Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Amish Road Trip!

Lots of folks head to the beach for spring break, but this year, my destination was Ethridge, Tennessee. The small town, located about eighty miles southwest of Nashville, is home to the largest Old Order Amish community in the South. 

A few days before Easter, I submitted a new proposal to my editor for an Amish Suspense Trilogy. The fictional community I’ll feature in my stories is situated in the North Georgia Mountains, and the original Amish who settled in my made-up community came from Ethridge. While some Amish groups have eased their stance on technology, especially when dealing with English businesses and customers, the Swartzentruber line, of which Ethridge is a part, have remained extremely conservative. That means no indoor plumbing or any use of electricity or propane, even in their wood shops, dairies and sawmills.

My husband and I left the Atlanta area on Tuesday, April 5, and took back roads to Cullman, Alabama, where we spent the first night. The next morning, we traveled north on Interstate 65 to Tennessee, then turned west onto State Highway 64 and drove to Lawrenceburg. While researching our trip, I found information about the Richland Inn, which appeared to be the nicest accommodations in the area, and made reservations. Our room was newly renovated and very comfortable.

This Amish man stopped at the Welcome Center soon after
we arrived. I chatted with him inside. He was young, with red hair
and a sweet smile.
In spite of my pre-planning, I couldn’t control the weather. The day was gray and rainy, with high winds and storms predicted to hit later in the afternoon. As we hurriedly headed on to Ethridge, we passed a number of Amish horse and buggies trotting along the roadway.

Sue (left) and Jana (right) work at the Amish Welcome Center. 
Ethridge is a tiny town, not much more than a crossroads, and we quickly spotted the Amish Welcome Center.  Sue and Jana greeted us warmly, and we were soon talking about books, especially Amish stories, and favorite authors. The store was packed with souvenirs, homemade jellies and jams, antiques and second-hand consignments, including the Amish straw hat and black bag that Amish women use as a diaper bag, pictured below.

Amish ladies pack baby bottles and diapers in the black tote.
We had called ahead to arrange a tour, and Jimmy Martin, our guide, met us at the Welcome Center. Jimmy grew up in the local area, knows the Amish people and hosts tours in an open wagon he built himself. Convinced that the weather wasn’t going to improve, we grabbed raincoats from our car and climbed into Jimmy’s wagon. In the spring and summer, his tour wagon is packed to capacity with sightseers, but due to the weather, we had a private tour and Jimmy’s undivided attention. The hour he usually allots turned into a delightful three-hour excursion where we got to meet and talk to a number of the local Amish folks.

Leaving the Welcome Center and heading toward
the Amish farms. Notice the rain drops on the plastic windshield.

The Ethridge Amish community is made up of 250 families. The farms—each consisting of roughly 50 acres—spread out for miles on each side of Highway 43.

The first floor of a typical Amish home has a living area and main bedroom where the parents sleep. The kitchen usually sits as a one-story extension in the rear of the house. The upstairs is divided into two large rooms, one for the boys and the other for the girls.

The kitchen appears to be on the rear left of this house.
A wood stove in the main room, similar to the one below that we saw in a woodworking shop, heats the first floor. Holes are drilled in the ceiling so the warmth rises to the second story. The wood shed is a small, covered building behind the main house, and the outhouse is usually located behind the wood shed.

Wood burning stove found in homes and shops.
A water pump sits outside near the kitchen. Some are hand operated, and others use small diesel motors to help draw the water. A plastic cup was hung over the pumps we saw, for a quick drink on a hot day. Glass jugs filled with milk chilled nearby in buckets of well water. The cows and goats are milked twice a day, and the cool well water keeps the milk fresh, even in the summer. The Amish eat goats, and the goat milk is given to infants who can’t tolerate their mother’s milk or milk from the dairy cows. Cream is placed in glass jars, and the children’s job is to shake the jars to produce butter. 

Two houses sitting side-by-side is common. One belongs to the parents
and the other to the son and his family.

The Amish raise chickens, pigs, and cattle. The corn they grow is feed for their livestock. Tobacco is a popular crop. They also train horses for the English and build furniture, porch swings, gazebos, cedar chests, lawn furniture and more.

Road signs direct customers to local shops.

The woman sell peanut brittle, fudge, cookies, jams and jellies. They also make soap, although Jimmy said they buy detergent from Walmart to use on their own clothing. They can meat and vegetables and buy any staples they don’t produce on the farm.

According to Jimmy, eighty people can build a house in a day. The farmer buys the wood from the local sawmill that’s owned and operated by an Amish family. He’ll have the window and door frames ready, and the cement slab poured before the families arrive on the house raising day. The men construct the house while the woman prepare a huge lunch that everyone enjoys. 

A closeup view of the school house. Children get up at 4:30 AM to do chores
before school. They bring a lunch from home, and
head back to the farm for more chores at the end of the school day.
The community has many one-room school houses situated about a mile apart. Families go together to support the school nearest to their farms, and an older teenage girl is chosen to be the teacher. Children speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home and learn English when they attend school. Their education extends through the eighth grade. We visited Ethridge at the beginning of April, and schools were already out for the summer so the boys could help with the plowing.
The Amish schoolhouse from a distance.

Jimmy stressed the differences in the Amish way of life, especially for children. There are no birthday celebrations or Christmas presents and no toys. The children help with chores from an early age. Three and four-year-olds care for the babies, and seven and eight-year-old boys plow the fields. All children wear dresses and bonnets until about age two, after which boys are dressed in trousers. At one of our stops, young children with rosy cheeks stared wide-eyed out the window at us. When I waved, they bashfully ducked their heads.

The local sawmill owned and operated by an Amish family.

The Amish don’t coddle their children, according to Jimmy. Parents occasionally go to town for dinner, usually at all-you-can-eat buffets. The infants will accompany them and perhaps one or two of the older children. The others remain at home. Sometimes the parents will travel to visit distant relatives for a week or so. The children stay at home and keep the house and farm running smoothly while the adults are away.

We waved to each buggy that passed, and the Amish
driver always waved back.

Twenty-one is the age most couples marry. They court and marry in winter before the spring planting. All “dates” are chaperoned, and their usual outings are rides in open-top carriages. Adult children work at home or on their parents’ farm but do not get paid until their twenty-first birthday. At that time, they’re expected to pay rent if they continue to live at home.

I had to take a picture of this little foal. The Amish families
usually own about 15 horses.

We stopped at three farms to buy baked goods and baskets. I met Anna, a grandmother who was on her way to the grocery in Lawrenceburg. She wore a black bonnet and a heavy shawl she had cut from black knit fabric and pinned together with three large safety pins.

Wash hangs on the line. See the slanted addition at
the rear of the house? That's the kitchen, located away from the
main living area.
Her ten-year-old granddaughter, Emma, waited on us as we picked out baskets to buy. Emma wore a two-piece brown, ankle-length dress. The blouse was held together with straight pins. An apron wrapped around her slender waist and nearly covered the calf-high rubber boots she (and the other children) wore. The young girl stole my heart with her wide smile and twinkling eyes. Her brother, Manuel, one year older, wore a straw hat, blue waist-length jacket and blue trousers with the same style rubber, mud boots. He had a pensive gaze and stood back and watched as I chatted with his sister. Eventually, he stepped closer and joined in the conversation.

Bent hickory rockers wrapped in plastic and stacked one
atop the other, waiting to be transported to Alabama.

At our next stop, we toured a wood working shop. The saw, lathe and drill were run by diesel. Sawdust was piled high in one section of the shop and would be used as mulch for their gardens, as bedding in their stables and to start the fires in their wood stoves.

An Amish woodworker's shop.

I chatted with a young married woman at our third stop. She wore the typical two-piece long dress with apron and a pinafore over her blouse. She also had a triangular headscarf tied under her chin, like a Polish babushka. She said ladies often wear scarfs, instead of a bonnet, when they’re in their homes. We discussed the pretty color of her outfit, which we decided was eggplant.

I also met Lydia Yoder, a widow who invited me into her house. She showed me her wood-burning cook stove, and we talked about baking and regulating the oven temperature. I bought a few of her baskets and have written her, hoping she’ll write back.

Jimmy's team after we returned from our tour. Notice the sky had
cleared, and the sun was shinning!
Our visit to Ethridge was even better than I had hoped. Jimmy provided so much information and being able to talk to the Amish and visit their farms and homes was a special treat. As you probably know, the Amish are opposed to having their photographs taken, which they claim are graven images. I was able to snap some shots of their homes and workshops, but never when they were nearby.

Thanks, Jimmy, for a great tour!
On our drive back to Atlanta, I received an email from my agent with good news. Emily Rodmell, my talented editor at Love Inspired Books, loved the three-book Amish proposal and offered me a four-book contract. In addition, Stranded, my March 2015 release, will be reissued in a two-for-one with Emma Miller’s Amish story, Miriam’s Heart, in July.

Leave a comment about research trips, your Amish experiences, or what you found interesting in today’s blog to be entered in the drawings. I'll give away copies of Plain Danger, along with an extra surprise gift to two lucky winners.

Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti

By Debby Giusti
When Carrie York arrives at the house she inherited from her father in an Amish community, she's shocked to discover a soldier's body on the property. Her neighbor, army special agent Tyler Zimmerman, starts investigating the murder, and Carrie fears it's related to her father's mysterious death. Tyler doesn't trust the pretty speechwriter or the suspicious timing of her arrival—especially since her boss is responsible for his father's death. But when someone attacks Carrie, Tyler insists on protecting her. With his help, will Carrie be able to hold on to her inheritance and her life? 
Order your copy HERE!

Also available for pre-order:

Stranded, by Debby Giusti, and Miriam’s Heart, by Emma Miller.


  1. Congratulations on having the proposal accepted, Debbie. You certainly did your research for this one. I look forward to reading the books.

    When I'm not so sleepy, I'll be back to study the details of your trip better. It looks fascinating.

  2. See how sleepy I am? I spelled your name wrong. :( Sorry!

  3. Debby! Congratulations on your proposal.

    We used to visit the Amish in Western New York. My memories include the fact that each house would have a specialty. Like cheese or quilts. The quilt house was amazing. Two women would stand next to a bed sky high with quilts. They would turn them back until you found the one you wanted.

    And the store in town had cheese that was AMAZING.

    Such great memories!

  4. Congratulations, Debby. I'll look forward to reading them when they release! I loved "the tour". Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. The tour would have been fascinating, as is your post. Looking forward to catching up with the books.

  6. Thank you for sharing your research on the Amish community. I live in Northeast Indiana where there are a lot of Amish and stores to purchase their goods. We love it.

    I have a praise report today, we brought my mom home from the hospital last night. She is doing well.

    Many blessings to everyone today.

    Cindy W.

  7. Wonderful news, Cindy!!! Maybe your life can slow down for a bit.

  8. Congratulations on your proposal acceptance, Debby! Obviously you did the research, so it's well deserved. I love the idea of Amish suspense. Until recently, I'd never read anything in an Amish setting. I read a couple of Amy Clipston's books, after discovering she works right across the street from me, and I was hooked. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
    Great news, Cindy! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Debby - congratulations on the contract! Thanks for sharing the highlights of your trip. It sounds interesting. I went on a day trip last week called Amish and Azaleas. Though I highly suspect our Amish lunch was Mennonite. If not, they were very progressive.

    Looking forward to more of your amazing books.

  10. I love Amish handiwork. Their craftsmanship is stunning. I'd love to spend time in an Amish home, seeing how they quilt up close!

    Please put my name in the hat!!!! (o:

  11. Debby...Congrats on your proposal! I enjoyed reading about your trip.

  12. Debby,

    What a fun trip. We have some little Amish communities around us. The man who built our house hired Amish men to frame it. They showed up for work every day and were never hung-over. The builder would go out early in the morning and pick up the Amish men and drive them to our place. They would work, eat lunch, and at the end of the day, the builder drove them back to their home.

    Congratulations on your contract, and thanks again for sharing!

  13. Cate, thanks for the congrats! We talked about Amish books a number of times, didn't we? Now I need to write the series! :)

  14. Tina, were the houses similar? The Pennsylvania and Ohio Amish farms I've seen were more picturesque than the ones in Ethridge. But then the weather wasn't good, and everything might seem lush more lush in summer.

  15. Marianne, glad you enjoyed the tour! :)

  16. Thanks, Mary Preston. Are you a fan of Amish books? I'm hoping my military readers will enjoy the new books as well.

  17. Cindy W, thanks for the update on Mom! Such good news. We'll continue to pray for her total recovery!

  18. Jill, thanks for telling us about Amy. I haven't read her books, but will look for her now. How fun to have another author so nearby!

  19. What an interesting combination, Terri. Where was it held? Azaleas in Georgia are at the end of their spring blooming time, but they were so beautiful this year.

    So what was served at the luncheon?

  20. Good morning, Debby! I loved your post and the pictures. Ethridge is only a two-hour drive from where we live, so I've been a few times. It's definitely an interesting place. Congrats on the four book contract! I love your books and can't wait to read them. Hugs!!

  21. Kate, you're in the drawing.

    I added a small picture in the last collage that shows the baskets I bought! You're right, their workmanship is amazing. Lydia, the lady who invited me into her house, did beautiful work. And the prices were good, if you know how expensive some baskets can be. She stained a few of hers with dye from walnut shells, which has an unusual smell. I have one of the baskets "airing" in the garage and am hoping the odor that makes my noise itch will soon dissipate. :)

    Some homes were selling quilts, but we didn't stop there. Maybe next time! :)

  22. Thanks for stopping by Seekerville, Dana! Always fun to see you on FB!

  23. Jackie, is there a large Amish community near you? Sounds as if your builder had hired the right men. Getting a ride with the boss lets the Amish work farther from home. Bet they get up at 4:30 AM and do chores on their farms/land before their construction jobs. Then more work when they get home. Their lives are centered on work with rest and church, in the various homes, on Sunday.

  24. Rhonda, did I drive by your house on the way to Ethridge? You must live close to the TN state line. I should have waved. North Alabama is beautiful. Lots of scenic spots.

    Have you taken Jimmy's tour? He gets a lot of school trips. Have your kids ever gone there? Would love your thoughts on the area.

    Wouldn't it be fun to have a ladies' tour of the area! The Amish could sell their wares, and we could have fun together. :)

  25. Debby, love your post! I do love reading Amish. I visited Pinecraft, Florida last year with Shelley Shepard Gray.

    Cindy Good news about your Mom.

    I am hoping to do research in Cherokee, NC sometime in the next month or two for the Historical novel I want to write.

  26. We have Amish who live north of our town. When we were going to my grandma's for Easter, we passed 10 Amish buggies heading the other direction. I was surprised to see that the man always sat on the right side of the buggy with the woman on the left (nearest the traffic). I had always thought the driver/man sat on the left. Maybe because that is where we sit when we drive a car?

  27. HI Debby What a wonderful trip you had. That would have been fun even if you weren't doing research for a book. I love learning about other cultures. It is fascinating. I had no idea you had Amish communities in the South.

    Congrats on the four book contract. Sounds like you will be busy for awhile. Busy in a wonderful way. smile

  28. Debby, I live in Grant, about twenty miles southeast of Huntsville. I teach at Kate D. Smith DAR School. The school has an interesting history since it's a public school that was founded by (and receives private funding from) the Daughters of the American Revolution. Also, Cathedral Caverns state park is at the foot of the mountain on the Hwy 72 side. If you're ever in the area, give me a call, I'd love to show you around.

  29. So interesting, Debby! I will need to come back and read this post again to soak up more details--and such great photos!

    Congrats on the new Amish series contract--YAY!!!!

  30. wow. I love the trip review, Debby. Congrats on the proposal acceptance. I'm all in on those books already.

    I've been through the Lancaster, Penn Amish community a few times. I believe they are more "progressive" there than where you visited. The simplicity of there living is fascinating (and a LOT of work). I love the quilts and woodworking. My husband loves the woodworking because he tries his hand at woodworking in his little shop in the back of our house. (I usually hear more growls and mumbles of frustration, but he's still learning - mostly by trial and error so I tell him it's okay)

    I've been to the Cherokee, NC museum. Didn't get to spend as much time there as I liked because my little guy is just starting to read and he could only stand still for so long while mommy tried reading the information. We did get to talk to three Cherokees who were doing traditional crafts (one was a dancer, dancing to pow wow music in full regalia). I know you'll enjoy your research trip there. The folks are really cool about talking with you. (we visited in February - minimal tourists) Our family likes to stay in a cabin for short vacation trips in the Smoky Mountains. Not too expensive and great for some outdoors time.

    Put my name in the draw for books, please. I love the pictures Debby. Too bad you couldn't take pictures of the people, but I can understand why they don't want them.

  31. Wilani, what a fun trip. Shelley is so sweet. Love her Amish stories. And I've always wanted to visit Pinecraft.

    Janet and her hubby have gone there a number of times. She sends me news clippings from the Sarasota paper when she finds something about Pinecraft. Jan Dexler told me about Pinecraft some years ago. What did you think of the area?

    A trip to Cherokee sounds good. What will you be able to see there? I need to google the area.

  32. Becky, how interesting to pass 10 buggies. Wonder if they were traveling to the home where Easter services were to be held. I'm trying to think of the many buggies we saw. Seems you're correct about the men sitting on the right. How insightful of you!

    Where do you live, Becky? The Amish are in so many states now.

  33. I've read some Amish fiction. Beverly Lewis was my introduction to this culture. :) We are driving through Pennsylvania this summer, and I hope we may have time to visit an Amish community. :) I've always been intrigued by this people group of our country.

    It sounds like your research trip was amazing, Debby! And to have the opportunity to talk with Amish people must have made your research so much deeper! :) I'll look forward reading your books, when they come out. :)

    This was a fun post to read!!

  34. Oh, DEBBY, what fun. And you really made it come alive.
    Kathy Bailey

  35. Sandra, the Amish leave one community when they run out of land to buy. A few families will gather together and start a new community. I didn't know the Ethridge group was so large until I started researching my stories.

  36. Debby - the azaleas were in Muskogee Oklahoma. Thankfully they were blooming beautifully. The lunch was about 25 miles away. We even travelled down a dirt road. I have no idea how to get there on my own. I'm a city girl.

    The lunch was enormous. There was roast beef, chicken, cole slaw, mashed potatos, dressing, green beans, home made noodles, gravy, home made rolls (the best part), Apple pie and pecan pie.

  37. Debby,

    It looks like a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing. There are a number of Amish families who've moved into the area where I grew up. In fact, some bought my grandparents' farm and the house I lived in. I've also visited the Lancaster, PA area. Such a peaceful area...and great food! I've met Bevery Lewis a few times, which was such an honor as she's who introduced me to Amish fiction. I review a number of Amish-themed books, as well. They're some of my favorites to read :)

    Please throw my name in the drawing. Thanks!

  38. Congratulations, Debby!! That's awesome. The Amish genre doesn't seem to be slowing down and that's great news.

  39. Congrats Debby......look forward to reading your books. Thanks all for prayers.....I still need them. Recupe from knee sg is very tough. Count me in the draw.

  40. How fascinating, DEBBY! Thank you for sharing your research journey and photos! Having grown up in Iowa and Missouri, it wasn't uncommon to see Amish buggies (and wagons selling veggies) on the roads and small-town streets, but I've never been to an Amish community. Hard working people. I'm looking forward to reading your new series!

  41. Debby, congratulations on the 4 book proposal deal!!!! I'm looking forward to it! Your lovely travels to Ethridge, TN was charming! I didn't realize there was a community there. I would love to visit. I've been to Lancaster & Intercourse, PA and both were very "touristy", until we did some driving around to see the farmland. I've enjoyed the many Amish fiction I've read that gives me a glimpse into other Amish settlements, and I look forward to my upcoming trip to Berlin, OH. I'm quite excited about it!

  42. This is chock full of wonderful information, Debby! I am gobsmacked by how much you saw and that folks talked to you! You are now my insider person for all things Amish!!!

    Seriously, what a fun experience, and how informative. Deb, this is like a conference seminar packed into a blog with NO FEE INVOLVED.

    Honestly, for a woman who taught herself so much by using the public library to study romance and writing, this means a great deal. Writers can use all the means at hand to coach themselves into lucrative careers... and posts like this are a huge, huge help!

  43. Debby, I enjoyed that trip so much! I feel as if I went along with you! :)


  44. Cindy W, that's great news about your mom!!

  45. Debby, I LOVED your post. So informative and interesting. I thought I knew a lot about the Amish, but I gleaned so much more through your insights. The part that made me sad? No birthday celebrations, etc. and "Amish parents don't coddle their children." Huh? That part pricked my heart. Are they somewhat demonstrative, though, in their affection toward their kiddos? It seems like there's much responsibility at such an early age.

    I've always been fascinated by the Amish way of life. Your description was so detailed and answered a lot of questions. Thank you so much for sharing, and for all the photos, too! (I fear I'd make a wimpy Amish wife. And... just the thought of using an outhouse. *sigh* ...Although when I was a kiddo, that's all our little country church had. It was an adventure when I was five. Now...not so much. That horde of yellow jackets during the summer of VBS cured my adventurous streak...and the mystery of outhouses. And WHERE was I going with this bunny trail? Sorry.) :)

    Congratulations on your recent contract!

  46. Rhonda, was an interesting history about your school! And I found Grant on the map! You aren't that far away.

    Come to Moonlight and Magnolias this year. It's always a great conference. Okay?

  47. Thanks, Myra! And thanks for spreading the word about Seekerville on Twitter! Love how you're getting the word out! Hope everyone is retweeting or sending a message out on FB. That really helps to let others know about our blog!

    Remembering Vince's great post on Monday, I want to thank all Villagers who leave reviews! You're all so wonderful, and your support means so much to us!

  48. DebH,

    Thanks for sharing info about your trip to NC. Now I want to go there too!

    Wilani, let us know when you go.

    I really wanted to snap photos of everything, especially sweet Emma and her brother, Manuel. Of course, I couldn't. A few times I asked Jimmy if I could take a photo of something and he'd say no, usually because one of the Amish folks was standing close by.

    When I took the photo of the Amish schoolhouse, I got out of our car and stood by the side of the road to capture the shot. From probably a fourth of a mile away, I heard this voice yelling, "No Pictures!" Guess they didn't want me to take pictures of the buildings either. From that point on, I tried to be very discreet and compliant with their desires.

  49. Jeanne, enjoy your trip to PA. Hope you get to see Lancaster County, although I understand tourists flock there now.

    PA is beautiful, and there's so much to see and do. Gettysburg is lovely, as well. Are you heading to any other East coast states?

  50. Hi Kathy,

    I hope you could capture a glimpse of what we experienced. Such a special trip for me. The people have stayed with me, almost as if we're kindred spirits. Interesting, eh?

  51. Debby, congratulations on a four-book contract! Thank you for this interesting visit to an Amish community.

    Cindy, good to hear your mother is doing well.

  52. Debby, I loved Pinecraft. I would love to go again.I live only 30 minutes from Cherokee. I have been to the museum but it was 14 years ago. Since I am no longer able to drive, I have to depend on others to take me. My friend is planning to take me. Cherokee has long held my attention. I was born in Hiawassee, Georgia part of the Cherokee territory. My parents gave me a Cherokee name. There is a legend that Wilani's husband Tsali gave his life during the trail of tears so the Cherokees could remain in NC. I have never been able to read anything of Wilani's life. I have searched for fifty years, Perhaps I am to be the one to write her story.

  53. Oh my goodness, Terri, you're making me hungry. Your lunch sounds like the Amish Restaurants we frequented when I lived in Ohio. Food galore and all so, so good.

    The Ethridge Amish do not own any restaurants. Perhaps because they are so very conservation.

    My maternal grandmother's side of the family came from Germany, and she made the most delicious doodles. She served them over mashed potatoes and smothered in gravy. Can you imagine the carbs and calories? But they were to-die-for good!

  54. Hi Leslie,

    Where did you grow up? How interesting that the Amish bought your home. Have you thought of asking them if you can go inside and revisit the house? I've done that on military posts.

    When my father visited us when we were stationed in Germany, we took him to Fulda, where he and my mother lived soon after the war. He had gone back to Ohio on leave. They had married, and she was one of the first America women in that part of Germany after the war. Mother had died just a few years earlier so the trip to Fulda was bittersweet. We found the home where they lived, and the new owners invited us in for coffee. A very special visit! Dad and I both had lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes when we left that day.

  55. DEBBY, thanks for sharing your research trip and insight into the lives of the Amish in that area of TN. I can't wait to read your contracted books and see that information come alive in your wonderful stories! You were blessed to get to talk to so many and even visit one home.

    We have an Amish community nearby that may be more lenient as the men are permitted to use cellphones for business and use generators to run shop equipment. Most men are involved in construction, as roofers, framers, carpenters. They've very talented and are reasonable as they don't belong to unions. Along with handling chores on the farm, women clean houses for the English. One family has a successful store with the biggest draw being sweet corn. The work horses are Belgiums, beautiful large animals. Once we saw an owner training a young horse to a specific gait. Fascinating to see. The carriages here are open and umbrellas are used to protect the wife and kids from the elements. They hire drivers to take them to the stores, hospitals, appointments and often come to garage sales in search of bargains.


  56. Alison, the success of the Amish genre is interesting, isn't it? I find mixing their peaceful lifestyle with a suspense story is a challenge, but also a great contrast of good vs. evil. Hopefully, folks will continue to enjoy having the Plain element in stories for a bit longer.

  57. Jackie, we're praying for you and for your speedy recovery. Follow the doctor's orders and don't try to do too much too soon!

    Know that we're lifting you up!


  58. Glynna, they are hard working. Up early and never stop throughout the day.

    Wait, that reminds me of you, dear friend! Hope all is well.

    Have warmer temperatures hit Flagstaff...or do you still have snow? :(

  59. CINDY W, praising God for the good news about your mom.


  60. JACKIE, knee replacement recovery is tough. Hugs and prayer for you.


  61. JC, enjoy Berlin. I think you'll like the Ohio Amish. How long of a trip will that be for you?

    Hope you get some wonderful Amish food, baked goods, maybe a basket or two! :)

  62. Ruthy, glad you enjoyed the blog. Don't you have Amish folks close to you? I talked to someone yesterday who lived in Upstate New York. She said the Amish made Adirondack chairs in her area that were in big demand with tourists.

  63. Thanks, Missy! Glad you enjoyed the info.

    Missy and I are friends with sweet Cindy Woodsmall, who is a wonderful writer of Amish fiction. She published her first book around 2006 or 2007 and has done so well. Cindy has a nice website with lots of interesting Amish information.

  64. Cynthia, I'm laughing at your outhouse adventures. I've been there too. Not fun. Actually a bit scary for a child. I always worried about falling in...still do! :)

    Jimmy talked about the children not speaking unless spoken to. He said ten children in an "English" home would create quite a racket, but the Amish houses are always so quiet. I found that to be true.

    He also said the grandparents often don't know the names of their grandchildren. Of course, some of them have forty or fifty to keep track lady he mentioned had 100 grandchildren. Maybe it's good they don't buy birthday and Christmas gifts! :)

  65. Thanks, Sherida! Hope all is well. Did you get coffee?

  66. Wilani, thanks for sharing your background. How special about your name. Sounds like a story you need to write!

    Fingers crossed that you can return to the museum, and that you'll find information about Tsali and his sacrifice for the good of his tribe.

  67. Perfect timing Debby!

    For the first time, I've been considering writing an Amish story. Last week I started researching.

    Thanks for all the pics and info. I'd love to take a trip like you did. We have a friend from Church who stays w/an Amish a couple of weeks each year. (He's a bit of a character himself.)

    I don't know if I'd like to live the Amish life-style but I find it very intriguing. Especially how they treat the children.

    Thanks again!

  68. Janet, how interesting about the Indiana Amish near you. I think many communities allow technology for business, although they never want electricity or cell phones in their homes. The barn is okay, though.

    But not for the Old Order Amish.

    Topless buggies? Even in winter? Seems the buggies differ from one area to the next. Some are black, others are brown. Some have a Hazard Sign on the back. The Ethridge group uses a few strips of reflective material on the front and rear of their buggies, but no hazard signs. At night, they hang lanterns on their buggies.

    Tenessee Walkers are popular in Ethridge, although also they have more muscular work horses for plowing and other farm needs. Jimmy's wagon was pulled by one of each. The Amish train horses and received about $300-$400 per month to do so.

    As you mentioned, the Ethridge Amish accept rides...and have a local type of taxi service...for doctor visits and other needs at a distance from their homes. They also use buses for long distance travel. But they don't go to Pinecraft! :)

  69. BECKY, perhaps they were going to church. Church in my area is held in homes. Always fun to see all the buggies in the barnyard Services must go long or they share a meal as we've seen this on Sunday afternoons.

    I'm not sure but it seems like the driver of the buggy sits on the left here. I will have to notice next time I see one.


  70. Hi Debby:

    I enjoy Amish books. I've read them from the first ones came out some years ago. I think this is because their values are so honorable. They seem to still have what is best from the past.

    We have Amish farms some miles east of Tulsa and they have workshops, bakeries and restaurants, near their farms. However I have never seen a buggy. I have also seen tractors in use in their fields. The people look and dress Amish. This makes me wonder how many Amish are strict to the old ways and how many have adapted to more modern ways.

    As long as they can stay true to their values some modernization would not seem to be a threat to their way of life.

    Your reasearch makes me think of some questions:

    Do the Amish read Amish romances? Could you ask that?

    Do the Amish use modern medical services?

    How do the Amish have schools without certified teachers? Are they exempt? And is there an exemption for not staying in school until one is sixteen years old?

    One other question: Is your Dual novel going to come out in Kindle format?

    Can't wait to see what you do with all this new research.

    I really enjoyed your travelogue.


  71. DEBBY, Amish in this area go to Pinecraft. I think you need to pay us a visit!


  72. Connie, we'll have to compare research notes! I'll be praying for your stories. Keep me posted!

    How interesting to stay in an Amish home. When I started planning my Ethridge trip, I had hoped to find an Amish B&B or a room to rent. Perhaps they can be found in less conservative communities, but not in Ethridge.

    Of course, I would want a room with indoor plumbing! :)

  73. Vince, there are a number of other sects across the country that aren't true Amish. Mennonites wear similar clothing but are less restricted in their acceptance of modern conveniences. Also a group of conservative Amish may decide that they want to include a certain element into their lives, such as electricity in their shops or dairies. They might break away from the main group and start their own community, with their own bishop.

    As I recall, Cindy Woodsmall mentioned Amish girls reading her books.

    Yes, they use our medical services, although an elder sometimes accompanies them to a doctor's appointment to make sure they are truly sick. At least, that's what Jimmy told us. Most Amish women use the Amish midwife to deliver their babies.

    The lady I mentioned, who wore the scarf tied under her chin, had delivered her first child premature. The baby stayed in the hospital for sometime, and the entire community paid the hospital and doctor bills.

    They must have a school exemption, although I don't know that for sure. But it's fairly universal that Amish children end school at the eighth grade. I didn't realize teen girls were often the teachers. I thought they hired older women to teach, but that's not the case in Ethridge.

    I believe the two-in-one will just be a print publication, probably because the two stories are each available in digital form so there wouldn't be a need to reformat them electronically to sell together.

    As far as modernization, the Amish want to protect their families from the outside world so they're careful to keep their homes free from televisions, phones, computers, all of which could pull the children and adults away from their daily work, devotion to the Lord, and commitment to family.

    Glad you liked the travelogue! :) I enjoyed your blog on Monday. Thank you!

  74. Janet, I would love to visit you and call it a research trip! :)

    Maybe next winter, we can meet in Pinecraft!

  75. WOW, Debby, when you do research, you do research, my friend!! I am soooo totally impressed by your trip and how thorough you are.

    AND SUPER CONGRATS on the four-book deal -- WOW, WOW, WOW!!! How often does THAT happen when an author pitches 3 books, and the publisher wants 4????

    As fascinating as the Amish lifestyle appears to be, I cannot imagine living that way. As the saying goes, it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. WHICH is why books like yours are SOOO important. You give readers the opportunity to "live there" from the comfort of their modern-day home! :)


  76. Wow, DEBBY, this was absolutely fascinating! Thank you for sharing! I do have one question, though, about health care. Do they visit "English" doctors when ill? Do they use natural remedies and such for less serious issues?

  77. Oops, never mind, DEBBY, you answered my question when you answered Vince's. Thank you again for such an interesting post, and congratulations on your book deal!!

  78. Debby, I was trying to find information about adoption among Amish communities. Like can they adopt from English families through CPS or is this frowned upon? That search led me to why they don't support missions and try to "convert" the English among a lot of other things.

  79. Debby,

    It was interesting hearing about your research trip. I wish I had the freedom to do that kind of thing, but with a 3 month old daughter I'm thinking it's going to be a while. And I've never been that great with the research anyway. Right now, for my current WIP, I'm learning as much as I can online. Then I'll go back and see where I need to supplement.

    As an aside, I grew up not too far from an Amish settlement in Arcola, IL. Then I lived a year in Carlisle, PA and made several trips to Lancaster. The Mennonite Information Center there has a really cool reproduction of the Biblical Tabernacle. We would usually go to Dienner's Country Restaurant which was, apparently, the place to eat. That's where I had my first experience with Shoofly Pie. Then, when I started reading Amish fiction, I got a craving for it, looked up a recipe online, and made it myself. It's not something I would want to eat every day, but it's interesting to have every once in a while.

    Please put my name in the drawing. I'm looking forward to reading your book and congratulations on your new book deal!

  80. I loved this post. Thanks for all the descriptions and detail. I thought it was interesting the parents would go out or go visiting and leave the children at home, and the house and farm would be run smoothly in their absence. Thanks for sharing all the pictures. It was like being there.

  81. Wilani, I would love to read Tsali's story. I hope you write it!

  82. I enjoyed reading about your experiences, and especially the seeing the differences between that particular group of Amish and the ones from Yoder, KS, near my hometown.

  83. Hi Julie,

    Ethridge is a bit more basic than some Amish communities. Some communities have indoor plumbing. That would be a must for me. :)

    And I do like showers with hot water. :)

  84. Hi Laura,

    I don't know about natural remedies. I do think they probably go to the doctor only when they are quite ill. For most common ailments, I have a feeling they tough it out.

    You know a real problem is the genetically acquired conditions inherited due to the limited founders' pool of the US Amish population. They've intermarried over the years, which has caused recessive diseases to enhance instead of dying out. There's a large Children's Clinic that deals with these types of illnesses in Lancaster County.

    My next book, Plain Truth, deals with some of these issues. It will be out in OCT.

  85. What a fascinating, informative post, Debby! I'm so glad you and your husband were able to visit that Amish community---although I already knew a few things about the Amish, your post was an eye-opener about some other aspects of their life. I will admit what you learned about the children made me very sad - - I didn't realize the children were not allowed ANY toys at all. :( Even though learning to work and be productive is so important, it seems they're being deprived of a childhood (I don't mean this in a judgmental way---just concern for those precious children).
    CONGRATULATIONS on your 4-book contract - - YAY DEBBY!! :)
    No need to enter me in your drawing, as your book PLAIN DANGER is next on my TBR stack!
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  86. Connie, they have large families, and I'm sure there are children within their own communities who need care when parents die, so I doubt they would look outside their community to adopt. Also they are working hard to put food on the table with little free time, and they're very private. My research reveals that folks do join the Amish communities, but I don't think there's an effort to bring folks into the fold, so to speak. If someone likes what they see and is willing to embrace their way of life, I believe they can be accepted into the community. Once baptized, they are full members of the church.

  87. P.S. When I visited my Kansas friend (and author) Kim Vogel Sawyer a few years ago, she and her husband took us to Yoder, a small Amish community about an hour from where they lived at the time. It was so interesting shopping in the store there, and then we enjoyed a wonderful (huge!) meal at a nearby restaurant. It was such a charming little community and so different from so many towns and cities I've visited.

  88. Another P.S. ;)
    JACKIE SMITH, just saw your comment, and I'm so sorry you've had knee surgery. Praying for you, sweet lady, and sending hugs!!
    Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  89. You're right, most of the time they just adopt from their own communities. Makes sense.
    The man who had written the books about the Amish said it's rare for someone from the outside to remain faithful to their ways. The author said he had only seen it twice. Their elders refer to the ones who are baptized and try to live their way as Seekers.

  90. Carlisle, Pennsylvania! Lara, I lived there in ninth grade when my father attended the War College at Carlisle Barracks. I returned years and years later as an Army wife with my husband.

    Were you a townie? I was a post toastie. :) Do you remember those terms?

    I went to Lamberton Jr High, but it was the old, three story building downtown. My son attended the newer Lamberton when we were there some years ago. It's such a lovely area. I would usually shop at the SAT Farmer's Market and buy pies, cookies, and other baked goods from the Amish, as well as their wonderful produce.

  91. DEBBY, what a great idea to meet in Pinecraft. Let's do it!

    I've seen swing sets and bicycles in Amish yards, even basketball goals. I've been told that the Bishop of the local church is the final word on the rules that govern the community, which could explain the differences between areas.


  92. Debby,

    I have been contemplating a research trip to CO in hopes of getting a better feel for the location of my WIP! I've been there but always visiting friends or going skiing and we only made day trips into Denver.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and I look forward to your new book!


  93. Debby, Congratulations on your four book contract!! So excited for you and anxious to read all of them!! Your tour photos and comments are wonderful and so full of great information!! I love research trips!!

    My grandfather and cousins live in Humansville/Dunnegan, Mo. About an hour from Springfield in the Ozarks. The Amish moved into this area many, many years ago. They are not the Old Order Amish. I first got acquainted with one family at a farmer's market sale. I LOVE sorghum and cannot buy it in California. I started buying it from this family---over twenty-five years ago---when I'd visit my Grandpa. I'd stop by their farm and visit with the mother and sometimes the father if he was around. Years later, one of the married sons opened a bakery shop and that became a regular stop.

    I have kept in touch with them through letters...and by reading the Amish Newspaper, The Budget ( I call it the Amish FaceBook) It's so much fun to read. Each community has a scribe and sends in their "news" who had a buggy accident, who is in the hospital, who visited, who preached and what seasonal activities are going planting or's a WEALTH of information. The Budget also has a wonderful section for those who need extra prayer, birthday wishes or perhaps medical help...They call it the Shower section.

    The mother explained to me that each group makes certain decisions about technology and other areas of life. This group allows a phone shack...a phone with a message machine for their businesses. When I call to order sorghum, I leave a message and one of them calls me back. This particular family has been very open and while they are not necessarily physically demonstrative they are verbally affectionate with their children. They hire drivers and take buses...I don't think they use airplanes, although they did tell me that some groups allow their members to fly.

    Another Amish family from this group bought my Grandpa's farm. My Grandfather had finally put in indoor plumbing in the 70's...but they tore it out and resurrected the original outhouse!! Each time we visit, they let us wander around the farm...I am especially attached to the brick and hipped roof barn my Grandpa built...fortunately, they have made no changes to it. They've invited us in to show us the changes they have made to the farmhouse. They have ten they remodeled a bit! LOL

    This matriarch has shared some of their struggles too...she's also quite the romantic! Her story of how her younger husband came into her life was sweet and precious!

    Anyway, would love to be entered in the drawing and wishing you wonderful success!! Have a wonderfully peaceful day!!

  94. DEBBY, we're road tripping back east to attend my nephew's high school graduation in DC. We'll see friends and family along the way, and we decide PA was a state we wanted to visit because none of us has spent any time there. We probably won't see many other eastern states on this trip, though I'd love to! :)

    I forgot to say earlier, CONGRATULATIONS on your four book contract! That's so exciting!

  95. Sally,
    I, too, was amazed about parents leaving their children for a week or so. Of course, the eldest children might be teen boys who have been working the farm for years...and teen girls who have taken over many of the household duties. Still, it's something we wouldn't think of doing.

    Also grandparents often live nearby, if not right next door. Okay, that makes me feel a bit better. Don't you agree? :)

  96. Patti Jo, the children seemed happy. The little ones probably play with mom's pots and pans, just as our children often did, and I'm sure they take pride in doing their adult chores too. Jimmy said the young boys beam when they get to plow a field by themselves. We saw one young boy tilling a field using two horses.

    Your trip to Yoder sounds delightful!

  97. Connie, I can see how hard it would be to remain within the Amish community, especially after living in the "world." Do you have info on the Amish books your friend wrote?

  98. Janet, yes, the bishop leads his community. Jimmy mentioned elders who check up on the families they oversee, or perhaps mentor would be a better word. I hadn't heard of that type of oversight before.

  99. Stephanie,

    I always enjoy experiencing the places I write about when possible. Hope you can make that trip to Colorado!

  100. Debby,

    I'm not familiar with the second term you mentioned with regards to Carlisle. I wasn't a townie though (if it means the same thing that meant in my hometown). I only lived in Carlisle for a little over a year while I was working as a visiting assistant professor at Dickinson College. I remember driving past the barracks though (with the different types of fortification, etc). My husband and I went in at least once.

    Also, what you were saying to Laura about the recessive diseases sounds like an interesting facet of Amish living. I'll have to check out your book when it comes out. By the way, I thought the Amish children did have toys in places. Or is it only that some of the Amish SELL toys (like those faceless dolls)?

  101. Kathryn, how special to have such a close relationship with Amish families. It's wonderful to learn more about the way other folks live. I know you're grateful to still have access to your grandfather's farm. His barn must be so beautiful! I'm sure the new owners treasure his workmanship, just as you do.

    Your relationship with the mother of the family must be so strong for her to share struggles with you. We're all the same, aren't we? Whether we use technology or not. We love God and our families and want the best for our children.

    Thanks for the tip about The Budget. I just liked their FB page and want to check out their web site.

    Smiling about the outhouse. Too bad the new owners removed your grandfather's bathroom. It would have been nice to have available when "English" friends, like you, visit. :)

  102. Thanks, Jeanne! I'll be in Northern VA in June for a high school reunion. I graduated from Mount Vernon High, located near Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. My son and daughter-in-law are moving to the area so we'll be making lots of future trips to VA.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  103. Dickinson is a lovely school, with a beautiful campus!

    Because so many military families stay at Carlisle for only a year, the high school students called the Army Brats Post Toasties. They, of course, were the "town kids," or townies. There was always a little rivalry between the two groups. :)

    I'm sure some Amish communities allow their children to have toys. The dolls you mentioned were for sale at the Amish Welcome Center. Not sure if any Amish children played with them.

  104. Fascinating tour. I'd always thought all dairies were required to have refrigeration, but maybe that's only if they're selling milk to the public, not using it themselves. They have an amazing culture and impressive skills.

  105. Beth, I'm sure large dairies are regulated. I believe the Ethridge Amish get their milk from some of the other farms. Jimmy did say that people from Nashville travel there weekly to buy milk because it's unpasteurized. Some folks, including non-Amish, believe unpasteurized milk is better for you.

  106. Yes, that does help, knowing grandparents are close by. I'm still stuck on the house and farm running smoothly while they are gone. Even now, with my kids older, if we left for a week, the house would not be running smoothly or otherwise lol. I'd probably rather not come back to it...

  107. I'm sorry I must've been unclear in that post. My friend didn't write the books, he just visits/stays w/his Amish friends. I found another author who wrote books about the Amish. I'm looking for those articles and can't find them...
    Of course.

  108. We visited Intercourse, PA many years ago because I was very curious about the Amish. Great post, Debby! You sure learned a lot and have so many wonderful pictures.

  109. I found this interesting, but sad at how the children are raised. I think children should be allowed to be children.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  110. Thanks for the tour and buggy ride, Debby! Since I'm in the Nashville area, that would be a nice jaunt this summer. Congrats on landing a 4-book serie!!!!

  111. Thanks, Connie. I'd love to know more about the books!

  112. HI Cara! Intercourse is beautiful, isn't it! So many lovely farms.

  113. Barbara, it's 80 miles south of you. A nice day trip. There's a large produce market in the Amish area that runs in the summer. I'd love to return to see that in operation. I'm sure the produce is wonderful. Also if Jimmy has a large tour group scheduled, he'll have some of the Amish ladies bake bread. Now that sounds yummy!

  114. Debby -- We did get some snow on Saturday--about 3-4 inches, but it melted off really fast. LOVE the photos in your post! I want to remind myself to tell my mom to log on and look at them. :)

  115. Debby, Thank you for the post. In particular, your graciousness strikes me in this post because you were able to pull so many wonderful details out of such a short trip.

    Unfortunately, my research trips are usually done via the internet, although I have used past vacations as settings or for plot devices. I'd love to be able to go on a writer's retreat or a research trip someday.

    Thank you for this look into the Amish community. It was thought provoking and sincere, and I know those will propel you into writing some wonderful books. Congrats on your book proposal and its acceptance. I can't wait to hear all about those books.

  116. I would do just about anything to be able to visit Japan and do some research. :-)

    Wow!!! Propose three books and your editor turns it into four. Congratulations!!!

  117. Debby, I loved your post - a treasure trove of info, thank you!!

    I've always admired the Amish for their convictions, simplicity, good cooking, wonderful crafts, and beautiful hand-made furniture. I've visited a couple of Amish communities - in Indiana, and also in Pennsylvania. I've eaten in an Amish home and stopped to buy their food and handmade items in booths along the side of the road. When I visited the community in Pennsylvania, I asked for directions to a restaurant where locals ate rather than eat at a tourist attraction - the buffet was delicious. I've also taken a horse-drawn wagon tour, such as you did - however, I wasn't as fortunate as you in having a 3-hour tour which involved meeting so many people and gaining so much info about their lifestyle. Although, I read a lot about their lifestyle, your post gave me a lot of new info. However, as with Julie - I wouldn't want to live the Amish lifestyle, no matter how much the people fascinate me, LOL. Thanks for the pictures!!

    Congrats on your contract!! Please enter my name in the giveaway drawing - thank you!!

  118. Debbie: thanks for the tour of Amish life. It was so interesting and full of information for the outsider. Like me. Kudo's to you on the latest book proposal. Lots of writing in your future. You are so inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to write for Seekerville. What a wonderful group. Have a good writing day every one.

  119. I had no idea that there amish communities that far south. You answered the questions I had before I could ask them like how they keep their milk cool etc. Congratulations on the book deal

  120. ALways find things interesting about the amish communities.

  121. I enjoyed all the pictures today! We actually had one of those wood burning stoves in our home. Of all the wood burners we had I thought that one actually worked the best! Congrats of the book deal :)