Amish Home Fires and a Giveaway

UPDATE: This giveaway is now over. The winner was chosen using Congratulations to Beth Russo! Beth, please send your name and mailing address to 

Today, I’d like to share another fun fact about the Amish.


While visiting an Amish friend one winter, I woke to the gentle creaking of old wooden steps, and I knew my dear friend was on her way to the cellar to add wood to the stove. Her husband was on a three-day hunt, and while he’s gone she’s diligent about maintaining the wood stove so her family stays warm throughout the night and no one shivers when crawling out of bed in the morning.

During each visit, I understand more of how things work inside most Old Order Amish homes, their community, and their faith. One of the many things I’ve found interesting is their methods of heating the home during the long, cold winters.

The days of mainly using open hearths are long gone. Too much of the heat goes up the chimney along with the smoke. Even so, many Amish build a fire in the family-room hearth at the end of the workday.

The Old Order Amish haven’t adopted the modern way of heating a home, but neither do they use the usual pioneer methods. As is typical of the Old Order Amish, they’ve found a successful medium between those two worlds—pioneer and modern America.

Generally the Amish heat their homes with heating stoves and often with a cookstove on the first floor, with heat rising naturally to the second floor. Kerosene heaters are used in some homes.

Wood-heated cookstove

I have observed two other ways the Old Order Amish heat their homes in winter. One is to have a boiler in the cellar or basement that leads to a radiator. Another is to have a wood or coal stove/heater in the cellar or basement connected to ductwork that leads to the first floor (and the second floor in newer homes).

A fair number of Old Order Amish homes were built in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, so keeping them comfortably warm during the cold months is challenging.


Heating stoves became popular in America in the mid-1800s, but the Amish and Mennonites were using wood stoves from the time they arrived in America—long before Ben Franklin’s famous cast-iron stove that he patented in the mid-1700s. We often think of the terms potbelly stove or Franklin Stove when we think of a cast-iron stove.

Although most Amish have propane tanks in their backyards, few use propane to heat their homes. Propane is used for refrigerators, hot water tanks, and summertime cookstoves.

Gas stove in an Amish kitchen

Many Amish have two cookstoves in their kitchens: a gas one for hot weather and a wood-burning one for cold weather. Many Amish also have gas stoves in the basement or cellar for canning during those stifling hot summer days.


In A Season for Tending, Rhoda has a fruit garden on a little over an acre. She cans the goods—blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and concord grapes—in the family cellar and sells the goods to certain grocery stores.

When depicting Rhoda’s canning space, I used an Amish friend’s canning cellar to describe it.

Rhoda’s small-business canning kitchen has a firepit with a large black pot over it hanging on a crane. There’s an oversized round hood attached to the ceiling that hung over the firepit for the smoke to escape through hidden flues in the walls of the rooms above them, and continue on out the roof of the two-story home. She also has a gas stove and sink in the cellar. So everything she needs is in that small room, but it’s very rustic looking. Her father had to add cement walls and floor over the dirt ones in order for her to get a license from the health department.


After researching how the Amish start and run a business compared to how we as non-Amish start and run a small business, I’ve seen a pattern that at times gives them the upper hand in becoming a success and hanging on to it. At other times those Amish ways work against them—at least for a season. I’ll cover some of their small-business ways in the following months. But as Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob continue to learn, the road to a successful business is never easy.


Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob faced a lot of changes in A Season for Tending, and Rhoda ended up needing a new kitchen in a new district.  In A Winnowing Season Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob are part of a small group who will establish a new Amish community in Maine.

Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them?


Book Giveaway

Book giveaway

If you would like to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of A Season for Tending AND The Winnowing Season (books one and two in the Amish Vines and Orchards series), simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post on my website.

If you are reading this anywhere other than my website, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my website ( and leave a comment at the bottom of my post to enter the giveaway.

Only comments left on this post on my website will be entered into the giveaway.

The deadline for this contest is Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at noon. The winner will be chosen using and will be contacted privately, as well as announced on next week’s post.


Both books will be shipped to the winner once I receive my author copies of The Winnowing Season.


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