Archive for the ‘amish’ Category


I hate fall because it means that winter is coming soon.  I really hate winter, but at least with winter, spring comes next.  I don’t like feeling cooped up.  And I certainly don’t like not puttering in my garden.

Today I was having a particularly crummy day so I stopped by Ted’s Produce stand just south of town to take some photos. On my way to and from work, I admire how beautiful the mums and pumpkins look all spread out by the road.  It was lucky that I had my camera as the sun was getting lower, and the clouds dotted the sky.

If I continue to find so many fall pretties, I might move fall up from the “hate” category, to the “dislike” category.

(If the photos appear pixelated on your screen, try clicking on them)

Mums and the blue blue sky; Jenny Frech 2010



Red Mums; Jenny Frech 2010



Pumpkins; Jenny Frech 2010



Indian Corn; Jenny Frech 2010



Apples; Jenny Frech 2010



Gourds; Jenny Frech 2010



Amish Buggy and Pumpkins



Ted's Fresh Produce


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Jeremy and I were sans kiddos this weekend, as all of them were with their other parents.  This is our putzing-date time.

We went to the local farmer’s market for cider and greens, dropped off some pickled hot peppers to a friend.  After waking Kevin up (sorry!) and giving him the pickled peppers, we went to the second hand store to buy cloth napkins so we could get rid of the paper ones for good.  It was a jackpot day because the thrift store had all cloth napkins half-off.


We also purchased two climbing roses on sale for $2.50 each and a drying rack that we had been eyeing at another thrift store so we could dry our clothes without the dryer in the winter.  On the way home, we spotted two rain barrels at a garage sale for $45.  A pretty good price we thought, now we can collect water and water the garden next summer without running the well.

It was a banner day for making our lives a little more green.

Sure we spent a lot of green, but everything was at bargain prices.  All of the things that were purchased were things that we’ve been talking about for ages.  The roses, well, that comes out of my allowance for October.

Our car was so full, Jeremy had to go back with the van to pick up the rain barrels.

What the heck?!

Hey!  I thought that we were supposed to be downsizing, cleaning up, and simplifying our life!

Mmmm.  How does this all work anyway?  To use cloth napkins, I have to purchase said cloth napkins and bring them into my house, and unless I want to do laundry everyday with six kids that spill a lot of milk, I need a lot of them.  If we want to collect your rainwater, we have to bring home rain barrels.  If we want to dry our clothes in the winter, we need a clothes rack, because if you drape wet sweaters on your antique wooden chairs when wet, you’ll ruin them (ask me how I know).

I even had to buy loads of jars in order to all that canning I talked about.

Why do we need so much stuff?

Here’s the part that got me going on all of this today…

When we returned mid-afternoon from our spending spree, we noticed a buggy without a horse across the street, where our daughters’ friend used to live.  There was an Amish woman in the garage sorting through the junk that the family had left behind when they moved out in the middle of the night a few weeks ago.

We went over to see what they were up to, and offer the services of our van if needed.  The house was trashed.  There had been a flood in the house that no one had told the landlords about.  The dogs that had lived there tore up the doors.  The garage was covered with piles and piles of stuff.  In the piles were trash, clothes, shoes, broken toys, beer boxes, a broken fridge, a karaoke machine, scads of take out pizza, and a box for a 54 inch flat screen television.

The family left because they had not been paying their rent.  Whether or not they couldn’t afford it or just didn’t want to, I don’t know.

The woman doing the sweeping was one of the owners of the house.  She was saddened by the way the family had taken care of their belongings.

“There is probably more than $1,000 worth of broken things and clothes in this garage.  I don’t understand why they didn’t take care of the things that they had.  If money was tight why didn’t they take better care of their clothing?  Clothing is expensive,” the woman commented.

The garage represented well more than $1,000 worth of items neglected, consumed, and abandoned.

Our landfills represent millions and millions of dollars wasted, neglected, consumed, and abandoned.

So what can we do about it?  We’re Americans after all.  We consume things.

Jeremy and I offered to help take items of any usefulness to Goodwill.  After all, it was easier for us to haul it in our van, than in the buggy.  I took everything home and gave it a good washing, and hung it on the line to dry.  What wasn’t in good enough shape for Goodwill I cut up to use as rags.

What can we do about our consumption? I think our Earth is grand and I want to protect it, but I still consume things.  Now I consume a lot of green-earth-saving things, but I’m consuming none-the-less.  I don’t have a great answer.

Here’s what my old man and I have been talking about to try to eliminate the consumerism from our house:

  • Buy as much as possible second hand. It’s really wonderful to save money.  But, it’s also great to get some more use out of something that may have ended up in a landfill.  My favorite haunts are garage sales with girls selling lemonade out front that look to be a couple inches taller than our girls; Goodwill; The Mennonite thrift store in town; and then the more upscale consignment clothing store.  We also shop at the second hand furniture store, and small groceries that sell dented cans, overruns, and products nearing the expiration date.
  • Try to limit the amount of stuff that comes into your home. This one is really hard.  All of the kids bring home papers from school each day.  Each one of us brings items into the house, maybe one small bit by small bit, but it adds up.
  • Don’t watch T.V.. We do watch videos in our house, and sometimes we’ll watch our online funnies.  We hardly ever watch television though which limits the amount of commercials we and our kids see.  If we don’t know that a new product exists, it’s much harder to want it.
  • Get rid of stuff. I am terrible at this one because I’m cheap.  I would love to have a cleaner house, but I’m afraid that I might need that thing someday.  But, by keeping all of the little doodads, I can’t find the things that I need when I need them, and may be tempted to buy a new one.  We realized last week when the kids were sick that we had five thermometers.  Unless we need to take simultaneous temps, I’m sure that one would do.  I’ll keep you posted on how this one goes for me.
  • Don’t buy junk you don’t need.
  • “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” said William Morris, one of the fathers of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the last century.  Most American homes are filled with all kinds of lame junk that is neither useful or beautiful; so donate it, repurpose it, or use it for kindling.

True Confession: I am far far far from being anywhere near perfect or even really good about less consuming. But I want to be there.

I know that I do want to fully appreciate the items that I own, and take good care of them.  I have a pair of sandals that I spent $80 on 10 years ago, and they finally had to be retired this year.  That averages into eight bucks a year to wear those great shoes.  They were a quality product, and I took good care of them.  What if everything we owned was of quality, and we took good care of them?  I bet I could get by with one pair of sandals, don’t you?

I don’t know what the answer is to get us all off of this rat race of consumerism.  The Amish woman across the street today was never on it.  She consumes stuff, but really only what she and her family needs.

What ideas do you have?  I’d love to hear them.

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When I was eight, I wanted to be Amish.  I spent my early years growing up near Fort Wayne, where there is a large Amish population.  There was something magical about the idea of riding in a horse drawn buggy, giving up my phone, and burning lanterns while reading books before bed.   I was addicted to “Little House on the Prairie” at that time.  In my mind, being Amish would be like stepping back in time, and I would get to be Laura for a while.

Today I live in an even bigger Amish community.  Many of my neighbors are Amish, Conservative Mennonites, and Apostolics.  I guess I never really realized how many levels of “plain” there are until a Conservative Mennonite girl in a calico dress, finishing up her 8th and final year of school, was telling me that one of her classmates came from a “really plain” family.

Today, as a slightly older than my husband 30-something mom of one, and step-mom to three, I still find myself wanting to be plain.  But now I see the advantages differently than I did when I was eight.  I see the advantage of having home-cooked unadulterated meals, taking time to hang the wash on the line, going to bed more or less with the sun, and getting up when the light is still beautiful in the morning, living close to all of your family, and having friends to around to visit with and help one another with the seasons of life.  I see the benefit of community, the benefit to staying out of debt, the benefit of having someone home to be there for the children, and the slower pace in which the outside world sucks you in and drains your blood.

Throughout the last 30+ years, I have always felt kind of weird about wanting to be plainer than the rest of the world.  I never cared about designer clothes, or hair and makeup.  For a short time, I wanted a fancy job, but that quickly passed.  I’ve tried on a variety of careers, areas of study, and even a handful of entrepreneurial endeavors that led to disappointment.  And now I teach high school students how to be well adjusted adults through the context of environmental science.  

My husband I are striving to simplify our lives.  We grow a lot of our own food, even canning and freezing the excess for winter, we compost and recycle, and have given up T.V. (except for the occasional Cosby Show DVD).  But life still feels hectic, like the outside world is reaching in a trying to suck us in.  As a stepfamily, we have opportunities and speed bumps that keep us from making choices to simplify AND keep everyone sane.  

Luckily, I am married to a man that loves conversation, scheming, and possibilities as much as I do. I am excited about this journey of simplification. We won’t become Amish anytime soon.  They probably wouldn’t take us anyway.  But on the plainness scale, I’d like to move down (or is it up?) toward the plain side of things a bit more.  At this point, I have very little idea of what these realities mean, and where this journey will lead.  

Possibility is fantastic.

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