Since Tom had Memorial Day off from work, I figured we should venture out and explore a new part of Pennsylvania. We live about an hour away from Lancaster, which is the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. I’ve always wanted to visit an Amish settlement, because of their reputation for craftsmanship. I knew I probably wouldn’t be in the position to haul a handmade rocker or porch swing home, but I was hoping to find something small. My mom has a beautiful Amish potholder, quilted out of bright, plain colors. I’ve always loved it and would like something similar.
I did some research online and settled on visiting the small town of Bird-in-Hand. They had several things listed that looked promising, including an Amish farm that sold crafts. The drive through Lancaster county was beautiful. It’s very rural. Some areas are wooded, some are mostly farmland. The actual town of Bird-in-Hand is small. Lots of Victorian style homes, some turned in to businesses, on a two-lane road. We had to slow down several times to let buggies pass, and I got more excited than I should have at a “buggy crossing” sign.
We found the farmhouse, and as we were driving up, I noticed the bright colors of Adirondack chairs, piled up outside a large building where the family had their store. I was a little disappointed when I noticed that the chairs weren’t wood. They were that recycled material that decks are built out of when you don’t want to deal with staining or the possibility of rotting. After a quick look, we went inside. I headed straight for a table, filled with potholders, and I was immediately thrown back in time. The fabric they used was straight out of an early 90’s women’s church activity. Fuzzy kittens. Flowers galore. Ducks with bows. And right next to them…a bin of denim purses, made from the butt of old jeans. I had to do a double take and reassure myself of where I was. Amish women in the kitchen making pies. Check. Amish man demonstrating the hand carved wooden clock. Check. Okay. I’m not going crazy. I am in Amish country, the land of the simple life. Where buttons are considered “too showy.”
The rest of the store was just mounding disappointment. I did find a beautiful quilt, but it was way out of my price range, and I wasn’t in the market for one anyway. There were a few rockers that were comfortable and well-made, but I wasn’t in the market for one of those either. Plus, it was hard to focus on the few good things when they were sitting next to a Winnie-the-Pooh cloth children’s book. We left with a jar of salsa and rhubarb jam. Nothing else.
We attempted to continue the quest by checking out the stores in town, but to no avail. The only “Amish” things there, were t-shirts and bumper stickers depicting a buggy. That and a bunch of signs that said “I heart Intercourse” (another Amish town a few miles away). Super classy stuff. I tried several different things, trying to salvage our day, but it just wasn’t happening. I was not impressed by downtown Lancaster. I couldn’t even see anywhere to have lunch. Chocolate World, in Hershey, had way too many screaming kids running around, and Ella was asleep anyway. The Mexican restaurant we had dinner at was okay, but just didn’t compare to my favorite places in Utah.
In the end, it was a beautiful day, and I got to spend it with my family. But I’m still a little bitter about my whole Amish experience. Why can’t they just keep to their old ways? I don’t want to see a Weber grill on the porch of an Amish farmhouse. I want to see a fire-pit in the backyard. I realize this is a ridiculous thing, to expect a group of people to live up to my personal expectations. But I’m standing by those expectations, and I’m hoping to redeem the experience by visiting an Amish-run farmer’s market this weekend. I’m not counting on much, but if I see one Hello Kitty item, I’m hightailing it out of there.