Sometimes You Need to Stop and Treat Your Feet {5 Relaxation Techniques from My Grandma}

Enamel Basin by Lehmans

Enamelware Basin by Lehman’s

I’ve talked much about my hardworking Amish family. But in this post I’d like to share a little something about some of my Grandma Lydia’s relaxation techniques.

First up is my favorite. After working hard in the garden or yard she often said it was time to “Treat Your Feet”. She would pull out a basin or bucket, fill it with warm water, sprinkle some Epsom Salts inside and then we’d sit down, put our feet in the bucket and relax for a while. I can’t help but smile when I think of a row of grandchildren on a bench, all sitting quietly with our feet tucked neatly in her hodgepodge collection of buckets and basins. My grandmother was brilliant! And guess what? Experts still tout the benefits of Epsom Salt foot baths today.

Playing beside Grandma's Table

My little brother Jonas, playing beside Grandma’s table

Next, there was “Warm Milk & Honey” at bedtime. Grandma would warm up a little farm milk, pour it into a special glass or mug then she helped us squeeze in a teaspoon of raw honey from the honey-bear. She let us stir it all up and then we’d sit next to her and Grandpa and sip on it slowly. I’m not sure if it was the milk & honey, or a placebo effect from the process of making & drinking it, but it worked like a charm!

Another one of her ways to relax was ReadingAfter the day’s work was done, you would often find my grandparents reading a good book, and they taught us grandchildren to do the same.

Grandma's Doily

A Doily Made by Grandma Lydia

Grandma was an avid crocheter. She especially loved creating beautiful and intricate doilies. This hobby of hers was something she loved to do in her downtime, and I believe it was one of the ways she would unwind from the stress of the day.

Last there was singing. As Grandpa and Grandma were New Order Amish, they had electricity and tape players. The tapes in their collection were those of groups who used no musical instruments. Grandma would turn on the tape-player and fill the room with quiet and beautiful acapella harmonies for us when it was time to relax. My favorite tapes at Grandma’s house were those from Gospel Express.

Grandma relaxing

Grandma relaxing outdoors with one of her grandbabies.

Next time I need to slow things down a bit, I believe I just may “Treat My Feet” and sip on some warm milk and honey. Grandma really did know best! I’d love for you to share some of your own grandparent’s relaxation techniques by commenting on this post.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number 22 in a series called “Lessons I Learned from My Amish Family. Thanks so much for following along. Click here to read more!

On Making Butter…and Memories {Lessons from My Amish Family}

Butter Churn by Lehman's

Butter Churn by Lehman’s

One day I was driving down the road and a random commercial about butter played on the radio.

Waves of memories crashed over me, as I suddenly remembered a time my Grandma Lydia taught me how to make butter. I recalled standing on a stool beside her, as she explained the process, and showed me just how to turn the little handle on her glass churn.

As I remembered the sweet time with my Grandma, tears welled up in my eyes, began leaking down my cheeks and suddenly I was crying so hard I had to pull off the road till I could compose myself.

I realized something that day. My Amish family taught me that beautiful memories are not made of superficial stuff. The best memories are formed from simple and meaningful experiences.

Cousins having fun at Grandma & Grandpa's house

Cousins having fun at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

My grandparents never took me on fancy vacations, bought me clothes at the mall, or gave me the latest electronics. They never sat me in front of a television, or put the remote control for a gaming device in my hand.

Instead they invested time and love into the lives of those they cared about, just by being with us and living life alongside us. The memories I have with them are humble and modest, but powerful just the same. They were fully engaged and attentive in the everyday moments, creating meaningful, rich, and significant experiential memories that last and shine on for lifetimes.

Grandpa Jonas & Grandma Lydia's House in Churchtown, PA

Grandpa Jonas & Grandma Lydia’s House in Churchtown, PA where my parents live today

“In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.”
― Marge Kennedy

I have many precious memories of times with family in the dear old house pictured above. Experiential memories. The kind money can’t buy. Memories that formed the way I see the world today. I’m thankful for my grandparents. They were rich in the things that matter. Character, wisdom and love. And they took the time to share it all with me.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number 21 of a series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Click here to read more! 

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender

 

 

7 Things Every Amish Girl Knows How to Do

Amish Girls Holding Hands

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

It wasn’t until I was about 10 years old that I realized not every girl has the privilege of learning the homemaking skills I took for granted. My Mama wanted to share the things she knew with her daughters, and she enjoyed teaching us all she could. As a grown woman, I couldn’t be more thankful for the skill set she gave me! So, with no further ado, here are 7 (of the many) things every Amish girl knows how to do.

1) Wash Dishes

When I say wash dishes, I don’t mean just rinse them and put them in the dishwasher to unload the next morning. I’m talking wash cups, dishes, silverware, serving dishes, pots, pans, bowls, containers, cooking utensils, (you get the picture)…ALL by hand. And then you rinse the dishes, dry them, and put them away. Washing dishes the old-fashioned way is much better when working as a team. In fact, when there are lots of dishes (as is usually the case in an Amish home), it’s best when there at least five people to help with the chore. One person preps the dishes, one washes, one rinses, one dries and one puts them away. My Grandma said a girl is ready to get married when she can wash dishes fast enough to keep up with at least three people drying them.

Speaking of marriage preparedness: In addition to washing dishes at break-neck speed, Grandma said you had to be able to roll out your homemade pie crust in a perfect circle. Which leads us to skill number two:

2) Bake Pies

Amish girls learn early on how to make beautiful pies of all kinds. Apple Pie, Peach Pie, Custard Pie, Crumb Pies, Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie and many more. My Grandpa’s favorite was Shoofly pie, and Grandma always had one on hand. In addition to pies, they can make lovely bread from scratch and their cookies and cakes are marvelous. Holidays are an amazing culinary experience in an Amish home!

Making Chow Chow at Grandma's House

(Yours Truly) Making Chow Chow at Grandma’s House

3) Can & Preserve 

Applesauce, peaches, pears and cherries. Apple butter, pear butter,  jellies, jams and preserves. Grape juice and grape mush. Tomatoes, pickles, relish, beets,  ketchup and chow-chow. When it comes to canning and preserving, the Amish kitchen is unmatched in experience and expertise. Families have recipes and techniques they’ve passed down for generations. Their pantries and can shelves are a beautiful sight! My great-grandmother Fannie Stoltzfus enjoyed beautifying her canning shelves with delicate edging designed from folded newspaper. 

Little Seamstress

Sewing on my Mama’s machine at six years old

4) Sew & Quilt

Because the Amish make all their clothes (including boys and mens pants and shirts!), little girls quickly gain lots of experience in sewing. In addition, they learn beautiful embroidery skills, how to quilt and often how to knit and crochet as well. As a little girl I loved the adventure of going to the fabric store with Grandma! My favorite place was the second story of “Farmer Brown’s Market”, which was filled to the brim with all varieties of material for any kind of sewing project.

Amish Family

Amish Family | Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

5) Hospitality & Cooking for Crowds

Amish homes are some of the most hospitable and welcoming spots on the planet. They’re always ready to accommodate their guests with delicious food – and plenty of it. Amish girls don’t just know how to quickly present a hearty meal (of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, homemade bread with butter & jelly, applesauce, and chocolate cake with some canned peaches for dessert), they can make this meal for a whole crowd of visitors!

Working in the Garden

Working in the Garden | Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

6) Gardening & Yardwork

There’s something very special about working with the land, and Amish girls are talented gardeners. They grow much of their family’s food supply, then harvest and preserve it. Little girls help their mothers in the garden and learn how to plant and care for the family’s vegetable garden. In addition, many Amish girls enjoy doing yard work, and find great delight in creating a beautiful landscape for their family and friends to enjoy. Their yards are a picture of perfection.

My Grandma Esh working in her garden, in Lancaster County, PA

My Grandma Esh working in her garden, in Lancaster County, PA. We spent many happy hours helping her pick raspberries, harvest potatoes and gather asparagus. My parents now live on this property, and continue to maintain a beautiful garden!

Buggy Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Buggy Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

7) Drive a Buggy & Care for the Farm Animals

Men aren’t the only ones who drive those familiar buggies. Amish girls can handle the reigns too! They’re also very familiar with the inside of a barn, and know how to beautifully care for their livestock, run the farmyard and the help in the fields. I only pretended to drive the buggy when it was parked in Grussdaudy’s barn, but I had plenty of experience in the barn when we visited Grandpa Esh’s farm. My favorite chores were bottle feeding the calves and helping with the milking.

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Amish girls may not be experts in pop culture, current fashion trends or fads. They may not have a clue whose songs are playing on top 40 radio, or what movies are in the theater. But I dare say the things Amish girls learn and know are far more beneficial to society (as they grow older and have influence of their own) than we give them credit for! I’m so happy I had a family who taught me these valuable skills that I use every day.

Thanks so much for following along as I share things I learned from my Amish Family here on my blog series 31 days of lessons from my Amish family! I’m having a great time reminiscing and reflecting, and it’s a joy to have you join me here.

~ Justina Dee

 

Patience and Perseverance {A lesson from my Grandpa}

Grandpa Esh

Grandpa Jonas Esh

“The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours.” – John Piper

When he was thirty-six years old my Grandpa Jonas Esh was a husband, father to six children and Amish farmer and businessman. Life took a dramatic turn one day when he and a crew of workmen were painting the barns on Grandpa’s farm.

Grandpa's Farm

One of the barns on Grandpa’s Farm in Morgantown, PA.

Grandpa was on top of a tall ladder with a spray painter in hand. One of the men on the crew moved the paint truck, not realizing the paint hose was attached to the ladder Grandpa was on.

The ladder fell several stories and so did my Grandpa. His life changed forever. He suffered a broken spine, permanent nerve damage and became partially paralyzed in his legs. In addition, he lost use of his kidneys, forcing the need for dialysis treatments three times per week for the rest of his life.

Jonas Esh Family - early years

Grandpa and his family before the accident

I don’t know what life looked like for those first years after the accident. I can imagine it must have been incredibly difficult. I do know that Grandpa & Grandma were surrounded by a strong community, and that my uncles grew up quickly as they suddenly had to shoulder the responsibilities of the farm.

Grandpa & Grandma Esh & Family in the 70's

Grandpa & Grandma Esh & Family in the 70’s

I knew the older version of Grandpa. A man who was told he would never walk again, but proved everyone wrong. He had a limp but it failed to stop him. He didn’t use a cane, and even refused to use handicapped tags for his car, saying there were other people who needed the space more than he did. My Grandpa was unstoppable! People with less strength of character would have given up on life, but not Grandpa. Instead, he carried on – displaying incredible perseverance and tenacity.

Grandpa on the roof

Grandpa working on the roof

In spite of all his difficulties, Grandpa never displayed frustration or discontentment to us grandchildren. He was patient, kind, and a whole lot of fun to be with!

Fishing with Grandpa

Fishing with Grandpa

Grandpa and the wagon

Hauling pumpkins with Grandpa

Relaxing with Grandpa

Relaxing with Grandpa

Helping Grandpa

Helping Grandpa

Birthday Party with Grandpa

Birthday Party!

Grandpa Jonas combing my brother Jonas' hair

Grandpa Jonas combing my brother Jonas’s hair

I’m sure there are many things that helped cultivate perseverance and patience in his life, and Grandma was an incredible source of strength to him over the years. But I believe his deep trust in his Savior and his eternal perspective are what sustained Grandpa through all the difficulties he faced on a daily basis. Grandpa loved hymns, and one of his favorites was “Going Down the Valley”:

“We are going down the valley one by one,
When the labors of the weary day are done;
One by one, the cares of earth forever past,
We shall stand upon the river brink at last.” ~ Jessie Pounds

Grandpa & Grandma playing a game together

Grandpa & Grandma playing a game ~ I love this picture because it shows them working through something together, just as we always saw them do in life.

I sure do miss you Grandpa. I never got to see you run here on earth – those legs of yours wouldn’t allow you to do it. But I look forward to the day I see you in heaven, whole and complete, maybe even running by that river you loved to sing about. And thank you for teaching me what it means to persevere and be patient – no matter what obstacles and hardships come my way. I’m forever grateful to God for your example.

~ Justina Dee

 This is post number 19 of a 31 day series I’m blogging about my Amish family. Thanks so much for reading! Click here to read more.

 

 

 

 

The Impact of One Teacher

One Room School House Teacher Mrs. Buchanan

One Room School House Teacher Mrs. Buchanan

Meet Mrs. Buchanan. She was my grandmother’s school teacher during the 1930’s & ’40’s, in a tiny one-room school-house on Best Road in Morgantown, PA.

The one-room schoolhouse on Best Road, where Mrs. Buchanan taught my grandmother

The one-room schoolhouse on Best Road, where Mrs. Buchanan taught my grandmother

If you’ve followed the series of blog posts I’m sharing about my Amish family, you’ve seen much mention of my amazing grandmother Lydia Esh. I’ve never met another person who influenced my life in such a powerful way when it comes to bringing joy and teamwork to everyday life. Who were the people who helped shape my grandmother’s character and gifts? Of course there were her parents, Emanuel and Fannie Stoltzfus, (known to me as “Daudy & Mummy Stoltzfus”). But there was also someone else: her teacher Mrs. Buchanan. She was a woman of great influence during my Grandma’s childhood, and Grandma often spoke of her.

Students of Mrs. Buchanan's - My grandmother is in the back row

Students of Mrs. Buchanan’s – My grandmother is in the back row

Grandma, her sister Sarah, her brother Sam & siblings were the only Old-Order Amish children who attended Mrs. Buchanan’s classroom during those years. Most of the other students were from Conestoga Mennonite Church.

My grandma Lydia and her brother, who I call "Uncle Sam"

My grandma Lydia and her brother, who I call “Uncle Sam” (At the school on Best Road)

Amish children attend a one room schoolhouse from 1st through 8th grade. I would argue that because of her incredible teacher, my grandma received more education in her 8 years of schooling than most people procure in 12 years of a typical school experience.

DSC01525

Mrs. Buchanan instilled in my grandmother a love of learning and adventure. She sparked in her a deep appreciation of poetry, history, literature and song, and taught her the value of teamwork. My grandmother gave these priceless gift to my mother. My mother joyfully passed them on to me, and now I have the delight of sharing these same gifts with my daughter.

Grandma Lydia's Schoolwork

Grandma Lydia’s Schoolwork

Grandma Lydia's Schoolwork

There’s a fun little bunny trail of this story: Grandma’s middle initial was “S” for Stoltzfus. (Many Amish children had the maiden name of their mother as their middle name.) Apparently Grandma wanted a different middle name, so she signed some of her elementary school work with “Lydia Susie Stoltzfus”.

DSC01527-1

The most significant memory my mother has of Mrs. Buchanan’s effect on my Grandma’s day-to-day parenting is the memory of Grandma reciting poems she learned in school (like the Owl & the Pussycat) while combing and braiding her hair when she was a little Amish girl.

My mother's first grade school picture

My mother’s first grade school picture

Amazingly, Mrs. Buchanan served as substitute teacher for my mother when she attended “California School”, another one-room schoolhouse which still stands on California road in Morgantown, PA. My mother especially loved the story-books Mrs. Buchanan read to her students.

Students at California School, the one room schoolhouse on California Road in Morgantown, PA

Students at California School, the one room schoolhouse on California Road in Morgantown, PA

From time to time (especially when we read and recite poetry together) I think of the stories my grandma and mother shared of Mrs. Buchanan. I don’t want the story to die, and so I share it with my daughter. More importantly, I strive to cultivate a deep love and passion for learning in her – a gift now passed down to a fourth generation of students thanks to one incredible teacher many years ago. I believe Mrs. Buchanan’s influence makes me a better mother and home school teacher today.

My mother and my daughter

My beautiful mother and daughter

What a powerful picture of the impact one teacher can have on future generations! The lesson to me is this: If a one-room school-house teacher in a tiny town in Lancaster County, PA can make such an imprint, then certainly we all have the power to sow seeds of values and joy into the children in our lives – which will grow, spread like vines, and blossom on the pages of future history.

~ Justina Dee

This is number 18 in my “31 Lessons I Learned From My Amish Family” blogging series. Click here to read more! 

 

 

 

 

Amish Business Women

 

Grandpa & Grandma's Bed & Breakfast

Grandpa & Grandma Esh’s Bed & Breakfast in the 1980’s

Amish Business Women.

I’d venture to say many of my friends have never put those three words together in a sentence, but in this short post I’d like to introduce you to three women who held that title, and are a tremendous inspiration to me: Aunt Sadie Zook, Aunt Sarah Glick, and my Grandma Lydia. All three of them were wives, mothers…and successful entrepreneurs.

“In my dealings with them I have found Amish business women to be self-directed: i.e., highly motivated, making autonomous business decisions, seeming to be little concerned with others’ opinions of them.”~ Beth Graybill, in her research entitled “Amish Women, Business Sense: Old Order Women Entrepreneurs in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, tourist marketplace.”

 

169

My Grandma was an amazingly industrious woman. She was Grandpa’s right hand woman on their dairy farm and rental properties. In addition, she ran a beautiful and welcoming bed and breakfast out of their home in Churchtown, PA. They entertained guests from across the country all seasons of the year. She had great working business relationships with hotels and other B&B’s in the area, and networked with local tourist-driven businesses.

Grandpa & Grandma Esh

Grandpa & Grandma Esh

Grandma & Grandpa were wonderful hosts, and created dear friendships that lasted for decades and continue on in our family today. I remember helping Grandma prepare the rooms for their guests. We washed towels, scrubbed floors and cleaned bathrooms. I still marvel at her fastidious housekeeping standards. She even ironed the sheets and pillowcases for her guests to make the room as beautiful and welcoming as possible.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 2.45.56 PM

Ariel view of Aunt Sadie’s Bake Shop | Image via Google

Aunt Sadie Zook was my Grandpa’s oldest sister. For all my life she was the owner and manager of her busy and successful bake shop nestled between farmer’s fields in the beautiful hills of Narvon, PA. Visit online reviews for “Sadie’s Bake Shop” and you’ll quickly see that her baked goods have an amazing reputation. I’ve never tasted a donut as delicious as one made by Great-Aunt Sadie and her staff, and (most wonderful of all) of all, she also made the best Shoo-fly Pie around!

The home where my Grussmommy grew up. (The little white building you see in the background next to the tree on the right side is where Aunt Sarah’s health-food store now stands.)

Finally, there’s my Aunt Sarah. (She married my Grussmommy’s brother Davy Glick). Aunt Sarah managed her thriving health food store called Glick’s Natural Products, next to her family home. It was always fun to visit Aunt Sarah’s busy store, with its perfect rows of nutritional supplements, bins of organic produce, refrigerators filled with wholesome food, and shelves of natural wellness books. The Amish community is very holistic when it comes to matters of family health, so there was a constant stream of customers. As it was a great store, there were also plenty of “English” people who also frequented Aunt Sarah’s business! She had years of experience in her field, was extremely knowledgable, had great advice & product recommendations for anyone who asked, and above all she genuinely cared about her customers and had a passion for what she did.

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it. ~ Margaret Thatcher

That’s a quote any three of these dear woman could have said. I’m thankful for the great example all three strong and lovely women in my life, and the lessons I learned from all of them.

~ Justina Dee

Links:

Trip Advisor Reviews on my Aunt Sadie’s Bake Shop

Amish Women Entrepreneurs

Amish Women: Business Sense

Business Insider: 13 Money Secrets From the Amish

 

 

 

 

Ten Unique Items Found in an Amish Household

Last week I shared some unusual foods found in Amish homes, and today I’m listing (in no particular order) some interesting items commonly found in Amish homes. Each of these items takes me on a walk down nostalgia lane!

Amish Foot Stool

Amish Foot Stool | by Amish Furniture Factory

1.  A “Mummy Schtool” is a small foot stool my grandparents kept in the general area of the kitchen. (“Mummy” is the affectionate nickname given to Grandmothers  -or “Grussmommies”.) Since grandmas often needed help reaching into high cupboards, the stool was kept nearby. Somewhere along the line of Amish history, any small stool in the kitchen was given this title.

Dutch Blitz

Dutch Blitz | Photo by Lehmans

2. Dutch Blitz is a card game often found in Amish homes. It gets so intense that chairs are taken away from around the table being used, so that players can stand up. I have great memories of playing this game with my cousins for hours on end! Be sure to click on the video link to see how the game is played.

Amish Hope Chest

Amish Hope Chest | by Amish Furniture Factory

3. A Hope Chest is given to Amish girls as they become young women. Items like handmade quilts, special dishes given as Christmas gifts, silverware, and treasured family linens are stored inside, to someday be used in their own household after they are married.

Inside Amish House

Photo by Amish Farm & House, Lancaster PA

4. Green Window Shades – My sister reminded me of this uniquely Amish household item. There were no curtains in traditional Amish houses, but instead many used green utilitarian roller shades such seen as the photo. It’s a signature sign of an Old Order Amish home.

Vintage Tupperware Tumbler | Photo from Ebay

Vintage Tupperware Tumbler | Photo from Ebay

5. Community Cup – My father came from a family of 14 children. Imagine for a moment the buildup of dirty dishes if each child used a clean cup every time they got a drink of water! Instead, Amish homes typically have a cup sitting at the kitchen sink (the one at Grussmommy’s house looked kind of like the one in the photo), and everyone shared that cup between meals. At mealtime each person had their own water-glass, but the rest of the day you simply filled up the designated cup, and then rinsed it out after use.

Good's Store, East Earl PA

Good’s Store East Earl, PA | Photo by Lancaster Online

6. Hardware or Feed Store Calendar – Some of the most interesting places to shop in Lancaster County, PA. are Amish & Mennonite general or hardware stores. One of my favorites is “Good’s Store” in East Earl. Every year these stores print calendars, usually depicting nature scenes with Bible verses. I can’t remember visiting an Amish home that didn’t have one hanging in a useful spot.

Amish Family Record

Jacob & Annie Glick Family Record | Artist David Hoke, circa 1930’s

7. Beautiful Family Records such as these are another item often found in Amish homes. As they do not have photographs, this is a special way of remembering and displaying loved ones. This photo shows my grandmother Barbara Glick’s family. (See her name right there on the bottom?)

8. The Amish people were making Scrap Books for years before the craze hit American craft stores. As children we always enjoyed going to the drawer or cupboard where our grandmothers stored them, sitting down with the scrap books and gently leafing through the pages. Their scrapbooks contained postcards, cards, newspaper clippings and other memorebelia.

Amish Drawing Salve

Amish Draw Salve | from Vermont Country Store

9. Drawing Salve was in both Grussmommy & Grandma’s medicine cabinets. When we had an insect sting, a splinter or small wound, they would first clean the area and then apply the salve. Of course it always felt much better after their TLC!

Amber Teething Necklace

Baby Teething Necklace | Photo by Amber Artisans

10. Amish babies are often seen playing with a string of colorful Beads. Recently “teething necklaces” such as the one pictured above have been making waves in the natural wellness scene. I smiled when I first saw them, when I realized that Amish mothers have used them to comfort their teething babies for generations.

If you think of something I have not put on this list, I’d love for you to take time to comment below! Thank you for following along with my Amish Family blogging project. It’s truly an honor to have you read the posts.

~ Justina Dee

This is number 16 in my “31 Lessons I Learned From My Amish Family” blogging series. Click here to read more! 

Link:

Video demonstrating a family game of Dutch Blitz

Wellness Mama’s Drawing Salve Recipe

Note: I am not affiliated in any way with companies or individuals whose links I’ve provided, and am not receiving compensation for featuring their products here, and their views may not reflect my own. 

 

Life Without Electricity, Cars & Phone {How DO the Amish Do It?}

It’s remarkable to think that only one hundred year ago most people lived like the Amish do now – with no electricity, cars or telephone. Did you ever think about the fact that my Amish relatives didn’t appear so “quaint” back then? Things started to look a lot different between the Amish way of life and mainstream American culture in the early 1900’s, when the Amish people decided they would not join the power grid.

Spending time with my grandparents was an adventure, and I’d like to give you a peek into the way they lived without the things we feel are essential to everyday life!

The Amish and Technology

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

There’s a secret I want you to know and it’s this: the Amish people are full of ingenuity, creativity and enterprise, and they are certainly not living in the dark ages. Spend a day with them and you’ll realize there’s nothing lacking in their lives. Many of them use things such as wind and solar technology to power their daily living.

The Amish & Minimalism

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

If you were to make your way around the home of my Amish grandparents here are some of the things you’d see: (Note – there are many more advanced non-electric product options now available for most of these items, I’m just sharing the way I remember things at my Grussdaudy’s house.)

In the main living area was Grussmommy’s treadle sewing machine. These days there are much more advanced versions of non-electric sewing machines on the market for seamstresses! There were no light switches & fixtures, but instead gas lamps hanging from the ceiling, and glass kerosene lamps that were carried from room to room at night. We also used flashlights & battery-powered lanterns. There was no vacuum cleaner, but as their house had no carpet but only area rugs, a broom & dustpan, and good rug-shakings outside did the trick! My grandparents obviously had no TV, but instead entertained themselves and kept up to date with the news through books and newspapers.

“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.” ~ Richie Norton

My grandparents had a gas refrigerator in the kitchen. There was no microwave, so planning meals ahead of time was always important. My Grussmommy used a handheld egg beater instead of a Kitchen Aid, and a potato ricer when mashing potatoes. There was no blender to be found in her kitchen, but a lack of such things never prevented her from preparing delicious meals! When making breakfast, toast was made in the oven, not a toaster. As my Grandparent’s home was in the Northeast, they had a cold cellar which provided cool storage space for vegetables, cheese, eggs and canned goods. I think my cupboards which are filled with all the gadgets and small appliances found in most modern kitchens would benefit greatly from paring back & minimizing things – and I sure wish I has a cold cellar like hers.

“We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply ous cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties.” ~ Anna C. Brackett

When grandchildren came to visit, there were plenty of toys to play with. Lincoln Logs, building blocks, small farm animals and games like “Dutch Blitz” & “Uno”. There were coloring books & crayons, puzzles, storybooks, and (the favorite for all of us), the marble roller, which provided hours of entertainment.

My grandparents used an old-fashioned style push-reel lawnmower, and hand-held “trimmers” for all the edging. And in Grussdaudy’s wood shop were compressed air and a diesel engine to power his tools. My grandfather  had a “phone shanty” outside the wood shop, away from the house, used for business calls, occasional communication with family outside the area, and of course emergencies.  And of course there was the horse and buggy for transportation. Trips away from home were always intentional and needed. You can draw the obvious conclusion that this forces families to interact more than the average “modern” household.

As we live outside of Houston, there is much talk of preparedness every year during hurricane season . The year “Ike” hit, we were without power for over a week. I was amazed at all the survival skills I “inherited” from my grandparents, and was again reminded what a treasure it is to know how to run a household without the usual niceties. I’ve always been thankful for the way my Amish grandparents demonstrated the ability to not only survive without depending on the grid as most of us do, but (through their hard work and ingenuity) live well and thrive, in both their home and business. So just how did my Amish grandparents live without electricity, phones and cars? I would say they did just fine! As the matter of fact, at times I wish I’d have the courage to do things a little more like them.

~ Justina Dee

This is post 15 of a 31 day series I’m blogging about my Amish family. Click here to read more!

Interesting Links:

Lehman’s Online Amish Store

Huffington Post: Myths About the Amish, by Kraybill

A difference between how Amish & “Minimites” use technology

DayOStar – an Amish-owned lighting company

The Amish & Technology

Amish Enterprise

Off Grid News post on the Amish

The Iowa Source – “Sustainable Amish”

 

Contentment {Lessons from my Amish Family}

 

My Amish Family, circa 1950 | www.lydiaglick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

Grandma, Grandpa and family, circa 1950’s

We’re presented with a choice every day. To be content, or to be unsatisfied with the life we’ve been given. My grandparents chose the first.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

What does it mean for one to be content? Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary describes it this way:

CONTENT, noun

1. Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness.

A wise content his even soul secured; By want not shaken, nor by wealth allured.

My Amish Family - A Buggy Ride - circa 1950's

My Grandparents & their two oldest children (Uncle Manny & Aunt Rachel to me), in the 1950’s

I’ve spent time with people from both sides of that choice and seen the vast contrast between the two.  It is deeply saddening to see the torment, anguish and suffering on the face of a dissatisfied, discontented person, advanced in years. In comparison, there is the tranquil, peaceful and joyfully radiant face of a soul satisfied in Christ – a person who has worshipped Him with their whole life.

“Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing – not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends – nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God.” ~ John Piper

Grandma and Grandpa

My dear Grandma and Grandpa

In their old age my grandparents demonstrated a serenity and quiet strength that is not often seen in this world. It was a result of life spent seeking after the Kingdom of God, instead of material things. There was no lack of suffering in their lives. But they chose joy, and suffered well. They were deeply rooted in the love of their Savior, and it was evident to all.

Grandma's Bible Notes

From Grandma’s Notes – Isaiah 26:3 & Isaiah 43:2

I am eternally grateful for the lessons in character my grandparents gave to me. And my hope is that one day your grandchildren and mine, will be able to look to us as examples of faithful, contented lives, whose ambition it was to live for eternity.

Relaxing with Grandma

My little sister and I, resting with Grandma

May it be our desire to live a life filled with gratefulness, contentment and joy in Christ, such as my grandparents displayed. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

~ Justina Dee

This is post 14 of a 31 day series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Thank you for following along!

Links:

As my grandparents went through some incredibly challenging times with their health, this next article/video from Desiring God is a testimony similar to theirs: Learning Contentment In Marriage

The Gift of Song from my Amish Family

A copy of the Amish hymnal called the "Ausbund", printed in 1835.

A family copy of the Amish hymnal called the “Ausbund”, printed in 1835. The Ausbund is used to this day in the Old Order Amish Church services.

Singing is an integral part of my Amish family, and evokes some of the most powerful memories of times with them through the years. Science shows us that music has a profound effect on us both physically & emotionally. I can attest to those findings, and I’m sure you can as well! In contrast to songs of American pop culture defining my musical memory, the songs my family taught me are rooted in Biblical truth and melodies of praise.

“Music is one area where the Amish work at holding back the wild horses of modernity and secularism by carefully selecting the texts and tunes that nurture godliness, kindness and mutuality. I argue that music serves as one of the scaffoldings by which the Amish build and maintain boundaries and healthy community structures.” D. Rose Elder

The beauty of my Amish family’s musical heritage is its simplicity. The only things required were people, their voices, and their willingness to sing. There were no instruments, no sound equipment and no special venues. The only objects added at times are a songbook and a pitch pipe. But most Amish and Mennonite people have a large repertoire of hymns in their memory, and can sing for hours with no help from lyrics on a page.

Grandma had songs for all times of the day. There was “Good Morning Sunshine” when we woke up, “When We All Work Together” while doing chores, “Building Up the Temple” while playing with the babies…and the list goes on and on. We still sing a mealtime blessing learned at Grandpa & Grandma’s house, in our home today: “God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for our food, By His hand we all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread, Amen”. In addition to singing, I smile when I think of my musical Amish Grussmommy playing her harmonica, and the way my Grandma filled the house with her whistling all through the day.

My grandparents were fond of many songs, but there were some particular favorites for each of them. Grussdaudy’s was “Amazing Grace”, and Grussomommy especially loved the German hymn “Gott Ist Die Liebe”. The lyrics of “One Day at a Time” were very special to my Grandpa, and I remember my Grandma often singing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.

When extended family meets (on both my father and my mother’s sides), singing is always a part of the gathering. One of my favorite songs during family reunions is “Come and Dine”, which we all sing together at meal time. And the singing over the holiday seasons is truly a generational treasure! Grussmommy loved to sing with her sisters. How I wish we had videos of those special times.

In addition to singing as a family, the Amish and Mennonite community has a social culture built around song. I have fond memories of Sunday evening “Singings” with my parent’s friends, where we joined in a home and beautiful acapella harmonies filled the room.

Inside the Ausbund

Inside the Ausbund – Page 770 is always the second song sung in the Old Order Amish Church Service.

As a child, I had the immense privilege of visiting both my Old Order Amish and New Order Amish grandparent’s churches. When I reflect on the singing during those services, I am overcome with emotion. There’s something very special and so sacred about being surrounded by believers, immersed in a room filled with the voices of men, women and children of all generations, reverently singing praises to their King, with all “worldly” distractions removed from the environment. It’s a communal experience where you feel part of something bigger and more important than just yourself, but at the same time it’s very personal. Ah, the deep and meaningful simplicity of voices united in song! It is a treasure for the ages.

From my Amish family, I learned the power of music and song. First, it is a gift from our Creator, and singing praises to Him is something He designed for us to do. It brings joy to Him and to us! It reminds us of His promises, His faithfulness and His goodness in our lives. Second, it brings together families and communities, powerfully uniting them with meaning, purpose and sweet traditions. My heart floods with gratefulness to God for the gift of song He has given me.

~ Justina Dee

This is post 13 of a 31 day series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Thank you for following along!

Links:

Johns Hopkins University “Why the Amish Sing”

Portion of book by D. Rose Elder, about Amish Singing

Ending clip (from a full length video), with the song Gott Ist Die Liebe

Come and Dine