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A Neighbor’s View of the Amish

A Neighbor’s View of the Amish

The Amish live primarily in small rural communities and almost always engage in farming at least to some small extent if nothing more than having some laying hens for fresh eggs. Some do have conventional jobs in local factories or are employed in craft making such as quality furniture or cabinet making as well as basket making. Many of these are entrepreneurs like the Amish families who make the baskets you see on this site.


The Amish lifestyle is much like rural life was in the mid-1800s with limited technology being used.

They live mostly without electricity and all the things that depend on it for use. Food preservation is primarily by canning in mason jars. Even meat is canned in this fashion. They travel by horse and buggy as well as using horses to draw their plows and other farming equipment. As was customary back on 1800’s farms, the Amish have large families and everyone who is big enough pitches in with the chores.


The Amish don't believe in having any "graven images" of people.

This is why you do not see any pictures of Amish folk here or even any drawings. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Amish area please be polite and resist the urge to take pictures of them. If you ask nicely they are usually more than happy to let you snap a few pictures of their horse drawn buggies as long as you don't get any Amish people in the pictures, and especially not their children.


The Amish dress very plainly as vanity is something to be avoided.

Blue denim or other cloth of brown or gray is predominant and most of the clothing is handmade at home. Depending on how strict the family is the men may have a minimal number of buttons on their shirts to be functional but I've never seen a woman with buttons on her dress. Of course there is no Velcro, snaps or zippers either. When buttons are not used head pins (unsharpened straight pins) are used to hold one's clothing together. All the women wear bonnets right down to the little girls. The little boys' clothing is exactly the same as adult men's garb but smaller. The men wear wide brim hats of either dark felt or woven straw and the local Old Order Amish men I know wear a black band on their hat fastened with a straight pin. The band is about an inch wide and an Amish friend told me it's considered inappropriate to have either too narrow or too wide a band on one's hat.


The Amish generally reject "worldly" things.

As a community they practice as much separatism from we "English" as possible and practical (Note: that if someone is not Amish then they are considered English). The "English" title has nothing to do with having any British ancestry but refers only to the language most of us speak. The members of our neighboring Old Order Amish community speak a form of Pennsylvania Dutch although their Testament (Bible) is written in Old German.


Children are raised speaking a dialect of German with a bit of English mixed in. (Note: “Deutsch” is the German word for the German Language. The language spoken by the Amish among themselves has become misinterpreted over the years as “Dutch” or “Pennsylvania Dutch” but it is actually “Deutsch” or German.)

The children attend small local Amish schools from grades 1 through 8 where they will also learn "book English" the same as kids in English schools. They may put up a one room schoolhouse every few miles to educate the children in that area or may even use one of the community members' homes if it is feasible. The Amish are definitely a practical group and even though they reject much, English technology it is all tempered with reason in an emergency. If you are chopping firewood and gash your leg with an axe no one is going to fault you for getting a ride to the hospital by car from an English neighbor.


Practical might be an understatement.

The Amish are downright geniuses when it comes to low tech machinery. They will use "English" gas engines to power shop machinery that we would usually power electrically. One fellow here runs a furniture and cabinet shop that is absolutely astounding. He employs all modern woodworking machinery with the electric motors removed. He powers them all from a large diesel engine on a pedestal behind the shop. A large belt runs under the foundation and using a series of axels, pulleys, more belts coming up through the floor with clutches he runs all the machinery from that single engine.

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