Amish Benefit Auctions

“If anyone sees his brother in need and fails to give…what evidence is there of God’s love?”
– 1 John 3:17

My husband came home today and told me that we were going to make another big pot of venison chili for him to take to work. He took one for a Valentine’s Day party and it was a big hit! But this chili they are going to sell as a fundraiser for a co-worker whose wife has cancer. I’m telling Stace about it, and she reminded me how this is so much like the Amish. (BTW–the chili recipe is at the end of this post.)

It’s widely known that the Amish take care of themselves. In fact, their sense of community is one of the many things I admire about them. One of the most popular ways that they support each other and their community is through various types of benefits and auctions.

Now they have regular auctions, though mostly for produce. But it seems that most go to benefit a family in need. Perhaps the biggest auction is the Haiti Auction.

According to www.pahaitiauction.com,  the purpose of this auction is to “bring relief to the hungry, sick, naked, and homeless of Haiti. The ultimate goal is to bring them to Christ through providing for their physical and spiritual needs. Relief is given throughout the country of Haiti without regard to race, religion, or creed.”

The auction is held throughout the United States in such places as Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. My friends attend this auction in Pennsylvania every summer. This year, I’m hoping to attend as well! The benefit is held in January for the Pinecraft community, but in July for Lancaster. Five or six tents are set up with auctions occurring in each tent throughout the day. Furniture, quilts, tools, crafts, gardening and farm supplies, firewood and more are put up for auction. Food is served in a special tent all day. At exactly 12 noon, an announcement is made over the loud speaker. Everyone stops, prays, then sings a song together. Can you imagine how amazing it sounds to hear hundreds of people singing together?

The highlight of the day is the silent auction. Many unique items are put up for auction, such as a day of labor supplied by a group of Amish youth, a wing supper donated by an Amish couple, and a ton of hay or straw.

Sometimes an auction is organized to help pay for the medical expenses of someone who has been injured or fallen ill. My Amish friend also attended a benefit auction recently that was held to help raise money for a man who had fallen out of a tree and was left paralyzed from the accident. Members of the community donated quilts, wall hangings, tools, pies, and more to be auctioned off. Everyone also brought a covered dish to share. After making a donation, attendees passed through the food line and enjoyed the various pot luck dishes that were donated.

The community also held a benefit for an Amish woman whose husband left her and her children for the English world. This was a different type of event called a “Stop and Shop”.  Several vendors (Pampered Chef, Tupperware, 31, Tastefully Simple, etc.) set up shop in someone’s basement. Friends, family, and neighbors stopped by to shop. They bought raffle tickets and purchased lunch and baked goods. Donations were also accepted. All proceeds went to the person in need.

The Clarita School Auction is held every September in the Amish community of Clarita, OK. Items are donated to help support the local Amish school. In fact, the Clarita School Auction is the recipient of the quilts made by the women of my Amish Quilting Circle Series. If you happen to be in OK around this time, you should check it out! Here’s the link for more information. http://www.claritaoklahoma.com/auction.html

I can’t help but wonder how much better our world would be if we took direction from the Amish and reached out to help our neighbors more.

Have you been to an Amish auction? What about a benefit for someone–Amish or English? Comment below and your name will be added to this week’s drawing. The prize up for grabs? A large print edition of Titus Returns. (It’s hard back!)

Be sure to check out the rest of the pictures from previous Amish auctions…

Haiti Benefit Auction 2014 & 2015

And as always, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

This recipe is a jpeg. You can ‘right click’ and save it to your computer. Then you can print from there!

Amish Quilts

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Most of us would agree that Amish quilts are something of a cultural icon. They’re beautiful as well as functional and serve as a form of entertainment and togetherness for the Amish women who make them.

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Quilt block from a quilt my Amish friend made for one of her daughters.

We have heard of or seen pictures of Amish women gathered around a large quilt frame, stitching and talking. Family members get together to make a quilt for a daughter who’s getting married. Friends and fellow church members may gather to make a quilt to send to a country in need, like Haiti. Or members of a district may work together to make a quilt to donate to an auction to help a community member facing hard times.

More Than a Marriage, the last novella in my Amish Quilting Circle Series releases at the end of February and features a group of Wells Landing Amish women who get together once a week to sew quilts for the Clarita School Auction. Most of you know that Wells Landing is inspired by the Amish settlement in Chouteau, Oklahoma. But the Clarita School Auction is one hundred percent factual and takes place every September. Click HERE for more info about the Clarita School Auction.

As much as we love Amish quilts, my Amish friend in Lancaster recently told me that the Amish girls of today are shying away from quilts and leaning more toward modern English comforter sets. This type of mindset could eventually lead to the discontinuation of the traditions surrounding these beautiful works of art. I don’t know about you, but just the thought makes me want to cry.

I love quilts and can’t imagine anyone picking a comforter over a hand sewn (or even machine sewn) work of love.

quilt-1-2-mkdWhich brings me to the good news part of this post. Amy’s Amish Quilt Giveaway (3rd Annual) is still underway! What does this mean for you? The chance to win a one of a kind Amish-made quilt. If you haven’t heard about the giveaway you can find all the specifics HERE. In a nutshell, I’m collecting fabric from my readers. In turn, you get a chance at winning the quilt!

And the best part is you don’t have to able to sew or quilt to enter!

So head over and check out all the specifics of the giveaway and send in your fabric! (Must be 18 to enter. Void where prohibited.)

And you can also join my Facebook page dedicated to the quilt HERE.

quilt-2-4-mkdI am so excited to be able to use this quilt to bring my readers together and for a little while keep this beautiful tradition alive.

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or email me at amylillard918@gmail.com.

Do you currently have any Amish made fabric goods in your home? Quilt? Doll? Potholder? Tell me all about it! Everyone who comments on this post will be entered into the weekly drawing. Up for grabs this week? A signed copy of Titus Returns, my latest Wells Landing Amish romance.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Wow! You Must Do a Lot of Research

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This is the second thing most people ask me when I tell them I write about the Amish. The first is usually “Are you Amish?”

Well, no.

The first time I can remember hearing about the Amish I thought the person telling me about them was lying. Most probably it was my brother who liked to tease me beyond belief. I couldn’t be sure anything he said was actually the truth.

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The next time I was watching Witness. I don’t know how old I was (at least seventeen, though). But I remember in the movie, the bad guys are looking for the Lapps. They call the local law enforcement in Lancaster who says, “Do you know how many Lapps are in Lancaster County?”

At the time I had no idea.

After that I didn’t think about the Amish much. I went to college, got married, and moved to the Caribbean. In fact, I probably didn’t think about the Amish again until my agent suggested I write a book about them.

Wait…what?

“Yes,” she said. “Write an Amish romance.” I really thought she was joking and when she didn’t call me back and tell me that she was pulling my leg, I went to Mardells and started my research.

For those of you who don’t live in the area, Mardells is a Christian bookstore owned by Hobby Lobby. I went to get fiction books about the Amish to read to get an idea what they were like. I mean, I knew all the elements of a secular romance. How different was an Amish one?

Turns out, they are incredibly different and not so different all at the same time.

amish-listBut reading fiction books with Amish characters is a lot different than non-fiction books, and I found myself reading and watching everything I could. From Donald Kraybill to Amish Mafia. Yes, I meant it when I said everything.

These days it’s still the same. I absorb whatever I can about the Amish, but my favorite way to do research is to visit the communities themselves. Even ones that I don’t plan to write about.

Why? Because the Amish are fascinating people. I find it simply amazing how the communities differ and the ways that they are the same. When we were in Pontotoc, we were warned by the locals that they were stand-offish and didn’t readily talk to outsiders. We took that knowledge, shoved it in our back pockets, then headed toward the Amish houses. By the middle of the afternoon, we had met Elizabeth Hostetler. She and her husband had moved down from Ohio to be able to farm—land was getting scarce up north. She was canning chicken and couldn’t talk to us long, but managed to share a few nuggets of information including Thanksgiving traditions, when the Mississippi Amish leave school (yes, it is different from Lancaster), and the truth about their rumspringa. I was told on my first visit to Ethridge, Tennessee (the parent community to the one in Mississippi), that they didn’t have a rumspringa or run around time at all. What we learned from our new friend is that they have one, but it is very controlled and very conservative. Those wild and crazy stories they report about Amish teens running amuck are not coming from Mississippi.

So how does a person go from not knowing much to writing books about the Amish? Yes, it takes a lot of research and nothing beats going to a community and visiting with the people there.

I’ve been privileged enough to spend an entire week with my Old Order Amish friend in Pennsylvania. Nothing compares to living the life every day. After a while I forgot that I was among Amish and I was just among friends. I didn’t notice the differences until we (Stacey, Sadie, and I) ventured into town on a Saturday. And I knew I would never view the Amish the same again.

This year Stacey and I hope to return to Pontotoc, Big Valley, and of course, Lancaster County. But even more, we want to take a Missouri trip and check out all the interesting Amish settlements in the Show Me State.

You can bet, I’ll come back and show you everything I learned.

What about you? Where is the closest Amish community to your home and have you ever been?

I’m giving away a signed copy of Just Plain Sadie to one lucky winner this week. Just leave me a comment below.

And as always, thanks for reading!!

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Not All Amish Communities Are Created Equal

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When I started thinking about this post, this was the title that popped into my head. Not all Amish communities are equal, not all are the same. They differ in their Ordnung, the written and unwritten rules that govern a settlement, but they differ in other ways too.

This week, I had a reader ask me about the use of tractors in my Wells Landing Series. I explained that it was an actual part of the Amish community that inspired Wells Landing. But it made me think about the different Amish communities, how they vary, and how we perceive them.

I just finished the first novel in what will be at least a three novel series set in the little talked about Amish settlement near Pontotoc, Mississippi. Yes, there are Amish in the South!

The Pontotoc Amish settled in Mississippi as a spin-off settlement of the Swartzentruber Amish community in Ethridge, Tennessee. Swartzentruber Amish are among the most conservative of the Old Order Amish, not even allowing indoor plumbing. But when I first saw the houses, I immediately wondered how these people scrape out a living.

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Mississippi red clay dust coats everything. All the houses are covered in aluminum siding, mostly white, but there were a few red ones. Yes, red! There are no flowers planted out front, no cute swing sets for the children to play on. There are no phone shanties. But there are plenty of signs made out of the scraps of siding which bear the carefully lettered names of the items the family sells. The gardens are large and fields of cotton and peanuts are plentiful. Almost every house has a shed where they sell the products that they make—goat milk soaps, gel air fresheners, potholders, button necklaces, and all sorts of canned goods.

It’s a peaceful, though dusty, and has a beauty all its own. But it’s miles away from Lancaster County in both distance and attitude. But it’s next to impossible to visit the two areas and not compare them. And on the surface, Pontotoc can look at bit rundown. And my heart went out to the people who live there. But when we mentioned this to our Amish friends in Pennsylvania, their sixteen-year-old had an insightful theory.

It doesn’t have to be that they are poor, but that they have different priorities.

Wait…what?

Yes, even the Amish can have different priorities.

My Amish friends in PA plant flowers in their yards every year. Do you know how much water it would take to keep flowers alive in the MS heat? A lot. So they don’t plant them. Instead they grow muscadines, tomatoes, and corn. Something with more value, something worth the effort it takes to keep it alive. Just different priorities.

And just something to think about the next time you get to visit an Amish community.

Have you ever been to visit the Amish? Where did you go and what was something interesting you observed?

This week I’m giving away an audio copy of Caroline’s Secret. Just leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Happy New Year!

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I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday. I had a great blog planned for this week and then life stepped in. Aside from my family being home for the holidays, I managed to come down with a sinus infection on top of having a looming deadline for the first book in my new Amish romance series.

So…That being said, I’m just stopping in today to announce the winners and talk a little about resolutions.

With so many pressures at the holidays, my resolutions include NOT writing a book next December along with my standard “Lose X number of Pounds.” Actually this year, I’m adjusting it to be “10 Healthy Habits I Want to Start in the New Year.” (Including breaking my addiction to Coca Cola.) When I have all ten I’ll let you know—LOL—but until then I’m crawling back into my writing cave to finish A Home for Hannah.

What about you? New Year’s Resolutions? Yay or Nay? Leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of my latest Guideposts Sugarcreek Amish Mystery, Stranger Things Have Happened.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Amy

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What is Second Christmas?

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Christmas with family and friends or however it is you choose to celebrate. Christmas at my house is usually a quiet affair. We live just far enough away from my family that winter travel can be tricky, so it’s usually just me, my husband, and my son. But to me, quiet time with my family, eating, opening presents, and watching Christmas movies and football is a terrific way to spend the holiday.

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This time of year I get asked plenty of questions about how the Amish celebrate Christmas and which days they celebrate. I can’t speak for Amish all across America, but I have talked with my Amish friends in Lancaster County about their holiday traditions.

Here’s what I know…

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They might not be as elaborate or numerous as the presents we exchange, but they give gifts to friends and family. I was told they prefer gift bags to wrapping paper and their presents tend to be useful rather than extravagant.

Members of an immediate family will exchange gifts with everyone—like a husband and wife will exchange gifts and buy presents for their children–but extended family may choose to draw names like my friend’s family does.

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Second Christmas seems to be one of the more confusing topics when it comes to Amish and holiday celebrations. I’m not sure why. But in order to help you understand Second Christmas, imagine the hobbits in Lord of the Rings and second breakfast. This is the same concept. Another breakfast, another Christmas. (BTW-I looked up second breakfast and Bavaria, Poland, and Hungary actually serve second breakfast! Love that idea!)

Amish families are so large it’s very difficult for them to visit everyone they would like to spend time with on Christmas Day. Second Christmas just gives them more time to visit and be with friends and family.

The children are out of school on Christmas and Second Christmas, then return the following day.

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Old Christmas can go by several names including Three Kings Day, Epiphany, Theophany, and El Día De Los Reyes. (It’s a big celebration among most Latin cultures.) Old Christmas is the last of the twelve days of Christmas and is considered the peak of the Christmas celebration in places like Mexico.

I’m not certain why this holiday has been tagged onto the Amish. I’m sure somewhere out there, a group of Amish celebrates Old Christmas and somehow it has been attributed to all.

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December 26 is Boxing Day in Canada, St. Stephens Day (or Day of the Wren) in Ireland, while Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands celebrate Second Christmas like the Amish. Many Americans will be out shopping today, getting those first after-Christmas deals. For me, twenty+ years working in retail cured me of wanting to shop when stores are busy. Besides, this day has another meaning for me. Today was Bernice, my grandmother’s, birthday. So today I like to spend a little time thinking about her and remembering all those special times. It’s a little like spending the day with family and time I truly cherish.

How about you? How do you manage to visit with friends and family all through the holiday season? Leave a comment below to be entered into this week’s drawing. I have three single copies of The Amish Christmas Sleigh still available.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Thanks for helping me name my Kish Valley doll. Grace received nearly 50% off the vote! So here she is everyone…Grace from Kish Valley!

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Are you ready for Christmas?

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Christmas is less than a week away! Can you believe it? And this is the last week for my Amish Christmas Sleigh giveaway.

I’m puttering around the house this week. Finishing up edits on Marrying Jonah and working on the new series. And making cookies. Must bake cookies.

Christmas cookies are a tradition at my house. Most probably because they are the family favorite. You know, the sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles. We love them so much we make them for other holidays too. Yes, I have made Fourth of July cookies, Easter cookies, and Back to School cookies!

Do you have a favorite food/cookie/other tradition at your house? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below telling us about your favorite Christmas tradition. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into this last drawing for two copies of the Amish Christmas Sleigh. That’s 2 copies–one for you and one for a friend. And once again, I’ll be drawing three names! Good luck everyone! Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

Want to help me name my Amish doll from Big Valley? Here are the top names from the last blog. I chose the names that more than one person suggested. There were so many great names! I loved them all! Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful suggestions!

And since it’s Christmas, here’s a link to a video I found of Big Valley in the winter. I’m not much of a snow girl, but once again, the Valley is beautiful!

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Amish Dolls

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The more time I spend visiting with, studying, and writing about the Amish the more I realize how much there still is to know. Like most of you, I find them fascinating. I love their faith, their sense of community, and their devotion to the needs of their fellow man. But the more time I spend with the Amish, the more I realize that some of the popular (English) beliefs about the Amish aren’t entirely true.

I’m certain that at one time every popular belief about the Amish was grounded in fact, but the Amish are incredibly resourceful. They are ever-changing, deciding what of the modern world to keep and what to leave behind. And it’s these choices that make for such different beliefs and customs among the Amish as buggy color, suspender style, and head coverings, just to name a few.

One of the other big differences I’ve seen is with Amish dolls. It’s a popular belief that all Amish girls play with faceless dolls. As quaint as this idea is, it’s far from true. I’m not even positive that we can say most Amish girls play with faceless dolls considering what I’ve witnessed in Lancaster County.

That’s not to say  that faceless Amish dolls aren’t out there, They are. But they may be different than you think.

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These are the dolls I’ve collected in my travels. The doll on the left came from Ethridge, TN. The doll on the right is from Lancaster County, and the one in the middle is from Big Valley.

Sadie is my doll from Ethridge.

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She was the first one in my collection, bought from a store there in Tennessee. The people who run the store are English, but have a good relationship with the Amish. The shop owners offer wagon rides through the Amish community and stop at certain houses that are tourist friendly. When we visited, I only wanted a doll,  but there were none for sale at the houses where we stopped. (Note: Most of the Amish houses in the area have ‘shops’ where tourists can stop and buy jelly, jams, pickles, and the like.) When we got back to the store, the ladies there told me that they only had one Amish-made doll left. I snatched it up quickly. As they rung me out, they told me where the woman who made it lived (we actually stopped at her house on the tour) and they explained that her bishop said that she couldn’t make any more dolls to sell in the store.

Ruth is my doll from Lancaster County.

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Notice that she has a commercial store tag. That’s because she was bought in town and was made in a factory. Even though, I’ve never seen my friend’s little girls play with faceless dolls. They play with regular old plastic-molded dolls like we had when we were kids. In fact, there are a lot of Amish girls who play with American Girl dolls and even have large, organized tea parties for them! I’m not sure when this change came about and I cannot speak for all the Pennsylvania Amish girls. This is just what I have seen myself.

This doll came from the Big Valley in Pennsylvania.

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I bought her at the dry-goods store. It’s an Amish run store with no electricity. The shelves are just about head high and have a variety of goods, including books, cards, and homemade soap. And dolls of course. As you can see my dollie doesn’t have shoes. They were a separate purchase item. They also had kapps, bonnets, and other dresses for them. Sort of like Build-A-Bear, but not. <LOL>

Dolls are the one thing I always look for when I travel. Sometimes I can find them and sometimes not, but I’m always on the look-out.

Can you help me name my Big Valley doll? Submit a suggestion below and I’ll pick the top 4 or 5 and we’ll vote starting next week!

Also, by leaving a comment, you’ll be entered into this week’s drawing for the 3 sets of Amish Christmas Sleigh. (Remember, that’s one for you and one for a friend x three chances to win!)

And now for something completely different…

Reader Karen G, graciously shared this photo with me of the Amish buggies she saw recently in Whitehall, New York. It’s a wonderful picture! Notice the four different types of buggies represented. Thanks Karen!

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She also emailed me a couple of links to some great articles about the Amish. Here they are if you have a mind to check them out!

http://poststar.com/news/local/broom-making-machine-will-provide-blind-amish-boy-an-opportunity/article_41b76595-511c-5c46-8cad-ddb813b933a5.html

http://poststar.com/news/local/whitehall-s-amish-have-impact-on-farmland-taxes-tourism/article_82fe2b71-e944-59f4-92d5-7a2497dd78ec.html

And a big thanks to you all for reading!

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What’s with those yellow buggies?

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Lately I’ve introduced a lot of you to the Amish of Kish Valley (also known as Big Valley). The Valley is home to the second largest settlement in Pennsylvania and twelve distinct Amish and Mennonite groups. It’s also the setting for my new mystery series that begins in early 2018.

The most obvious distinction between the Amish groups is the use of different colored buggies.

Now most people are familiar with the gray-topped buggies of Lancaster County and the black-topped buggies of places like Holmes County, Ohio, and Jamesport, Missouri. But a trip through Big Valley is colorful in so many ways.

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Before I get into that, let’s talk about the black-toppers.

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The black-topped buggies belong to the Renno or Peachey Amish. I love this name since almost all the mailboxes we stopped to read in the Valley bore the name Peachey.  The Renno Amish are considered to be the least conservative of the Amish groups in the Valley, which isn’t saying a lot. After all, they are more conservative than our Amish friends in Lancaster County.

While we were in the Valley, Stacey and I stopped at a quilt shop that belonged to a Renno Amish woman. Of course the quilts were amazingly beautiful, but I couldn’t help taking note of a few things in the house. The windows were covered with a plain green shade. (You know the kind they use in cartoons that once you pull it down it winds back up with hilarious results.) The floors were wooden and bare. There was running water in the house, but all in all it made me think of my grandmother’s–just a small, country farmhouse filled with love.

The white-topped buggies belong to the Nebraska Amish.

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This is something of a misnomer since most of the Nebraska Amish live in Pennsylvania. The Nebraska Amish are hands-down the most conservative of the three main groups in the Big Valley. They also dress a bit differently. We only saw a couple of Nebraska Amish so I wasn’t able to test my research, but I am told that the Nebraska Amish men wear brown trousers and no suspenders. Their pants reportedly lace up the back and they wear their hair to their shoulders. Nebraska Amish women aren’t allowed to wear bonnets and supposedly wear a tie-on flat straw hat for working outside. On my next trip to the Valley, I am definitely going to be looking closer!

The yellow-topped buggies are certainly eye-catching.

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They belong to the Byler Amish. They are the middle of the road when it comes to being conservative in the Valley. The men wear one diagonal suspender and it is said that the women wear brown bonnets. I can testify that the men indeed wear only one suspender, but I wasn’t able to catch a glimpse at a Byler Amish woman wearing a bonnet. Stacey and I stopped in a bait/hunting shop run by a Byler Amish man who also sold honey. We talked to him a while mostly about hunting and bait, but he was very friendly and seemed to enjoy chatting with us.

Now, these aren’t all the differences in the three sub-groups of Amish in Big Valley. But it’s a start! What’s the most surprising difference that you’ve read in this post?

Leave a comment below and be entered into the Week  #4 drawing for two copies of The Amish Christmas Sleigh! (In order to be eligible for this giveaway you must leave a comment on this blog. Giveaway ends Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 12am EST.)

Thanks for reading!

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