Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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Amish Auction

Spring is exciting around these parts for more than just warm weather, blooming flowers, chirping birds and choosing what veggies we're going to plant in our garden: auction season gets underway.

Auctions are popular among Amish people. Not just Amish, of course, but they seem to really excel at planning the biggest and best auctions in the valley. Just as us reg'lar folk like to attend sporting events and the like, auctions appear to serve as excellent venues for the Amish to see old friends, socialize and maybe even get their courting on... In fact, screw broken bones tearing from legs during basketball games - auctions are equally exciting to watch. Like one long episode of The Price is Right. You've got a cast of fascinating characters, cool stuff for sale, good food all while trying to figure out what you want to bid on and how high you'll go.

Not only are auctions major social events (for everyone, not just the Amish) but they're the main way a lot of people ready their farms and other businesses for the season. Pretty much everything under the sun is sold at an auction. Livestock and horses, buggies, farm equipment, tools, furniture (Amish built and antique stuff) quilts, trees, plants, flowers, produce and anything else you can dream up.

People come from all over to attend auctions, many with the hope of scoring something for a great deal. Amish quilts are a big draw. So are all the hanging flower baskets. And there are great deals to be had! If you know what you're doing you can get your hands on a lot of good stuff for way less than you'd pay at a regular store. Quality hanging flower baskets at Home Depot go for $30. But, at an auction, if you play your cards right and bid just after the smock and polyester clad granny with blue hair nabs her fifth hanging flower basket but before the old gal camped in the lawn chair gets back from the hot dog stand, you can ease in there and get one for $10!

Round these parts there are many weekly produce auctions all spring and summer and there other, much larger annual auctions everyone looks forward to all year long. Each spring a big one is held in our village. Several large, white tents go up where different auctions are held at the same time; tools, plants, flowers, furniture... In addition to the stuff being auctioned there are booths where you can buy stuff straight from folks as well.

Many auctions serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to service big auction dreamers who pretty much set up camp for the duration. Think Amish eggs, sausage and pancakes, burgers, home-made fries, home-made ice cream, home-made potato chops. Home-made everything! Bread, jelly, pies, cakes and other pastries. Much like grocery shopping, I try to never go to an auction with an empty stomach or I will invite all the food to get in my belly.

Last spring I had my eye on a wheelbarrow at the tool tent, a picnic table at the furniture auction, flowers to plant in my beds at the plant auction and, if I played my cards right, a couple trees for our barren backyard. I was most excited about the trees and bushes so I parked myself at that auction and then spent the afternoon running back and forth between all the rest hoping I wouldn't miss the chance to bid on the items I wanted.

Bidding can be scary. Especially if you're the only girl attempting to bid on a wheelbarrow against a bunch of Amish farmers. If you took a look at the video I posted a couple days ago you really get a taste of the fast-paced excitement that flavors all Amish auctions. It takes some time watching and really listening to the auctioneer to be able to understand what's going on.

Last year I misunderstood the auctioneer and, smugly thinking I was getting two for the price of one, proudly outbid everyone to score some hanging plants for my porch. Turns out, I had it all wrong. I wasn't getting two for one at all. The opposite, in fact! When the auctioneer was saying "two times the money" he meant that the amount I was bidding was to purchase BOTH hanging plants each at the price I had bid. What I mean is, when I was bidding twenty bucks it wasn't for both plants for twenty, it was for both plants at twenty apiece. D'OH. I was so embarrassed. But, like any self-respecting idiot I pretended like I meant to do that, paid the $40 and slunk away with my pricey hanging flower baskets.

Suffice it to say, I have now schooled myself in what "times the money means." Which is this: if three rakes were to be auctioned, you would be bidding on one rake and if you won the bid, you would pay three times what you just bid because there are three rakes and you must take them all.

The auctioneer chant is a thing of beauty, even if it is hard to understand. It might sound something like this: "Twenty dolla-bid-now-fi-woulda-bidda-fi-who-bidda-fi-bidda-fi-anywhere." What is this chant really saying? Twenty-dollar-bid-and-now-five-would-you-bid-a-five-who-bid-a-five-bid-a-five anywhere? He's trying to start the bidding at twenty but eventually lowers it to five in an attempt to get someone to bid. He talks fast to create excitement and sell quickly. Later on, as spring gets underway, I'll take some more video of just how crazy these get and post it here. It will make your heart thump.

So, last weekend my friend Shawna and I checked out one of the first auctions of the season.

There were a couple things I liked including this dresser and some of the other furniture pictured below.

But it was so painfully cold we didn't want to stick around to do any bidding. We huddled in the food tent, inhaling the deliciousness of fresh-baked Amish pies and donuts as long as we could politely do so without making a purchase before heading back out for a bit of people watching.

Although we didn't end up getting anything just hearing the auctioneer do his thing got my blood pumping. Now that it's about to finally warm up (allegedly) I can't wait to start hitting up all the auctions. I'll end up purchasing all the hanging baskets for my porch and flowers for my beds. I'll also keep my eye out for trees and bushes as we begin to landscape our backyard. Come on, spring! Let's get this thing going already!!!

Reader Comments (8)

I grew up going to auctions with my Mom; I still love them! Haven't been in a while, but now you've got me jonesing to go! I hate it when they lay several of one item up that I really think I need and say "one times the money"! With all those guys in hats, I couldn't tell which one was bidding, at auctions like that, with an auctioneer that you don't know well, they'll often make you THINK someone is bidding against you when they aren't...

Not sure if you seen them auction off a house or farm yet, but that's really, really exciting! I love to hear the assistants yell when they finally get a bid!

If you want to learn to be an auctioneer, you can come here: ;) I see the folks pacing around outside practicing all the time!

April 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNelson's Mama

Wow....Never been to an auction and can't wait for more footage, food and fun, I love the idea of bidding on garden and landscape items!

April 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

I'm so jealous! I love amish country and would love to see an action!

April 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKali

The Amish control one whole side of the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. I always enter - totally masochistically - through the entrance that puts me face first into the rows - and rows - of whoopie pies, and apple pies and blueberry pies and pies, pies, pies.
But, seriously, have you ever had the magic that is an Amish made whoopie pie? Holy.shit.

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermr

holy cow pie!

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

When Amish men are angry at their wives, do you think they till them to " shut their whoopin' pies holes?"

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

Do they mind you taking their pictures? I've grown up in PA around the Amish and it's against their religion.

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStill Playing School

@StillPlayingSchool - Depends on who you're photographing. Some Amish are fine with it, others aren't. While they don't take photos or keep photos many don't mind someone else snapping a non-intrusive photo. None of them will "pose" for a photo as posing is considered a sign of pride but don't have an issue with being photographed doing their thing if you take it from afar. I've been on Amish farms and have received permission to take some photos of kids at play. It all depends on who you're dealing with.

April 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

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