Two years ago Rick and I traveled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and were introduced to the Amish culture and core beliefs prevalent there. However after a few days in Elkhart County, we have learned there are differences between communities and while each community adheres to the core beliefs, there are differences – some use no electronics while others allow its members to use engines and electricity. Mennonite families are often seen using cars and they worship in churches or centers while conservative Amish restrict themselves to oil lamps, no electricity, and they worship together in each other’s homes. Middlebury, Shipshewana, and Elkhart are three areas we’ve visited and each offer intriguing views.
Eighty percent of recreational vehicles are manufactured here and the industry has bounced back from the 2099 decline – it provides employment to the surrounding communities and good benefits
Farming was historically the main occupation here, it is no longer primary – now it’s also woodworking, cabinet making, guilting, and furniture design/manufacturing work often as part of the RV industry. Our coach was built here and we benefited from the Amish precision and expertise with wood and details.
However almost every home has farm animals especially horses – several different breeds and ages. Horses for the small buggies – the commuter vehicles every Amish family uses, also the larger Belgium or Percheron horses for plowing fields or hauling equipment, and smaller horses or Shetland ponies for the wagons younger Amish uses around their neighborhoods.
The month of May is foaling time for these beautiful creatures and we were lucky enough to see youngsters were in every pasture – some merely hours old. They were endearing and genuinely special creatures – very interested in their new world. Their desire to walk, run and play was overwhelming and overtook any common sense they might have had.
This foal seemed as intrigued by us as we were of him. Someday soon he will be pulling his owners family along the local byways with his own buggy. He was just days old and full of curiosity. Below is another foal who seemed to want his tired mom to get up and play with him. In background is an expectant mom counting the hours till delivery. We saw many other horses who were equally as beautiful and sweet but the babies really grabbed our hearts.
Barns have always had a special attraction for me – here there is usually a buggy with or without horse in the driveway, a hitching post for buggy & horse parking, and a small outbuilding at the end of driveway with a telephone for emergencies. The homesteads are well maintained, often meticulously by hand and play-sets for kids are usually visible in the backyard even a trampoline.
I have refrained from photographing the Amish people as that is their preference but it has been a joy to see them working, walking, biking and just living their lives.
We have enjoyed their food, service and smiles – we ate at the Blue Gate Restaurant, had a buggy ride with a delightful Amish gentleman, shopped at their stores and experienced their genuine pleasure at sharing their peace with us – strangers.
We have slowed our pace and hopefully learned from them about treating all people we meet with kindness and savoring every minute of our day. If you ever swing through this area – stop and enjoy the respite offered by the plain and simple life