My good friend, Judy, had spoken of her Amish friend many times to me.  She knew her when she used to live in northern Ohio before moving to Arizona. When our family was planning this trip around the US, Judy said we really should stop and meet her. She wrote Ella a letter (since they don’t believe in cell phones or computers) and asked  if we could stop by on our way through. We decided why not? It was only a little off our path from Mackinaw, Michigan to Erie, Pennsylvania. On the backroads we went to Burton, Ohio and we are so happy we took the time to do so!

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I tried to be respectful of Ella and her family members, as the Amish do not believe in taking photos of people! But, this was so cute I couldn’t help myself! She was walking us back to see her brother and all the local men and boys working on the farm. We happened to be visiting on the one day a year called Threshing Day. During threshing, neighbors gather together to help each other bring the harvested grain from the fields and mechanically separate the edible kernels from the stems and husks. Threshing oats is important, because horses provide the power for farm work all year long and they eat the oats. Straw, separated from the oats, is used as bedding for the horses, cows and other farm animals. It was really interesting, not to mention quite dirty, to watch the boys and men at work.

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The Amish communities are such a part of our American culture. I feel so blessed that Ella opened up her home to us and answered all of our questions, while we snacked on lemonade, coffee and homemade chocolate chip cookies! Travel ultimately is an avenue to open your mind and broaden your horizons. On the way here the kids were nervous about what we were about to embark on. I have to admit that Keith and I were a little too. In her own words, the Amish “freaked out” our youngest. I think any unknown group of people can feel intimidating, especially to children. It is awesome that through travel, we can learn and grow to respect a culture of people different than ourselves!

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What we learned:

– This is the neighborhood telephone that everyone uses.

– Homes have no electricity, so the Amish rely on wood stoves for heat and gas lamps for lighting.

– Children do not go to formal school after the 8th grade.

– They do not ride bicycles, but children have scooters that look similar to bikes!

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-All personal transportation is done by a horse drawn buggy.

-The Amish are allowed to ride along with anyone driving them though. They hire drivers as well as depend on their English/Yankee friends (as they call us) to get to further away destinations. They can travel for vacation by train but no airplanes!

-Church services are held in rotating homes every other week. The service and Bible are both in German.

-Their clothing is all handmade and of very simple style and colors. There are no zippers, only buttons and pins allowed!

-The women wear caps (I originally called them bonnets) all of the time.

-A black cap is worn when venturing out in public. Otherwise the Amish women wear a white one.

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These signs along the way made me smile. I guess sharing with a big motorhome is a rarity along their country roads! This man got run off the road when his horses freaked out at the sight of our big rig heading toward them. Our family had some good laughs at this poor guys expense. What a great day we had!

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1 reply
  1. Michelle Fowler
    Michelle Fowler says:

    Reminds me of my college days in Waterloo, Ontario. I had many Mennonites in my classes (some remained traditional Anabaptist in caps and beards), as my Masters thesis was about faith and war, and ironically many of the Mennonites took military history classes, it led to many heated debates, however, in the end our belief in eternal salvation reigned supreme. Great memories of growing up in southwestern Ontario. We always took weekends to spend time in Mennonite country, it didn’t even occur to me that would be so different when not exposed…. what a fantastic experience for the whole family!

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