Clare County sprawls over a lot of real estate smack in central Michigan. The largest community is a three-church district ultra-conservative Swarteztruber Amish settlement which spreads out over the gravel roads east of Clare. The Swartzentrubers live quietly, plainly….they don’t have indoor plumbing, most collect rainwater for gardening and other tasks (a tough thing to do during these drought summers). You can learn more about the Swartzentrubers in our award-winning documentary – Inside the Swarztentruber sect which you can buy or rent from Amazon.com These are some church benches stacked on a front porch as this family prepared for upcoming services. Most everything about the Swartzentrubers is plainer than the average Amish. Even the church benches are rough, not like the polished versions of their more progressive brethren. Turns out this home belonged to the brother of some Swartzentruber Amish friends of mine back in Ohio. So immediately we knew people in common and laughed about how his brother is going to think I just “pop up anywhere.” That’s one of the endearing traits of the Swartzentruber and Old Order Amish is that they were the original “social network.” Who needs Facebook? Because the group is relatively small still, everyone always knows someone who knows someone that you know.
And there’s always something interesting to see in Swartzentruber Amish country. At one home I was visiting I spotted not one, but two, buggies being pulled by the same horse. The first buggy had an occupant, but the second buggy was empty and just trailing along. Turns out the man was picking up his buggy from the repair shop. SIGH, I guess that is one thing that doesn’t change, even the Amish have to visit the mechanic. And this is how one gets a buggy from place to place. Here is the “double buggy” as it pulls into their driveway, it was quite the site on the road!
Central Michigan’s drought hasn’t been as pronounced as the much of the rest of the Midwest’s. Gardens I passed in this Swartzentruber settlement were full and bursting with plenty of melons, cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, and a bevy of other bounty. Take a look at these melons harvested from one of the gardens. And while we are at it, take a look at the whole garden. A teenage girl at the house explained to me that her parents and all of her siblings water the garden almost daily and that has helped ward off drought.