BIRD-IN-HAND, Pa. (AP) - Omar Stoltzfus lives in 1999 as if it were 1899.
He has gas lamps at home and in his crafts shop in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. He uses gas heat and has an air compressor to pump water into his store. He has a car battery hooked up to his cash register.
Stoltzfus is not being overly cautious about Y2K-related problems. He is Amish, and his isolation from the world is a religious preference. If that also insulates him from any computer problems that could happen Jan. 1 - well, that's fine with him.
``I don't think planes are going to fall out of the sky or anything. But it won't really affect me much anyway,'' Stoltzfus said.
The nation's 175,000 Amish are among the most protected from Y2K, the glitch that could lead computers to fail because they think it is the year 1900 instead of 2000. Some fear it could cripple public services, bank machines and the nation's transportation network.
But most of that doesn't apply to the Amish. Situated in 22 states, Canada and South America, the Amish don't drive cars, own telephones or use public utilities. About half of Amish families are farmers, so they grow or raise much of what they eat and often have large storage cellars.
``We have what we need. Don't need more,'' said Mamie Stoltsfus, who is not related to Omar Stoltzfus.
Mrs. Stoltsfus tends a vegetable garden and raises chickens and horses. Her husband runs a dairy farm. Their gas tanks are refilled about twice yearly, and they have an air compressor to pump water from the well.
``We don't know any other way,'' said her husband, Gideon Stoltsfus.
Still, the Amish are not entirely independent. About half Pennsylvania's Amish work for non-Amish businesses or operate their own small businesses, so a crisis that affects shipping or customers could affect them, as well.
Though Amish are forbidden to own telephones or computers, many businessmen have cell phones owned by someone else and can contract with an outside company to build them a Web site.
``There are certainly a number of ways in which they are more immune from possible Y2K complications in terms of their immediate family life,'' said Amish expert Donald B. Kraybill of Messiah College. ``On the other side, they are very much interfacing with the outside world in terms of the marketplace.''
Many Amish families shop for basics such as flour, yeast and sugar at least once a month and more often for eggs, milk, vegetables or meat. Most Amish use banks and ATM cards and often have home and farm loans - though the Amish do not use plastic as much as other Americans.
Mary Fisher, an Amish mother of six from Intercourse, has heard talk about the potential for a Y2K financial and electronic crisis. But she is not worried and does not plan to stock up on food, money or water.
``I guess we live from day to day, hoping that God will sustain us. That's what we've always done,'' Mrs. Fisher said.
Still, the Fishers are slightly more prepared for a breakdown of society than the average American family. They could survive for more than a month on food in their refrigerator and basement freezer - both powered by natural gas - and in a food cellar. Plus, they have milking cows in the barn.
``We still have to go to the grocery store for regular food, though maybe not as often as some other people,'' Mrs. Fisher said. ``But we could make do for more than a month. By then things ought to have calmed down.''
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