Sunday, November 23, 2008

More on Trading with the Amish

I've talked of this before, but it is worth mentioning again. Every Saturday, a neighbor of ours, Fred, and I take a drive down to our local Amish neighbors. The Amish live in about 20 of the states, as well as Canada and some are moving or have moved down to South America, too, I believe. Wikipedia has a good article on the Amish if you're interested.

The Amish family we visit with and buy from are Old Order Amish. That is, no electricity, no phone at home (they can use a phone if they need to, in emergencies, but otherwise don't), travel by foot, horse and buggy, or horseback (or hire a driver and van to take them somewhere). It's a simple, 19th century sort of life, maybe even 18th century. Fred and I really enjoy our trips to the farm. There we get milk, cream, buttermilk, eggs, butter (sometimes churned as we watch and have coffee in the kitchen), fresh garden produce, meat occasionally if they've just butchered cows or pigs or chickens, baked goods, homemade cider and things like that. We buy the dairy products as "pet food" since you cannot sell raw milk in Indiana. Our "pets" love the dairy products. :) Joaz and Lydia run an organic farm, and we pay a lot less at the farm than we would in the local whole foods/organic coop place a few towns away. It's a good deal for us, and a good deal for them. We buy for all of our neighbors in the valley who want the eggs, etc.

I admire these folks. They have kept their lives simple so they can focus on matters important: their families, their church, their fellowship with God and each other. They speak a dialect of German but all of the school-going kids and adults speak English as well. I've started learning German, so I can talk to them in their language, but the immersion German CDs I got from the library didn't give me much more than "Wo ist die Goethe strasse, bitte?" However, since I've made the effort, Joaz and Lydia and Emme, the oldest girl, usually help me along with the lingo, at least in between laughter at my feeble efforts. Ah, well. It's fun. Wait til I learn some Spanish and start teaching it to them. :)

At most of the Amish farms along the way there are signs for eggs, or fresh produce, or lumber or firewood, and sometimes there's a harness shop, tack store, handmade baskets, etc. When we go to the Troyers (Joaz and Lydia), we often also go to the Bulk Store, which is run by family in their church group. The bulk store is an interesting set up. Here you can buy your necessities--sugar, flour, oats, pasta, sauces, etc. It is mostly food, dry goods, but not produce, with a few other handmade items. Either the bulk food is shipped to the store, or they go into the local Aldi's and Walmart and buy in bulk. I've seen two or three Amish guys buying 4-6 stuffed carts full of groceries at Aldi's. This purchase may be for the bulk store, where it will be measured into smaller portions, repackaged and sold to either other Amish families or to outsiders like Fred and I.

The bulk store makes a lot of sense--a trip to Walmart may be short for automobile drivers, but it is a long way and many hours for the Amish horse and buggy. If you are an Amish farmwife, and you need some dry goods, you can get it from the bulk store a few miles away, rather than an all day trip to the town with the Aldi's/Walmart.

The reason I mention the bulk store is because I bought some oats for oatmeal at this store yesterday. I got 6 lbs for $3. That's a much better price than the $2.39 I'd spend at Aldi's for 2lb10oz oatmeal. I realize I could buy in larger bulk and get even better prices, and I will when we have the room to store it. You can get excellent deals at the bulk store. Honey, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, various homemade jams, jellies, pickles etc. are also available at good prices.

If you live in Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin and possibly a few other states, there may be Amish near you. I cannot vouch for every Amish farm, but we've found the produce to be outstanding. The dairy is very good, ditto with the veggies and grains and meat. Good food at a good price. Keep in mind that not all Amish farms are organic. You'll have to ask around.

Fred and I also go to the local herb store--well, it is actually more of a pharmacy, Amish style. They don't carry bulk herbs, but they do carry herbal tinctures, salves, ointments, medicines for man and beast, as well as kitchen equipment, some tack, and other items (canning jars and lids, for example). The Amish doctor themselves with herbs and herbal extracts for the most part. They have access to mainstream medicine if they want it or need it, but mostly, for simple problems, they stick with herbs. Lydia and I often sit for a time and talk about physical ills and what to do about them. I traded them some of my elderberry syrup and elderberry extract for some baked goods not long ago. I'm preparing a salve for one of the kid's hands--he burned it on the stove and the scar tissue has tightened up his fingers and has lost flexibility and strength.

Joaz and Lydia are also a resource for us for otherwise hard to find or very expensive items--working cookstoves, lanterns, that sort of thing. They'll know if there's an auction or who might have something used and in good shape.

If you have Amish families and farms in your area, it's worthwhile getting to know them. They're shrewd barginers, but fair and honest. At least all my dealings with them have been excellent.


The Awakened Heart said...

Lovely blog - I really enjoyed your post about trading with the Amish. I often think that they have a wonderful attitude to life and that we could all learn something from their simple and effective ways of living. I live in Australia - as far as I know we don't have an Amish here but if we did, I'd be straight over there.

Patricia said...

Thanks--I like the Amish people I've met. Like and admire them. What may seem to us to be a sacrifice on their part (living without modern amenities such as electricity) is really a way for them to concentrate the best parts of their minds and hearts on what really matters: relationship to the Creator, love of family, good work, hard work, fellowship. We also try to do that here in our valley, but indeed, the modern amentities distract us...

No, no Amish in Australia. At least, not yet!

What's in a name? said...

Just stumbled over your blog and love it. Your posts on your visits to the Amish interested me because (while English) I've lived in Germany for 18 years and we have (similarly to the Amish) escaped organised church for the wilderness, where by the grace of God we are doing very well.
I am a relative beginner as far as living naturally is concerned, but I've always loved making my own preserves, using natural remedies, and love herbs and wild plants for food. My mother used to make dandelion wine, which was delicious. I've always wanted to try my hand at wine making, but all the chemistry rather puts me off. I'm afraid it might all be rather too complicated for my simple mind. (I did some Dandelion Jelly some years ago and it was delicious.)