And so after a great trip to NYC (despite sitting on the tarmac for 45 minutes) before deplaning, I was soon headed north about an hour and a half to be met by Sister Helena Marie of the Community of the Holy Spirit. After whisking me to the Melrose Convent for a quick tour of the farm and school yard, I was soon sitting at the kitchen table in what promises to be a culinary adventure. The good sisters raise almost everything they eat, selling their surplus at the local farmer's market. Their vision is to be good models of "relocating" where people are involved in raising and using food locally.
Yesterday I was invited to participate in the typical life of a nun. It started early at 6:30 with a half hour of meditation, followed by the chanted service of Lauds. Then we hit the garden where they gave me some assignments where I could do the least harm--picking cucumbers, hedge pears, windfall apples; then I advanced to beans which were in the proper stage of drying. They had all kinds of exotic names, Strike, German Butterball, Black Turtles, Red Hidatsa, Preserver. The beans will be dried, stored and used through the winter. After harvesting all I could, I "got to" weed several of the bean patches.
At noon we took a break so the nuns could have "Conference" to work out conflicts and make assignments. I cleaned up in order to preside at the daily Eucharist as their resident priest was at a clericus meeting. The culinary adventure began at the Eucharist with homemade elderberry wine and gluten free bread. Then things got even better with a home grown, free range roasted chicken, cornbread, heirloom tomatoes with fancy names, collard greens and a to-die-for apple pie. Everything was grown right there, so one truly could celebrate the taste of place.
Following lunch, Bill, a resident associate who does much of the handy man chores, got me suited up to help tend the bees. I got to run the smoke billows as we fixed the hive so the queen could rise higher into it. They produced several hundred pounds of honey with their 4 hives. Did I mention that they also have 300 maple trees, so maple syrup can be used in a variety of ways, too?
After a brief time to rest, it was back to weeding for a couple of hours before cleaning up again for a combined service of Vespers and Compline. We fixed a simple supper of salad greens, homemade bread and cheese. It seemed a little strange to eat in silence as the Grand Silence began. But eating that way certain puts one in a mindful state of appreciating what is going into the mouth.
Today the schedule was basically the same, but the lunch which was prepared by another visitor was highlighted with a Uzbekistan eggplant dish, a grated, roasted beet and rosemary dish, called Beet Rosti, and zucchini muffins. Let me assure you I'll be asking for those recipes before I leave.