Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Ever Changing Cultural Landscape

When we first moved to this area, almost 40 years ago, we liked the small town atmosphere, the small school district and the busy, little community. We always hoped that it would stay that way. We live about 3 miles from our little Village of Mexico, New York.

We were always worried that a large housing development might go up on our road or in our community and that would have devastated us. Especially if a housing division went up across the road from where we live. That land went up for sale a few years after we moved here and it sold, but luckily for us it was never developed. We moved her for the specific reasons of a little more land and woods for our children to play and grow up in.

The road we live on.
Well, it pretty much has stayed a small little community.  My husband used to joke that if a fast food restaurant moved in to our community that we were moving. Well, we now have a McDonalds, a Subway, a Dunkin Donuts, and other typical community businesses and we're still here.

One of the first Amish homes in our area.
About 15 years ago an Amish family moved into the area about 15 miles from here. They had purchased a small farm from a farmer that was selling his property. Since then we have had several Amish families move into our local townships. They are buying up abandoned farms and buildings and making repairs to the buildings on the properties. The Amish are attracted to New York because of the lower prices for farm land in rural areas and the isolation that exists in these rural areas as well. And their original local areas, like Ohio, have become very populated. New York has the fastest-growing population of Amish and 5th overall.

Within a ten mile radius from our house we probably have at least 10 Amish families living in our towns. It is not unusual now to see or hear the buggies going down our road. The first time I heard a buggy going down the road, I couldn't see it and I thought it was a car with some pretty bad tires on it. It sounded like it was dragging something. It was shortly after that I saw a horse and buggy go by. Depending on the specific order of Amish some do not use rubber on their buggy wheels.

Amish School about 5 miles up the road from us.
Each order of Amish have their own differences from other Amish orders, and they are governed by their local bishop and ministers. The bishop and ministers do not have any formal religious training but are elected by their members. Some of the minor differences between the orders would be the different style of hats for the men, and head coverings for the women. Also included in this category would be the color and length of the women's dresses, and the type of suspenders for the men's pants, and the differences in size, color and shape of their buggies. The buggies shown in these photos appear to be from the Swartzentruber Amish originating in Ohio. I've identified this order of Amish because of the shape of their buggies and the main difference is that they do not use the red triangles (for slow moving vehicles) on the back of their buggies. We have seen some of their buggies marked with white reflector tape. This would be another of the differences among the different orders. Here is a link on the Swartzentruber Amish: Who are the Swartzentruber Amish?
Sign designating Amish School ahead.
Some Amish farms are permitted to use phones, cell phones, computers, and the use of electricity if they have a business. This is especially true if they have a dairy farm and are selling their milk. The milk would have to be refrigerated in modern milk tanks. One of the major differences among the orders would be the use of phones. Some are allowed to have a phone and these families might have a phone shed outside of their home. Most Amish families have indoor plumbing, but some of the stricter orders still use outhouses. This order of Amish in our area, the Swartzentruber Amish, are limited to the technology that they can use. I believe they are from the more stricter order of Amish and are not allowed to use electricity. I'm not sure if they are allowed to use a phone. I have seen some of the farms with sheds not too far away from their homes, but I'm not sure if they are for telephones or outhouses.

Sign on left advertising snow shoveling roofs and decks;  buggy in center
of photo on road; and children walking home from school on right.

The advertising for their businesses usually consists of a sign either in front of their house or at the end of a road/crossroad.
Amish farm on left and on right Amish school children playing outside of school for recess.

It's not unusual to pass a buggy on the road around here. Sometimes from my perspective it's very dangerous for the Amish. Especially after dark in the winter. It gets dark so early here in the winter (on the shortest day in December that would be about 4:30 p.m.) that you often see them on the road in the early evening.  They do have a light on their buggy on the drivers side. It's a lantern that is clear on the front of it and red on the back of it. It is basically a candlelight.

Sometimes if they don't have reflector tape on the buggy you can come up on them pretty fast after dark. And our country roads do not have a specific speed limit so therefore, quite a few people drive 55 mph. Another contributing factor to the hazards of their type of transportation is that with our snowbanks around here they cannot get off the side of the road at times to let people pass them in cars. It's not like our roads are really busy around here, but sometimes I think people drive too fast for the country roads.

The Amish have beautiful vegetable gardens. Usually the children, depending on their age, help with the gardening. Several of our local Amish farms sell their wares either at a stand in front of their house or at one of the local businesses. You can find baskets, quilts, vegetables, fruits, baked goods, fire wood and other various items at their little stands.

Milk tanks in the back of a wagon.

Talk about an ironic image - - -We have seen buggies pull into gas stations. They go to gas stations to fill their tanks with kerosene which is used for lamps and heat (I'm guessing). Some of them also use gasoline for diesel engines for their lumber mills, generators to keep the milk cold, and also for some of their other cottage businesses. This order of Amish do not appear to use coolers for their milk, but rather provide the milk in metal containers. The sale of their milk would most likely be used in cheese production because it would be a lower quality than that needed to produce milk.

They also will work for some of the other farmers that might need help. A few years back during one of our winters where we got record snowfalls, one of our local farmers that had a big dairy farm and barn needed his barn roof shoveled because of all the snow on it. There were over 6 foot drifts on his barn. The Amish neighbors came over as a group and helped them shovel it off.

Amish buggy in parking lot of Aldi's. 

They are allowed to ride in cars, but usually only in the event of emergencies. If they are travelling to visit other family members in another community they usually travel by bus. The Amish pay sales taxes, county taxes and property taxes, etc.

Children leaving school. Some walk home and some ride in buggies.

Amish children walking home from school
I never thought that when we moved here in 1974 that 40 years later one of my closest neighbors would be an Amish family.

Here us a short video of a buggy that we were following a few weeks ago on our way home from our village. Our car appears closer than what it actually was because I zoomed in with the camera.

Here is a link to some additional facts about the Amish traditions: Amish Life/Amish Facts

Link to Frequently Asked Questions on the Amish:

Other related articles: Amish America - New York
     Inexpensive land lures Amish-Mennonites to Region
     Sharing the Road with Amish Buggies
     Amish Men Jailed for Refusing to Attach Orange Triangles to their Buggies
     Upstate New York Amish Struggle for Survival
     A Local Amish Barn Raising

ADDENDUM: After I published this post I am very happy to report that a very popular author that writes fiction and non-fiction books on the Amish, Suzanne Woods Fisher, viewed my blog and commented below on it. Suzanne writes beautiful books on the Amish lifestyle and communities. Here is a link to Suzanne's website: Suzanne Woods Fisher. Thanks Suzanne!

Hope you enjoyed your visit with our Amish neighbors! 

Feel free to leave a comment. . .


  1. I just love the Amish way of life. I had no idea that there was a community in your town. I think I would do well living they lifestyle. Thank you for you knowledge . I learned more about them.

    1. Thanks for your comments Judy. The Amish in our County have been here for about 5 years or so. I think it would be so hard to live in this climate and area without electricity. I think I would struggle trying to adapt to their lifestyle.

  2. Sue I grew up in rural Indiana and used to see Amish all around....and of course visited them in PA. I have always been fascinated by their lifestyle.

    1. I'm like you Donna, in that I'm fascinated by their lifestyle. We also visited Lancaster, PA a few years back and loved the colorful countryside and their beautiful farms and way of life. Their handcrafts (quilts, woodworking, etc.) are so beautiful too. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I miss Amish country of Lancaster PA. I would shop there every week not living to far away. The simplicity of life, the beauty of place. Your photos really make me homesick.

    1. Being our close proximity to these families, it's been interesting watching them build or repair their homes, plow their lands by hand, and tend to their gardens. Also, occasionally we see the children walking home from school carrying their lunch pails. It really makes you think about your own lifestyle and how you are living your life. Thanks for sharing.

    2. I agree with you. I had friends in Amish country and they were the nicest people. I used to give them rides in my Jeep even though against their beliefs. They would ask to save walking time while carrying heavy loads.

  4. I live in Fulton and had no idea about the Amish community so close to us. We moved to the area 19 years ago from a larger city and just love the diversity of Oswego County.

    1. Oswego County definitely has a lot to offer. I would say within the last five years the Amish started moving into Oswego County. Thanks for your comments.

  5. I recently moved from NNY to PA and loved your pictures, especially that you respect the Amish's ban against front-on photos. Also, your narrative is perfect! We were close to several Mennonite families in northern Oswego County, who were helpful, and have our utmost respect. Thank you for this. Jeanne McKown

    1. Thank you Jeanne for your kind words. The Amish are a very kind, quiet and caring people. At this time I don't know any of them that well, but I hope to get to know some of the families that live close to me.

  6. Sue-this was a beautiful and heartfelt post and I love the photographs of the childen walking from school and the horse and buggy. I admire the simple life of the Amish. It reminds me more of when I was growing up and life was so different...slower paced and less stressful than it is today. Thank you for writing and sharing this.

    1. Thank you so much Lee. I debated about writing this article about the Amish because I wanted to share what we are experiencing living in close proximity to them, and at the same time I wanted to be respectful of them. When I see the Amish children playing and walking to and from school, like you, it reminds me of my childhood days when we would walk to school carrying our lunches without a care in the world.

  7. Hi Susan! I just got back from a book tour and am catching up on my e-mail. Read your note about your blog post on the Amish in your area and popped right over. Beautiful pictures...just beautiful! Loved seeing your work. (And appreciated your accurate info about the Amish, too.) Let's keep in touch! Thanks for taking a moment to let me see your work. Warmly, Suzanne

    1. Thanks so much Suzanne for your kind words on my blog post. I really appreciate you taking the time to read it, especially coming from such a well-known author on the Amish.