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about my visit with the folks at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and Red Earth Farms in Rutledge, MO

people, places, things

Friday, June 21, 2013

In the town of Jamesport, Missouri, I had the pleasure of interviewing an Amish gentleman named Jake Graber who was sitting on a bench chatting with locals in this quaint town. He graciously answered the following questions:

amish-road-sign-sm.pngME: What words would you use to describe your way of living?

JAKE: Simple, natural, intentional separation, scriptural connection (not to follow the world/worldly things)

ME: Do you:

build from raw materials?—Yes
...what__They mill a lot of their own lumber, depending on the type of material needed for a project,
they might need to go to Lowe’s for pressure treated wood.

ME: Do you use electricity?


ME: Do you and how do you power the following:

___lights– propane
___refrigeration– propane (I never knew this was possible)
___heating– wood
___cooling– n/a (the spend most of their time in the basement during the warm days and open the “cave” door
(to the cellar) to let in cool air
___laundry–a Maytag ringer washer that’s powered by compressed air and gasoline motors
___other (power tools) –gasoline generators and air compressors

ME: If you use light bulbs, do you use the new energy efficient bulbs (CFL, LED,...)?

JAKE: LED lights are on the buggy, hooked up to a 12volt battery

ME: Have you incorporated any other modern energy creating or conserving technologies? (solar, wind, hydro, energy star appliances,...)

JAKE: No, we keep our life as simple as possible.

ME: Is your living practice driven by love for nature/or God’s creation, or just by religious guidelines? Or are the two connected? If so, how?

JAKE: It’s a combination of both.

ME: Are you aware of the growing concerns for global warming and ecological decline?

JAKE: Yes. The solution is you gotta work together. The water pollution is causing cancer. The farmers who spray pesticides are polluting the water. Easier farming does harm. Folks have to let things go their full cycle. It’s not natural to have things grow faster.

ME: Do you have any feelings about global use of resources (water, fossil fuels, soil erosion, minerals, ...) ?
Do you have advice to share?

JAKE: It’s better to use what’s natural, like sun and wind than fossil fuels.

ME: What is your observation of the overall consumption of non-Amish folks? How does it compare to that of your community members? Again, do you have advice to offer?

JAKE: We raise most of our own goods. Keep it efficient. Keep buying to just the essentials.

ME: Have you had commercially canned or processed foods? How would you compare them to what your family and community produce?

JAKE: Very little. I can count on one hand how many TV dinners I’ve eaten in my life. I’ve eaten fast food. I would get tired of that taste very quickly.

ME: How does the process of growing/gathering and preparing your food impact the quality compared to commercially processed foods?

JAKE: I’d rather sit and eat a restaurant meal. It comes from your upbringing. Everyone today wants everything the way the want it right now. We don’t go to bed ‘til the hay is put up. We don’t eat until the job is done.

ME: Have you heard about genetically modified foods? What are your thoughts on those?

JAKE: I’ve heard a little about them and the hormones they’re putting in food. If I knew it were in it I might shy away from it. I’d be reluctant to order it if it were at auction. That stuff just ends up hurting somebody down the line.

ME: Do you have any questions for me?

JAKE: No. I just hope I was able to help you out with your paper.

You know, we can’t go back to the old style of living. Nobody wants to work. They have no patience. I see them circle around the parking lot at Walmart looking for that perfect close spot to park when there’s a perfectly good spot a little farther out with no trouble to get to, but they don’t want to walk the extra. Not everything will go your way. Life is not designed to be without strife. You just have to take it in stride. If something doesn’t work out as planned, you look at it again and figure out something different.

ME: Jake, thank you for your generosity and your time.

JAKE: I just hope I was able to help you out with your paper. It’s time for me to move on now.


graber-farm-sign-sm.jpgGraber Family Farm Tour

Actually, I didn’t k now Jake’s last name until we toured the Graber farm later that afternoon. They have 65 acres and on it are a store to sell their hand-built goods, a chicken coop, fenced pastures with six horses, a barn that has stables and garage space for the extra buggies, cats and kittens, a workshop where a son was preparing lumber for a pergola (although his pronunciation of it was a bit different) job in another town, the house with a very large deck (which acted more as shade underneath leading to their basement), and a precarious phone booth in the middle of it all. They use the phone for emergencies and resides in what looks like a very clean, white, out house. There’s a little bar stool inside to sit on. I guess you might want to sit if you were having a crisis and needed to explain the emergency details to 911.

We walked into every building. I got to sit up in the buggy while Mom took a cheesy tourist photo of me. The last stop of the tour was inside their house. Well, just the basement of the house. The temperature was indeed better inside there than outside (94°), but I would still have trouble sleeping in it myself. She showed us her laundry setup: a Maytag ringer washer (like Jake described). But, she put the wet clothes in a standard washing machine, powered by an air compressor, on Spin cycle to finish draining the water from them. There was a tub of gray water where she had washed a load earlier. She had no qualms about the public seeing her underwear drying on a circular, multi-runged, rack hanging from the underside of the deck outside her door. Gives new meaning to “airing your dirty laundry.” I had to look twice to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. We were introduced to the clothing they wear to church and she pointed out her treadle sewing machine. She was also wearing a partially complete new dress she had been sewing. It was held together mostly by straight pins. It especially caught my attention when I saw them down the front of her dress where buttons will soon be going. Ouch.

In the shop she showed us the school desks where the children were taught. My brilliant mother asked where the
teachers came from and if they were formally trained. Apparently they come from the community and teach only their ways and concepts without formal external training. I had found in my research that they only go to 8th grade. Now I
was wondering how they measured that since they were teaching their own content.

I wish I had asked her name. I was reluctant to pry too far into these people’s lives as they did not want you taking their pictures and some of them prefer not to talk to non-Amish people at all. In this town, they were pretty friendly—openly waiving and smiling. I suspect they relied a lot on tourism. But, I’ll continue the recounting of the day, referring to “her” with no name or as Mrs. Graber. Our tour guide turned out to be the wife of Jake, although she did not admit that until my mother pressed her on the name connection just before we left. But she, too, was very generous with information and sharing the lifestyle of her Amish family. In a final observation of my mother’s, as she asked if there was a family connection to the Jake Graber in town that we’d spoken to, which was confirmed, she then followed up with, “how did he get into town (which was a few miles away)? Did he take a buggy?” “No,” replied our tour guide. “I’m not sure how he got there or how’s getting home.” I fear we may have gotten Jake in trouble with the Mrs. on that one.

All in all, it was a good, informative day.


From my house to theirs

starting a conversation
begins with a box of thoughts...

Powertools with purpose
With a new mission and a means
to do it, I tackle some projects...

Poeple I've met
There are those who've traveled
a similar path and have a lot to share...

My own manifesto
In a life that encourages selfishness and excess, I seek satisfaction in less.
Not less quality, just less quantity. I seek enough.

I also seek increased quality. I take this moment to step back from the fast-paced mainstream and evaluate that flow, how it affects me and where it's taking me. Does it offer paths that lead me to where I want to go? Do I surround myself with elements that support where I want to go?

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