The world is seldom presented with an inside perspective on the lives of the most conservative group of Amish, commonly referred to as the Swartzentruber Amish. One of the reasons for that is that they seldom allow English (their term for everyone that is not Amish) into their homes.
Sam and Mattie have been friends of ours for going on twenty years. Sam used to work for us until the church requested that he move back to the farm, and in hindsight, it is a good thing he did. It has enabled him to be the much-needed father and husband on the farm.
Sam and Mattie now have nine children, six boys and three girls. They purchased a 60-acre farm 11 years ago which has at least tripled in value since then.
My blog will only allow me to hit the highlights of their lifestyle as I deliberately keep my posts brief.
Think back to Laura Ingalls Wilder. This would approximate their lifestyle.
They use no electricity, no cell phones or landlines, no cars, no TV, no computers, and eschew graveling their driveways. Their income is derived primarily from the land. They plow their fields with a team of horses and a one-bottom plow. If they can plow two acres a day, they and the horses have put in a good day’s work.
From the fields they harvest oats and corn for the cows, horses, chickens, hogs, and goats. The hay is cut with a horse drawn sickle. After it has dried, they haul it loose into the barn where a huge two-pronged hook pulled by horses unloads the hay.
The Jersey cows are milked morning and evening, 365 days a year. The young children, starting at four years of age, help with the milking with a child sitting on each side of one cow pulling on their pair of teats. Mom and Dad also milk and coordinate the activity. The milk check provides a steady income.
Mattie is kept on her toes with the oldest boy, Harvey, 16 years of age, and the youngest just over a year old. She churns her own butter, makes her own bread, butchers her own hogs, and cans produce from the garden, and makes most of their clothes.
Ice is purchased each winter from nearby ponds and stored in a shed insulated with sawdust, providing refrigeration.
Because they are unable to cool the milk from the cows with electrically powered cooling tanks, they are forced to sell their milk each day at a lower price to a dairy that uses it for milk related products such as cheese and yogurt.
Water is pumped from the well by a windmill, after which it is stored in a cistern behind the house. The hand pump in the house and in the laundry pumps water from the cistern.
The children walk to school each day. The one room schoolhouse is located about a mile away. They attend until the eight grade.
The children start working away from home as soon as they are out of school but only at businesses that are within a horse and buggy distance from the farm. They do not accept rides with the English under extenuating circumstances.
When Sam left us, after working with us for eight years, we researched with him the intricacies of basket weaving. We found suppliers for the veneer, nails, molds, and the assembly horse that the baskets are woven on. The children have grown up weaving as well. Their income is supplemented by the basket sales.
They read the Bible and pray together as a family before starting each day and before retiring at night. They offer thanks for their meals before and after eating. Their choice of separation from the world is based on the Scriptural admonition to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord” (II Corinthians 6:17).
They consider photographs of people as a violation of the second commandment that forbids having “any graven image before Me, says the Lord” (Exodus 20:4). You will notice that the pictures I have included do not include pictures of any family member.
“As much as is possible, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18) is a principle they live by.
We count it an honor to be surrounded by Amish families such as Sam and Mattie.