I. Tour of an Amish Home
II. I arrived at the Amish Interpretive Center at about noon on Saturday, May 2. My friends and I checked in and found out we had to drive 13 more miles to get to the home we were taking a tour of. We passed Chesterville and Arthur on our way to Cadwell. On our way, we noticed several Amish stores and shops, ranging from contractors to bakeries. We pulled into the driveway of the Amish home and greeted our tour guide, Mary Ann Schrock. The group gathered in the kitchen and she began the tour by telling us a few facts about the kitchenware and lights. Her ironing is done with a hand-held block of iron basically. She heats the iron until its hot, then irons what she needs to, then repeats the process (because the iron retains the heat only for so long). She then pointed out her propane light fixtures, which required a pipe dispensing propane and fabric to ignite the propane. She explained that it was cold that morning and to heat up a bit, she turned on the propane light in the kitchen by igniting it with a lighter. She also explained that the refrigerator was gas-powered, saying that an Amish man made it. The house was fairly new because of a fire that occurred in her old house. Mary Ann then told us to look around the main part of the house. Basically the only difference between any typical house and Mary Ann's was the lack of TV's, an antique sewing machine, and a rug/carpet drier rack in the middle of the living room. Everything else, save the lights, was the same as any house. She then showed us how she completed her laundry: by hand. She gets 3 buckets, and fills to with water. She soaks the laundry, washes it in her old-fashioned washing machine, rinses the laundry in the second bucket, spins it in the laundry machine, and then puts it in the third bucket to be air-dried on the clothesline in the lawn. After that, we went outside and she showed us her buggy and pointed out her animals, barn, and her daughter's and son-in-law's house behind hers. She owned a horse, her son-in-law owns a horse, and she owns two miniature donkeys (who knew they even existed!) to keep the coyotes away. We asked her some more questions, looked around more, then took off back to Champaign, 13 more miles further than what we had expected.
III. During the tour a few individuals asked questions. One was the telephone situation. As Professor Sandvig mentioned during class, many Amish communities have what looks like an outhouse with a telephone in it strictly for outgoing calls. In order to make a phone call, one must walk all the way to one of these communal telephones. Also, all of the driving is done with horse-drawn carriages, or buggies. Mary Ann explained how it works and the upkeep of such a vehicle, saying that she had the buggy since 1994 and only the tires have had to be changed. A friend asked why they were allowed to ride/use tractors and not cars and Mary Ann said that it was produced by an Amish man and that tools like a tractor are allowed for farm work and things of that nature. The Amish are not allowed to watch television, listen to radios, or take/be in photographs, so we asked how free time is spent. She said that they do a lot of reading, she knits, and she is often occupied by her grandchildren. She does her own gardening and takes care of her house as well. In C & T by Slack and Wise, they say that "we have much to learn from the Luddites about the possibilities of resisting progress blindly, about recognizing the political nature of technology, and about understanding and critiquing the integration of technology in everyday life" (p 73). Although the Amish are not Luddites (who reject technology blindly), they are very similar. They deliberately avoid using technologies, but use those that make work easier and those that are needed occasionally (like the communal telephone and tractors). The Amish choose to live a life free from technological and social stigmas created by society and prefer strong family ties and a life of purpose and meaning. I commend them because although they have not really experienced life like I am accustomed to, I don't think I could live without TV and the use of a car!