Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Amish Way

Amongst the Amish - yesterday in today.

Most of my Amish photos are drive-bys. In other words, to avoid the awkward discomfort on both sides, I was mostly taking pictures from the car. I tried not to go against their beliefs and didn't really get any face shots or take any photos of their children (much as I wanted to!!!! Their kids are very cute in their dresses/pants and hats), but I couldn't be surrounded by all this Amish imagery wealth and not take ANY photos, so...! Most of our associations with these people were mutually polite and friendly, and I tried not to mess that up!

Potato farm.
And believe it or not - a tobacco farm! And to put it into perspective, there's an article written on this subject, called "Tobacco: A Burning Issue!" Apparently some Amish see tobacco use as a practice endorsed by the bible and do smoke, and others see it as definitely on the no-no list! However, whichever way it is viewed for Amish use, one writer put it this way: "Tobacco is labor intensive, and ideal for the large Amish family." You can still grow and sell it, even if you don't use it yourself. Fewer Amish do grow it now though, perhaps because: "It’s time to face the facts and realize that using tobacco is a lust of the flesh, a harm to your health, and a waster of your money."

Grocery store parking!

Their horses are lean - they're working horses! But they are not skinny. Mostly, from what we saw, the horses look to be worked pretty hard but also well cared-for (it certainly wouldn't pay to NOT look after them well!! You wouldn't want your car to hate you or to break down on you all the time, would you?!).

Empty silos - at some point, they will all be full of corn.
Many of the Amish have very nice-looking, nicely-kept homes and barns. You might even mistake them for more modern homes and farms - until you see the unmistakable buggies in the yards.

A roadside stand. One of the many. The Amish farmers lay out fresh fruits and veggies, incredible baked goods (some of the best cinnamon rolls and PB cookies we've ever had!), drinks ("meadow tea," which tastes to me like Celestial Season's Sleepytime tea, root beer,...), jams, etc. They are often just run on the honor system, with a can out to put your money in. But sometimes they are manned - sometimes by the whole family, sometimes just Mom, sometimes just the kids. Or sometimes no one is in sight - till you spy a curious face or two in the window!

A common scene - the ubiquitous laundry line.

Another quintessential farm scene.

Another stand I stopped at. Shoo-fly pie can be described "like a coffee cake, with a gooey molasses bottom." We're not so into molasses, so I never got us one, but I love the name! They are also into whoopie pies! Other folks (esp. New Englanders) sometimes know these as "gobs," or "chocolate gobs" as my friend Sarah calls them, but apparently they were originally created by the Pennsylvania Amish and called whoopie pies. They are basically two giant soft chocolate cookies with a fluffy white (sweetened vegetable shortening) filling.

Towards day's end...

Buggy Ride!

My favorite part of being in Amish country had to be hearing the horse hooves constantly clip-clopping by! I loved watching the various buggies and catching glimpses of their occupants. So it naturally followed that when Bill and I spied the sign advertising "Ed's Buggy Rides," we had to take advantage of the opportunity!

The buggies most commonly used for this commercial enterprise weren't quite as traditional - but close. Here is another group coming back in.

I'm not sure if we were in any danger of exceeding this posted speed limit, but I can say it's amazing how briskly these horses can go, especially considering the load they're often pulling! And Amish country, in the Lancaster area at least, is hilly! So much so that I saw at least one Amish man get out of his buggy and just lead his horse up the very steep hill - good for him! Good horse owner!! We also learned that most Amish workhorses are retired racehorses. No wonder they're speedy, eh? From what we saw, it looked like most were pretty well taken care of. Yeah, they work hard, but they get their breaks, and most seemed pretty happy. Hopefully that's the case for the majority at least.

Our tour buggy parked at an Amish farmhouse we stopped at. They were included as part of the tour to try and sell their homemade goods (wooden crafts, quilts, jams, etc.). I hadn't brought any money with me so had to beg it out of Bill's wallet, but I tried to be as obliging with our Amish hosts as possible!

And up-close view of a traditional buggy.

I was very surprised to see such a "fancy" looking interior, but Bill told me that was sort of standard fabric back in the day for all sorts of vehicles!

We visited with one of the sweet horses at the farmhouse. Must've been his day off. And I think Bill made his day even more special because Bill shared some of the homemade root beer he'd bought there, offering it out of the palm of his hand! I guess the horsey enjoyed it and happily slurped it up!

A look at part of their farm. And the ubiquitous laundry line! It was fascinating to see a culture, so determinedly set apart, function. It is amazing how many remain so committed to the beliefs and the choices of a religious, non-modern day agrarian society. I was very impressed with that commitment and what seemed to be a life of basic, down-to-earth joys and hardships. Of the close-knit families that farmed, prayed, and raised children together. Going about their everyday activities, often right next to all the trappings of this contemporary world - cars, semis, people in fancy - and often revealing - outfits, cell phones, ipads, ipods, etc. (I did see one young buggy driver with what looked like an ipod going down the road...). They seem to largely remain side by side but separate from today's society. And if you want to talk about small carbon footprints, these folks are the ultimate! If more supposed "green, eco-minded" people lived this way, I might believe more of what they have to say - instead of being constantly astonished by the often outright hypocrisy I see in most of them! But I also marvel at the vulnerability of this lifestyle - this otherwise functional community seems to me to be sort of living in a bubble. As long as things are relatively OK in the outside world (ie, no wars directly affecting them, a relatively benign government, cooperation from local cities, counties, people driving down the road, etc.!), things can be OK in their world too. And heck, I guess that's true for a lot of other citizens as well!
Another passing tour buggy. That made it OK for me to take a direct, head-on photo. The Amish do not like to be photographed, which made getting any good, interesting pictures in this area very challenging and a bit frustrating! I certainly didn't want to offend any of them, but I also wanted some photos! I tried to take photos where there were no recognizable faces, as I understood this was sort of a middle ground.

One of the beautiful farm scenes that this Amish area was replete with!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Give Us Liberty!

THE bell.
The liberty bell.
With Independence Hall in the background.
A pretty moving experience to stand in the presence of such a part of our history. Brings tears to some eyes. So easy to take for granted what we have here in this country, to not know the suffering, bloodshed, sacrifice, determination, dedication, brilliance, and foresight that went into the founding and forming of this nation. So easy then to let it slip from our grasp...


So I guess no trip to western PA would be complete without a visit to the Hershey's chocolate factory, right? Well, I guess. But now that we've seen it, I think we could've done without it! We were hoping it would be like the cool self-guided tour of the Tillamook cheese facility in Oregon. But nope, this is a Disneyland-like park!

Lots of people with their kids. Lots of ways for parents to spend money - shows and rides, etc.

The "factory tour" (ie, Disney ride) had animated cows all along the way.

Even though the whole "tour" was fake (we weren't actually seeing the real chocolate being made - darn!!! would've been much more interesting!), it was nice to feel like there were a few Willy Wonka moments.

And of course there were tons of every kind of Hershey's candies available for purchase afterwards...

Even though it was a hot day and even though this place (or maybe because...!) was just an amusement park, it was so crowded, they were parking everyone in the grass around the regular parking lot areas!

Welcome back!...back to Strasburg, PA!

So, though we've been back home in San Diego now for 2 months, and it's been a long hiatus from blogging, here we go again! I'm not sure how far I'll get with this, but I'd like to try and finish our 2010 travels if possible - before we start our Alaska trek this year!
So...let's begin again then, shall we?! And we'll pick up where we left off...and now cover Pennsylvania. On Fri., June 18th, we drove through Harrisburg, the capitol. I wasn't quite prepared for how neat it was. I loved this bridge (forgive all the window reflections and all - I was trying to shoot fast through the driver's side window and not get Bill's nose in the shot!).
We stayed at the White Oak Campground, just out of Strasburg, which is, in turn, just out of Lancaster. So, yes, right in the heart of Amish country! Surrounded by beautiful farmland. Hearing the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies every so often. And feeling slightly taken back in time. We loved it!!
We ended up with a very nice site but had trouble with their power hook-ups. Because of their old, poor connections, we weren't receiving the full supposed 30amps and had to run an extension cord out the window to plug into the additional 20amp outlet. And, in that way, we were able to avoid the repeated power interruptions that were plaguing us in the beginning!
One of the perks of this campground was a weekly jam session in front of the office. Folks just showed up, and whomever wanted to play could just join in. I'm not sure how many were local regulars and how many might've been passing-through campers, but they all sounded great! It was an unexpected treat to sit under the trees one evening and listen to homemade bluegrass!

While us adults sat around listening, the kids played on fake horses.
And inside the went on, stressful as it was...! Here's Tractor, no doubt helping his dad with some work (at least he's holding down work tools and parts...!)!

And...more entertainment! But is it for the kitties? Or for us?!

Strasburg is a lovely little town. Unlike Lancaster, which is much larger and much, much more touristy! In fact, there's even a big amusement park called Dutch Wonderland. It was such a relief to drive past Lancaster and end up in peaceful, scenic Strasburg!

The streets are lined with picturesque and historic buildings.

One of my early buggy sightings. Here, a whole family is on an outing.

An entryway for another pretty building. Hang on...more coming!!