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.

                 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.

                  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.

                 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.

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

    ~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management Emeritus
  • Working in the Vegetable & Flower Gardens Part 3

    May 31, 2016

    Rev. Bernard Weigand became chaplain to the Sisters after the death of Msgr. Nicolas Julian Franche in 1937. Msgr. Franche was the great nephew of Father John Joseph Begel, priest founder of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary.

    I remember Father Weigand asking us altar boys on several occasions after Midnight Mass to check on Little Steve to make sure he was OK. It took us a couple of years to figure out why he had sent us out to check on Steve; but after some time we figured it out. I also remember Father Weigand taking all of the altar boys to several Cleveland Indians baseball games.

    I remember when there was an island in the lake and in the spring Sister Basil had two of what I thought were plastic flamingos. There was a dock at the lake with a boat tied to it and Sister would have me put the flamingos in the boat and row out to the island and put them on the island. Sister would walk along the edge of the lake and tell me exactly where to put the flamingos and how to turn them so that they could be viewed properly.

    I also recall when the lake was drained and dredged. Before the valve was opened to let the water drain from the lake, someone had to put a one inch mesh wire screen over the large pipe that goes under the driveway. That way the many goldfish that were in the lake would not be washed into the stream and later into Coffee-Run Creek. There was one area where there was a very deep spot in the lake bed and many of the goldfish remained in that area. The goldfish were flushed out into the area between the drain pipe of the lake and the pipe that went under the driveway that was all cemented.

    When Sister Basil got word that the major portion of the water was drained out of the lake, she asked me to go with her. When we got to the spillway, Sister asked me to go down in the pit where the screen was and hand her the goldfish. I do not remember how many there were but at that time Sister drove up to the south end of the Pavilion where there was a handmade small cemented pond. We put all of the goldfish in that little pond.

    I never went back to the lake unless I was still on my lunch break or if I was asked to go for other reasons. The one time that I went there I saw a snake caught in the one inch mesh screen. I tried to kill it but did not succeed. I think it had swallowed a small fish or frog and just got stuck. When I tried to kill it, it would lash out at me and I would jump out of the pit since I was afraid of it. So I went up to the old boiler house and borrowed a carpenter saw from “Grandpa Scott” as the Sisters called him. Then I went back and cut the snake in half and hurriedly jumped out of the pit.

    Another time that I went down to the lake at lunch time Father Weigand asked me to set a turtle hook to catch a snapping turtle. Father gave me five hooks, some bait, wire and a steel rod. I lost four of his hooks and caught a turtle with the last hook. I told Father Weigand I did not have time to bring the turtle out. I did not tell him I was afraid of it. So he went down and got it himself. I guess he wanted someone to make turtle soup.

    The only other time that I went down to the lake was with Sister Basil. She wanted to show me where I would be filling the vinegar barrels with water so they would swell up and not lose any cider or vinegar. Sister said that particular area in the lake would not be dredged any deeper.

    As the gardens got smaller I would work wherever needed and at times it would be on the farm.

    I am very grateful for the time that I had working for the Sisters, especially for the many different experiences that I encountered. They were all very hard workers and taught me many things about my work. I think one of the most important ones was paying attention to small details.

    ~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management Emeritus

  • Working in the Vegetable & Flower Gardens Part 2

    May 27, 2016

    There were so many flower beds around the Villa at that time and they were all planted with different kinds of flowers. Sister Basil would purchase 50 pounds of burley tobacco from which we made a tobacco tea for the aphids on the roses and we also made our own fertilizer from barnyard waste.

    The second summer that I was there I white washed the glass on the roof of the Greenhouse to prevent the sun from burning the plants on hot summer days. Joe Bryer, Dorothy Bryer’s father, had made a ladder out of flat boards. That way both he and I could lay the ladder on the metal strips that held the glass in place. Sister Basil would mix up the white wash which consisted of lime and water. Then I would get on the ladder, lie down and paint the glass.

    I remember Sister taking me up to the barn while the farm help were putting up hay. At that time John Komar was operating the hay fork called a “grapple fork” that would lift the loose hay off of the wagon and they used a horse to pull the rope to lift a huge bundle of hay to the ceiling of the barn and when it got there it would hit the track and it would have the momentum to travel to the other end of the barn. All John had to do was to pull the rope and the hay would fall out of the fork into the loft and the men in the loft would spread it out. I got to ride the horse. I was familiar with that since I had done that at home. But there was another reason Sister took me to the barn. They knew that I wasn’t afraid of heights so they wanted me to climb the ladder at the end of the barn where the hay fork stopped to make sure that the stop was secured so the fork would not fall off of the end of the track.

    As I got older I started to work in the vegetable gardens and do other odd jobs. I also remember helping to gather the seaweed from the lake with Frank Bryer. That is when I learned to drive the panel truck. By that time I was 13 or 14 years of age. At that time Sister would gather the seaweed from the lake, let it compost and use it as a starter fertilizer to start plants. Frank Bryer had a roll of woven wire on the bow of the boat with a rope attached to it along with the other end of the rope tied to the rear bumper of the truck. As he would row backwards with the boat he would unroll the wire and let it fall to the bottom of the lake. Then he would motion for me to pull forward with the truck and out came the woven wire full of seaweed. As I pulled forward with the truck he would yell when it was time for me to stop. The wire would be lying across both sidewalks and the driveway. Then I would have to pick all of the seaweed off of the wire, put it in the truck and take it up behind the Cave and unload it there where it would compost. The truck that I used was a panel truck with the panel cut off just behind the front seat. It had “St. E’s” printed on the side of the door. It was Sister Basil that oversaw everything that I was involved in doing.

    I remember the gentleman everyone called “Little Steve” would cultivate the gardens with one horse and a handheld one-horse cultivator. He was always talking to the horse. He would say “steady now,” and “watch those plants.”

    ~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management Emeritus

  • Working in the Vegetable & Flower Gardens Part 1

    May 25, 2016

    When I was nine years old I started to work for Sister Basil [Thurin]. Sister was in charge of the Greenhouse and all of the flower beds along with the gardens. I started to work here since my mother was working here for Sister Aloyse [O’Brien]. When my mother first started to work here she had to walk two miles back and forth to the Villa. It was not long after she began her job here that either the driver for the Sisters, Frank Bryer, or the farm manager, John Komar, would pick her up in the farm pickup truck. So when I began to work here I rode along with her to work.

    On my very first day Frank Bryer took me to the Meat House since Sister Basil had another obligation to complete every morning. Sister Lidwina [Kirschensteiner] was in charge of the farm along with the Meat House; she would always offer me some milk and a cookie or cracker. Sister had a small section in the Greenhouse where she raised some special flowers that I had never seen before. Sister took care of them herself.

    Sr Lidwina Kirschensteiner
     Sr. Lidwina in the Greenhouse

    As soon as Sister Basil came to the Meat House she reintroduced herself. Actually I had met her twice before. Sister then took me to the Greenhouse which was north of the Meat House, it ran north and south. Since it was raining out Sister wanted to begin by doing some work in there. Sister wanted me to stack all of the wooden flats on three separate stacks and all of the different size clay pots on separate stacks. There were no plastic flats or plastic pots at that time.

    Then Sister said she had to leave for a while. Before she left she asked me to turn on the lights. I replied telling her I did not know how. Sister showed me where the light switch was and showed me how to turn them on and off. I had seen electric lights at school and in church but we did not have electricity at home.

    As soon as Sister left, I made sure she was out of sight. Then I went up to the light switch and flipped it on and off at least 50 times. To me it was magic.

    Sister was very good to me. She brought me milk and cookies at 10 am and again at 3 pm, then she would tell me to hide somewhere until I finished my treat. I usually went to the front room in the Greenhouse.

    When Sister Basil was on retreat, Sister De Chantal [Voitus] would take her place. She was also very good to me. She would bring out milk and cookies at ten and three and tell me to go into the asparagus patch to take my break. By that time the asparagus was harvested and all that remained were the tall stems that went to seed. I could crawl in there since it was like a forest. There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t tell me that I had to be a priest; other than the last day that I worked for her. On that that day she told me to be whatever I was comfortable with.

    ~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

  • The Journey Continues

    Feb 04, 2016
    We invite you to follow along as Sr. Audrey and Sr. Eilis share their journeys as they continue their formation on HM Humble Beginnings.
  • Welcome, Frank!

    Feb 03, 2016
    We welcome Frank Romeo, director of land management emeritus, to the blog as he begins a series of reflections from his long association with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. He has been connected to the Sisters of the Humility of Mary his entire life.
  • 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