My Visit To A Hutterite Colony {+ How Hutterites are NOT like the Amish}

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Have you heard of the Hutterites?

They are a religious group of people that live together in a colony, working together. They believe in the Bible – old and new testament. And they live what I being a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints call the “United Order“. Basically they share all their property, goods, profits, and everyone has according to their needs. They live like this scripture in the Bible:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily, with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:44-47)

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I was able to visit a Hutterite Colony this past week in Alberta, Canada..and it was VERY interesting.

My father in law just retired from being a school teacher in a Hutterite colony. He had a lot of information about the way they live, and how they self-sustain themselves.

The Hutterites first language is German, and they learn English in school along with many other subjects. Usually a colony holds around 15 families, but the OK Colony I visited numbered around 115 people.

When I first pulled up I didn’t know what to expect. I have been to Pennsylvania to see some of the Amish folks and that was interesting. I wondered if the Hutterite men with guns would come out? Would I be allowed to take pictures? Would we be welcome? Could I get their bread recipe? Tee hee…

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This is how the colony looked driving up.

A lot of farm-y buildings and land surrounding apartment style buildings.

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We drove up to their housing..and starting looking for the person my Father in Law knew. The weird thing was…no one seemed to be around. It was eerily quiet and we walked up and down their houses looking for the right door. When we finally found it, we knocked and no one answered. So we walked until we eventually saw a man and asked him if he knew where this person we were looking for was.

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By the way, their lawns were greener than mine, that’s for sure. And everything looked absolutely perfect – no weeds, everything edged. Very clean.

The Hutterite man then had his wife telephone over to her home, and it turned out that they were gone to a funeral, but their 12 year old daughter and mother were around. They came out and gave us a nice tour.

First stop was their Kitchen.

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Oh my heavens. I learned that Hutterites cook food and eat food together every meal. So it is a full scale operation – making large portions to feed 115 every meal.

 This is their dining room.

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The children ages 6-14 eat together at one table and the men & women eat together at another table at a different time. Everything is super clean and ready for the next meal.

Hutterites are NOT like the Amish at all.

Amish don’t use modern appliances or electricity. Hutterites have top of the line appliances. We are talking about a huge fryer, a machine that can cook 70 steaks in 10 minutes, a gigantic bowl for making large quanties of soup, and that was just the first room. The bakery room had a giant mixing bowl for bread making, a large walk in proofing and baking oven and even a loaf making machine.  I realized I couldnt get the bread recipe because it would be for a huge quantity!

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By the way…our adorable 12 year old Bertha gave me 2 of their fresh homemade buns and I was in heaven. Seriously…oh man.

Next on the kitchen tour were a few gigantic walk in fridges, and freezers. And a large pantry. Everything high tech.

I just didn’t expect that at all.  They use a lot of top of the line appliances instead of doing things the old fashioned way.

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PS – I took a picture of their real food menu for the day. Here is what they are eating… and no I don’t know what golf balls are…but my mind is wandering.

Next on the tour was their chapel. I didn’t take a picture because I didn’t want to disrespect it. But it was just a room with some pews and a table at the front. They meet every evening after dinner for 30 minutes and on Sundays for 1 and a half hours of worship services.

The School

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After the chapel we walked to another building to see their school. They had 2 classrooms – one for ages 7-15 and one for ages 3-6.

Girls only go to school until they are 14 and boys until they are 15. There was also a library. Lots of fun books there.

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What was really cool was that under the classrooms was a cement hockey room – where the boys can play hockey. Oh yeah, they are Canadians…

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Everything was absolutely pristine clean.

Both in the kitchen, and in this classroom. Let me just tell you what Bertha said – she said even though school is out for the summer, the girls and women clean the whole schoolhouse once a week including inside and outside windows. Those floors were so shiny I hated to step on them. Not kidding… these ladies work really hard on keeping things clean.

However I was told by my Father in law that has been around Hutterites for many years that the women on the colonies are basically considered by the men to be help-meets. What I mean by that is that their whole purpose in life is to cook, clean, and sew. And that is pretty much all they do. They rarely go anywhere – and they don’t have too much free time. They don’t have any voting power or say in the colony, just the men get to choose everything. Even Bertha the 12 year old talked a lot about the ONE DAY they had a blow up pool after school got out and how much fun it was. And then it was taken down after one day and they just have to work. No more fun swimming.

I guess that means I won’t be joining any Hutterite Colonies anytime soon. I love my freedom.

The Chicken House

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I also was taken over to their chicken section. They had a big metal building that housed 22,000 chickens. I went inside and first came in when they were gathering eggs, and sorting them into qualities. Every day on the colony they get 21,000 eggs. Every day. They do sell some to the community, but most of them they use themselves they said.

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PS – you notice anything odd in this picture?

Somebody on the colony likes Pepsi….interesting….. hee hee.

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I then went in to see the chickens, and it was a TOTAL factory operation. There were 5 chickens to every cage, and they stayed inside the cage all day long, with no daylight. I found a picture online that shows kind of what I saw  but without the light. They wouldn’t let me take pictures inside the chicken factory part.

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image credit: pakuya.com

I will say that their chicken factory was extremely CLEAN though. I didn’t even smell chicken poop because it all falls on a manure belt underneath them and gets carried off. When they lay eggs, they all roll onto a belt and get carried away as well. The chickens looked well fed and watered, but I was sad that they were not free range. Sad that they had to stay inside a cage for the rest of their lives. Which by the way, these layers get to lay for one year, and then it’s off to the butchers for them.  I was just shocked and didn’t expect the Hutterites to have a factory-style operation.

They also had a pig barn and a cattle barn, but we didn’t get to see those. They did have 5 dairy milking cows, so they used that milk for themselves only. No honey or honey bees on this colony.

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Next stop was their laundry room. Or shall I call it the Laundry Mat. Oh and they do use TIDE….no homemade stuff here.

 Our last stop of the day was at their garden.

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Shut the door people.

Their garden was GINORMOUS!

I think it was at least 6-8 acres of garden if not more. They have to constantly work at it, to weed and cultivate the soil. Here are a few pictures from their garden.

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Overall it was an eye opening experience for me. I have always enjoyed seeing how one can self-sustain themselves. But I also realized that the dreamy-doing-everything-the-old-fashioned-way is not how the Hutterites live. They have factories, operate in a very organized manner and work really hard.

What are your thoughts about the Hutterites? Questions? Comments? Have you been to a colony before too? Anything you want to add?63 Comments

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Comments

  1. Wow. Looks like a neat learning experience, but I must agree with you on the poor caged chickens and the thoughts on the women and their roles, it would not work for me either.

    • I have been thinking..it sure would be nice having lots of other ladies working with me though….

      • I suspect the reason they didn’t allow you to take pictures of the chickens was due to the fact that PETA would be all over them for how the chickens are kept. Five to a cage and without lights to PETA is animal cruelty even though it’s pretty much how an egg factory operates. Ever been to Oakdale’s out in Pasco? Similar to that. I don’t think it’s exactly cruel because the chicken are well cared for, fed and most importantly kept clean but to PETA it’s not how an animal should live it’s life.

        As for the roles of women, I’m with you ladies – this would not work for me. LOL I’m way too bossy. LOL

        • No, I haven’t been to Oakdales…it is nice they have food and water…but yeah…when you love your chickens like I do it’s hard to see.

          • Karrie, What area of the US do you live in? I see a comment about Pasco and this is where I live. I guess I was just surprised to see someone here that was so close to me.

          • Yes, I am in the Tri-Cities as well Shandra. :)

        • It is not right or natural for a chicken to live its life in a cage. I am deeply saddened that they choose to keep their chickens in that manner. I have my own chickens–free range–because I cannot in good conscience buy eggs at the grocery store knowing how the chickens kept.

        • The way they keep the chickens is just HORRIBLE
          Who would do that?

      • Your dream could have come true if the early Lds members had been holy enough to live the united order, right? :)

      • Is it possible to visit them ? Where do they live in Alberta ? Thanks
        Joanie

  2. So interesting! I love learning about different religions & groups of people. Where do Hutterites primarily live- is it mostly in Canada? Do you know the origin of their name- Hutterites? I now must Google and see what else I can learn. . . . Thanks for sharing!

    • I think primarily in Canada/Montana, but I have heard of other areas as well. I know when the colonies get too big, they will buy up another huge area of land somewhere, and the men will go over and build up the upcoming colony and they will split sometimes. It’s really cool that they all work so hard to help each other out.

  3. Melissa says:

    There is a Hutterite colony near Odessa, WA. Yes, the women work hard, but so do the men. As far as kids not getting to “play” much, one rarely meets young teens these days that are as focused, purposeful and hard working as those in a Hutterite colony.

    • That is true and I think there must be some sacrifice if you are going to live the way they do, but it’s also fun to let kids play sometimes. I suppose in the summer there is just too much to do to play all day long. Gardening, animals, keeping things clean. I will say that I wish my own teenagers had HALF of the Hutterite kids hard work ethic. But they don’t have to do as much work because #1 my garden is TINY (note to self..must have bigger garden next year…) #2 we have so many modern conveniences there is so much free time for them. I hope my post didn’t come across as negative to the Hutterites, I am amazed, shocked because I was thinking they lived a different way than they do, and can appreciate the hard work of men, women and children on the colony. Plus I LOVE the fact that they love the Lord. :)

      • I really enjoyed what you showed and learned from the Hutterite. I have seen a few women in Pasco, WA and thought maybe they were Old Order German Baptist. But after reading what you wrote and the pictures you took I believe these people I have seen are most likely from a Hutterite Colony. As for the Odessa, WA comment I was in Odessa a few years ago for my first, and only trip and it is very much a farming community and would be a good area for there set up. Thank you are all you have taught us about this group of people.

  4. The Hutterites have colonies both in Canada and in the United States. I grew up near some in Montana. They are a group of Germanic people who fled Europe due to religious persecution. Yes their life style is very different than ours, it is based on their faith. The farms are some of the most high tech and productive. The focus is on their colony and its welfare again all based on their religious teaching. Their name comes from their original leader Jacob Hutter. They have been in N. America for about 125 years.

  5. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’m completely fascinated by this colony! Thank you SO much for sharing!! I don’t like that the chickens were caged BUT I like that they were taken care of. I imagine 22,000 free range chickens would be a bit chaotic. I can’t imagine butchering them though. Ours are family members, I’m much too attached. :)
    I find it interesting that in some ways they live simply but in others (like all of their appliances!) they have the best of the best. Like I said, I’m fascinated.

    • I know what you mean…it is just so interesting! Yeah, 22k chickens running around would be a huge messy disaster. Can you imagine collecting that many eggs by hand too? Yikes!

  7. Wow, Karrie! What an eye opening experience not just for you but all of us readers as well! Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store :D

  8. Thanks for your work on this tour– interesting!

  9. My Grandparents lived a few miles from the Canadian border in Montana. In the 70′s – When I was in elementary school and visiting them for weeks at a time in the summer. We went once or twice a week to a colony. We bought butter, eggs, and bread goods. I remember realizing that they lived differently, but I thought they were so organized and always had a fun homemade game to share.

    As an adult, when saying the word “Hutterite”. I would be corrected – no you mean Amish. No! I mean Hutterite.

    Thank you for sharing this culture.

  10. There is also a group near Hermiston OR (can’t remember exactly where) but I’ve seen some of their members in Fred Meyer in Kennewick.

  11. The Stahl colony is down in Stanfield, OR, near Hermiston. Here’s a blog post someone did after their recent visit there:
    http://bowmansontheroad.blogspot.com/2013/05/hutterite-colony.html

  12. I had never heard of the Hutterites until I moved to WA. Even then I tried Googling them but couldn’t find anything…I didn’t even know how to spell it!
    Thanks for the great, informative piece and I love that you were able to take pictures and share this adventure. It will probably answer a lot of questions for a lot of us curious folks!

  13. Thanks for sharing this experience! I’d never heard of this colony but its always interesting to learn about how other people/cultures live!

  14. I’m a feminist and I feel like this is just another culture that exploits there female population for labor intensive needs, even though the men work in the fields. It’s a system of control – “Idle hands” and all that. The women have no direction and give no new insight into their own culture – that’s half their population not contributing beyond menial labor. If something were to happen to these women where they were cut off from the farm, they wouldn’t have the skills to take care of their own needs and their children. A modern example of an outmoded lifestyle that vastly needs improved upon. These are not ‘the good old days’…

    • They look like they are able to garden, cook, clean, probably sew clothes. I bet they would do alright. They are liberated from a mortgage, recessions, lay offs, long commutes, traffic jams, and a lot of other stressful things that community living eliminates.

      Well even though I defend them, these Hutterite communities bend their own rules a lot and that threatens the existence of the group as a whole. An example is internet. Even in communities where having the internet is against the rules, a lot of them do it anyway. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the gender role rules don’t get bent from time to time either.

    • why do feminists always think their way is the best/only way? I didnt see any bars or chains anywhere around there, except maybe on the chicken cages.. the women are free to leave, they CHOOSE not to.. i imagine they wonder how you can live being a slave to your boss/sexuality, being “forced” to exibit your body in skimpy clothes and torturous shoes, feeling compelled to leave your home, forsake your children/fertility, in the name of money/career/status. This is not a third world country where women truly have no rights and can be arrested or killed for doing something against their culture, its Canada and America, where help is a phone call away. Leave them be.

  15. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I keep coming back to the picture of the laudry trolley – I love it!! Funny thing is, I can’t seem to find one online to price out/buy. Any ideas? I love learning about other ways of doing things and integrating ideas into my own life. Based on your site and interesting articles I have begun integrating urban homesteading into my household. Unfortunately, zoning does not allow chickens, lol.

    • Those cute laundry trolleys were amazing! I met the Hutterite man who said he made each and every one of them on the colony. He said they are NOT cost effective and very labor intensie, but that everyone loves them. I don’t think he was selling them, but if you really are interested you would probably need to call the OK Colony in Raymond Alberta Canada. Maybe google their phone number and just ask. Could be pricey, but maybe a fun thing to have.

  16. Hi, I find your reaction to my people’s quite positive overall! I actually left the Hutterite way of live and joined the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ( Mormon). This of course as anyone can guess was a shock to my whole family who all still reside on the Hutterite community! I would just like to add that their chicken barns are run and controlled like almost every other producer out in the real world. That’s where the Hutterites got the idea from..it’s not something they made up. So if PETA were to go in their, well, then they would have to also shut down lots of other egg producers out there. As for no lights in the barn, well, not sure what time of the day you went but there are lights there obvisioisly, they just go out at different intervals during the day so the chickens can sleep. ( chickens would not lay eggs with no lighting) anyways glad you enjoyed it, if you have any question email me!

    • Hello Ike! SO proud of you for joining the true church! I think your comment just made my day. And so glad you liked my post. :) I do have a lot of respect for what the Hutterite people do, and their hard work ethics. They did amaze me that’s for sure.

      I do have a question…what are “GOLF BALLS” on the menu? Have you heard of them? :) It’s killing me that I don’t know.

    • So wich colony did you leave from

  17. Hi.. We would let u take pictures of ours lol y didn’t they that was strange..but there lehraleut and were dariusleut which is very different from our way of living but the religion is the same…they dress themselves very very different then we do lol btw..no offence did u ask them if u could have there faces or way of living on Internet the reason y I’m asking there much stricter then we are…bye for now

    • Hi Darcy, yes I did ask to take pictures of them and the Hutterites have a website themselves. ;) So you are a Hutterite as well? That is so neat. I would love to come and visit your colony too.

  18. Yes I am a Hutterite a d I’m very proud of it lol were actually butchering 850 ducks tomorrow getting up at 4 in the morning :):):):):):):):):)

  19. Tonia Spencer says:

    WOW! Just wow!

    Essentially these Hutterite men have decided that their wives and daughters are essentially their slaves.. Providing for all their needs. I am a Bible beleiving woman who beleives a woman needs to be caring for her family.. but the idea of being used basically as a slave with no right to an opinion.. is repugnant to me.

    Did you say these Hutterites are somehow connected to the LDS ?

    • Actually, there is no connection to the LDS religion, but I can understand the confusion. Here’s how I understand it… Ike (who commented above) grew up in a Hutterite colony, but left the colony when he converted to the LDS church. There would be some similarities in religious beliefs as both groups believe in the Bible and worship Jesus Christ, and it appears that they both interpret the scripture in Acts 2:44-47 similarly, but there is no real connection other than both being Christian religions.

      Personally, I’m a keep-the-home-fires-burning kind of girl, and when I really think about it, here’s what I come up with:

      I recognize that the cooking and cleaning has to be done by somebody.

      The Hutterite men probably do at least as much manual labor as the women.

      They’re probably not forced to stay on the colony and live this way, after all, Ike left to follow his own beliefs.

      This brings me to the conclusion that the women (and possibly even the girls) actually like the life they live… but I do hope that in the natural progression of things, the women will be valued for their mental abilities as well as their AMAZING homemaking skills… and I find myself wishing that I could be a little more like them in that respect.

  20. justanothermama says:

    I want to note to the above poster that women have traditionally had to fulfill their roles or “part” to help keep things going and running smoothly regardless of being a faith-based colony or just old-time farmers. If the harder labour was committed by the men then the women were doing the other parts like cleaning, cooking, gardening etc. It’s division of labour. I understand that the lack of choice for roles or life direction and lack of opinion in the colony dynamic may upset many people who have been brought up very different but it might, and obviously does work for those there. I am an agnostic atheist so I see the religion aspect of it differently than some but still I completely understand how this might be efficient, productive, and secure way of living. We have 4 children, one income, and I stay at home with the children. Not necessarily by choice but by fact that my husband earned more money and child care would have been more costly than I earned in the workforce. Meal-sharing, barter/trade, exchange, freecycle community, gleaning etc all help folks outside in our life and I often think how if we lived with a few families on a property with a small working farm-how we could all help, support eachother when we need it. Someone to be there to help when one mom or dad is sick, or to ensure no one goes hungry. I am opinionated on religious aspects for myself and family so if I can view the idea of this lifestyle without the context of faith then I am all “for it.” When faith is involved I have concerns regarding the extent that people have freewill to leave or pursue additional education, outside life. I however do like the focus on less materialism within these types of living arrangements as well. :)

  21. liamgdlreg says:

    The thing that struck me that nobody has commented on is only educated until 14 or 15. That would make it really hard to get a job or survive in the outside world for anybody who wanted to leave, male or female…

    • Just a thought, because I truly don’t know for sure, but if they take their education as seriously as they seem to take work maybe they get their education done in a shorter amount of time. No recesses, no summer breaks etc. Just a thought.

    • but it also said they START at 3! What do you really learn in the last few years of high school anyway that cant be learned in the first? the idea that you start school as soon as you can talk and end it when you become too broke to pay for more college is a very very recent invention, and unnecessary for most lifestyles. Only specialty careers like doctors, tax attorneys or physicists need all that additional education. If they choose to leave the life, they can always pursue additional educational choices.

    • Susanna says:

      Sometimes they go to high school or college if they leave the colony.

  22. Mkanderson says:

    Thank you for such an interesting post. I grew up in Calgary and have family in southern Alberta. I have seen Hutterites out in the community many times and my family often bought various items of produce from them. I’ve always wanted to see what the colony looked like. I live in Idaho now and most people around here haven’t heard of Hutterites.

  23. You missed some of the inner workings of the colony. I have been on colonies a few times in southern Alberta. I love hutterites. LOL They are in many ways just like the rest of us. Anybody that does not want to live on the colony can leave… with the shirt on their backs. They don’t get to take anything because everything is community church property. The choice to live and share in that wealth or go to live in a town or city and make your own way does exist.

    I have from time to time heard rumors of wild and crazy antics like…some of the guys like to sneak a beer when they are in town… and a couple of the women like to sneak makeup and wear it in their homes… of course the wash it all off before they leave their houses.

    Hutterites are more than a religious group of hard working people. They are friends to many and they have wonderful sense of humor. Every time i pass by a hutterite food stand I always buy something and stop and say hi. Give it a try they don’t bite!

  24. Hi! I am from Ohio and never heard of them until I was in High School and was an exchange kid to SD and we got to visit them there. The thing that is shocking to me is that you said they use most of the eggs themselves! 115 people use almost 21k eggs a day??? Thank for sharing and reminding me of this culture. But yes, can someone please share on the “Golf Balls”!! I am a little surprised you didn’t ask. Lol. PS. Maybe your father in law would know??

  25. Rebecca H says:

    http://dessert.food.com/recipe/golf-balls-71707

    I googled the golf balls, i was curious!

  26. If you like stories like this, you might like the story I posted on my blog about about another communal-living community that lasted from 1805 to 1905. They made furniture, pottery, quilts, beer, wine and whisky, built their own town, and amassed almost half a million dollars from their businesses and eventually 1 million when they sold stock they owned. They were even praised by Thomas Jefferson. They experienced a schism a large number of their members left. They eventually dwindled in number until the society disbanded. It’s a fascinating historical read. I am not running a blog, I just created one so other people could about this fascinating group.

  27. I didn’t read all the comments, but I noticed windmills in the background of your pics. Is that their source of electricity? Everything looks so structured. :) I too would not like to see the chickens. Sad.

  28. I live in Canada, Saskatchewan, and there are Hutterite colonies all around where I live. In the summer I buy most of my fresh vegetables from them they actually come to my work place to sell them to me so I don’t even have to leave work. I also buy eggs, chickens, butter, & honey from them. Seeing the picture of the chickens in not what I wanted to see but I must say their eggs and chickens have a different/better taste than store bought ones.

  29. Melinda Wagner says:

    I found this article fascinating! (I just found you by the way..love everything!) So, they get the name Hutterites after a man named Hutter founded these colonies? This way of life? I have to say there are many things that make sense. Everyone working towards the betterment of the community. I feel these women must feel valued, and understand their value as mother’s and educators. Sounds like everyone works hard at whatever it is they do. Whatever happens in the world, it sounds like these people have a security about them. Being basically self-sustaining. Thanks for sharing, never heard of them here in Idaho, or in Utah where I grew up.

  30. I have been to several Hutterite colonies as my dear husband was raised on “the farm” and left at age eighteen. His family moved off about ten years ago and lives near us.
    I giggled at the photos (good work, by the way) because they are so familiar. With Hutterites there are two styles- their way and the wrong way.
    To everyone that commented on the sad living conditions of the chickens (and I heartily agree with y’all!) let me explain a key aspect about the Hutterite people: Efficiency! They get it done fast, efficient, well and the only right way. Ok, so the last part shows a bit of my bad attitude ;-) but I have these people as inlaws and it ain’t fun! :-)
    The children are raised “efficiently” as well. They are not abused but they lead a sad life with little warmth or parental attention. The subject is too big to cover here- but Hubby ought to be in therapy. :-(
    I always enjoy my visits, and the treats that come our way from the colony!
    And I have a scaled down recipe for their buns…. Ummm, delish!! (Hint: they use duck fat)

  31. Hello I would like to visit a colony in May with my mother. Do you know where can I go ? How to get information to book a visit with them ?
    Thanks
    Joanie

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