3 Pennsylvania Amish trip stories

I just returned from an excellent trip to Pennsylvania, with visits to Lancaster County, Mifflin County, Dauphin County and Lebanon County.  I had planned to post regularly over the past week, which since I stay in Amish homes I usually do via the 3G internet access on my Kindle. Unfortunately the device froze on Saturday and, whatever I tried, wouldn’t restart.  The people at Amazon were highly helpful, as I’ve noticed them to be in the past, and sent out a replacement (free of charge) which was waiting when I arrived back to NC last night.  Another reason I’m a fan of the company (is it just me, or have other Amazon users had similar experiences with their customer service?).

Now that I’m back, a few stories you might enjoy from the trip:

Super cured  I was hit like a mule kick by some sort of bug mid-morning Sunday.  The kind that brings chills and fever and sudden fatigue.  After letting me sleep for a couple of hours, my Amish hosts took to administering care to their “English Patient”.

The first treatment given was something called “super tonic”.  I was told of five ingredients–onion, garlic, hot pepper, horseradish, and a fifth which has slipped my mind.  I flinched and asked for tea, but they brought me a diluted version of the tonic anyway.  Even that less than 50-50 water mixture has enough pop to make you cough.  I got it all down though while sitting in the recliner next to the wood stove.

The second remedy was a tea I’ll call “Muddy Mountain Dew”.  The name has nothing to do with its rather neutral flavor, but with its color, a flourescent green a couple notches darker than the soda. Of the ingredients listed I remember only echinacea and stinging nettles.  I put down two big mugs of this over the course of the day.

The problem with being this kind of sick in an Amish home, by the way, is the food, or rather the not-eating-of-it.  On falling ill my appetite instantly evaporated, and over the next 24 hours I was able to put down but one slice of buttered toast and half a bowl of tomato soup.  Wasted food opportunity!

The good news is that the next day I was back to full health.  Cured by super tonic, Mountain Dew tea, or a bug simply running its course?  Maybe a bit of all three.

Big Valley Tech  I was happy to be recovered, for Monday I was due to take a Lancaster Amish friend along on a trip to Big Valley in Mifflin County.  While visiting a pair of Nebraska Amish sawmill owners in the Valley I found further evidence that members of this group are not as conservative as you’d think.

There are multiple groups within the Nebraska family due to division, much of which I believe has happened in recent years (I hadn’t found anyone yet who knows that story well enough to tell).  While Nebraska Amish may remain very conservative in certain areas such as their clothing and buggy design, in business-related areas some are permitting a good measure of technology (including rubber-tired payloaders and perhaps most surprisingly, some cell phone usage).

After telling another Lancaster friend about this, I was pointed to this video of a Nebraska Amish auctioneer, which in the context of my visit (and in recent discussions over photos of Nebraska Amish) I found especially interesting:

Sap season  On Saturday pre-sickness we collected sap from maple trees scattered along my friend’s property, and from some neighbor trees they are allowed to tap.  To gather the sap we used an old but reliable family horse to haul a milk sputnik and plastic drum where the sap would be collected.

Having never done this I hadn’t realized how much flows from a single tree in season.  The buckets were nearly overflowing, with some of the sap frozen in large chunks.  The three little boys along happily broke off chunks of the sap ice to crunch on.  It has a very slight sweetness when it first hits your tongue but is close to frozen ice otherwise.

The sap first boiled down in a large wood-fired boiler outside, basically a square-shaped container with a place to stoke a fire beneath and a pipe to draw off the smoke.  It’s then finished inside on the house stove.  The 40 gallons we collected Saturday gave 1 gallon of syrup.  Monday was apparently a record haul with 70 gallons coming in.  In season the sap needs to be collected every other day.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Char

      Glad to hear you are feeling better, Erik! I’d love to have the recipes for the tonics your “doctors” used if you can get them. Sounds like it was a very interesting trip, I’m sure you’ll tell us more soon. And yes, I’ve always had good results with Amazon Customer Service.

      1. Thanks Char! I will keep it in mind to ask next time we speak but I wonder if someone reading this will know how to make this concoction (and what ingredient I am leaving out…)

        1. Linda

          Super Tonic

          Here’s a recipe for Super Tonic from the book, BE YOUR OWN DOCTOR, by Weaver:

          Use equal parts of freshly chopped or shredded onion, garlic, horseradish, ginger, and cayenne (use less if you do not want it too hot. You can use habanero or jalapeno peppers.)

          Fill quart jar with chopped mixture and cover with raw apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 2-4 weeks. Strain and bottle. Use liberally anywhere you would use an antibiotic. It works very well to ward off any cold or flu symptoms. It works best if you begin to use it at the first sign of illness or sniffles.
          (Or you could google Super Tonic recipe or Plague Tonic.)

          1. Ginger it was!

            Thanks for filling in the missing ingredient Linda. Next time I’m going to be brave enough to try the undiluted dosage. And if this is strong enough to fight off the plague I am encouraged 🙂

      2. Marijane Grassie

        Please ans. email thanx Eric

        Erik, I have gone to Lancaster pa. For. Years, but find it now to be to touristy. I like buying Amish products from them direct. (At their homes) I have only been in Lancaster area of pa. Do you know any other areas there that aren’t so filled with tourist. Have also gone to Ohio Amish and the ny trail. I realy enjoyed that because it was not a tourist trial thanx mj

        1. OldKat

          Have you looked at this?

          Marijane: I am just the opposite, I have never been to Lancaster County, PA, but have been to New Wilmington. Even some of the Amish community near New Wilmington was a little more “touristy” than other areas; generally that nearer the more major highway(s) was more, that further away & on backroads was less. Makes sense as to why this would be.

          Try this link. I think it will give you some ideas as to where to visit Amish communities in PA:


          1. Don Curtis

            Amish in Texas

            Hello OldKat,
            You asked me to find out from Mark where the Amish from Belle Center will be on their disaster relief trip. They left, today, Saturday March 2nd. They will be in the Bastrop, Texas area working on houses destroyed or damaged by tornadoes. They will be staying at Mennonite homes or churches in the area. I’m afraid that I don’t even know where Bastrop, Texas is but that’s where they’ll be. Just about all the youth boys from Mark’s district went. They took their carpenters’ belts and tools with them. I expect if you drive around the area you’ll hear some hammering and pounding going on.

            1. Don Curtis

              Amish in Texas

              I forgot to tell you that the Belle Center Amish will in the Bastrop, Texas area for the next week. They come home next Saturday, March 9th.

            2. OldKat

              Thanks Don

              I know EXACTLY where that is, about an hours’ drive west of where I live. I even know where the Mennonite community is, as I was invited to visit their church there one time but never followed up on the invite. I had planned to take the entire week off and it would have been an easy drive to join in; unfortunately things came up at work so here I am. (Insert sad face here) However, if things change up and I can get away I will head over there and lend a hand.

              I had not heard of any recent tornado activity in that area, but they did experience a massive forest fire there during the drought of 2011. Tens of thousands of acres of timber burned and several, several hundred homes, barns & businesses as well. A tornado on top of all of that? My goodness, they probably do need help. Kudos to the Belle Center Amish for coming to their aide.

    2. Maple Syrup

      Sorry you got sick during your trip.
      I can’t wait to buy a jug of this year’s crop of maple syrup. When I was still living in PA, some of the local farmers said that they shipped their syrup to VT, where it was sold as “genuine VT maple syrup.” As if state boundaries make a difference in nature’s bounty.

      1. I think Vermont is to maple syrup as the Amish are to whoopie pies?

    3. Dessa

      Tonic and Muddy Mt. Dew

      I too would love to have these recipes and I love Amazons customer service.

    4. Erin

      So glad your friends were able to give you some home remedies and that they worked for you! Miserable being sick let alone away from the comfort of your own home.
      I enjoyed the short video clip of the Amish Apprentice Auctioneer. Very humble man.
      I have never seen how they tap maple trees but did know it requires a lot of sap to make one gallon of syrup. In fact, I just bought a small jar a few weeks ago from a Mennonite bulk grocery store. It’s the best!

    5. Laura

      Home remedies are often the best! When my husband was in the Air Force visiting Korea meany years ago, he got deathly ill. The hotel called some sort of local practitioner who gave him a collection of pills and herbs that to this day he has no clue what was in them, except that when he got back to his home base and saw the doctor, they exempted him from drug testing for six months as a result. 🙂

      Oh, and I *adore* Amazon customer service. They just replaced my kindle with less than 2 weeks to go on the warranty. It’s nice to see a big company stand by its word just as well as a small company, isn’t it?

      Seriously, it sounds like you were in excellent hands if you got well that quickly. Your Amish friends certainly took good care of you!

      1. I pulled through somehow Laura…Actually they kept throwing blankets on top of me while sitting on the recliner by the stove. So many I couldn’t move and slept right there half the night 🙂

        I would give Amazon an A+ for their customer service. I can also see why it would be beneficial to them to make sure people have a fully-functional Amazon purchasing tool by their side 🙂 If they didn’t treat me well, well then I might be motivated to try a Nook, and then buy all my e-books the next ten years from Barnes & Noble.

    6. Alice Majka

      Glad you’re feeling better, Erik! I don’t think I’d be as brave as you with that tonic (if I don’t like the way something smells or tastes, it’s been my “habit” to upchuck it. I doubt if doing that would endear me to anyone…I’d also be afraid they might try something else as a remedy for “upchucking”…and on and on it would go!) The tea, however, sounds interesting & palatable.

      In my area, the conservation district does “sugaring” every year, with the public (and many school groups) taking part. Of course, Illinois isn’t famous for its maple syrup, but it’s possible to tap trees for a small harvest. (Had a maple tree in my yard which ran sap late one winter, then died the following year. Lots of ailing maples in my area. 🙁

      Neat video—is auctioning certain items (horses as opposed to household goods) prevalent? I mean, are there “experts” who only auction livestock, others who auction quilts, etc.? I’m guessing your expertise would be in what you LOVE, as shown in this video. I’m not on the “auction circuit”, so I’m clueless about the “art”. Most auctions around here are for household goods, some farm implements.

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary from my limited auction experience I think they are pretty flexible but assuming individual auctioneers have favorite or specialty areas. You could tell he had a lot of enthusiasm for the horses.

        The tea was definitely easier to put down. Kind of a bready taste, not at all unpleasant.

      2. Amish Auctioneers

        There’s another Amish Auctioneer in the valley, Aaron Kanagy, who holds household auctions just about every Monday night in Belleville. Saturdays might find him auctioning farm machinery and livestock. We’ve gotten him for our cattle auctions (American Lineback cattle) and he seems to be an expert on cattle also. I’ve never heard the auctioneer in the video yet, but would like to see him in action; guess I better watch the newspaper for his listings. Since Amish like their horses about as much as we English like certain brands of cars, I’m betting that’s a reason why he really likes to auction horses. That must be the prime of the prime auction item. Auctions in the valley are a great thing to attend, if not to bid and buy something, but for the wonderful foods they have at the lunch stand!!

    7. New York State of Mind

      So glad you are back Erik. Glad you were healed. I could use those medicine recipes, too.


    8. Patty Tolliver

      3 Pennsylvania Amish trip stories

      I just saw tea bags with Stinging Nettles at Sprouts food store here in Orange County CA. I wasn’t sure what it was good for but now that I know, I will definitely get some and keep it on hand.

      Glad you are feeling better Erik. Stay well and have a great weekend.

    9. Annmarie

      Glad you are feeling better, Erik. I thoroughly enjoyed your recap of your trip. Thanks for sharing!

    10. Iain

      I have always been very happy with Amazon’s customer service. I think they are one of the few places anymore that the term customer service, actually means what it says. Glad you’re feeling better.

    11. Lattice

      We’re still collecting and boiling sap in our area, too. I’ve always been told that if you take “too much” sap from a maple, it will die.

      Many people don’t realize that the commercial syrup they buy is, by far, mostly corn syrup. There’s nothing like real maple syrup.