I begrudgingly agreed to my husband’s farm fantasy. I don’t know how it happened, really. We stopped in to look at a farm one day, and as luck would have it, it was one of those magical autumn days in Ohio. As we drove through the gates, rather than seeing steaming piles of God-knows-what, I saw rolling, grassy, well-manicured hills, horses frolicking about. The air was crisp and cool. The sun shimmered on the yellow and orange leaves of the trees. It was breathtaking. It really was.
“Ok,” I thought. “You’ve got my attention.”
A four wheeler tour of the property, a glass wine and an al fresco lunch of locally raised pork with salad greens right from the garden … some bids, and counter bids and … boom! We were farm owners. Well, weekend farm owners, really. Because we wanted to stay married and, like I've mentioned before, I'm not Amish, we kept our suburban house. This farm fantasy would only work because we invested in a self sufficient, well run business. We would visit the property on the weekends and such. Like posers, you know.
So, just as I was entering a crossroads in my life, ready to clean out junk drawers in my kitchen and maybe find my "Calling" in there, I found myself building a farm house. My husband, Farmer Brown and I are both from very large families. This adventure would only be fun if we had playmates, so we decided to make room for them by building a house that could hold a sizable group of folks for dinner. (And, ok, a lot of beds because our friends and family like wine and it’s kind of drive to get there.) We interviewed various builders of all stripes and in the end, we chose the Amish guy. Not because he was the cheapest, but quite frankly, because the guy had swagger. He didn’t have zippers or a belt, but he had swagger.
The Amish, guy was actually one of a dynamic duo of brothers. I’ll call them Levi and Uriah because all Amish men are named either Levi or Uriah*. I didn’t know much about the ins and outs of the Amish lifestyle before this, but I was expecting much more quaint, country bumpkin fellows. Not at all the case, as it turns out. Tall, lanky and bearded, Levi was the father of 9 boys. I’m one of 9, so we had some simpatico. Uriah, (“Uri”) was the office guy, very efficient at showing samples of beautiful wood, going over blueprints and roofing materials and closing the deal. Only his bowl haircut gave a hint that he was Amish. I was kind of like, “Are you putting me on? Are you really Amish or is there a Jag out back and scotch in your bottom drawer?” He was legit, though.
Levi was the day-to-day on site guy. He had his own driver, thank you very much, a fine “English” man who drove him anywhere he needed to go because the Amish don’t drive cars. When he would arrive for our weekly meetings he’d amble out of the truck like an underdressed rock star and saunter over to me, a toothpick in his mouth. He had a glint in his eye that said, “Yeah, I’m rocking these overalls and straw hat, lady.” And he did. A handsome devil, I have to say. Not exactly Harrison Ford in “Witness,” but kind of an Amish Michael Keaton, if that makes any sense.
So Levi doesn’t drive, but he and Uri do both use email and cell phones. When I discovered this, I got excited.
"Oh," I said, "Can I share my Pinterest account with you to give you an idea of what we're thinking about?"
Silence. Farmer Brown looked at me askance, shaking his head.
"No? … Ok, I guess I just ... never mind."
Hard to know the rules here. In fact, later on in the project when I visited the Amish cabinetmaker they referred me to in the remote back hills of Ohio (surely a cousin, because the Amish are like the Irish that way, keeping things in the family), the office was in a barn with a gaslight hanging from the ceiling, no air conditioning in 100-degree heat … and a desktop computer. What the?
Anyway, I got comfortable with Levi after a few weeks. When things looked like they were slowing down, I’d playfully punch him in the shoulder … “We’re going to be in by Thanksgiving, right, Levi?”
“Oh yeah, Miss Mary, we’ll be done by then” he would cockily reply.
I liked the guy so I hoped he wasn’t lying because Farmer Brown, an entrepreneur who doesn’t take BS from anyone, not even a handsome Amish building magnate, had a stopwatch going, and had pulled Levi aside at the beginning of the project, warning him, “I know that all contractors have larceny in their hearts.” Good one, right? “I want you to assure me that this house will be finished and we will be in by Thanksgiving.” Game on, Levi. One bearded man against another. Farmer Brown was clearly not intimidated by that straw hat.
Uri and Levi were true to their word and, with a flurry of silent, hardworking, task-driven Amish craftsmen descending on the property, they had that darned house built in 8 month’s time. We were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, right on schedule.
It was all set to be a picture perfect holiday in our new farmhouse … until I sent my daughters on a drug run from the dinner table. But that’s another story.
* I hope I’m not offending anyone here … but my Amish friends aren’t allowed on the Facebook and blogs are they? If you’re Amish and cheating … tsk, tsk!