Kentucky Rains And The Sunshine of Grandchildren

29 01 2008

Sunny days have been rare in Western Kentucky since December.  What a contrast to the drought we experienced in July and August. During the summer, the sun wouldn’t stop shining long enough for any rain.  By August instead of green grass–we had just a burnt straw like substance on the ground.  Farmers had a very tough time.  In our county– corn, wheat and tobacco  are the main crops.  The fields were just burned up.  Temperatures stayed around 100 degrees for a good six weeks.  Now it rains a great deal.  It is that dark , ugly time of the year.

I’m so grateful for the sunshine of my grandchildren.  We have them three afternoons a week.  The other two days they stay with their sitter.  She lives next door to Sandy and has kept the children since the birth of our first grandson, John.  As a working mom–this is an excellent situation for Sandy.  The two families are also great friends. 

I pick John up from Kindergarten and then we head to Nanna’s home to get Alex.  Alex who will be four in April loves John Deere stuff.  His favorite item of clothing are his John Deere  boots.  He got them for Christmas.  Sandy got a size to small.  Thank goodness, she is a partner in her company.  She was able to take time off of work to take Alex to Clarksville, TN to make the exchange.  She told me that his constant question on their journey was: “Mommy, will they have the right size?” They had a successful exchange and the little guy has been so happy with his boots.

Yesterday , he not only had his boots on– but he had on a  John Deere  sweatshirt  and a John Deere cap.  He was adorable.  The boys love our old cell phones.  Our contract was up in December with the company that we had been using.  The boys knew we were planning to change phones and anticipated getting the old ones.  I don’t let them take them home.  We keep them charged so that they can play all of the songs , take pictures, set the alarm,  etc.  John loves to secretly set the alarm so that it will go off  after he has gone home.  I take the cell phones with me when I pick up the boys.  They expect that!  Although they both have a room full of toys at their home–simple things like playing with old cell phones fill them with delight. 

Yesterday was extra special because Jim got home at 2:30 p.m.  Over the weekend, his supervisor told him that he was back on eight hour shifts Monday through Friday.  So now Jim works from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Alex is especially drawn to Jim.  They spent about an hour together at the computer playing educational games.  I always go through John’s folder and see what he did at school.  He is starting to have homework now.  Vera worked with him on his homework and gave him some gum as a reward.  We also colored some alphabet letter sheets that I had downloaded.  I have  a huge folder of all the letters.  I made many copies of each one.  John likes us to pick a letter and color them.  He insists that we color them exactly alike.  Thus , he picks out the colors and we take turns with them.  This is a phase he is going through so I just go along with his desire. 

When it comes time to fix supper–the boys have to be involved in the kitchen.  I have so many plastic cooking utensils they like to play with.  John likes to pretend he is running a restaurant.  He takes our orders.  He is using his printing skills by trying to write out our orders.  Alex is fascinated that we eat broccoli so often.  We started eating more broccoli  since I found out I have cancer.  He sat in Vera’s  lap as she was cutting up the broccoli to steam.  I was cooking the spaghetti.  They enjoyed eating with us.  I did have to melt some cheese on their broccoli in order to get them to eat it.

After we finished dinner, we had just enough time to read some books.  Our local library has been selling old hardback children’s books for a $1.00 a piece.  We look for books about trains, airplanes,  trucks, dump trucks and all kinds of tractors.  Alex especially loves one book we recently bought about a man named Dan, who works all day with a construction crew using his dump truck.  I read that book to him over and over again. 

Oh, I forgot to tell you that I’m Mawcaw to the boys.  John started calling me Mawcaw when he was around a year old.  It has stuck.  Now the boys are starting to call Jim Pawcaw instead of grandpa. 

I get so tickled at the cute things they say.  Yesterday I was opening up a jar with a device that Jim got me when we were first married.  I told John: “Your grandpa bought this jar opener for me before your mother was born.”  John then said:”  Now you are the mother of my mother and she is the mother of me.”  Its hysterical.  I love it! 

Our children didn’t grow up having grandparents around.  I consider it a privilege to have our two little grandsons growing up close to us.  Thanks for indulging me in a little light hearted blog today.  This is just one of those days when it is so dark and gloomy outside–that I had write about  the sunshine of my grandchildren.

God bless each of you!


Life And The Ever Present Moment

26 01 2008

As I was writing my series on my experiences with the Mennonite women, I realized what rich nostalgia came out of just daily living.  That was the way I chose to spend one season of my life.  I never contemplated having a blog and writing about those experiences.  That’s the beauty of living one’s life as fully as possible.  That is why I always try to not underestimate any given day–no matter how uneventful it may seem.

Having just finished the series on the Mennonites on Thursday–lo, and behold Maria calls me Thursday evening telling me she has a surprise for me.  A mennonite couple had asked Maria to drive them into town for several errands.  This couple’s twelve children are all grown and live in another part of Kentucky.  Maria has gotten to know them  this past year.  Surprise! Into my living room walks Maria and this Mennonite woman.  Maria had dropped the husband off on another erand.  I served them hot tea.  We had a delightful visit. 

Apart from such a light hearted time of visiting–I’ve had some heavy thinking to do lately.  My surgeon wants me to consider having my well breast taken off.  My oldest daughter Sandy has invited me to tag along with her as she is getting consultation from a doctor of genetics in Nashville on Tuesday.  I’ve spent so much time  talking about my cancer in my blogs–I’ve not wanted to discuss it lately.  I must live in the moment –yet I must not be in denial.  I’ll be writing about the advice this doctor gives to Sandy and me.

This all brings me to problem solving.  The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck, M.d., is a resource that I’ve read throughout different times in my life.  He begins his book by stating that life is always difficult.  All through the first section, he talks about the need to be responsible, to solve problems and to enlarge the maps of our lives.  Thinking clearly, not making hasty decisions and having consideration for the other people in our lives–all make for more responsible living. 

Dr. Peck takes a little time to describe the neurotic person and the character disordered person.  Many times the neurotic person feels the guilt but often is pulled into a situation where they  are overly dependent on others.  This person gets involved in other people’s lives because of guilt.  This becomes what we call a co-dependent person.  The character disordered person almost never thinks of other people. This person make decisions based on what pleases him/her at any given moment. No one is perfect and at times we all have struggles in either area.  However, the healthy person strives to not be a slave to either disorder. 

When I was a student at Austin Peay State University a few years ago studying music–I also took a senior level course in Epistemology( the study of the orgin and limits of knowledge).  Although, I don’t agree with many of the major philosophies in that course that I had to study–I did learn to think more critically.  It has greatly aided me in many areas of problem solving.  I have learned to think from many different angles–before making any major decision.  I make a list of the positives and negatives I can forsee while I’m working on my decision making. 

Scripture is also important to me in my daily living.  I’ve been particularly drawn to the book of James in the New Testament this week.  James talks much about controling our tongues.  He writes that horses are controlled by bridles and large ships are controlled by a very small rudder–yet the human tongue is not so easily controlled.  In the past, I would have tried to make an argument against my friend to all her know her.  It is going to be hard–but I’m determined not to try to persuade others to be against  this friend . Pray for me that I can just keep my mouth shut. 

Yes, we live only one moment in time but in those moments we must be honest, face our problems and think of what is best for not only ourselves–but for all  who are involved in our lives.  Won’t you join me on my quest?

God bless each of you! 

Working Alongside Some Mennonite Women, Part 5

24 01 2008

May had come –and with it an abundant crop of strawberries.  One of the Mennonite families had a strawberry farm.  People from the community and other counties were lined  up in their cars to buy strawberries.  Rebecca had her own small patch of strawberries.  She was busy canning them.  There was no other way for them to enjoy this fruit for very long unless it was canned.  She did take a small amount to make homemade strawberry ice cream.  I was at their home the day she served the ice cream at the noon meal.  It had to be eaten up -as they had no refrigeration.  It was made with cream from the milk of her cow.  I’ve never tasted such wonderful ice cream. 

During that noon meal I talked with Rebecca about teaching me to can.  Canning was a skill that she had been doing since she was a young girl.  She didn’t seem very excited to teach me.  However, she agreed to get me started if I would help shell the green peas.  The pea crop needed harvesting.  The next week she was up early getting peas from her garden for me to shell.  I spent the entire morning breaking open the pods and putting the peas in a big bowl. 

After lunch we began canning.  Rebecca cut up onions to go with the peas. First, we washed the peas.  Then we began filling the jars up with peas.  She put a teaspoon of lemon juice, some salt  and a portion of  onion in each jar.  The final step was to pour boiling water into each jar. The canner held eight quart jars.  My job was to time them.  There was an initial timing that I had to wait for.  After that–the peas had to cook another twenty minutes.  We canned twenty four quarts that day.  I was allowed to take seven quarts of peas home.  I was extremely sore and couldn’t drive home.  I made it to Maria’s house–and begged her to drive me home.  My lower back hurt me so bad that I had to get a cortisone shot the next morning. 

By the end of May, the Mennonites had opened up their vegetable and fruit stand.  Each family had been responsbile for growing a different vegetable for the stand.  Jake and Rebecca were in charge of growing the sweet corn.  They also sold jams, different types of relish, honey, and  their own sorghum. 

I knew that May was my final month to help Rebecca and Leah.  With school out– their school house was used for their church meetings.  Each family took turns cleaning the school house.  It was Jake and Rebecca’s turn.  I helped Leah , their daughter, with the cleaning.  It was hard work and I got another back ache.

The very last of May, I helped another family with their laundry.  This woman had ten children.  He oldest daughters were away in Canada.  She was grateful for some help that morning. This lady used only her own homemade lye soap.  Again, I was amazed at how they kept using the same dirty water over and over.  This family, in particular, was having problems with their well.  They didn’t have a surplus of water in their cistern.  Thus, the clothes didn’t  get the kind of cleaning that a modern washing machine provides.

Throughout the summer, I made visits to some of the families.  I baked cakes for some of the children’s birthdays.  I kept taking food items that were luxuries to the women.  Always, if I happened to be at a home during the noon meal–I stayed to help wash dishes.  Jake and Rebecca’s school age daughters were home for the summer.  They didn’t want the children to be lazy.  Rebecca wanted her girls to help with the chores.  I understood her desires for her children.  I helped out during a tough winter and spring.  It was an experience that I will never forget.

Several weeks into the summer, I stopped by one Saturday as Rebecca was cooking the rabbit that had been their children’s pet.  She asked me if I wanted to stay for the noon meal and enjoy some fried rabbit.  I told her that I could not ever eat anything that had been someone’s pet.  She just laughed. 

I’ve taken my grandsons to visit with Jake and Rebecca’s family a couple of times.  They enjoyed getting to see the horses in the barns.  One time when we visited– their dog had given birth to puppies.  She had a nest in the barn.  The boys really enjoyed seeing the puppies.

Last summer I received a letter in the mail from Rebecca.  She sent me fifty dollars to buy their family some canned fruit.  The strawberry crop had not done well . They were out of their home made apple sauce.  I immediately went to Wal Mart and bought them gallon sized cans of fruit.  She had also wanted grape juice that she could make into jelly.  I bought them about eight gallons of concord grape juice.  The next day, I drove to their home to deliver the fruit and juice.  I was honored that they trusted me with their money.

Maria still eats a meal with  them occasionly.  She has been keeping Rebecca up on my breast cancer journey.  I know that someday soon–I will visit them again.  I would like to get a group of the women together and teach them about breast cancer prevention.  They seem to have so little understanding about cancer.  I know that I’m always welcome , but the days of helping them with their chores are over.  They have built friendships with other Mennonite communites and often get older girls to come live with them for awhile to help with the chores.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my stories about working with the Mennonites women.  They are a special group of folks.  I respect them very much.  Today I value the earth more because of my experiences.  I’m very sensitive about not wasting resources. Skills like learning to can are precious to me.  I even cleared out my house to pattern their home.  I made my living room into one large dining and music room.  I made a smaller but cozy family room from one of my bedrooms.  However, I can’t have a wood burning stove in the city.  My home owner’s insurance would not allow it. 

May God bless each of you!

Working Alongside Some Mennonite Women, Part 4

23 01 2008

Rebecca’s youngest children were three and five.  The little three year old was a girl.  Her five year old was a boy.  I was amazed at how well they would entertain themselves while we were all doing chores.  Like all children, they had a barrel of toys.  They would dump them all out on the floor and play while the chores were being done.  Rebecca and Jake let them have a little white bunny rabbit.  Alvin, the five year old carried that bunny around quite a bit. 

Each Monday was a repeat of the same types of chores. Once in awhile there would be different tasks.  One afternoon after the dishes were done, Rebecca told me that she needed to hitch up the horses and take some logs down to the sawmill.  I rode with her.  She rode that wagon full of logs –through all of the backroads of their community– at a fast speed.  I was rather scared.  While driving along ,I mentioned to her how we send electronic mail around the world with just a click of our  computer mouse. Her mind just could not fathom such information.  I was very glad to get back to her house after that wagon ride.

Jake and some of the men from the community bid on a job in my town to tear down an old warehouse.  They would ride the eighteen miles into town by horse and wagon, work all day–and make the long ride home.  I told Jake that if he ever felt  exhausted to make the ride home– that I had an extra bedroom available.  I really didn’t expect him to take me up on my offer.  One day in the middle of March, Jake and his two oldest sons showed up at my home.  It was one of those very cold March nights in Kentucky. 

At first we were going to tie their two horses to a tree in our backyard.  However, they were a little scared that someone would let them loose.  Our next door neighbor had a fenced yard.  We asked them if Jake and his sons could let their horses stay the night in their yard.  They were delighted to have the horses.  We did have their buggy in our backyard. 

Jake and his boys talked with us for just a little while.  They were tired from their long day of working on the warehouse.  The morning came early.  I got up to cook the eggs that they had brought from home.  They also had their own buttermilk and granola.  I would have been glad to offer them my food , but they would have been embarressed to accept my hospitality in that way.  There were many more weeks of work to do on the warehouse.  For them to accept our hospitality on a regular basis would have been frowned on by their community.  However, we were excited that they actually came that one time.

Western Kentucky has weather that changes back and forth.  It can be bitterly cold for a few days  and switch to spring like weather overnight.  Such was March of 2005.  The week after Jake’s visit–the weather was warm.  They had planted their own personal garden.  I wanted to learn how to hoe.  Rebecca took me to the garden and let me hoe for about an hour.  Then she made me quit.  She was afraid that I would have a heart attack.  I was never allowed to work in the garden again.  Rebecca had planted a few vegetables in February up by her porch.  If I remember correctly, they had an early crop of spinach  coming up in March. 

Maria would come off and on.  She was teaching a college course at a junior college in our town.  Maria asked Jake if we could attend their Good Friday service.  We were surprised when he told her that we were welcome to come.  The families took turns hosting church services.  The Good Friday service was going to be at Jake and Rebecca’s home.  Maria did take the time to help Rebecca scrub her home for the occasion. 

Good Friday was on March the 25th.  We dressed very modestly.  I wore a long black skirt, a black blouse and a black jacket.  When we arrived the men were all standing by the barn talking.  They wore blue shirts with their black suits.  The women and children were already in the house.  The service was very long.  Many times we would go to our knees for silent prayers.  They sung all of their songs without musical instruments.  The language was Pennsylvannia Dutch German.  The preacher did preach his sermon in English so that we could understand.  I thought that was very nice of him.

Rebecca and Jake planned to ride into town that afternoon to take their taxes to our daughter who is a Certified Pulic Accountant.  We begged them to come by our house after they got finished at Sandy’s office. Maria didn’t want to miss the possibility of their visiting our home.  Thus, she came into town and went straight to Sandy’s office to wait for Rebecca and Jake. Likewsie, I went to Sandy’s office.  The children were having a great time exploring all of Sandy’s pencils, pens and markers.  Finally, Jake and Rebecca agreed to visit our home.  I asked if I could ride in their buggy with them.  So we drove through town.  I was full of elation as we made the journey to our home.

When we arrived home–I served everyone ice cream.  Rebecca wanted me to play some hymns on my piano.  They don’t use musical instruments at all—but Rebecca had gone to public school for several years as a child and remembered the pianos.  Jake nodded that I could play some hymns.  It was a brief but wonderful visit.  Instead of heading home–they were going to visit another community of Mennonites for the weekend.

Good Friday had been a lovely day from start to finish.  As Spring progressed–I continued to visit Jake and Rebecca each week.  My final episode will be about how Rebecca taught me  how to can vegetables. 

God bless each of you!

Working Alongside Some Mennonite Women, Part 3

22 01 2008

My interest continued to grow in helping Rebecca and her family.  The next time I went to help Rebecca, I worked more on the actual washing of clothes.  Rebecca had a large caldron of hot water that she would pour into her wringer washer.  She only used regular detergent sparingly.  Sunday clothes were always washed first.  I kept wondering why she didn’t change the water very often.  This was just part of her trying not  to waste detergent or water.  The last batch of clothes to be washed was always the men’s work clothes.  When we finished washing–Rebecca simply emptied her wringer washer and her rinse buckets onto the floor.  There was a drain for it to run down into the basement. 

This wash room was attached to the house.  She also had another wood burning stove in her wash room.  It was the stove that she started housekeeping with as a young bride.  She called it her summer stove, because in the heat of the summer–cooking in the washroom would not cause the family discomfort.  Her big wood burning stove in her kitchen was her pride.  It was apparently the state of the art in wood burning stoves.  Jake like to talk about about how nice it was to sit near the stove and read on cold winter nights.  The family depended on this stove not only for cooking but also to keep the house warm.  It was their only means of heat.

The layout of their home was interesting.  The front door led into a huge room that was their all purpose room.  They had their large table and chairs .  Furniture was sparce.  They had a bench covered with cushions and one other chair.  The floor was covered with linoleum.  Their kitchen cabinets and sink were rescued out of a house that had being torn down.  There was a large wooden cabinet/desk where Jake kept his farming records and Rebecca kept her cookbooks.

Off to the right of this large room was a small family room.  It had Rebecca’s sewing machine, a small couch and a bookcase.  This room led into Jake and Rebecca’s bedroom.

Upstairs were four nice sized bedrooms.  Off of the washroom was an in door outhouse.  They didn’t have modern plumbing.  This was nice because they didn’t have to go outdoors in the cold of the winter. 

Rebecca or Leah were always up way before breakfast milking the cow.  Rebecca then would begin a process of making a type of cheese similar to cottage cheese.  Some of the milk was kept for drinking and the cream was saved to make butter.  Making butter became one of my chores.  They saw it as a real drain on their time and were more than happy to teach me how to churn the butter.  They didn’t have a churner such as I’ve seen in frontier books.  Instead, they had a very large glass jar with a tip that had a mixer attached to it.  On the outside of the jar was a gadget that I could turn round and round.  Now, they didn’t want me to spend all of my time churning butter.  Thus, I would churn awhile, help with the wash some and also cut up vegetables. 

When the butter was made–Rebecca showed me how to drain the buttermilk off and take the butter and wash it.  I simply ran the butter through several rinse cycles of water and then I would salt it.  Rebecca let me take butter home only once because it was such a precious food item to them.  I did enjoy eating it on their homemade bread.

The only meat this family had was what they killed.  A hunter had given them a deer.  Rebecca canned much of the venison.  She also made a type of sausage from the deer.  The chicken that Maria had beheaded was cooked and canned.  They used this canned meat to make soups.  Leah made a pizza with the canned venison during one of my visits there.  She used their own canned tomato sauce. They topped the pizza with Rebecca’s soft homemade cheese.  They also loved applesauce.  In the fall, they bought apples from a nearby orchard and made about 200 large cans of applesauce.  The applesauce was served at each meal.

I continued to bring them food items that were a luxury to them.  I began shopping at the Mennonite store where they got their monthly supplies from.  This store was in the back of a home.  It was private.  However, Maria’s reputation had reached across the county.  When the store mistress found out I was Maria’s mom–I was more than welcome.  She bought her supplies from a big warehouse out of Pennsylvannia.  The store was stocked with all kinds of goodies that were hard to find in a regular store.  I could also buy large quantities of food.  I bought raisons, dates, dried pineapple , peanut butter and sweet carob chips for my friends.  It was such a joy to see how much they appreciated these food items.

Leah would always made a large batch of cookies with the carob chips.  Often I would help her mix up the cookie dough.  I would spoon the cookies on the baking  trays.  However, I didn’t have a clue how to time cooking them in the wood burning stove.  So Leah or Rebecca always had to time the baking of the  cookies. 

While eating with them, I was a bit afraid to drink their raw milk or well water.  I sipped the water very slowly, consuming very little.  I never told them of my fears.  I hope they never noticed.  Enjoying meals with them was special.  I would tell them about my world.  I also told them stories about substitute teaching.  They were horrified at all the workings of a public school.  This community had a little school house in which one of their people taught the children through the 8th grade. Jake would always remind me that although they had to work a little harder–they were spared of all the monthly bills like mortage payments on homes, utilities, car gas, etc. When Maria was with us–she would debate  with them about their religious beliefs.  She had more guts than I did.  I just left them alone about those kinds of topics. Maria has always liked a good debate and somehow managed not to fall out of the good graces of Jake and Rebecca.

There is still much more to share.  I hope you stay with me.

God bless each of you!

Working Among Some Mennonite Women, Part 2

19 01 2008

After buying the eggs from the Mennonite woman–we didn’t pursue the Mennonites for quite  awhile.  Maria would still tell me how delighted she was to see the horses and buggies go by.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas –we were both preoccupied with our own lives.

In early February of 2005, Maria called to tell me that she had become acquainted with one of the families.  She had spent some time during her week, helping the mom of the house do laundry.  Several times she ate the noon meal with this family and helped do the dishes.  One day during that week–they even let Maria chop the head off a chicken.  I was sick in bed with the flu during her great adventure.  However, I knew that I had to meet this family for myself as soon as I got well.

Maria came for a visit on Saturday of that week and told me more details.  This family had built a treadmill just outside of the washroom for one of their horses to ride.  There were connections to their wringer washer –so that it ran by actual horse power.  Maria told me all about the big wood burning stove that her friend cooked on.  She also told me about the fun that she had taking the table scraps out to the chicken coop for the chickens.  I knew as soon as I got well that I had to meet this family.

Thus, a few days later I ventured to Maria’s home and we went to visit this Mennonite family.  It was in the late afternoon.  Rebecca, the mother, took a few of her precious minutes to visit with me.  She was waiting for her children to come home from the school house.  Rebecca also had a little girl the same age as my oldest grandson.  Jake, the father, came in the house for a bit.  He was extremely friendly and laughed as he was relating the story of Maria’s first attempt of killing a chicken.  Jake  seemed genuinely glad that Maria and I had an interest in their family.  He showed us the cellar with all the jars of food that Rebecca had canned.  There was also a cistern in the basement that collected rain water.  They used this water to wash their clothes and dishes. They had a well for their other water needs.  He had fun telling us how they built the treadmill and hooked it up for their horse. At that point, Maria got on the treadmill so that I could see how it powered the washer.

Jake and Rebecca  have seven children.  Their oldest son had his own machine shop on their property.  Leah, the oldest daughter, was 18 at the time and worked right alongside her mother doing the chores.  Yet, Leah’s  real love was training horses and donkeys for other people. This helped with the family income–so Leah  was not always as available to help with the domestic chores.

Now Jake  didn’t believe in spending money on anything fancy.  Many times I have seen Mennonite and Amish families at Wal Mart with their shopping baskets full of good things.  This community didn’t do that.  They grew their own food and the women had to make do with very little in the way of fancy things.  These women used clothe diapers for their babies.  There was absolutely no luxury items in their lives.  They hired a driver to go the Mennonite store about twenty miles away,  for staples.  Once a month, they would buy large sacks of sugar, flour, cooking oil  and a few other stapels.  That was it, though.  Things like chocolate chips, peanut butter, powdered sugar , raisons, etc. were out of the question.  They used their own sorghum as a sweetner more than sugar. 

After that visit, I mentally made a list of items that I could take to them as gifts.  I went the very next week with a bag full of goodies.  Leah  especially liked the powdered sugar.  She immediately got her cook book out and made some special cookies that she could ice.  I stayed through the morning helping with the chores.  Rebecca  showed me how she did her wash.  I was a little afraid of getting my hands  near the wringer.  Jake and his son had also made a clothes line that hung from the barn to the house.  It was operated with a pulley. Rebecca  would bring a load of clothes out on the porch  and I would hang them up .  We did this until the line was full.  In between times, we would cut up vegetables and work on the noon meal.  I stayed to eat with them that day.  Jake and his two oldest sons came in from doing their farm chores.  The family bowed their heads in silence . The silence broke when Jake began talking.  After the meal, I washed the dishes.  There were vats on the back of the wood burning stove filled with hot water.  We would fill up a pan for washing the dishes and another pan for rinsing them.  This water came from their cistern which they poured into the vats for heating. 

My first day of helping Rebecca and Leah  with their chores was the beginning of many such adventures.  I’ll have more to share next time. 

Working Alongside Some Mennonite Women, 2005, Part 1

17 01 2008

Western Kentucky is the home of many Mennonite and Amish groups.  Having grown up in Western Kentucky–I can tell you that has not always been the story.  My first aquaintance with the horse and buggy people was in Iowa in l973.  My husband to be took me home with him for Christmas vacation.  His little rural area that he grew up in had quite a few Mennonite and Amish communites.  I was amazed at seeing the people in their old fashioned dress.  I was even more facinated with their travel by horse and buggy.  Well, as I returned to Kentucky and later back to college in Alabama–I soon forgot about these charming folk.  I never had occasion to see them again until our family moved from Alabama to Western Kentucky in l985.

The Mennonites and Amish had taken a liking to Western Kentucky in the thirteen years than I had been gone.  I began seeing them everywhere.  Traveling to and from surrounding counties –I saw more and more communities of them.  I was later to learn that many of these people had grown tired of their communites in Pennsylvania and Ohio –being infiltrated with commercialism.  Land was fairly inexpensive in Kentucky.  Thus, they began migrating to Kentucky–especially Western Kentucky.

The Mennoites and Amish can trace their roots to the Anabaptists of the 16th century. They were greatly persecuted for their stand against infant baptism.  In fact, many of the reformers actually murdered many of these people.  They began traveling to America so that they could have their religious freedom. 

Today there are so many different groups of Mennonites and Amish –that one can not define them easily.  Some of the groups have developed very modern ways.  For instance, an Amish group about 13 miles from our home maintain the old fashioned dress but have electricity and telephones.  They have built a community center that has modern refrigeration, stoves, microwaves, etc.  Once a month they cook a dinner and invite the public.  We usually try to attend this dinner.  It has become very popular and we see many people we know at this function.  Yet this group won’t drive cars.  They buy tractors and build little wooden trailors that they attach to the trailors.  The women and children ride in these trailors. 

I can remember getting so very excited about seeing a horse and buggy tied up to a pole at our Wal-Mart in our first years back in Kentucky.  Now the horse and buggy traffic has greatly increased.  On our way to Murfreesboro, Tn. on Sunday mornings–we often see the horses and buggies right on the four lane highway before we pick up the interstate road.  ( No, they don’t dare enter an interstate.  They would never survive)

In August 2004, Maria, my daughter moved to a very rual area.  She was so excited that she was surrounded by an old order Mennonite group.  Those first couple of months she lived there–I made quite a few visits. The Mennonites owned all of the land beyond her backyard fence line.  Quite often horses would be in the wooded area.  One Sunday afternoon the fence line broke and some of the Mennonite’s cows were in her backyard.  She called me very excited that a group of men had come to retrieve their cows and to fix the fence.

In September of that year this group were harvesting their sorghum crop.  They had built their own processing plant to make the sorghum syrup which is much like molasses. Maria and I just had to find out how they made their sorghum –thus, we ventured down to their plant.  Just outside this plant, many of the men were taking a break to eat water melon.  Likewise, their workhorses were also eating watermelon.  Inside the plant, I was shocked to see men and boys working barefoot.  They had a creative system whereby the finished sorghum went through pipes down to another level where it was poured out by a spout.  On this lower level there were several young women pouring it into jars.  I remember one mother having a baby in her lap as she worked.  Then labels were put on the jars and the jars were placed in boxes. 

The next adventure Maria and I had was to follow a sign on the road that advertised the sell of fresh farm eggs.  We just had to find out about the family that sold these eggs.  So we drove the narrow path to the farmhouse.  A mother of about ten children came to the door.  She was very gracious to talk with.  We asked if we could buy a couple of dozen eggs.  Standing on the porch, we noticed the chicken coops.  They were large and spacious.  The chickens had so much room to roam around freely.  We took our eggs back to Maria’s home.  There was a curiosity in both of us to learn more about these old order Mennonite people.

This is the background for an opportunity that Maria and I had in 2005 to actually get to know the women in this community.  For the next several posts , I will give an account of some of our adventures.  I hope you stay with me for all of the details.

God bless each of you!