Amber had arrived and we had been waiting for her before we did too much. The next morning we were off to the Ethridge Amish community which was right up the road from our house. We'd planned to take the guided tour, since we didnt know where all to go. We were really excited since we'd scene several Amish riding around in their horse drawn buggies.....several!
The kids were excited too. They couldn't wait to ride behind the horses in the buggy. They even got to guide the horses by themselves part of the way. The tour was about 1 1/2 hrs long and worth every minute. I hope you can picture this. It was like going through acres and acres of farms, all Amish, for miles....not like some sort of freak show. We stopped at 4 or 5 of the farms and purchased some things, but they had canned goods, candy and other handmade items, quilts, rugs, furniture, eggs, birdhouses....
The guide told us that it hasn't been too long since the Amish agreed to allow them to stop at the farms and buy from them and that it took them 3 years to approve it. The Amish speak 3 languages in the area; Pennsylvania Dutch, German & English. The children dont speak English other than what is picked up from hearing the adults speak to English people, which is what they call us....the English. Children start school young and all ages are mixed. Boys sit on one side of the room, girls on the other. I'm assuming you all realize there is no city water, electricity, etc in the houses or schools or community. They have outhouses, separate for boys and girls, and there are about 5 one room schoolhouses in the Ethridge Amish community. The kids go to school until about the age of 14 and the teachers are usually the smartest of the young girls that have completed school. They have a sort of spring & fall break that is based on harvest/planting time. The students go to school until about 4 o'clock, but have a certain amount of work to complete. If harvest break is nearing and they are behind, they stay in school into late hours in order to finish before the break. Children are taught English in school at a later point, and they are separated for the younger ones when they begin learning English.
Older teenish girls do a lot of sewing. They make there own clothes and obviously wear different things when they are in their own community. All of them that we saw in town, away from the farms wore black from head to toe. Ladies in bonnets and dresses, men in collaless shirts and pants and black cowboy looking hats. In their own environments, they wear mostly dark blue, with white bonnets or scarves on their hair, men, straw hats. And a lot of bare footin' going on
The community is governed by one main person, a bishop/pastor type, with several deacon like men throughout. When a wrong is done, which is very rare, according to the guide maybe once a yr this bishop and the deacons decide the punishment and there is a usually "eye for an eye" enforced, when the situation allows.
At about 21 the girls are married. The boys have one date at a time with 3 or 4 girls, then the boy chooses from the 3 or 4. They also take the girls to another Amish community usually and the bishop keeps track of all birth and family lineage to prevent marriages to family members, which wasn't always the case. I read that the Amish were at one point subject more things like typhoid fever, etc because they married too close to kin. Apparently they are trying to change that.