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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Safety Vests

Last summer I started seeing something new on the local roads:  Amish people riding bicycles were wearing reflective safety vests. 

Although regular bicycles are not allowed in some Amish communities (such as Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where a scooter-type push bike is used instead), they are very popular in Amish Indiana.  Even older citizens can often be seen riding them, and the buggy lanes along the sides of the main roads make it safer than it sounds.  For short hops, a bicycle is more convenient than hitching up a horse and buggy! 

Change is slow and rare in the Amish community, and it always piques my curiosity—so I asked my friend Ruth about them.  She said that the vests are becoming more and more common in the Shipshewana area.  Many of the older church members were hesitant—but the local authorities had a plan.  They went into the local Amish schools and talked about the vests, and even passed some out to the kids.  Naturally, the kids went home and spread the word to their parents and grandparents.

It’s a good safety feature, and when my two new stainless steel knees heal up this spring, I plan to use a safety vest myself, when riding on the streets.  (Shipshewana/Middlebury also has an excellent seven-mile bike trail, which I’ve written about previously.)  It just seems like the smart thing to do.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Pontoon Boat

Did we buy a retirement boat? No! This pontoon boat, which will spend the winter in our new pole barn, belongs to a young, unmarried Amishman we know. He and two friends each put in $15,000 to purchase it a couple of years ago. (There are many lakes in this part of Indiana.) 

Note: He has already “joined church,” so this isn’t a rumspringa thing.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Shipshewana Corn Maze

This corn maze, an annual autumn feature in Shipshewana, Indiana, is beyond belief!  

More info here.

And an aerial video can be found here.

Aerial photo source:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Amish Population Profile, 2017

The Young Center, one of my favorite websites for reliable information about the Amish, published a post entitled "Amish Population Profile, 2017" which reports that in the last ten years, the total Amish population in North America grew from about 218,000 to 318,000 - wow!

More information can be found here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Back to Ervin's

Peeking through the door into the workroom at Ervin's Hardwood Furniture... I have a friend who buys a child-sized rocking chair here for every new grandchild.

I wrote a blog about Ervin's a while back...  Read it here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Amish Buggies in Popular Mechanics Magazine!

My husband found an interesting article!  I've spent time in an Amish buggy shop and it's amazing the options that are available these days.  This article from Popular Mechanics magazine addresses that topic:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bench Wagons

So… the Amish don’t have church buildings, but rather, they take turns hosting church, which is held once every two weeks.  A family typically will host church twice a year.  One of the things that makes this easier is the bench wagon. 

Last summer I was hanging out with some Amish friends in Goshen, Indiana, and they had a brand-new, state-of-the-art bench wagon sitting in their yard.  They offered to show me how it was arranged, and they said it was fine if I took photos.  They didn’t have to tell  me twice!  I’ve been intrigued by bench wagons for years, and I’ve always wanted to see one up close.

Here’s how it works:  Each church district has their own horse-drawn bench wagon.  The wagon is taken to wherever church (or some other event, like a wedding or funeral) is going to be held.  Everything is organized for easy storage and to make sure nothing goes missing between events.

The essence of the bench wagon is the benches!  They are stored in the back of the wagon.  The number on the end of the bench tells how many feet long it is.  There are two fold-down uprights, one on each end of the bench, so setup is easy.  On this new bench wagon, the shelves are carpeted, and there is a chart on the left back door which shows how to store them properly and how many there should be.

The side and front doors of the wagon hold more goodies—everything needed to host and conduct a church service. 

The Ausbund, or hymnal, is the same one that the Amish have used for hundreds of years.  It is written in old German, much like Shakespearean English—very different from the “Dutch” that the Amish speak as their first and main language.  The hymnals are stored in these tough plastic boxes with handy lifting slots cut into them.  Each box holds 24 books.  

This bench wagon belongs to church district 71-2, so everything in the wagon carries that number.  These hymnbooks look very fresh and new—because this was a recently-formed church district, so the wagon and everything in it was recently purchased and assembled.

After a three-hour church service, there is always a meal!  The menu is fairly well set, including Amish church peanut butter, which I’ve written about before.  The bench wagon contains all the dishes, flatware, etc. needed to serve a congregation of 25-35 families, all organized and labeled.

All in all, the bench wagon is an idea that works well, and I was glad to see this one up close!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

25 Facts? Part Five

This is the final installment of my comments on an article I recently came across online entitled “25 Facts About the Amish That Everyone Should Know”—a well-meaning article filled with the typical misinformation about the Amish which is constantly floating around the internet...

7.  The Population In Amish Communities Is Steadily Growing. 
Because Amish get married so young and have so many children, their communities actually see a yearly growth rate of 3.6%!

The Amish don’t get married that young, but they do have a lot of children—and in Northern Indiana, 90% of them remain in the Amish faith.  Experts agree that the Amish population is doubling about every twenty years.   

6.  Their Modesty Extends To Their Opinions Of Others. 
The Amish are not arrogant people, as they see that as a sin. This being so, they do not judge or condemn people of the modern world for their lifestyle choices.

I would think that Amish opinions about those of us in the modern world would vary widely from person to person.  I know that my own Amish friends seem to accept my faith and lifestyle as being okay for me, at least.  They sometimes close their letters to me with “Love” or “God Bless You.”  It seems that they feel that if a person is born Amish, then God probably wants him or her to be Amish; but if a person is born something else, then they wouldn’t really expect us to convert.

The photo?  These girls in their printed dresses, one with long braids, are not Amish, but perhaps they are German Baptists or another conservative group.

5.  They Wait Until A Person Is Old Enough To Make The Decision To Be Baptized. 
Unlike some Christian branches, the Amish believe in waiting until a person is old enough, typically around age 16-24, before accepting the religion.

This is true.  “Joining church” is a serious and lifelong commitment, so they want their young people to count the cost, so to speak, and be sure of their decision.  In Amish Indiana, I believe the typical age is more like 18-19 to 24.

Interesting photo, but certainly not Amish.  The Amish are baptized by “sprinkling,” not immersion.

4.  There Are More Amish People Than You Would Guess To Be Living In America. 
There are reportedly over 300,000 Amish people living in America! It would be hard for anyone not familiar with Amish communities to know just how many people actually reside in these communities.

The Young Center’s Amish Studies project and other reliable sources agree with the 300,000 number.  Since so many live in rural areas, it does make them less visible to the outside world.

3.  The Amish Are Pacifists Who Will Never Serve In The Military. 
Not only are the Amish soft-spoken, but they are also against violence in any form. Because of this, no men are allowed to join the military. If they do join, they are banned from the community.

The Amish are conscientious objectors who will not serve in the military, although, historically, they have accepted forms of peaceful “alternative service” in times of war.  They are against violence in any form, including self-defense; they call this belief “non-resistance.”

2.  Building Barns Is A Form Of Fun And Socialization In Communities. 
Building barns is one way the men in Amish communities pass the time and socialize in large groups.

Barn-raisings are still an important part of the Amish community.  During one recent visit with some Amish friends, the husband told me he had spent most of the previous week at a barn-raising.  Ten or twenty years ago, which was few years after I first met him and his wife, the ancient barn on their own farm was torn down and replaced with a newer, better one by a barn-raising group of local Amishmen.

The photo accompanying the article looks extremely fake, however; no one would build a barn like that!

1.  Contrary To Popular Belief, The Amish Don’t Mind Having Their Photos Taken By Others.
While the Amish aren’t opposed to allowing people to take their pictures, they do not take photographs themselves or keep them in their homes.

This is totally untrue.  Most Amish very much object to having their pictures taken by others.  As an example:  In 2007, six of my Amish friends came to my Presbyterian wedding.  One of them walked over to the wedding photographer before the service started, and he asked him not to take any photos of them.  When I visit Amish friends, I have, on occasion, asked if I could take a picture of the farm, or the woods, or a garden, or some such thing, and they were fine with that.  One time recently I was looking at a brand-new bench wagon, and they even asked me if I wanted to take any photos, which I did!  (I am saving the pictures for a future blog post on bench wagons.)


I would guess that the author of this article meant no harm…  But it is harmful to spread this kind of disinformation.  The Amish are misunderstood enough as it is!  I don’t know everything there is to know about the Amish, and customs do differ somewhat from one Amish community to another—but I hope this helps.

For further information on the Amish, try these reliable sources: 

The Young Center’s Amish Studies Project