Saturday, September 17, 2016

More smoke

Preparing for a cookout in the Abbey courtyard earlier this summer -- something we don't do when conditions are very dry and fire danger correspondingly high.
In an earlier post we spoke of the occasional scent of wood smoke from wildfires -- often quite distant. But on September 4, our idyllic Sunday afternoon was disrupted by evidence of a fire much closer to our Abbey. A great plume of smoke was visible to the west, especially from the higher ground closer to the highway. We heard the reassuring sound of sirens as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene -- near the Starwood Trail on public land, as we later learned, so the blaze was dubbed the Starwood Fire.

As some Sisters telephoned around for news, others hustled the cattle down to the hayfields along the creek, where the grass is moist and green. The cattle were certainly happy about it, and looked beautiful against the green, in the evening light of late summer.

Providence -- and fast work by firefighters -- kept the fire  to a very modest 300 acres. Last we heard, it was quite contained, and had caused no injuries or damage to buildings. We even had some rain overnight a few days later -- not so great in quantity, but slow and gentle, so that it soaked in to the dry land and vegetation.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cannery Row

Our monastic refectory became a fruit processing center in late August as we cut and bagged many pounds of luscious peaches for freezing and canning.

August in Colorado means PEACHES! And we are the grateful beneficiaries of many kind donors of crates of these delicious orchard-fresh fruits. Even better, not all of the peaches came already ripe at the same time. Our stalwart kitchen staff certainly had a busy couple of weeks, but not absolute frenzy to try to get all of them canned or frozen before they were past any hope of use.

We also blanched, cut, and froze several crates of sweet corn -- after eating as much of is as we reasonably could. This is also turning out to be a good year for our native fruits, and some of the more agile and ambitious Sisters have been collecting chokecherries and currants before the bears get all of them. Chokecherries are said to be very nutritious, but need to be made into jelly to be palatable to most humans. They are also pretty heavy on the pit. Currants are sweeter and pitless, but pretty small. Now ripening are the wild plums, which are quite tasty, and large enough to seem worthwhile.

Black bears relish all of these, and are not constrained by worries about tearing their clothes on the branches, or about breaking the branches in the process of berry-picking. We've seen signs of bear feeding (you know what we mean) quite close to our buildings and on our entrance road, so they are definitely finding the food sources. Indeed, it is amazing that an animal as large as a black bear can subsist on such tiny fruits.

One can easily sympathize with Yogi and Boo-Boo and their interest in "pickanick baskets".

Friday, August 26, 2016

How many Nuns...

...does it take to feed a water buffalo calf?

"Maggie" was born earlier this summer, and is being trained to the  bottle so that  her mother becomes more accustomed to being milked by humans. Water buffalo milk is especially prized for making mozzarella cheese, so we will hope for success all the way around.

It's a bit hard to see in this picture, but that milk bottle is being aimed at the muzzle of Maggie, the new water buffalo calf. We're hoping she soon gets the concept and stops requiring two Sisters to restrain her while she's being fed.

We've been happy to enjoy the great outdoors quite a bit this summer. Our weather has not been as hot and dry as in many parts of the country. While the grass in the picture below does look pretty scraggly, that is fairly normal for our arid climate.

An evening recreation in our courtyard, Abbey friend Father Robert from Texas regales us with tales of his adventures in parish life and seminary administration.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Abbess Emerita Mother Maria-Thomas Beil celebrates Diamond Jubilee of Vows

On July 29th we had the great joy of celebrating the 60th anniversary of monastic profession with our retired Abbess, Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB. Upwards of sixty guests -- old friends, oblates, and benefactors -- joined us for the beautiful Mass of the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Friends of the Lord.
Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB, Abbess Emerita, with her festively decorated profession candle and wreath of "diamonds" on her 60th anniversary of profession. Since we burn our profession candles every year on our anniversary, hers has become quite short by now!

Since this feast celebrates friendship and hospitality at Bethany, it is especially dear to us as Benedictines. In his homily on John 11:19-27, Abbey friend Father Frank Garcia underlined the growth of St. Martha's faith -- attested to in her declaration, "I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God". As is our custom, the  Sister celebrating a jubilee takes an additional name, and Mother Maria-Thomas chose "Fides", the Latin word for "faith", as her diamond anniversary name.

Clergy, jubilarian, and choir of nuns and postulants sing together at the Mass for Mother Maria-Thomas' 60th anniversary of monastic profession.

In the last several years, Mother Maria-Thomas has pursued her long-standing interest in art by trying her own hand at colorful paintings and poetic reflections on Scripture passages. She has shared these results of her creative lectio divina with friends and oblates. Some of them arranged a small exhibition of some of her watercolors and pastels in the Abbey lobby and conference room on the occasion of this 60th jubilee.

Some of the paintings and accompanying poems by Mother Maria-Thomas that were displayed at the reception following the celebration of the Eucharist.
A special joy was the presence of several family members of the Jubilarian, who had traveled from Germany and the Netherlands. Also attending were friends from her days as a 5th-grade teacher in Eichstaett, at the school run by our mother house, the Abtei St. Walburg.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When there's smoke, somewhere there's fire

Summertime on the Front Range in Colorado brings garden produce, colorful flowers, pleasant evening breezes -- and wildfires. While our Abbey is not itself in any danger from fire at the moment, we follow with concern the large fires raging in several places in our state, and throughout the arid West.

The one closest to us is the Beaver Creek fire on the border of Colorado and Wyoming, northwest of our location. It currently affects more that 20,000 acres of forest, and is being fueled by deadwood from trees killed by the pine bark beetle infestations of recent years. When the wind, temperature, and humidity are just right (or just wrong, perhaps), smoke drifts in our direction, a pervasive haze that hovers over the valley and makes for dramatic red sunsets.

Another fire, dubbed Cold Springs, is burning in the mountains 10 miles west of our old hometown of  Boulder, Colorado. Several residences have been destroyed by that blaze -- by God's grace, no one has been injured.

We join with all our neighbors in praying for the safety of the firefighters, and that rain may soon come to their aid in controlling these blazes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summertime, and the livin' is busy...

We've been busy celebrating Solemnities and getting the bumper crop of hay baled, so the Chronicler is a bit late with this post. Friday, June 24th was the celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist, and Wednesday, June 29th, was the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Next week we look forward to the Solemnity of St. Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism, on July 11.

We hope to be incorporating this Chronicler's Blog into the rest of the Abbey website soon, so stay tuned.
Some of the bountiful harvest of grass hay in the Abbey fields.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Making Hay

Wild roses bloom in profusion by the side of a partly-mown hayfield.

After all of our rain, the gardens and fields at the Abbey are green and lush. Now is the time to mow those fields whose grass is destined to become hay to keep the livestock over the winter.

Sr. Maria Walburga mowing hay.