Simple, Quiet Beauty

Hi Friends!

Dark, storm clouds threatened overhead very early on the Summer Solstice as my husband packed up our car. (Meanwhile, I took just a moment to make our online donation to “The Longest Day” fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. It made my heart feel so good to help fund the care, support, and research so desperately needed in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.) Moments later, we drove off to spend “The Longest Day” and the next few days doing something we LOVE, while honoring special people we LOVE. It was a perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary! The reason was LOVEa whole lot of LOVE!

We set off in search of simple, quiet beauty, a bit of adventure, small town charm, and perhaps some antiquing, too! As we headed south, heavy rains accompanied us throughout our three-hour drive. Rain was also predicted for the next few days. We hoped for the best as we watched the skies.

Our destination was Amish Country in Central Illinois. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting Amish areas in Indiana. It would be so interesting to learn more about the Amish people living in our home state. We thought you might like to come along…

This beautiful, quiet region is filled with Amish farms, picturesque small towns with brick-lined streets, quaint antique shops, fun places to eat, and the friendliest people ever. The towns of Arcola, Arthur, and Tuscola, just a few miles apart, welcomed us… and the rain stopped just moments after we arrived! πŸ™‚

 

Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Central Illinois, beginning in 1865, in search of more affordable land and wide-open spaces. Today there are more than 5,500 Amish people living in this area surrounded by large corn and soybean fields, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Amish people are a very close-knit community. They are hardworking farm families, who often run small, creative, home-based businesses. Roadside wooden signs welcome visitors to quilt shops, woodworking shops, herb shops, bakeries, and more in Amish homes. The Amish are very friendly and open to answering questions about their simple lifestyle.

Religion guides all aspects of Amish life. They have chosen to live a life that is separate from the world. The Amish believe in peace and nonviolence and do not pass judgement on outsiders. They don’t fully accept the modern conveniences that we take for granted. By choosing not to use electricity, they are able to avoid many of the temptations that would impact their family lives. The Amish people value simplicity over convenience and comfort.

In this area, typical Amish farms are approximately 80 acres. The average Illinois Amish family has six children. When a young, Amish couple gets married, they are usually gifted with a parcel of land to farm, from one of their fathers.

We frequently traveled the winding, country road between Arcola, through the tiny hamlet of Chesterville, to Arthur. It warmed my heart each time we passed road signs reminding drivers to be cautious of slow-moving buggies. The familiar ‘clip-clop’ of the horse and buggy feels like a gentle reminder to savor life at a slower pace.

Most of the country roads have wide shoulders that serve as buggy lanes. For safety, the Amish people use battery-powered lights on their buggies. We always used caution whenever following a buggy and slowly passed them with care so we didn’t frighten the horse. We also saw many Amish people riding bicycles on warm, Summer days. Although the Amish people don’t own cars, they do accept rides in other people’s vehicles when necessary.

Each Amish farmhouse we passed had a large tank to store gas or diesel fuel to power their generators. They use bottled gas to operate their water heaters, modern stoves, and refrigerators. Gas lanterns and oil lamps light their homes.

Telephones are not permitted in Amish homes. We noticed wooden phone booths at the end of some driveways, near the road, shared by neighbors for emergencies and business. Today some Amish people have cell phones that can also be used outside their homes.

Families play games, build puzzles, do schoolwork, and read together in the evenings. No musical instruments are played in the homes for that would be worldly. As with all farm families, it is an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle.

 

In this area, families are “House Amish.” They gather in homes to hold their Sunday church services. There are 22 church districts in the area surrounding Arthur. When Amish families gather together, they speak their first language, a German dialect.

Horse-power is so important on Amish farms. Farmers drive teams of 6-8 horses to farm their rich land. Their tractors have metal wheels without rubber tires. In recent years, available farmland has become both expensive and scarce in Central Illinois. So, many Amish farmers have also taken on a trade.

In the evenings, we noticed Amish buggies hitched in the parking lot of several businesses in towns. After the farm work is done for the day, some Amish people may supplement their income by working in town for a few hours.

In addition to large farm fields, Amish homes also have big vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Beachy’s Bulk Foods sells everything else that a family might need to prepare meals and preserve fruits and vegetables for the Winter season.

As we drove along the country roads, we noticed every clothesline was filled with plain, dark colored pants, shirts, and dresses. Amish women work hard using wringer washers to do their laundry.

Our rainy Spring in Illinois has been very welcome to our farmers. Instead of “Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” the cornstalks were already shoulder-high by the third week of June.

It was fascinating to learn about Amish wedding traditions. November is the most popular month for Amish weddings. During Spring, Summer, and Fall there is too much work and little time for wedding celebrations. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the the usual days for Amish weddings, since they are the least busy days during their week. An Amish wedding takes place in the bride’s home with a four-hour ceremony. There are no rings, flowers, photos, caterers, or kisses. Typically, more than two hundred guests are invited to celebrate the happy couple!

 

“Amish people are not backwards, nor ‘stuck in the past.’

They are constantly adjusting to the pressures of the world

and striving to maintain their belief and culture.”

“It is a very delicate balance between tradition and change”.

~ National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

We enjoyed every moment of our visit to Amish Country. I have much more to share in future posts, including several ‘hidden gems’ in the area. One of our most cherished memories is the kindness of everyone we met along the way.

The motto of the town of Arthur (population 2,200) is “You are a stranger only once.” There is so much to discover in this patchwork quilt of quiet, simple beauty and we relish the chance to learn more. We are already planning our next visit!

Although we kept our rain gear close at hand, we felt so fortunate to have dry weather for our adventures. While we were away, my garden soaked up three more inches of rain. It was a delight to find the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom when we arrived home!

I enjoyed slower-paced days the following week

without turning my computer on! πŸ™‚

Where do you find simple, quiet beauty?

Happy Independence Day to all of our American friends

as we celebrate family, friends, and freedom!

 

Make each day sparkle!

β™‘ Dawn

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25 thoughts on “Simple, Quiet Beauty

    • I love simple, too, Judy! I absolutely agree ~ no phones in the garden. I put mine just inside the back door, where I can reach it to take photos, even if my shoes are muddy.(They are always muddy!) Every so often, I invite my parents for a Skype-walk through my garden. πŸ™‚ They love seeing all of the green here, while they hope for rain in their desert garden. We all need some simple, quiet beauty in our days. Happy 4th of July, Judy! Thanks so much for visiting today! β™‘

  1. Hi Dawn,
    Happy Summer Days and Fourth of July! How are you my dear friend? I miss you!
    I am enjoying lazy summer days as we are at the lake for vacation. Our home in Savage keeps me busy there too with gardening, preserving of jam (I just put up 15 jars of cherry jam that is a Door Cty recipe- very yummy!)
    Two more years of teaching and I will be able to retire. I am looking forward to my time to do more art!
    I love your posts and your writing paints pictures!
    Take care!
    Love,
    Julie

    • Sending warm greetings to you at the lake, Julie! I know how much you try to squeeze into your Summer days, my friend. Door County cherries are the best. Your recipe sounds so yummy! The next two years will fly by, Julie. After you retire, we must plan a little, creative getaway together! Perhaps in the Fall? Doesn’t that sound like fun? πŸ™‚

      Julie, I still remember celebrating a 4th of July with you in Minnesota so long ago. We all sat on a hillside watching the fireworks displays from several cities all at once. It was magical!

      Happy World Watercolor Month, dear friend! I’m determined to play with watercolors as often as I can this month. Have you ever considered teaching painting classes during your retirement? Thanks for all of the good wishes, Julie! Hugs for your mom from me! I promise to write!β™‘

  2. My cousin, Beverly Lewis, has made her fortune writing novels about the Amish. I have to admit, I haven’t taken to her writing style so haven’t read very many of the books. I know there is one that she dedicated to my sisters and me. Not sure which one that was. My father would take Beverly to task for claiming in her bio that his mother, our grandmother was Amish. More likely she was Mennonite, not Amish.

    Sounds like a lovely spot to vacation for your anniversary. Enjoyed all your photos.

    • That’s so interesting, Marcia! I will have to look for your cousin’s books at our library. I do want to read some novels set in Amish communities! We passed several Mennonite churches in the area, as well. Many of the photos were taken from the car window as we followed the buggies. I tried so hard to respect their privacy, since the Amish people do not want to be photographed. Visitors are welcome to photograph Amish things, but not the Amish people.

      While we enjoyed our anniversary dinner at a table with a view, a constant stream of buggies passed by. It was such a thrill for me to see all of the families heading for an Amish dinner and auction nearby! πŸ™‚ I knew that I couldn’t take any photos, but I will never forget that evening! Before our next visit to Arthur, we will definitely check their activity calendar. It would be such fun to experience a special event in town! Thanks for stopping to visit today, Marcia. Wishing you a wonderful Independence Day! Hope you will see lots of fireworks from your balcony! β™‘

  3. Thanks for the lovely photos of the area around Arthur, it’s one of my favorite places to visit and it’s been several years since I’ve been able to go down there. Rockome Gardens is gone now, it was a wonderful, quirky place with beautiful flower beds and odd little buildings made of old bottles and other odds and ends. Then there is Amish Swiss cheese, my absolute favorite and it’s been far too long since I’ve had any. I remember the first time I was driving to Arthur and all the Amish on their bicycles would lift a hand in greeting and returning the gesture would generally result in a smile, those driving the carriages would do the same. Such a simple thing it’s a shame more people don’t do it everywhere. I like the simplicity too. Modern society is so full of complex, attention commmanding things which really aren’t all that necessary to our well-being. Have a lovely summer.

    • Isn’t it a lovely area, Aquila? We passed the old Rockome Gardens site and could still see some of the stone structures there. It must have been so interesting in its heyday. It’s amazing just how much a friendly wave can mean! We felt so welcome every place we stopped to visit. Everyone was curious about where we traveled from and always shared wonderful travel suggestions. It felt like we had a personal, local trip planner at every stop along the way. We learned so much from each person we spoke with! Watch for a few more posts from Amish Country in the weeks to come. Simple, quiet beauty is such a blessing wherever we can find it! I’m trying to hold onto this special feeling for as long as possible. Happy Independence Day, Aquila! Wishing you nice Summer days! β™‘

  4. Dawn, I really enjoyed traveling with you to the Amish town of Arthur near you two! How wonderful to celebrate your anniversary in such a special way. Happy Anniversary to you both as you continue your lives together!
    The lifestyle of the Amish has always interested me. I have great respect for their quest to lead a simple life. I must admit on this really hot, humid day, I would greatly miss the convenience of air conditioning! Years ago we visited Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. You probably are familiar with its large Amish community. Thank you for sharing your lovely photographs of the beautiful horse and buggies and farms. The clouds are just strikingly beautiful.
    Your Annabelle Hydrangea is gorgeous along with the hostas in front of your beautiful picket fenced garden.
    Have a lovely Independence Day , dear one! β™₯

    • Heartfelt thanks for your sweet wishes, Martha Ellen! It was a perfect 10th Anniversary celebration. (Newlyweds forever!) So, it was especially interesting to learn about Amish wedding traditions during our visit. We would love to drive out to Lancaster County one day. I would love to hear all about the trip that you and Grayden took there. The clouds were ever-changing and just amazing the entire time. It was such a wonder that the rain stopped when we arrived in Arcola, since storms were predicted for our entire visit. We always had our rain gear ready, just in case. I’m so glad that we didn’t cancel our plans! Now that we have visited this area in the Summertime, we are planning for another visit in Autumn. We still have a long list of ‘must see’ places that the local people suggested. So, we must go back!

      Our garden is really flourishing now! Every morning I have been cutting big Annabelle bouquets to fill crocks and pitchers for the front porch. I must admit that it is one of my very favorite gardening tasks! πŸ™‚ Simple, quiet beauty… and so old-fashioned! πŸ™‚
      Wishing you and your family a very Happy Independence Day, too! Sending hugs across the miles! β™‘

  5. Hello Dear Dawn, what a lovely description of Amish country and their lifestyle. So many of us are trying to simplify our lives and get back to what is truly important. I never got to Amish country when I was in Nth America, but it strikes me the States is such a melting pot. Can’t help feeling the Amish have a lot to offer, especially right now with so much division between people. Such a contrast with their simple values. Wishing you a very happy Independence Day and big congratulations on your 10 year anniversary xox

    • It makes my heart swell, Vicky, whenever I spend time visiting an Amish community! I truly admire their strong work ethic, close family bonds, and their strong sense of community. I think that is why I fell in love with Amish quilts in my late 20s. Ever since, I have had several small Amish quilts hanging on my walls. Each time I stop to admire these beautiful, handmade quilts on my walls, I reflect upon simple, quiet times. I’m very grateful for these reminders, especially when times get busy, unsettled, and difficult to comprehend.

      America is a beautiful ‘patchwork quilt’ pieced together with immigrants from all parts of the world. We are still a very ‘young’ country (just 242 years old today!). We must learn from our mistakes as we grow. This is one of those very unsettled periods in our American story. We have the opportunity and responsibility to unite and work together for the greater good. It’s so important today to celebrate all that we hold dear ~ family, friends, and freedom! Independence Day has always been one of my very favorite holidays! Here’s to the red, white, and blue… and YOU! Thanks for visiting today Vicky! Can’t wait to hear more about your latest adventures! Wishing you sunny Winter days in New Zealand! Warmest hugs, my faraway friend! β™‘

      Amish quilts overflow with warm comfort and simple, quiet beauty. I’m certain that my love for piecing bits of colorful paper to create handmade cards is inspired by Amish quilts! Whenever I get together with my crafty ‘tribe’ for a whole day of papercrafting and friendship, it always has the feel of a contemporary ‘quilting bee.’ We are a group of talented women who have become good friends over the years as we create little works of ‘heart’ to bring comfort and joy to others.

      My home is decorated with simple antiques ~ oil lamps, stoneware crocks, washboards, kitchen tools, quilts, an Amish rocking chair, old wooden tables and other treasures. The Amish people use these things in their daily lives. For me, they are very useful reminders to slow down, notice the small moments in each day, and to reflect on the simple, quiet beauty all around me. Although I would never want to give up my individuality, world-travels, and all of the opportunities I have had to learn, grow, and make a difference, I have always respected and admired the Amish people… and all that I learn from visiting them!

  6. Dear Dawn, a post that takes me home! In Ohio I lived just 40 minutes from Holmes County. They boast the largest Amish community in the world. A few times I went to the Amish auction to purchase hay for my horses, just across the street from the famous Lehman’s Hardware Store, that has gone from a local hardware store for the Amish, filled with non-electric appliances to a major tourist attraction. Personally, I loved it best 35 years ago, before all the expansion. But the area is still lovely, with those same quiet farms. Lumber and furniture building are major Amish industries in the area. And the restaurants, run mostly by Mennonites…best food in the world!
    Jim and I always took a trip down through Amish country every time we were home. We never grew tired of visiting there!
    I think we all admire the simplicity of Amish life, and their β€œhands to work, heart to God” philosophy. And I think how wonderful that they don’t have to listen to the cacophony emanating from a television. But like Martha Ellen, I am not ready to give up air conditioning or my washer and dryer!
    Thanks for taking me home briefly! ❀️ And Happy 4th!

    • Oh, Chris! I just love hearing about your ‘Home Sweet Home’ days in Ohio! Thank you for telling us about the Amish community in Holmes County. I haven’t looked at a map yet, but I’m thinking that it might be a wonderful road trip ~ from Illinois, through Holmes County, and on to Lancaster County some day! πŸ™‚ So much to see and learn! Simplicity speaks to our hearts as our lives grow busier and more complicated. We have a sign hanging in our kitchen (just above the microwave πŸ™‚ ) reminding us to “Live Life Simply” each day!

      Chris, I thought of you when I turned our calendar page to July. Now you can cross one more month off your work calendar! It won’t be long now, my friend! Freedom is just around the corner! πŸ™‚ Hugs for you, Jim, and your mom on this Independence Day! It’s going to be hot and sticky here. I’m sure it’s even hotter in West Texas. Have a fun celebration! β™‘

  7. This was such a lovely post to read the morning of Independence Day, Dawn. Truly, Dawn’s early light in my case.:)
    While I pass through Amish settlements in northwestern Wisconsin, we’ve not visit Arcola and the surrounding area. After reading your words and seeing you photos (which are lovely), I will make a point of visiting the Amish area, Dawn. Happy and safe 4th of July!
    PS – We wil be having dill pickles today from Amish.

    • So sweet, Penny! We gardeners just love the dawn’s early light! πŸ™‚ You would love meandering down the country roads in this area. We stayed in Arcola and really enjoyed it. There were definitely more Amish buggies in Arthur. The road between the two towns is a lovely drive. It’s so interesting to see the Amish farmsteads up close. GPS will be your best friend! The tall cornfields stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions and the country roads have an unfamiliar numbering system. We would have been driving in circles without GPS. It’s not very far, just thirty minutes south of Urbana. Truly the kindest, friendliest people welcome all the visitors that come to Central Illinois. I’ll write more about some of the ‘hidden gems’ we discovered. We can’t wait to head back again! There are still many interesting things we haven’t seen in Arthur, Arcola, Tuscola, and the surrounding small towns. It was so nice to spend time in the heartland as our American birthday celebration approached. What fun to serve Amish pickles on this holiday! Wishing you and your family a delightful Independence Day, Penny! Keep cool! It’s going to be a hot one! β™‘
      P.S. Looking forward to the Garden Faire & Walk! πŸ™‚

  8. Your post made me nostalgic! I used to live in Amish country, in northern Michigan, before we moved to Houston. I miss shopping at their bulk food stores–with organic fruit, home made treats, and really good prices!

    • Oh, Bethany! You have such nice memories of living in Amish country! I’m so happy that you shared them with us today. What a big change it must have been to adjust to life in a big city like Houston. Whenever I think about the special ‘clip clop’ sound of the Amish buggies, it always helps me relax and slow down a bit. Thank you so much for stopping to visit today and sharing your memories with all of us, Bethany! Wishing you happy summer days! β™‘

  9. Dawn, in the 90s I became so engrossed with the Amish, their beliefs and lifestyle, that we visited their communities in PA, OH, and IN. I loved going off the beaten track and stopping at their farm stands. I also read just about every book our library had about them, and even subscribed to their monthly magazines for a year. They are terrific story tellers. One fiction book I highly recommend is Rosanna of the Amish by Joseph Yoder. It is an old book (1940). I also loved Sue Bender’s books about her time spent with the Amish. You did a lovely, accurate account of them in your post. We are only 2 hours from the Lancaster PA Amish, but it has become a tourist attraction and I do not recommend it except for the museums about the Amish history and lifestyle.

    • Many thanks, Cathy, for your kind words! I’m so grateful that you shared your favorite Amish book title. I will try to find it and also Sue Bender’s books. πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing your impressions of the Lancaster area, too. I’m very sorry to learn that it has become so tourist-y there. Several times I have visited the Shipshewana Amish community, in LaGrange County, Indiana. On our visit last Fall, we spent an afternoon at the Menno-Hof Amish/Mennonite Information Center. It was just fascinating to learn about the Anabaptists who arrived from Europe and the differences in the Amish and Mennonite faiths and lifestyles. It really surprised us to see all of the wonderful multi-media displays there. The volunteers at Menno-Hof took so much time to answer all of our questions. We all agreed that it was a very nice experience! I’m so drawn to learn more about the Amish and look forward to visiting more Amish communities. We will definitely visit the Illinois Amish communities of Arthur and Arcola again! So much to see and learn there! Thank you so much for being here, Cathy. I always learn something new from you! Wishing you nice summer days in your garden! Happy weekend! β™‘

  10. I’m so sorry I missed this. It was lovely to follow you down those roads. I too love the idea of a simple life. Probably not that simple though. My phone goes with me everywhere, though I rarely am on it. Mostly for health reasons. There seem to be fewer and fewer of the Amish left. All this glitz and glamour we embrace lures the young away. I miss so many things about the Midwest and mostly never getting to see Amish country first hand. I appreciate riding in your back seat. Lunch with a view is perfect. Was the food just divine? πŸ™‚ Thank you from this armchair traveler. Hugs, Marlene

    • Marlene, I try to carry the ‘clip-clop’ sound of the Amish buggies in my heart always. β™₯ It’s an important reminder to slow down and try to be present in the moment. I am in the habit of carrying my phone, too, but I mainly use it to take photos. πŸ™‚ We truly loved our days in Amish Country and can’t wait to return. Wouldn’t it be lovely in the Fall? I long to see the quilts airing on the clotheslines as we pass the Amish farmhouses.

      The food was hearty fare, perfect for hardworking farm families. (It might even remind you of German food.) Imagine mashed potatoes, topped with noodles, and gravy! My husband said it was yummy. I ordered salads and grilled chicken, rather than the traditional Amish specialties. The baked goods looked so tempting! I sampled their honey and apple butter. Mmmmm! On our next visit, we’d like to make reservations for dinner in an Amish family’s home. It’s the perfect way to learn more about their simple, quiet way of life. Amish people are very friendly and willing to answer questions from visitors. They would love to speak German with you, Marlene! Do come along with us on upcoming posts! I can’t wait to share some of the ‘hidden gems’ we discovered in Amish Country. πŸ™‚ You are such a fun backseat passenger, Marlene! Thanks for being here today! β™‘

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