Tobias Vincent gathered a goat for milking while Gus the goose waddled across a Weston Mountain farm after him.
Vincent had just moments before blinked sleep from his eyes. But the brisk 6 a.m. air soon had him awake at Duchovny Dom Byzantine Catholic Men’s Monastery.
The young man with a shock of red hair wore all black work clothes as he filled a metal pail with milk from five goats. Like he did the day before. Like he will do the day after.
The monastic candidate tipped the pail while setting it down, spilling some of the milk.
“That was close,” he said.
Vincent arrived in January to this Christian enclave about 10 miles outside Weston off Highway 204 in the Blue Mountains. He said he fell in love with the place and “been here since.” Come August, he will take vows to step up from a candidate to become an initiate.
Duchovny Dom is the realization of the Right Rev. Josef Stanichar, but here he goes by Father Joseph. He spent his youth in New York, he said, and the accent still slips through after years away from the Big Apple.
He was ordained in 1968 and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1970s, where he was a chaplain and retired a full colonel after 23 years. His Air Force duties brought him to eastern Washington, he said, and Walla Walla had a small mission of about 15 families. He sought a quiet place to retire and the mission found him six acres in the Blues.
“It’s a good place,” he said.
Turning a small cabin into a monastery started about four years ago and the process continues.
Stanichar is the abbot and one of five monks at Duchovny Dom. In simple terms, they are members of the Greek Catholic Church that remains aligned with Rome. They greet each other and guests with “praise be Jesus.” They call each other brother. Vincent is a candidate, meaning he is at the beginning of monastic levels. Another member is an initiate. One monk is absent now, away for medical treatment.
And brother Andrew Griffith is taking his solemn vows. He is Stanichar’s right-hand monk.
The monks live and run the monastery from a large home. Antiques, paintings, decorative rugs and church iconography adorn the welcoming and living rooms on the main floor. Stanichar’s office and residence are up the wood staircase on the second floor along with the cloister, where the monks reside.
The cloister is off limits to women. This monastery is for men, though Duchovny Dom hosts pilgrims and people on retreat of both sexes. This past Memorial Day weekend, 51 came for a work pilgrimage. Women stay in an on-site trailer. Pilgrims and retreatants join in the labor and worship.
“They live the lives of monks,” Griffith said.
What started as a private retreat in the woods now spreads over 77 acres, including 40 acres of forest.
They have the five milk goats and 12 others for meat. The monks breed and sell a mix of Great Pyrenees and Maremma sheep dogs. They also raise chickens, turkeys, babydoll sheep and bees. They grow a lot of their own vegetables and make trips to Pendleton and Milton-Freewater for supplies. They sell eggs and honey.
And then there’s Gus the goose. Griffith said he arrived during the winter and has yet to leave. The goose follows people as readily as the goats. Griffith said Gus enjoyed toying with the pups when they were smaller, but now they are large enough to toy back.
Watching it all, he said, is a joy.
Daily life means gathering in the living room for coffee and tea before 7 a.m. Like men anywhere, they comment on the weather. They head to the cathedral for two hours of worship.
They share two meals day, though there are snacks. They pray again at 3 p.m. and again at 5 p.m. for vespers, or evening prayer. Afterward they have an hour of recreation.
By 9 p.m. they are to be in their rooms, usually reading spiritual works. Lights out at 10.
They hold public services on Sundays. In between, they tend to the monastery and its grounds. They also leave on occasion.
“One day we got so excited,” Griffith said. “We went to a funeral.”
The ceremony was for a priest and attending was an honor, he said. And later this year they will attend a home school convention in Seattle.
Leaving the monastery comes with a cost. They rely on good neighbors and workers to tend to the animals, and when they return from trips they have to play catch-up on their work.
“We all suffer together up here,” Stanichar kidded.
They do not have TV nor get a newspaper, but their visitors keep them up on news and events. And there is the internet. Griffith and other monks use that to watch Youtube videos.
“Honestly, what we like to do is watch other monks,” he said.
There also is Stanichar’s rose garden, where softball-size red blossoms thrive. Vincent drew his eye to a small rose, vibrant with oranges and pinks. He said he’d never seen a rose like that until he came here. Stanichar also said he is a fan of the Kentucky Derby, and on Derby Day he said he has a nip of bourbon.
Griffith said a group of businessmen who visit Duchovny Dom also have a drink and smoke cigars. They come to take a break from their stressful lives, he said, and enjoy the company of other men.
Griffith said he also enjoys hanging with them, but he does not partake of the smokes and drinks.
He is, after all, a monk.
You can search Facebook to find more information about Duchovny Dom and how to contact the monastery.