This is a photo which we saw on a previous post. Notice anything unusual about this otherwise-standard Maytag wringer washer, common in Amish homes?
I wonder if anyone caught it when we shared it before. If you’re still scratching your head, Don Burke explains what’s going on here below.
Today Don gives us one last look at the home of Mary Graber of the Jamesport, Missouri Amish community.
As touched on before this is a pretty progressive settlement, technology-wise. In this post you’ll see some things Don found in Mary’s home on his most recent visit which surprised him. A lot of it revolves around the ways the Graber household gets power to run things like lighting, refrigeration, and more.
Pretty much all Amish use batteries to some degree (whether that’s as basic as 2 “D” batteries in a handheld flashlight or a calculator battery to battery-powered lamps in lieu of gas lighting), but this home has one of the most sophisticated battery power setups I have ever seen in an Amish home, which you’ll see further down the post.
The Amish here are not to be confused with the “electric” New Order Amish, a small group of at least ostensibly horse-and-buggy Amish who do permit public utility power in their homes.
The Amish at Jamesport are off the grid otherwise. The Graber household shows a family who has incorporated battery power system into their home in a way that is beyond what many if not most Amish today do.
In a recent post I shared about an opportunity I had to visit Mary Graber’s new home in Jamesport, MO.
Mary is a personal friend, and she graciously allowed me to take pictures as she explained about the Amish Home Tour she gives of her home. Naturally a lot of the things her guests will see throughout the house are traditional Amish.
However, there were a few things that you might not expect.
1. I first got one of those what’s-not-quite-right-with-this-picture feeling when I saw these battery-powered lights. It’s not like I think Amish don’t use battery-powered flashlights. But these are more than momentary-use flashlights, but instead seem to be designed for longer, somewhat stationary use as a lamp. And the batteries are rechargeable! And where would an Amish family recharge a battery?
2. As we continue through the house I notice that there are other lighting options that are not exactly traditional Amish. Like most Amish homes, the Graber house sports propane/natural gas light fixtures in the various rooms. However, I was really surprised to see screw-in LED lightbulbs in regular light fixtures in some of the rooms and garage.
The LED lights do not give off heat like the propane lanterns do – which would be a very welcome difference on those hot summer nights.
3. And where there are electric light fixtures, we will naturally find electric wiring, too.
4. And along with unexpected house wiring comes the equally surprising breaker box.
5. Two of the biggest surprises of all were the very large electric chest freezer that runs off the house’s electric system….
6. …and the traditional wringer washing machine which is also run by electricity (instead of a gasoline motor).
Ultimately all of these are powered by a solar panel mounted on the roof.
Jamesport is a more-progressive Amish community which allows use of solar-generated electricity. So to take the most advantage of this (and also to possibly help with the resale value of the home in the future), Mary’s new home was built with all the electrical wiring and much of the hardware in place that will allow it to be easily switched over to English use one day. But of course, being traditional Amish, the Graber home is not hooked up to the public electric powerlines.
7. Another thing that was a bit unusual was that throughout the house all the boxes where the English would normally have electric light switches or electrical outlets, these are covered over with solid plastic plates.
8. The electricity generated by the solar panels is directed into the house, and stored in a bank of batteries on the garage floor.
These batteries then supply energy to an inverter which converts the battery voltage into normal household current to power the few electric items in the house.
The system also has a charging station for additional automobile batteries. These batteries are used for the electrical needs (headlight and flashing lights) on the horse-drawn buggy. And they also serve a number of uses inside the house.
9. If you have a keen eye you may have noticed in the previous post on this new home that there was a small electric fan in the bedroom.
These draw too much electricity to be powered for long on a smaller rechargeable battery (like on the lamps, above), but operate much better when connected to the more-powerful larger battery.
10. Even larger and more modern equipment, like this modern sewer in Mary’s sewing room, are available to the Amish because of the additional power from the 12 volt car battery.
I always enjoy a visit with Mary Graber, and the chance to get to see her new home was a treat I won’t soon forget.
Thanks to Don for this interesting look at the Graber home. Catch more of Don’s photos on flickr.
Also, Don shares: The Amish Home Tours are by appointment only. If you are interested being a guest call Mary Graber at 660-684-6082. Leave a message and she will get back with you. Please call at least two or three days ahead to help insure that Mary is available and has a time slot open.