The Very Simple Life

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Can you imagine a life without the modern conveniences that most of us take for granted - conveniences like electricity, a telephone and a car? Can you imagine what your life would be like if nothing much had really change since the days of your great grandfather? Can you imagine what life would be like if you basically just turned your back on modern living?

Heck, I can't even imagine what life would be like without broadband, so I found our visit to a Mennonite farm quite fascinating. A large community of Mennonite folk live at St Jacobs, near Kitchener, and since Donna has always been absolutely fascinated with learning about other religions, we took the opportunity to do a Mennonite farm tour when we were at the St Jacobs Markets buying some groceries on the weekend.

I'm not sure what you know about the Mennonites, but they are similar in principle to the Amish folk that live around Pennsylvania. If you've seen movies like Witness or For Richer or Poorer, you may be a little familiar with the Amish. The Mennonites come from a common ancestry as the Amish, and consequently they have many things in common... apart from the same basic beliefs in Jesus Christ and the bible, they both also choose to live a plain, simple, often agricultural lifestyle, and they generally shun most forms of modern technology. Perhaps one of the most noticable aspects of the Mennonites is their refusal to drive a car and to travel by horse-drawn buggies instead. Strict mennonites also don't have electricity or telephones, or computers. Of course, like all religions, some adhere to these strict beliefs far more rigidly than others and there are probably plenty of Mennonites who live "normal" lives that don't observe strict Mennonite traditions, in the same way that their are probably plenty of Catholics who don't observe strict Catholic traditions.

The Mennonites who do still adhere to the strict traditional ways of their religion are often referred to as Old Order Mennonites, and there are many of them living in the St Jacobs area. There are also other variants of the religion, with names like Conservative Mennonites, Progressive Mennonites, Markham Mennonites, and even the Dave Martin Mennonites (that last one sounds like a jazz band to me). Each of these variants has a slightly different view of what it means to be Mennonite, and how strictly they interpret their religion.

The Mennonite tour that runs out of St Jacobs takes you to a nearby Old Order farm, and gives you a unique insight into various aspects of their lifestyle. We were shown a maple syrup operation and were given an explanation of how pure maple syrup is made. We got to look around the farm a bit, we saw some of the traditional little black buggies they travel in. We learnt about some of their religious beliefs and how they express those beliefs. All in all, it was an informative and interesting look at an Old Order Mennonite lifestyle. Their farm was an absolutely beautiful piece of land, immaculately kept, and quite varied in its output of produce.

There is probably a great deal to be said for living a simple life, although I think I would miss my broadband too much.

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