The restaurant in the hotel was a bit hit and miss. After a late swim at night, we came out for dinner, and it was a train wreck. Everything we had was undercooked, screwed up, or just nasty. They couldn’t even get stuffed peppers right. Wow. The wine was better, and it was crappy, but they poured a lot. the evening was topped off with Karaoke in the bar, that filled the restaurant and lobby. We slept in a bit again, although Yulia got an early swim in before I was up. Breakfast was completely different. It was a custom omelet bar and full buffet. Really good and reasonable. Strange to have such a difference. Once fed, we got out of the hotel and headed to the farm.
It was a pretty short drive, and was supposed to be a real old farm and homestead that was turned into a slightly touristy learning center. We got there and it was a bit too quiet. There was no one around and the place seemed empty. We went to the information desk in the Main building, and found out that not only was today a “off” day, this wasn’t an Amish farm. This was a German family farm, which was similar, but not what we were looking for. The guys at the desk pointed us back in the right direction, and we left back towards the Amish areas. It was just a short drive, and we got to the Amish farm shortly.
This was nice, it had a local bus tour, a typical Amish house, and working farm. It was also nice that this was partially run by an Amish family, who ran part of the tours. We bought tickets for a full tour, and were just in time to hop on the tour bus. The plan for the bus was to take about an hour drive through the area, showing some of the local farms in action, talk about how the Amish live, and stop at a local Farm/Shop.
The first thing pointed out on the tour was that it was easy to pick out Amish houses in Lancaster, as they all had green pull-down shades in the window. He was right, as we drove we could see green shades at each of the Amish houses. They also no longer had any power wires leading into the house. Custom built farms would have never had power, but a lot of Amish worked other jobs as well, as there wasn’t that much farmland to go around. Some of the Amish businesses pointed out were farm equipment repair, buggy and scooter repair, some furniture manufacture as well. These Amish would buy regular houses and refit them for their needs. We were told that the simplest rule of thumb for technology was that no electricity was allowed in the house, but gas or air driven appliances were ok. Anything electric (like a phone) had to live in a shed by the road. Many of these had solar panels, which was preferred to regular power because it kept the family independent. And independence (or more accurately, preventing intrusion from the outside world) seemed to be the goal of restricting technology. The Scooters and Buggies were similar, as the reduced mobility out of their community. It was still ok to get a ride somewhere, or take the train, but personal transportation was not ok, even a bicycle was too much.
The area was beautiful. We loved riding the tour, and the driver pointed out little things along the way, like some of the oldest farms, the one-room schoolhouses, even where one family bought a house with a tennis court, and turned it into a horse yard, as they don’t play tennis. Apparently swimming and volleyball are very popular though, not sure if the tennis thing was preference or due to some rules. After a long drive around we pulled up into the farm with the small shop. They had some homemade ice great, homemade root beer, and various crafts and items for sale. We got some ice cream and root beer, as well as some herbal rubs that looked interesting.
As a frequent tourist, I think it is a good thing to support the community that you are visiting, and that usually means spending some money. When we did our tour last year in Mexico, I was surprised that most of the places that we visited had no vendors. After all, we’re tourists, we’re supposed to be the suckers here. Supporting local small business is part of the deal. if you don’t do that I feel like we are stomping about someone’s community and not giving anything back. And in this case we got a great deal. The Ice cream and Root Beer were amazing. Nothing beats homemade.
We headed back to the Farm from here. and then took the house tour. The house was setup as a typical Amish house, and our guide was a young Amish guy named David. As he showed us around, he told us some of the same information as the driving tour, including the bit about the green shades. I asked him why the green shades? He looked surprised at the question, thought for a second and told me that he didn’t know. They just all did that here.
We got a rundown of Amish clothing, usually made at home by Mom, usually dark somber colors. Nice hats though. I like straw hats. No electric lights inside the house. Lots of windows, and propane camping laps converted with very nice shades and cabinets to hide the propane. Quite clever actually. Church services are done in the home, rotating weekly between the houses in the community. The clothes wash was done with an old, gas driven Maytag washer (with squeeze roller) usually kept in the basement or summer kitchen (like an enclosed porch). These washers date back to the late ‘50s, but there is a company locally that licensed the design and still makes them new, along with repair parts.
After the house tour we walked around the farm and Sasha was having a great time feeding every animal that she could. It wasn’t too hot out so it was nice to relax outside fro a while. Watching animals run about has a very Zen appeal to it. They had an example of a typical schoolhouse showing the layout (all grades in one room). They go t school up through eighth grade, and take no science. In Alabama or Mississippi I think this would get them a doctorate. We walked around a bit more and I ended up chatting for a bit with an older Amish woman. I thanked her for opening their community, and mentioned that we were visiting family in Philadelphia. She was really nice, and we ended up trading addresses. Now I have an Amish pen pal. (I will have to check the internet to see how stamps work, apparently you can write on paper, put it in a envelope, and some guy will carry it across the country so the name you write on the outside. How quaint)
We left the farm, and wanted to get some food before our second goal: taking a buggy ride. We checked the reviews of several local places, but every one we stopped into was a nasty super-buffet. I only assume the high reviews came from folks who had lost their taste bugs in a freak sword-swallowing accident. We drove back onto the main highway, and after a short while saw a chain Roadhouse style BBQ restaurant. We walked din, and every table had a bucket of peanuts on it.
Perfect. Unlimited peanuts is the hallmark of quality.
We ended up ordering some good BBQ. and their drinks were good as well. I had the super-sized Margarita wit sidecar of more Tequila because vacation. For a chain place, it was great food. When the supply lines are short (out I farm country) everything tastes just a bit better. Yulia had some Atlantic Salmon, which unlike the Farmed Atlantic in Seattle, is wild and terrific. We ended up mentioning to our waitress that we were from Seattle (some roundabout salmon conversation), and she thought that was amazing. for most of the east coast Seattle is this far away, flannel-clad place. A land of magic and software. Our waitress was enchanted with us for the remainder of the evening, now we were the interesting ones, instead of the Amish.
We went back to Intercourse, and managed to catch the buggy ride place just before it closed. These guys weren’t Amish, but Mennonite (same core religion, but few technology restrictions.) We got the last ride of the day, which was a blast. Sasha got to drive the buggy on the smaller side roads, and our guide told us all about the Amish (our third time hearing this, we assumed that there would be a quiz later.) It was bumpy, but a lot of fun. He showed us how the buggies drove, the little electrical light system, and pointed out how many businesses in the area had buggy stalls for Amish customers (like a mini-barn). We chatted with the guy a bit when we were back, and helped him out unmounting the horse from the buggy, and rolling the buggy up into the barn. Sasha got to meet the other horses, and wash down our horse. The horse seemed pleased. It was a great time.
Back at the hotel, Sasha retired to her room, and Yulia and I sat on the deck off the hotel bar. It overlooked a golf course, with a fountain at the hole nearest us. We drank wine and watched the fireflies come out as the sun went down.