Last Wednesday I was invited to Elvesta's home to show her how to make some gluten free flax bread. Martha came to learn, too and I talked for awhile about fresh real foods. It was a lot of what I learned while taking care of Molly when she was sick with kidney issues. We also made some grainless granola and sampled it. They were very skeptical that it would actually taste good. But they very much enjoyed it.
- 2 cups flax seed meal
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 Tablespoons sugar equivalent from artificial sweetener
- 5 beaten eggs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup oil
What is a cleaning bee? It is not a bumble bee that is cleaning the hive, rather it is a major house cleaning that involves many women in an Amish community. On Thursday I went over to Edna Ellen's home to bring her husband Milo some kefir whey for his stomach flu. Kefir whey is the cure for stomach flu, diarrhea and stomach upset. All you need is a cheese cloth and some homemade kefir. You run the kefir through the cloth and the clear substance that drains out is the whey. It is plenty powerful and can knock out the worst of stomach bugs in a hurry. In fact, Milo choked down a teaspoon of it and his diarrhea stopped as well as the vomiting. Take one teaspoon of kefir whey every 30 minutes until the symptoms are gone. It really works! As we were talking in the kitchen about the upcoming church meeting at Milo's home, many buggies started rolling in the lane. Each buggy was filled with willing help to conquer the house cleaning in time for church. It is tradition for the Amish to have church in their basement or shop and a part of that tradition is cleaning every nook and cranny. She asked if I could stay and help. I was so honored because usually only members of the family were involved. This is a two week process before church. They spend many days cleaning out all the barns and sheds. The yard is worked over until it is free of debris, weeds, or dead plants. The house is cleaned from top to bottom, walls are washed, pantries are organized and cleaned, all closets, drawers, cabinets are all wiped down inside and out with complete order in mind. They have church about two times a year, so this gets to get done twice a year. Kind of like a spring and fall cleaning, if you will. I do not even get that done very thorough because with just me and the girls, it is so slow. There was day when I could do it, but with my leg the way it is, I have to really pace myself and the work is a lot slower being that I must sit most of the time. They put me on the detail work. I sat in a chair and detailed the wringer washer until it shone. I used the good old Bar Keeper's friend and a little elbow grease. It looked new again. I also managed to sit there to detail the wash tubs and stand as well. I was glad to help what I could. We focussed on the basement that day. Edna Mae was busy washing windows, taking them completely out to clean with a tooth brush every little small space in the window frames. Orpha was busily washing the walls with a wall mop, first going over with much hot soapy water and then over for a clean dry rinse after wringing out the wall mop a couple times. Edna Mae's daughters were busy taking down all the curtains and washing them by hand and hanging them out on the wash line while Martha was cleaning out the back room. Elvesta was washing the foundational wall with a broom and some dish soap and hot water. Edna Ellen was running to and fro with supplies all the while nursing a newborn baby. It was sure a busy day. The shower in the basement was totally orange with rust stains and I thought the toilet cleaner would get it off (the Works), and I sat on the toilet while I brushed the sides with a toilet brush. You would not believe how white it came. It was like a brand new shower when we were done with it. It almost looked like a busy bee hive that day, women running around cleaning, scrubbing, and toiling for the ones they love. It just made me love them all the more. I think it is such a lost art, women working in bees together. I am sure I read many historical accounts in my lifetime about how the women hundreds of years ago would join together for work. That is how they survived and how they socialized. Now, it seems that has almost died out in our culture. Women have a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, electricity, vehicles, slow cookers, and hand blenders, but they do not have time for helping their neighbors with their spring cleaning. That is sad. It just amazes me how the Amish have preserved such a custom until this day and how it "works" so well yet. Working bees may be a thing of the past, but with a little encouragement, maybe all of you could start your own working bees. There may be some other ladies in your church that would like to give it a try. You never know, maybe we can bring this custom into the modern world. Many hands make light work. Cleaning bees, if you please, for me!
We were invited to church at Milo's. I made two denim coats for the boys that were black this past week. They had lining and were very warm, indeed. I made a black vest for my husband that fit really nice. He liked it real well. He wore a white button down shirt under it. Early Sunday morning, I was in the kitchen pressing the last bit of clothing with my old fashioned sad iron. The cow was milked and the eggs gathered. We sat down to a very peaceful early morning farm fresh breakfast consisting of eggs and toast. After breakfast, Miles hitched up the two horses. One is the pony, Sally on Miles wooden open cart and the other is Abby with our very old top buggy that we traded for our open cart. Being that the weather has been wet and cold in our area, we wanted to be a bit warmer. Mark drove our carriage and Miles took the boys with him. Molly and Megan sat in the back seat of our surry. Miles was behind us but not for long. He wanted to prove that his pony was faster than our old mare. Well, she is. Abby is just a slow as molassis but certainly safe enough for us. At times we were walking her and just enjoying the peaceful still morning light on the way to church. As we pulled in the lane, about 100 Amish stood by and looked on. Milo told Mark and Miles where to put the horses and that was the last I was seen with Mark for the day. Mark stayed with the men and I stayed in the house with the women waiting for church. The girls and I took off our shawls and bonnets and walked into the kitchen. It was quiet and the women smiled and shook my hand. They kiss each other (greeting with a holy kiss, as they have the custom), only members. I think Mark and I were glad this time that we were "not" a member. It is just a little weird for us to kiss all those people. Especially for a man to do that when you are not raised with that custom. The women sat on one side of the basement on wooden benches and the men filed in after, sitting on the opposite side. Molly and Megan sat with the girls their age and Mark sat with the boys. It is neat that the Amish women and men each take some of the little ones. The men carry little quiet toys and books in their vest pockets for the little babies to play with. They very much share in child rearing. Sometimes I see more of teamwork even though they are sitting far apart than entire family sitting together on the same bench. Some men just feel it is only the wife's responsibility to take care of the babies. I just thought I would share that because I found it very different than what I have seen in other circles. Amish men seem to not ever rule over the women, they love and cherish them and allow them to enjoy community life, quilting, hobbies and things. They seem to have really great family life and marriages. It is a good example to our modern church I think. Then the ministers come in and shake every hand of the women. When they came to me, they smiled and showed the warmth in having us there. There was a prayer in German and then they began the singing. The singing is all in High German and sounds like an ancient gragorian chant. Very different. Each word is drawn out as if it were the last. Beautiful harmonies in another language. While we sang for nearly one hour, the ministers brought up the young folks into an upper room to do some lessons on the articles of faith. When they returned, the first minister began his sermon in their dialect of low German. I could understand most of what he said. He was covering the topic of the flood, evolution and the love of God. How many reject God and call the things of God, creation all foolishness. The next preacher covered the topic of being born again, being a child of God and how to live out your faith in the way you show brotherly kindness and love. It was very refreshing, indeed. With a parting song and prayer, the dinner was served on the same benches that were stacked up to become tables. Each woman brings a loaf of homemade bread. It is all sliced up and served at midawk(lunch). There is peanut butter, pickles, cheese, butter, egg salad, and pickled beets that are served with coffee or mint tea. Just a light lunch. One thing that struck me was that the women sat together and the men sat at the men tables. The women served when it was their turn. After the first batch of people ate, the women took buckets of hot water and went around to rinse out the cups and silverware for the second batch of people to eat. My kids were very glad to be the first to sit down to eat and not eating and drinking off dishes that were not properly washed. It is just the way they do. They share cups and do not know that it can spread things like we understand. Amazingly, they do stay pretty healthy even though they share. After cleaning up, we drove the buggy home and rested awhile before we returned for the supper and singing. Edna Ellen was serving over 100 guests, so she made about 8 casseroles. She trades for supper singings on others eats. Like Edna Mae trades pies with Edna Ellen's church. So when Edna Mae has church, Edna Ellen brings pies to her church. Another lady traded salad and made a huge rubbermaid tub full of 7 layered salad. Elvesta traded for the slushy drink. There were dozens of pies and cakes, trays and trays of food. Plenty to go around. First the young folks take their fill of food, then the children. Next, the men and last us women. The women want to make plenty so when it comes their turn to eat, there will be some left. I have seen it happen before where there was none left and we women were staring at the empty casserole pans and just laugh that we all probably do not need to eat since we are fat enough already. It is a great way to have big gatherings when everyone pitches in something like that. That way the lady host would only make the main coarse. It makes perfect sense to me. After the dishes and tables were made clean again, we enjoyed a pleasant evening of fellowship and singing English hymns. It was really enjoyable. The children most of the day were running around the farm playing with the kids their age. They beg to go again. We were invited to church in a couple weeks and the kids are already talking about it, hoping for it, and planning the fun ahead. For the Amish it is just another church day where they gather and enjoy the time together, to us it is a whole new way we never knew before. I do not know how often we will go, but that it was really interesting to experience for the first time in a long time.