Growing Up Amish Series - Memories From My Formative Years

Up until I was twelve years old my family lived and worked on a farm in the rolling hills of southern Ohio. It was then that my parents moved our family to Holmes County, Ohio and where all of us live today. The very first memories I have are from when my family lived there on that 200 hundred acre farm which was a respectable size for an Amish farm. Beginning there on that farm, I will be posting a series of posts that are filled with my memories of growing up Amish. 
My Parents
 My dad has always been and always will be dedicated and hard working. The memory that stands out to me today is that he was in the barn before I ever got up in the morning and often was still in the barn when I laid my head down on my pillow at night. No self respecting Amish man would have it be any different, he was making a living for his growing family and it often defined who he was. 
 My mom spent her days on the farm raising us kids and keeping the housework afloat and good food on the table. My siblings and I are all two years apart in age and so for a number of years mom had a lot of diapers to change and small mouths to feed.
 Today, my parents remain Old Order Amish and they now live off the farm and in fact, my family lives right beside my parents. 
My Siblings
 My brother, Lee, is the oldest child and as he grew up he was the first one of the kids in the barn helping dad with the farm chores. Lee, is not Amish, and is married with four kids of his own. He owns Paint Valley Equipment and Paint Valley Farms, raising 4-H cattle. 
Sister Katie Mae is next and she became mom's helper as soon as mom could shoulder her with some light responsibility. Katie Mae is married to an Amish preacher, has eight boys and one girl and their family lives on a farm. The biggest compliment I can give my oldest sister is that she is amazing housewife and mom. 
I am the third child and what you don't know about my family already you will probably learn along the way in upcoming blog posts. 
My baby sister is Martha and she is not Amish. She is raising her eight children on her own and working full time and there aren't enough words in the English language to describe how I admire her for how she pulls everything together to support her family. 
Working On The Farm
Living on a farm was hard work and us siblings were all expected to pull our weight around the farm. Dad had between 20-30 cows in his herd at all times and we had to milk them by hand, twice a day. Us children got to do a whole lot of milking over the years. 
My chores were mostly to feed the cows and to bottle feed the newborn calves. Since I'm not the fondest of animals this was a real chore for me and I didn't think it was fun at all. There were times I had to help milk the cows, but I didn't have to do it as often as some of my other siblings had to. 
Us children had to get up early on school days and help with the chores before getting ready for school. Sometimes when we got behind and didn't have time for breakfast we would have a favorite treat of mine. Two thick slices of bread, slathered in mayonnaise, and a nice layer of Velveeta Cheese. We would eat our Velveeta cheese sandwiches on the way to school and it was a real treat for this little Amish girl.  
The days got hot in the summer and a favorite memory I have is one that gave us a bit of a respite from the heat. We would wander down to the spring overflow, lay down in the grass and drink seemingly right out of the ground. There was a spout attached to a pipe coming up through the ground and we were able to quench our thirst with the cool water flowing from that spout. I remember laying there in the tall grass with my two sisters and brother looking up at the sky and finding shapes in the clouds. 
Playing On The Farm
A hardworking Amish farm family has little time for a lot of fun, but there were moments of fun. In the Spring when the weather was just right mom and dad would take us children and we would go mushroom hunting. It was a real event for our family and it is one of those memories I savor. 
If there was a thunderstorm or rained and work had to be halted in the barn our family would gather on the porch or in the basement and we would eat popcorn and drink canned grape juice and sit and watch the rain fall and the lightning dance across the fields. 
When we were really young, my sisters and I would find some kittens wandering around the barn and we would play dolls with them in our corn crib. We would play dress up with the kittens in clothing and they would run away from us. 
When our boy cousins would visit they and my brother, Lee, would build tunnels with the hay bales and set booby traps for us girls to fall into when we tried to navigate through the tunnels. It is one of those fun memories.
The loose straw in the haymow also provided us with hours of entertainment, sliding down the slippery straw and then bounding back up the side of the mow to do it all over again.  
My earliest memory of Sunday are when I would wake up to the smell of mom's coffee soup wafting up the stairs and into my bedroom coming straight from the kitchen. I dreaded that coffee smell because I knew it was Sunday morning and I was expected to go to church and sit there nice and neat and not do anything out of line or to embarrass my parents. I was a fidgety little girl and sitting so long was something that went against my grain. I knew early on that I would never stay Amish once I grew up and could leave the church. 
There were no little girls my age, so my sisters were my best friends in church as well as at home. We had to wear the black satin coverings that were required back then for any girl not married. I know of single women in their 30's and 40's who wore the black satin coverings to church when I was growing up, but in today's world the Old Order Amish have relaxed that rule and the single gal doesn't have to wear the black covering to church these days. 
Church meals were always ho hum for me unless the hostess decided to switch things up and serve something like bean soup or hot dogs or even pie to her guests. I loved all three of those items and if any of them were served it was a happy day for Lena! A typical church meal consists of homemade bread and peanut butter, canned pickles, red beets, and ham. Sunday afternoons were spent quietly at home. We would often eat popcorn and have grape juice and do some reading. My parents loved to read The Budget back then and they still enjoy it today. If they weren't finished reading The Budget during the week then they would finish it on Sunday afternoons. 
My Thoughts
In today's world I look back and I treasure my formative years. It shaped my siblings and I into the people we have grown into today. I didn't much enjoy the Amish lifestyle, but I don't regret growing up the way I did. 

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  • So enjoyed your blog.

    • Julia JOseph
  • Oh, Lena…I’m going to love this series! I’m living on my family farm right now and loving every minute! This is the home of my heart. Sleeping in my grandparents’ bed, looking out the same window as I did as a little girl drifting off for a nap on Sunday afternoons, rocking in the window my grandma gazed out of for so many years…the memories are thick as the foggy spring mornings. Looking forward to reading more. I had an Amish pen pal for a while and have always been fascinated with the lifestyle, work ethic, and faith.

    • GInny McKinney
  • Thanks for sharing your story, Lena. I love reading about your life growing up Amish.

    • Lori FIsher-Martin
  • I loved reading about your growing up years. I find the older I get the more I reminisce on my childhood! Precious memories. My husband and I bought a home in Kidron last May and are very excited about the memories we’ll make there.

    • PAmela
  • My family and I love the Ohio Amish country! We have made friends with several Amish families and I won’t trade anything for the memories we have with them!! Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to hear more! Hopefully when we come in June I can visit your shop!!

    • Lauren Varner