A key research tool I use for all of my Amish romance novels is a biweekly publication called The Budget. It’s a thick broadsheet newspaper filled with letters from “scribes” who write about what’s going on in their Amish and Mennonite communities across the country. I love settling onto the couch and leafing through the pages, getting ink on my fingers, and imagining all the Amish folks who do the same, anxious for news of friends and family in far away places. The insight and precious details I garner about these simply written reports of daily lives help me to paint more detailed pictures for my readers. I’m stocking up on those details this week as I dive into writing book three in the Every Amish Season series, Through the Autumn Air, so I thought I’d use my blog to share some peeks into Amish lives.
Some of scribes’ reports reflect the challenges of this simpler way of living, but it’s never in the way of complaining, but rather simply reporting. Often, the writers include long lists of who attended church services, who came a long distance for a wedding or a funeral, and all the fun had at work frolics, singings, and birthdays. They frequently write of the natural beauty that surrounds them and daily lives spent in community. The scribes often reveal a lot about themselves, their personalities, and their beautiful senses of humor. Here are some tidbits I came across as I read my stack of papers built up over the last few months:
Oct. 18 – “Sharon Shrock went down to the basement after dark and as she was getting a drink she felt something against her lips and paused a little and took another drink and felt it again. So she went and got a light and there were 2 large black spiders in her glass. Several days later she was down in the basement in daylight this time and let out a shriek. There draped across the bathroom sink was a snake.”
Aug. 23 – “Sunday morning Willie Detweiler hitched his horse up and drove up to the house and like so many of us do, didn’t tie his horse up and went inside to help his wife bring the 2 little girls out to the buggy. Unknown to him was his 2-year-old daughter was outside already and went for the buggy and as she was climbing on the buggy the horse went to trot out the drive and her hanging on to the step and the side of the buggy. Willy glanced out the window as the horse and little girl were leaving, ran across the yard as the horse turned going to the highway. He got there just in time to grab the little girl unharmed . . . “
Sept. 12 – “I don’t have all the details, but several weeks ago Roy Kramers and family went canoeing and Wilma’s canoe didn’t want to move. So she stepped out of the canoe and ended up in mud so deep she couldn’t get out. Every time she tried to pull one foot out, the other went in deeper. It struck her so funny that she went to laughing and couldn’t do anything either. The men came to her rescue.”
Dec. 15 – “Tobie Hostetlers are putting up a loafing shed for the cows and have 2-day frolics and have moved in a small house for the teachers Amanda and Jemima that they are finishing on the inside. Across the road, Ivan Rabers have converted the chicken house to a hog house and will be farrowing sows.”
Nov. 1 – “Tuesday evening Thomas Ropps school children were on the way home when the pony shied and went through the ditch, dumping the pony wagon and its content and then running away. Nine-year-old Kristy ended up under the wagon, receiving a puncture in her leg.”
Dec. 8 – “Our neighbors, the Schwartz, were blessed with their 15th child on Dec. 1. He tipped the scales at 9 pounds 2 ounces. The baby has 8 brothers and 6 sisters to help cuddle him. . . . Margaret was rushed to the hospital after the baby and had surgery. She came home last Friday evening.”
Oct. 24 – “This is Monday and have a large wash on the line and looks like it will dry quick. We also dug our sweet potatoes and had 4 5-gallon buckets. What a sweet crop from 6 plants. We found yet some red beets under our marigolds and lots of cherry tomatoes, also sweet peppers.”
You can see it’s a different life from what most of us have who rely on electricity, cars, and grocery stores, and how it piques the imagination of a writer who wants to create for her readers a picture of what it must be like to live such a rural life. Simple, but full at the same time. What appeals to you about this lifestyle? What would you be willing to give up to embrace it?
There’s so much in The Budget that reflects strong love of God, love of family, and love of the earth. It’s a joy to write Amish fiction for you. My next novel will be out April 25. It’s entitled Upon a Spring Breeze. I hope you’ll look for it!
Giveaway! Leave a comment below telling me what you like about reading Amish fiction between Sunday, Jan. 8, and Friday, Jan. 13, noon CST, to be eligible for a giveaway of my New Hope Amish series, 3 novels set in Amish country in Missouri.