Have you ever wanted to ask an Amish person a question? Here is your opportunity! Send us your questions and we'll forward them on to Viola, a young Amish woman living in the midwest. She will answer the questions she feels best able.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.]
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?
[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! :)