Bits and Pieces

  • Meat House Turns Into Art House Part 2

    Aug 16, 2016

    I was the only employee on the farm and there was less to do in the winter since there were no hogs to feed or eggs to gather. When I finished going over and repairing the equipment used for spring planting and for harvesting, Sister Celine Metzger asked me to help Sister Therese and Sister Paulette with converting the Meat House into an Art House.

    My jobs included putting insulation in the first floor ceiling. I did that from the upper level of the whole building. Initially the heat for the building came from a different direction into the building. It came from the old boiler room just across the drive from the Meat House where the swimming pool now stands. When heat could no longer be brought into the building from that direction it had to be piped in a different way and that is when the return pipe under the unused doorway had to be installed. Prior to that time the returns went directly underground and under the driveway to the old boiler room.

    The hardest and the largest procedure that I completed in making the transition was when Sister Therese asked me to change the first cooler in the third room from a cooler where meats were hung to a dark room for developing photographs. First I was asked to add a sink in the room. So that meant that I would have to dig through the floor to put in the sink. As I began to dig through the cement which was at least six inches thick, there were several inches of sand and below that there was about a foot of gravel and a layer of tarpaper over the soil. Then I had to dig under the wall of the cooler to pipe the water into the drain in the adjoining room which contained the tables for cutting up the carcasses. This room also contained space for an upright meat and bone saw, a sausage stuffer, a scale and meat grinder. Then I was also asked to install a vent in the outer wall which included the concrete on both the inner wall and the outer wall and the clay tile in the center. The third room also included another cooler where the carcasses were hung when they were first brought in. Later on we had the whole building re-stuccoed; the side door that was never used was completely covered over from the outside. At that time the main entrance door was removed and covered with stucco also.

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                 Outside view of the Art House and Herb Garden today

    We always kept apples in the cooler of the second section since it was easy for Sister Mary Arnold to put together the order that she received from the kitchen every Monday morning which would include a bushel or two of apples. When the orchard quit producing we kept potatoes in that cooler since the Cave was taken down shortly after that.

    My next job was to build a sort of guard around the motors that were in that room just so no one would bump into them and get hurt. Then I put shelving and stained it in the upper part of the door that was closed off so that Sister could put some of her art work on the shelves. After that I painted most of the interior four rooms. By that time, I was ready to work in the fields.

    Shortly after the work was completed, opportunities were offered in the Art House during retreats for those who wished to experience watercolor and clay meditation. Workshops were held in papermaking, pottery and weaving. It became a place to nurture one’s creativity and to deepen one’s spirituality.

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                  Inside view of the Art House today

    The next winter, Sister Therese asked me to put some rough cut lumber around the floor as a baseboard and along the top of the walls in the room in the upper level that is now called the Zen Room. The lumber for that portion of the renovation was to come from the farm. So I had to select a tree, cut it down and take it to the sawmill. It had to be cut to the proper specifications. The last thing was to paint a portion of the upper level or the Zen Room.

    Today people use the space in a more informal way as they continue on their journey often sitting in the Herb Garden just south of the building.

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                 Sr. Therese Pavilonis stands outside the Art House and Herb Garden

    What I would like to add from my personal perspective is the fact that this building was meant to be a Meat House. And it could still function for the purpose for which it was built.

    ~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management Emeritus
  • Meat House Turns Into Art House Part 1

    Aug 15, 2016

    The original meat house was built to the left of the driveway going south to the barns, where you turn into the employee parking lot. It was destroyed by fire in 1939 according to an Agricultural Census late that same year. The cost of rebuilding was $2000.

    The first section of the new one (pictured below) was constructed the same year, but I have never found any information as to when the second portion was built. The first portion that was built included freezer cabinets below the cupboards in the first room that was then the main entrance. The cupboards included storage space for aprons and other large cloth material used for handling dressed animal carcasses along with other material such as towels and paper bags. The next room just reminded me of a kitchenette with a stove, sink, a cupboard where dishes cups and glasses along with other items to, in effect, have a coffee break or a small lunch. It also included more space for spices that were used for curing and preserving meats. In the corner, close to an exterior door, now used as the entrance door, was a large vat where the lard was rendered. It was heated with steam. I removed the vat and it was later sold for scrap metal when it was no longer used.

    Meat House
                        The new Meat House was constructed after the first was destroyed by fire in 1939.

    You can see right above the door, at the beginning of the second section looking at the roof line where the carcasses were brought in, where the original part of the building ended, and the second section began. The double doors inside go into the room which is actually the addition or the second part of the building. The first part of the building was constructed with a type of clay tile covered with a type of stucco. Many of the other buildings were constructed with the same material during that period of time. The second part was constructed with cement block. The second portion presently begins with the wrapping room and also includes the walk-in freezer and cooler #3. The addition also included a smoke house, accessible only from the outside since it was fired with apple wood. There was an addition to the smoke house when Sister Mary Arnold wanted to install an automatic smoker which was added in 1958 and ‘59. Other than the laying of the concrete block, the addition was built by the men on the farm and myself. At one time there was a side entrance to the first section, but was never used after the second addition was added. The purpose of the building was to cut up, cure, smoke, wrap and store livestock and fowl that was to be used for human consumption.

    Not long after the dissolution of the Farm Corporation, there was no use for the Meat House except for the storage of meats that were slaughtered, cut up and wrapped at a regular slaughterhouse instead of here at the Villa, along with apples, although they were stored in a separate cooler. In the early 1980s, Sister Therese Pavilonis and Sister Paulette Kirschensteiner submitted a proposal to the HM Community asking to convert the partially empty Meat House into an Art House where sisters, retreatants and guests could come and use the arts in their spiritual journey. Where it once fed the body, it would now feed the soul. The proposal was accepted and the work began.

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    Sr. Therese Pavilonis (left) and Sr. Paulette Kirschensteiner (right)  

    ~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management Emeritus
  • Owl Finds Food in the Winter

    Mar 01, 2016

    During January of 1983 the Farm Corporation was about to be dissolved. The dispersal of all livestock and fowl had to be eliminated prior to the time the dissolution could take place. We still had one flock of laying hens and there were eggs to grade. All of the other workers were high-school age and on part time and had completed their work time limit, so they had to leave the job site. After I went home for supper, I brought my wife and two daughters back with me to help grade the eggs that were not completed during the regular work hours. As we rounded the bend where Shady Lane road ends at Evergreen Road, the headlights illuminated the snow covered road all the way to Evergreen. Just then a rabbit hopped onto the center of the snow-covered road. As the rabbit reached that point a large owl swooped down and flew off with the rabbit in its talons. Seeing this both of my daughters screamed. When I thought about writing about this experience, I asked my wife and both daughters if they remembered this incident. They responded, “How could we ever forget that one!”

    ~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management, Emeritus

  • Weasels Playing in the Snow

    Feb 03, 2016

    We usually butchered hogs on a Friday, they were hung in the cooler to chill over the weekend and we would cut up the carcasses on Monday. I would always help Sister Mary Arnold and her helper on that day. My job was to break the carcass half to smaller sizes so the two Sisters could handle them more easily. They would cut the pork chops to size and trim the bacons and hams and small pieces so it could be ground into sausage and render the lard.

    One morning as we were cutting up the pork, Sister got a call and was told there was a four-legged creature in the window well next to the high school girl’s dining room and was asked if she could send someone over to get it out. So Sister sent me over. I disabled it and took it to the meat house. It was a weasel that had changed its fur color to white and I was sure of that, since I had read in the Game News that the weasel changed its fur to white just before winter. The article also noted that weasels also like to play in the snow. The only other weasels that I had ever seen were brown with a narrow streak of black. I asked Sister if I could freeze the corpse since it was the first one I had ever seen and I wanted to get it mounted. Sister said it would be ok if I very carefully wrapped it in plastic.

    It was a few years later that I was taking a load of barnyard waste to spread on the field. I drove to the back 40, where I was going to spread the load of waste. All of a sudden the tractor stopped. I tried to start it several times but it would not start. So I got off and immediately saw the fuel bowl looked sort of a gray color, and I thought there must have been moisture in the tank and that is why it froze and stalled. So I decided to walk back to the garage and get some dry gas to thaw out and dissolve the ice and water.

    I had just passed the south corner of the sheep barn when I noticed something in the snow.  I stopped and began to move forward very slowly. Again I saw a movement and stopped. It was there that I barely saw two small animals that were just about as white as the snow. Their ears were a little darker and their eyes and noses were browner, and that is how I noticed them. They slid down the snow bank head first, ran to the low end of the snow bank, ran to the top of the drift and slid down head first again. By that time they must have spotted me and both ran toward the sheep barn.  I turned and went to the south end of the barn and in the door but could not see the weasels. Then I had to complete my mission to get the dry gas and get the tractor running again.

    ~Frank Romeo