With a population of about a quarter million within the U.S., the Amish are a protestant group descended from European Anabaptists who immigrated to the USA in the 1700s to escape persecution. If you’ve ever spent time in or driven through rural parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and other states, you’ve probably come across members of the Amish community. From driving a horse and buggy to making wooden furniture, their community and their lifestyle are still going strong in 28 states across the country.
The Amish are an interesting American subculture for a wide variety of reasons. Specifically, how they manage to live their lives without electricity in modern society. According to the BBC, the Amish “only avoid technology where it might damage the community, not because they are Luddites or think technology is inherently evil.” They’ve honed this off-grid lifestyle to a tee, and as you’ll see, we’re covering specific elements of the Amish lifestyle that can be applied to our lives when we experience power outages.
Living in northern states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Amish face the reality of harsh winters every year. That’s why they are experts in knowing how to keep their homes warm despite not using the electrical grid. For sources of heat, the Amish use…
- Fireplaces: Amish families will spend many evenings gathered around cozy fireplaces in their homes, engaging in conversation, playing games, and being together.
- Wood-burning stoves: According to Amish Furniture Factory, “When homes are first being built in Amish communities, they will typically build the stove in the center of the house where it will provide the greatest amount of heat. In addition to generating heat, wood-burning stoves are also used to cook food and meals with, which is just another benefit associated with their use.”
- Coal furnaces: Because coal supplies can be minimal during winter months, coal furnaces aren’t as common in Amish households. However, some do have coal furnaces, which are powered by lumps of coal thrown into a large fire pit. The coals tend to stay fire-hot for a longer period of time than wood, and are an effective way to heat a home and keep people warm.
Lighting their homes
Lighting is such a basic resource in our modern world that it’s often one of the first things we take for granted. But when your world is plunged into darkness after hackers have taken down the electrical grid or a winter storm has knocked out power for days, it’s one of the things you’ll miss the most.
From cooking meals to conducting first aid, we need light to survive. The Amish have several methods to light their homes, such as…
- Natural and propane gas lamps: These are the most common lighting solutions used in Amish households today.
- Oil lamps: The classic teardrop glass wick kerosene lamps give off a warm, soothing glow and are common in the more traditional, old-fashioned Amish households.
- Battery-powered lights: Stationary and portable battery-powered solutions are also common. For example, an Amish person may use a flashlight or LED headlamp when doing something outside at night. Solar power is an additional alternative to battery-powered lights, such as our 9-in-1 Multi-Function LED Solar Rechargeable Flashlight.
Keeping your clothes and sheets clean, even when the power goes out, is important when it comes to maintaining good health and hygiene. Today, many Amish people use gas and propane-powered generators to do their laundry. However, in the past they would use more manual methods such as a washboard, basin, and wringer, and subsequently hanging their clothes to dry. Investing in one or two of these backup options is a good call.
Growing food and cooking meals
Though the Amish do buy store-bought foods and eat out at restaurants, they grow a lot of their own food. According to Amish America, “Nearly all Amish homes have a sizable garden, tended by the woman of the home with help from her children. Sweet corn, celery, beets, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, and a wide variety of other vegetables are grown in the typical Amish garden.” Many also raise livestock (such as chickens and pigs) and can and preserve their food, and each member of the community specializes in a specific part of the farming and growing process. When it comes time to cook their meals, they use both gas-powered generators and wood-burning stoves.
If you have the space and ability to create a garden at home, consider doing so. Even if you live in urban environments, it’s entirely possible to grow your own food at home. For example, check out our Organic Urban Garden Seed Kit to get started. Be sure to can and preserve the food you grow for the winter months as well--you never know when you’ll need a backup supply of nonperishable food.
Developing handy skills
Living in the modern world without electricity is a lot of work. Fortunately, the Amish are known for their ingenuity and work ethic. They’re also a frugal group, and if they can make or barter for an item instead of buying it, they will. Most members of the community invest the time and energy to learn handy skills such as carpentry and sewing.
These skill sets are a dying breed in our modern world, and many of us are reliant upon electricity and access to goods made by others and sold at stores or online. But in the blink of an eye, we can lose access to these valuable resources. Taking the time to learn basic skills such as plumbing, sewing, carpentry, canning, and other crafts that the Amish are experts in will prove to be valuable in more ways than one.
Additionally, the Amish take excellent care of their tools so they can last as long as possible. Shovels, hammers, and axes are kept in pristine condition, never left out in the rain and stored away safely after use. When stocking up on tools like a Camp Axe, be sure to take care of them so they won’t rust or break.
Supporting the community
Community is central to the Amish beliefs and way of life. Individualism is avoided, and the Amish don’t accept state benefits or insurance. Instead, they rely on community support, bartering, recycling, and other sustainable communal efforts. In our own lives, we could benefit from strengthening community bonds with our family, friends, and neighbors. When disaster strikes, trying to survive on your own is a lot harder than coming together and helping each other.
Though you may not see your lifestyle right now as similar to those of the Amish, it’s valuable to take the time to learn from them. The electric grid is more precarious than many people may think, and therefore, understanding the alternatives we have at our disposal is important.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply