Plain Interests, an Amish monthly, publishes some of the most entertaining and educational reading material in the scene journalism today. A sampling of its diverse subject matter and styles include:
- Poems: ‘In defense of butterfat’ and ‘Zucchini nightmare’ (available upon request)
- Recipes: recipes for homemade mozerella including addresses to cheese supply catalogs
- Odes to family members past: ‘I still remember Nathaniel’ and ‘The day Daddy picked 100 apples gross’
- Humorous stories: ‘The demise of a pet raccoon’
Phil and I spent an afternoon sitting in the center’s library, combing through the last decade of Plain Interests for any mention of trash. Though trash was rarely mentioned as such (maybe because they rarely think of materials as useless?), I did pick up a few interesting tidbits related to how Amish communities produce, reduce, and view their waste production.
First, broken home objects are considered to break due to carelessness, not the natural course of an object’s life. It is not the object’s fault for breaking, but rather the user’s. That’s an interesting idea. It is predicated on a belief in good craftsmanship. Interestingly, I think most of us assume the opposite for most of our purchases these days: we assume that things ‘can’t last forever’ and expect them to break every few years. This links to the notion of ‘planned obsolescence,’ which suggests that producers create their products with fixed lifetimes, either less durable than they could be, or impossible to fix. By the time something breaks there is a better, quicker, more powerful, more stylish version out there anyway (new laptop time, anyone?). Confidence in good craftsmanship places responsibility for care of our belongings on us – there is no escape into cheap replacements.
Secondly, a story about a washing machine fixing effort gone wrong illustrates how fixing things is an accepted and normalized pastime. This was one of my favorite accounts, detailing Nathaniel Dogoodle’s [name changed for privacy reasons] effort to alleviate his wife’s frustrations with the squeaky washing machine. As an able DIYer, Nathaniel figured the machine just needed some greasing up. He disassembled the whole machine only to find he couldn’t put it back together again (a common DIYer experience). Un-phased Nathaniel called on his friends. It seemed they spent the whole weekend on the project… I imagine they enjoyed themselves immensely. Many of us would have likely given up much earlier, called the dishwasher ‘old,’ and sent in to Whirlpool for a new one. Interestingly we noticed many more appliance repair shops in this neck of the woods than we have anywhere else in the country so far.
Third, composting is a major theme in the publication. The article above, ‘The Rubbish Heap,’ describes in detail construction of an efficient compost pile. If you are buying fewer new goods, and fewer mass produced goods, chances are most of your waste is organic anyway.
Featured image credit: NBC News.