THE AMISH COOK
BY LOVINA EICHER
I almost don't know where to begin with this column. It seems so long ago since last Monday.
Wednesday morning was nice and sunny, so we had no hint the day would take a bad turn. Daughter Susan decided to mow the grass while I had took some beef bones out of the freezer to cook. Daughter Elizabeth was washing the dishes. I also had taken everything out of the refrigerator and freezer so I could defrost it. All seemed normal until we heard the smoke alarm go off upstairs. Lately quite a few of our smoke alarms would beep a lot which is a sign to change the batteries. When the alarm went off Elizabeth said “sounds like another one has a dead battery.” I told her to go upstairs and check to make sure there was nothing wrong. She took the broom along so she could reach up to shut it off. She walked into the boys bedroom and saw smoke. Looking back at the closet she saw flames leaping up at the boys clothes and yelled “fire!”
I ran to the back porch to find the fire extinguisher and couldn't find it while Susan and Elizabeth got buckets of water. I later saw the extinguisher right where it usually is, I think I panicked too much to think clearly. We then called 911, while Elizabeth ran over to our neighbor's to ask for his fire extinguisher. But by the time she returned the bedroom was so thick with smoke that she could not see. Then the door blew shut before they could enter the bedroom (which probably kept the fire from spreading). We heard glass cracking and shattering which we found out later was the windows bursting from the heat of the flames. I told the girls “Let's get out of the house, it's not worth risking our lives.” I did remember to run out and shut off the propane tanks. A person feels so helpless when you see so much smoke pouring out of the windows not knowing how much, if anything, will be left. I had someone call Joe at work to have him come home but he said the 40 minute ride seemed to take forever. Once the fire department had the fire out and the smoke aired out a bit we could go in and see the damage. The boys bedroom was damaged with a lot of smoke and water, they lost everything. We felt very thankful, though, that our house was still standing. And most of all that this didn't happen during the night when the boys would have been sleeping in there. We had to throw away all the boys furniture and their clothes, shoes and all of their toys were destroyed. I did keep back the cedar chest that Mom and Dad gave me one Christmas before I was married. I am going to see if I clean it up good enough to keep. It was in the boys room. Lovina and Kevin shared a hallway closet beside the boys room, so Kevin's shoes were lost and all of Lovina's toys as well. We could save Kevin's shirts and Lovina's dresses hanging in their closet. Sister Emma washed them but they still do have a smoke smell which I hope will disappear after a few washes. What discourages me is not knowing what actually caused the fire. It started in the boys' closet and all we can think of is it might have been toys with batteries but we will probably never know.
I know around a month ago I found a flashlight in their bedroom which had been left on. When I picked it up it was very hot. I opened the lid to check the batteries and smoke came out from the inside of the flashlight. I discarded everything but maybe the same batteries were in something else.
The first two nights after the fire we didn't sleep at our house. Joe and I and some of the children slept at Elizabeth friend's Timothy's house and the rest went to Jacob and Emma. We have torn off the dry wall and have cleaned up a little already. The fire had spread to the attic and roof, so there is damage there and smoke and water damage throughout the house. Parts of our kitchen ceiling fell in. The fire department said if they had arrived just 3 minutes later, the house would have been a total loss. Tomorrow the carpenters from our church district will come and fix it all up.
For now the boys are sleeping on the couches and in the living room. I don't think they like the idea of when they will have to sleep in that room again. Still scary to them knowing the fire started in their closet. We appreciate all the meals brought in and all the help and I want to thank readers who have donated. It helps so much. Emma did laundry for 3 days and our neighbor Lila took a lot of bedding home to wash.
All of the girls clothes had to also be washed to help get the smoke smell out. After all the rebuilding is done the church women want to come help clean up all the mess.
Meanwhile, we can at least focus on our garden and it's bounty. This is asparagus season, try this recipe!
ASPARAGUS PEANUT BAKE
4 cups fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 /2 cup peanuts crushed
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 /2 stick butter or margarine
Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp. Arrange layers of asparagus, soup, peanuts, and cheese in a greased casserole. Season with salt and pepper and dot with butter. Bake at 350 until 30 minutes or until heated through and done.
EDITOR'S NOTES: Battery-powered items are not uncommon in Amish homes, even the most conservative ones. The issue with the Amish is often not "electricity" itself but "the grid." Battery-powered items allow the Amish to "cherry pick" certain conveniences without compromising their overall principles. Lovina appreciates all the reader generosity in the wake of the fire. The church is pitching in a lot, but a lot of the children's items need replacing. Click here to see some pictures of the Eicher boys' charred bedroom. There is not a formal "fire fund", but we are routing reader support through The Amish Cook Friend Club. Join and donate here. Make a note if you don't want any of the Friend Club rewards and please enter your address because I know Lovina will want to send thank you notes individually.