Cleaning Bees if you Please

Things have certainly been busy as you can see in the above drawing.  Molly drew this picture of her perception on daily life.  Children often draw things that they are interested in or things that are extremely familiar to them.  It was a joy to find this drawing, knowing how happy the children really are in Amishland.  One week ago, we woke up earlier than usual to start our Monday wash.   It was freezing outside but the sun was shining bright.  Miles was milking the cow with dad by hand, Mikey was gathering the eggs, Junior was sweeping the floor, Molly was washing dishes while Megan was helping with the mountain of laundry.  It is just so surprising how much laundry a family can go through.  We separated out the darks from the lights, the dresses from the pants.  Once we ran all the wash through the wringer, the children bundled up to hang out the wash.  Well, this was our first day to hang out for freeze drying the wash.  Oh how the children had fun with it.  The crisp, frozen pants, and socks became swords and rifles in an instant.  The boys were pretending they were on a hunt with their stiff pants.  The girls were modeling their frozen aprons and holding them up as they laughed.  The giggles and the frozen wash is something I think we will always remember with joy.  It was cold, and the wind was something fierce, but the kids found that work, too, to be play.  After the wash was on the line, they started to have snowball fights and had fun sledding down to the garden.  After a time of play we all went back into the house to start our schooling.  Schooling is so important to us.  We like to stay focussed and get our learning in for the day.  We are thankful for our new table lamp.  It is a leacock mantle lamp which burns white gas.  It is 300 candle power, so the children can see their books really well.  On cold days, a lamp like that helps to keep everyone cozy warm as well.  We all sit around our dining room table and plug away, each in their own grade.  I like to be there to answer all the questions they have each day.  It is so much fun for me to learn with them.
Last Wednesday I was invited to Elvesta’s home to show her how to make some gluten free flax bread.  Martha came to learn, too and I talked for awhile about fresh real foods.  It was a lot of what I learned while taking care of Molly when she was sick with kidney issues.  We also made some grainless granola and sampled it.  They were very skeptical that it would actually taste good.  But they very much enjoyed it.


Flax Bread

  • 2 cups flax seed meal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar equivalent from artificial sweetener
  • 5 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil

Mix the dry ingredients first and then add the wet to it.  The batter ends up acting like a really thick pancake batter.  I highly recommend using parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to spread the batter on evenly.  Bake at 350º F for 20 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out dry.  It is really good with butter fresh out of the oven or a little honey.  We did this for Molly because it has virtually no active carbs in it.  The fiber and protein offset it so much that it has a very stabilizing affect on one’s blood sugar levels.  Plus it tastes pretty good.  Try it for yourself sometime.


Cleaning Bees

What is a cleaning bee?  It is not a bumble bee that is cleaning the hive, rather it is a major house cleaning that involves many women in an Amish community.  On Thursday I went over to Edna Ellen’s home to bring her husband Milo some kefir whey for his stomach flu.  Kefir whey is the cure for stomach flu, diarrhea and stomach upset.  All you need is a cheese cloth and some homemade kefir.  You run the kefir through the cloth and the clear substance that drains out is the whey.  It is plenty powerful and can knock out the worst of stomach bugs in a hurry.  In fact, Milo choked down a teaspoon of it and his diarrhea stopped as well as the vomiting.  Take one teaspoon of kefir whey every 30 minutes until the symptoms are gone.  It really works!  As we were talking in the kitchen about the upcoming church meeting at Milo’s home, many buggies started rolling in the lane.  Each buggy was filled with willing help to conquer the house cleaning in time for church.  It is tradition for the Amish to have church in their basement or shop and a part of that tradition is cleaning every nook and cranny.  She asked if I could stay and help.  I was so honored because usually only members of the family were involved.  This is a two week process before church.  They spend many days cleaning out all the barns and sheds.  The yard is worked over until it is free of debris, weeds, or dead plants.  The house is cleaned from top to bottom, walls are washed, pantries are organized and cleaned, all closets, drawers, cabinets are all wiped down inside and out with complete order in mind.  They have church about two times a year, so this gets to get done twice a year.  Kind of like a spring and fall cleaning, if you will.  I do not even get that done very thorough because with just me and the girls, it is so slow.  There was day when I could do it, but with my leg the way it is, I have to really pace myself and the work is a lot slower being that I must sit most of the time.  They put me on the detail work.  I sat in a chair and detailed the wringer washer until it shone.  I used the good old Bar Keeper’s friend and a little elbow grease.  It looked new again. I also managed to sit there to detail the wash tubs and stand as well.  I was glad to help what I could.  We focussed on the basement that day.  Edna Mae was busy washing windows, taking them completely out to clean with a tooth brush every little small space in the window frames.  Orpha was busily washing the walls with a wall mop, first going over with much hot soapy water and then over for a clean dry rinse after wringing out the wall mop a couple times.  Edna Mae’s daughters were busy taking down all the curtains and washing them by hand and hanging them out on the wash line while Martha was cleaning out the back room.  Elvesta was washing the foundational wall with a broom and some dish soap and hot water.  Edna Ellen was running to and fro with supplies all the while nursing a newborn baby.  It was sure a busy day.  The shower in the basement was totally orange with rust stains and I thought the toilet cleaner would get it off (the Works), and I sat on the toilet while I brushed the sides with a toilet brush.  You would not believe how white it came.  It was like a brand new shower when we were done with it.  It almost looked like a busy bee hive that day, women running around cleaning, scrubbing, and toiling for the ones they love.  It just made me love them all the more.  I think it is such a lost art, women working in bees together.  I am sure I read many historical accounts in my lifetime about how the women hundreds of years ago would join together for work.  That is how they survived and how they socialized.  Now, it seems that has almost died out in our culture.  Women have a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, electricity, vehicles, slow cookers, and hand blenders, but they do not have time for helping their neighbors with their spring cleaning.  That is sad.  It just amazes me how the Amish have preserved such a custom until this day and how it “works” so well yet.  Working bees may be a thing of the past, but with a little encouragement, maybe all of you could start your own working bees.  There may be some other ladies in your church that would like to give it a try.  You never know, maybe we can bring this custom into the modern world.  Many hands make light work.  Cleaning bees, if you please, for me!    


Amish Gmay (Church)We were invited to church at Milo’s. I made two denim coats for the boys that were black this past week.  They had lining and were very warm, indeed.  I made a black vest for my husband that fit really nice.  He liked it real well.  He wore a white button down shirt under it.  Early Sunday morning, I was in the kitchen pressing the last bit of clothing with my old fashioned sad iron.  The cow was milked and the eggs gathered.  We sat down to a very peaceful early morning farm fresh breakfast consisting of eggs and toast.  After breakfast, Miles hitched up the two horses.  One is the pony, Sally on Miles wooden open cart and the other is Abby with our very old top buggy that we traded for our open cart.  Being that the weather has been wet and cold in our area, we wanted to be a bit warmer.  Mark drove our carriage and Miles took the boys with him.  Molly and Megan sat in the back seat of our surry.  Miles was behind us but not for long.  He wanted to prove that his pony was faster than our old mare.  Well, she is.  Abby is just a slow as molassis but certainly safe enough for us.  At times we were walking her and just enjoying the peaceful still morning light on the way to church.  As we pulled in the lane, about 100 Amish stood by and looked on.  Milo told Mark and Miles where to put the horses and that was the last I was seen with Mark for the day.  Mark stayed with the men and I stayed in the house with the women waiting for church. The girls and I took off our shawls and bonnets and walked into the kitchen.  It was quiet and the women smiled and shook my hand.  They kiss each other (greeting with a holy kiss, as they have the custom), only members. I think Mark and I were glad this time that we were “not” a member.  It is just a little weird for us to kiss all those people.  Especially for a man to do that when you are not raised with that custom.  The women sat on one side of the basement on wooden benches and the men filed in after, sitting on the opposite side.  Molly and Megan sat with the girls their age and Mark sat with the boys.  It is neat that the Amish women and men each take some of the little ones.  The men carry little quiet toys and books in their vest pockets for the little babies to play with.  They very much share in child rearing.  Sometimes I see more of teamwork even though they are sitting far apart than entire family sitting together on the same bench.  Some men just feel it is only the wife’s responsibility to take care of the babies.  I just thought I would share that because I found it very different than what I have seen in other circles.  Amish men seem to not ever rule over the women, they love and cherish them and allow them to enjoy community life, quilting, hobbies and things.  They seem to have really great family life and marriages.  It is a good example to our modern church I think.  Then the ministers come in and shake every hand of the women.  When they came to me, they smiled and showed the warmth in having us there.  There was a prayer in German and then they began the singing.  The singing is all in High German and sounds like an ancient gragorian chant.  Very different.  Each word is drawn out as if it were the last.  Beautiful harmonies in another language.  While we sang for nearly one hour, the ministers brought up the young folks into an upper room to do some lessons on the articles of faith.  When they returned, the first minister began his sermon in their dialect of low German.  I could understand most of what he said.  He was covering the topic of the flood, evolution and the love of God.  How many reject God and call the things of God, creation all foolishness.  The next preacher covered the topic of being born again, being a child of God and how to live out your faith in the way you show brotherly kindness and love.  It was very refreshing, indeed.  With a parting song and prayer, the dinner was served on the same benches that were stacked up to become tables.  Each woman brings a loaf of homemade bread.  It is all sliced up and served at midawk(lunch).  There is peanut butter, pickles, cheese, butter, egg salad, and pickled beets that are served with coffee or mint tea.  Just a light lunch.  One thing that struck me was that the women sat together and the men sat at the men tables.  The women served when it was their turn.  After the first batch of people ate, the women took buckets of hot water and went around to rinse out the cups and silverware for the second batch of people to eat.  My kids were very glad to be the first to sit down to eat and not eating and drinking off dishes that were not properly washed.  It is just the way they do.  They share cups and do not know that it can spread things like we understand.  Amazingly, they do stay pretty healthy even though they share.  After cleaning up, we drove the buggy home and rested awhile before we returned for the supper and singing.  Edna Ellen was serving over 100 guests, so she made about 8 casseroles.  She trades for supper singings on others eats.  Like Edna Mae trades pies with Edna Ellen’s church.  So when Edna Mae has church, Edna Ellen brings pies to her church.  Another lady traded salad and made a huge rubbermaid tub full of 7 layered salad.  Elvesta traded for the slushy drink.  There were dozens of pies and cakes, trays and trays of food.  Plenty to go around.  First the young folks take their fill of food, then the children.  Next, the men and last us women.  The women want to make plenty so when it comes their turn to eat, there will be some left.  I have seen it happen before where there was none left and we women were staring at the empty casserole pans and just laugh that we all probably do not need to eat since we are fat enough already.  It is a great way to have big gatherings when everyone pitches in something like that.  That way the lady host would only make the main coarse.  It makes perfect sense to me.  After the dishes and tables were made clean again, we enjoyed a pleasant evening of fellowship and singing English hymns.  It was really enjoyable.  The children most of the day were running around the farm playing with the kids their age.  They beg to go again.  We were invited to church in a couple weeks and the kids are already talking about it, hoping for it, and planning the fun ahead.  For the Amish it is just another church day where they gather and enjoy the time together, to us it is a whole new way we never knew before.  I do not know how often we will go, but that it was really interesting to experience for the first time in a long time.  

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13 thoughts on “Cleaning Bees if you Please”

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  2. I just looked up RSD because I was unfamiliar with the term. It sounds quite a bit like Fibromyalgia but definitely different. Oh Erin, I really admire you for your homesteading way of life while dealing with something so difficult and painful. It must be wonderful to have the help you do. If I could drop it all right now and buy a piece of land and build a cob house (my dream!) right now, I would. Of course, I still want a waterfall on my land, which is unlikely to ever happen. 🙂 All of those wonderful negative ions will help me with my health, I’m sure.
    I admire you even more now knowing what you face every day. May God bless you and your family mightily.

  3. I just looked up RSD because I was unfamiliar with the term. It sounds quite a bit like Fibromyalgia but definitely different. Oh Erin, I really admire you for your homesteading way of life while dealing with something so difficult and painful. It must be wonderful to have the help you do. If I could drop it all right now and buy a piece of land and build a cob house (my dream!) right now, I would. Of course, I still want a waterfall on my land, which is unlikely to ever happen. 🙂 All of those wonderful negative ions will help me with my health, I’m sure.
    I admire you even more now knowing what you face every day. May God bless you and your family mightily.

  4. I just looked up RSD because I was unfamiliar with the term. It sounds quite a bit like Fibromyalgia but definitely different. Oh Erin, I really admire you for your homesteading way of life while dealing with something so difficult and painful. It must be wonderful to have the help you do. If I could drop it all right now and buy a piece of land and build a cob house (my dream!) right now, I would. Of course, I still want a waterfall on my land, which is unlikely to ever happen. 🙂 All of those wonderful negative ions will help me with my health, I’m sure.
    I admire you even more now knowing what you face every day. May God bless you and your family mightily.

  5. There are many things I admire about the Amish and many things I don’t understand. I love the back to basics simple lifestyle, but one thing that always confused me was why Amish believers don’t use electricity because it connects them to the world but yet still use many things that connect them to the world,such as gas power and doctors. And that feminist in me (it doesn’t have to be a bad word. Many say Jesus was the first feminist.) dislikes that on the day of rest, women are still working hard and always eat last. I love the aspect of community, and even though there are some things I feel are pretty harsh (such as shunning), I can also understand the ideas behind them in protecting the community. While I would love to be a homesteader someday, it will never happen unless I can reverse my fibromyalgia. Right now my husband does the bulk of the housework and cooking and how happy am I that I have a husband who doesn’t see it as women’s work. My husband also has Cerebral Palsy, so a simple yet also hard old fashioned lifestyle is not one we are likely to ever achieve, but we do what we can, such as trying to bake our own bread, growing a garden, buying local when possible, buying organic, making our own deodorant and laundry detergent, and I am now learning how to sew. We even get our eggs from a friend who raises chickens. But unfortunately, we are still very much stuck in the modern world with its good and bad aspects. I’m quite enjoying these posts. Now I’m off to search the rest of your site for sewing tips. Hopefully I can find some.

    1. There are so many things that one could hardly understand about the Amish. It can be mind boggling even at times to make sense of why they do things one way and then have other things that seem modern. I try to just understand that they are trying to keep the culture and yet function in society. Where they draw that line varies from one settlement to another. They agree on something and try to stick with it so as to not fall full force into a modern way of life. It is really tricky with the Amish because they have withheld more of the modern technology, so once they get a taste of it, they will fall harder for it than most others. Like a child in a candy store. Some things they do just because that is how they were taught not because they actually have a conviction in that way. I try to never flaunt or expose them to things like my computer because they are not allowed such a device. If they would have it they may not realize the evils and goods of it. We have learned how to use the computer as a tool, as a business, not as a device for lack of self control. They would not realize all the potentials of it, so it would take much time to teach them what it is all about. They are very sheltered from things that we take for granted.
      Another thing, I suffer from RSD which is a chronic pain disorder. I struggle each day with terrible pain and many limitations. I do understand how you feel. We just do what we can, and take it slow because it is very hard to do it all. Community allows us to do more and doing work as a family. What I am unable to do, others make up for it by helping. I would never fault you for understanding that you are doing what you can and it sounds to me like you are doing a lot for what you deal with. You are doing a great job and I hope that you can try new things when you are able. Just pace yourself. Have a blessed day~Erin

  6. I appreciated what I learned from the “Cleaning Bees” post. Indeed, many hands make light work! And it always seems to go faster when there is someone to work along with.

  7. I have a question concerning your Flax Bread. What size pan? You say it “acts like a really thick pancake batter” – so, do you just spread it out on a cookie sheet? How thick? Sounds great and I would like to try it. I thank you in advance for your response.

  8. Hello!
    We have your 1st DVD and plan on buying all of them as $ allows. I hope all is well and your leg Michael’s chest pains, and Molly’s diabetes is getting better. How did you hurt your leg? I looked through all the posts since the last time I was here and could not find what happened. Take care and God bless!

  9. Oh, I just enjoyed this post so much. I love your perspective on your dear neighbors, and your point of view that is so informative yet respectful of their customs.I love to hear about yours and their day to day doings.And I would love to see a picture of your family in their Sunday best in the new things you sewed! Keep writing, please!

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