My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


I was in an Amish warehouse recently and I noticed this portable gaslight lamp (above), and I thought I’d talk a bit about how the Amish light their homes and businesses. 

Until recent years (and still very often today), Amish homes and business were lit mostly with old-style kerosene lanterns and more often, gaslight from a propane tank.  The light shines out of a “mantle” made of some kind of fireproof material.  The glow is pretty, but it flickers and it’s hard to read by.

The portable gaslight I saw in the warehouse was not made to be pretty, but the ones used in homes are often built into what look like end tables on wheels.  Underneath – the gas tank.  Up above – the light fixture.  But these days, the gas tanks inside the end tables are being replaced with large batteries, and the light up above comes from an LED bulb.  Still portable, but much better.  Sometimes there is a pretty lampshade, but I used this picture because it shows the “works” better.  A second one can be seen in the background to the right.

Other types of gaslights are built into the walls of the homes. Newer and newly remodeled Amish homes often have built-in gas lines with lights like this one, seen in a bathroom.  Some local Amish farmhouses are even being hooked up to the natural gas lines that are making their way into the countryside.

I used to see all kinds of portable kerosene and gas lanterns, which were carried around and hung on hooks on the ceiling.  Many of those are being replaced by portable battery-powered lanterns such as this brand-new one I saw the other day:

Some people believe the Amish don’t use electricity at all, which is not true.  They use batteries, generators, and even solar panels, for instance.  What they don’t use is regular Com-Ed type power.  This lifestyle choice evolved early in the 20th century as a way to keep television, radio, and other worldly influences out of their homes.

If an Amish family buys an “English” home—an increasingly common event these days in our area—the Amish family has one year to remove the electricity from the home.  As one Amish farm wife (and mother of eight) told me, “I’m sure going to miss that dishwasher!”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Yoder Consignment Auction

So, my husband has been doing a lot of driving and hauling for the local Amish lately, as a way to keep busy and earn some mad money in retirement.  A few weeks ago he discovered Yoder’s Consignment Auction, and I had to check it out.

This is a twice-a-year event (spring and fall) that draws huge crowds.  Earnest and Esther Yoder hold the auction on their farm, which is located a few miles southwest of Shipshewana at 2270 S 1000W.  Friday is the day to set up, and Saturday is the auction. 

I went out last Friday (April 13)  with my husband and an Amishman who has a water treatment business.   

The trucks, trailers, and buggies were lined up down the road all day, waiting to get onto the grounds and check in their consignment items.  Vendors were setting up their tent displays or unloading items.  The public was also in attendance, walking around to preview the items for sale.  A school fundraiser group was there to feed everyone.

The fields were filling up fast with machinery of all kinds. On Saturday, there would be a mobile auction booth on the back of a pickup truck, which would drive up and down the aisles and auction off the large outdoor items. 

As many as five auctioneers would work at once, both outdoors and in the tents.  The Saturday schedule was: 
  • 8:30 a.m. – Wagonloads of miscellaneous
  • 9:00 a.m. – Hog, dairy, and farm equipment; sporting goods; new and used furniture; bicycles; shop tools; and lawn/garden items
  • 9:30 a.m. – Horses
  • 10:00 a.m. - Buggies
Besides the actual auction, there were rows and rows of tents, and our friend had rented one of the smaller ones to set up his display.  Other larger tents had goods for sale, both new and used.  There was plenty of food, both in the main building where the local Amish school fundraiser was selling both hot and cold items, and from other food vendors on the grounds.

Saturday brought more rain.  But in spite of the terrible weather, it was a good day.  The crowd was overwhelmingly Amish, and the fields nearby had become “buggy parking lots.”  The crowds were smaller than usual, but still large, and our friend sold ten water treatment units that day! 

The next Yoder Consignment Auction is some time in the fall.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Plowing Time

An Amish friend, getting ready to plow last Saturday near Centreville, Michigan.  
Six Belgian draft horses and a two-bottom plow.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Amish and Technology

Here is an interesting New York Times article about the Amish and technology.  This article focuses on the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Amish settlement, but I've seen these issues here in northeast Indiana also.  The photo above is taken from the article.

I liked the quote, "Many Amish people draw a bright line between what is allowed at work — smartphones, internet access — and what remains forbidden at home." That is very true here in Indiana, also. Also, the bright line between things which they are allowed to hire, but not own (like cars).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Going to a Horse Auction

So, one day in early January I had nothing pressing to do, and I wandered over to Shipshewana to the Michiana Events Center, or as the locals, call it, “The Mec.”  It is a big new building south of downtown, with two wings.  The first is a big, open, well-lit all-purpose area, and the second is an arena with rows of seats. Two events were taking place there that day.

I intended to go to the consignment auction in the all-purpose area—five auction rings featuring all kinds of stuff—because one of the rings had an estate sale with some Amish genealogy books I wanted.  I enjoyed sitting in the front row for an hour, waiting for my Amish best friend to join me. 

I didn’t get the books—too expensive!—so the two of us wandered over to the other wing, where the Standardbred horse auction was being held.

Wow, what a nice arena!  We watched from the area above the seats for a while, and then my friend went back to the consignment auction to bid on a piece of furniture (which she got).  I got some French fries and a bottle of water and found a seat.

As you can see, the crowd was nearly all Amish, but I’m getting used to that since I moved here and started getting deeper into the local culture.  (I said to my friend before she left, “Now I know how you guys feel when you’re in downtown Chicago!”) 

This auction was for Standardbred horses, which are the type commonly used to pull Amish buggies.  Many of them are former racehorses from Canada which weren’t quite perfect enough for a career on the racetrack.  Others are brought in from horse breeders in the Amish areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Anyway,  the whole thing was fascinating.  For instance, I loved the names of the horses.  American Anthem,  Majestic Stone, Sapphire Sue, Fear the Major, FiFi LaFleur, Hashtag Fast, Vicki Jo Buffalo, Linda’s Lucky Chucky, Decisive Moment, Gold Dust Darling, Magic in Motion—so creative!  The program listed each horse by name, consigner (seller), Sire (father), and Dam (mother). 

I also loved the comments section on some of the listings.  These stallions, geldings, and mares were being sold as Amish buggy horses, so the comments reflected that.  A few examples:  “If you’re one of those particular guys looking for that nice driving mare with looks and drive, check her out.”  “Fresh mare right off the track.  Very classy—all trot!”  “Sharp driver, stands to hitch and at corners.  Very well mannered.”  “Nice headset and front end motion...  A horse that when you walk out of your barn, he makes your bad days turn into the best days.”

Most of the horses sold for $5,000 to $8,000—but one went for $13,000!  The price depends on age, size, looks, pedigree, and level of training.  The price of buggy horses is going up in recent times, due to the explosive growth of the Amish population—from 217,000 to 317,000 in the last ten years!

There is a Clydesdale auction coming up at MEC this spring, and I think I’ll be in attendance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Amish Schools, Part Four: A Few More Things

So, this is fourth and last in my series of posts about Amish schools.  I have a booklet which I borrowed from an Amish school board member that gives lots of information, so I’ll borrow from that for this post.

This school year (2017-2018) there are exactly 100 Amish schools in the tri-county area (Elkhart, Lagrange, and Noble counties, in northeastern Indiana).  Five were new this year—Anderson Trail, Scenic Hills, Power Line, Orchard View, and Pigeon River.  The newer schools are generally built with metal or vinyl siding (white) and a shingled or metal roof.  Hot water heat is usually built into the floor, and the water well is powered by a battery pack.  Often there is a second building used for storage, power sources, and as a horse barn.

Each school is run by a three-man school board consisting of local parents.  The schools are grouped into districts of 12-15 schools, and above that, there is a state Amish school board.  The tri-county area also has special committees for special education, testing, teacher workshops, and buildings.  There is a special new “Schools for Schools” board which endeavors to help with the financing of new schools; counting land costs, a new school can cost $140,000 to build!

Who are the teachers in these schools?  They are chosen from within the Amish community itself.  The teachers (most are female but some are male) will have had only an eighth grade education themselves, but they need to have scored at the 10th grade level on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  They get further training through periodic teachers’ meetings (every six weeks) and by reading the Amish teachers’ magazine called The Blackboard Bulletin.  Some teachers live in special teacher’s quarters which are often built into the newer schoolhouses.  Their pay comes from tuition fees paid by the students.  Most of the schools have two or three teachers, but a few have four.

The 100 schools in the tri-county area are mostly recent, as the Amish population has exploded (and more Amish parents withdrew their children from public school).  One was built in the 1940s; one in the 1950s; eighteen in the 1960s; fifteen in the 1970s; seventeen in the 1980s; twenty-one from 2000-2010; and twenty-seven since 2010.

I love the names of the schools!  Most are chosen for some geographical attribute of the area.  My favorites are Cottonwood Grove, Triple Bend, Singing Hills, Peaceful Meadow, Tollway View, Sunny Ridge, Birdsong Echoes, Blue Heron, and Little Acorn.

If you drive through Amish Indiana, you’ll see one of these buildings, with their yard full of bicycles, baseball diamonds, and bells on top, every few miles.  It’s okay to slow down and get a better look, or even take photos—as long the children aren’t outside playing.

Saturday, April 14, 2018