Getting my kicks in Lancaster County, PA


Well, despite the inclement weather, I managed to get up to Lancaster County and to my friends ‘Daniel’ and ‘Mary’, where I’ll be staying the next few days.  The last hour-and-a-half or so, from the PA line onward, was pretty hairy, as snow and ice accumulation made driving tricky. 

I pulled in late Tuesday night to Daniel’s, happy and relieved to see the kitchen gas-lamp still burning.  Daniel sat at the table, playing with the youngest child, a 14-month old girl.  The rest of the tribe, save Mary, were already fast asleep. 

Daniel set me up in the basement, which sounds cold, but is probably the warmest spot in the house–that’s where the coal oven resides.  Before hitting the hay, Daniel pointed out the large reserves of canned food the family had been going through that winter. 


Pickled cauliflower, beets, ‘snitz’, canned meat, and all sorts of home-grown treats lined a full wall of the basement.  Being February, a good chunk of the eatin’ had been knocked out already, as evidenced by numerous empty Mason jars, but quite a bit remained.  Good, because I planned to be hungry.

Yesterday morning (Wednesday) my jobs were:  udder-cleaner and silage-sweeper.  I learned that some cows don’t like me–or at least cows that haven’t gotten a chance to know me, don’t like me. 

More than a couple took kicks at my hands as I attempted to ‘strip’ them.

That sounds more exciting than it is–it’s actually something like priming the pump, before the mechanical-suction milkers get put on.  A squeeze or two to get the milk going.  Or actually, I think it’s more a pull.  Or maybe a combination of the two.  Daniel’s son ‘Tim’ explained that cows are often a bit jumpy if they don’t know you so well.  Well, I aim to make friends this week.  I will learn to strip you, cows.Lancaster_two_horse_buggy

Today I graduated to manure-sweeping duty, and also got to pass out food to all the hungry cows.  It was nice making them happy.  Some were impatient and tried to steal from the bin. 

While sweeping up manure, members of Daniel’s family offered up encouragement.  ‘It’s looking good Erik!’, ‘You’re doing a good job!’  This significantly helped my self-esteem, and for that I am grateful.  If all else fails, at least I know I can sweep manure to a satisfactory level.

Daniel’s 8-year-old son ‘Elmer’ and 12-year-old daughter ‘Lizzie’ then commandeered me to help out with their respective tasks, feeding the chickens and pigeons, and distributing milk-substitute to the calves. 

The youngest calf, a snow-white fellow just a week old, needed some encouragement.  We had to chase that little guy down and force his head into the bucket.  He really resisted, but once we got it in there, he gulped milk like that was what he’d really wanted to do all along.  Funny approach to eating.  Lizzie, who seems to make a pretty good boss, paid me with a Valentine’s Kit-Kat bar after breakfast, saying I did a good job.


After some errands with Daniel, we headed back home and somehow I ended up plastered on the couch for an unplanned hour-and-a-half nap.  The 4am-and-up schedule takes a few days’ getting used to.

On rising, I stumbled upstairs to find Mary and ‘Bena’, the oldest daughter, at work at the kitchen table.  Bena was writing a letter to a friend that had missed a social event the day before. 

Mary was busy at work with her prayer-covering.  She had earlier ironed it, and was now doing what she called petza–pinching, she explained.  This petza process, which requires a pick-like metal tool, apparently helps to maintain the Lancaster prayer-covering’s distinctive heart-shape.

‘This is probably something new for you,’ said Mary.

‘I’ve never worn one of those…yet,’  I replied.

Mary seemed to get a kick out of that. 

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    1. Welcome back to Amish country!

    2. I enjoyed reading this and seeing your picturs. Both of my kids heard from their Lancaster County pen pals this week. Always a good mail day when that happens! Have fun!

    3. I’m glad you took some photos in nasty weather. Those are nice.

    4. Lovely weather! I sent it from Missouri! 😉

    5. Leslie Berliant

      Hi, I would like to interview you for Celsias ( How can I get in touch?

    6. Isn’t it disrespectful to be taking pictures of the Amish, at least of there faces??? Is it a new order group or something that you are taking pictures of??

    7. Dave Carrig

      Welcome back, Eric! How long are you in town for?

    8. Taking photos of Amish from a distance

      Hi! Glad to hear from everybody–I’ve had serious challenges getting to a computer this week–something about these Amish people not wanting the internet in their homes–not sure what that’s all about–(:

      I moved from Daniel and Mary’s to Abe’s for the latter half of the week–and I have actually just left Lancaster after a very productive week, but have a small pile of posts I’ll be putting up over the next couple days–Dave, marathon training had to be placed on a week-long hold, but would have been good to get in a run!

      Hi Lisa, that is a good question–typically the Amish have a problem with posing for photos–as for unposed photos they generally range from being okay with it to indifferent–though it’s true that some might dislike any photos whatsoever. On the other end of the spectrum I also know of at least a couple baptized Amish adults that willingly pose for photos.

      I generally try to be discreet, taking most photos from a suitable distance, and without showing identifiable facial features…close-up photos I have on the site, for example by Randall Persing and Bill Coleman are, as far as I understand, situations where the Amish involved have allowed the photographers to take pictures from closer-up, say of their children. Reading Kraybill and Nolt’s Amish Enterprise it’s interesting to learn that the occasional Amish business owner may even use his or others’ children in photo-ads.

      Anyway, there has been quite a bit written on the issue in other places such as Amish Country News, and there’s also a post I did on photos and the Amish, dated Jan 19, 2007, if you want to read a bit more here. And thanks for reading!

      Hi Leslie, thanks for your interest and thank you for reading the blog, as far as an interview goes I think that would be fine, just contact me by email(

    9. Laura

      Just happened upon this website and noticed that Teresa had commented on her children having Amish pen pals. I have a daughter who would love that and was just curious about how to go about finding a pen pal. I was very surprised to hear that the Amish would allow their children to correspond with children outside of their own community.

    10. Kaila

      Hello. I am a fourteen year old girl in search of an Amish fourteen year old penpal. I was wondering how Teresa’s children had Amish penpals too. If you know, please contact me at

    11. Natalie McClay

      ^ Hi, I too am looking for an Amish Penpal, and was wondering how to go about finding an Amish girl to write to. I am 17, so I am looking for one between the ages of 16-19. Thank you.

    12. Christine

      I’ve lived in Berks Co, PA all of my life, within 20 miles of Lancaster, and even closer to Ephrata, Blue Ball, and Morgantown. I’m PA Dutch (or, PA German, whichever your druthers). I enjoyed this article very much!

      I wanted to address the question about photos and the Amish. The Amish here in Lancaster, PA are Alt Ordnung, or Old Order. It’s important that one asks before taking a picture. You might be politely turned down, but some will graciously allow it, or may turn their backs for the picture. All of us natives, Amish included, get a kick out of the tourists who stop along the highways to have their pictures taken with the cows in their “natural environment”. LOL

      Now, as for Scrapple, it’s a mainstay for us PA Dutch, and we make it on a regular basis. What’s in it? Everything but the squeal, my friends. But it’s “wunnerful good” eating! So, turn a blind eye and fress (eat)! 🙂

    13. Hi guys, for Amish penpal questions, this might help:

    14. “Everything but the squeal”. I love it Christine. I need to ask my buddy who butchered 4 hogs last fall if he remembered to leave that part out. Now where is the squeal located again?? 😉

      On Amish and photos, here is an article that may be interesting: