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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Buying a Dawdi Haus, Part Two

So as I said in my last post… My oldest and original Amish friends recently bought a Dawdi Haus.  They had been eying the “English” home next door for a number of years, and when it went up for sale, they bought it to use as their future retirement home.  Since I never show street-view photos of my friends’ houses, I’ll not make an exception here, so you’ll have to imagine a blue house on a hill, overlooking the old family dairy farm.

This is out of the norm in three ways:  Firstly, it is not on the home property—it is next door.  Secondly, it is presently an “English” house, not Amish.  Thirdly, they are not ready to retire; their youngest son is only fifteen.  They will rent the house out for a few years until they need it.

They bought the house from empty nesters who had let it go to rack and ruin, both inside and out.  They have already started the process of cleaning it out.  I saw it recently, and what a mess!  On the outside, they are going to build a small horse barn, but for now, they turned the small yard barn into a horse barn for their renters.  There is an in-ground pool that was in terrible shape, which they are filling in.  The gardens had been neglected for years.  The garage floor and part of the driveway had to be torn out, and their cement-contractor son-in-law is pouring a new floor, complete with a garage drain—which is useful when your ‘garage’ isn’t for cars, but for laundry days, canning, and other messy tasks.

The inside looks like it was done in the 1970s.  Lots of old carpet which will eventually be torn out; the Amish prefer linoleum.  (It’s hard to vacuum carpet when you don’t have plug-in electricity.)  Lots of dated built-ins that were topped with mouse poop.  A balcony which had been enclosed and now is home to hundreds of flies.  A tiny kitchen which will be a lot more Amish-friendly when a wall is knocked out. 

But the house has advantages.  It is large and roomy with lots of natural light, and it sits on a hill where it has beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.  It will be wonderful when it’s done.  And best of all, it’s next door to the old family farm.

So there’s lots to do, but they are up to the task.  Right now the house still has electricity; the Amish around here are allowed to take up to a year to remove the electricity from an English home they purchase, and in the meantime they are allowed to use it, so they can use power tools without having to hook up to a gas-powered generator.  I look forward to seeing their progress!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Buying A Dawdi Haus, Part One

My main and original Amish friends recently purchased a Dawdi Haus.  Most times, however, a Dawdi Haus is built, not bought.

What is a Dawdi Haus?  It’s a retirement home.  In the Amish culture, one of the sons, usually the youngest, gets the farm.  If the youngest is in another line of business, another son gets the farm—or even a daughter and her husband.  In one Amish family I know, the oldest son ended up with the family farm, so there’s some flexibility there.  But traditionally, it’s the youngest son.

It’s a great system, if you think about it… By the time the youngest son marries, probably in his early or mid twenties, the parents are most likely in their sixties.  So the son and his wife take over the farm, and the parents move into the Dawdi Haus (Grandparent House).  Normally this is a second, separate home on the same property as the farm.  Sometimes it’s connected by a breezeway, but each family unit has their privacy, and each woman has her own kitchen.  (Even the Amish believe my father’s old saying, apparently—“Two women can’t live under the same roof.”)

Since the Amish don’t take Social Security payments, it’s the children’s job to care for their aging parents, and this system makes it easier.  Help and assistance is close at hand, and loneliness—the bane of the widowed retiree—is kept at bay.  The newly retired grandparents can do as much or as little farm work as they choose to do, and as health allows.  The grandfather can still help out on the farm, and the grandmother can help with the cooking, grandchildren, or whatever she wants.  They are included in family and social gatherings and never feel like they’ve been left behind. They have their privacy, and their own home, but family is nearby in case of trouble, and they can be properly looked after as they get older.  It’s a tradition that works well.

Anyway… My main and original friends recently purchased a Dawdi Haus—as opposed to building one on their farm.  More about that in Part Two.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Ten Commandments of Shopping

My husband and I go to Amish Indiana mostly to feast—and to feast our eyes—but we also do some shopping.  Over the years I’ve brought home gardening supplies, plants, bird feeders, yard art, furniture, house d├ęcor, clothing, quilted items, books, and who knows what else?  So I thought I would share The Ten Commandments of Shopping in Amish Indiana.   

Commandment #1: 
Check the current Shipshewana Visitor’s Guide.  It’s free and available everywhere, and it contains the popular places that most tourists visit, but also some great out-of-the-way places.

Commandment #2: 
Check out the local visitors' center in Shipshewana on Route 5.  They have lots of brochures describing out-of-the-way places to shop, and they can answer nearly any question!

Commandment #3: 
The further you get from the tourist traps, the better the prices.  Taking a little time to do your homework—or just cruising around the countryside with your eyes open—can save you some money.  If prices matter to you more than convenience does, do some exploring before you buy.

Commandment #4: 
If you see a homemade sign by the road advertising something you might be interested in—pull over.  Drive up the lane and check it out.  They wouldn’t have the sign out there if they didn’t want you to stop by.

Commandment #5: 
If you like yard sales at home, check them out on the road.  I’ve come home with all kinds of things from yard sales in Amish Indiana.

Commandment #6: 
If you like auctions, and you drive by one, pull over.  Chupp’s Auction House is on Shipshewana’s main north-south road (Route 5), but on any given weekend, there are auctions happening all over the countryside.  Pick up a free copy of The People’s Exchange, check bulletin boards in the stores and restaurants, or just keep your eyes peeled as you drive around.  We don’t often buy, but we love to watch.  (And there’s often food available, usually as a fundraiser for a local Amish school.)

Commandment #7: 
Bring a cooler.  Don’t leave home without it!  You never know what you might find, and it’s a real shame to pass up something good for want of a cooler.  A bag of ice is only $1.50, so bring a cooler!

Commandment #8: 
Don’t load up at the first place you stop.  This holds true for bakeries especially.  There are so many good places to explore, so pace yourself!  Stop at lots of places.  Try some new ones.  And save the big tourist traps for last—they’re open late.

Commandment #9: 
Bring home something yummy to share.  I used to bring home goodies for my elderly mother.  Many places have small loaves of bread or pies, packages of three cookies, and other smaller things that make great gifts—so for a few dollars, you can make someone at home very happy.

Commandment #10: 
Try someplace new every time you go.  No matter how often we go to Amish Indiana, we never run out new places to shop, and this is true for me even after 20+ years.  Every country road has a bakery or a farm stand or a sign advertising bread or eggs or honey or maple syrup or candles or something good.

So there you have them...  The Ten Commandments of Shopping in Amish Country.  Go, and sin no more.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Riding the Chicago "L" with the Amish

I have mentioned that my boss has been drawn into my love of Amish Indiana, ever since he drove six of my Amish friends from Indiana to Illinois for my wedding in 2007. 

One time a few years back he decided to invite some of my Amish friends to Chicago for a day of sightseeing, and it was a day of sightseeing like no other.  We went to the Shedd Aquarium, ate lunch at the Signature Room Restaurant on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building, walked around Millennium Park, stopped at a Jewish deli, and rode “The L”—the Chicago subway/elevated train system—where, as it turned out, we made a stranger’s day.  Recently my Amish friend Ruth asked me to tell that story again.

Even an Amishman can have a “bucket list”—and one of the Amish in our party had always wanted to ride The L.  So we (about eight Amish and six “English” in our party) bought tickets and took three or four rides around (and under) the city.  We got some looks, but downtown Chicago is a diverse place, so not as many as you might think!  At one stop, while we waited for our train, I noticed a young female train employee looking at us and talking excitedly into her cell phone, looking close to tears.  When I stepped closer, she said to me, “Are those real Amish people?”  I assured her that they were, and she got even more excited.  She said, “I saw a special on TV about the Amish one time, and I so admire their faith and their way of life.  I’ve always wanted to meet an Amish person for real.  This is really something!”  So I thought I’d see what I could do to help her cross something off her bucket list…  I called over two of my Amish friends and introduced them to her, and she introduced herself to them.

The young woman then told them of her admiration for their lifestyle and their faithfulness to their beliefs, tears running down her face.  She said she was talking to her mother on her cell phone.  As she talked to us, she said things to her mother such as, “Yeah, Mama, they're real Amish people!  Yeah, honestly, for real!  What a blessing!  This is such a blessing!”

My Amish friends were happy to make her acquaintance—and also to make her day.  What a blessing,  indeed.