merchants, is a wife of 43 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 12 and loves to tell people why Shipshewana is so special…. Just ask her!