Friday, October 19, 2012

Returning to the agrarian life....can we learn from the Amish?

I personally believe that we who are captivated by the recent homesteading movement could learn a lot from the Amish. Okay, I know you are thinking- Megan has really gone off the deep end. I am not saying we need to forgo electricity and the like, but the Amish are a people who revere simplicity and hard work over convenience and self-pleasure. They have foregone many modern conveniences involving electricity, as well as many traditional services that the "outside world" provides. Many Amish families make nearly all of their food from home, only needed to buy basic staples, and grow their own produce in their gardens. They value the good of the whole community over the individual.

It seems to me that new homesteaders could take some clues from the Amish, and I aim to be one of those that studies their culture. I hope that with one of our next trips back home to Kentucky we can visit an Amish community and learn from their ways of living. Whether it be their gardening techniques, preserving methods for food, the crafting of furniture and household goods, or their dedication to their faith, I think we will definitely be inspired by their simplistic lifestyle. Certainly their work ethic is also something to be admired.

What's also fascinating to me (as a preservationist) about the Amish, is that from what I've heard at least in Kentucky, when an Amish community settles in a new area or a family purchases land, the property values increase sharply from what they were. Why is this so? I believe it is because they are such good stewards of the land.

I have had a deep longing for a few years now to be able to return to a more agrarian lifestyle, working as a farmer from home, keeping my house as a haven for my family, and trying to be as self-sufficient with food and basic supplies as possible. I like my job, but there is definitely something deep within my soul that senses how wrong it is to be cooped up in an office building most of the time, sitting at a desk in front of a computer. My body yearns for movement and sunshine (natural Vitamin D), my muscles need to be worked, and my mind needs to be refreshed by the outdoors and the satisfaction I feel producing a product from my own hands.

Don't get me wrong- I love what I do and I don't think I will ever stop being an architectural historian in a sense. But there are days when I feel that how we operate within the confines of our workplace, our commutes, our lack of human interaction, our lack of communion with nature, and the never-ending bureaucracy- that just seems so unnatural to me and only promotes stress. Our bodies weren't meant for this, and mine has certainly paid a price for it.

The Amish have found a way to survive and thrive in an increasingly hurried, frantic, and stressful world where we are bombarded with commercialism, technology and consumerism every day. There is a book called "Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life" by Nancy Sleeth that I hope to read over the Holidays-- once I'm finished with it I will share with you the  wisdom beneath its pages!

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