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Thread: AIB - It's all Good - Real "Amish" Experience - Barn raising

  1. #1
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    AIB - It's all Good - Real "Amish" Experience - Barn raising

    Not really sure where to put this, but figure since I mentioned in teh Its good thread that i'd post the pics here.

    Here is the story I sent out to friends

    Just thought I'd share this neat experience I had yesterday, it was pretty
    much a once in a lifetime thing. I was invited to and helped with a
    Mennonite Barn raising.

    When I got there the beams and everything were laid out and ready to go.
    The entire community from that area was there, 50 or so men, 30 or so kids
    and a few women. We started at 8:00 am and by 2:00PM when I left it looked
    like a barn.

    It was a day of hard physical labour, today muscles ache that I forgot
    exist. This family/community is really old order, the only power tools on
    site were a few chainsaws. The beams and posts were all raised by hand and
    pegged with hand made wooden spikes. One of my jobs was a post man, that
    means that I helped to lift the posts and beams into place, they really like
    having a tall person to help and hold things up instead of having to use
    "spikes and poles". My other jobs included head nail puller, basically
    supervising 8-10 year olds pull nails to recycle boards and I was also a
    board / strapping fetcher - taking boards to where they where needed. Got to
    ride in a real Mennonite buggy and everything.

    The only disappointment of the day was lunch. Everyone said how great it
    would be, and it wasn't. Lunch was scallop potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw
    and pickled beets. The potatoes and beans were basically a mush. The best
    things were the pies and fruit.



    Last edited by donk; 05 Aug 2004 at 9:29 PM. Reason: to add a bit of humour
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  2. #2
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Wow, sounds like a pretty amazing thing to be involved in. Did you feel like you'd gone back in time??

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Do most building codes permit that type of construction?
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    In MI agricultural outbuildings do not require building permits - not sure if that is the same everywhere.

    What a great experience! How were you able to be involved? There are a lot of amish around here, and you will see them out every once in a while, but they don't integrate at all.

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    This is too interesting to go without some elaboration for the rest of us. How is it you came to be invited to this project? Do you know or have much occasion to associate with Old Order Amish very often?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Super Long winded answer

    To answer the questions, sorry it is a bit disjointed

    Building code. The National Building Code of Canada (and to a lesser extent the Ontario Code) are typically silent on the construction of barns. Technically they are supposed to be engineered as they a fall outside of the primary code sections.(Part 9 is the Section I seem to remember, plus they are subject to their own code here) That being said, the code also allows a building inspector to forgo engineering stamps and approvals if in his opinion the construction techniques have demonstrated proof of meeting code. I guess mortise and tenon 10 by 10's can do that.

    Technically the people I've been dealing with are Mennonites, not Amish, but because of our affection for the Amish here I thought it would be eye grabbing. Right now I am dealing with three sets of applications for members of various communities. This area is starting to be populated by them as they sell their land in Southern communities and look to move one to places where they can live as they want to. I am learning quite a bit about them, as each of the groups in our area are distinct from one another, even though they are all "old order Mennonites".

    To get the invite I was a bit pushy, I asked and because they are so polite/non confrontational they would never say no.(one of the reasons they made me pull nails with teh kids was to put me in my place in a polite sort of way and to see how good natured I was) I met this group because the addition to the barn needed a variance in setback from a road. When they came in to do the application I felt about 1 inch tall as I made them take a bus to our office(35km), they were going to take a cab home, so I drove them (did the site visit at the same time). I now know how they sound on the phone, plus the operator coming on the line instructing them to deposit 25 cents makes it really obvious, so this won't happen again.

    One of the reasons I thought it would be good for me to do (other than fun factor) was to meet the members of a community that I will be having dealings with, in an environment that they are comfortable. I spoke to 10-15 people about what I do and their concerns (land division, nutrient management etc), good PR for me and the Department.

    Oddities

    Even though 2 groups live less than 5 miles apart, they have no interaction and don't know eachother.

    Mennonites are really factional, the ones that I helped build the barn with have no power or power tools(except for the chainsaws) another group I am dealing with has everything but cars, including computers (but no internet).

    Most decisions they make are communal and done by public secret ballots. We asked how and they told us one decision was done by a show of hands with eyes closed and heads bowed.

    Not looking forward to one report I have to do reccomending against them, then I'll be the scourge of the earth.

    if you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I'll also post more pics when I get them developed.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I think I will now HAVE TO ASK a good friend of mine if her stint in the Mennonite church had her involved in any barn raisings. I had never thought about that possibility.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Wow... that must have been an amazing experience. And that's cool that you got to know them a bit. Hopefully that wasn't the barn that needed a variance.


    Off-topic:
    Hey this gives me a party idea... I think when we get around to building the bar, that maybe we can have a 'bar raising'. Invite all of our friends to raise the bar and then put it to good use.

    I know, sacrilegious of me... considering the Mennonite thread.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    These people don't eat meat??? You got cole slaw and beets? yech...

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Another long answer

    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    These people don't eat meat??? You got cole slaw and beets? yech...
    Most of them are hog farmers. I typically don't eat pork so I missed out on the meat part of the meal. But considering that they were not eating the sausage that was on the table I must not have been missing much. I like pickled beets.

    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    Hopefully that wasn't the barn that needed a variance
    Yes this barn was the one that required the variance. It was granted after some grandstanding by the local politicos re: Minimum Distance Separation being sacred. On the bar raising, make everyone bring something to stock it, just make sure that not much is consummed during construction or things won't be square and level.

    Quote Originally posted by michele zone
    if her stint in the Mennonite church had her involved in any barn raisings.
    On the women, they made lunch and watched the kids, they did not help with construction. They served us lunch then ate after we were done. Even the children were segregated, the young boys pulled nails with me and the young girls pulled nails on the other side of the barn. Looking at teh number of kids there, there were not many women around, they were probably at home looking after babies and making dinner. (Sexist statement, but probably true)

    One other neat thing, one of the neighbours brought a pail of ice cream for the kids, you should have seen their faces. After my recent relationship, this expereince refinforced that sometimes simple and relatively inexpensive things done with love and no ulterior motives can be better than things that cost tonnes of money and are done selfishly.

    For all of you that have been on construction sites, the lack of cursing and the rythmic sound of hammers was interesting. No Beeps from backing up vehicles or other mechanical sounds, just the odd chain saw when they were cutting things off. Even with the chainsaws, most things were cut by hand. On the cursing they were speaking there pidgin of german / english so they could have been cursing, but the tones did not indicate that.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by donk
    On the women, they made lunch and watched the kids, they did not help with construction. They served us lunch then ate after we were done. Even the children were segregated, the young boys pulled nails with me and the young girls pulled nails on the other side of the barn. Looking at teh number of kids there, there were not many women around, they were probably at home looking after babies and making dinner. (Sexist statement, but probably true)
    Oh, I didn't mean to imply that she would have helped construct it. I know they are a completely sexist group. She has described the clothes to me and sent me a pic of her in it. She no longer has hair down to her butt and I cannot imagine women doing any woodwork with the dresses and stuff they have to wear. I just had never thought about the cultural stuff. She is such a hoot to talk to. Her stories are always funny and I think if she has been to a barn raising, her comments would be another view of it -- with own unique humorous twist on things.
    One other neat thing, one of the neighbours brought a pail of ice cream for the kids, you should have seen their faces. After my recent relationship, this expereince refinforced that sometimes simple and relatively inexpensive things done with love and no ulterior motives can be better than things that cost tonnes of money and are done selfishly.
    That kind of sums up how I managed to raise my kids -- who utterly adore me. We didn't have money when they were little. But they always had me. It seems to have been "enough".
    For all of you that have been on construction sites, the lack of cursing and the rythmic sound of hammers was interesting. No Beeps from backing up vehicles or other mechanical sounds, just the odd chain saw when they were cutting things off. Even with the chainsaws, most things were cut by hand. On the cursing they were speaking there pidgin of german / english so they could have been cursing, but the tones did not indicate that.
    It sounds peaceful. I still exclaim in German sometimes. I think I have a real feel for the scene, from your description.

  12. #12
          Downtown's avatar
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    Donk - I'm really enjoying this thread.

    Only Kind of Off Topic - has anyone been watching "Amish in the City"?

    Surprisingly good, what I've seen.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Looks like a really great time Donk. I know it sounds cliche, but there are few things as satisfying as a hard day of working with your hands and being able to see the physical results of your labor.


    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Oh, I didn't mean to imply that she would have helped construct it. I know they are a completely sexist group. She has described the clothes to me and sent me a pic of her in it. She no longer has hair down to her butt and I cannot imagine women doing any woodwork with the dresses and stuff they have to wear. I just had never thought about the cultural stuff. She is such a hoot to talk to. Her stories are always funny and I think if she has been to a barn raising, her comments would be another view of it -- with own unique humorous twist on things.
    There is a Mennonite community nearby my home town and it was amazing just how sexist the culture was. I think they made it a point to make the woman look as unattractive as they possibly could with the large frumpy shirts, ankle length skirts and long hair in a bun. And unlike the men, the woman of that community were not allowed to drive either.

    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    It sounds peaceful. I still exclaim in German sometimes. I think I have a real feel for the scene, from your description.
    German is a great language to swear in. All of those guttural sounds are downright thereputic.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    As promised, here are a few more pics. I think my favourites of all of them are the horses and the kids on the dirt pile (in original post).

    My coworker noticed something, that I wish I 'd gotten a picture of, the parking lot and all of the buggies and horses tied up.








    Poor shot, my 2x adapter seems to make things hazy without a tripod.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Did they invite you to stay to witness their legendary Amish rake fights?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails amishrake.jpg  
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #16

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    I am quite concerned about Donk.

    First, he is Canadistanni, which is worrisome enough.

    Now he is consorting with the agents of AOG. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    http://www.geocities.com/beaver_militia/recon.html


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