Sunday, June 23, 2013

Field Trip to the Amish Country

     This past week, my cousin, Cynthia and I met in Philadelphia for a few days.  Cynthia is a true-blue city girl, hailing from Southern California.  But, because she loves me, she reads this blog regularly.  She says she's learned a few things, gives regular feedback and asks questions, which is most gratifying, and is what this blog is all about.

Breathtaking vistas in every direction

     So, before our trip, we were planning the sites we would visit.  I had been thinking early American history, quill pens and cracked bells.  Then Cynthia piped up and said, "I want to see the Amish Country!"

     Wow!  Now you're preaching to the choir, Cuz!  We hopped into our rental car and zipped west on highway 30 toward Strausburg.  Then we cut south from there on little winding roads.

Huge Amish farmstead, neat as a pin.
You can't seem him in the shadows of the silo,
but there is a man ground-driving a pair of draft horses
     If you are going to introduce a city person to the farm, I can't help but think a good choice is a visit to the Amish Country.  Lancaster County is the quintessential farm scene, with far reaching vistas at every turn.  The terrain is rolling, there are copses of deciduous trees here and there.  Little creeks tumble by, and there are bridges, some of them covered, all around.  On and on are dotted picturesque farmsteads, with huge white barns, silos, windmills, gigantic houses, laundry on the line, children playing outside, pretty flowers at the driveway and cows grazing in the pastures.

     And horse poop on the roads.

     Horses working in the fields.

     Horses pulling buggies.


     Not a tractor in sight.

     Not an electrical line in sight (at least not to the Amish homesteads).

     It was fantastic.

Driving 4-Abreast.  You don't see that very often.
     Farming here is done with horse and implement.  Smaller fields.  No irrigation - God sends the rain at the right time.  Their yields are abundant, the quality of their crops, excellent.  However, they aren't producing food for the world, only for their families and to sell within their community.  Most Amish farms are 50 to 80 acres each.  As families grow and sons then have families of their own, they will try to acquire more land.  This is difficult though, because there is only so much farmland, and there are many sons who wish to farm.  Nevertheless, farming is an old and strong tradition in Amish country, with two, three and sometimes four generations farming together, and living under one HUGE roof.   

Moving equipment from one field to another.  You see this all the time
in farming country, only usually it's tractors.

Setting out tobacco seedlings
Typically, Amish farmers use manure from their livestock (cows, horses, pigs and poultry) to fertilize their fields.  They spread the manure onto the fields with a manure spreader in the fall and early spring. They will supplement the manure with commercial fertilizers if they feel the soil needs it.  They try not to use pesticides, but instead depend on beneficial insects and crop rotation to battle insects.  This sometimes does not work, and the crop may then be diminished.  The typically don't use herbicides (weed killers), but will if they have an invasive weed which they cannot combat with cultivation.  In short, by their nature, Amish farmers grow their food naturally, but are practical, and will use conventional methods if helpful.

Cultivating tobacco.  This guy was ASLEEP!
     The crops we saw were alfalfa hay, corn (both for cattle feed and humans), tobacco, wheat and oats.  Also, there is a lot of pasture ground here.  They usually graze their livestock as much as possible.

     This time of year, farmers are cultivating their corn and tobacco, cutting, raking and baling hay.  We saw one family setting out young tobacco plants in a field.

Mares and foals. 
    I think if I was Amish, I would raise horses - now that would indeed be heaven for me!  We saw a pasture of grazing draft mares and foals.  (draft horses are the big horses which pull heavy farm equipment, wagons and the like).  This was a horse breeding farm, raising and training draft  animals for the community.  Kind of like our local John Deere manufacturer or dealer.

Buggy leaving the dry goods store
     We happened upon a dry goods store.  It had a hitching rail in the parking lot, with two sets of buggies and horses tied up to it.  In the store were kitchenwares,  books, domestic items of all sorts, cleaning supplies, clothing and fabric.  They had a enormous stock of black fabric (which is what every person wears everyday, along with a solid colored dress or shirt).  Their solid fabrics ranged from pastels to jewel tones.  In the back of the store were rack upon rack of ready-made clothing - all in black.  Pants with suspenders for boys and men, pinafores for girls, capes and bonnets for women.  All of these clothing items looked like they had been handmade, and had no zippers or velcro.  This store was for women, and had no farm supplies and the like.    

Farmers' Market with 5 buggies!
Buggy horses hanging out in the shade while their masters
are at the farmers' market
      There was a Farmers' Market, too.  This one had 5 buggies parked out front, irresistible!  There were Amish-farmwife-made jams, Whoopie Pies, breads and fresh-from-the-garden strawberries.

     While the Amish may live a "simple" lifestyle, and their farm acreages may not be huge, nor may their yields be the top in the U.S., it sure looked like it was working well.  Every single farm we saw was spotless and beautifully maintained, with fresh paint and lovely trees.

Laundry on line - in nearly every yard.
     But the best part was that Cynthia appreciated it.
    I think maybe we have a new Advocate for Agriculture, Cuz!

Happy Cousins

Note:  Many of the photos in this 
post were submitted by Cynthia.

No comments:

Post a Comment