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I studied Amish lifestyle for several months in the spring of '96 as a possible model for building an intentional community. Oddly enough, the best place I've found for learning about the Amish is the internet. Many Amish groups maintain an office in town for contact with the outside world, and some of these have setup web pages to promote their lifestyle and prevent misunderstandings with the public. (The perception of the Amish as a Waco type group is certainly possible and to be avoided at all cost.)

There was an article (in Fine Homebuilding, if I recall) in which a man who owned an ancient dilapidated Amish barn had decided to tear it down for the timbers. First, it's interesting to note that after 150 years the timbers were still in excellent condition because the siding was still intact. Not sure what type of tech is involved here, but we would be hard pressed to duplicate this today, and certainly not 150 years ago. Once he got the siding and roofing off, he had to remove all the wooden pegs that held the beams together (time consuming but not hard). At this point he discovered that he still could not disassemble the frame because the joinery was so close in tolerance that the pegs were quite unnecessary. In the end, what he thought was a 3 week project turned out to be an 11 week project and the man has sworn never to mess with demolish an Amish building again. He took the post-beam-peg construction style and formed a company that uses similar techniques and modern materials to manufacture buildings that are completely open, an Amish trademark. They usually have no supporting columns in their barns.

I find the remark about Amish barns blowing over amusing because he could not pull the barn over with a tractor even after having taken the pegs out He had to figure out what order the beams were placed and remove them one by one in the reverse order. It might be worthwhile to point out that while maintainable tech improves survivability and comfort, non-maintainable tech is a liability. For example. if one depends on battery operated radios, they have no recourse when the radio breaks down and there is no place to obtain replacement integrated circuits. This applies to water purification, lighting (ever try to make a bulb filament?), power generation, etc. I would urge you to beware of depending on electricity after the Earth changes. For example, you suggest using artificial lighting to grow food. Even lettuce takes four weeks to harvest from sprouts. How much diesel is required to run the generator 8 hours/day for six weeks? Can the generator be repaired from scratch? Solar obviously out of the question in the example you give, and storage batteries are good for about an hour in the situation you describe (unless you have a warehouse full of them).

As much as the Amish are distinguished by their worship, they are also noted for their government, nearly always government of consensus. This makes them a very slow to change, very conservative group. Each generation, the youngsters go to the outside world, return, and ask to use various technological ideas. Every generation the elders examine these ideas, accept some, and reject most. They very carefully define how they live on a weekly basis. It's a good read to review some of the logs of Amish meetings and find how points of passionate disagreement are handled - consensus must be reached one way or another, even if some members must "stand aside" from an issue.

Any group of people who are prepared for Earth changes will be besieged by those who are not prepared, after the fact. This is unfortunate but true, no matter where you are or how carefully you hide and perhaps this is the way it should be. It is the responsibility of those who survive to help each other, and the better prepared a group is beforehand, the better their position to help afterwards, the quicker they can feed the starving, and quicker they can show the starving and desolate how to get their crops planted so they can themselves, and in turn, those they come into contact with. As a side note, this is a topic of some concern to my present community. I detest killing (have butchered and put down dogs, so I have some experience), but firmly believe that every member of a well prepared community should have a weapon and know how to use it. Others in my group are just as firmly opposed to this idea. My rational is that we will be unable to help others if we are starving ourselves after being raided at gunpoint, or if we are thrown out of our community by those who are armed (and you can believe there'll be some).

Offered by Mark.