Amish Country Journal

Reports and musings from Indiantree Farm, in Holmes County, Ohio -- the largest Amish community in the world. See more about author Larry D. Miller and Amish Country at

Saturday, February 21, 2009

'Big wind' sweeps valley, bypasses Indiantree hill

Feb. 17, 2009
In a rare changeup style of delivery, the forces of nature focused high winds into the "Goosebottom" valley rather than across the Indiantree Hilltop.

Our neighbor Jonas reported last night's big blow ripped off both of his big barn doors, sailed them across the barnyard and left them heavily damaged. His storm door vanished, as did a smattering of slate and metal strips from various roofs. He spent today in "patchup and fixup" mode and figures it'll be Thursday or Friday before everything is back to normal.

Meanwhile, up here on the windswept hilltop, things were relatively untouched. Of course a new "crop" of twigs and small branches was scattered across the lawns of the main and guest houses, but a quick looksee showed minimal damage. And granddaughter Liz soon had the sticks picked up.

All the wind had no effect on the Amish boy's basketball action. After darkness swallowed the valley and all the chores were finished, the guys gathered in Jonas's new workshop for a game of hoops. He uses a couple of auto backup light bulbs hooked to an old car battery for light and sometimes they play in the straw shed, sometimes in the shop. The guys prefer the shop because the straw shed has a four-foot-square hole in the floor, used for dumping hay and straw down to the lower level.

But that hole can be a really slick way of getting rid of a pesky opponent who's guarding too closely or trying to steal the ball.

Tightening economy reaches Amish country

Jan. 7, 2009
Amish Country thus far has been pretty much immune to the impact of tough economic times.
Some businesses reported a slight dropoff in tourist visits but most didn't seem to be severely affected.

But along with the freezing rain and slippery roads that went with Old Christmas (Jan. 6, Epiphany) the Amish neighbors were talking about layoffs and cutbacks.

Walnut Creek Planing had to lay off 28 employees because of shrinking demand for its hardwood furniture components. As a result, David Miller, owner of Erb's Tarp Shop, has hired on a couple of extended family members who were on the planing mill layoff list.

David has been burning the late night (and early morning) oil in an attempt to catch up since a midsummer car-bicycle crash on the highway out front claimed the life of neighbor Marcus Shetler. When a tragedy of that sort occurs, all the neighbors put their lives on hold and they pitch in to deal with the immediate family's grief, daily chores, funeral arrangements and other unexpected needs.

David reports that last night's sleet and ice made for some eye-widening driving conditions as his family - and others in the neighborhood - were driving their buggies home from Old Christmas gatherings. If you think sliding around on ice is exciting in a car, imagine applying the brakes on a skinny, top-heavy buggy with smooth steel wheel treads just one inch wide . . . as you're rounding a curve while descending the Walnut Creek hill!

Think of it as riding a giant, out-of-control pendulum.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Amish in Kentucky help English neighbors after storm

We weren't surprised when we read a story by our old friend Roger Alford, an Associated Press reporter in Kentucky, about how the Amish community in that state is helping English neighbors who are without power because of the ice storm in January.

Our experience in Ohio has been the same. The Amish help their neighbors. And, generally speaking, their neighbors help them.

Roger wrote from Mayfield, Ky., about how after the freezing rain stopped, Joe Stutzman gathered his spare lanterns and stepped out of his Amish farmhouse to lend them to his modern-living neighbors.

"I feel sorry for my neighbors who were used to electricity and all of a sudden didn't have it," Stutzman said. "I know that must be hard for them."

Here's the rest of Roger's story:

Hundreds of thousands of people in Kentucky have been without electricity for their lights, furnaces, ovens and refrigerators since the killer storm hit more than a week ago, and some spots might not get power back for weeks.
But Kentucky's Amish have been living that way all their lives. And when the disaster struck, they generously lent a hand to their non-Amish neighbors and showed them how it's done.
"Those folks are very good at sustaining themselves," said Master Sgt. Paul Mouilleseaux, a National Guard spokesman.
The Stutzman family and the roughly 8,500 other Amish in the state were essentially unaffected by the storm that knocked out power to more than 1.3 million customers last week, about half of them in Kentucky.
Stutzman, his wife and their seven children were secure in their toasty, two-story home amid corn and soybean fields and swampy stands of cypress in western Kentucky.
"We paid it no attention," Stutzman said Tuesday, relaxing in a handmade rocker as a wood stove across the room radiated heat on a windy morning with temperatures in the low 20s.
He grabbed a log, taken from a big pile out back, threw it on the fire and lit a kerosene lamp. The cellar was stocked with canned goods, the milk cow safe in the barn. Stutzman's wife and two of their daughters used the wood-fired oven in the kitchen to do their baking.
Stutzman, a sturdy 40-year-old with a traditional Amish beard and a black-brimmed hat, said he would not have even known the storm was coming if one of his neighbors had not told him about the forecast. He is a member of the Old Order Amish, a sect that shuns modern conveniences such as radios and televisions.
James and Beverly Hutchins, a non-Amish couple who sheltered nine relatives in their home, said they don't know what they would have done without the Amish family across the road from them, not far from the Stutzmans.
The neighbors brought over hot coffee every morning during the week the power was out, provided well water, cooked a meal for them, lent them a kerosene lantern and fixed the one lantern the Hutchinses had.
"Best neighbors we've ever had, and we've been around a few places," 76-year-old James Hutchins said.
Beverly Hutchins said she told the Amish family that she would turn her porch light on when the power came back on as a signal so they would know they didn't need to bring over coffee. That finally happened Tuesday night.