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Living Like The Amish: Interviews With Three "English" Families PART II

Part I
Part III
Harrison children: Amish days. 

Describe where you lived — the land, house, and some of your “conveniences”.
Rebekah: I remember when I first came to look at the house. The kids and I bought milk and got directions. An old white farmhouse with windows that had been boarded up because kids had vandalized the place and broken the windows. On the border of their community, the Amish wanted someone in this house I think to keep it from being vandalized. Its location also helped to keep us separate from them.There were a couple of skeletons of birds that were in the closet. Dusty . . . It needed cleaned . . . But all we saw was potential. When we moved in it was winter. It took hours for our little wood stoves to heat themselves up and get the house toasty . . . Although at first we had doors and rooms shut off so we were just heating the living room and kitchen. We covered the broken windows with blankets and tucked the little ones in blankets on stacks of twin size mattresses which we would sleep on later but now served as couches. I remember loving the soft romantic glow of the gas lanterns. The togetherness of us all. I hated the cold outhouse!! We went on a trip to Montana very shortly after moving in and it was spring when we got home!! We had no stove at first, but cooked on a propane 'fish fryer'. I loved using the wringer washer, because I could get all my laundry done in one day! At first, it was all new. Just happy. Fun.

TammyWe had a very large house. The main bedroom was on the main floor, along with the bathroom, sewing room, living room, dining room, kitchen and large back entry room. Upstairs there were three bedrooms. There was a full basement with a large area that had a wood stove and another area for canned goods and two freezers for keeping food cold with ice. We had a shop building that housed the water tank upstairs and laundry area with a wood stove. The barn was large and had many animal stalls. We had a chicken coop and yard and a goat pen. We had a 100 foot by 100 foot garden plot as well as many grape vines and an orchard. There were fields and some more outbuildings that we did not need so they continued to be used by the Amish. There was an outhouse, pump house and nice clothesline. We had indoor plumbing and thanks to a special hookup with our wood cook stove we had hot running water. We were able to use propane lights (a tank with a pole and a lantern set up at the top). This we borrowed from an Amish friend. We also used oil lamps. I set up a two-burner propane camp stove for hot days when we didn't want the cook stove running.

ErinWe had an old farm house without electricity. Gas pipes came out of our walls—we'd find the torch end with a flashlight, then light it with a match. It would be brighter than a light bulb once lit. We had this for the kitchen and the living room. We didn't have a gas lights in the bathroom unless we were taking a shower, but normally used a candle or two. We used no lights during the day, but kept our windows open. 

We had a propane refrigerator and freezer. The Amish had a community freezer at an Amish man's place—they had diesel generator run their milk pumps, and so also connected it to a large semi-trailer converted into a freezer. The semi was divided into stalls with names that people rented out for their food. You could keep whatever you wanted in your stalls—we kept strawberries once. But we also canned a lot: meats, broths, vegetables, jams, pie fillings, extra milk. Our root cellar didn't have the correct ratio of humidity and moisture so we had to can our potatoes or they'd go bad.
Laundry was a big deal. Most used a gas-powered wringer washer, but we used a solar panel converter for ours. In the winter, at first, we'd hang our laundry out and let it freeze dry, but a woman quickly taught me how to hang it in the house. We went to the dollar store and bought chains and hangers. We hung our laundry by our coal stove putting socks and underwear on a rack over the stove, and hanging our dresses and shirts on hangers on the chain. The dresses were made out of a polyester that didn't last long, so the Amish women taught me how to wash it properly and only put it through the wringer once. I'd conserve the water, and do the soiled laundry last, everything in small loads. 

I was disabled when we lived there and could not stand on my feet, but was in a wheelchair most of the time. When people say the life is too hard I tell them I did it disabled. There's a lot you can do with your hands, even if you sit down, whether butchering chickens or washing laundry.
All men who had tool shops had solar power converters and could plug in their devices. 

AlexaWhen you pulled into the driveway the garden was to your right. The plot was about ten feet by ten feet, then there were fruit trees and grapevines as well. On the left was the house. It was a three-story house, counting the basement, with a covered porch along the whole front of the house. We kept the ‘fridge’ (a small chest freezer with extra insulation and chunks of ice) in the basement because it was cooler; we also had a freezer, but it was kept in a shed at a neighbor‘s house that had electricity. The kitchen, living room, pantry, bathroom, school room, and Dad and Mom’s room were on the first floor; the girls’ and boys’ rooms were on the third floor. Next to the house was the two-story shop where the water tank was stored on the second floor. The first floor was mostly one big room, but it had a smaller room in the back for laundry. We also used it for raising chicks and kept a baby opossum in there for a little while. After the shop there was a smaller building that was used for storage, then the barn. The barn was also two story, with the second story used for storing hay. The main floor was in two parts, one big open area with sliding doors on both sides of the building to pull wagons through. The other half was two rows of stalls with a walkway between. We used a few of the ones on the right side for our three goats, the landlord used the others for horses or cows sometimes. Halfway down the outside of the barn is the end of the driveway, there was a big gate into the barnyard. When you went through it there was another gate to the right about twenty feet into a smaller pen with a shed. We used it for ducks, guineas, and the goats. Straight ahead from the main gate was a small pen with a small building where we kept chickens.

JerushahWe lived on eleven acres. Had a pond, ice house, barn, wash house where we did laundry, and had an extra tub in there also, goat shed, pig shed, a regular shed, and a pole barn.

JosiahI lived in an Amish house. We had an ice house, three sheds, a barn, a shop, and a wash house.

Bekah JoWe lived on about ten acres. It had a pond where we fished a lot. There was a huge field with woods beside it. There was a huge yard, some animal pasture, and a pear tree, a few peach trees and a couple other kinds of trees.

JonnyWe lived right at the end of a right off a gravel road a couple miles from the main road. We lived in a big white farmhouse with no electricity. We had a propane oven for cooking and two wood stoves for heat.
We had no refrigerator, but we had an ice house where we could put some of our food to keep it cold. Every winter the ice house had to be restocked, but otherwise it lasted all summer.
We had propane lanterns for lights and for water we had a gasoline engine that pumped water into a tank in the top of our house where it could free flow down. We had a toilet and a couple of sinks and one tub. Any hot water we wanted we had to boil.
We had several outside buildings — a barn, a shop — and a nice sized garden area about fifty by a hundred feet.
We also had a pond at the end of the place.

JesseWe lived in a big white house three stories high. It had five bedrooms. We had ten acres, some trees, and a pond. We had a barn and a shop and some sheds.

JoashWe had a pond. We had five bedrooms. We had an ice house. Now I like to build all of this on Minecraft.

KeturahTotally spacious! Wood floors and high ceilings! I really loved my room, though the walls hadn't been finished. I would duct tape cardboard over holes my siblings liked to spy through. My room had a single window that looked out to our pond and my room consisted of my bed, my hope chest, and my book shelves. I owned a lot of books!
Out back there was also a small goat shed where I cared for my goats.
Behind that we had our animal graveyard, intact with gravestones to remember our favorite pets.

Lamb family, left to right: Jonah, Joash, John, Jacob, Keturah, Rebekah, Jerushah, Josiah, Bekah Jo, Jesse, and Jonathan. 

What were your chores during this time?
Rebekah: When we got back from our trip to Montana, the plans had been to start our new life there, together. John had agreed to drive the Amish to the egg hatchery. But, as things often happen, life didn't go as planned. He ended up going back to Montana for work. I, with his blessing, decided to drive the Amish to the hatchery. One of the Amish men would go along to help load and unload. I'd take a couple of my kids, too. I asked one Amish family if I could get a girl to help take care of my kids while I was gone. They would have, but referred me to another family who had more daughters. This family said they'd get back with me. The answer was no. They were afraid we'd cause their children to go astray. I was pregnant with our tenth child. I also started baking for the farmers market . . . often staying up at night. I had previously always 'babied' myself when pregnant. I told myself that this time I would be strong like the Amish women . . . I was going to be the perfect wife and mother. I was going to build a business so my husband would be able to be home for work. (None of which he asked me to do . . . but allowed because I wanted to).

TammyMy children were ages one to fifteen at the time, so I ended up doing many of the chores. I did the laundry. At first I used wash tubs and a plunger and hand-wrung the clothes. Later I obtained a wringer washer and the Amish helped us convert it to use with a gas motor. Sure made laundry easier. To do it by hand, I would heat the water on the cook stove and carry it out to the yard. I had to change the water at least four times, so there was a lot of hauling. I did the majority of the cooking. I cleaned house, homeschooled, gardened, mowed, fed animals, hauled and stacked wood, did the shopping, harvested. Always teaching someone how to do something. I also sewed my girls' dresses by hand.

ErinMy oldest son did the cow milking. We are germophobic so we'd start the generator, wash the utters, then attach a belly milker to extract the milk. He'd bring it in and dump it in jars and wash his pails, then the girls would make the butter and yogurt and other dairy products.

The little boys did the chickens, gathered the eggs and washed them and put them in cartons, pulled weeds in the garden, and watered the pigs.
When we canned or butchered everyone would be around the table helping. My kids knew how to do everything. 
At ten and eleven my girls could sew their own dresses with a treadle machine. One of them crocheted and the other knitted and we used our own wool. They made scarves and hats for the winter.
I made the boys' pants and jackets, lining the jackets thickly.
I basically did everything and my children helped.

AlexaWashing dishes, school, helping with the garden, helping with the animals, helping with laundry, and helping cook.

Jerushah: I did the dishes (wash, dry, and put away), fed chickens, milked the cow with my brother, I dumped garbage. Later on I did the pantry, too.

JosiahCleaning my room. 

Bekah JoMy chores were drying dishes, clearing the table, sometimes cleaning the bathroom, and helping a couple of the other kids wash floors.

JonnyI took care of the horses, started the engine to pump water into our house most mornings, and helped in the garden. 

JesseMy chores were mostly to clean the yard and milk the cow when we had one.

JoashPick up toys.

KeturahI did a lot of the laundry, though I was always behind on that and when it got really bad we'd go to the laundromat. I loved doing laundry in the summer, but the water was so cold in the winter.
I also had to keep the pantry clean and make lunch and supper.
I loved getting stuck in a routine. Unless someone forced me to make something else, I made beans with corn or tomatoes for lunch with a side of sweet cornbread and for supper I often made eggnog and popcorn.
I also baked all of our bread.
I did a lot of other cleaning, too. I felt as if I were always working. My mom remembers it as I was always running off. My sister remembers it as she and I both running off in separate directions, but she actually escaped and I was found to do more work. ;) Of course, our Mom doesn't remember it like that.

Richards family (mother not pictured), back row: Caleb (blue shirt), Brandon, Alexa, JJ, Iris.
Front row: Hope, Gideon, and Faith.

What did you do for fun?

Rebekah: Honestly, it was a lot of hard work. I don't remember much fun.

TammyFun for me was doing chores — especially the outside chores. I enjoyed learning new things and coming up with creative ways to do things. We took walks almost every day.

We went on joy rides; in the buggy in the summer and on the sleigh in the winter. The community would level out a field and spray it with water and we have skatings in the winter.

One Friday every month they had an ice cream supper, and we'd take turns having it at everyone's homes. Whoever's home it was at furnished the food. I'd make several big casseroles and three-four gallons of homemade ice cream when it was my turn. Those were fun and full of visiting, laughing, but a lot of gossip — we'd talk about people and what they're doing or what you don't like about them. We never talked of God. We'd joke or share news or tell of what we were doing.

AlexaPlayed outside, crafts, visited neighbors, and reading.

JerushahI went fishing with my two brothers. We got the horses and ponies out and rode them or hitched them to the carts. We played with legos, cars, and action figures. I played with my younger sister with Polly Pockets, or dolls. Sometimes we would read, or have mud fights. One winter we built a huge snow fort.

JosiahPlay outside, fishing, and water fights.

Bekah JoFor fun I fished, built hideouts in the woods or barn, rode our ponies, and played board games or other games we made up.

JonnyWe would go fishing in our pond or ride my favorite pony, Blaze.

JesseWe rode horses, went fishing, and we sword-fought a lot.

JoashPlaying with legos and other toys.

KeturahWhen I was younger I didn't really like the outdoors. And I was addicted to schoolwork. Once I forgot my bread and it burnt all the way through because I'd lost myself in my math book.
I loved to read. For awhile I was obsessed with encyclopedias.
I loved to embroider.
I did some writing, though I never showed any of it to anyone.
I painted a lot — at the time I thought I wanted to grow up to illustrate books.
I also loved my goats and liked to plant flowers.
I always had something to do with my hands once my chores were done.
When Alexa came over I often put her to work with me, which I look back on now in humor and horror. I'd have her help me plant flowers or help me organize my books by alphabetical order only to reorganize them the following day by genre. She and I also liked to watch Homesteader videos together on a small laptop. (I didn't realize until half way through this interview that those videos were made by Erin Harrison).

Current Lamb family selfie.

What did a typical day look like?
Rebekah: Each day was different. Egg hatchery day, we'd get up early. Drive to the different farms, pick up eggs, drive to the hatchery, run errands for some of the Amish or myself, then home. Other days we'd be baking. Or going to farmer's market. One time the kids and I flyered up and down a bunch of small towns for farmer's market. And we got what we were looking for! Lots of customers for the market!

TammyA typical day was long. I would get up before everyone else and get the fire going (if it was cold). I would start water boiling on the camp stove to make coffee in the the French press. JJ would get up and head to work. Once I read my Bible, I would get everyone up to start the day. We would eat breakfast and then I would load the little ones into a wagon and we would all go to visit and feed the animals. Then we would get the dishes done and get some schooling in before lunch. I would read out loud during nap time. At some point we would take a walk. Then chores — garden or whatever needed done. JJ would get home and we would eat supper, do dishes and read or color til bedtime. Sometimes there were chores for JJ to help with so we would all do those.

ErinWe'd get up in the morning and my husband would go outside and fill up the air tanks so we'd have water pressure for showers and dishes. We had a 500-gallon propane tank which had to be manually turned on. I'd start preparing breakfast while the boys went to the barn. The girls helped me. We'd usually have eggs and homemade toasted bread. We had a huge ugly 100 foot extension cord that connected to the generator in the wash house and I'd connect my Vitamix to that and make kefir smoothies. We all had breakfast together. 

Mondays we would be doing laundry for about three hours. The other Amish would send their kids to school, but we didn't have that luxury so I had to do both laundry and homeschooling. I'd wake extra early on Mondays around 5-6am and get the laundry started, sorting it the day before. The girls would run out and hang it on the line while I did dishes after breakfast.
We started school about 9am, so there was time for chores beforehand. For school we used the same books as the Amish. If we could live just as they did, they promised us that they would let our kids go to their school. Even though we did everything exactly right they didn't keep their promise.
They didn't think I'd be able to do it, especially as I was disabled.
I proved them wrong and it made them upset.

After lunch we'd do sewing projects, or we might bike to the Amish market, or bake bread and cookies, or make noodles. 
The Amish bought a lot of junk food. For breakfast they'd eat sugary cereal and crumble cake or cookies into it. We ate healthier than the Amish — I rationed our cookies to one a day, making the one batch last all week.  It would be a special treat for after dinner. I used honey and whole wheat so even our cookies were healthy.
For playtime the children would go play outside, in the woods, and build forts. The kids weren't well received among the Amish children. The girls would go upstairs and hide because others would make fun of them. We loved the people, but we should have started ten years earlier to fit in better. We left because of how our children were treated.

AlexaWake up, have breakfast, wash dishes, help with animals, help in the garden, do school, have lunch, wash dishes, finish school or do any extra work for the day, free time, have dinner, wash dishes, reading time, go to bed.

JerushahIn the summer we could do whatever we wanted to do after chores were done. In the winter we went to an Amish lady who taught us school.

JosiahGet up, school, then clean up, then free time. 

Bekah JoWhen we went to school we'd get up at around 6am and do our chores early. We'd get home around 5-6pm. We'd clean again, then listen to Odyssey and Unshackled. When we didn't do school we'd do our chores then play.

JonnyI would usually get up early and get some of my chores done before breakfast. Afterwards I'd do whatever our mom would have for me. After lunch we got some time off. Sometimes I would go run errands for my mom in our cart or buckboard to one of our Amish neighbors. 
On school days we had an Amish tutor. We would either walk, ride our bikes, or take our pony cart (the pony cart was the best way, of course) to school. Our schoolhouse was almost right next to the Amish school house (which we didn't go to because we weren't Amish). Our school hours were 9am - 3:30pm. 

JesseThe sun went up and the sun went down. 

JoashJust a regular day. 

KeturahWinter: Get up early, prepare our school lunches and go to school. I preferred to leave early enough to walk, so I could memorize something our Amish tutor had assigned me. (We weren't allowed to attend the Amish school, so we hired a teacher who taught us in a mobile home close to her house. We named our school Acorn Melody). The first winter I went as a student. I did as much school as I could and went through three grades that year, graduating from the eighth grade. So the next year I went as Rebecca Yoder's assistant. 
Summer: Get up and take care of my goats, eat breakfast (oatmeal) and then do chores and sewing and embroidery throughout the day. I also cooked the meals a lot of the time and did extra school.

How have you enjoyed the interviews so far? Return Wednesday for the final installment and don't forget to share your thoughts!


  1. I find this very interesting beings two of the families, the Lamb‘s and the Richard‘s families were part of the community that I grew up in but were there after I left. I used to hear about the Lamb and Richard‘s families through my sister Rebbecca who was also the teacher of the Lamb family kids. I also remember when I was growing up that Rebekah Lamb’s family used to come visit our family and us kids would play!

    1. I’m so glad you are enjoying these! We love Rebecca Yoder so much! She’s the reason I started writing The Lawrence Children serial for this blog :)

  2. This has been really interesting, especially reading all the different perspectives! It's so interesting how people with the same experience can describe it in different ways, like all your siblings' answers to the same questions.


    1. Thanks, Alexa! I don’t know if you can tell, but my siblings have a different sort of humor ;) they were quite sarcastic with some of the answers but I thought they were funny so left them as is 😂


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