Before my stay in Lancaster County I assumed the food would be homemade, but it was not until I actually experienced their daily life first hand did I realize how sustainable their lifestyle truly is.  During my six days with my family I do not remember taking out the kitchen trash one time whereas it occurs almost daily or every other day at my own home.  Instead during my time we filled a small slop bucket multiple times, emptying it into a pile or feeding it to the pigs.  Additionally, one morning I crushed egg shells with a rolling pan to put in flower pots for added nutrients.  Banana peels were also used for the rose bushes.  Most of our meals depended on what was available to the family whether grown in the garden, provided by their married siblings (such as one of the older boys produce or the milk directly from the dairy their son now operate), extras brought home from market, or whipped up from scratch via the bulk products like sugar and flour in the home.

The farm I stayed at also operates as organic. Pesticides were not used meaning that twice during my visit I went through rows of potato plants removing the hard shelled white bugs (once drowning them in cans of chemicals and the other time squashing them with sticks) and their juicy brown young and smushing their nest of eggs between the plant leaves.  Organic also meant that the cows on the farm were grass fed and given all natural feed in their troughs.

My homemade experience is epitomized in the day I made seven gallons of “media tea.”

Wednesday May 28, 2014- Making Tea
On Wednesday morning, I was sent out into the garden to pick a variety of tea leaves.  My Amish host mother in Lancaster County wanted to spend the day making tea, particularly for a brother who was going to host the School Committee Meeting of five representatives who reported to Harrisburg earlier that spring.
I set out into the large garden in front of the house, following behind Barbara (the 27 year-old daughter).  We walked along the side row where patches of herbs were growing.  She pointed out the three different types of plants used for the “Meda Tea;” spearmint, peppermint, and woolly.

 (see the  reddish stems?)

 During the course of the morning I went out with scissors and cut four dish tubs full of the herbs. Each time I brought in the tubs I would wash the mint in the drinking water, squeezing the leaves to wring out the dirt. Then, I would lay the mint in the dish drying rack to dry off. My host mother then filled 13 quart kettles with water, brought the water to a boil, and then put in the herbs. The mix was two fistfuls consisting mostly of spearmint (the largest of their herb patches) and then some woolly and peppermint to taste.  The timer was set for 3 minutes and would take out the plants.  When this mixture was complete we funneled the tea into glass jars and set them out on the table to cooler before bringing them to the cooler (if the hot tea went directly into the cooler the jars would shatter). We made 7 gallons of tea and then dried the rest up in the attic by placing the stalks on old window screens draped across the laundry drying rack.

Here are some pictures of our process:

Tea drying and jugs ready to be filled
Filling the jugs
The pot of brewed tea
Some completed jugs

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