Jean is old order Mennonite from New York State.Jean and her husband David and family live on a dairy farm, and travel their community using horse and buggy. She tells her story exclusively on Amish Stories
The Amish house went up Friday and the barn Saturday on the property they purchased from us. It was all set to be put up and then everyone thought it might be cancelled because rain was due this weekend, but they went ahead anyway because all the people were coming. Amish, Old Order Mennonite, other neighboring farmers and vans from Pennsylvania, and from New York state. David is going to tell most of the telling here as I was baking for the bake sale on Friday and at the sale on Saturday. I did send food over for meals of the people building and served on Friday-but I was not there very long.
Before a house can be built a lot must be done first. As we live in the town of Gorham, but not the village, when the plans for the house are done they must be submitted and approved by the Town Board. Once that is done the building permits are issued. These permits must be attached to a tree, or telephone pole, etc. where they can be seen from the road. Next the basement and ground floor of the house is dug and completed. As the Amish couple are going to have running water in their home-the Water Department comes out and runs the pipes from the main line near the road to the basement of the house and hooked to the basement but not turned on. Water will be turned on once the plumbing is through out the house and passes the building inspection. While the basement is being put in all the wood, roofing, nails, etc. needed for the house are ordered and brought in. Then the four sides of the house frames are constructed and all the wood is cut and piled for where it will go in the construction of the house leaving room for the windows and doors.
Because this couple was getting a new house and barn the above was done for the house and the barn. Because they are dairy famers, they also must have electric in their barn so the electric company has to come out and after a discussion with the farmer decide where the electric lines will go into the barn. The lines are laid from the road to the barn, but will not be connected to the barn until the barn is completed and will not be turned on until the barn passes the building inspection. The base of the barn is all constructed and after that is done the Water Company runs the line to the barn. In our area if you have a Dairy Farm you must have electric-it is law. When I was a child I remember when electric wasn’t necessary, but it is now. Old Order Mennonite approved electric in the early 1990’s, but our house was approved earlier do to my late grandfather’s illness. Amish do not have electric in their homes.
So once all the above is done construction can begin on the house and the barn. The day before the construction the four frames of the house were laid in their correct place for the beginning of the construction. Any ladders, equipment, etc. are brought in. The women were also trying to decide where they would have the food, refreshments, etc.. At first they had planned on setting up some tarps and putting the tables under them where the house was being built, but the weatherman said rain was coming so they decided to put it in one of our Old Order Mennonites yard or house depending on the weather. Seeing the house was down the road a little way, we had a couple of port-a-potties brought in to the construction site so we would have local rest rooms. During the construction some of the young girls ran coffee, tea, lemonade, ice tea and refreshments back and forth from the house. They also brought buckets of water and towels so we could clean up when necessary. We always make sure we have First Aide supplies there and that one of the non-Amish or Mennonite brought their charged cell phone.
Next morning, after milking the cows and breakfast, we hook up the buggy, load my tools and Jean’s food for dinner and leave. We get they by 6:00 AM. Some are there earlier and some later. One man is in charge for who goes where, what is done, I guess you would call him the boss. As the house was for the Amish couple, the “boss” was Amish. We are assigned where our positions will be. As the ground floor to the house is in-two of the sides are brought up and construction begins. At noon time, we take a brake for lunch and start in again about 12:30. By the time we got done the outside of the house was up, the windows were in, the roof was on.
We did get a little interrupted when the trucks pulled up to deliver the Amish couples cows on Friday. They were not suppose to come until next weekend, but the drivers of the trucks were family and had a family commitment next weekend. So here they were. There was talk of putting up a wooden fence and putting them in there, but that would take a lot of time. As we have lots of room in our barn at this time, I and the Amish man whose cows they were, got in the car with one of the local farmers, the trucks followed us, and the cows went in our barn. Jean was very surprised to look out the window to see the trucks of cows unloading especially when she knew we hadn’t bought any recently. Once we made sure the cows were all right, fed, and calmed down we went back to the construction.
While we were putting the roof on the outside the ladies were on the inside putting on the seal of the wooden floors on the first and second floor of the house. We got home in time for the milking the cows and dinner. For some reason this Amish couple called in an outside plumbing company to come and install on Saturday. When we build our house, we will be putting the plumbing in the house and an outside plumber will come in and inspect it. After the plumbing was in and inspected- now the insulation will go in and the walls will go up. Also the cupboards will go in the kitchen, the porches on the front and back, the painting of the house and more has to be done before they can move in. All the Mennonites and Amish will come and lend a hand, when they can, until it is done. The next day we went through the same with the barn. Actually the barn is completed except the electrical wiring but we didn’t move the cows in because the couple are living with relatives closer to my house than their new one. When the barn and their house is completely finished and they move in-we will move the cows over. It never did rain until near the end of the barn on Saturday it started to sprinkle a little bit. God watched over us. No one got seriously hurt on these constructions although we had, like always, a few mislead hammer hits.
Men think that after the barn and house are constructed that’s it until they have to help move the furniture in. Once the house is done, the local ladies both Amish and Mennonite go the house and clean it from top to bottom-spotless. We make sure the floors are sealed, the plumbing works, the drapes are up, etc. Anything that might have been over looked in the men’s department one of us gets their husband over to correct it. On the day the couple move in, we will be there with food, direct where she wants the furniture-set up the kitchen, and any jobs that we are asked to do or see necessary for us to do. When we leave they will be stocked with food, all set up and ready to relax in their new home. They will also be exhausted. We women might hold the men off from bringing the cows over for a day or two so they can relax and enjoy their new home before the work comes in. They are a young, newly married couple and just need to enjoy their new home. They’ll see those cows and get back to work soon enough.
Another humorous thing was when David and the young Amish man went to milk the cows. The young Amish man went into shock when he found out we milked our cows with automatic milkers. He had seen automatic milkers before, but for some reason thought we milked our cows by hand-David smiled and said only when the electric goes off. David told him if he wasn’t allowed to use the electric in the barn for milkers to get a generator to use them. We hoped the man wasn’t thinking we offended him. The young fellow had worked on his Father’s farm for many years, but now he was getting his own and you look a little different at things when it’s yours.
Our house and new barn will be going up next, but we are not sure when yet. We haven’t even drawn up the plans yet. Everything that was done on their barn and house will be done to us. They have already said that the dinners will be at their house when ours goes up. We tried to talk them out of it, but they said there will be enough people, both Amish and Mennonite, to help them. I guess they will be, but they are a young couple and just starting out. They said since we did it for them our house is their turn to help with, So we didn’t argue with that. We really didn’t do it for them all by ourselves, our people and the Amish just all pull together. It is times like this we are happy that we have so many friends and relatives willing to help.
Be With God,
David and Jean
Look for Jeans homemade Whoopie pie recipe this Wednesday on Amish Stories