Thursday, 27 October 2011

Amish Country

Picture taken from inside our truck as we met this Amish horse drawn cart on the street in the town of Intercourse (yes that is correct!), Pennsylvania.  The Amish do not like their picture taken - as they view this as a 'graven image' in their belief system - so I tried to be discrete in capturing a few images.  You can barely see the straw hat that the men all wear.  The carriages are all black and they are in black clothing - so it helps ensure their anonymity and invisibility!

A sampling of hand quilted Amish quilts in a shop.  These quilts all sold for between $650 to $1200 - which is a real bargain.  I don't know how they can make and sell them for that.  A hand made Amish quilt involves 5 people - 1 person chooses pattern and fabric, another person pieces, another person 'traces' the quilting pattern, another person does the quilting -( the higher end shops will only accept a quilt quilted by one person - for consistency of stitch etc) (in other instances a quilting bee may be involved in quilting a quilt) -, and finally the 5th person does the binding.  So they all have their specialty!

This was a quilt on display in a quilt museum and the wave effect was achieved by altering the size of the squares and rectangles that were pieced to achieve the 'effect'.  Amazing!!!!!  Truly gifted and talented ladies!

As Barry commented - "a convertible Buggy!" -  one of our guides commented that the young fellows get these when they are 16 - and then there is a period of sewing 'their wild oats'.  They jazz up their buggies with all kinds of bangles etc and as Barry suspects - there are probably a few races on the back roads!   Apparently the Amish often buy retired race horses and we saw a lot of  frisky  high prancers pulling these wagons!  The other comment was - the open wagon did not allow TOO MUCH PRIVACY DURING COURTING!

Barry and Sandra on an Amish Buggy ride in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, Indiana

Clip clop clip clop - a frisky prancer!  We forgot to ask if there are ever any accidents with these Buggies and especially considering the congested vehicular traffic with which they co-exist!  We're not sure, but it would appear that there should be a good business opportunity for a large animal Veterinarian in this part of the country.

An Amish "Drive Through!" - our Buggy driver stopped at this Amish farm gate - where we were able to purchase fresh baked goods and cold root beer.  Our young Buggy driver is the Son of a fellow who left the 'faith'.  He was happy his Dad did leave as he (the young driver) likes his TV he says.  Apparently the young people now have a choice of staying in the 'community' or leaving for a more secular life - before they go through with the adult baptism.  If they do choose to leave they are still permitted contact and can visit family etc who are still in the community.  In the old days this act would have invoked a shunning as we understand it - but no more!

Our Buggy ride went through this covered bridge.  Covered bridges were kind of controversial in the old days - as the young people would ride through them and steal a kiss or two!  Much frowned upon by the elders.

"Training Wheels for young Amish Children" - our buggy driver pointed this out on our tour in Lancaster County and we did see a miniature buggy in action later up in Indiana.  They use the miniature mature horses - hitch them up to wee wagons or buggies - to train their children how to drive a buggy or wagon starting as early as age 6.  We think this is sooooo cute and wish we could have got a better picture!

The > 200 year old Amish Farm house and property that we toured in Lancaster County.  We had an excellent tour guide who very thoroughly explained the Amish Culture and traditions.

The beginning of our Amish Farmhouse tour we sat in this room that would have been the room for worship.  Amish farms are typically not much bigger than 40 acres (they use no modern means of working their farms), and roughly 25 families form a unit (still individual not communal) - and each unit has a clergy person.  They meet for worship every second Sunday and each family is expected to host at least one 'worship meeting' each year (hence the need for this big room) - the service starts at 8:30 AM on Sunday and will go to about noon - after which the family hosts the 'congregation' for lunch.  Later in the evening the young people gather around for a singsong (approved songs only) - and it is at this time that courting may be in progress.  This room was one such 'meeting' room and every farm property would have one of these attached to their farm buildings.  The light in the foreground in propane fired.  The Amish do not believe in any link to the outside world so there is no 'electricity', 'no gas lines' (propane yes but not natural gas), no telephone lines into the home - only into the barn or a phone booth on the property (that looks like an out house) and for emergency purposes only!       We were told that weddings typically occur on a Tues. or Thurs. (to allow for the moving of the benches from home to home where services or weddings may be occuring)

A battery powered sewing machine!  Sandra was immensely curious how these ladies pieced all these beautiful quilts with 'no power' - well here's the answer.  The Amish have adapted the world to their needs and beliefs to achieve their goals!  

Ladies clothing - child to adult - our guide stressed that the ladies dress is very plain and unadorned - always plain colors.  Buttons are only allowed for young girls clothing but once adult - the ladies use 'straight pins' to hold their aprons and skirts in place - that is hard to believe in this day and age (why not Velcro?????)

Men's clothing - childhood to adult.  Very plain and dark.  Our guide told us that they each typically have only 4 outfits.  That is all they need at any given time.  Children attend a one room school to grade 8 - as the belief is the children need no more than grade 8 to live the 'plain' Amish rural lifestyle.  The men have beards but no mustache (they view this as a military image), and have no lapels or buttons on their jackets or suits (again this has more military connotations).  The Amish do not take up arms, but contribute in other ways in times of turmoil - health care service etc.

Amish laundry on the line!

Tobacco used to be a cash crop for the Amish - but is becoming and less so.

The summer kitchen in the Amish home.  The stove is propane fired of course (no outside lines), the fridge also is propane fired, and the washer fired by an air compressor.  It is ingenious how the Amish have maneuvered around their lifestyle restrictions to make their life easier and manageable.  Now this likely relates to many years ago - so not sure what the more modern 'accommodations' might be!

We kind of got lost - well not lost - but off in the countryside - and here an Amish Farmer was harvesting corn we think.  They use horses to pull their machines, but especially mules (who are much stronger and more sure footed than horses) to manage their farm work.  Again we were discrete in taking this picture but they very quickly ducked into the high stands of corn - so I am sure they suspected we were taking a picture.

An Amish Lady on a foot powered scooter.  Our guide explained to us that the Mennonites ride bicycles but this is too modern for the Amish - they use foot powered scooters instead.  We saw several people using these foot powered scooters.

The old Mill outside the Mill Bridge RV Park where we stayed in Ronks, PA in Lancaster County

Covered Bridge outside our RV Park in Lancaster County

Sing in the Covered Bridge

Amish Farm across from our RV Park in Ronks, Lancaster County, PA

On our way from PA to Indiana - we parked in a Walmart lot and this rig really caught Barry's attention.  Actually the fellow has a Porsche service shop and here he is transporting 3 Porche's in this rig - circuit racers apparently.

Up in Indiana - more Amish country - and here a Buggy with a cart behind - with good for sale.

Hitching post outside the Wells Fargo Bank in Shipshewana, Indiana

Now this caught our attention - we are sure it does not cost these rigs as much at the "Marathon Gas Station" as it costs us!
Well the last week has been full of new sights, sounds and experiences.  We left Ottawa a week ago and headed South through New York State into Lancaster Country in Pennsylvania (Amish country).  We took a side road off the main interstate to avoid the bigger cities - came over a hill and there they were - black buggies pulled by prancing horses - clip clopping along the shoulder of the secondary highway.  We were absolutely amazed that the horses appeared oblivious to the vehicular traffic that is still quite heavy - even on the secondary highway.  We thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Amish (old order) and the Mennonites (a little more modern).  What we didn't realize is that the Amish were a more traditional break away group from the Mennonites back in the 1600's.  Both groups came to America to escape religious persecution in Europe at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  It is amazing how a religion, culture and life style has become quite an amazing tourist attraction.  But it appears - on the surface anyway - that they have managed to balance and manage the competing forces and distractions.  We will let the pictures tell the story.

Before leaving Indiana, we toured a 5th wheel manufacturing facility.  Very very interesting.  Then we managed to get tickets for an awesome Amish musical drama theater production after an incredible Amish home style meal (fried chicken, stuffing, roast beef, mashed potatoes & gravy, beans and noodles - preceded by home made bread and salad and followed by a selection of awesome home made pies!).  We couldn't finish it all - but it was sooooo good - the closest thing to home cooked that we've ever tasted.

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