4AM – 8PM: A Day In The Life Of An Amish Family

Lovina Eicher takes us through a typical day for her family in her latest Lovina’s Amish Kitchen column. It’s a nice look at some of the tasks and routines in an Amish household and family.

A couple of things stand out to me. One is obviously the early start to the day. Amish families on average probably wake up earlier than 99% of Americans. That’s not only dairy farmers who are on a 4 AM-and-milking schedule.

Amish working in other jobs and businesses wake up early as well. Construction workers tend to get an early start. A roofing company might want to be at it especially early in the summer months before the midday heat gets too stifling. A waitress or restaurant worker in a larger Amish community needs to be up and at ’em for an early AM breakfast crowd. Factory workers put in some especially early AM shifts. There are morning chores to be done as well. Amish children leave comparatively late for school, around 8 AM, depending how far they need to travel to get there.

This is balanced out by strategic naps caught during the day (for those who can manage them). Lovina writes about catching some rest in a recliner. Farmers might lie down after an 11 AM lunch. The construction worker or family on the way to a Pennsylvania Dutch market will snooze in the van on the way.

Another thing is that Amish homes are often a hive of activity. With 8-12 people under one roof in a typical “completed” family, you’ve got a lot going on in an average day.

People coming and going, drivers dropping off and picking up, neighbors stopping in to share some bit of news or return a borrowed item, youth going to their events, sisters or nieces stopping by to help with sweet corn or peaches or a quilt, and a daily schedule of chores, meals to be made, food to be put away, children to be read to, and so on. I always say that Amish life is not as “simple” as it might seem when captured in the image of a lone farmer plodding along in a field behind a team of mules. Lovina’s family shows us an example of a typical busy Amish (in this case non-farming) family with its multitude of daily activities.

Here are some times excerpted to give you a feel for Lovina’s family’s day, starting at an hour when most people are still comfortably in snoozeland, and closing with husband Joe’s evening return:

4a.m. My alarm rings… I get up to make breakfast for son Joseph, eighteen. He helps me fill his water cooler and pack his lunch. His work crew is leaving early because they are building a pole barn close to Lake Erie, which is a two-hour drive away. For breakfast I make scrambled eggs with bacon, green pepper, and onions.

4:30 a.m. Joseph leaves for work. I take a short rest in my recliner until son Benjamin, twenty-one, gets up to leave. He doesn’t want breakfast. The RV factory where he works is off this week because they were not able to order enough parts. It seems that building material is scarce everywhere. Benjamin is going to help Loretta’s special friend, Dustin, with some construction work that they are doing for our friends John and Barb. (Our sympathy goes to Barb and John as they mourn the passing of her father. May God be with them through this trial in life.)

6:45 a.m. Joe leaves with our horse Midnight and buggy to help at Mose and Susan’s. Mose’s dad will also be there. So far Joe hasn’t been able to find work again. That makes it hard to make ends meet, but the good Lord watches over us, and it means that Joe can help out at Mose and Susan’s house. Mose is still off work due to an accident with a saw at work. The doctor wants to make sure his cut heals well. The saw hit his bone, which makes it harder to heal.

Noon. My clothes lines are all filled. We washed yesterday but I also washed the laundry we had this morning, and a day’s worth of clothes for eight people adds up. The sun is out but it’s chilly. The temperature is in the 50’s and was 41 degrees this morning.

1 p.m. We make an easy lunch of meat and cheese roll ups, using tortilla shells with ranch dressing, deli meat, cheese, and lettuce. Some of us like diced hot peppers with them.

4:30 p.m. Lovina comes home. Benjamin came home earlier, but is across the road helping Dustin with building his patio, which he is trying to get finished.

7 p.m. Benjamin and Kevin finish evening chores. Joe still isn’t home. Susan left a voicemail on our phone to say that he went to pick potatoes in a field near their house. After the farmers pick potatoes from the field, many are left behind, and people ask permission from the farmers to pick them up. Otherwise, they just get tilled under.

8 p.m. Joe is home and eats his supper. It’s been a long day.

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    1. Sean Murphy

      Love reading this!

      Love how they write as if in an actual conversation! So many details are missed by the way us English write now.

    2. Bob the Quaker

      Yes, the conversation style is so interesting. I have a 5 year diary from a young lady in Lancaster, PA. Here is a few days in her life:

      Day 1: We had a get-together at Bro. Johns
      Day 2: I crated eggs. We were quilting
      Day 3: I crated eggs and was cutting patches for a couch cover for sister
      Rachel. Paps went to Lancaster
      Day 4: I was sewing the couch cover together
      Day 5: I crated eggs. We went to Quarryville with eggs. In PM I made bread
      and a cake
      Day 6: Crated eggs and quilted
      Day 7: Mother and I were at Pricilla for dinner at Aunt Mary awhile in PM
      Day 8: Pap and I went to Quarryville with eggs
      Day 9: We done the Sat. work and crated eggs. I went along up to cousin
      Johnie Stoltfus for supper at Groffdale.
      Day 10: I crated eggs & washed.Mother was quilting.It was a very nice day
      Day 11 I crated eggs. We finished the Quilt And I made 17 loaves of bread

      Just thought this might be interesting to some. They must have an egg business.

      1. I think it’s safe to say this diary writer is “pro level” at crating eggs by now.

        Half-joking aside, I appreciate even making this daily one-line recording of the activities of the day. This is quite different from a diary where someone records their thoughts and feelings and etc. More of a work/event log but interesting nonetheless.

    3. Geo

      The simple life

      It sounds like an appealing, orderly, and peaceful life.

      1. I agree – one place this comes out in my experience is in the set meal times. Not all Amish stick to that, but they tend to have a scheduled time for breakfast, lunch, etc (I think this holds more true with farming families). I’d guess that were more the case in the general public decades ago, and less so now with our more fragmented lives.

    4. Cynthia Bliss

      Lovinas Amish Kitchen

      Can you please tell me how to SUBSCRIBE to Lovinas Amish Kitchen?

      1. Subscribe to Lovina's Amish Kitchen

        You can subscribe here, there is a box for that on the right side of the page: http://www.lovinasamishkitchen.com/

        I believe the columns are posted there with about a week’s delay, so as to give preference to the newspapers where the column appears. So you should get updates, just might be slightly behind.

    5. Jeff Baker

      Why have I been getting articles from several months or years ago in my email?

      I just received this one yesterday afternoon.