By KRISTEN LEE-CHARLSON
Just west of Missoula, hidden in the Ninemile Valley is one of the most magical spaces I have ever laid my eyes on. I first encountered the historic Ninemile Schoolhouse in 1996 when I was involved in a holiday extravaganza called “The Gift.”
At the time I was working at Missoula Children’s Theatre and we produced this spectacular outdoor drama with then owners Hanneke and Les Ippisch along with part-time Ninemile Valley resident Andie MacDowell, who also starred in this captivating piece.
On a snowy evening in December we bused folks from Missoula, served them a scrumptious meal and warm beverages in the many charming buildings on the property, creating a truly spectacular and memorable event.
Now, almost twenty years later, I, the Heirloom Foodie am the new steward of this most marvelous retreat.
Many locals know the Schoolhouse for the well-known Christmas markets that the Ippisches’ cultivated for 25 years. They also ran the Teacherage (a place where the schoolmaster and teachers lived) on the property – era 1920’s – as a Bed & Breakfast, and the beautiful grounds have been used for events including weddings and reunions.
I am excited and overwhelmed by the potential and possibilities. I hope to create a truly heirloom experience and environment for the community by offering classes, retreats and continuing the market legacy. Everything from butchery, brewing and beekeeping to fiber arts, fermentation and knife skills. An Heirloom Classroom of sorts, complete with the Heirloom Kitchen hosting cooking classes and weekends with local and celebrity chefs and food artisans.
Currently we are renting out the Historic Teacherage which has four uniquely themed bedrooms and two baths, complete with an equipped kitchen and common living space. It is available to rent by the room or in its entirety.
It can also be paired with the Honeymoon Cottage (Writer/Artist Retreat) for groups. Meals or specialty food items can be provided upon request, including local/organic, paleo, gluten-free and more. Our approach is for a clean and non-toxic environment, accommodating even the most sensitive guest.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the Ninemile Schoolhouse, let’s continue the heritage and tradition of this historical place as a community learning space.
PS – my memories of the Schoolhouse, where I washed oodles of silverware in the bathtub back in 1996, were recently revived with a long soak in that same luxurious tub!
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Kristen Lee-Charlson is recognized for her food consulting knowledge, exceptional menus and passion for the local food system. She has hosted a variety of modern homemaking classes from cheesemaking to butchery. Recently she founded the Heirloom Principles a consulting agency for chefs, institutions and individuals for the sourcing of locally-produced and sustainably-raised products. She is an accomplished chef, caterer and home-cook. As a mother of four, she is dedicated to educating and empowering others about traditional food preparation and the joy and economy of eating local. Kristen is a strong advocate for a more localized and resilient food system. Daily she creates and consumes real food for her family including sauerkraut stomped by her children’s bare feet and eggs from her backyard hens. As an urban renaissance woman her ambition is to eat more local pastured pork.