Lovina Eicher: Water Pump Challenges In An Amish Home

In her latest, Lovina Eicher, an Amish mother of eight who writes the Lovina’s Amish Kitchen column, explains a challenge of everyday Amish life – making sure the water pump is working reliably enough for a shower.

Lovina’s household’s water pump is run by a battery, in this case a solar powered-one. Lately in her Michigan community the sun hasn’t been doing its job, which means the gas-powered generator needs to be fired up to charge that battery. Lovina describes what they needed to do next, and why she was holding off on a shower until they got it done:

We had a few cloudy, rainy days and now our solar battery alarm is beeping out in the pole barn. That means the generator has to be started in order to recharge the battery pack. Our water pump is run by our solar battery. So far, we have water, but as soon as it gets to be daylight, someone needs to go get gas at the gas station. Yes, at 11 p.m. last night, after everyone was already in bed, daughter Loretta could hear the battery beeping.

It was too late for anyone to go get gas, the gas stations near us were closed, and we didn’t have any gas left in the jugs. Of course, during the night hours no one was using water, so it was okay until this morning when activity began again. I am waiting to take a shower until the gas is here. I do not want to risk running out of water in the middle of a shower. Hopefully once it’s daylight, the sun will come out, but the generator still needs to be started to help get the charge back in the battery pack.

Just a reality of this life when living off the grid. Lovina also gives us another interesting slice of life in this week’s column – on the food and people logistics of the baptismal service which was held in her community this past Sunday.

I appreciate that she shares the numbers, which gives a sense for how much food gets eaten at an extra-large church meal. Going by Lovina’s estimates, this baptismal service had probably double the turnout of the average Amish Sunday service:

On Sunday, Mose and Susan hosted baptismal services in a big tent at their place for daughter Loretta, nephew Jacob, and another young boy in our church district, Jeremiah. They prepared for extra people and had borrowed another bench wagon from a neighboring church district. I’m doing a rough estimate, but according to how many times we had to reset the tables, I would think almost 300 people were there in honor of the three young souls being baptized. Mose and Susan were well prepared with extra food, and we had enough for everyone. I made around two and a half big pots of coffee and we still almost ran out. This would probably total 200 cups. We also had 12 gallons of iced tea, but it was a cool day, so people wanted more coffee instead.

Also on the menu were ham, cheese, homemade wheat and white bread (60 loaves but we had some left), pickles, hot peppers, red beets, peanut butter spread, butter, rhubarb jam, and cookies (four different kinds). Popcorn was served while dishes were being washed.

Finally, Lovina shares a recipe for “Amish Wedding Nothings” – a sugar-sprinkled thin pastry.

Photo: Lovina’s Amish Kitchen

These are also called elephant ears or knee patches, she explains, and “are almost always served” in her home community of Berne, Indiana at weddings. Read the full column, and get the recipe here.

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    19 Comments

    1. Guest

      Reliance on fossil fuels

      That seems so un-Amish. They literally have horsepower at their disposal, can’t they run machines off a capstan anymore? One would think they’d be like Edward G Robinson in “Soylent Green” , pedalling a bike to make the power work no matter what.

      1. Maureen

        Soylent Green

        Not sure Edward G Robinson or Charlton Heston
        woukd be pedaling; just a case of busy life and events
        that moms are all too familiar with.

        Besides Lovinia’s cooking sure sounds delicious.
        No analogy at all to Soylent Green, I’m very sure.

      2. This sounds like the romantic conception of the Amish as a super-primitive one-with-the-earth eco-friendly society, which they generally are not.

    2. Joe

      How some in the Arthur, IL, community do it

      Last year, while touring in our motorhome, we had lunch in the home of an older Amish couple. I always wondered how they pumped their water. I asked the gentleman of the household and he said they used a pneumatically driven pump. They ran their diesel generator for a period of time in the morning to pressurize the air tank. That gave them enough pumping capacity for the day.

    3. Maureen

      Recipe LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org

      Thank you Lovinia for sharing the recipe. I know them as elephant ears.
      Can’t wait to make them!!

      I’m sure son-in-laws finger will heal well now that stitches are out. Since they require to have stitches in longer with fingers, they do tend to look a bit angry as they are healing.

      1. You got me wondering Maureen – stitches stay in longer with fingers because we tend to flex them and pop them open more? I have only had stitches once, but happened to be on my wrist (skiing accident), and I did manage to pop them open once. That happens to be a part of the body that you flex a lot. I imagine the scar I have is larger due to that.

    4. Lydia Good

      Water Pumps

      This sure brings back memories of the joys of no water. Someone would have to go out in the barn and start the gas engine that ran the pump. Occasionally the engine had fits and wouldn’t start. Then we had to go to my uncle’s house down the road with containers for our water needs. I was never very good at starting the engine, always seemed to flood it.

      I’ve never heard of these “nothings”. Looks like a lot of calories but they’re no doubt delicious. My mother made the best sugar cookies in the world with lots of powdered sugar sprinkled on top. You had to hold your breath when eating them, otherwise there was powdered sugar all over your face. 🙂

      1. This might be one of those deceptively “light” and nicely-named desserts (“nothings”) that just reels you in to eating a bunch of them. So you might be right on the calories part, though I don’t believe I’ve ever tried these. Is it more a Swiss Amish tradition, I wonder?

    5. Geo

      Sweet nothings

      Sounds kinda like a sweet desert version of Navajo frybread, usually topped with meat/beans/etc. Fried up the same way.

    6. alber baker

      amish baptism

      “300 people where there to honor…”

      What a clear “in you face” lack of respect for the community of Berne. To every doctor, to every nurse, to every first responder who will come to your home at any time of day.
      Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate.
      Shame on each and every one of them for their lack of honor.

      1. Thank you Karen for...

        Thank you Karen for…reminding us that it’s cold & flu season…

        1. Karen

          amish baptism

          donald,

          196,000 people have died. don’t forget your flu-shot.

      2. I believe this was actually in Lovina’s current community in Michigan (Berne, IN was the community she moved from). What’s the current outdoor gathering restriction in that state?

    7. Lurie Baty

      Can't access recipe

      When I pressed on the link for the recipe, I had a message which said I couldn’t access the link because I am in the EU? and for legal reasons I cannot view it. This is the first time I’ve come across something like this? Was really looking forward to seeing the link. 🙁

      1. An annoying legacy and cost of GDPR

        Lurie unfortunately this is a legacy of the GDPR restrictions that went into place in Europe 2 years ago. A good number of US websites have decided to block European traffic rather than try to adhere to the regime’s unclear data gathering requirements. A number of sites will give you a message saying that they are working on being compliant, but of course years later now nothing has changed and the sites are essentially blocked for European visitors.

        There is a pretty easy workaround however – just use a VPN to access those sites. You might have heard of it, stands for Virtual Private Network. They’ve gotten quite popular in the US as well in recent years as they offer better security when browsing. You can set your traffic to flow through a US server so that all those sites which happened to be blocked are viewable to you.

        Maybe more trouble than it’s worth if it’s just one site, but if you run into it again, this is a pretty good and simple VPN called SetUp VPN that is an extension for Chrome if you use that browser (might be available for others as well). I’ve used it quite a while now and it works well: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/setupvpn-lifetime-free-vp/oofgbpoabipfcfjapgnbbjjaenockbdp?hl=en-US

        1. Lurie Baty

          Thanks

          Wow, good to know, first time I’ve come across this. I have managed to get onto her blog, so thank you anyway.

    8. Pat Monti

      Amish Baptism

      I totally agree with Alber. Of course there are also many English that are not following the guidelines for whatever reason(s). Frankly it sincerely frustrates me how so many individuals do not have respect for others or themselves.

    9. Dan Hochstedler

      Amish water source

      I had read Lovina’s column in our paper yesterday. I’ve met her and her husband, and chatted in dialect with her interesting school age children and young adults when she did a recipe book signing in our town. I enjoyed her column with the candid explanation of how they get their water through an ingenius use of alternate energy, where temporary personal inconvenience is not a thing to complain about or lose sleep over.

      I did not appreciate the series of negative nuances where you (and most of the comments which followed) compare Amish ways with YOUR values and ways of doing things. That approach to life is the origin of stereotypes and discrimination of anyone different from yourself, so common in America.

      I do not defend big meetings, like the baptismal service, at this time. But to pick on that, like some of the comments did, without recognizing that this was an in-group meeting, not a public session; that it represents the religious and social value of group/family sharing in a treasured ritual and community interaction–values so missing in American culture in general. How would these critics rate Trump’s recent indoor rally 10 times that large, or people attaching political partianship to wearing a mask, or illiterate people insisting that Covid-19 is a hoax by Democrats, or that they aren’t going to let “the government” tell them what to do, or that it is their constitutional RIGHT not to comply with medical counsel of the worst global pandemic in the memory of any living person.

    10. Off Grid Hot Water

      Lovins Eicher hi, my wife and I live off grid to. You don’t need solar power or a water pump for hot water. All you need is a water heater you paint black. And you dig a hole to place the tank in half it’s hole. Attach a water line to it. What you are building is a Batch heater. You place a window over the batch heater 45 degrees. The sun heats the water in the water heater and pushes the hot water into the house. It all cost about $50.00 to make.