Why the Amish? Part 1
We get asked all the time, “Why Amish builders?” Aside from the superb quality of furniture that our Amish builders produce (for details of their craftsmanship, read this post), we have great respect for the Amish society. Our builders are disciplined and esteemed, but above all they are our friends. We get to visit these friends several times a year, and they have been kind enough to open their homes and workshops to us. We’ve been lucky enough to create many happy memories with our Amish craftsmen and their families. Whether it’s popping popcorn by a campfire, sharing a meal, playing putt-putt golf or hiking through the woods, we treasure the time we spend together. There’s no possible way to share everything we have learned from the Amish, so we thought we’d break it into two parts (and we still won’t even get close!). We hope you enjoy learning just a little about our friends, the Amish.
The Amish lifestyle and cultural foundations are based on the Bible, and further detailed by the Amish Ordnung. Originally founded in Europe, a group called the Anabaptists separated themselves from Catholics and Protestants. From this group, followers of Jacob Ammann came to be known as the Amish. The first Amish immigrated to America in 1737. There are no Amish left in Europe. The Amish are organized into church districts, and each district has its own Ordnung or rules for living. The Ordnung covers everything from clothing colors and styles, to what types of rearview mirrors (if any) are allowed on buggies. The Ordnung is largely oral, and it is constantly reviewed for necessary changes. While very traditional, the Amish are ever-changing and updating their way of life. The Amish don’t have churches, but instead hold services in their homes. The services are spoken in High German and are full of beautiful songs sung by men, women and children.
It’s surprising for most to learn that a lot of Amish families today are NOT full time farming families. While maintaining a connection to the land is very important to the Amish, most breadwinners in an Amish household are not farmers. Many Amish men work at a factory or in our case, in their workshops, while the women maintain the household and often help with book keeping. Most of our craftsman have their workshops located right next to their homes, so that they are close to home and their families. A lot of our Amish builders still do some farming before and after work. The Amish are early to bed and early to rise – a habit that would probably do us all some good! It’s not uncommon for our builders and their families to start their days before 4am. We are never very surprised to come into the store and find voice mails left at 4:30 in the morning!
For those that still are farming part–time, early morning seems to be when a lot of the farm work is done. For example, one of our bedroom builders also has an impressive duck operation. He sells Peking duck to a lot of Chinese restaurants in Chicago! Another builder has a hog farm and he uses all of the wood shavings from his shop for bedding. The Amish work ethic is an inspiration to us! All of them keep beautiful gardens full of vegetables, fruits and herbs. The women still do a lot of canning and preserving all through the summer to stock up for the long, cold winter months. The Amish still have a very close connection to the land. But, as populations have grown, land has become more scarce and expensive and new opportunities to earn a living have been discovered. Non-farm jobs create opportunities for children to marry and create their own families within the same community and stay close to home. The importance of maintaining face-to-face communication and fellowship is vital, and so the Amish have reduced their dependence on agricultural jobs to secure family connections.
The Amish speak two languages! Using a different language at home helps the Amish maintain their distinctiveness and reminds them both of their German heritage and that they are to remain separate from non-believers. While Pennsylvania Dutch is spoken at home for work, family and play, children learn English from the first days of school. English is used when speaking with non-Amish neighbors.
There is so much more information we can’t wait to share with you about the lifestyle of our friends, the Amish. Theirs is a culture steeped in tradition and reverence. While their look and work may be different from the “norm” here in the U.S., their values are certainly not. They place high value in maintaining a close-knit family and community. They take pride in the quality of their work. We can’t wait to tell you more, but above everything, we want you to know the Amish are wonderful people and we are honored to work them!