A Trip To The Amish Store
I was fortunate enough to be able to meet with Mrs. Addy again. I kinda invited myself over. (I couldn’t help it! I’m fascinated by her.) I went to the Farmer’s Market to bring back a big bucket that she had sent home with me (filled with rabbit droppings for my new blueberry bushes). After making small talk I finally blurted out, “So… I was wondering… if you aren’t busy tomorrow, would it be okay if I came over, just for a little while?” She shrugged, laughing, and said, “Sure! We aren’t very interesting, but you’re welcome to come over.” We made plans for me to visit.
The next day I got up early and headed out the door. When I pulled into their dirt driveway I saw in my rear view mirror the three youngest kids running up to greet us. I got out of the van and said “Hey you guys!” I opened the van door to let Jada out, and the youngest girl jumped in and started unbuckling Jada’s carseat. They’ve formed quite a little friendship, and were very happy to see each other again! As I was unloading the kids the oldest girl came over and said, “Mama wants to know if you want to go to the Amish store?” Cool! Of course I said, “Yeah!” The boy, about 11 yrs. old, unloaded my extra carseats to make room for everyone. He’s very helpful. Before we left, the oldest girl brought out some made from scratch blueberry pastries for everyone to eat for breakfast as we drove. We all loaded back into my van, and away we went. This was the first time I’d ever gone to the Amish store. I didn’t even know there was one around.
As we pulled up, and all began getting out, I heard the youngest say to my daughter, “Come on Jada! I’ll buy you something.” I thought that was incredibly generous (coming from a 7 year old)! I began asking Addy how she taught her kids to be so thoughtful and unselfish. She said that when they go to the Farmer’s Market, the girls have their own things to sell (like lemonade and baked goods). Her son gets to work with his Father occasionally to earn his own money. Whatever they earn, they pay tithe off of first, then they can do whatever (with guidance) they want with the rest. They have a “Fun Funds” jar, which they all can contribute to. If there is something that all of them are wanting, like going out to eat or something, they get their money from there. They are learning the real value of a dollar. And, when a little friend of theirs has a birthday or something, the kids wrap up one of their own toys to give as their gift.
I was enthralled with this gift giving idea. What a wonderful way to teach your children to give, I mean really give from the heart! Then sadly I realized how frowned upon this would probably be by most people. Our society is so spoiled and ungrateful; most people would probably think that this would be “cheap” and unacceptable. Yet still, I am contemplating this method myself, at least with close friends. I’m ashamed to say though that I would probably be the one being greedy with the toys, and wanting to keep the “best” ones for my own kids. Nevertheless, teaching my kids such a valuable lesson would be a great way for me to learn as well about being more giving, and overcoming selfishness.
As we entered the Amish store, Mrs. Addy showed me around. She led me up the narrow aisles, pointing out bags of baking needs, spices, candy and more. I noticed that a lot of the items for sale were quite over priced. I would not buy most stuff from there. She was right about the spices, however. They were priced very reasonably; much cheaper than the grocery store! I bought a 1 pound bag of Dutch Cocoa Powder for about $3.00. (My hubby just adores chocolate milk!) She said it’s way better than Hershey’s! She showed me how she peels the sticky label from the bag, and uses it to label the Mason jar that she stores her own in. We left the little shop, and went to a newer one up the road. I didn’t realize there was an Amish community so close to my own home! This next store was even more expensive. It was nice though. Addy showed me her weakness; lacey, embroidered handkerchiefs. This is one of the only things she gets from this store. I kinda laughed and asked, “What do you do with these?” She said, “Blow my nose”, laughing at my ignorance. I was surprised! I didn’t know people still did that! I guess they don’t buy Kleenex. I thought that was funny… but frugal! The kids played outside in the handmade playhouses while we looked around. Jada enjoyed the sucker that her new friend had so generously purchased for her. She wanted to buy Jada some ice cream too, but they were all out.
After a little while, we decided it was time to go. As we drove home through the country roads, I began asking tons of questions. I asked about how she does her laundry, how she feeds her animals, how she stores her flour and sugar, how she makes her yogurt and bread, what kinds of herbs she uses, and on and on. She was very sweet to tell me everything I was so curious to know. Here are some of the things that I learned:
To keep her line dried clothes soft, she does use fabric softener. She gets the cheap kind from the dollar store, and pours it in a downy ball. It holds less than the cap does. She says one bottle lasts forever.
I asked her if she line dries every single thing, even tiny baby socks. She said yes. Every thing, one by one.
In the winter, she still line dries. If the clothes are frozen, they thaw when hung inside. She hangs them pinned to clothes hangers on the shower curtain rod. If it’s going to rain on washing day, she considers that her day off, and does it another day. If it’s going to rain for a few days, she washes all she can before the weather gets bad.
She stores her flour and sugar (about 25 lbs. at a time) in large covered buckets. She said she’s never had a problem with bugs in either. The flour from the mill is fresh, and doesn’t have bugs or bug’s eggs in it.
She has limited space in her humble home, so to make good use of what square footage she does have, she stores tons of stuff underneath all of the beds, and her husband has built shelves wherever he had space to.
To feed her cows she uses the hay from her field, her father-in-law’s 10 acres, and even from friends who just want their field cleaned up. The only cost is the tractor fuel.
To feed her pig she said that she has a couple of old ladies at the church who fill buckets for her of all the church’s leftover food scraps, along with their own family’s leftovers. There is also a man up the road who owns a small convenient store. Whatever goes bad he sends to her for her pig. Her own family’s leftovers go to the pig as well.
The chickens run loose, and eat whatever they find: bugs, plants, etc. They throw bread crumbs and stuff out to them occasionally.
I forgot to ask what she feeds the rabbits, but I’m sure it’s straight from her garden.
She does not compost. There is no need. The manure from the field turns it’s soil so black and rich, it’s perfect for the garden. Besides, the pig gets all of the food scraps.
Speaking of the pig, I asked her if she has to buy a new one every year. She said no, she breeds the one she has, and once the babies have been weaned, it will be ready for the dinner table.
She has an incubator to hatch chicken eggs.
They heat the Water Stove with junk mail (other people bring them theirs too), trash, boxes, and wood. They only have to burn one fire to heat three days worth of hot water.
She doesn’t buy trash bags; she has no need. Most of their trash is burned or fed to the pig. What little trash she can’t use just goes into a plastic grocery bag to be thrown out.
She has a bread maker, but prefers not to use it. She has a favorite bread recipe, and it doesn’t “agree” with the machine. She doesn’t mind making it by hand.
She does not have a yogurt maker. She said that to make her yogurt, she fills a gallon size glass jar with fresh milk, cream and all, and adds one cup of plain yogurt to it. She leaves it out all day, and by nightfall the whole thing has turned into yogurt.
She makes her own syrup from strawberries and other things.
She grows her own pecans for pies and whatever else.
She dehydrates fruit, and loves to experiment with new recipes.
She gets her popcorn from a Popcorn Farm just up the road from me. I never even knew there was such a thing! She said she’d have to take me there sometime. I asked her if she had a popcorn maker. She showed me what she had. It is an old fashioned looking pot, with a crank handle on it that turns a rod along the bottom of the pot to keep the kernels from sticking. It has a lid on it to keep the popcorn in as it fills up. It works with any kind of heat source, electric stove or fire. (That sounds like a fun field trip!)
She has a Pressure Cooker and a Canner, which is much bigger.
She makes her own Mozzarella and Cottage Cheese, but says she hasn’t mastered the aging process of the other kinds of cheese yet.
Instead of paper towels, she just uses any rag or cloth she can find.
I asked her if she got her kids immunized when they were smaller. She told me that she did not sign for all of their shots, just the ones that she didn’t have an herb for. Like me, she did not give them the Chicken Pox shot. She said she was the one who all of the doctors dreaded, she was “that mom”.
She showed me some herbs that she uses around the house. Burdock for teething babies (not ingested; she actually dug one up for me to take home), Plantain for bee stings. Eye Bright for allergies. She has a friend who owns an herbal shop, who hooks her up with anything she needs.
She gets bananas from that nearby convenient store owner. When they turn black on the bottom from the air, and nobody will buy them, he passes them her way. The ones that are still good she dehydrates. The others go to the pig.
She makes a monthly menu for her family, and sticks to it.
She had a great tip for making homemade pizza on a budget. She makes the dough herself. For the toppings, she goes to a nearby All You Can Eat Buffet and orders a salad to go. She then fills the plate with all of her pizza toppings: cheese, pepperoni, olives, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, anything! They sell it by weight; she said it costs her around $2.00. What a great idea, I thought!
She has learned how to make Pita type pockets in mason jars out of leftover meals. She bakes them in the jar, and cans them to store in her cabinets. She makes them out of anything! She calls them “Dump It’s” because when you open the jar, you dump it out to eat it. She makes breakfast and lunch Dump It’s for her husband to take to work with him, so that he doesn’t eat out, or just have a cold sandwich. She fills them with anything from eggs and bacon, to BBQ Deer meat, potatoes and corn. He puts them in the window of the truck, and by lunch time it’s warm and ready to eat. They don’t go bad either. Apparently you can “can” anything and it will not spoil!
When we got back to their home, the youngest announced that she wanted to make grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone’s lunch. We sat around inside, talking, and eating our yummy food. Addy told me tons of stuff. She showed me her favorite herbal books, and favorite “Non-electric” catalog. It’s called “Lehman’s”. They are the ones who make things that the Amish use, including that neat Popcorn Pot. She said that whenever they get their tax money back, she gets to splurge on something she really wants from this catalog.
Time flew by, and four hours later I realized how long I’d been there, and told them that I needed to get going. Before I left, I traded a tube of toothpaste with her for a bar of her homemade soap. My dear “other” mom was just telling me how much she would love to have some of her soap. As we were loading into the car, the little girl begged me to let Jada stay and go to church with her. I smiled and told her maybe another time we can plan on it. Realizing what I’d just said, I looked at Addy and said, “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what denomination are you?” She said, “Go ahead and ask! We go to a Baptist church.” “Oh, good.” I said. “I didn’t want to say Jada could go to church with you not knowing what you believe.” So, we said our goodbyes, pried the girls apart, and I went home with a head swimming full of information.
What gets me is that Addy is so humble. She thinks it’s funny that I find her interesting. I do though. I really, really do. I hope that this is the beginning of a long friendship with this amazing family.