11 September 2012

Cows, York and the Amish

7 & 8 Sep 2012--On Friday, we headed out to Perrydell Farm, a place we had read about saying that it was a working farm where you could tour the operation that included the milking of the cows and the making of milk. It also made its own hormone-free ice cream, so out we went. haha

They greatly oversold themselves, and we now think they just wanted to get us out there to buy their ice cream (we did), so we weren't there very long. We did take the time to get these little fun facts below, though...1st cow fun facts and then ice cream fun facts if you feel you just have to know! haha

From the farm we drove into York, PA., another "oversold" spot that we breezed through. We spent more time trying to find the visitor's center and a place to park than we did "in town". So the nub of it is simply that back during the revolution, when Philadelphia was originally the capital of the country but had been overrun by the Brits, our government fled to York which ended up being the capital for a short time. (This 3rd picture here is just one of a series of murals painted on downtown buildings that they are trying to put off as a tourist draw!)

In one small section of town, around the corner from the inconsequential visitor's center, were a series of 4 buildings that looked like these...supposedly restored colonial buildings that you could pay to enter...we didn't! haha

So, on Saturday, the 8th of Sep, we had a much better day sightseeing in Amish Country, starting in a town that is actually called "Bird-in-Hand", PA! A lady that works in the rv park here told us they had a great farmer's market and lots of Amish worked and lived here, so it would be a better place to come to than a ginned up "Amish plantation" where everyone was wearing costumes.

We heard or read somewhere that the Amish don't take their own pictures, and weren't too fond of you doing it either, so we felt we had to sneak around and take these few pics when they weren't looking. We heard this woman in the 2nd pick talking and she kept jumping back and forth between English and what they call Pennsylvania Dutch", a form of German. We learned that the Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the Amish only had to go to school thru the 8th grade, so although they don't believe in higher learning, they do learn English and German and are therefore bilingual. They also learn basic math, reading and geography. They have their own one-room schoolhouses throughout the county, like 200 of them, but pay for them themselves like we would in going to a Catholic school.

Wanting to learn more and get more pictures, we headed back out. This is an "Amish bike", propped up outside the market, followed by a couple different guys riding around town. We bought 2 books on the Amish that explained that they make a lot of compromises when it comes to modern items, this bike being one of them. Their intent in all their rules is to somewhat slow down progress as much as they can, to keep their families close, and to keep themselves as separated from the rest of us as they can. In their quest to slow down progress and to keep their families close, this bike was adapted for their needs. A regular bike, motorcycle or car would allow their kids to go far and wide, and to potentially get into trouble or have more fun than the older people would want them to. They think the more they are exposed to "others" and the wider world, the harder it is to keep them within their religion and community. So this bike allows faster travel than walking, but not so much travel that anyone gets very far away from the clan.

A little history then: Back in the 1680s, William Penn settled this land and after travelling to Europe convinced some Quakers and Mennonites to come here to Lancaster County. (We found this stuff at a Mennonite/Amish Information Center.)

The Mennonites are the precursor, if you will, to the Amish...the break between them came later, but in the 1500s the Mennonites broke from the Catholic Church and other Protestants at the time of the Protestant Reformation. They were 1st called Anabaptists, meaning re-baptizers. They basically wanted baptism to be performed only for adults who freely chose to be baptised, and a separation of church and state, unheard of at that time.

By the 1690s, there was another break that happened, based mostly on how strict the religion was to be. What became known as the Amish wanted the punishments of breaking the rules to be much harsher that what the Mennonites wanted, so that faction broke off. The Amish wanted what we know today as "shunning" and "excommunication" for the worst offenders. Today, as a basic rule of thumb, the Amish are still more strict in what they don't allow than the Mennonites, who are more agreeable to modern advances. The 3rd and 4th pics here show some of the differences.

The Amish community here is the 2nd largest in the country, after Ohio. A few fun facts: They pay income and property taxes; they don't receive Social Security benefits and don't pay Social Security taxes if they are self-employed or work for another Amish person; they are conscientious objectors and refuse to serve in the military under any circumstances; they don't allow divorce and remarriage; they do not serve as police or any other government official; and although they can vote, they are not encouraged to by their elders because they believe God pre-ordains who is supposed to win so they are just supposed to obey their leaders. Remarkably, approximately 85% of their youth choose to be baptised and stay within their religion. And as far as what we have seen in the movies regarding shunning, that only happens after someone who has been baptised breaks a rule badly and refuses to repent. They are generally baptised somewhere between 16 and 21 yrs of age, after they have gone through "rumspringa", a time to go out in the world to see what's there. If you haven't been baptised and decide you don't want to be, you are not shunned for life like we have been led to believe.

Some pics as we drive around town, "stalking" them as Ellen said! haha

This farm was being worked 1st by this woman...couldn't really tell if she was young or old...could have been the sister or the mother of the boy who showed up later.

Same farm...this boy couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 yrs old, handling this team of horses as he rakes the alfalfa (?) that is then made into bales of hay, by what we assumed to be his father. Amazing that the kid is doing this, while we "advanced" people are afraid to let our kids walk to school at that age! I have a video of him, he actually smiled and waved at us, but I couldn't get it to upload here for some reason.

This 1st boy here, a teenager probably, seemed to be spooked by me when I tried to walk near him to ask him a question. Didn't mean to scare him, but he giddy-uped pretty fast away from me.

In one of the books we were reading they rhetorically ask, "What is about them we find so fascinating?" I looked at this picture and had a simple thought...Huck Finn! Isn't that what it makes you think of? The simplicity of that era?

This was a really good day. Between everything, the stalking, the information center, and the books, we really learned a lot. Very interesting!


  1. Paula, don't think you missed a thing, but I certainly did, how sad, I found reading this blogs things I don't remember reading there, haha

    Another wonderful day in PA!!!!!

  2. Mom you look absolutely disgusted by that cow, lol. And all I could think of while reading about the Amish country is Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in "Our Lips are Sealed", "Umm, excuse me! We are in the witness-protection program!" haha. Looks like it was really fun and a pretty interesting place to visit. I'm glad you had fun!

  3. i would think that when the Amish kids are allowed to leave for a bit before Baptism they must find our world a little more than scary. There has certainly become a huge gap between the Amish and the Mennonites. Almost a totally different world. I have to wonder where the similarities lie?
    Glad you all had a great visit.

    1. I read that with everyone they know, all their "norms", being in the Amish world, they can actually have a lot of fun when they venture out for a while, but that is also probably why they have such a high rate of baptisms. Hard to leave behind everyone and everything you know!

      As for the similarities, I think the adult baptism is probably a biggie, but beyond that I don't recall the books we read really going into it. I felt like the Mennonites, particularly the more liberal groups, were closer to regular Protestants than they were to the Amish. But they do have some conservative Mennonites also, so there is a wide spectrum.

      I thought you would find this interesting...made me think in many ways of the Mormons. especially their kids. Seemed like there were an awful lot of blonds running around...haha!