SFH Journal: 2021-11-22 through 28 – Thanksgiving

We here at Serendipity Farmhouse hold Thanksgiving Day to be most precious. It speaks to our hearts and souls of a lofty ideal, yet it resides with us in the realm of reality and common sense. Indeed, to celebrate Thanksgiving Day properly, one must answer two important questions:

For what are we thankful?

To whom are we thankful?

President Abraham Lincoln, in his 1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving, spoke to both questions when he wrote:

“To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Yes, even in the midst of the Civil War, he could say, “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” And he attributed all those “bounties” to “Almighty God”.

We here at SFH, like you and many whom we know, have been touched by the sickness and evils of these most uncertain times of pandemic and social upheaval. Nevertheless, we can also see the many gifts we have been given throughout this year and, without any doubt, we know to Whom we are to give our thanks. Along with Lincoln, we can affirm:

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

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At Serendipity Farmhouse, there is no thanks to be given for the great bounty we enjoy, if it is not thanksgiving to Almighty God.


Sometimes, even though it might seem contrary to what one might think, five chefs in a small kitchen isn’t necessarily a pending catastrophe. Nope! Sometimes, five chefs in a small kitchen might be the harmonious prelude to a most memorable Thanksgiving dinner. And so it was on Thursday when we assembled in that unnamed, but soon-to-be-world-famous kitchen somewhere in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

It would take far too much time to describe all that took place in that small kitchen. Nevertheless, I will attempt to summarize as follows, listing each chef and their particular specialties for the day.

Executive Chef – Daughter #2: This up-and-coming young chef extended her already expansive repertoire to include the following masterworks:

Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles – Working with the basic recipe by Ina Garten, D#2 added her own variations and made this the centerpiece of the dinner plate.
Cranberry Sauce – It wasn’t from a can, it came from a creative hand, and it was oh so tasty.
Turkey Gravy – This was another first for D#2. Never again will she have to rely on some pre-made gravy from a jar or a bag.
Appetizer Tray – Here was an excellent assortment of cheeses and other flavorful morsels.
Sangria – This delightful punch consisted of rosé wine, chopped fruit, and other ingredients and spirits.

Deputy Executive Chef – Son-in-Law #2: Here is an unsung master, who quietly plied his craft and produced two flavorful staples for this traditional meal.

The Turkey – Even if everything else is superb, when the turkey is a failure, the entire Thanksgiving dinner falls flat. SIL#2 did not let us down. The turkey was completed on time and cooked to perfection.
Yeast Rolls – These were a must to accompany the meal. What can be better than to add a little butter, then clean the gravy off your plate with these wondrous little rolls?

SFH Test Kitchen Executive Chef – Dearest Wife: A great joy in the life of a mother is watching a daughter accept the challenge of the kitchen and to master the cooking skills. On this particular day, Dearest Wife assisted D#2 when needed. The day before, she did prepare something that would make the dinner complete.

The Pumpkin Pie – What would Thanksgiving Dinner be without this scrumptious dessert? All agreed that it was the very best they had ever tasted.

Rank Amateur – Yours Truly: Based on his amazing ability to break or damage just about anything, this guy was assigned the duty of mashing defenseless roots.

Mashed Potatoes – Despite his best efforts, this guy was unable to bring about any type of culinary disaster. There were actually some fairly good mashed potatoes on each plate, ready to soak up D#2’s good gravy.

Junior Chef – Granddaughter #4: The Deputy Executive Chef was aided and assisted in several tasks by able and willing Granddaughter #4. Her eagerness to help and apparent joy in joining in with the more senior chefs suggests she is at the beginning of a lifelong culinary adventure.

For this love-filled day, for this time in the kitchen, for this enjoyable meal, for this family we have been given, Dear Wife and I say, “Thank you, Lord!”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-22 through 11-28

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-30

SFH Journal: 2021-11-01 through 11-21 – Deep Autumn

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, observe the pictures above. Everything in them conveys a most important point – this is Le Chat, this is a feline in command. And that is precisely the case – I am the Feline in Command. While conducting my command and control duties on RV trips in El Camino Del Monte, my Command Post is strategically located in the over cab loft. From there I can observer all, monitor each and every activity, and maintain close control of my humans as they conduct all their activities within ECDM. It’s a difficult job ‘herding humans’, but it’s what I do.

The same can be said of my most necessary work at Serendipity Farmhouse. It’s a daily ritual. I get Ol’ Fuzz Face and Blondie up at an appropriately early hour. I make sure that they waste no time doing their required chores, e.g. feeding me, cleaning my pan, making my bed, etc. Blondie’s pretty good at following all my instructions, but I have to confess Fuzz Face is not exactly the ‘sharpest claw on the paw’.

Yep, Fuzzy is a little slow on the intake and downright bad at time management. He was supposed get this post out on Sunday, yet he hasn’t written a single word. The SFH blog has to maintain its five-star reputation, and Fuzz Face really isn’t up to the job. That’s why I have to take matters into my own paws and let you know what’s been happening here at SFH. So, sit back, relax, catch up on your grooming, and be informed by this report on all the SFH local news.

10 -12 NOV – RV Trip 2021-06: This was the last trip of the year. Blondie and Fuzz Face had made some ridiculously bad scheduling errors for some of our mid-season trips. Of course, you remember my post RV Trip 2021-02: I Wanna Go Home!. My big cats couldn’t have picked a worse time to take our rig out camping. – Dang! I hate that air conditioner!

RV Trip 2021-06, however, couldn’t have been any better. The weather was perfect in the mid-60s. The Autumn foliage was at its peak, and I was a happy cat camper. If he ever gets his scat together, Fuzzy will write a post and provide some pictures.

Looking southwest at the Massanutten Mountain Range

11 NOV – Dinner with Julia: Now, I’m not much into people food, but Julia Child and I share a love of butter. You can be sure that when the smell of butter is in the air, you will accompanied by Le Chat Chef Extraordinaire. And so it was on the evening of November 11th. Blondie and Fuzzy, under the close scrutiny and guidance of yours truly, successfully executed Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin. Once again, if Ol’ Fuzz Face ever gets his scat together, he will write a post and provide some pictures.

Coq au Vin a la El Camino Del Monte

17 NOV – River Cleanup: For several years now, we at SFH have watched as our lovely riverfront was slowly overgrown by small trees, invasive shrubs, and killer vines. The presence of established trees along the river bank is essential to prevent erosion, but many of the recent plant arrivals were hostile creatures, seeking to destroy all useful varieties of vegetation in their path. Enough was enough, Blondie commissioned a work crew to turn back the invasion. Although we know this is not the end of the war, and we will have to remain ever vigilant, the pictures below show that we are now winning.

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16-19 NOV – ECDM Winter Storage: Even for those of us who are somewhat reluctant to admit that RV life can be fun, it is always a sad time of the year when El Camino Del Monte has to be serviced, cleaned, and wrapped up in its protective cocoon for the winter.

As usual, Fuzzy provided examples of his all too frequent buffoonery. He stated to all of us here at SFH that gas prices were only going to go up. So, he rushed off to the nearby service station and pumped $102.92 worth of gasoline into ECDM at $3.29/gallon. Of course, the very next day, the gas price dropped by 10¢/gallon. — Fuzzy next showed off his ability to make simple jobs look hard, while at the same time taking foolish risks with his aging life and limb. I suspect Blondie was willing to take the pictures of him up atop ECDM so that it would support her claims for a maximum payoff from Fuzzy’s life insurance.

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20 NOV – First Woodstove Fire: So, we here at SFH have made the turn into the midst of what we call ‘Deep Autumn’. Finally, we’ve reached the time of year when the trusty old woodstove is used as our main source of heat. And for me, now that this post is complete, it’s time to curl up and take a long deserved nap, enjoying the warmth of the fire.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-07

SFH WX 2021-11-08 through 11-14

SFH WX 2021-11-15 through 11-21

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-30

The Guy’s Guide to Glamping: Guys’ Night & Guys’ Day

(Note: See The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – Section 1, Chapter 1 for Part 1 of this amazing adventure.)

Section 1, Chapter 1: RV Trip 2021-05 – Serendipity River Park – Part 2:

Guys’ Night & Guys’ Day

The Code of Guy is a complex and fortunately not well known set of unwritten rules used to guide the behavior and guard the reputation of guys. For example, if you were to ask if the guys in our camping group took showers while on our camping adventure, the Code of Guy would demand each of us to avoid comment on the question – after all, we have a right to privacy.

Likewise, should one inquire regarding the nature or topics of our nighttime, round-table discussions, one would be answered only with a smile that loudly proclaimed that one was quite foolhardy to pry into the secret inner sanctum of ‘guy’. So, I will relate the happenings of Guys’ Night and Guys’ Day at Serendipity River park in full adherence to the Code of Guy.

Guys’ Night

In Part 1 you were introduced to guy camping conducted on a lavish scale. Yes, Grandson #3 and Son-in-Law #1 dined on an exquisitely prepared dinner of hot dogs and other healthful and nutritious foods as listed in our guy camping menu. Now it’s important to note that the beverages offered with the meal were not listed – that was due to certain privacy concerns. Serendipity River Park is located quite close to several breweries, and a fine distillery is within easy walking distance. With this in mind, GS#3, SIL#1, and I were confronted with an array of beverage options. It was only after a long and meaningful discussion that we finally settled upon the manly beverage that would accompany our meal. That’s right, you guessed it – Chocolate Milk!

Guys’ Night would not have been complete without our astounding store of snacks to accompany our three-movie marathon. M&Ms were measured out by the pound. There were bags and bags of trail mix, containing all possible ingredients to satisfy the varied tastes of our guy ensemble. Chex Mix was the favored treat for GS#3. And the list goes on and on. There is no way whatsoever to wonder why our movie watching consisted of equally high decibel levels of laughter, discussion, and snack munching and crunching. – The local wildlife would have no rest on this night.

Then, in the wee still hours of the early morning, three guys decided to call it quits. We said our bedtime prayers and climbed into our assigned berthing areas. I went to the queen sized bed, SIL#1 curled up in the dinette sleeping area, and GS#3 climbed up into the loft over the cab. Thus ended Day 1 of our two-day trip.

Guys’ Day

Breakfast the next morning was notable for the way we all pitched in to prepare this glorious first meal of the day. Fried bacon was in abundant supply. Eggs enough for seconds all around were prepared outside on the cook stove. SIL#1 prepared toast and other sides in the commodious RV kitchen. And, of course, there was coffee and orange juice. Yes, a hearty breakfast for a hungry group of guys!

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Once the dishes were cleaned and the RV was made “ship shape” (not necessarily to glamping standards), we started on full day of manly exploring adventures. First we found our way to nearby Civil War historical locations. GS#3 took great interest in the campsite of Union soldiers from Pennsylvania.

We followed the Thornton River into village of Sperryville, noting all points of interest. This was the beginning of tourist season here in the Blue Ridge. Early lookie-loos from the big cities, expecting the Autumn colors already to be at full peak, meandered about in disappointed groups wondering why their timing was so incredibly wrong. We, on the other hand, know the Shenandoah National Park area quite well. There was no disappointment for us. No, we merely enjoyed all that was around us, including the lookie-loos. – Then we made our way back to our base camp. It had been a tiring outing.

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The realities of Grandson #3’s disease have a way of intruding into all aspects of our lives. Perhaps the hike had been too long and too tiring. GS#3 was showing signs of fatigue caused by the side effects of recent chemotherapy. – Sometimes you have to surrender to reality. – Son-in-Law #1 and I decided now was the appropriate time to bring this guy camping adventure to an end. So, we packed up all our belongings, broke camp, and made preparations for the homeward leg of our journey. We bid farewell to Louise, thanking her for all she had done. And then we made our way up the long and bumpy lane, looking back one more time at our riverside campground at Serendipity River Park.

Along the way, SIL#1 proposed that we should pray the Rosary together. And so we did. GS#3 led us in that Rosary. We offered it in dedication to the real patron of guy camping, a special saint to whom this past year has been devoted. Yes, we dedicated our Rosary to that man who had to take his family on several extended trips that required long treks, camping under the stars, and one time even staying in a stable – a real man, a real guy, a real father – St. Joseph.

And as I went to rest that night in my comfortable bedroom at Serendipity Farmhouse, I looked up to see the painting just above my bed – Flight into Egypt. And now it is my ritual, each and every night to look up at that painting and I say, “Dear St. Joseph, please remember me and those in my family, especially Grandson #3, to your Son.”

Flight into Egypt – G. Hitchcock


Author’s Note: It is necessary for me to acknowledge that I am the husband of a hard core, die hard glamper and, for the sake of self preservation, I have conformed myself to almost all facets of her glamping lifestyle. That means, of course, that my credentials as a 100% ‘guy’ are somewhat sullied and do not hold full weight and merit in the eyes of 100% bona fide guys. Although severely compromised on this point, I remain a happily married coward.

In an effort to overcome that loss of acceptance by the guy community at large, let it be known by one and all that in writing The Guy’s Guide to Glamping I have consulted on a regular basis with two stalwart proponents of the real guy philosophy. The first is legendary in this region of the Shenandoah Valley. He is the world renowned Donald Wiser, Ph.D.* the author of what some refer to as the ‘definitive guide to guy’. And no book about what it means to be a guy camper would be complete without frequent reference to the thoughts and opinions of that true icon of guy camping, our own highly distinguished Mr. Monte.

*Factoid: The nickname for Donald is “Bud”.

SFH Journal: 2021-10-18 through 31 – Look Up!

My recent post Dark Autumn Reflections was, as its title stated, quite dark. I look back on that post and note my listing of worries and concerns. My words left no doubt that I was in the grips of depression. Yet, even with my recounting of problems, real and perceived, I was able to remember a most important fact:

“We here at SFH have hidden strength and resilience that enables us to weather any storm. We know that we will always come through the problems that beset us – there is always a sunny day after the storm.”

For us here at SFH, October 27th was the sunny day after the storm. The featured picture was taken immediately after attending Mass that morning. The sky was clear, the Autumn colors were vibrant, and the moon, a waning gibbous, was still high. To see this warm reflection of God’s might and splendor, all we had to do was to just “Look Up!”

RV Trip 2021-05: This storm in our life at SFH began to break when Grandson #3, Son-in-Law #1, and I made an excellent RV trip to Serendipity River Park.* It was during that trip that Blondie and I were first able to place our worries and concerns far in the background where they rightly belong.

* See The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – Section 1, Chapter 1. This was the first post in a series that will memorialize a truly epic adventure.

Water Leak: One of our ‘dark Autumn reflections’ centered on a serious water leak directly under our front walkway. We knew that the charge for repairing the leak could easily match or exceed the $3,800.00 we spent to repair a similar leak last December. We had mentally prepared ourselves for another massive expense. The day the plumbers came, we watched with dread and trepidation. Of course, the leak was directly under our brick walkway. Of course, the plumbers would announce that they were only plumbers and not landscapers. Of course, yours truly would have become a landscaper to repair the walkway once repairs had been completed. But, and this was a most important but, the entire line would not have to be replaced – the line could be fixed at the point of the leak.

Despite a large hole in the front yard and despite an upcoming day or two of bricklaying work on hand and knee, I was quite happy to pay the plumbers $458.00 for their day’s work.

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COVidiocy: COVidiocy knows no bounds. It manifests itself in many ways and none of those manifestations are rational. COVidiocy has caused pain and mental anguish for many, many good Americans. And my wife and I can count ourselves among that group.

Natural serendipity cannot ward off the harmful effects of COVidiocy. Only supernatural serendipity, i.e. the very Hand of God at work, can dispel the diabolical darkness of COVidiocy. And so it was on the morning of October 27th when I learned that my prayers had been answered and supernatural serendipity freed Serendipity Farmhouse from the grips of one manifestation of COVidiocy. – – But what of the many, many good Americans who have not been freed? What of the good Americans who are losing their jobs and being stripped of their freedoms? – – We here at SFH pray for them daily.

Birthday: What in life is better than having wonderful grandchildren? There is great peace and joy that comes from spending a Sunday afternoon sharing a birthday with these splendid little people. And this peace and joy only increases when a granddad can successfully assemble the “big present” and watch a growing granddaughter learn how it works. – – Yes, this was a most perfect day for Granny & Granddad!

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Firewood: Sweet, hardworking Wife and I hauled and stacked one cord of firewood in record time – three days at three loads per day.

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And surely, life can’t be quite so bad and the future can’t be quite so dark, when during the midst of the storm, a truck pulls up and delivers a cord of firewood. This wood will keep us warm during the cold of the coming Winter. – And so it is with God’s grace, it will always be there, even when we are lost in Dark Autumn Reflections. – There’s always a sunny day after the storm when you surrender to the realities of the life God gives you. All you have to do is just “Look Up!”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-18 through 10-24

SFH WX 2021-10-25 through 10-31

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-01 through 10-31


The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – Section 1, Chapter 1


Now you may have fallen for the balderdash presented in the recent crop of books and magazines fixated on the world of glamping. Those books are mostly written by glamping gals and they are filled with every sort of aberration of the ancient recreational art known as camping. To a person like me who grew up in Scouting, with a father who had actually met Sir Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, glamping is an entirely foreign concept. For us real camping guys, it is immediately understandable why virtually no books about glamping are written by guys.

Yet, the incontrovertible fact is my lovely and most endearing Spouse is a dedicated glamper. And even though we spent thousands to purchase our Class-C RV “El Camino Del Monte” for camping, it is true to say there will be no camping unless it is high class glamping. So, for the sake of domestic tranquility, I have had to adapt my camping style to her glamping style. – – Yes, call me a coward because I have compromised my beliefs, but I remain a happily married coward.

Mr. Monte

I might also add that both of us, the long-time camper and the beautiful and dedicated glamper, have had to modify our style of glamping to accommodate the whims and extremes of Malicious Monte, the namesake and real ruler of our RV.

(For those of you who want a taste of what glamping is all about here at Serendipity Farmhouse, refer to the following posts: 4th of July Glamping and RV Cooking – Two Easy Meals.)

The three smartly dressed and well groomed gentlemen appearing in this post’s featured image are none other than dear Grandson #3 (GS#3), yours truly, and, of course, esteemed Son-in-Law #1 (SIL#1). We will be your hosts introducing this, the very first chapter of the very first section of the forthcoming and soon-to-be-best-selling-book “The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – A Serendipity Farmhouse Perspective.”

Section 1 RV Trip 2021-05 – Serendipity River Park – Chapter 1 The Beginning

This particular trip has been long in the planning (over two years) and many times postponed. The reason for postponements this year were caused by a medical diagnosis that indicated our greatly loved GS#3 has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Much of the RVing season was lost to us while GS#3 underwent the first phase of chemotherapy. And throughout that most difficult period, GS#3 kept asking, “When will we be able to make our RV trip, Granddad?”

The dilemmas and tribulations brought about by chemotherapy, COVidiocy, and work schedules, kept causing the trip date to be moved back. Finally!! Finally!! There was a break in clouds and the sun shone through, we finally found a date when GS#3, SIL#1, and I could make the trip. No matter what might come up, I refused to have that date changed.

And things did come up. Do you remember that water leak in our front yard that I wrote about in SFH Journal: 2021-10-11 through 10-17 – Dark Autumn Reflections? Sure enough to my dismay, the only day the plumbers could come out was on the second day of our planned trip. I would not be deterred, lovely Spouse and I found a workaround. The trip would go on!

Then, SIL#1 sent an email. GS#3 was not doing well and he might need a blood transfusion, our trip might have to be postponed. That’s when beautiful Wife and I went to the church and made a direct plea for assistance or intervention. God heard us and answered in the affirmative – on the day of the trip, GS#3 was strong enough and the trip would go on!

With this good news, the three guy campers now threw everything they had into getting ready for the trip. A real camping trip. A real camping trip with a few modifications to accommodate dearest glamping Spouse. It would be a real guy glamping / camping trip. No gals allowed!

Without question, two important lists had to be prepared – the menu and the movie list. I took care of the menu, ensuring that it would be a menu remembered by all. GS#3 volunteered to prepare the guys’ night movie list. It consisted of a primary grouping and was accompanied by a large number of alternatives. Below, you will see the most fantastic menu ever, followed by the three movies that were actually watched on guys’ night.

The Muppets (2011) – Full Cast & Crew – IMDb

Muppets Most Wanted (2014) – IMDb

Stargate (1994) – IMDb

The big day finally came. El Camino Del Monte (ECDM) departed Serendipity Farmhouse and travelled the 20+ miles to pick up GS#3 and SIL#1. Although the forecasts had originally been threatening, the weather turned out to be perfect for an Autumn RV trip. After some forty minutes on the road, ECDM pulled up next to the house that all seasoned travelers know as the landmark announcing arrival at the gateway to the Shenandoah National Park – the town of Front Royal.

Within minutes, GS#3 and SIL#1 were aboard ECDM with all their carefully packed belongings – two small knapsacks, pillows, and a highly favored blanket. – Let the adventure commence! – And we were off, heading to that hidden oasis of happiness known as Serendipity River Park (SRP). Owned and operated by our dear friends Don & Louise, SRP has been a haven and resting place for ECDM and it Serendipity Farmhouse crew on several occasions over the last four years.

(See Serendipity River Park – Re-Creation to learn more about Serendipity River Park.)

Just after we crossed over Chester Gap on US522, I called the secret, only disclosed to us Serendipity River Park phone number. The delightful voice that could only belong to our dear friend Louise immediately answered. We told her our expected time of arrival and she informed us that everything was ready for our two-day stay. – Both GS#3 and SIL#1 eagerly awaited meeting Louise and having their first view of SRP.

The miles quickly passed under our wheels and it seemed like no time at all before we were pulling down the long, bumpy lane that leads to Serendipity River Park. Then, there she was, Louise was standing to the side of drive waving her ‘hello’. ….

Tune in next time for the continuation of our RVing adventure.

Some Glamping / Camping Facts: Please view the pictures below. Take some time to compare and contrast. On the left you will see an amazingly beautiful and dignified glamping gal. You will note that she is drinking her afternoon tea from the finest of China and her table is adorned with flowers. On the right, you will see two real guy campers awaiting a gourmet dinner of hot dogs and corn chips. SIL#1 in the foreground is sporting a fine pair of bare feet while wearing suitably worn and frayed sweatpants and t-shirt. GS#3 is quietly musing on the wonders of nature while attempting to become invisible to all biting insects. – The glamping gal is happy and the camping guys are happy.


Blondie’s Big Mistake!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, observe the picture to your left. Ears back, eyes leveled and glaring, and, of course, an expression of utter disdain – that’s right, you know the look. This is not a happy cat. This a cat with an ax to grind. This is a cat whose blonde-haired human is in for a full course of early wakeups, scattered litter, nibbled kneecaps, and a random assortment of feline felonies.

You may be asking what my human, Blondie, did that so angered and insulted me. So, I suppose I should put this particular episode of human negligence and irrational behavior into its proper context. – It’s all about food and feline dignity.

How many humans have ever had to eat the crud they routinely give to us? Any thinking human being, if there is such a thing, would know that we cats prefer what they put on the table for themselves. Consider the number of times you’ve come over to your feasting human and begged for just a meager scrap of cheese or fried chicken. They puff up with their human vanity and speak down to you saying, “This is human food, your cat food is what you really need.” – That’s a bunch of malarkey!

Unfortunately, we cats are subject to human whims and ignorance concerning what cats really need. That’s true even here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Two days ago, I was making my rounds in the pantry, making sure that no mice or bugs had broken in. That is when I noticed this container of canned crud. Please note that it says “Senior 7yrs+”.

Immediately, alarm bells went off in my head, my ears drew back, my fangs came into view, and my body bristled. “Senior 7yrs+” – there’s no senior cat around here. True, I just celebrated my seventh birthday, but I’m no senior. I am, in the finest sense of the word, a “mature” cat.

Just then, Ol’ Fuzz Face walked into the pantry. He saw the food can with the highly offensive statement and turned quickly to make his retreat. I hopped down and stopped him at the doorway saying, “Fuzzy, what is this and who bought it?” His face went pale. He knows the only one at SFH who ever buys cat food is Blondie. He was trying to figure a way of covering for her.

He quite haltingly, with a fear-filled voice, offered that the can might have come in the mail as a sample product. – After he cleared his throat from speaking that piece of miserable fiction, I bit him on his ankle. He momentarily writhed in agony and once again made for the door.

Once again I stopped him, showed him my teeth, and demanded the truth. – In a very weak and quivering voice he mumbled the single word I had long before anticipated – “Blondie.” – Then he literally ran from the pantry and sought a place to hide from both me and the spouse he had just betrayed. – He still hasn’t emerged from his exile in the woodshed.

I won’t describe what happened next because it is not my intention to harm the fragile feelings of Blondie’s twelve wonderful grandchildren. They were not the perpetrators, so they should not be made to suffer. Suffice it to say, we had a little talk Blondie and I, and I suspect her wounds will mend in a week or two. During that talk, I gave her some references as mandatory reading material on the stages of cat development. I also made her write the following 100 times in her best penmanship: “Mr. Monte is a ‘mature’ cat, he is not a ‘senior’ cat.”

I have included the reading references I gave her and I have also composed my own table so that all who read this post will know that Mr. Monte is a “mature” cat. As you look at the table, you might also note that my two humans are rapidly approaching the stage of “geriatric” humans.

(No humans were seriously harmed in this episode, despite how they might testify in court.)

Life Stages – The Cat Care Clinic Veterinary Services Orange, CA – Cat Hospital Health Veterinarian

How to tell your cat’s age in human years | International Cat Care (icatcare.org)

The Four Life Stages of a Cat – Cat Friendly Homes

Life StageAge of CatHuman Equivalent
Birth to 6 months
0–1 month
2–3 months
4 months
6 months
0–1 years
2–4 years
6–8 years
10 years
7 months to 2 years
7 months
12 months
18 months
2 years
12 years
15 years
21 years
24 years
3 to 6 years
3 years
4 years
5 years
6 years
28 years
32 years
36 years
40 years
7 to 10 years
7 years
8 years
9 years
10 years
44 years
48 years
52 years
56 years
11 to 14 years
11 years
12 years
13 years
14 years
60 years
64 years
68 years
72 years
15+ Years
15 years
16 years
17 years
18 years
19 years
20 years
21 years
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SFH Journal: 2021-10-11 through 10-17 – Dark Autumn Reflections

Professional and amateur photographers alike avoid publishing pictures that contain reflections of themselves. For them, the lens must capture what is meant to be seen, not the one who is behind the lens. It is a silent way to control perceived reality. On the other hand, painters often do self portraits to chronicle changes to themselves over the course of time, especially in the Autumn of their years. – It is a necessary surrender to reality.

The featured picture at the top of today’s post crosses the line separating the photographer and artist who reside within me. The reason is quite clear. I am a part of the picture. What is happening in the picture is happening to me and to Serendipity Farmhouse. – This is an unavoidable reality.

The Week Before Christmas

Older houses and older people deteriorate over time. SFH is an older house and it was bought “as is”. Blondie and I have done our best to restore SFH and conduct preventive maintenance, but we are well aware that new problems will emerge when and where least expected. If you recall, last December we spent $3,800.00 for plumbing repairs due to leaks in the water line from the pump house to the main house. (See SFH Journal: 2020-12-17 through 12-28 – Whew!.)

The picture above shows water bubbling up from under our front walkway. The sand around and beneath the bricks is being washed away. This has been going on for almost a week. Due to the nature of the current economy and supply chain problems, a plumber won’t be available to assess the problem until this coming Tuesday. Our guess is that the water is coming from the water line that runs from the well pump to the well house. We still have running water in the house to serve our needs, but the damage to the walkway mounts daily. – This is an unavoidable reality.

I must confess that this and a number of other “unavoidable realities” caused the author to have a relatively serious meltdown earlier this week. I have since collected myself, apologized to Blondie and Mr. Monte, and worked at restoring “peace” within myself.

It is poor form to blame one’s problems on others. For example, there is no way I can blame the SFH water leak on any one individual. This is an old farmhouse, it was bound to happen someday. There are some things, however, that we would like to blame on certain individuals, and perhaps rightly so. But I believe that there is really nothing to be gained by doing that. Nevertheless, these days we are experiencing a global pandemic of what I call “COVidiocy”. It is spreading rapidly and has many variants. One of its more serious variants manifested itself on September 9th. (See for yourself here.) Over the last month, I have developed several symptoms inflicted by that particular form of COVidiocy. If no treatment becomes available soon, it appears that I may suffer permanently from the effects of this disease.  – This is an unavoidable reality.

We here at SFH have hidden strength and resilience that enables us to weather any storm. We know that we will always come through the problems that beset us – there is always a sunny day after the storm. For example, it rained yesterday and the wind from the storm knocked down hundreds of black walnuts. They will have to be cleared away. But that’s no problem for Blondie and me. Isn’t that why we invented the game of Walnut Whacking?

As of this morning, there were twice as many black walnuts as seen here.

And surely, life can’t be quite so bad and the future can’t be quite so dark, when during the midst of the storm, a truck pulls up and delivers a cord of firewood. This wood will keep us warm during the cold of the coming Winter. – And so it is with God’s grace, it will always be there, even when we are lost in Dark Autumn Reflections. – There’s always a sunny day after the storm when you surrender to the realities of the life God gives you.


SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-11 through 10-17





SFH Journal: 2021-08-15 through 10-10 – Do the hard things first!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, it has been nearly two months since the last post on this site. By now, you must know that I hold each of you in the highest regard and with the greatest affection. I understand how stressful the last year and a half has been for you. You’ve been anxious about the health and happiness of your humans. Some of you may have even lost one of your human companions and you are suffering the heartbreak of agonizing loneliness.

Your are not alone in your world of worries. Yes, their are even reports that some my dearest web followers, such as Shera, have fallen ill. If you haven’t heard about her, you can read the story Delta variant nearly killed a lion during National Zoo’s covid outbreak. Fortunately for Shera and her companions there are is now the report Lions and Tigers Recovering Well at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

We here at Serendipity Farmhouse have always strived to bring you news and commentary that is uplifting, edifying, and occasionally humorous. Yet, there are times here in this “the house of our realities” when it is necessary to acknowledge that we also are overburdened with cares and concerns. That is when we must pause and reflect and make serious decisions about what is most important in our lives; that is when, as Ol’ Fuzz Face says, we must “Do the hard things first.”

And so it has been here at SFH for the last two months. We have paused. We have reflected. We have considered our real priorities. And we have been doing the hard things first.

Thus, after consultation with my beloved humans Fuzzy and Blondie, I am writing today to introduce a series posts that will show you my 23,417 feline followers and those few devoted human followers how the SFH family has come together to do the hard things first. At the same time, Fuzz Face and I will endeavor to continue in our quest to provide commentary that is uplifting, edifying, and occasionally humorous. This series of posts will include discussions on the following serious topics:

  • How an elderly couple cared for each other while beset by Covid;
  • Grandparents’ response upon learning that a grandson has acute lymphoblastic leukemia; and
  • Making a decision that may mean the loss of employment.

But, there will also be more typical SFH stories about:

  • Trips in our Class-C RV El Camino Del Monte,
  • Blondie’s birthday, and
  • My birthday!!!!!!!

Of course, the series will update you on the almost bountiful harvest from the extensive SFH vegetable gardens and how much canning, pickling, and freezing has been done.

If you were wondering about the featured picture, and how could you not wonder, our upcoming series of posts will demonstrate beyond any doubt that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen, even during these hard times, remains in full-scale operation. In fact, the picture to the left was inspired by Blondie’s whimsical thought: What if Julia Child had combined Japanese watercolor art with her French cuisine?


SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-08-01 through 08-31

SFH WX 2021-09-01 through 09-30

SFH Journal: 2021-08-02 through 08-15 – Back in Business (Almost)

The featured picture is a couple of years old, but it definitely conveys the sense of joy one feels when important, labor-saving equipment is operating as it should. Late this week, after a very long and painful absence, my cherished lawn tractor was returned to its rightful place here at Serendipity Farmhouse. While it was in the “hospital” suffering from an ailment that took over three weeks to diagnose, yours truly was mowing the somewhat less than verdant lawns of the vast SFH Estate with a push mower. To give you an idea of what that was like, consider that eight of the first fifteen days of August were in the 90’s and, during that same period, the average humidity was 82%.

Now that the lawn tractor has returned, I am a much happier man. You might well ask, what was it that caused the lawn tractor to cease functioning? Well, dear Readers, it turns out that the electronic control module, with its embedded computer chip, had its brains scrambled. Consequently, the lawn tractor was almost fatally infected with – Complete Operational loss of Vital and Indispensable Data – i.e., COVID.

If you recall, we listed a rash of problems that beset SFH almost like a plague of locusts in our post SFH Journal: 2021-07-05 through 07-25: Upson Downsof Life Re-Revisited. Now that the lawn tractor has returned, we have resolved almost all of our problems. One problem remains however as a distressing reminder of how we can feel the loss of a modern day convenience. Our 21-year-old dishwasher has neither been repaired nor replaced. The whole affair is a nasty mess reminiscent of the movie Catch-22. I will refrain from boring you with the details, but I will let you know that dear and wondrous Wife is not happy with her dishpan hands and she has discussed the matter with me on numerous occasions. Needless to say, I’ve been on the telephone attempting to untangle this mess.

Canning has been underway for a few weeks now. If you click here, you can see what we’ve put away thus far.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-08-02 through 08-08

SFH WX 2021-08-09 through 08-15

SFH Heatwave Chicken

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, this has been and continues to be a very hot and dry Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (Please refer to Ol’ Fuzz Face’s comments on the matter in his post SFH Journal: 2021-07-26 through 08-01 – Hot & Spicy.) As you can see by this candid photo of me, I have taken the appropriate feline approach to ensure that I remain cool and comfortable.

Blondie and Fuzzy, on the other hand, see things in an different way and have chosen to make a period of what should be a time for rest and relaxation into an unnecessarily frustrating time of tension, and drama. Rather than try to make sense of their heat-induced delirium, I will turn the writing of this post over to Fuzzy while I resume my nap.


Despite Mr. Monte’s less than flattering remarks, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had a remarkable and noteworthy week. No, I wouldn’t say it was our best week ever, but I would say it demonstrates our unique ability to bounce back from an apparent failure and turn it into a resounding success. Here’s the story.

On August 5th, our weekly menu called for us to use our Sun Oven to prepare Barbecued Chicken according to a recipe in the Solar Chef cookbook by Rose Marie Kern. But my most perceptive Wife noted that tomatoes harvested over the past few days had reached their prime and had to be canned immediately. So, we changed our plans and spent the day preparing a “new and improved” (N&I) version of our long-time favorite SFH Pasta Sauce.

All went well with the initial stage of canning of our “SFH N&I Pasta Sauce.” To our basic recipe we added homegrown garlic, Italian spice and a couple of other twists. The wonderful aroma of the simmering pasta sauce filled the house. Then we performed the required processing of the five pint jars of sauce. We retrieved the jars from the boiling water at the 40-minute mark and waited for the five pings from the cooling jars. Within seconds, we had ping numbers one, two, and three. Number four took a little longer. … … Unfortunately, ping number five never came – the jar had failed to seal. – – Dang!

Then, simultaneously, resourceful Wife and I stumbled across the same idea. – – Tomorrow, we shall use the un-pinged jar of N&I Pasta Sauce in an entirely new SFH Test Kitchen creation – “SFH Heatwave Chicken”! (Providing there is sunshine …)


We purchased our Sun Oven in Idaho. We only used it once, but that was a great success because we lived in high desert with virtually no trees nearby. More often than not, the sky was very clear and our home sat on a point that was nearly a mile high. – With these perfect conditions for solar cooking, we could get that Sun Oven up to over 400°.

A couple of years ago, we attempted to use the Sun Oven to make a pot roast here at SFH. For many reasons, that was an abysmal failure. Virginia has trees and many of them reside right here on our vast estate. Even when the rare sunny day comes, those trees are dedicated to a single cause – – blocking the Sun Oven. There is one Sycamore tree that is particularly nasty and vicious because it knows it commands access to the precious southern exposure. It is a bully of a tree and I have often thought of having our local tree service remove it.

Day of Reckoning

On August 6th, the sun rose and there was some haze in the sky. The forecast indicated that clouds would move in later in the day. Our chances of success were diminishing rapidly and we knew we wouldn’t be free to start cooking until nearly 1 PM. Nevertheless, Blondie and I were committed – we were going to make this work. So, at about 12:10 I set up the oven and began preheating it. By 12:31 it had reached 275°.

Blondie took charge of preparing the chicken by adding some salt and pepper and then the layering the chicken in our untested, untried, and untasted, brand new “N&I Pasta Sauce. When she finished, I carefully took the pot to the oven and placed it on the leveling rack. The glass door was closed and sealed at 12:51 – this cooking game was now afoot.

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The red arrow in the graphic taken from the official SFH Weather Station shows that, when we began cooking our SFH Heatwave Chicken, we were already past the prime conditions we had earlier in the day. We decided we would let the chicken cook for four hours at about 325°. The question was would that work? Would we be able to get to the desired 180° internal temperature required for poultry? Only time – four full hours – would tell.

The picture above answers that big question. When the picture was taken, the gauge was still climbing and we knew our chicken was fully cooked. Later, when we sat down to eat. We found that it was not only fully cooked, but it was at the point where the meat just fell off the bone; we didn’t even need our knives to cut the meat.

So, on this 92°+ day, we sat down inside the cool SFH dining room and ate a wonderful meal of solar oven cooked SFH Heatwave Chicken, which was resting on a layer of couscous that readily absorbed the savory flavor of our own SFH New & Improved Pasta Sauce.

There are few failures in the SFH Test Kitchen, but there many ways to find paths to new successes!