A Late Summer Field on an Amish Farm


In the second week of August, JB & I decided to take a drive a few miles to the west, here in lower Michigan, to a rural area of numerous Amish farming communities. I always take my camera because one time when I didn’t, there was a perfect photo of two draft horses, with a hay wagon backed up to a barn door, waiting for the hay to be unloaded before going for another load. Oh how I want that image that is perfectly composed in my brain.

Most of the time having a camera is a frustrating experience because the Amish do not want to have photographs of themselves because they consider photos to be “graven images” or idolatry. There have been several times when I could have taken a photo while they were facing the other direction (and I did this once) but I haven’t been able to get past the guilt of such blatant disrespect, even with my advanced skill of rationalization.

So I take photos of hay fields on cloudy days in a misty drizzle.


The purpose of our little excursion was to go to the Amish bulk food store to get a few things – and the granola I love to eat on ice cream. I always think that our automobile is strangely out of place in the parking lot – although they do welcome our business.



Down Dirt Roads: Wildflowers


We did our “down dirt roads” outing last week and found several new ones a little north of where we have wandered through Amish country. Julie was driving and she didn’t stop by any Amish farms and I didn’t say the magic word (stop), even though there were lots of interesting images waiting to be captured. Sometimes I am tempted to take photos of children, or adults when their back is turned or I am a distance away. But I don’t because I know they don’t like their photos to be take – for religious reasons. And I want to respect their right to privacy. It seems extra important to me as we, as a culture, seem to be showing an increasing lack of respect for the needs and rights of those who are different while at the same time screaming when others disrespect our rights. I keep remembering what Mr. Stott taught me in my high school civics class: My rights end where your rights begin. Probably wouldn’t get many votes as a campaign slogan.


We kept our eye on the sky, more to look for blue and some sun instead of a concern of bad weather. We picked the day because it was the only one that didn’t have a forecast of rain. Sometimes we pick wrong.

It was a good morning for wild flowers as they are just coming into bloom. Julie and I tried to name them but really didn’t know most of them. I find it hard to remember from one year to the next, just like it is hard to remember names of acquaintances. Good thing I have a wildflower book or two for reference.

I would appreciate help with those wild flowers I couldn’t identify. I especially like the one in the bottom right-hand corner.

A Visit to a Bakery


Photo buddy, Julie, and I sometimes wander around in the Amish areas close to where we live. As I have written before, I have a curiosity about their lifestyle. Also, our own neighborhood can feel mundane after a while and I seek the unique to photograph. Julie and I found this bakery in early spring, before they opened for the season. Because we love baked goods, a recent outing was kind of structured around returning.  On that outing I bought a cinnamon roll, raisin bread, and some molasses cookies. And I knew I needed to return.


JB & I decided to go last Saturday morning because they serve coffee and sell fresh doughnuts on Saturdays. I decided that JB and I could split one because we are both watching what we eat and fried doughnuts aren’t on the okay list. I took one bite of the one he chose and was lost in total bliss. It went straight to the pleasure center of my brain – like I had stuffed it through a needle into a vein. No splitting one this time. I chose a sugar coated one, that was still a little warm and soft and yeasty inside.


Fried Pies

They make a wonderful raisin bread that we had as french toast Sunday morning – a real treat. JB bought (and ate – but who is keeping track) one of their fried pies – not my favorite. The bakery is a part of a working Amish farm so we stood around outside eating our goodies, drinking coffee, and watching what was happening. And I took a few photos.


Harnessed and waiting to work.


Older son mowing the lawn

I wonder if going for a Saturday morning drive in the country will become a ritual? I think I can smell doughnuts and it is only Monday.

Strong & Simple: The Amish

We have a fascination with the Amish, maybe even envy the lifestyle they choose to live. Julie & I decided to spend some time on Amish dirt roads in northern Ohio a while back. When we stopped for lunch, I purchased a book, A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, by Mindy Starns Clark. She spent a lot of time living among and visiting Amish families in order to gain an understanding of this culture that seems so appealing. This book answered a lot of my questions and gave me a new appreciation for the strength it takes to maintain their lifestyle and protect their culture.

Amish 219Our curiosity about the Amish seems to be fueled by our longing for a supportive community and a simpler lifestyle. The Amish curiosity about our curiosity is reflected in this response that is found in many public places in Amish areas:

If you admire our faith, strengthen yours.

If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours.

If you admire our community spirit, build one.

If you admire the simple life, cut back.

If you admire the quality merchandise or land stewardship, then make quality.

If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them.

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We long for what they have, but maybe we aren’t willing to pay the price. What the writer doesn’t say is that it takes a lot of strength to make the choices that lead to the lifestyle we would like to lead. It takes strength to develop the values that sustain and nurture both us and our environment, and then to be true to those values in the way we live.

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The Amish settlements are communities of faith – but the demonstrations of faith are not obvious to us outsiders.I wasn’t able to photograph a church because they choose to meet in homes. The Amish expect their community members to lead a life that is an expression of their faith – in everything they do. If we want to build this lifestyle for ourselves, we need to understand the faith-based values their culture is built upon:

  • surrender the self-will to God
  • submit to authority, to the faith community, and to its rules
  • separate from the world and become a “peculiar people” by turning to the family and the faith community, by honoring history and tradition, and by turning the other cheek
  • simplify through the practice of humility, modesty, thrift, and peacefulness

When I reflect on these, my head and my soul say yes. But deep down, somewhere dark and hidden, there is some rebellion. Maybe this rebellion is the me I remember from so long ago, the one that wanted to belong, be independent, worldly, and most importantly accumulate symbols that said I’m accomplished and successful. I rebelled against the rules of how women should be. I wanted to be educated, have an income of my own, earn power in the public sphere so I could make the world a better place. Were my values self-centered or community-centered?

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In many ways my life seemed to reflect the worldly values of the time, those that came from the Feminist Revolution. But in many ways, my life feels like it is similar to the Amish culture. I made choices for my life based on what I believed to be right, what I felt to be consistent with my faith culture, my knowledge of what God willed for me. I struggled with balancing my personal needs with the needs of my family and community. I dreamed of a better world – and I needed to be a part of that world if I wanted to influence it.

Each Amish settlement makes their own rules concerning connection to the outside world, based on whether the connection will compromise their core values of submission to God’s will, simplicity of lifestyle based on humility, modesty, and thrift, and maintaining a strong community that takes care of it’s members. Most Amish settlements believe that being connected to the electric power lines would compromise simplicity, but we saw many solar panels in yards that power refrigeration, some farm equipment, and washing machines. Their community rules stipulate how members can be a part of the outside world without letting these interactions compromise their values, and are decided by the religious leaders (who are chosen by drawing straws). These decisions take a lot of discussion and discernment.

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I admire the strength of faith, character, and community of the Amish. And what I learned through exploring the Amish culture and writing this post is that if I desire the worldly treasures put before me, I need to question whether fulfilling this desire would compromise my values and faith commitment. If it does, I need the strength to say no. I need to be strong enough to be different, to not follow the trends. And when I’m unsure of what is the best way to live my life, I need to look to my God for answers.

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is strong. I hope you will be inspired to find your interpretation and join in by posting and linking to her blog. She gives instructions.