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. 

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4 responses

19 01 2008
spillay

I love both your posts about getting to know Mennonite women!! You are definitely right about having adventures…

Sometimes I feel I am just too shy or maybe worrysome, and thus miss out participating and discovering all the wonder and beauty of people, places and experiences around me. Your posts have really inspired me! 🙂

19 01 2008
nichole3

Spillay,
So good to hear from you again. You have to remember that my children are grown. I could never have done anything like with small children of my own. I like your posts. Just write about your world.

Nichole

21 01 2008
Maria

Yes, Mom – You are a great story teller! And you have a great memory – considering this was all about three years ago. I was just down at Rebecca’s house yesterday. I am very excited that I have mainted my friendship with them all these three years. I am still looking for another chance to chop off another chicken’s head. Now, that was an experience! Maria

21 01 2008
nichole3

It is fun remembering that winter. Glad to talk to you a few minutes ago. You mentioned that a horse and buggy just went down the road.

love,
Mom

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