Being Neighbors

Lulu and Fanny at the salt lick

This morning Jon and I stopped by the Miller’s house to see if I could get some help skirting my wool next week.

I always talk to Barbara when I need some help on the farm.  She knows all the kids schedules, who might be available and when.

The kids will be picking vegetables in the morning, but they could help me after that she said.  Their morning starts earlier than mine.  They’ll already have done a morning’s worth of work by the time they get to our house at 8:30 am.

We were about to leave when Moise asked Jon if he knew how to paint a sign for their farm stand.  Jon told him they could put a sign on our property a while ago.  They’re just getting around to it.   Moise already had the piece of plywood primed but wanted advice on the lettering.

Before I knew it I was on the front porch of the Miller’s house figuring out the spacing for the letters on the sign.  I told Mosie what the measurements should be and he marked them off. Then, with a red marker, I drew the letters that Barbara(the daughter, not the mother) would paint later.

We made two signs this way.

I was aware of how non-judgemental Moise was.  He didn’t comment on the mistakes except to say they looked fine and made sure I had everything I needed to do the work.  I wouldn’t have expected that.

Halfway through Sarah, who helped me spread gravel in the barn last year,  came out of the house and handed me a jar of sweet pickles.

Two of the younger granddaughters were on the porch as we worked.

Once again I was struck by how they got right in the middle of things and wanted to see what was going on.  No one told them to get out of the way or be careful on the porch with no railing.  When one of them sat on the sign when Moise was drawing the lines for the lettering, he asked gently her not to shake the sign when she sat on it.

Then I watched as she traced her fingers over the letters and repeated the words “Farm Stand”.

I can see that this is how they learn.  By watching and doing what the people around them are doing and imitating it.

I think also because, being Amish, they don’t have readymade forms of entertainment, they have to make their own.   It’s not as if they’re choosing to watch me paint a sign over playing a video game or watching TV.

I finished drawing out the letters on the sign, then answered the questions Barbara had about painting them.

Jon had left earlier to bring the groceries home and wasn’t back yet.  But our neighbors live in walking distance of our house.  Moise offered to drive me home. It would have been fun to ride in one of their horse-drawn carriages, but I enjoy walking even if it is along Route 22.

So I took off my shoes and headed down the road.

In this weather, the Amish kids walk around barefoot all the time.  I used to too. When I was a teenager, I’d walk to and home from school and work barefoot on the cement sidewalks. Sometimes reading a book at the same time.

It was still early enough in the day that the blacktop was warm not hot.

It surprises me how comfortable I feel around my neighbors, especially the women and kids. In some ways they are so different, yet there are ways we connect.  And today I was completely comfortable around Moise too.  We worked well together, each doing our part equally.

Moise told Jon they wouldn’t charge me when the girls came to help me skirt the wool next week.  But Jon knows as well as I do, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable not paying them.

I got a jar of sweet pickles for helping out the Miller’s today. And I know they will there if I need help. That’s enough.

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