Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Bluestone Farm and Learning Center... that's what we call ourselves up here at the Melrose Convent. We have six ducks, (currently) two dogs, a cat and a parakeet, and six sisters and one summer intern who share the load of farming, preserving, cooking, praying, and cleaning house (not necessarily in that order.)
Our convent (St. Cuthbert's House) used to be the retreat facility. It's a pre-revolutionary war house that's been added-on-to several times over the years. It's a once grand and beautiful building that's falling apart. The stairs all creak and there are four levels, if you count the cellar. But for the moment, it's home. There's another house across the road, once guest accommodations; it's in bad shape too, and has an unhealthy tendency to mildew when the weather is humid, no matter how many dehumidifiers we install.
Yesterday we all trooped over there armed with face masks, rubber gloves, and determination. Time to clean out all the junk that has been collecting forever. (We're going to have a tag sale.) All kinds of items were sorted into keep, toss, and sell. I love this kind of thing. Clearing out glory holes is not a job for sentimental hearts. You have to have a keen eye and still be ruthless. You also can't do it for too long and stay sharp, so we called it a day at noon.
We had a fourth of July barbecue with sangria, cole slaw, rice, and seitan steaks on the grill. Seitan is fake meat. We make it from scratch from vital wheat gluten, and one of my goals in life is to prepare it in every imaginable way to fool the discriminating meat eater. My sisters aren't as fussy about this as I am, but they don't mind eating my concoctions. The steaks were a hit. Today the leftovers were transformed into gyros, except they tasted more like fajitas... have to keep working on finding the right spice combinations to fake lamb.
But back to Bluestone Farm. We're farming organically, and eating (as well as preserving) the harvest. Kale is in these days. One of our sisters figured out a delicious recipe that takes out all the bitterness, using molasses in the boiling water. We are always experimenting, and it's a labor of love and ingenuity. But it's so much more than just feeding ourselves healthy food. We're committed to leaving light footprints on the earth. One thing that means is respecting the habitat of the critters who share our land, and at the same time protecting the garden from marauders. A giant paving stone on the dry duck food container has finally thwarted the raccoons. They retaliate by throwing rocks around the yard on their nightly forays. The deer ate all of our strawberry plants last year. This year row covers and stronger fencing kept them out. We have at least a dozen quarts frozen, waiting to become shortcake or muffins or jam.
I'm going to miss it here. But I can't wait to fool my sisters in the city with my new invention of seitan sausage!