November 27, 2013
“That Amish Mafia, is it real?” one of the guests at the motel asked recently.
“My niece, she’s a little worried about the Amish Mafia,” another guest said. “It’s not real, is it?”
I roll my inward eyes every time people ask me these kinds of questions. The short answer is, “No.”
The long answer is that the Discovery Channel did not “discover” the Amish Mafia, they created it. Before any footage for Amish Mafia was taken, every single Amish of Lebanon Levi’s relatives or friends or enemies would have looked at me confusedly if I would have mentioned the Amish Mafia. “What are you talking about?” they would have said.
This summer I housecleaned the bathroom that one of the “Amish Mafia” cast uses. My aunt, his mother, had asked if I could help her get caught up on her housecleaning. My cousin was still sleeping at 10 o’clock in the morning, enjoying the luxurious lifestyle of a “reality” star, while I was scrubbing his grimy shower to help stretch my college budget. When he finally woke up, I told him that I didn’t know how to act being in the same house as a celebrity. He grinned a wide smile on his freckled face and shrugged his shoulders. And I wasn’t one bit scared.
I met another of the Amish Mafia cast members at my Macroeconomics class in college. We sat beside each other most of the semester, and chatted little talk. One evening I mentioned that I wrote a book on Pennsylvania German. “Oh, I speak a little Pennsylvania German,” he said. I looked at him in surprise. He didn’t look Amish or “plain” at all, not more than anyone else in the room. Later, as I was watching an Amish Mafia clip on Discovery’s website, I was shocked to see the same Caleb, wearing suspenders and broadfall pants. That he wore only for the show, of course.
To be honest, I am more afraid of the big corporation of Discovery than I am of any fake Amish Mafia. Since I am only a blogger, do I have journalistic immunity like Bob Woodward of the Washington Post did when he was exposing Watergate?
We do not have TV, but I did watch a few Amish Mafia episodes at someone else’s house. And I paid Amazon a few dollars to watch another episode on my computer. I was highly amused at the slashing of tires and burning of fake Amish goods made in China, and the lack of any real plot. I decided I have an abundance of more worthwhile ways of spending my time, and I renounced my budding addiction to Amish Mafia.
What makes Amish Mafia so popular? First of all, the actors are highly believable. NONE of them are Amish now, but all of them grew up in Amish or Mennonite or Brethren families. They have experienced the Amish lifestyle and understand it completely. Their Pennsylvania German is totally authentic, the real deal. I especially liked Boss Merlin’s Ohio Pennsylvania German accent, which reminded me of my Western Pennsylvania cousins' accents that we always mocked when I was growing up.
The Amish clothes are mostly authentic, and the actors know how to wear them. The actors have the right “Amish moves” which no professional actor could imitate. Lebanon Levi has an unsophisticated, unrefined air that is totally unrehearsed and genuine. I believe these are some of the reasons the show is so popular.
In contrast, when my mom and Dad, some ex-Amish friends, and my friend and I went to see The Confession, a musical at the local Bird in Hand Restaurant, my parents and their friends laughed at all the wrong places. The actors’ “Amish” clothes were fake, and the actors were too polite and proper and sophisticated to pass for “real” Amish. My parents and their friends laughed so hard my friend Lindy and I were mortified. In contrast to Amish Mafia, however, The Confession is a beautiful story with a captivating plot.
So that’s my take on the Amish Mafia. If you want a more professional opinion, check out this link, written by Donald Kraybill. He probably knows more about the Amish than they know about themselves.
If you have any more doubts, check out Snopes:
Or, for your continued amusement, read this:
November 9, 2013
Most times I am not tempted to buy luxury goods. But recently I visited a tiny little Amish shop only a few miles from my house and saw the most gorgeous computer case I have ever seen. Strong. Durable. Elegant. Attractive. Stunning hardware. Pure luxury. Several times I ran my hands over the smooth leather. Wow.
I asked the Amish man who made it where he learned the craft of making handbags and cases. “Lots of practice,” he said. “And trial and error.” Sounds like the typical Amish way of learning things.
The beautiful case would only set me back $349. How many Speaking Amish books would I have to sell to earn that? Sounds like a crazy amount of money. I bought a brand new imitation leather computer case a few years ago. Already there’s a hole in one corner. And the handles are cracking. Hmm. Maybe I should consider buying this beauty. I have a feeling this magnificent case would last the rest of my lifetime. It’s the kind of thing I could pass on to my children. On the other hand, how many Bibles could I send to China if I wouldn’t buy it? :-)
The store sells handcrafted belts ranging from $22.95 for brightly colored ones up to $99.95 for one made of what looked like snakeskin. A long purse reminiscent of a messenger bag costs $89.95. A small rounded one costs $129.00. Smaller computer cases are around $200. The store also sells pouches, knife sheaths, tack, and saddles.
The little store is about seven miles from the main tourist area, down a quiet road that few tourists ever see. Find this charming shop at 225 Forest Hill Road, Bird in Hand, PA 17505.
The owner’s name is Isaac Stoltzfus and his phone number is 717-656-8758.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Next Saturday, November 16, I plan to be at the Lititz Public Library at 1:00PM to give a short presentation about my book, Speaking Amish, and a mini Pennsylvania German lesson. Everybody is invited!
Lititz Public Library, 651 Kissel Hill Road, Lititz, PA 17543
October 26, 2013
Getting ready for church is a big undertaking for an Amish family. My grandma was a very particular lady, and when their turn for church came around, they scrubbed and scoured and polished every corner. They washed up every floor in the house, pulled any offending weeds in the garden, cleaned the windows, and generally made sure everything was in tip-top shape. My aunt says the windows were cleaned and things were polished every week, but before church they put even more effort to make everything spotless. Keeping the reputation of having a clean house was important to Grandma!
Upstairs, the hostess of the house sets up a nursery. She places a little "Bodde Nescht" (floor nest) in one of the bedrooms. This could be a thick blanket on the floor with a pillow for any babies who will need to sleep during the long service.
Today many families in Lancaster County have an extra shed or big building where they can set up for church. But in Grandma’s day, they removed special removable wall sections of the house and reallocated furniture to the basement or outside porches. Someone brought the bench wagon from the farmstead where church was held two weeks before, and everyone worked together to set up benches in the main rooms. Ausbund hymnbooks were placed on the benches. During the summer some families cleaned out the haymow in the barn and had church there. My aunt remembers playing around with the hay on the barn floor during church!
Even if church wasn’t held in the barn, the men made sure the barn was clean. They swept the barn floors, swept down the spider webs, made sure the horse stalls were manured out, and raked the driveway.
In grandma’s day, the church meal was very simple: snitz pies, bread, smear cheese, peanut butter spread, pickles, red beets, and coffee. On the Friday or Saturday before church, Grandma would bake bread and anywhere from 50 to 70 snitz pies. Sometimes she ordered dinner rolls from the baker to lighten her load a bit. She also had to make smear cheese and peanut butter spread.
Today in Lancaster County, most families have finished basements or sheds to have church, which makes getting ready a lot more simple. The woman of the house will only have to bake about 30 to 35 pies because there is more variety in the meal than years ago. A typical church meal in Lancaster County today might be snitz pie and apple pie, bread, smear cheese, peanut butter spread, jelly, pickles, coffee, and maybe seasoned pretzels. In the summer, a produce farmer might even serve watermelon or cantaloupe or fruit salad. Some women might make sandwiches with cheese and bologna and fresh tomatoes.
The woman of the house is not expected to make everything. The previous church Sunday, women volunteer to bring bread or smear cheese or peanut butter or seasoned pretzels.
Getting ready for church is still time consuming, but not nearly as much as in Grandma’s day. My grandma is ninety-seven years old and suffers from dementia, but nearly every day she talks about getting ready for church. All that work must have left a huge impression on her mind!
October 14, 2014
I have lived on two continents and visited two more, but if someone would ask me what my favorite beverage is, it would be one straight from Lancaster County: Homemade root beer.
Homemade root beer is quite different from root beer soda at Giant or Walmart or Sharp Shopper. It has a wonderful licoricey taste that is plain delicious. It is smooth and fizzy and just a tiny bit yeasty. The sweet liquid tickles a little going down my throat. A root beer float made from homemade root beer is doubly amazing.
Last summer I bought myself a whole pint of the delectable stuff at an Amish stand for about $2.00. It was cold and brewed just perfectly. Of course, it tasted twice as good because it was in a glass jar. I guzzled it down in no time.
Homemade root beer is typically made from root beer extract, yeast, sugar, and water. Then it is placed in a warm place for several days to ferment. After that is refrigerated until some thirsty traveler drinks it. I have memories of glass bottles full of brown liquid in our back yard, fermenting until it had the perfect amount of fizz.
On the north side of Route 340, about a mile west of the town of Intercourse, is a huge sign in the shape of a mug that says, “Cold Homemade Rootbeer.” Drive in the long farm lane to a quaint little building on the right. Root beer and other goodies sit on the table. Little Amish doll dresses, random antiques, and other décor are displayed temptingly around the room. If you ask for root beer, the young lady will open the refrigerator behind her and sell you an ice cold pint or even a gallon if you want it.
Visit this charming place on a warm summer afternoon and you will not be disappointed. Another place that sells this delicious stuff is Countryside Road Stand at 2966 Stumptown Rd, Ronks, PA 17572. Incidentally, they also sell amazing soft pretzels.
To buy root beer extract to make your own, visit a bulk food store or online store.
Kauffman’s Fruit Farm sells it online:
The following link has instructions for making it: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/cheese/rootbeer_jn0.htm
September 28, 2013
An Amish funeral is shorter than a normal Amish church service. It lasts about an hour and a half. Another difference is that there is no singing at all. After the service, everyone has the chance to file past the coffin to view the body. The close friends and relatives will stay for the burial, but the rest of the people will leave; and this will be their last chance to view the body.
The coffin is put in a special hearse buggy. Everyone who wants to go to the graveyard to the burial gets into their buggies. Earlier in the day, assigned men called hostlers will have numbered the buggies in order of priority: earlier numbers are close relatives, and later numbers are friends and neighbors. The hearse buggy leads the way, and slowly, all the rest of the buggies get into line and follow. I remember as a little girl, we were allowed to stop our school work and go to the windows to watch funeral processions go past.
At the graveyard, the coffin is reopened one last time, and everyone present files past. The immediate family is the last to view the body. Sometimes the family will cry softly, but no one ever wails loudly. That would be considered improper.
After the coffin is closed, it is gently lowered with ropes. Nobody talks. Men take turns shoveling the dirt onto the coffin. They shovel slowly and reverently. Sometimes close relatives or family members will take a turn with the shovel, to show respect for the departed one.
After the hole is filled with dirt, everyone leaves quietly. Close friends and family will be invited to the house for a meal. Afterwards the church people will help clear away the benches and put the house back to rights.
For months afterwards, the family will stay home Sunday afternoons to receive the many visitors who will come. If a widow is left, she will wear black every time she goes away, for a whole year. A woman whose brother or sister died will wear black on Sundays for six months.
NOTICE: One of my readers mentioned that what I write about the Amish does not always apply to Amish in every community of the United States. That is very true. I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and therefore know more about Lancaster County Amish. Amish in different communities do practice things differently.
Most times before I post an article, I will read it to my mom, who used to be Amish, just to make sure that what I write is accurate. Sometimes I will even call my Amish aunt or ask my Amish grandma to make sure what I’m writing is correct. I welcome any Lancaster County readers to clarify any mistakes in my comments section. My goal is to give an accurate representation of Lancaster Amish culture!
Years ago Amish women would save all their old clothes. Sometimes they would cut them apart into strips and take them to the carpet weaver who would weave them into carpets. The ladies put these carpets into their “Sitz Stubb” or sitting room, the most formal room of the house.
The “Sitz Stubb” would be used only on Sundays for company. Heirlooms, fine furniture, and other unique items would be displayed in this room. A lot of “Sitz Schtubbe” have a corner cupboard, or “Eckschank.” This Eckschank holds fine china that had been given as wedding or Christmas presents, or maybe a souvenir from a trip to Florida. Today many Amish do not have a formal “Sitz Stubb,” but some still do.
The Stoltzfus Carpet Shop is one place that still makes these carpets for Amish people. They also make beautiful rugs and table runners from new material. Recently I visited the shop. They allowed me to go upstairs to see the huge looms. Dozens of spools of thread on the back of the loom looked like a maze, but somehow the skilled weavers figure out which ones go where and turn out sturdy rugs, carpets, place mats, and table runners. My favorite are the shag rugs which would look lovely in a bathroom.
Downstairs the Amish men also make straw brooms. Honey-colored brooms in various stages of the process were scattered throughout the room. One machine did the final step - trimming the broom to the exact size. A tiny little kids’ broom costs only $7.00. If you want a genuine, made-in-Lancaster souvenir, this is definitely the place to get it. If you ask, you might even be allowed to see the looms upstairs!
Find this neat little shop at 39B Pequea Valley Road, Kinzers, PA 17535 Wholesale and Retail 717-442-8411
August 30, 2013
When I was a little girl, I thought the Pennsylvania German word for undertaker was “Furman.” When my little brother died at nine months old, the “Furman” came to help officiate the funeral. Only later did I realize that Furman was the undertaker’s last name.
Furman was a tall, dark-haired, serious man that successfully maneuvered in the Amish community to assist the Amish with the most solemn of their occasions, a funeral. He spoke softly and moved gently. Years ago he was basically the only undertaker the Amish in Lancaster County would hire. Today there are more because there are many more Amish than years ago!
When an Amish person dies, the undertaker will go to the home to get the body for embalming. Later he will bring the body back to the house, where the family will dress it.
A woman will be dressed in a white dress. If she had been married, the family will also dress her in the white cape and apron that she wore on her wedding day (Yes, she will have kept that cape and apron in a safe place all her life for her burial!). A man will be dressed with a white shirt and pants.
If it was a sudden death, a lady from the church will have quickly sewed the clothing. An older person might have had funeral clothes already prepared. My grandma has her burial dress and wedding cape and apron stored in a safe place ready for her death.
The body is laid in a very simple coffin made of wood. The coffin might have some padding on the bottom, but no elaborate carving or padding anywhere else. In Lancaster County, these coffins are made by Amish or Mennonite craftsmen.
The body is kept at the family’s house. The first or second day after the death will be the “viewing.” Friends and family will come to view the body.
I have attended many Amish viewings. As I enter the house, I see rows of solemn-faced people sitting on benches. Except for their white head coverings, the Amish women mourners are always dressed completely in black, and the men mourners wear white shirts and black pants and a black suit coat. My job is to politely shake everyone’s hand, even though I have never met most of them.
I am always secretly amused at the variety of handshakes at an Amish viewing. A sad-faced woman might give me a “fishy” kind of handshake with her hand barely touching mine. A burly man might give me a hearty handshake that almost hurts. Another man will give me a more “normal” handshake. At any rate, it might take a few minutes to safely navigate this maze of people until I get to the room of the dead person.
If I know the family well, some of the family might join me in this room. Most of the furniture has been removed from the room and the coffin is in the middle. Everyone stands around the coffin gazing reflectively at the body. Somebody might say a few words about the dead person. All this is done very solemnly. Nobody smiles. A woman might produce a white handkerchief and dab her eyes.
After this ritual, it is now okay for me to leave. If I know the family of the bereaved person well, I might take a turn sitting at some of the benches in the room and visit quietly with the person beside me. Of course my visiting might be interrupted by new visitors who are now making their way around the room shaking hands.
Speaking Amish got a very nice review in the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage. To read it, click the following link: http://www.speakingamish.com/review/
Don't forget to check out the new blog post below on Wooden Things!
August 16, 2013
When I was about ten years old, my Amish grandmother and grandfather gave me a handsome tiny treasure chest for Christmas. A talented carver must have carved the intricate pattern on the lid of the chest.
Likely Grandpa bought it at Ten Thousand Villages, which was a fair trade organization long before fair trade became a buzzword. I have to wonder if he bought it only because he thought it was beautiful, or because he liked the concept of fair trade.
At any rate, it is one of my treasures. Today it has a prominent place in the guest room. I will not part with it easily, despite the fact that I am becoming more and more of a minimalist as I get older. Sturdy and well-put-together, it looks almost as beautiful as the day Grandpas gave it to me.
Well-crafted toys made to stand the test of time are not easy to find. Lapp’s Toys is one business that makes toys that are made to last. I visited their shop one day and was impressed by the sturdy trucks and cars and pull toys and dollhouses and miniature furniture.
A family of three boys works together to make these quality toys. Their toys have become so popular that sometimes two guys that are not part of the family also help.
These toys are not cheap, but I have a suspicion they will outlast most mass-produced toys. A pink dollhouse with a spiral staircase and intricate furniture costs $573. A cute 15” high chairs-and-table-set costs $56.95. An amazing car carrier with six wooden cars costs $64.95.
There are cheaper options as well. A small log truck or a horse pull-toy costs $19.95. Little wooden animals are $2.95 each. A little car is $6.95. A small horse and buggy is $15.95. Perhaps someday your children or grandchildren will proudly display one of these toys!
Visit Lapp’s Toys at 2220 Horseshoe Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601.
August 2, 2013
Once when I was a little girl, we went to visit one of Dad’s Amish relatives. Their cute baby in a plain Amish dress cooed at us. Politely I asked the mother, “Was iss ihre naame?” (What is her name?).
“Es iss net en Maedel, es iss en glee Bu,” (It’s not a girl, it’s a little boy.) she said. I turned red from embarrassment. Because the baby wore a dress, I assumed it was a girl.
Years ago all Amish (in Lancaster County) wore dresses on their baby boys until the boy was potty trained. Changing a diaper on a baby that wore a dress was much easier than changing a baby that was wearing broad-fall pants with buttons.
A lot of Amish churches in Lancaster do not keep this practice anymore, but more conservative ones still do. One Lancaster County Amish woman noted that to keep on the good side of the bishop, mothers will wear dresses on their boys at least once or twice for church. Some might even wear them for six to eight months.
Babies are dressed Amish from the very first day they are born. Mothers wear tiny caps on their girl babies on their first visit to church. When the baby is ready to sleep, the mother will take off the little cap so it doesn’t get wrinkled.
Another old-fashioned item for babies is a diaper “bag” made like a basket, called a “keavli.” Some stylish young Amish mothers use a “normal” diaper bag, but many still use the traditional “keavlin.
They are woven by hand by Amish craftsman and are quite charming. The “keavli” is quite practical because the baby girls’ little caps can be placed on the top and be protected.
Amish families typically love and cherish their babies. Family is important and valued in the Amish community, and big families are respected. Someday children will be indispensible laborers for the farm or family business. And someday these children will be able to care for the parents when they are old.
Some Amish women choose to give birth at a hospital, others decide go to a birthing center, and still others use the services of a midwife at their home. Many Amish women will have a “maid” help with the household work for the first several weeks. This maid could be a sister or relative or another unmarried woman from the church. Sometimes the new mother’s mother will help for a few days.
I am putting a comment section under each new post. I would love to hear comments from my readers. Thank you!
I started a new section on this website called PA German Verbs. I will periodically add more verbs. If you already have the Speaking Amish book, you will be able to add more verbs to your vocabulary! Don't forget, Speaking Amish can be purchased on the Buy Speaking Amish tab :-).
Amish diaper baskets can be purchased at many typical Amish stores. Two online stores are:
July 19, 2013
I had heard about a barn filled with antiques on an Amish farm, so this week I set out to find it. But I almost missed the tiny “Antiques” sign at the end of the lane. I drove in the long lane to a typical Amish homestead with various-sized buildings scattered here and there.
The barn on the left was bursting with old-fashioned-looking stuff, so I figured that must be the antique barn. An elderly Amish man from the house yelled out, “I’ll be out soon!”
I stepped onto the wide floor boards of the barn and was treated to a feast of eye candy. A vignette with a “Laundry Room” sign, a purple Amish dress, and a washtub rested behind a vintage washing machine. In another corner, an old bird house and a bunch of old pots spilled out over a shelf. A gorgeous Amish-colors quilt balanced on a quilt rack. A faceless mantle clock perched on an ancient black trunk. A rickety porch swing sat dejectedly in a corner.
In another area, a neon green hand pump peered out from behind an old window. In the kitchen area, the table was set with dusty green plates and wine glasses on a burly tablecloth. When the elderly gentleman finally came out to the barn, I asked him who arranges everything so beautifully. “My wife and daughter-in-law,” he said.
The other half of the barn was not displayed quite so attractively. It seemed like the “storage room” to me, but I am certain bargain hunters could unearth great finds among that chaos as well. The gentleman informed me that the downstairs had stuff, too, besides another little barn across the lawn, and the milk house.
Downstairs I discovered an old chicken coop with a huge STOP sign leaning against it. My organizer brain imagined it in a house with six children, and each child and the mom and dad could have a column of cubby holes to store their shoes and hats and gloves.
I found out later that the miniature bank barn made of old tobacco laths was crafted by the elderly gentleman. “It would be cheaper to take a nap,” he said, because of all the work that it takes to make one. He told me he had made one and then had gotten orders to make more.
In the little barn across the lawn, dozens of ladders in all different sizes tilted against the walls which were likely repurposed from old tobacco laths. In another room, old globes peeked out from behind a board. Another shelf nearly groaned from the numerous lanterns that weighed it down.
Do not miss this charming place on your next visit to Lancaster: 98B Westview Drive, Gordonville, PA 17529
July 5, 2013
“How do Amish people tell their buggies apart?” a tourist asked one day. What a great question! Many Sunday mornings, I see a yard full of buggies at an Amish person’s house where they are gathered for church. The buggies all look identical. I asked Amish and ex-Amish people how one can identify a buggy.
Here are some of the answers I got:
• The reflectors on buggies are often different from each other.
• The lights can be different as well.
• A buggy owner tries to remember the general area where he parked his buggy.
• One woman says she used to look inside the buggy to make sure it was theirs. Each buggy has different carpet and different trinkets which can help them identify their buggy.
• One owner recognizes his buggy by his bumper sticker: “Powered by Oats. Do Not Step in Exhaust.”
Sometimes people do get confused which buggy is theirs. One evening when my grandma was dating my grandpa, they drove in the long lane to Grandma’s friend Rebecca’s house. Through the dusk, they saw Rebecca walking out to meet them. “I bet she thinks I am her boyfriend coming to take her to the singing,” my grandpa said mischievously.
Rebecca’s boyfriend often brought his sister Rachel along with him, so hopefully Rebecca would think the extra girl was Rachel. Sure enough, in the darkness Rebecca did not seem to notice that the guy in the buggy was not her boyfriend and that a different girl was in the buggy.
Because it was an open buggy, my grandpa got out politely and Rebecca climbed in around him without saying a word. An open buggy has room for only two people on the seat, so Rebecca and my grandma sat on the seat, and my grandpa sat in the center on top of them to drive the horse.
Rebecca and her boyfriend must have been a very quiet couple, because neither of them said a word as they drove out the lane. Suddenly my grandma started giggling uncontrollably. When Rebecca realized it was not Rachel's voice, she twirled around in shock. My grandpa started chuckling, too.
“Dihr grossi dinger,” (You big things) Rebecca said when she realized she had been tricked. My grandma and grandpa dutifully turned around and took Rebecca back to her house so that she could go with her proper boyfriend to the singing.
June 18, 2013
If someone would ask me what my favorite Lancaster County food is, I would have my answer in a second: Lapp Valley Farm’s Butter Brickle ice cream. Made with cream from Jersey cows, it is the richest, creamiest ice cream I have ever tasted. Crunchy toffee bits mixed with thick vanilla ice cream can make a ho-hum day brighten suddenly.
My grandma liked to keep Lapp Valley Farm’s chocolate ice cream in her freezer to serve guests, but I have a suspicion not nearly all of it was served to the guests, because she loves chocolate so much.
Lapp Valley Farm chocolate milk just might be the thickest, creamiest chocolate milk in the world. Jersey cows are brown, and do not give as much milk as Holstein cows, the black and white ones. But what Jersey cows lack in quantity, they make up for in quality; their milk has a higher fat content than Holstein cow milk. Lapp Valley Farm’s chocolate milk made from Jersey cow milk is a treat you do not want to miss.
I work in the hospitality industry, and I am amazed when frequent guests to Lancaster County say they have never heard of Lapp Valley Farm. Tucked away in a valley away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist area, it lends its charm only to those who seek. The brown cows graze in the lush pasture. Sometimes the peacock will vainly show its feathers to anyone who is lucky enough to be there at the right time.
The little farm store sells sixteen flavors of ice cream and other items like eggs, milk, butter, etc. A roomy porch with picnic tables serves the leisurely tourists. Lancaster County residents have a reputation for being in a hurry, and Lapp Valley Farm has a solution for them as well: A drive-through window! Busy moms running errands can do a quick stop for milk without getting out of their vehicles.
Make Lapp Valley Farm one of your stops on your next trip to Lancaster County. You will find it at 244 Mentzer Road, New Holland, PA 17557
Check out your nearest bookstore for Speaking Amish books! They are now in many bookstores/tourist attractions in Pennsylvania, and in a few places in Ohio as well. See http://www.speakingamish.com/places-that-sell-speaking-amish/ to see if a bookstore near you carries it!
June 5, 2013
A piece of my Amish Grandma’s bread was one of the brightest memories of my childhood. It was pure white with a soft crust that didn’t seem like a crust at all. I felt like I was biting into a cloud. To make it even more heavenly, I would spread it with butter and fresh strawberry jam.
Grandma’s bread was always perfect, but she would find something wrong with it each time. “My bread got a little crumbly today,” she would fuss. Or, “The bread didn’t rise quite right this time.” I could never see what she was talking about.
My mom, on the other hand, made hearty whole wheat bread that was not nearly as soft and fluffy. So that we live longer, of course.
Grandma celebrated her ninety-seventh birthday in March. She ate white bread all her life. And shoo-fly pies and peanut butter cookies and chocolate pudding and bacon and ham.
Grandma’s mind is failing her, so she stays at our house two days a week to give her regular caretaker a break. Tuesday morning Mom asked her, “What would you like for breakfast?”
“Ice cream,” she said.
“Well, someone who is ninety-seven years old can have ice cream for breakfast,” Mom said. She obediently got some Breyer’s ice cream out of the freezer and gave Grandma ice cream.
Recently I asked my aunt for Grandma’s old bread recipe. I made it for some friends who rarely have homemade bread, and they raved and fussed over it and ate so much I felt quite flattered. I am fairly certain it didn’t hold a candle to Grandma’s bread, but maybe I’m just following in her footsteps when I say that.
Here is the recipe for all you bakers out there.
Mommy’s Homemade Bread
Dissolve in ½ cup lukewarm water:
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons Crisco or lard
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon salt
Gradually add 6 cups white flour. Mix well. Knead. Let rise till double in size. Knead again. Divide into two equal parts. Place into greased pans. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.
May 22, 2013
Years ago, Amish people named their babies John and Daniel and Samuel and Susie and Mary and Sadie and Lydia. Often babies were named after a grandfather or grandmother or aunt or uncle. As a result, many Amish people have the same names. To help differentiate among John Stoltzfus in New Holland, John Stoltzfus in Leola, and John Stoltzfus in Bird in Hand, people use nick names.
When one guy crawled up on a roof, someone took away his ladder as a joke. Later someone saw him on the ground and asked him how he got there. “I chumped down,” he said. After that, he was called “Chumba.”
A guy kept talking about a movie that had a brown cow in it. He talked about it so much that people started calling him “Brown Cow.” Chippy was named after someone caught him curled up sleeping like a chipmunk. One man never had enough money, but after he sold a lot of pigs and finally had money, people called him Piggie. Zip bought a zipper jacket when he was a teenager. Likely he wasn’t supposed to have one!
A little baby was doing poorly on his mother’s milk. Desperate to help the sickly baby, the mother made banana milk for her child. He started thriving and became healthy and chubby. “Little pudding,” his father called him. Ever after that, his name was “Pud.”
My Grandpa’s name was Paul. His boys were called Paul’s Jake, Paul’s Omar, and Paul’s Dan. To make it easier to say, they were known as PJ, PO, and PD. Fortunately Amish people don’t name their boys Ulysses, because he would have fared very badly in this family!
Unique physical features can result in nick names. My aunt’s dad was called Pumpkin because of his distinctively round pumpkin-like head. Short is a short man. Slim was very tall and thin.
Elmer was a cook out west. A Chinese who couldn’t speak English well called him “Cookee, Cookee.” His boys today are still called Cookee Alvin and Cookee Elmer and Cookee Jess and Cookee Elam. Collectively they are called the “Cookee Boys.” This story surprised me since I knew the Cookie family all my life, and I always assumed their name had something to do with cookies.
Hansie’s real name was John, but since “Hans” is the German name for John, he was called “Hansie.”
Often a man’s occupation names him. My dad was Butcher Dan. Chicken John was a chicken farmer. Schriner Christ was a carpenter (Schriner is Pennsylvania German for carpenter). Poochy Botchy’s Peanut Davy sold peanuts. I wonder where the first part of his name came from. Don’t assume that a name necessarily indicates profession; Preach was not a preacher!
Even though Johnny Fisher was Amish, he drove a sprayer truck for a spraying business. The truck had an open windshield and no top and apparently was not prohibited. At any rate, Johnny got away with driving it. He had a reputation for driving fast, and this earned him the name of Johnny Hammerdown.
Perhaps Nick especially deserved his name. He was called Nick because he gave so many other people their nick names!
For some reason few Amish women have nick names. Becky Beiler was one exception. She had the misfortune of getting stuck in a bathroom. She banged on the door till someone heard her, and was ever after called Bang Bang Becky Beiler.
Other Amish nick names include Quaker, Shooter, Swifty Dave, Wolfer, Slider, Weasel, Frecks, Squirrley, Kicky, Pickle, Humpy, Termite, Dutch, Block, Pee-Wee, Hector, Whitey, Nute, Antique John, and Bootsie. If anybody knows any stories behind any Amish nick names, I would love to hear about them so that I can write about more of them in a further post. Email any stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
May 4, 2013
How much do you know about Lancaster County Amish? Answer the following questions to find out.
1. A traditional Lancaster County Amish wedding meal consists of
a. roast beef, noodles with brown butter, peas, tossed salad, shoo-fly pie, tapioca
b. mashed potatoes, chicken, stuffing, cooked celery, cole slaw, pie, cake, pudding, fruit
c. chicken pot-pie, potato salad, green beans, apple dumplings, homemade ice cream
2. A white cape and apron is worn
a. for church services by girls aged 9 until they are married
b. for cooking and baking
c. married women until they have grandchildren
3. Beards are worn by
a. all married men
b. all men who have been baptized (church members)
c. all males twenty years old or older
4. You can tell an Amish woman is married if
a. she is wearing a white cap
b. she is standing beside her husband
c. she is wearing a brown leather bracelet
5. You can recognize an Amish house by
a. the lack of shutters
b. the white mailbox
c. the green pull curtains
6. Amish are prohibited from
a. going on a subway
b. flying in an airplane
c. using Amtrak
7. The majority of Amish people live
a. on farms
b. in small villages
c. in rural areas
8. Lancaster County Amish are not allowed to
a. go to hospitals
b. draw human faces
c. use bicycles
Check the answers below and add up your correct answers to see how you rate.
1 - 5 correct: Your next trip should be to Lancaster County
6 - 7 correct: You live in Lancaster County
8 correct: You read a lot of Amish novels
Answers for Lancaster County Amish quiz:
1. b 2. a 3. a 4. b 5. c 6. b 7. c 8. c
My family thought #4 was odd. It's kind of a trick answer. There is really no way to tell if an Amish woman is married unless you ask her. If she is standing beside her husband, you will know she is married (of course you have to know it's her husband). Wording it differently might have been helpful. Thankfully, getting it wrong doesn't affect your GPA or anything like that, so I'm sticking with my answer :-).
Like I mentioned before, I often see shops beside Lancaster County’s country roads and think, “Tourists would enjoy this place.” Fishers Soap Shop is one of those places, one of the many cottage industries that are scattered throughout Lancaster County.
The Fishers have at least six girls. Every Amish mom wants to raise girls that know how to work, because someday those girls might be mothers and will be running their own household. Probably one of the biggest insults to an Amish girl would be that she is lazy. Since the Fishers do not live on a farm, they have to find other ways to keep their girls busy.
The Fisher girls definitely are not lazy. Some of them clean for a nearby inn and do an amazing job. The windows in the rooms get cleaned between every guest. Just recently I heard a guest at the inn say, “This is the cleanest motel I’ve ever been to.” At least one of the girls works at a farmers’ market. Sometimes they help relatives clean their houses.
In their “spare” time, the girls make homemade soaps in their basement and sell them at a cute little shop on their homestead. Some of the soaps are molded into fun shapes like sea shells or flip-flops or waves. Herbs like lavender, rosemary, and peppermint bring a lovely scent to the herbal bars. Some of the soap bars have a loofah sponge. My personal favorite is the oatmeal bar, because it is unscented and my sensitive skin loves it!
Find this delightful little shop at 89 Pond Road, Ronks, PA 17572.
P.S. If you are lucky, you might see an “Eggs for Sale” sign at the end of the lane. The Fishers’ chickens run outside and lay wonderfully bright yellow-yoked eggs that I am privileged to eat for breakfast.
April 6, 2013
I had a professor once who insisted we call him by his last name. “Don’t ever call me by my first name,” he said menacingly. He even used our last names for roll call (he had a hard time with Stoltzfus, by the way).
I amused myself by imagining how that would work in an Amish school. “Fisher,” the teacher would say.
“Here,” would come a chorus of voices from all over the room.
“Here,” only a few voices this time.
“Here,” another smattering of voices.
“Here,” this time the chorus would be so loud the rest of the children would have to cover their ears.
“Here,” two timid voices from the back of the room.
And the teacher would close the record book for the day.
Amish people generally do not use titles for people. When I was growing up, Uncle Jake was simply “Jake.” Aunt Rebecca was just “Becca.” There might be some Amish families that address their uncles and aunts with titles, but we never did.
My sister taught at an Amish school, and the children called her “Teacher,” never “Miss Anna” or “Teacher Anna.”
A woman is not addressed as “Mrs.” She is directly owned by her husband. My mom is “der Dan sei Lydia” which means Dan’s Lydia. My aunt is “der Ben sei Sadie” which means Ben’s Sadie. What a warm and cozy feeling. Or not.
Men are never addressed as “Mr.” Unless they have a nick name, they are usually called by their first name. Even the preacher is not addressed as “Preacher (Breddicher) Amos,” unless of course, someone wants to differentiate him from “Carpenter Amos” or “Butcher Amos.”
My Dad suggests that the reason for this is that they are trying to follow the following verses from the Bible:
8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
Matthew 23:8-11 (King James)
Some people say the reason the Amish don't use titles is because they are rude. Take your pick.
Now taking International Orders for Speaking Amish. Click on the International Orders tab.
March 28, 2013
The Speaking Amish books are hot off the press! My Dad and I just picked them up at Masthof Printing this morning. If you have been wanting to learn Pennsylvania German, this book is the perfect place to start. It has easy-to-read charts and clear instructions to help make learning Pennsylvania German achievable for anyone. Thousands of people can speak Pennsylvania German, so why can’t you?
If you already know Pennsylvania German, this book will give you a fascinating tour of the language. Even though I spoke Pennsylvania German all my life, I had not studied it formally until I started working on the book. I was intrigued as I analyzed its grammar and structure. It is truly a fascinating language. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
People that have seen the proof of the book really enjoy the pictures. They portray a genuine view of the Amish culture and add a touch of realism.
This book is available on this website under the Speaking Amish Book tab. If you live in Lancaster County and don’t want to pay shipping, I hope to soon have a list of bookstores and other stores where you can purchase it. The first case is already at Amish Village, where my Mom is a tour guide J. Oh, I forgot, the VERY first case is at Masthof Bookstore, the people who produced my book.
March 22, 2013
Dab-smack in the center of the back of an Amish woman’s dress, at the waist, is a tiny, half-moon shaped piece of material. A “leppli,” it is called.
When Mom was about eight, my grandma started adding a “leppli” onto her dresses. Mom was peeved because grandma insisted on topstitching the “leppli.” The topstitching made it a “shtepp leppli,” and only the plainest Amish had a “shtepp leppli.” When Mom was finally old enough to sew her own dresses, she decided to be fancy and did not topstitch her “leppli.” I promise you I am not making this up.
Years ago, a modest lady’s dress had an extra piece of material on the back, starting at the waist and covering her backside. The piece gave her an added layer of modesty when she bent over to do something. Over the years, this extra piece gradually got smaller and smaller and smaller, and today all that’s left of it is the tiny half-moon.
It obviously does not fulfill its original intent, but every Amish woman faithfully sews one onto all of her dresses. A plain Amish woman will likely have a bigger “leppli.” Some chic young girls have tiny little ones. The size does not matter. The important thing is to not leave go of the “leppli!”
Pre-order the Speaking Amish book now. I will personally sign the first fifty orders from this website!
The printer said it will be available by next Friday, March 29. We will address the envelopes and print out the packing slips ahead of time. As soon as the books are available, we will insert the CD in the back of the book, pop the book in the mailer, and ship it as soon as possible. Go to the Speaking Amish Book tab of this website and order now!
March 13, 2013
What is your Amish hat I.Q.? Answer the following questions to find out.
1. An Amish man wears a black hat
a. to thrash wheat
b. to work in the field in the summer
c. for church in the winter or in the field in the winter
2. Hats with a crease are worn by
a. teenage boys and younger men
3. Most Amish straw hats in Lancaster County
a. come from Mexico
b. are hand made by the Amish
c. are worn by both boys and girls
4. Hats with extra wide brims are worn by
a. young boys in their Rumspringa years
b. a man who married in the past year
c. preachers and more conservative older men
5. A quality black Amish hat costs
a. about $25
b. about $85
c. about $100
6. Amish black hats
a. are imported from Portugal
b. are hand made by the Amish
c. are usually much cheaper than straw hats
7. A handmade straw hat in Lancaster County costs
a. about $15 - $20
b. about $40 - $50
c. less than $10
8. An Amish man wears a straw hat
a. only during the week and never for church
b. in the winter
c. during the week and to church in the summer
Check the answers below and add up your correct answers to see how you rate.
1 - 5 correct: You must be “English”
6 - 7 correct: You are likely ex-Amish
8 correct: You are Amish and shouldn’t be on the internet
To buy quality Amish hats, visit Irishtown Hats at 2635-B Irishtown Road, Ronks, PA. If you need your hat cleaned, make sure you go on a Wednesday!
And in case you haven't seen this: For a chance at winning a free "Speaking Amish: A Beginner's Introduction to Pennsylvania German" book, please like my "Speaking Amish" Facebook page and share this link on your wall.
If I get 500 likes by April 1, 2013, I will give away one book. If I get 1,000 likes by April 1, 2013, I will give away two books.
Answers to Amish hat quiz:
1. c 2. a 3.
b 4. c 5. b 6.
a 7. a 8. c
March 4, 2013
Most Amish young people look forward to one of the most important days in their lives, the day they turn sixteen. They might have a "sidekick," a very close friend of the same gender who turns sixteen close to the same time. This "sidekick" will support them as they get to know the unfamiliar world of Amish gangs and buddy bunches, and they will do everything together.
Just for the record, Amish gangs have almost nothing in common with the violent, gun-clutching gangs that roam our American cities. Amish gangs are really just groups of young people that spend Sunday afternoons playing volleyball or Sunday evenings singing.
They give themselves names like Dominoes or Avalanches or Seahawks or Swans or Cougars. Only a few of the groups have vehicles and tend to have wilder parties: the Dominoes, Checkers, Cougars, Avalanches, and Sharks. The majority of Amish gangs get around with horses and buggies and are chaperoned quite well.
Years ago, when Mom and Dad were young, the young people were not chaperoned. In fact, to have parents at a young people’s gathering was not considered appropriate. This obviously led to problems, and wild parties were common.
In the last several years, concerned parents decided that this nonsense has to stop. Some of them got their heads together and decided to chaperone their young people’s gatherings. As a result, most of the Amish gangs today are a lot more supervised than they were years ago. Parents form committees and make curfews and other rules. A young person discovered drunk might even be expelled from the group. One of the minor problems facing the gangs today is that the parents do not always agree on which rules are necessary!
Within the gangs are smaller groups called “buddy bunches.” A buddy bunch might be eight to ten girls about the same age and roughly the same amount of guys that stick together and do things together. It’s a clique, really. During the week the buddy bunch might get together at someone’s house and play volleyball. Years ago, all the girls from a particular buddy bunch would wear the same color dress. Each weekend, they would have to plan what color they were going to wear the next weekend.
If a young person gets to the age of twenty-five, they are no longer considered young. Years ago, a girl past the age of 25 would have stopped going with the young people. She would very likely never have gotten married, unless she married a widower. Today some of these “older young people” from age 25-40 years old have gotten together to form a gang, called the Dogwoods. An even older group called the Drifters range in age from 30 to 50 years old. Thankfully, these groups give older Amish girls more options, and romance in these groups often results in weddings.
February 19, 2013
When I was a little girl, I was sometimes allowed to go with Dad to the “Hummi Vendyu” (Cow Auction). The energy and vibrancy of the place captivated me. We would sit on the bleachers and watch the cows barge into the ring, mooing and shoving. I was glad to be up high where they could not reach me.
The auctioneer chanted away so fast I couldn’t understand him. When someone bought a cow or lot of cows, the clerk down by the auctioneer attached a paper to a moving cable that was connected to a room behind us on the next level. I watched the paper slowly traveling up the moving cable to that room, and the clerks there would apparently process it and get the bill ready for the buyer.
Last summer I went to the same place, on horse auction day. It still had the excitement that I remember from my childhood. Retired Amish men were catching up on the latest news with their neighbors. They seemed to be uninterested in the horses - this is their social hangout, the Amish version of the local bar.
High up on the bleachers, three barefooted Amish children were enjoying the spectacle. A little girl sat beside her grandfather, just like I used to sit beside Dad. In a side room, men tangled their wits in a checkers game. My mouth watered from the savory aromas wafting up from the food court.
The cable was missing of course, no doubt replaced by some boring computer technology that is not nearly as interesting as a paper inching up a moving cable.
I think every American child should have the opportunity to visit the “Hummi Vendyu,” just like I did when I was a little girl. Monday at 10:00 is the horse auction and Wednesday is the cow auction. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
New Holland Sales Stables 101 W Fulton Street, New Holland, PA 17557
February 9, 2013
When Mom got married, she borrowed her great-aunt Susie’s high-top shoes. “Hochi schuh” (high shoes) they are called. As soon as the wedding ceremony was finished, Mom went to her bedroom and changed into something more comfortable and not as old-fashioned for the rest of the day.
Every Amish woman has to wear “hochi schuh” for her wedding. One girl and her sister had a double wedding. Because their house was full of about 450 guests, they sneaked up to the attic and took off their “hochi schuh” there.
Sometimes the bride’s mother will also wear “hochi schuh.” An Amish minister’s wife has to wear “hochi schuh” every time she attends church, even if she is young.
Years ago, all older Amish ladies wore “hochi schuh.” Today, many grandmothers still wear “hochi schuh” for church, although not all of them do. I asked my grandmother, “How did you know you were old enough to wear “hochi schuh?”
“Just when someone older than me started wearing them, then I did, too,” she said. “There wasn’t any particular time. Maybe someone said, ‘When are you going to start wearing hochi schuh?’ Then I thought maybe I should start wearing them.”
January 29, 2013
Every once in awhile, I come across a place on the back roads of Lancaster County and think, “Wow, I wish the tourists could see this!”
One such place is “The Amish General Store.” I had to make up the name because it doesn’t have one. I drove in the long lane, past the barn and up to the house, where a red OPEN sign hung on the porch door.
Inside the big farm house is the quaintest combination of wares I have ever seen. A bed full of beautiful quilts in one corner displays a knitted wool blanket across its foot. Gently worn Amish dresses, shirts, pants, and bonnets hang from pegs on the wall. $5.00 says the sign on a little girl’s pink dress. Tiny braided rugs peek out from under the table.
Homemade potpie noodles share the table with homemade lye soap and honey and Amish cookbooks. “Homemade Fiber Balls,” a sign declares. On the other side of the room, tiny candles share the space with a fascinating assortment of flea market items, including a four inch flowery porcelain toilet on top of a cake stand.
A carved man plowing with horses costs $525. That might just be the most expensive item here. A Country Love or Country Bride appliquéd quilt sells for only $425, and wall hangings start at $75. For tightwads, a homemade fiber ball costs only fifty cents.
On the porch, antique quilts and crocheted blankets hang on racks. Holly hock seeds and castor beans fill a basket on the ledge. Intriguing merchandise squeezes into every nook and cranny.
I asked the woman of the house if she gets a lot of business. She told me she doesn’t advertise, and she doesn’t get as much business as she would like.
Well, here is my unofficial advertisement. Check out the
pictures below for a sneak preview. Then plug in your GPS and find the store at 3223 W. Newport Road, Ronks, PA 17572, and discover some hidden treasure!
January 18, 2013
One of my favorite stories is one that happened to my friend Geraldine's mother.
Ann was Amish and lived with her mom and dad and sisters and brothers in Leola, a little town in Lancaster County. She was dating a young guy named John, who lived about three and ½ miles from her house.
Ann was frustrated, because John did not want to come see her on week nights. He was a farmer, and he thought coming once a week on Saturday night was enough. Ann was a little jealous, too, because her sister Rachel’s boyfriend was not quite so old-fashioned and would occasionally come see Rachel during the week.
Impulsively, Ann decided she had enough. If John didn’t like her enough to come more often, what was the point of dating him? She would break up with him.
Of course, she couldn't call him, because she didn't have a telephone. Instead, she wrote him a letter and told him it was over. She wrote the letter in the beginning of the week so that he would get it before Saturday night.
Her sister Rachel saw her putting the letter in the mailbox, and was quite disappointed. She could not figure out why Ann would want to throw away a great guy like John. Besides, he was laid-back and easygoing and complemented Ann's energetic, outspoken personality perfectly. Secretly, Rachel went to the mailbox and took out the letter before the mailman could take it away.
Saturday night came, and Ann was still wearing her everyday dress and working around the house as she did on any week night. "Why aren't you getting ready for your date with John?" Rachel asked slyly.
"He's not coming," Ann replied saucily. "I sent him a letter and broke up with him."
"Get on a nice dress," her sister commanded. "He is coming. He never got that letter. I took it out of the mailbox."
When John came that evening, he never suspected the drama that had taken place. They must have had a great time, because eventually they got married. They lived happily ever after and today have eight children and forty grandchildren.
This blog will be about all things Amish. Some of the topics I plan to write about are:
Back Roads Guide for Fun Things to Do in Lancaster County
Amish Recipes and Food
Answering Your Questions about the Amish
My Favorite Things in Lancaster County
If you have any suggestions for something I should write about, please let me know by leaving a comment on the form on the Contact Us page or by sending me an email at email@example.com.
September 28, 2013
The Speaking Amish book has been sold to people in 31 states, and also in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Austria. I have been amazed at the wide-spread interest of the Pennsylvania German language.
If you have not ordered Speaking Amish yet, click on the Buy Speaking Amish tab today!
Check out the new verb on the PA German Verbs tab!