Shepherd’s Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Shepherd’s Pie is an ultimate comfort food with its flavorful and hearty meat base, and mounds of creamy, mashed potatoes on top, baked till just browned and delicious.

Although its origins are not Amish, I can see why the Amish community adopted the recipe, and placed it in the Mennonite Community Cookbook. The ingredients and flavors are simple and delicious, and it uses ingredients commonly found in their kitchens.

Meat and potato pies date back to medieval times, with roots in Great Britain. Shepherd’s Pie is a relative of its earlier cousin; Cottage Pie. Shepherd’s Pie was typically made with lamb or mutton, while Cottage Pie used beef.

“But in fact, cottage pie is a much older term than shepherd’s pie, which does not crop up until the 1870s. On 29 August 1791 we find that enthusiastic recorder of all his meals, the Reverend James Woodford, noting in his diary Dinner to day, Cottage-Pye and rost Beef’ (it is not clear precisely what he meant by cottage pie, however).”
—An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 92)

The earliest online reference I could find of Shepherd’s Pie in an American cookbook, was in “Philadelphia Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book,” published in 1886. (

The recipe listed in the Mennonite Community Cookbook is very simple, using the old-fashioned Shepherd’s Pie method of lining the bottom of the baking dish with potatoes, as well placing them on top. It doesn’t list amounts, rather calls for leftover meat, and a few additions. Today I’m sharing a recipe I’ve compiled from several – one that my entire family (with varying palates), enjoys very much! It can easily be modified and be made dairy and gluten-free. Although true Shepherd’s Pie often calls for cubed or chunks of meat, I love to use pasture-fed, organic ground beef from local farmers, because of the simplicity in cooking it. Happy eating!

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Gather potatoes, carrots, and an onion.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Peel and quarter all potatoes but three potatoes, and place in water. Salt them and cook, for the mashed potato topping on your Shepherd’s Pie. Peel the remaining three potatoes and cut into one inch squares. These will be used in the stew portion of your dish.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Chop onions and slice carrots.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Sprinkle with salt, and saute’ in with olive oil for three minutes. Remove from skillet.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Brown ground beef in same skillet.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Place browned ground beef, sautéed vegetables, diced potatoes, broth, tomato purée and seasonings in large pot. Bring to a simmer.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

While the stew is simmering, mash the potatoes.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

After Mashed Potatoes are ready, whisk together flour and water till smooth. Add to simmering stew.

Shepherd's Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Stir well and allow to thicken for several minutes. Place stew in buttered casserole dish, and top with mashed potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, at 350.

Shepherd’s Pie {Amish Family Recipes}

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 8 servings

Shepherd’s Pie {Amish Family Recipes}


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-5 carrots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Salt, & Pepper to taste
  • 12 Russet potatoes (9 quartered and boiled for mashed potatoes, and 3 diced for stew base)
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 15 ounces tomato puree
  • 1/8 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1/2 cup sweet, red cooking wine (optional)
  • For Mashed Potatoes: 1/2 cup butter, and 1/2 cup or more of milk, cream or half and half


  1. Peel and quarter all but three potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until soft.
  2. Chop remaining three potatoes into one inch cubes.
  3. Chop onion and garlic, slice carrots.
  4. Heat olive oil in skillet, sprinkle with salt and saute vegetables for three minutes. Remove from skillet.
  5. Add one more tablespoon olive oil to pan. Brown meat in same skillet. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
  6. In large pot; place meat, vegetables, the three diced potatoes, chicken broth, tomato puree, thyme and optional red cooking wine. Bring to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Add more salt and fresh, cracked pepper if needed.
  7. Drain cooked potatoes. Beat till mashed. Add butter and mix well. Add cream and beat till smooth. Use reserved water from cooking potatoes if more liquid is needed.
  8. *If desired, whisk together 3/4 cup cold water and 1/3 cup all purpose flour till smooth, and add to stew mixture. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, to thicken.
  9. Butter bottom and sides of baking dish. Pour stew in bottom. Gently place mashed potatoes on top, spreading out to cover the meat.
  10. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top.

Interesting Links:

Jamie Oliver’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Shepherd’s Pie

Cook’s Info on Shepherd’s Pie

The Unexpected Origin of Shepherd’s Pie




Baked Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce Appetizer {Amish Family Recipes}

Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce {Amish Family Recipes}

There’s nothing that can compare to the taste of fresh, garden tomatoes. My mother grew up on a working dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. One of the crops her family raised was tomatoes. She has many recipes for delicious tomato dishes, that make my mouth water, just thinking about them! Fresh-from-the-garden-tomato sandwiches, served on thick slices of homemade bread, and creamy tomato soup were two of my favorites.

Another one of the unforgettable ways she prepared tomatoes was a simple dish called “Tomato Sauce”, from the Mennonite Community Cookbook. I compare it to an Italian Marinara sauce. The cookbook suggests serving this sauce over fish, but our family used it as a topping for savory French Toast.

I decided to put my own twist on this recipe, and serve it in a way I knew my family and friends would enjoy, by combining the fresh flavors of tomato sauce with creamy goat cheese, served over French baguette slices, for an appetizer. The result was successful, and one of my daughter’s new favorites! We were able to share it with friends at a baby shower this weekend, and we all enjoyed the cheesy-tomato goodness.

Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce {Amish Family Recipes}

To make this appetizer, you will begin by washing the tomatoes. Place in a large bowl, then crush by hand. Add one cup of water.
Strain off and remove one cup of liquid, leaving remaining liquid with crushed tomatoes.

Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce {Amish Family Recipes}

In saucepan, combine crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, chopped onion, torn basil and celery leaves, cloves, sugar, salt and pepper(s). Place over medium heat.

Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce {Amish Family Recipes}

Heat olive oil in skillet, add flour and whisk together over medium heat. Add the cup of “tomato” liquid. Combine over heat until slightly thickened.

Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce {Amish Family Recipes}

Add this mixture to the saucepan with tomatoes. Stir.
Pour into shallow baking dish.
Slice goat cheese and place on top of tomato sauce.
Place under medium-high broiler for 10-12 minutes (or until slightly browned).
Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce {Amish Family Recipes}

Serve warm, with sliced French baguette or Crostinis.

Baked Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce Appetizer {Amish Family Recipes}

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 5 cups tomato sauce, or 10 - 12 servings

1/2 cup

Baked Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce Appetizer {Amish Family Recipes}


  • 2 cups of fresh, heirloom, roma or small, sweet tomatoes, crushed by hand, plus 1 cup water
  • 16 ounces strained tomatoes, or tomato puree
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 - 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup Celery leaves, torn (optional)
  • 1/8 cup Basil leaves, torn
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, plus a sprinkle of capsicum pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 8 ounces soft goat cheese


  1. Wash tomatoes, then crush by hand. Add one cup of water.
  2. Strain off and remove one cup of liquid, leaving remaining liquid with crushed tomatoes.
  3. In saucepan, combine crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, onion, basil, celery leaves, cloves, sugar, salt and pepper(s). Place over medium heat.
  4. Heat olive oil in skillet, add flour and whisk together over heat. Add the cup of "tomato" liquid. Combine over heat until slightly thickened.
  5. Add this mixture to the saucepan with tomatoes. Stir.
  6. Pour into shallow baking dish.
  7. Slice goat cheese and place on top of tomato sauce.
  8. Place under medium-high broiler for 10-12 minutes (or until slightly browned).
  9. Serve with sliced French baguette or Crostinis.


Recipe adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook, Herald Press "Tomato Sauce"

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting {Amish Family Recipes}

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

One of my favorite treats at “Grussmommy” (Grandmother) Dienner’s house was the chocolate cake she often made for dessert. This decadent cake my girl’s and I baked today is reminiscent of the rich, chocolaty goodness my grandma so often served her family.

The original chocolate cake recipe (from the Mennonite Community Cookbook) that I’m using today calls for strong coffee. I substitute espresso. The original frosting recipe is simply Caramel Frosting. I add a sprinkle of sea salt. Together, this updated cake and frosting make a perfect flavorful pair!

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

To get things started, sift together the dry ingredients.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

Then add the shortening, mixing with whisk attachment until fine crumbs form.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

Add coffee and buttermilk, mix on medium speed for about one minute. Then add the additional buttermilk and eggs, and mix until smooth.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

Pour into greased cake pan(s), and bake.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

While cake is baking, it’s the perfect time to make the frosting!

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

Combine all four ingredients in saucepan, and bring to boil. Heat until caramel sauce temperature rises to 238, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool for 15 -20 minutes.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

Place caramel sauce in mixing bowl and beat until creamy frosting forms.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting | Amish Family Recipes |

Spread over warm cake, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve! *Note, this is a thin layer of frosting, a little heavier than a glaze. If you want a thicker layer of icing, simply double the frosting recipe.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting {Amish Family Recipes}

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting {Amish Family Recipes}


  • Sift together: 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Add: 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup cooled espresso
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • Add: Another 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, unbeaten


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2, 8 inch round cake pans, or 1, 13x9 cake pan.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients.
  3. Add shortening and blend into dry mixture until fine crumbs form, using whisk attachment on mixer.
  4. Add espresso and 1/3 cup buttermilk.
  5. Beat until smooth.
  6. Add another 1/3 cup buttermilk, and eggs.
  7. Beat just enough to blend thoroughly.
  8. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  9. To make Salted Caramel Frosting: Combine 3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup half and half, 2 Tablespoons butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  10. Heat together in saucepan until boiling.
  11. Continue to stir, and bring to 238 degrees.
  12. Remove from heat, and cool in pan for 15-20 minutes.
  13. Beat on high setting with whisk attachment, until creamy.
  14. Spread on cake while cake is still warm, and sprinkle with sea salt.


Recipe source: Mrs. James Clymer; Mennonite Community Cookbook, Herald Press


Phrases in Pennsylvania Dutch {Lessons from My Amish Family}

My brother & me

My brother & me

I was born into a “New Order Amish” family, and learned to speak both Pennsylvania Dutch and English as a child. The Amish people are fluent speakers of both Pennsylvania Dutch and English. They also have a reading knowledge of High German, which is used in their church services in scripture reading, preaching and worship songs.

My parents on their wedding day

My wonderful parents, on their wedding day

“Pennsylvania Dutch” is actually not “Dutch” at all, but rather, Pennsylvania Deutsch (or German). “Pennsylvania German developed in the eighteenth century as the result of the immigration of approximately 81,000 German-speakers from Central Europe, including Switzerland, to southeastern Pennsylvania. The vast majority (96 percent) of these immigrants were of the Lutheran or German Reformed faith; of the remaining 4 percent, roughly one-half were Mennonites and only a few hundred were Amish. Whatever varieties of German they spoke in Europe, the Amish assimilated to the language of the majority, Pennsylvania German, which resembles most closely the German dialects spoken in the southeastern Palatinate, near the city of Mannheim. The influence of English on Pennsylvania German is often overstated. Only 10 to 15 percent of Pennsylvania German vocabulary is English-derived; its core grammatical structures remain Palatine German.” Anabaptist Studies at Elizabethtown College

Party at Grandma's house! (That's me, on my Grandma Esh's lap.)

Party at Grandma’s house!

Although I don’t speak much Dutch these days, there are a few phrases from my childhood that I still use on a regular basis, when speaking with my daughter. Here are the phrases, for your reading enjoyment! (Note: These words are not spelled technically, but phonetically instead so that you can pronounce them as written. Many thanks to my Daddy Jacob Dienner for his help!)

Playing with my brother

Playing with my brother

Kannscht du Deitsch schvetza?Can you speak Dutch?

Gleh vennigh or gleh bissley – A little bit

Vie gehts? – How are you?

Sittsit unnah Sit down

Vas is letz? What is wrong?

Vesh die pattiesWash your hands

Tzeit for essahTime to eat

Vas denkscht? – What do you think?

Vas in der velt? – What in the world?

Gutte’ nachtGood night

and my favorite…

Ich liebe dichI love you

Tomorrow I’ll be wrapping up my 31 days of lessons from my Amish family. What a great journey this has been! Thanks so much for sharing the road with me. ~ Justina Dee

Click here to read more posts from my Amish series.


The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College


Pennsylvania Dutch Phrases 

You Know You’re From Lancaster When…

First video in a series of PA Dutch lessons

Summary of Thirty-One Amish Days

Buggy Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Buggy Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

These 31 posts have been such a tremendous personal journey for me. I discovered there were many memories, experiences and stories that I had kept to myself, by tucking them away in my brain where I had never shared them with my daughter. The challenge of writing about my family for 31 days was a wonderful way to spark recollections, and be certain that the gift of my treasured heritage is not forgotten.

Amish Sunrise by Julie Lea Waldron

Lancaster County Sunrise | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Although no family is perfect, there are so many unique and personal experiences that are significant and meaningful to each of our family histories, and I encourage all my readers to take a similar journey if you haven’t already done so!

Scooter Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Scooter Ride | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

I intend to continue writing about my Amish & Mennonite heritage in the future, these 31 days are only the start! My next adventure along these lines will be sharing treasures from visits to familiar places in one of the most beautiful places on earth; Lancaster County, PA. I’m excited about doing some vlogging (video blogging) along the way.

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

My deep and sincere thanks to my dear parents Jacob & Kathryn Dienner for their contributions to this series, Julie Lea Waldron for sharing her wonderful Lancaster County street photography, Amish365 for featuring many of my posts on their site, Lehman’s for connecting with me for future projects, and to you, my amazing readers! I’m so thankful for you, and appreciate all your messages and feedback! Also – thank you for sharing these posts with your friends.

Lancaster County Sunset | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Lancaster County Sunset | Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

As I bring these 31 Amish Days to a close, I wanted to let you know which posts were the most visited, and which ones were most special to me:

Top posts, in order of popularity:

10 Interesting Amish Foods

7 Things Every Amish Girl Knows How To Do

The Mennonite Game

Joy In the Simple Things

Beyond Buggies & Bonnets

And my favorites, in no particular order:

Patience & Perseverance 

Working Together

The Gift of Song

Joy In the Simple Things

The Habit of Prayer

Thank you so much for sharing this walk through my family’s story with me!

~ Justina Dee

Click here to visit the 31 Days of Lessons From my Amish Family page

How to Make Shoofly Pie {Lessons from My Amish Family}


Shoofly Pie Close Up

Shoofly Pie, the quintessential Amish dessert.

Grandma Lydia's Shoofly Pie Recipe

Grandma Lydia’s Shoofly Pie Recipe

My Grandma Lydia made 3-4 shoofly pies every week. She specialized in the “wet-bottom” variety. (Some people prefer a drier, more coffee-cake like version, but not our family!)

The cup Grandma Esh used as a measuring cup when making shoofly pie

The cup Grandma used as a measuring cup when making Shoofly Pie, and a stoneware bowl in which she mixed shoofly pie and other baked goods.

My Grandma and my Mother taught me how to make Shoofly Pie, so I wanted to be sure my daughter knew how to make it as well. In this post I’ll share her first shoofly-pie-making experience.

Pie Crust

It begins with a perfect pie crust.

Roll the pie crust

…rolled out into a circle, ready to place into pie plate as the shell for future shoofly-deliciousness.

Ingredients for shoofly pie

Shoofly Pie is made from simple ingredients. Some say this pie’s name comes from the fact that its sticky, sweet molasses base attracted flies as it cooled. Others say the name originates from an early recipe which called for a brand of molasses called “Shoofly”. Although there are variations in the stories of the pie’s history, one fact is not up for dispute: it is the most famous pie is in Amish Country.

Shoofly Pie Syrup

Most shoofly pie bakers I know use either Golden Barrel or King Syrup in their family recipe.

King Syrup

After your crust is ready, combine the wet ingredients with baking soda and some brown sugar.

Wet Ingredients Shoofly Pie

Make sure to add the beaten egg slowly, and whisk well to keep the mixture smooth.

Shoofly Crumb topping

Next, flour, brown sugar and shortening are combined to make the crumb topping. Traditional pies use lard, our family uses Spectrum’s organic, non-hydrogenated shortening, purchased from our local grocery store.

Wet and dry ingredients for Shoofly Pie

Your wet and dry ingredients are now ready for the next step.

Crumbs added to shoofly pie batter

After the crumbs are made, it’s time to place half of them into the wet ingredients and gently mix them together.

Shoofly Pie ready for crumbs

This mixture is then poured into your unbaked, prepared pie shell, and then there’s only one more step before baking:

Place crumbs on top of shoofly pie

…gently spread the remaining crumbs on top of the wet mixture.

Ready to bake - Shoofly Pie

 Your Shoofly Pie is ready for the oven!

Shoofly Pie | Lydia Glick

After it is baked, cool for at least 30 minutes, and then enjoy! We like it best served with milk or coffee.

Here’s my Grandma Lydia’s recipe

Lydia’s Shoofly Pie

(Makes 2, 8 inch pies.) Use your favorite pie crust recipe, and have two, eight-inch, unbaked pie crusts ready for the following filling.

First combine:

2 Cups Boiling Water

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda

1 Cup Molasses

2 Cups Brown Sugar

1 Egg

Next combine:

4 Cups Flour

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Shortening

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In large mixing bowl combine boiling water and baking soda. Add molasses and brown sugar. Mix well. Slowly add beaten egg.

In separate mixing bowl mix flour and brown sugar. Add shortening and cut with pastry cutter until fine crumbs are formed.

Add HALF of the crumb mixture to the wet mixture. Stir gently to mix well, and pour into two, unbaked pie crusts.

Gently place remaining crumbs on top of pies.

Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Grandma's Shoofly Pie |

Grandma’s Shoofly Pie |

~ Justina Dee

This is a post from my “31 Lessons from My Amish Family” series. Click here to read more! 


Not So Humble Pie Blog: “The Shoo Fly Pie was created when colonists in the early 18th century found their baking supplies running low late in the winter. The ingredients left in the pantry were usually flour, lard and molasses or refiner’s syrup. Many have presumed that the unusual name of the pie was due to it attracting flies as it cooled near an open window. However, the name “Shoo Fly Pie” did not appear in print until 1926. I agree with John Ayto in his An A-Z of Food and Drink when he states . . . “the fact that it originated as a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty suggests the possibility that shoofly is an alteration of an unidentified German word.” I totally agree with this conclusion because one of those antique recipe pamphlets that Harold Jamieson loaned to me mentioned that the pie had been associated with the name “Schuuflei Boi”.”


A Tribute to My Amish-Preacher Grandpa


My Grussdaudy ~ Isaac L. Dienner

“Isaac L. Dienner my beloved Grussdaudy (Grandaddy) finished his pilgrimage on earth Friday evening, February 5, 2010. An Old Order Amish minister for 57 years, he left an enduring legacy of faith for his 14 children, 48 grandchildren &  (at the time of his death) 76 great-grandchildren.” ~ Quote from my brother, Jet Dienner

Grussdaudy’s Entrance Into Eternal Joy


You knelt humbly beside your bed, receiving daily strength from your Heavenly Father.

Now you kneel before God’s throne, and see with heavenly eyes His glorious riches, and behold face to face how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. You are engulfed and surrounded with all the surpassing love and fullness of God.
Eph 3:14-19

You bowed your head in daily worship of God, with Grussmummy by your side.

Now you worship with the heavenly multitude on the sea of glass, clear as crystal, before God’s throne, which is surrounded with the emerald rainbow. You hear with your ears the four living creatures who day and night never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” You see the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever.
Rev 4:6-11

You were chosen here on earth, by the Spirit of the Lord upon you, to “preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Now you stand in victory on the mountain where the Lord Almighty has destroyed the shroud that enfolds earth, where death has been swallowed up forever, and God has wiped away the tears from all faces.
Isaiah 61:1
Isaiah 25:6-8

You persevered, and endured hardships here, holding firm to your faith till the end.

Now you will reap the harvest of righteousness. You stand in heaven, saved by grace, and gaze upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. You see him sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God!
Hebrews 12:1-3
Matthew 24:13

You were the patriarch of a large family here, and led and witnessed many weddings.

Now you celebrate with saints, at the wedding supper of the lamb. You take your place at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Revelations 19:9

You worked skillfully here as a carpenter, crafting beautiful things from wood.

Now you live in the place prepared for you by the Master Carpenter.
Mark 6:3
John 14:1-4

You lived a life of simplicity and modesty, poor in the eyes of the world.

Now you inherit the riches, the beauty, the grandeur and the splendor of God’s kingdom, which can never perish, spoil or fade. You shine like a star with the brightness of heaven, and walk on streets of gold.
Matthew 6:19
James 2:5
1 Peter 1:3-5
Daniel 12:3

You harnessed horses and drove your buggy here on earthly roads.

Now you will witness a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True…His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns…The armies of heaven follow him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
Rev 19:11-16

You led a peaceful life, earnestly seeking that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Now the earthly veil is removed, and you reign with Jesus forever. You taste and see the goodness and glory of the Son of God, The Prince of Peace.
Matthew 6:10
Psalm 34:8
Romans 12:18
Isaiah 9:6

You read your worn German Bible, by the dim light of an oil lamp.

Now you see the face of your beautiful Savior Jesus, THE Word. You see his face, and his name will be on your forehead. You will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give you light.
Psalm 17:15
John 1:1
Revelation 22: 4-5

Thank you God for my Grandfather’s faithful witness of the Gospel, and for the way pictures of his life on earth are shadows of the glory to be revealed in the age to come. Thank you that your Word is true, and it will endure forever! 

A grateful granddaughter, Justina (written February, 2010)

This is post number 24 of a 31 post series called Lessons From My Amish Family. Click here to read more!



Chicken Dan, and Other Amish Nicknames


Amish Man in Field

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Chicken Dan

Squirrel Junior

Beaver Amos

Zorbit Lee

and Sam Bip

are all names of Amish men my family knows. Then there’s Peanut, Git’s Omar, Push Johnny, Porky, Piddley, Spider, and Pumpkin.

My great uncle John Esh on the left, and his oldest brother, my Grandpa Jonas Esh on the right

My great uncle John Esh on the left, and his oldest brother, my Grandpa Jonas Esh on the right | Photo from Rose Myers

My Great-Grandmother Stoltzfus’s family was known as “The Sandy’s”, My mother believes the name came from the color of her father’s hair. And my mother’s Uncle “Johnny Esh” got the nickname Johnny Cash (yes, after the singer).

Amish Men Chatting

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

I’ve always been fascinated by the nicknames used in Amish circles. Because there are so many people with the same first names (such as John, Daniel, Jacob and David) and last names (such as Stoltzfus, Beiler, Glick and Zook) throughout Amish Communities, they’ve come up with some clever ways of telling them apart.

Amishman on Scooter

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Of course there’s the obvious first-name nickname. Take for example my brothers Jonas and Isaac who are named after our grandfathers Jonas Esh and Isaac Dienner, and could be called Joney & Ike.

Amish Father

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

And then there’s the identification of someone through their family. Because our father’s name is Jacob my brothers would be “Jake’s Jonas” and “Jake’s Isaac”.  Or for example; Abraham Stoltzfus’s son David would be “Abe Stolzfus’s Davy”.

Amish Boys

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

But then there’s my favorite – the random nicknames such as the list I shared above.

Amishmen in buggy

Photo by Julie Lea Waldrom

“Chicken Dan” was obviously a chicken farmer. I’m not sure how the other names on the list came about. My sister told me about a family she & her husband know. Their oldest son is short and people called him “PeeWee Dan”. He had four younger brothers who were not short, but the name PeeWee stuck. They were called PeeWee Dave, PeeWee Lloyd, PeeWee Steve, and PeeWee Allan.

Chicken Dinner

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Although these names are usually given to men, there are occasional nicknames for women too, such as “Loopy Linda”.

In closing, I’d like to share a bit from the great article posted on this topic:

The most unusual nicknames often have the most fascinating stories. Here are a few, provided by a local Amishman…

“Buck Dave” and his sons got this name from the farm they bought, which had a forge formerly owned by someone named Buckley.

“Piggy Amos” got his name from his school days, when he pretended to be a pig during a recess game.

“Double Decker Ben” received his name because of the unique barn he owned.

The “Push Esh” family got its name when they rescued a horse that had gotten stuck in a snowbank.

A boy named Sam owned a car many years ago, when it was almost never tolerated for the young people. He and his friends tried to keep it a secret, and referred to the car as “the Chamba.” In time, he got the nickname of “Chamba Sam.”

Amish Men Relaxing

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

I’m not sure there’s any particularly valuable lesson I learned from my Amish family when it comes to these names. But it makes me smile, and I feel it’s an important part of the Amish community and culture. Thanks for reading. I hope it made you smile too!

~ Justina Dee

Many thanks to Lancaster County street photographer Julie Lea Waldron for the great photos! If you enjoyed this post, I’m sure you’ll love reading “The Mennonite Game”

Click here to read more posts from the series “31 Lessons from My Amish Family”


Amish News article about Amish Nicknames

Amish America on Common Amish Names

GAMEO’s article on Mennonite Nicknames


John Schmid’s Amish Nicknames:

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