Ask ViolaAsk Viola

Viola, a young Amish woman living in the midwest, has been kind enough to answer questions from our visitors. Viola writes from her individual knowledge, perspective, and beliefs and does not represent the entire Amish community. Currently, Viola has quite a large pile of questions to answer so we cannot accept new questions for a few months.

Melanie asks...
Greetings Viola. Thank you for your generous contributions here! My family recently moved smack into the center of an Amish community. A few of our neighbors have already stopped in, and have invited me to visit their homes as well. I am an Herbalist, and quite a few of them would like to take herb walks with me and learn from me. However, I am a bit nervous, as I do not want to offend, with my mannerisms or dress. What should a woman do to be welcomed by the Amish women as a friend, teacher, and good neighbor?

Just be yourself. Don’t use vulgar language or dress too immodestly. Be a friend. The Amish are just people and friendliness is a universal language.

Christine asks...
God Bless You for taking the time to answer all of the questions with such thoughtful answers. My question to you is, what source would you recommend to learn PA Dutch. I am having a very hard time finding a good resource and I no longer live in Lancaster where I might have been able to learn from an Amish friend. Please let me know if you get a chance.

Pennsylvania Dutch is really not a written language. There are books out there written in PA Dutch, but the spelling of the words or even the pronunciation of the words depends on the location of the author. This is because the words are spelled like they sound and every Amish community seems to have a somewhat different dialect of PA Dutch. The best way to learn PA Dutch is from the Amish themselves.

Steve asks...
I recently hired an Amish carpenter to build some bee hives for me. As it turns out, he has been interested in bees for a long time and hopes to start bee keeping in the future. I have been trying to help him out by taking orders for hives from my local beekeepers association. The association is having a class on honey extraction and processing. I thought he might like to go to the class with me. It's about an hour drive. I think he would enjoy the class and meeting people in the association would probably generate more business for him. I don't want to disappoint him be inviting him to something that he couldn't attend. He is a father of four young girls. Would an Amish man ever consider going to a class like this so late at night or would his family responsibilities prevent him from doing so? Thank you for your advice.

I’m sure the man would be pleased if you invited him along to the class whether he could go or not. I’m quite sure he would be allowed to go, if that is what you are asking.

Emma asks...
I read that the Amish eat meat, their own livestock or hunted animals like deer. Do the Amish use the skin of the animal, because I know they aren't wasteful, as clothing or for the home, etc?

Many Amish do eat the meat they raise or hunt. The hide is usually sold to someone who buys furs. The fur buyer then sells the hide to a leather company. The hide is not used for clothing or in the home.

Catherine asks...
I have been wearing cape dresses (a Mennonite pattern) for quite a while now and am determined to continue for modesty reasons. Now that winter is here though, I am freezing! I have to do hours of chores outside every day and have tried wearing tights, stockings, leggings under my dress... still freezing! How do you stay warm?

Layers! Try tights, or stockings and leggings under sweatpants. If the weather is too extreme you could even layer snow pants on top of the tights and sweatpants. There are companies that sell clothing for winter sports. Some of that kind of clothing layered under your dress would help, too, without adding so much bulk. Also make sure you wear something warm on your head!

Ellie asks...
Hello, I have a question about birthdays. How would a teenager celebrate his or her birthday? What sort of presents would they get for their birthday?

An Amish teenager might celebrate their birthday by going out to eat with friends, having family and friends over for a meal and games, or they may choose to not have a celebration. Gifts an Amish teenager might receive could range from clothing, to collectables, to hobby items.

In my family birthdays are usually pretty low key. If my mom had time she would sometimes bake a cake. Usually she just cooked our favorite meal. She'd usually give us a little something for a gift. When I was a little girl I got a doll for my birthday. The next year I got clothing for my doll. That was really special to me because Mom made the clothing for my doll.

Rita asks...
How much room is in an average buggy? How would you go about visiting church if there's more than five in your family? Do you send your grandparents ahead?

Amish man shelling peas.

Amish Buggy Interior

A single buggy (having only one bench seat) comfortably seats two adults. A surrey or double buggy (having one seat in front and one seat in back) is used by a family and comfortably seats four adults and as many children as needed. Mom and dad usually sit in front with a small child between them. If needed Mom holds a second small child while dad drives. The rest of the children sit in back, the older ones holding the younger ones. If a family is especially large the oldest children (once they are old enough to drive a horse safely) may use a second buggy. Grandparents drive their own horse and buggy until they are no longer able to do so. By then there is usually room in the surrey buggy for them because the children are grown and no longer ride with their parents.

Rita also asks...
How would you call your church district? What do you call your grandparents and your parents? What do you call the little attached house to the farmhouse?

A church district is called a G'may. I call my grandfather Dawdi, and my grandmother Mummi. My mother is Mem and my father is Dat. The attached house for grandparents is called a Dawdihaus (Daw-dee-hahs).

Bob asks...
How do you make home-made biscuits?

This is the biscuit recipe my family uses:

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk

Add all dry ingredients to bowl. Add all wet ingredients. Stir only until dry ingredients are moistened. Too much stirring causes tough biscuits. It is okay to still have a little flour that isn't mixed in. Break off a piece of dough about the size of an egg. If there still is a little flour in the bottom of the bowl, mix a little into the biscuit as you knead a little and then shape into a ball and place on cookie sheet. Flatten with your hand. Bake 12 minutes at 350°. I usually turn off the oven at 12 minutes while I finish the gravy. Then I take the biscuits out of the oven. That way they stay hot but don't seem to over bake.

Jana asks...
I live in California. Once there was a group of folks that came in on our railway system. They were wearing hair coverings that were made of a clear fabric and had a tie.  I remembered them from Indiana, my parents' heritage of Pennsylvania Dutch. I thought she might be a "Dunkard" - my mom spoke of from her ancestry. Are they similar to Amish?

I don't know where the people you met were from, or whether they were Amish, Mennonite, etc.  Dunkards are a branch of conservative Mennonites. There are similarities as well as many differences between Amish and Mennonites.

Alena asks...
What do Amish women use for hair washing? Do they have their own recipes or do they use commercial shampoos from the store?

Most Amish women use commercial shampoo from the store.

Beth asks...
I just finished reading an Amish fiction novel. Do Amish people actually read any of these books? I usually enjoy the Author Beverly Lewis. I have read some stories from others and find them so sappy or unrealistic. My least favorite phrase from these books has become 'her heart skipped a beat'. It usually refers to seeing the love of her dreams. So I would like to know what Amish people think of these stories and does a girl's heart really skip a beat when she spies a handsome young and available Amish man?

There are Amish that do read and enjoy Amish fiction novels. I have read some Amish fiction from a selection of different authors to acquaint myself with them. I did not care for Amish fiction novels because they contain entirely too much fiction about the Amish. I found the characters very shallow compared to Amish in real life. Many of the ways and customs of the Amish are portrayed incorrectly too. Many of the Amish fiction books present Amish fathers and ministry as being uncompromising and overbearing. Most Amish fathers in real life are good, loving fathers and our ministry is made up of these good men.

Mariah asks...
Have you ever read the Amish books by Beverly Lewis? If so, is any of it correctly portrayed? I have become very fond of the Amish people from reading her books. Also, how would one learn the language of the Amish? Thank you for your time and God bless!

I have read some of the Amish fiction novels of Beverly Lewis. Personally, I do not care for Amish fiction because I think it gives people a false picture of the Amish.

The best way to learn our language is immersion, that is, to be around to hear it spoken all the time. Eventually you would be able to understand some of our language. Our language is not a written language and has many variations depending on what part of the country you are in.

Marlaine asks...
My daughter-in-law's grandmother always served chicken and dumplings on Easter. She never served pork or beef for the Easter meal.  I think it is a family custom; my daughter-in-law thinks it has something to do with do Amish rules.  Do the Amish prohibit meat or any food on Easter?

We are not prohibited by the church to eat meat or any other food at any time, holiday or not. Chicken and dumplings sound like a delicious Easter tradition!

Marissa asks...
I have seen Amish people in some stores and they are buying sour cream and other not-so-healthy things. What if an Amish man or woman has a food intolerance or has like, celiac disease? Then what do they eat?

We Amish do buy things from stores. Some of it is not so healthy foods. If someone Amish had a food intolerance or allergy they would follow the diet their doctor/nutritionist prescribed.

Debbie asks...
I have heard that there are parts of the Bible that the Amish are not supposed to read and am wondering if that's true because I have also heard that they take the bible literally?

The Amish believe that the entire Bible is the inspired word of God. To ignore any part of it is to ignore part of God's message. We are allowed to read the entire Bible; in fact we are much encouraged to do so.

Kathie asks...
I was just wondering why most Amish gardens I see have rows of flowers grown in along with the vegetable plants? And what flowers are typically used? Thank you!

The flowers most Amish women plant in their gardens are usually just there to add some beauty to the garden. Zinnias are a popular choice because of their bright colors. Marigolds help to keep bugs away so it is a flower you often see in gardens. What flowers are planted depends on the person planting them.

Jesse asks...
Are Amish allowed to go to libraries? I live in a town where there are some Amish and Mennonite, but I have never seen Amish at the library. Also, do you have a pattern for the dresses that you make? Thank you!

We are allowed to go to libraries and many of us do. [Editor's note: Viola loves to read and is a frequent visitor to her nearby town's library.] Yes we do have patterns for our dresses.

Julie asks...
Could you give me an idea of what times of year Amish women do certain chores? For example, what time of year is it when Amish women begin canning? Do they have certain times of the year to do certain jobs around the home, and when they plant things in the garden, etc.

Amish women begin canning when the first of the cannable produce is ready. The exact time this begins depends on the climate in which you live, same with gardening. It begins in the spring and ends in the fall. Meats are usually canned in winter because butchering is done in winter so the carcasses can cool properly.

The house is thoroughly cleaned (walls washed down, closets sorted, cupboards cleaned and straightened) at least once or twice a year when we prepare to host church services in our home. Many Amish women sweep daily, mop floors weekly and wash windows bi-weekly or monthly. Of course not all Amish women are organized or have spotless houses.

Melissa asks...
Perhaps I have watched too much TV about Amish, but my question is about shunning. I watched the movie Amish Grace and it shows that the lady's sister was shunned and now she is no longer able to speak to her blood sister. If God says to forgive one another then why would she not be able to speak to her sister again? Why would shunning take place if we must forgive?

First of all let me say this: shunning is misunderstood by most people not familiar with the practice. It is based on Scripture such as Romans 16:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:14 and Titus 3:10-11. Now to try to answer your question…

Shunning only happens if someone has been baptized into the church, then chooses not to follow the commitments they had originally agreed to. Young adults who choose not to join church are not shunned. The purpose is protect their community and its values. It also protects the community from negative influences (for example, if the person breaks the rules of non-violence). A person can forgive, while remaining separate from another. Also, it works like "tough love" where a person will hopefully see the error of their ways and return home. Why do people discipline their children? If they discipline them because they love them and want them to become healthy productive adults, then you already know the answer to your question. In our baptismal vows we promise in the presence of God and His church, with the help of God, to support the doctrines and regulations of the church, to earnestly fill our place in the church, to help counsel and labor, and not depart from the church, come what may. To break that vow means they have broken their promise both to God and to the church. The only Amish that are shunned are members who willingly and continually break this promise. This is not done lightly. Much time and effort is made at reconciliation before a person is asked to leave. This practice of separating the member unwilling to recommit to his promise, is to protect the community and hopefully cause the member to correct their behavior. This is not a common practice and is very painful to everyone in the community. But members still reach out in love hoping the member will return. Always, the ultimate goal is to reunite and keep families and communities whole.

Lisa asks...
Thank you so much for answers to questions! I was wondering at what age would an Amish girl start wearing a prayer kapp?  I can't imagine a two-year-old keeping one clean!

When little girls start wearing a prayer covering is a custom that varies greatly in the many different communities of Amish. In the community where I live, little girls start wearing a prayer covering around 18 months to two years. The reason a little girl starts wearing one so young, my mother told me years ago, is that a child's formative years are the first years of their life. If a child learns to wear a prayer covering when she is young, she is likely to wear it the rest of her life. No, the coverings do not stay clean on a child so young. The mother must just wash the covering often.

Carrie asks...
I have a cat, Noah Moses, who is my very best friend! Do the Amish have cats that live with them in their homes, and snuggle with them in bed, too? Thank you for teaching us about the Amish!

Pets are not forbidden in our homes. We may have cats or dogs in the house if we wish. [Editors' Note: We know several Amish families who keep dogs, cats, fish, birds; some even keep wild critters including raccoons and flying squirrels!]

Jessica asks...
If an Amish woman cannot breastfeed her child, does she use raw cow's milk after it's been boiled to give to the infant?

It is my understanding that cow's milk given to a young baby can cause asthma. In my area formula is usually used. The mother might try taking an alfalfa supplement to help with milk production. Drinking plenty of water helps too. Some mothers say a cup of coffee helps to boost milk production.

Wendy asks...
Do you know if Amish women have certain chores they do on certain days? I know wash is done on Mondays and Sunday is a day of rest. Is there a certain day to clean house, bake, iron, etc?

Many Amish women do have a schedule of certain chores on certain days. Monday is often laundry day, since more clothing is used over the weekend with church and visiting, etc. Tuesday may be the day for ironing and baking. Friday or Saturday is usually house cleaning day. Many women do laundry two to three times a week depending on the size of their family.

Lynn asks...
Since going on a tour in Lancaster, PA last year that brought us to an Amish house where we sat and talked with the family, I have been writing to their 13-year-old girl. I am a former teacher. I was impressed with her politeness and information she gave about Amish schools. I would like to send the family a gift. What would be appropriate? Would they hang a plaque with a scripture verse?  What would be appropriate to send to the girl, who is now in her last year of school?

A plaque with scripture would most likely be okay as a gift for the family. The girl may enjoy a pretty calendar with scripture or even perhaps a devotional book based on the King James Version Bible.

Jenna asks...
What would be a typical morning for the Amish?

A typical morning for the Amish would be something like this: If Dad works away from home we would probably eat breakfast while Mom packs his lunch. Then Dad would head off to work. When the children get up Mom would get them fed and pack lunches for those going to school. The children would help clear the table, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, help dress the younger children, and then go to school. Mom would then spend the rest of the morning caring for the younger children and the house, garden, laundry, etc., whatever is on the agenda for the day. If Dad works at home, then the family would all eat breakfast together before going to start their day.

Samantha asks...
I'm a freshman in high school, and I'm taking a journalism class. One of the assignments is to immerse yourself in a different experience for a week, and I chose to become Amish. However, I'm half way through the project and I never considered the possibility of my project being offensive. I know there was another question about a Christian couple getting married while wearing Amish clothes, but I don't consider myself religious. Am I doing something disrespectful?

Since you are not religious, it is interesting that you would choose the Amish for your assignment since God is what the Amish are all about. Did you live with an Amish family for a week for your assignment, to get the true experience? Being Amish is about so much more than the clothes we wear and choosing to live a simple lifestyle.

Kaitlyn asks...
Do all Amish make their clothes, and are outsiders allowed to dress up as Amish when they are not in the community?

Most Amish ladies sew their own clothing and the clothing for their family. Some ladies prefer to have someone else sew their clothing because they don't like to sew, don't have time, etc. Some Amish-owned stores do sell ready-made clothing items but the selection is usually very limited. As far as someone dressing in Amish clothing, it would be wrong if they were pretending to be Amish and misleading people, which equates with dishonesty.

Mariah asks...
I'm 17 and I definitely don't have the most beautiful complexion. My question is how do Amish teenagers keep their complexions so beautiful?! Thank you for your time and God bless!

I would really have liked to have had the answer to your question when I was 17! I don't know that Amish teenagers have any better complexions than non-Amish teens. I think beautiful complexions or the lack thereof is somewhat genetic. Eating a healthy, wholesome diet, getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, getting enough sleep, and good hygiene are all part of a healthy complexion. If Amish teens really do have better complexions than other teens, it may be because of all the reasons I mentioned above. The lack of wearing make-up probably helps too. Make-up can clog pores and cause breakouts. Using a moisturizer helped me a lot, and washing my face with only plain water most of the time.

Robert asks...
Ok, I kinda feel embarrassed about asking this but I visit PA a lot and I visit the Amish Market often.  The situation is how do I greet the women and or even men at the counter?  The young girl who works at the counter is very very quiet and really doesn't look me in the face.  As a guy, is it wrong for me to say thank you and attempt small talk about even my love for their products.  I always feel like I may overstep my boundaries by small talk.  For example why are there so many gelatin powders and are they used for canning? Thank you so much.  

Greet whomever is at the counter as you would anyone non-Amish. We are after all, only people. The girl you spoke of may be shy or intimidated by you. Go ahead, talk and ask questions, you'll probably get answers as long as you are polite. You would only be overstepping your boundaries if you ask personal questions, flirt, or talk about inappropriate subjects.

Aubrey asks...
I am a 12-year-old girl, and I am looking to earn some money. My neighbors are Amish and they are all very friendly, especially the girls my age. Do you think they would hire me for a tiny amount of money to help out on the farm like gardening and caring for the animals? How should I ask?

I would suggest you ask if there is some way you could help out for a little bit of money. They may take you up on your offer or they may not. It probably all depends on how much work they have to do, how much they are able to pay, and if you were a willing worker. If they don’t need your help they may know someone who does.

Lily asks...
I have heard that the Amish don’t put eyes on dolls so the devil doesn’t see what you do. But if you made a stuffed teddy bear or animal or even drew a picture of a human or animal, would you put on eyes?

You have been misled in what you have heard concerning why some Amish don’t put eyes on dolls. The reason is not so that the devil can’t see you. That is superstition. The real reason is so the doll is less like a graven image or idol, and also more plain and therefore less a source of pride.

Megan asks...
I would like to start writing to a woman in the Amish community. I was wondering how I would go about asking an Amish woman to write her? Also, I was wondering how one may react to me asking this question, whether it be positively or negatively. I wouldn't want to ask and offend anyone by my curiosity of the Amish lifestyle.

It would depend on the individual whether they were open or not to a non-Amish pen pal. If one says no, you can always ask someone else. Just keep in mind, since you are a stranger to them, they will probably be hesitant as it pays to be cautious in this day and age.

Cecilia asks...
I wanted to say I really respect you for what you guys are doing and I share many Amish beliefs. I would like to ask if there was any way I could have a "snail" mail pen pal. I found out recently I was adopted and now trying to find my way back home to the Amish and raise my son as one.

I am sorry that I cannot help you out with finding a pen pal. For the safety of everyone involved, we cannot give out addresses. It might help you to read my responses to Mallory and Shawn below which answer some questions about joining the Amish.

Amy asks...
I always thought the Amish believed in salvation through works and those who believed in salvation on faith alone were shunned from the community. Can you clarify this? Thanks for your wonderful website.

In our churches we are taught very clearly that it takes both works and faith to reach eternal salvation. If it took only works, then Jesus Christ wouldn't have had to die to save us. As it says in Hebrews 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him. In James 2:17 it is written – Even so faith, if it hath not works, it is dead, being alone. James 2:26 – For as the body without the spirit/breath is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Rebecca asks...
Do the Amish allow divorced women into the fold?

The Old Order Amish do not allow divorced women or men to become members of the church.

Carrie asks...
I have always wondered what is the reason why women can't be bishops, ministers or deacons?

This decision is based on Bible teachings such as the following. 1 Corinthians 11:3, end of Genesis 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:11-12, and 1 Corinthians 14:35. Women were created to be a helpmate of men, not to rule over men. Of course this does not give men license to abuse their power. God doesn't say that the woman should be oppressed. An Amish minister recently said at church, "The woman was created of Adam’s rib. God didn't use Adam's toe or part of his skull. God used a rib because the woman is supposed to be at the man's side, his helper, not under him, not above him." The role of a woman is clearly outlined in Proverbs 31 and also in the New Testament.

Carrie also asks...
Why can't anyone know what exactly goes on with the elder bishops and how they come to the decisions they make on shunning or the punishments that they hand out?

I believe you may be misinformed on this area. In our church services, before the sermon, the ministry gathers in private to discuss the Scriptures to be preached that day. They also discuss any issues that come up. If there is an issue in the church, then after the sermon and last song are over, all non-members leave the room. The ministry then informs all the members of the issue and the proposed action to be taken. All the members (men and women) vote to see if all are in accord to the proposed action. If the members are all in one accord, only then is the action implemented. As you see, such matters are not secret only to the ministry. The church members have been informed and have taken part in the decision.

Tina asks...
I often see Amish families go to purchase things in Walmart. Have you ever been to a Walmart? If so, what do you think of the “city life”?

I have been to Walmart many times. Amish people do go shopping in non-Amish stores. As far as city life, I am thankful I don’t live in a city, but cities are interesting to visit.

Dee asks...
My friend Mary is Amish and due to have a baby soon. I would love to get her a baby gift. I can sew something but I don’t know what to sew. I do not have any baby patterns. I just do not know where to start.

Things like baby shampoo, lotion, powder, wipes or even disposable or non-disposable diapers would be useful. You could ask your friend for patterns for baby clothing and get her suggestions on appropriate fabrics to use. A plain blanket would be okay too.

Norma asks...
How do you make fruit fried pies?

Fried pies are made first by rolling out a circle of pie dough. The filling is then spooned into the middle of the circle. The dough is then folded in half over the filling and the edges are sealed. The pie is then deep fried. Once the pie cools, a light icing is applied to the outside. That is really all there is to a fried pie. Because these are so popular, they are often used for fundraisers. So a group of women get together and spend a few hours making pies and having a fun visit.

Harry asks...
Are the Amish permitted to adopt children from outside of their communities? If so, do they have to be raised as Amish? And could they adopt a bi-racial child? Are there any black Amish?

Amish are allowed to adopt children from outside their communities. If the children are adopted, and not foster children, then they would definitely be raised Amish. Like any adopting parent, they would raise that child as their own. Yes, Amish couples could adopt a bi-racial child. My friend’s sister-in-law is of Hispanic origin and was adopted by an Amish couple as a baby. She was raised Amish and is an Amish woman today. There is one African-American Amish that I know of; she is also adopted. There may be many others that I don’t know of.

Jessica asks...
I am English but am attending an Amish wedding and would like to write a few words in my card to congratulate the bride and groom. Can you help me say something endearing to them? I think the world of this couple.

Saying that you pray for God’s blessings on their marriage, and that He may be the center of their lives; this would be very meaningful.

Jean asks...
What is your treatment for hair loss or thinning hair?

I am sorry that I cannot help you out. I have not heard of a specifically "Amish" remedy for hair loss. There are many products on today’s market that claim to treat hair loss. Whether they work or not, I do not know.

Patricia asks...
Can you recommend where I can find some heavy duty, sturdy clothespins?

We use their catalog, but you could check Lehmans.com for clothespins.

Frances asks...
Do the Amish raise their own transplants, such as tomatoes and peppers, for their gardens? If so, how do they give them the light they need and how do they keep them warm. I teach organic gardening and one of my students asked me this question. She will soon be living without electricity and cannot figure out how to give her seedlings the light they need to grow to a healthy garden size?

Some Amish do raise their own transplants. My mom is one of them. She is usually successful. Mom plants the seeds in clear plastic containers, such as you can buy cookies in from the supermarket. She puts the lid on or covers the container tightly with plastic wrap. Then she sets the container near the pilot light on our LP (liquid propane) gas stove. The warming shelf of a wood stove would work too, as long as the temperature is a steady warm. Sometimes by the next morning the seeds have sprouted. Mom then transfers the seedlings to the window sill that gets good sunlight. She removes part of the plastic wrap or props up the lid on the containers to give the seedlings air. Once the seedlings are about ¾ inch high, Mom uncovers them completely. At about 1 ½ inches high (depending on the plant) Mom transplants the seedlings into larger containers. During sunny days we set them in a small greenhouse made of a converted trellis. Make sure to take the plants inside at night. Window sills work fine as long as they are sunny and you have enough room for all the plants. Good luck!

Gloria asks...
Is it disrespectful for Christians who are not Amish get married dressed up in the Amish clothing? My fiancé and I are moving to Lancaster, PA and are getting married this year. We love the area so much and love what the Amish stand for. We want to have our wedding ceremony in Lancaster, PA and dressed as Amish, as long as it is not disrespectful. Please let me know. Thank you.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. May God be the center of your marriage and bless you both with many happy years together. I am assuming you are having someone Amish make the clothing for your wedding since ready-made Amish clothes aren’t readily available. Perhaps that person would be the best person to answer your questions. Or one of your new Amish neighbors, assuming you have Amish neighbors. Please keep in mind, though, that our clothing is not just a costume. Should you throw a wild party afterword, or ignore God in some other way, then it would be offensive. But, as long as your wedding is God-honoring, I cannot see that it would be offensive if you dressed Amish.

Dana asks...
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, and I have a couple questions about Amish women. What would a woman do if her hair was so heavy that having it up in a tight bun all day hurt her head and made it difficult to focus on her work? Also, are women allowed to pluck stray facial hair? May Amish women shave their leg and underarm hair if it makes them uncomfortable? Thank you.

I cannot speak for all Amish because each community varies from the next. Even the different churches within a community vary slightly. In my experience some women have dealt with too heavy hair by thinning it out, usually with a thinning comb. For women, hair on the head is very seldom cut. Please read the Bible verses 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, 15. This is why Amish women very seldom cut their hair. As far as plucking stray facial hair and shaving legs and underarms, that is usually a personal choice. Some do, some don’t.

Nicole asks...
Hello, I am wondering how one would go about becoming Amish. I am 14 years old and the closest Amish community is 2 hours away from me. My parents always tell me I would never make it in an Amish community and that the Amish would never accept me. I feel that God is pointing me in this direction to the Amish faith for a reason. I would hate to have to move away from my family because they have told me numerous times they don't believe in the same values as the Amish but I feel that I do and I believe this is the way I want to live my life and that God has meant for me to live my life this way. Any help or answers to this question would be greatly appreciated. God bless you!

At 14 and as a minor, you need to abide by your parents’ wishes. However, you can learn as much as you can about the Amish. To learn about the Amish read non-fiction, not novels! One book I have read and found to be suitable is The Amish Way (by Donald Kraybill). A History of the Amish (by Steven Nolt) is also good to read. When you become an adult and have learned all you can about the Amish, and still wish to be Amish, then you can seek out friends in the Amish community close to you. Remember, God and time have a way of changing our plans and desires.

Ted asks...
My daughter is terribly afraid of wasps and bees. I don't like using chemicals or spray cans. What would you recommend as something simple and plain to trap those pesky things?

You can buy wasp traps. They are supposed to work on bees and hornets too. I cannot tell you a brand name, but I can describe them. The traps are small plastic domes with holes in them. I believe you put water inside in a tray. The wasps climb in the holes but then cannot get back out. I have heard of making wasp traps out of 2-liter bottles, but I’m not sure how it is done. I hope you can find something!

Mallory asks...
Hi Viola! I have always loved the Amish religion and culture, and I have always felt God's trying to lead me to become Amish. I would love to get in contact with an Old Order bishop that can help me potentially accomplish this. Can you help me? Also, I am 26 and single, and I am curious to know if it is possible for me to marry into the Amish faith, when I know that marriages technically tend to happen earlier. Thank you for all of your assistance, and God bless! I look forward to your help.

Becoming Amish is a huge step to take. Our culture and lifestyle are so different from non-Amish. It is difficult for most people not raised among the Amish to really be comfortable being Amish. It takes a completely different mindset and way of thinking. This is something most non-Amish don’t understand about us. Committing to being a member of the Amish church is no walk in the park. It is hard work. I liken it to a marriage. In order for the marriage to be a success you need to commit to never divorce. You need to put your all into the marriage. When you decide to be a member of the Amish church you need to commit to never leave and to give the church your best. This is essential to make being Amish a success.

Do you live close to an Amish community? If you are truly serious about becoming Amish, I would suggest you move to such an area if you don’t already live close. Become friends with the people, learn their way of life and very importantly, the language. Live among the Amish as if you were a baptized member for at least three years. This will help you see what will be required of you as a member. Find a mentor among the older, wiser women of the church. Someone you can ask questions. If after at least three years you still wish to be Amish, then you can consider joining the church.

There is no age limit to getting married, so at 26, you aren’t “out to pasture” yet. I would however, caution you to refrain from any romantic relationships until you are a confirmed member of the church. I would also like to say, don’t believe what you read in novels or see on TV about the Amish. Even non-fiction books won’t give you a true understanding of the Amish because most weren’t written by the Amish. There is a difference. Being Amish is much more complicated than the clothes we wear and the simple life we choose to live. The main focus of our lives should be giving our whole heart, soul and mind to God. Be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) This, of course, does not just apply to the Amish but to all Christians.

Lee Ann asks...
Do you have interpreters for hearing-impaired persons in your church group?

Most hearing-impaired people have someone who transcribes the sermon for them or an interpreter to sign for them. Several years ago a young deaf man was joining the church in a neighboring community. On the day he was baptized, an interpreter stood beside the minister and signed the sermon as there were several hearing-impaired people in attendance.

Mona asks...
Do you have a dog? If so does it stay in the house? Are animals allowed to live in Amish homes?

My family does not have a dog. We used to have one but she died of old age. We don’t have time to properly train a dog, therefore we don’t have one now. While we still had our dog, she slept in our entryway, otherwise she was outside except on very cold days.

We Amish do not have anything against animals in the house. In fact it is fairly common to see house dogs in Amish homes. Stock dogs are seen on many farms because they are a great help in herding livestock. These dogs generally sleep in the barn where they are nice and warm. One reason you may not see as many animals in Amish homes is because of the extra cleaning, allergies, etc. that goes along with the animals.

Sheryl asks...
I am a stay-at-home wife and mother on a quest to become an Amish woman in her early 50's. What is the minimal wardrobe I should have?  I feel two of each item of clothing?  In this way, I would have one to wear, while I am washing the other.  My best to you and your family.  Oh, and since you are so kind, I would be happy to answer your questions too.

I am sure two of each item of clothing would do as the minimal amount needed. I think you would find it more comfortable if you had a few more changes of clothing.

I do have a few questions for you. Why do you want to be Amish? Do your husband and children plan to join you on this quest? Family is very important to the Amish. Many of our guidelines are aimed at preserving family. If you are seeking to simplify your life, you can do that without becoming Amish. Being Amish is more than just dressing and living your life in a simple way. As a member of the Amish church you seek to become as close to God as possible. To do so means to deny yourself (self-will) and your desires. Seek to put God first in all you do, others next, and yourself last. The Amish life isn’t full of romantic, idealistic fluff, nor is it constant strife and suffering as sometimes portrayed in the media. It is hard work and enjoyment with family and friends. Our lives are as full of problems and temptations as anyone else’s. It is just that we choose to turn to God for help. Anyone can do that being Amish or non-Amish.

Shawn asks...
I am curious to know how to go about becoming Amish. Some have told me that I would not do well in an Amish community because I have grown up in the modern world. Honestly I believe this world is not a place I want to continue the rest of my life in and when I consider how the Amish are living and doing things; I feel I should have had a choice in the matter. I did not willingly choose the life I was given. What are your thoughts on all this?

If you sincerely wish to become Amish, because you think God is pointing you in that direction, I would suggest talking to an Amish bishop or minister to find out what is expected of you as a church member. Then spend a few years living in the community as the Amish do. Learn the language and the customs for at least three to four years. After this time you will have a fuller understanding of the choice you will be making.

If you still wish to be Amish, you can join the church to become a member. It is an extremely sad hardship for the Amish community when people join in haste and later leave. Once you commit to being a member (committing to serve Christ with all your heart, soul, mind and strength), you are bound to that promise for life. You promise God and the church to be an upstanding member, doing all you can for the good of the church with the help of God.

P.S. – None of us choose where we are born, or to whom. God puts us where he wants us and He makes no mistakes. Perhaps that is why the Apostle Paul wrote: "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Phillipians 4:11) Of course that doesn’t mean we should go on living a sinful life, but to bloom where we are planted.

MaryAnn asks...
I am curious to know if the Amish women ever wear make-up?

I cannot speak for all Amish women since each one is their own individual person, but from my experience most Amish women do not wear make-up. The reason is because make-up is put on for vanity, and we are to be humble. Make-up is to enhance your features, which doesn't lead to a humble heart. The Bible tells us that God doesn't look to man's appearance but at the heart. Psalms 147:10-11. Another reason might be that make-up is an unnecessary expense in time and money.

Sara asks...
At what age do girls learn to iron, wash, cook, etc? Are boys taught these things too or are they considered women' s work?

Most Amish girls begin to learn the basics of washing, ironing and cooking around nine or ten years of age. Most do not do these tasks alone until they are a bit older.

Helping Mother with the work begins when children are small. Helping wash dishes or other simple chores at four or five years of age, then adding chores with more responsibility as the development of the child progresses is good training. It is part of helping children grow up into healthy, productive adults. Teaching a good work ethic is important for the child's future.

Amish man shelling peas.

Do Amish men help in the kitchen?

It depends on the household whether boys learn to wash, cook and clean. If a family lives on a farm, it is possible the boys never learn these skills because they are busy outside.

My brothers all learned a little bit about cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing so that they could help their wife if she were sick, or had a baby, etc. Those are also good skills for bachelors.

Leslie asks...
How do the Amish ladies get it all done? Their homes are always so clean, the garden, chickens, etc. are all their responsiblity. Not to mention food prep and laundry. Do they have a set schedule or does it all just come naturally? I'm really wondering about details. After all, they have the same 168 hours each week that we all do and still they accomplish so much!

I think most Amish ladies would tell you there are times when they don't get it all done. They would also tell you they couldn't get it all done without the help of the whole family.

Amish women don't have the distractions of television, computers, cell phones, etc. to take up time. Most do not work outside the home, which also helps.

Having set days to do the laundry, cleaning and other chores is one way of organizing time.

If an Amish woman has more work than she can handle she might hire a maut - a young teen girl who hires out as a mother's helper for household help.

Donna asks...
Do the Amish visit the grave site (after the funeral) of family members who have died? Can they leave flowers?

Yes, we do occasionally visit, although it is not a common practice. Sometimes a person may bring flowers from their garden. If there is a funeral, people will often visit other grave sites while they are there. We try to remember that death is a part of life and not cling to the grief. However, we do value our families and love to retell stories of loved ones who are no longer with us. My mother's friend likes to gather a group of friends once a year to visit her parents' gravesite and reminisce.

Lexxie asks...
First off I would like to say this is very exciting! I have not had any communication with Amish, but I'm fascinated with them. I am a 12 year old girl who would one day love to come visit an Amish community. I would like to ask you about Amish weddings. What kind of food do you have for the reception?

The traditional menu at an Amish wedding reception in my area features; bread (homemade), mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing (chicken stuffing), noodles, a vegetable, salad, cheese and meat. Dessert is usually two kinds of pie, cake, pudding, jello and fruit. The way to be able to taste everything is to only take a small dab of everything. Even then you might be stuffed by the time the meal ends!

Lexxie also asks...
I would also like to ask what kind of meals do you have for breakfast? Thank you so much for your time I really do appreciate it. Hope to hear back. 

As for my breakfast, I eat what my brother calls “cardboard” cereal. I love whole grain, unsweetened cereals that require a lot of chewing (which is why my brother calls it cardboard cereal). I usually have a bowl of good healthy cereal, a glass or milk or juice, and a cup of coffee to start my day off right.

[Editor's Note: Viola's breakfast choice may surprise many of you, as most think of Amish people eating hearty breakfasts. It is our experience that many do eat large breakfasts for their labor-intensive workdays, but the Amish are also becoming more health-conscience along with the rest of America.]

Linsey asks...
Understanding that the Amish generally use a horse and buggy for transportation, what do you use for faster transportation in cases of emergency, like going to the hospital?

In cases of emergencies we hire someone to drive us to the hospital or call an ambulance. For trips too great a distance for travel with horse and buggy, we also hire a driver.

Shelley asks...
I have a few questions regarding your faith. What denomination are the Amish?

Our religion is Christianity. I guess you could say our denomination is Amish, though we don’t necessarily have a denomination.

Shelley also asks...
I have read that you believe in water baptism. Do you wait until the person is of an age to understand what baptism means, or do you baptize as an infant?

We believe baptism should not be performed until the person is of an age to understand what baptism is about and voluntarily gives their life to Jesus. You'll find more information about the history of the Amish and baptism here.

Shelley asks one more question...
I also wonder why the Amish keep themselves so separate from other Christians. Do they welcome other believers in God to their church?

The Amish keep themselves separate so that they are not tempted by the things and ways of the world. The purpose of the lifestyle we live is to keep our lives simple and less cluttered so that we can focus wholly on Jesus Christ and the way God wants us to live. Anyone is welcome to attend our church services as long as they do not try to lead our people astray. Since the services are mostly in German and Pennsylvania Dutch, it would be beneficial to the visitor if they know those languages or had someone explain what part of the Bible they were teaching from so the visitor can better follow along. Thank you for the questions and God be with you!

Nancy asks...
I have some Amish friends who are expecting their fourth baby any time this month. I would like to put a basket together for the family including the baby and their three little girls, and for the parents. I would like the gifts to be useful. Wondering if a small tea set for the girls would be ok.

Yes, a tea set is a nice choice for the girls. For the baby, any useful items are welcome such as washcloths, baby shampoo, etc. For the parents taking in a meal is most appreciated. Always nice to have a new baby around and nice neighbors to help support them during this busy time!

Donna asks...
I know the Amish quilt by hand, and I also know they use sewing machines for making clothing and such. My question is this: Do they use the sewing machine when piecing a quilt to do it quickly, or do they do the entire quilt process by hand.

Sewing machines are used to piece quilts. It takes too much time otherwise. Most of the quilts are hand-quilted though. Without electricity, most households use foot-operated treadle sewing machines.

Debbie from Oklahoma asks...
Does each family pay for their own medical emergencies or is there some type of community health insurance where the burden is shared?

If the family can afford to pay their own medical expenses they do so. If not, we have what is called a free-will plan. First the other members of the church district in which the medical emergency occurred give a free-will offering. If the bill is too high to be covered by this offering, a letter is sent to neighboring districts or communities asking for free-will offerings.

Fundraisers are another way to raise money. This can be done through get-togethers or food drives. For a food drive, a group will organize and assemble food (pizza, donuts, fry pies, chicken, sub sandwiches, etc.) which they sell door-to-door.

Ricky asks...
How many acres total is a typical Amish farm? How many acres in pasture and crop? Thank You!

This is a challenging question to answer! Viola did not have an exact answer for this, so we have asked around to our other Amish friends. A good estimate would be around 40 to 60 acres, but this number varies widely depending on their occupation. An Amish farmer can easily own over a hundred acres for crops, garden, pasture grazing and woods. But if the homeowner is a craftsman, the family may only have a few acres for their horses to graze. Then there are those who do both, so they might have 20 or more acres. They might work in a factory and run a small farm with horses, cows, pigs, chickens, corn crops, a large garden, etc. Thanks for writing and helping us to learn something new!

Tammy from Michigan asks...
Do you go to singings?

Yes, I do go to singings occasionally. Singings are youth gatherings where hymns or traditional praise songs are sung without instruments. These singings are usually held at the home of the family that recently hosted church, so there is room ready for a large group (often 100 – 150 people).

Tammy from Michigan also asks...
Also wondering why the Amish have to keep their relationships a secret till the engagement is announced in the Amish paper, The Budget?

Relationships are not kept secret until engagement is announced. Only the wedding plans are not talked about publically until the engagement is announced because something can always happen, such as a breakup, before the engagement or wedding. Engagement announcements are not usually published in the Budget, but most often in local Amish publications.

...and one more question from Tammy in Michigan:
I read a lot of fiction books about the Amish written by an author who has Amish relatives and I have learned a lot about the Amish as she doesn't make a lot of it up with the language, lifestyle, etc.! Are you allowed to read fiction and romantic books?

Regarding books, we are allowed to read whatever we wish. Something spiritually edifying is best, because you often think and do what you read.

[Editor's Note: It has been our experience that what we've read in Amish fiction does not necessarily match the life of the Amish we know. This might be because Amish fiction is a blend of fact and fiction. Or it might be based on the author's knowledge and experience. For example, they might be writing from an earlier time period, like the 1950's when certain rules applied then, but are different now. Or they are writing from the experiences of Amish in a specific community.]

Deedra asks...
Although we live near Amish I have never been brave enough to ask them about their Christmas traditions. I know that our Mennonite neighbors celebrate with gifts but no tree. Can you please tell me what your family does?

My family also celebrates with gifts and no tree. Usually we will get together for a meal and possibly sing carols. We try to focus on celebrating the most important part, which is the reason for the season, and not be distracted by gifts.

Melissa from Ohio asks...
I was surprised to see canned soup used in the Amish recipe for Wet Burrito Casserole. I thought the Amish did not use "convenience" foods. Is this a common practice?

You just might be surprised at what you would find if you looked into the pantry and refrigerator of an Amish home. Our lives can be busy and hectic too! Quick meals are wonderful for days like that. Canned and packaged foods are great for quick meals. Canned soups make flavorful sauces for casseroles and meats. We do can and freeze many of our own foods, but this varies from household to household. The reasons being economical (raising and canning/freezing your own food is cheaper than store-bought) or because the flavor is better and it is healthier. Here are a few things found in my pantry and refrigerator: cake mix, canned soups, ramen noodles, gravy mix, hot dogs, salad dressing, condiments and tuna. And, of course, staples like flour, sugar, salt and baking supplies.

Karen from Kentucky asks...
Do you use a wringer washer and if so, what is the energy source that runs it?

We do use wringer washers for laundry and the most common energy source is a gasoline engine.

Laundry is washed in the washer, wrung with the wringer, rinsed in plain water, wrung out again, rinsed in water which has fabric softener added, and wrung out again into the laundry basket. Then it is hung on the clothesline with clothespins (or hung onto clothespin rings) outside to dry. Shirts, pants, and dresses are not put through the wringer because it wrinkles them terribly and gives you lots of ironing [editor's note: Viola uses a gas-powered iron]. They are hung on the line and allowed to "drip-dry". The laundry process has a tendency to make you wet so it isn't much fun in the cold winter time. We are fortunate to have a basement large enough to hang most of the laundry to dry if it is too cold outside.

Karen also asks...
I know that an Amish man only grows a beard once he is married (or a bachelor over 40), but is there a way to distinguish single young ladies?

At church, unmarried women wear black prayer kapps and married women wear white kapps. Outside of church it's harder to tell; married women tend to dress more formally than unmarrieds, but there are no hard and fast rules for what to wear, and it can change from community to community. So I guess if a young man spots a young woman and isn't sure, he'd better start asking questions!

Erik from Amish America asks...
Do the Amish ride horses?

Yes, children and young adults do ride for pleasure. In Indiana they have groups that go riding, and sometimes do it as a fundraiser, where everyone pays a certain amount to ride for the day. They often use the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, which runs between Goshen and Middlebury. The trail was originally a train line that was established in 1851. Local volunteers have turned it into a beautiful nature trail.

Many Amish keep cows which are turned out to pasture on large pieces of land. Family youth are responsible in many cases to bring them in at the end of day, and will sometimes ride on horseback to do the job.

Adults generally do not ride on horseback, because a buggy horse is a neccessity, but a riding horse is an expensive pleasure.

Jackie from California asks...
Do you attend church on Sunday?

We attend our local church every other Sunday, but we do not have actual church buildings. There are many churches in one community and we attend the one closest to us. The reason for this is not that one church is any different from another; it is so the people fit into the home of the family which is hosting church, since the average house can’t hold much over a hundred people and there are more people than that in many communities. This home-based church style is modeled after the example of the early church in the New Testament. Thus with having so many churches in one community, holding church every other Sunday enables those who like to visit neighboring churches to do so. People also use the “off” Sunday to rest and visit families or friends.

On Sundays we do not do any work beyond what is necessary. The reason being because God sanctified and blessed the Sabbath and commanded his people to keep it holy. Since God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3) so do we. We try to refrain from worldly pursuits, thinking on holy things and spending time in devotion to God (Exodus 20:8-11).

Diane from Washington asks...
Does your extended family live together in one house?

Extended family don’t usually live in the same house, but often nearby. I have two married older brothers with homes of their own about seventeen and twenty-two miles from us. My younger brother and I are well over eighteen and still live at home with Mom and Dad. This enables us to save up some money for future homes of our own. We do chip in to help pay some of the bills.

We do have a small house attached to ours where my great-uncle lives. He is mentally handicapped and unable to care for himself without supervision. This is not an uncommon practice among the Amish. Many families have a smaller Dawdy (grandparent) house attached or close to their own for their elderly parents. This enables the adult children to care for their parents without the tensions of having them in the children’s home. In caring for our own this way, our elderly do not need to live in nursing homes. This practice, like many, is handled differently from family to family.

Rob from Indiana asks...
Without television, what does a family do in the evening?

Many times a family will read a book or do devotions in the evenings. Not necessarily out loud, but each member reading their own book. Families also enjoy playing games together. My mom, brother and I enjoy playing Speed Scrabble. This is played without the board, only using the tiles. We also spend many evenings talking to each other – connecting, bonding, being a family. Hobbies are great for using up a free evening. My dad likes spending his evenings in his small woodshop tinkering around with different projects. Really an evening is even a great time to write letters to friends and clean out that kitchen junk drawer!

Cara from Virginia asks...
What version of the Bible do you use or is it personal preference?

Most people in my community use the King James version. You will find people who do use other versions but it is encouraged to use the King James. But it is still each to his own.

McKenna from California asks...
What do you do for fun?

Ride bikes, go fishing, play games, spend time with friends, work on hobbies, ride horses, read, putter in the flower garden, etc.

Elya from Arkansas asks...
Are you restricted from eating certain foods?   

No.

[Editor's Note: We loved the simple brevity of Viola's answer and left it as-is.]

Julie from Texas asks...
Without electric dryers, how do you dry laundry best in the winter months? Does laundry actually dry when you leave it hanging on the line when it snows?

Believe it or not, in very cold, windy, sunny weather, the laundry freeze-dries on the line. Sometimes it takes a day or two. If it snows that is bad news for drying laundry. Then we will bring it in and hang things like the dresses in the bathtub and the rest of the laundry on wooden clothes dryers. We usually hang our laundry in the basement on pulldown laundry lines. It generally dries fairly well there if it isn’t too dreary. Also there is always the option to having the living and kitchen cluttered with laundry dryers and drying clothing! :)

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