Friday, December 30, 2011

Related?

I read somewhere that most Amish are related and have to marry cousins and second cousins. Are you and LV related?

No, LV and I are not related. As far back as I have been able to trace there are no connections. My parents and grandparents weren't related to each other either. LV's parents and grandparents can say the same about their marriages.

There are communities where there is a lot of intermarriage where there are hardly any options other than marrying your second cousin unless they are willing to marry someone from another community. So far I am not aware of any Amish community where it is acceptable to marry a cousin.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Canning Meat

I have often wondered how Amish preserve meat since they obviously don't have freezers and yet do a lot of butchering.

Ah yes, the work involved in canning meat. Thanks for bringing back those memories of a week spent every winter in canning a year's supply of meat for the family.

We didn't do the actual butchering ourselves. After sending a fattened steer to the local butcher shop we used to come home with hundreds of pounds of ground beef and steak that needed to be taken care of as soon as possible.

For every 80 lbs of ground beef we would mix up:

40 Tbsp salt
20 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp black pepper
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1½ Tbsp ginger
1½ Tbsp paprika
1½ Tbsp ground sage

After making sure it was mixed well we would sprinkle it over the top of 80 lbs of ground beef and then mix it thoroughly with our hands until we were sure everything was seasoned evenly. Next it was packed into wide mouth quart jars and placed into a canner filled with cold water. Once the water started boiling we timed it for three hours and then removed the jars and let them seal before washing them off and placing them on shelves in the basement to be used when we were ready.

To use this we would slice it out of the jars and heat it often adding water and bringing to a boil and then making a gravy with it. It also made excellent sloppy joe if you chopped it up and added a few more ingredients. It was great to use to make sandwiches or if you were hungry between meals a cold slice hit the spot!

For "steak" we used to request very thinly sliced choice boneless cuts of meat from the butcher.

We would make a brine by boiling together:

1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup salt

After letting it cool completely we put one cup of the brine into a quart jar and then dropped 2"x2" pieces of steak into the jar making sure not to pack it since we wanted brine to be able to be between each slice. It was then placed into a canner and boiled for two hours.

To eat it we would drain the brine and then fry the steak in butter and flour.

Corned beef was the most gross thing we made. It was very simple but something I never did after we got married.  We used to take a big crock and pour a thick layer of salt in the bottom and place a layer of steak on top of it and then cover it with another layer of salt continuing this way until the crock was filled to the top. We would set in in a cold dark place usually in the basement for at least two weeks. In that time the salt would melt and the meat would turn pink. To serve we used to fish out several slices of meat wash it in clean cold water and then boil it for a few minutes. It used to be extremely tender but also salty. Not a big fan!

To can poultry we used to fill the jars with meat and sprinkle a teaspoon of salt on top before boiling for 3 hours.

Those were the main meats we canned although we usually made bologna, liverwurst, and a few other things.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Thankful Christmas


Our Christmas was especially sweet this year as we spent all day enjoying our little baby boy. Sailor is especially thrilled to finally have a brother!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Celebrating Easter Amish Style

We are interested in the Amish celebration of Christmas, and Easter, too.
I shared how we used to celebrate Christmas while we were Amish here.

Christmas was my favorite holiday. Easter on the other hand was a long drawn out tiresome affair that as a child I used to be very glad once it was over.

In the community where I grew up the Easter holidays officially started on Thursday evening before Good Friday when we would have an extra big meal for supper and then a little snack yet before we went to bed. Extra care was given to make sure the house was in order.

On Friday morning we would get up, do what ever chores that needed to be done. Cows and other animals have this way of needing to be cared for no matter what else is going on. After chores were done we would wash up and then sit in the living room since Good Friday was a day of fasting it was more sober and solemn than a normal Sunday. We would read the Bible and the prayers in the little black prayer book and the German, Rules of a Godly Life book. There was no playing and any talking was done in hushed tones.

It was always a relief once the day was over. The next day always seemed to carry some of the previous days solemness with it as we hurried to do all the regular Saturday cleaning and preparing lots of food for the next two days so we wouldn't have to cook much.

Easter Sundays we would treat like any other Sunday except Mom would make soft boiled eggs for breakfast. Thankfully that was a once a year occurrence! If it was our church Sunday we would go to church. Otherwise we would stay at home and read, play games, write letters, and things along that line.

Easter Monday we again couldn't work it was a day treated much the same as any inbetween Sunday and by now we were all tired of having to sit around doing nothing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Amish Stores in Somerset County

I have read quite a bit of your blog already and have gathered that you grew up in Somerset County. I pass through that area occasionally but have never met any Amish people. Could you tell me where I could visit some of their stores or bakeries?

The Amish in Somerset County are not tourist oriented at all. You won't find a lot of stores or bakeries just by driving through the area even though there are seven church districts. The area is heavily wooded and most farms are tucked on hillsides and in valleys surrounded by lots of trees. While there are some Amish farms close to the roads many more are hidden from view.

As far as the stores go. There are Amish stores that sell fabrics and many other things that the rest of the Amish would like to purchase. How ever they are mostly known only to the Amish and often kept upstairs in their farmhouse in a spare bedroom.

I have not visited any Amish stores in the Somerset area for over seven years. There used to be one open to the public along Oakdale Rd in Salisbury but I have no idea if they are still in business or not. There was also a little bakery and variety store along Rockdale Rd in Meyersdale.  In the twenty years of living in that area I never visited that store so I can't tell you just how it is or the quality of their baked goods other than that they must be doing something right to have been in business for so long.

There are a few Mennonite operated businesses in the area including Whispering Pines, a furniture business now owned by a Mennonite family after they purchased it from my parents. It is located along Route 669 in Springs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Amish Language

Do all Amish speak German ?

If the Amish were to travel to Germany they would have a really hard time trying to understand conversations. Church services and the Bible they use are German but other than that they speak in what is know as Pennsylvania Dutch although some people refer to that language simply as Amish, Deitch, or Pennsylvania German.

There are some Amish that speak with a more Swiss dialect and the two groups Swiss Amish and mainstream Amish can not understand each other and have to speak English if they want to have a conversation.

Pennsylvania Dutch is for the most part an unwritten language and each community has some words that leave other communities scratching their heads. Even families in the same communities often have a word or two that seems to belong exclusively to them. After LV and I got married there were words that we had to decide how we would pronounce since his family had been used to one way while mine had pronounced it differently. I changed quite a few pronunciations and thankfully some of his weirdest ones were changed as well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Amish Child Training

Could you explain more of the process of how the Amish train their children to behave during such long church services? Did some moms take the children out for a time? Any other helpful tips? Also, along those lines, how do Amish women get everything done when they have very little ones?

I don't think any two families train their children exactly alike. And most babies went through a period of time when they really hated church, usually around the time they were learning to crawl and getting around on their own and the mothers had to spend time outside with them.

Thankfully that period of time usually didn't last very long. In our community when a baby was born and people came to visit the gifts they gave weren't ones you would find at a typical baby shower. But instead toys and special things the mother could use later to occupy her child during those long services.

A favorite that would probably have most baby "experts" gasping in horror was a cheerfully painted salt shaker with a dozen or so toothpicks. The mother would remove the toothpicks and then help her baby place them back inside through one of the holes on top until the baby had mastered the concept and tried to do it on it's own. There were other similar toys that kept them occupied quietly for quite a length of time and I never saw or heard of any babies that were hurt in any way playing with that type of thing under the watchful eye of their mother. Snacks were an important part as well.

In our family babies always sat on our lap at every meal for the entire meal from the day they were born until they could eat with a spoon on their own which I think helped them be used to being held quietly for longer periods of time.

About being able to get all your work done with a lot of little ones.  I'm not sure that is even possible. Even though the children were really involved in almost everything I did there were days when the dishes were simply piled into the sink and had to wait until evening to be taken care of. The windows had little hand prints on them and toys were scattered across the floor while I tried to keep them clean and fed and get the most important things done.  Since those days have passed already I can honestly say that those unfinished things and the clutter involved with little children was nothing compared to the fun we had at times laying on the floor coloring or putting little puzzles together while the dishes waited patiently in the sink.

The windows stay a lot cleaner now, the dishes get cleared away after every meal, toys hardly ever litter the floor, but every once in a while it is still fun to push schedules aside and simply take a day to do things we all enjoy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Puppy Mills

Is there truth about the Amish and "puppy mills"?
I've heard very bad things about the treatment and the connection to the Amish.


I have only heard a few tidbits through the grapevine about an incident in Lancaster involving an Amish family. I don't know the details or if the whole deal was blown out of proportion or not.

I do personally know an Amish widow who raises puppies to sell as her means of income but after visiting her and seeing how they are raised no one could possibly accuse her of doing anything wrong. She has ten dogs, each with a big comfortable shelter and a large pen where they can run around all they like. Everything is spotlessly clean and she spends hours everyday talking and playing with the dogs. Our children have really enjoyed their visits to her house where she always invited them inside the pens with her to play with the puppies and the mother dogs.

As far as I know there aren't many Amish people who raise dogs for sale.

Lately it seems all you hear is the importance of adopting dogs. I have nothing against finding a dog or puppy at an animal shelter but the people running those places aren't always the saints they would like to be portrayed as either.

Right now we don't have a dog but in the past we have adopted two dogs, and we have also bought a puppy from someone (non-Amish) that raised dogs.

Soon after LV and I got married and we lost our farm dog we went to the Humane Society in hopes to adopt one. We were both appalled at how those poor dogs were living and were feeling really good about rescuing one from those deplorable conditions and taking it home with us until we tried to go through all their red tape. Their adoption fee was ridiculously high, they wanted to know way too much personal information, and insisted we would have to take any dog we chose directly to a vet before they would even consider allowing us to think about taking it home.

We left without a dog and ended up buying a puppy somewhere else. I don't know if our experience was different from how it is at other shelters and agencies across our nation. I hope it is, because until they make adoptions easier there will always be people who would rather not try to deal with those agencies.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Choice to get Married

Do Amish parents choose who their children marry?

Will you be doing the same for your children once they are old enough to get married?


Amish parents do not arrange marriages for their children.  If they have misgivings about the choice their child is making they will voice their concerns but it is ultimately the child's decision.

When LV asked to come calling I talked to my parents first before giving him the final answer. He talked to his parents as well and neither of them had any objections.

When he asked me to marry him I said yes, but still asked my parents for their blessing the following day.


In answer to your second question. Yes, we will be allowing our children to make their own choice once they reach that age.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing Project

How is your writing project coming along and when can we expect to be able to buy your book?

I'm really looking forward to them and wish I could buy a boxful for Christmas gifts this year.


The writing project is coming along really well. The first book of the series is scheduled to be released in late summer 2012.

I'm feeling honored that you would like to buy them as gifts!

Will you be making your book available in other formats (such as audio) when it's done?

That decision is up to the publishers at Revell. So far I have not heard if they will be doing an audio but will certainly announce it on my blog if they do.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amish Lifestyle

Aside from your family and close friends, what sort of things do you miss from your Amish lifestyle?

99% of the time, not a thing. There are a few instances when I do miss little things like the delightful squeal that comes only from steel buggy wheels cutting through fresh snow when the temperature drops down to the single digits.

On the rare occasion when the power goes off I'm reminded how it was to never have to worry about that inconvenience.

I don't miss the dim noisy lamps we used to have, or the treks to the phone shanty when we needed to make a phone call, or having to pay someone $40. to take us to town, or the gas powered wringer washing machine and the all the hard work that came with doing the laundry. I don't miss the clothes, or really anything when it comes to the Amish lifestyle.

The reason we don't miss anything is partly because nothing forced us to quit any part of the lifestyle that we liked. We can still garden and preserve food like we used to. I can still use my sad irons if I want to and my host of cast iron cookware. We can still enjoy working and playing together as family, I have not felt the need to fill my house with pretty things that need to be dusted all the time.

If we talk about the bigger picture or community there would be a little more. Since the Amish applied the sermon on the mount directly to their lives there are things that I miss. There isn't as much trust and forgiveness found outside the Amish or plain circles and from what we have observed it seems people get their feelings hurt much more easily from simple little things.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Answering Questions

Starting with today's post I will be working on answering the questions I received.

I am curious how you will be celebrating Christmas this year and how it differs from how you used to celebrate it while you were Amish.

While I was growing up Christmas was celebrated in a happy simple manner. We would get up a little extra early and the boys would go to the barn to help Daddy with the chores while I helped Mom prepare a special breakfast. Besides the usual fare we got to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, an orange, bacon, and cold cereal.

While Mom and I cleared the dishes away the boys would heap the wood box to beyond overflowing to make sure they wouldn't have to carry wood the rest of the day. Daddy would sweep the kitchen and somehow it seemed we all finished with our chores at the same time.

Daddy would get the Bible and read the Christmas story to us and then it was time for us children to go upstairs and wait while Mom and Daddy got our gifts ready.  We usually had handmade gifts that we dug out of their hiding places during that time so we could take them downstairs with us. Once we had them carefully in a bag we would all sit on one of the beds and read or talk until Daddy called us to come downstairs.

The youngest always got to go first and we would enter the kitchen to find little piles of gifts at every one's place at the table. Each one covered with Mom's prettiest dish towels. After we sat down we would take turns looking to see what was hidden under those towels. There was always a plate filled with nuts and candy and sometimes fruits. There would often be a new shirt or dress and usually a book or two and maybe some other small gift.  There were times when there was another bigger pile in the middle of the table that would then be shared by everyone, like a new board game or two and more books.

The afternoon would be spent reading and playing together and in the evening we would enjoy sitting around the kitchen stove while eating freshly popped popcorn and apples.

After LV and I got married we enjoyed a special breakfast and exchanging gifts before we joined the rest of my family for a big Christmas dinner, and an afternoon of laughter, visiting, and playing games.

Since leaving the Amish we continue having a special breakfast. Usually with at least twenty-five different things. After the dishes are cleared away and the house in order we will all take turns reading verses to the Christmas story before we open the gifts.  We don't do the kitchen table towel thing though. We wrap our gifts and have a small Christmas tree. We still take turns opening the gifts while everyone watches and then spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying each others company. Games and books are still a big part of the day and if there is enough snow; sledding and building snowmen are also fun.

So yes, there is a small difference in how we celebrate but the best part is still the same. The simple joy of spending a happy, relaxing, fun filled day with our family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Taking More Questions


There is something so cozy about being inside a nice warm house when the snow is piling up outside. It seems like the perfect time to take more of your questions. You can ask anything you like and then I'll work on answering them soon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Morning's Bits and Pieces


I have enjoyed creating things with beads for quite a number of years already and when my sister-in-law gave this beaded baby rattle to Rosebud I knew immediately that I wanted to learn how to make them too. 

Life became busy and with moving several times I somehow can not find the instructions anywhere and my attempts to make them have not been exactly successful. So now I'm wondering if anyone knows where I could find instructions to make these? And yes, I realize they would probably not be deemed baby friendly but I would still love to make them even if it would never belong to a small child.

~~~~~

This summer we spent some time in the Lancaster area and while there we ate at Yoder's in New Holland. If you ever have a chance to eat there I would highly recommend you try it out!

I really enjoyed their breakfast selection. Among it was the best french toast I have ever tasted and I have been trying to find a recipe to recreate it ever since. Do you make a stuffed french toast that you would be willing to share the recipe?

~~~~~

We have often been asked about what we think of the changes we experienced when we left the Amish. While a lot of them came gradually we didn't really have a period of time where we experienced culture shock.

There is one little area though that I don't think I'll ever get used to.  Let me explain.    I have loved singing for as long as I can remember. Singing while I work, singing for hours every day, and during my teenage years I enjoyed spending two hours every other Sunday evening singing hymns with the rest of the youth. I still enjoy singing and listening to good music.

There is one kind of singing that I don't enjoy.  The first time I heard it was a number of years ago, at church. The choir was going to sing as a special treat before the regular services started. I settled in to listen and enjoy the harmony and beauty of the words and voices until near the end of the song my ears were abused with unearthly screeching and caterwauling that totally ruined the whole experience.

I have sat through many choir performances since then and it seems every time they have to finish it off by screeching. Knowing that will be coming has me tense and unable to enjoy the lovely part and I always get the urge to squeeze my eyes shut and cover my ears once that last line or two is being sung.

I'm curious if I'm the only one who wishes church choirs would omit their screeching parts?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Passing it On


If you are looking for a heart warming book to read during this Christmas season I would recommend that you pick up the latest from Suzanne Woods Fisher. Anyone who enjoys Amish fiction is sure to love this book and become attached to two different families when an unexpected winter storm brings them together at Christmas.

I have read my own copy twice already and when I heard that it's on sale right now I knew I have to pass on the opportunity for you to get a copy for yourself or as a great gift for that reader on your list. You can order it here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge

I have enjoyed reading other's answers to a fun weekly questionnaire for quite a long time already and finally decided that I would join in today.
1. Will you be hosting any house guests between now and the end of December? Does that thought make you happy or crazy? Do you do anything special for your guests to make them feel at home? How long should a house guest stay?
Other than having some friends drop in for a few hours at a time our December is looking very relaxing.  I try to make guests feel welcome and at home, as for how long a house guest should stay.... I'll simply quote what Daddy used to say. "Always leave soon enough for your hosts to be sad to see you leave."  In other words don't over stay your welcome.
2. Walter Elias Disney was born this week (December 5) back in 1905 ...what's your all time favorite Disney movie? 

Personally, I am not a fan of Disney movies. We have watched several but they all seem to have an underlying message that we don't appreciate. Of the ones we have seen; Dumbo we enjoyed the most.

3. What was the last thing you purchased that you realized was a mistake after the fact?

A pair of shoes that I loved at the store but after a few hours of wearing them I wished I had never seen them.

4. What percentage of your Christmas shopping is done online?

This year probably around 20% with the remainder being done snail mail. No going to the mall or any of my favorite stores this year.

5. Amaryllis-snowdrop-poinsettia...your favorite winter blossom?

I really enjoy seeing a nice poinsettia. There's something so festive and cheerful about them.

6. What is one thing on your personal Christmas wish list? I think we all want peace on earth so let's make this answer an actual item.

What I would really love to have is a set of shelves built for our storage room so that I'd be able to organize everything in there.

7. If you could only use one word today what would it be?

That's really hard trying to narrow it down to only one word, a single phrase would be much easier. I think I'll have to go with fine. Which would work as an answer to a host of questions I get everyday.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

It seems my random thoughts all have a way of trailing down the same path and I find myself thinking of welcoming our baby.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Announcing the Winner

I enjoyed taking a peek out of your kitchen windows. And now it's time to draw the winner for the sweet little Memory game. Turning to random.org ........ here we go .........


Comment # 52

65 Roses for Marcia said .......

I look out onto my back patio, retaining wall and woods.

Congratulations! Please email your address to me and I will get this shipped to you.

~~~~~
In answer to all the emails I received wondering where to get this Memory game. I shared the address where you can ask for a catalog in this post.  Since it is owned and operated by Amish you won't be able to find them online. The two options available are visiting their store or shopping from their catalog.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Traditions

There is still time to enter my current giveaway in previous post.
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Last year one of my blogging friends shared a sweet tradition in their family where they wrap up Christmas books and then open and read one every evening until Christmas.

We won't be doing all our traditional things this year including having our usual 45 Day Fruitcake but, I think we will all enjoy this new one. As an added bonus the basket filled with those books looks so cheerful that I have to smile every time I see it.

What are some of the fun things you do each year for Christmas?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Giveaway


Am I the only one who has finally learned to write 2011 and is now trying to grasp the fact that it's already December?

With Christmas just around the corner I'm happy to say that my shopping is done. Most of it from the comfort of our home.  When ordering I happened to get an extra one of these sweet Memory games. Each set of pictures seems to be cuter than the next. And while I'm sure I could find a child who would enjoy it I decided to give you an opportunity to win one for yourself or to give it away.

If you would like to have one of these all you have to do is leave a comment telling me what you see when you look out your kitchen window.

To be entered twice post a link to this giveaway on your blog and then come back and leave another comment telling me that you did.

I will be drawing a winner using the Random generator on Monday Dec. 5th.

Disclaimer: The only compensation I receive from doing this giveaway is the warm fuzzy feeling I get from knowing someone else will get to enjoy this game.