Sounds and Reflections from Pennsylvania Amish Country


I should write, “from Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite Country.” Until I moved here, I had no idea how many Old Order Mennonites live in the county. On the road one can tell the difference by the buggies. The Amish in this county have gray (or open) buggies, while the Old Order Mennonites have black ones. The one above and the two below are all Amish buggies.


Photo by Saloma Furlong


Photo by Saloma Furlong


I can also tell the difference in the women’s dress whether they are Amish or Old Order Mennonites. And there is another giveaway. If you see a Plain person on a scooter, that person is likely Amish. If the person is riding a bike, they’re likely Mennonite.

Then there are the “Black Bumper Mennonites” who drive (black) cars and dress plain. There are Mennonites of every stripe living in this area. I have not learned all the distinctions.

Having so many Plain People around feels both familiar and unfamiliar. We always thought of the Amish in Lancaster as being “different” from other Amish, not only in their dress, but also in their way of life. Back when I was growing up in Geauga County, the elders used the Amish of Lancaster as an example of what they did not want. The feeling in my home community was that the Amish in Lancaster had sold out their religion for “the mighty dollar.” Though there were requests from “the English” for tours in our area, they were turned down. As a result, the Amish here are more affluent than those in my home community.

In this way, it feels unfamiliar to live among Amish I’d only heard about when I was growing up. But there are also aspects of living here that feels very familiar. Seeing high-flying lines with their sold colors billowing in the winds like kites. Seeing and hearing horse and buggies traveling along country roads. Hearing their accents when they speak English. Seeing the typical poses of Plain women. Seeing the colorful well-kept gardens at their homesteads. And seeing the homemade signs of goods for sale at this farm or that one.

One thing I’ve been surprised by is how the Amish and Old Order Mennonites here seem to be embracing suburbia. Some live right in towns, with their horse and buggy sheds in their back yards. I don’t know if they have had to get exemptions from the towns to be allowed to do that, or if this consideration is already embedded in the town ordinances. We live right on Main Street in Ephrata, a very busy thoroughfare through town, and we frequently see buggies going past us, sometimes to visit the gas station next door.

Whenever I maneuver our car around a buggy, I’m always aware of what it feels like to be riding in a buggy and vulnerable to car drivers. In fact, I can easily put myself in a buggy to see the sights and sounds from a slow-moving vehicle, feel the summer breezes on my face, and hear the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and the rumble of the steel wheels on the road. I know I’m sounding nostalgic here, and that is because I do miss those aspects of my Amish life. And yet just today, I have verbalized to David how grateful I am that he and I got together (those who have read Bonnet Strings know that we almost didn’t). Had I stayed Amish, I would not be living the life I have. So those buggy rides that used to transport me from one place to another are a thing of the past. I’m glad I have those memories to cherish.

I thought I would share some sights I captured with my phone over the past weeks. Here is a peaceful setting with horses grazing in a field. In the foreground there is that bare spot, and I wonder if this field isn’t used as baseball field when the horses are in the barn or grazing elsewhere. It was common for fields like this to be used like that in my home community, and I wonder if they do that here as well. I’m thinking that bare spot might be home plate.


Photo by Saloma Furlong


I took this photo of a buggy on a road a ways off. Just beyond the cornfield you can spot a tour bus that was out looking for Sunday afternoon buggies.


Photo by Saloma Furlong


David and I have been exploring Lancaster County and have discovered numerous creameries in the county. They rival one another in terms of goodness, but my current favorite is Hayloft Ice Cream. They have a new flavor each month for their soft ice cream. August was peach, and it was ambrosia. I savored every bite. Then I stocked up on hand-packed quarts so we can enjoy it a while longer.

One of the times we visited Hayloft, there was this wagon hitched to the hitching post. Later I saw five young women get on the buggy, and off they went, down the road into the open country. I remember well what that was like.


Photo by Saloma Furlong


While I’m on the subject of wagons, here is a photo of an unusual one. It looks like it was adapted from another purpose. It looks like a horse-drawn golf cart to me. But maybe it was one of those garden cart type of wagons. Whatever the case, I think it is Amish ingenuity at its best.


Photo by Saloma Furlong


We have been frequenting the numerous fresh fruit and veggie stands run by Amish and Mennonite families in this area. It is divine to have such fresh and juicy peaches in season to eat plain and to make pies with. David and I took a pie to the young family whose two young sons we’ve adopted as our grandchildren. We now have nicknames for them. Our favorite five-year-old is Boy Chap, and his younger brother is Little Man. Once when we took a pie to their house, Boy Chap ate two bites of pie, and then he put his fork down, came around the table, and thanked me for making the pie and told me how much he loves it. Of course I needed to make another pie after that, especially while the peaches are still so yummy. Here is a photo of the pie made of peaches, red raspberries and black raspberries that we took over to their house.


Pie and photo by Saloma Furlong


I hope to post again before long. Now that I’m living in Pennsylvania among the Amish, I ask you this: What questions do you have about the life of the Amish or of the “Amish-once-removed?” I will answer your questions as best I can in future posts.

Also, if you are someone who grew up Plain with an eighth-grade education and have managed to find your way to college, will you consider writing your story to be published on this blog? Or do you know of someone who fits this description? If so, please pass along this invitation to that person and have that person be in touch with me. I hope to add to the series I started of stories of those who have found their way to formal education beyond the eighth grade.

Auf Wiedersehen!

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  1. Kensi on September 5, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    I love Lancaster. Ephrata is where I stayed with an Amish family to do some research. The Lancaster Amish definitely are entrepreneurial, that’s for sure. The family I stayed with had apartments about 50 feet from his door that he rented out. And he had rooms in his house for short stays. I think he’s pretty unusual though. I’ll be down soon for my birthday, going to Shady Maple, which is famous for its 200-foot-long smorgasbord.

    Anyway, I feel as if I probably bother you, as I’ve sent you a couple follow-up emails to our conversation that you didn’t answer. I can definitely take a hint, haha. Have a great time in Lancaster, and I’m gonna unsubscribe and wish you the best!

    • Saloma Furlong on September 6, 2023 at 10:37 pm

      I am sorry for my negligence. I had Covid as I was recovering from my surgery, and I wasn’t in communication with anyone there for a while. I was feeling too sick. It is a challenge for me to stay up with communications even in the best of times. I understand if you feel neglected and want to unsubscrible from the blog. I wish you the best as well.

  2. Danice G. on September 6, 2023 at 3:47 am

    Very interesting. While I lived in Mississippi, it is very near Randolph county, home to an Old Order Swartzentruber Amish community. In a joining county, there is a settlement of “black bumper” Mennonoites. The two groups are truly very distinguishable from one another by their clothing.

    • Saloma Furlong on September 6, 2023 at 10:42 pm

      Yes they are very distinguishable — by their clothing, their mode of transportation, their homes, and all of that. The Swartzentrubers are also distinguishable from other Amish by their clothing.

      I didn’t realize there were Amish in Mississippi. I would imagine they get mighty hot in the summertime.

  3. June on September 6, 2023 at 8:19 am

    Thank you for the very interesting commentary! Could you please explain what you mean by recognizing Amish women by their “typical poses?”

    • Saloma Furlong on September 6, 2023 at 10:43 pm

      That is a good question, June. I’ll answer it in a future blog post.

  4. Pamela Lakits on September 6, 2023 at 9:35 am

    As I started reading this blog first thing that came to mind was- I wonder if she is feeling nostalgic!! And you were, but how could you not! The sights, sounds, smells are,I’m sure, ingrained into your very soul.
    Paul and I visit Berlin Ohio and Lancaster as much as possible and in Lancaster especially the smells are first to tell me we are close. But it’s the sound of hooves hitting pavement that makes my heart sing.
    I was not born Amish or Mennonite (as you know)but there are aspects of their way of life I treasure. I’m glad that I live in the English world and yet can take with me and adhere to the things they value that I also value and intertwine them into my English world.
    My wish for you Saloma and David is that you find peace and contentment living in Lancaster. Sounds like a certain little boy who has a love for pie is glad you’re there!!!

    • Saloma Furlong on September 6, 2023 at 10:56 pm

      Pamela, you understand me all to well, don’t you? David was just saying the other day, “People have a tendency to think of nostalgia as reality, but it isn’t.” It reminds me of Doug Larson’s quote when he wrote, “”Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.”

      We are finding many reasons to like Lancaster County. David still longs for New England, though.

      Yes, Boy Chap does love my pies. And Little Man loves to have his “Papa David” around. Those two have a wonderful bond. We love those two little guys!

      • Pamela Lakits on September 7, 2023 at 7:24 am

        You have a wish husband Saloma- he’s right about nostalgia. I some times long for the days of my youth when things seemed simpler, people kinder. I tend to put away the not so nice stuff!! But when I smell the sent of mowed grass I think of my father on a warm summer night. If I’m in or near woods I think of my younger years running through our woods barefoot, without a care. But I guess we shouldn’t linger in the past too often or we will miss the good things of the present.
        I’m so glad the Lord has blessed you both with two very special “grandsons” to love— there’s nothing better!!!!!
        Question for you, will you eventually tell the Amish. and Mennonite’s that you become friends with that you were once Amish??

  5. Marye Maarsen on September 6, 2023 at 10:48 am

    I love the sounds of the horse drawn buggies and that is my memory of Kalona, Iowa where my mother grew up. It was hilly in Iowa and Mi was flat. the people spoke German and they laughed a lot it seemed. I saw only the good things when we would come to visit. My grandpa had a plum tree in his yard and it was always full of ripe plums. By the end of our visit all of us cousins managed to have eaten all the ripe plums.

    • Saloma Furlong on September 6, 2023 at 10:59 pm

      Ha ha! Those plums ripe off a tree used to be so tasty, weren’t they?

      So did your mother grow up Amish, or was her family English and lived among them? I probably knew this at some point, but I’ve forgotten.

      Always good to hear from you!

  6. Celia J. Crotteau on September 6, 2023 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you for writing this particular column; it was pleasant reading amidst the current national and international chaos. Lancaster is a beautiful area, and I can trace my familial roots there to around 1750. I’ve mentioned in comments I have left previously after reading your blogs that my maternal grandfather was born Old Order Mennonite but left that faith and lifestyle when he turned twenty-two, to spend over thirty years serving in the US military. His brother and three sisters also left. Only one sister who never married remained, and in her last years she lived with an Amish family in Ephrata. Why all but that one sister left I don’t know, but I am proud of my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and so enjoy all your fascinating entries.

  7. Saloma Furlong on September 6, 2023 at 11:02 pm

    Celia, thank you for reminding me of your roots here in Lancaster. Did you visit your great aunt in Ephrata? That is actually the town we live in. If you come to the area, please let me know. I’d love to get together.

    Thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

  8. Wilma on September 7, 2023 at 10:12 am

    Hi. There is a lot of differences. Was wondering, if those who have open buggies, if they have electricity? We have here Hutterites and they have differences too.

    • Saloma Furlong on September 8, 2023 at 12:00 pm

      I don’t know the answer to that, Wilma. I think they use the open buggies for different occasions than the gray buggies, but it may be that some drive one and some the other. I’ll need to ask a local expert that question.

  9. Sherr on September 8, 2023 at 11:08 am

    I noticed the horses all seemed similar. Where do the Amish get their horses—is there a breeder among the Amish?

    • Saloma Furlong on September 8, 2023 at 11:58 am

      Sherr, I don’t know the answer to that question for here in the county. Many Amish from all around will go to horse auctions in Mt. Hope, Ohio, though I bet there are also horse breeders here. My guess is that they get them from various sources. But I noticed they go in for the fancy horses here, just as they did in my home community — “high-steppers” we used to call them.

  10. Michele Larson on December 30, 2023 at 11:34 pm

    Saloma, I am just reading this blog for the first time. I have always been fascinated and curious about the Amish and Mennonite communities which drew me to your books. Thank you for this post as I learned a lot. I will read this post again.

  11. Aleta on January 16, 2024 at 8:49 am

    I know and live both the nostalgia and the thankfulness. Thank you for sharing so beautifully.

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