Last summer on our way home from Washington, D.C., we took a turn off the beaten path where life is purposely simple-and the road less traveled is mostly traveled by horse and buggy.
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We zipped past the many hotels on the bright interstate and fumbled our way down country roads slowly winding our way into Fredricksburg, Ohio, home to the world’s largest Amish population.
Of course, we got lost. But after flagging down the first horse and buggy we heard, we quickly were put on the right path to Willis and Kathy Miller, an Amish couple who open their farm to guests throughout the year.
They call it Farmstead Lodging, a simple but separate room off the side of their farmhouse, where guests find two double beds, a bath and a tiny kitchen. Nothing fancy about it.
But that’s exactly why we came.
The kids couldn’t wait. It was going to be the highlight of our seven-day road trip. For most of our ride into Ohio, we talked about what it meant to be Amish. I answered their questions with what I could find on Wikipedia. The black and white of it? The Amish are a very tight, old, religious group. They believe in simple living, simple foods and simple dress. They shun modern convenience like electricity and driving cars.
Armed with our Internet knowledge, we were ready to actually witness this life we couldn’t imagine leading.
That night, we quickly settled in by the glow of gaslights. We were scheduled for early morning cow milking.
The Miller family raises dairy cows-their days center around milking cows every 12 hours, every day. The milk they collect eventually is used to make sour cream for Chipotle restaurants.
After our early morning milking, we enjoyed a simple breakfast of bread and homemade peanut butter spread. Then the kids hopped on a pony cart and went for a ride with the Millers’ son. Willis let us follow him as he tended to his morning chores, introducing us to Storm and Blaze, two work horses that have been plowing their farm fields for years.
Kathy showed us other things, like the barn they use for church services (each family taking turns hosting) and weddings. She showed us how she makes all the family’s clothes.
Kathy also gave us some of her homemade buttermilk cookies, which we ate under a tree while horse and buggies clip-clopped their way toward town. Town, we learned, was Mt. Hope, a bustling center and the place to be on a Saturday.
We stopped quickly at the fabric store there; no Gap or Abercrombie store in this town. The kids marveled at the fact that practically everyone here makes their own clothes. Next we caught an Amish-style lunch at Yoder’s Restaurant. Then, we walked to the animal swap meet where you literally can buy a pig for a couple ducks. The kids liked seeing all the animals there-rabbits, sheep, pigs, dogs, even llamas.
We bought a baby rabbit, with money-we had no pigs to barter. My girls named her Hope after our Mt. Hope adventure. They swore their dad would kill me for letting them buy a “live” souvenir, but I told them it could be worse. I could have bought them a llama. Not sure what the ordinance is for llamas in the Chicago suburbs.
We rounded out the day with a tour of an Amish one-room schoolhouse, a quick buggy ride and watching baby ducklings by a brook while chatting with two old gents. They talked about Amish life and the comfort of living with their sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren all around the same dinner table night after night, year after year, lifetime after lifetime.
Such a beautiful takeaway for us as we hit a road very much traveled toward our bustling, chaotic life of modern convenience.