Oh, Drat! More Turmoil for the Cat!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, do I look a little bedraggled and worn out in this photo? Is there a look of confusion and the onset of panicked terror in my eyes? – Yes, there is all of that, and I can confirm that Ol’ Fuzz Face wears the same look of dread.

Why is that you may ask? – – Well, Fuzzy and I have just returned from what should have been a well-deserved, restful RV vacation, but we had no rest, we had no relaxation. Instead, we heard pronouncements that naturally lead to great vexation. From this day forward it is now “All hands on deck! — Man your battle stations! — “The Admiral is coming back!”

If none of this makes any sense to you, please immediately refer to two posts that will make it all abundantly clear: ‘Ruffles & Flourishes’ and Ruffles & Flourishes – Admiral Departing.

I will keep you informed concerning this event, providing time allows (which I sincerely suspect it won’t). For Ol’ Fuzz Face and me, the future looks very, very grim.

Loud popping sound as the Serendipity Farmhouse 1MC intercom microphone is activated and Admiral Blondie announces:

“Sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms. Give SFH a clean sweep down fore and aft, sweep all decks, ladders, and passageways, take all trash to the appropriate waste processing stations, sweepers.”

 

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

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

SFH 2022 Plantings

SFH 2022 Harvest

SFH 2022 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2022-09-01 through 09-30

SFH Critter Control

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, my primary duty here at Serendipity Farmhouse (SFH) is to protect the lives and ensure the safety of all humans who reside in or visit this vast 1.203-acre SFH estate. Because the estate is located along the North Fork of the Thornton River, there is abundant wildlife and no shortage of nuisance animals. Some of those creatures are potentially dangerous and are not welcomed here. Others are relatively benign, but they are capable of disturbing the tranquility that is a hallmark of SFH.

This past week, Grandsons #2 and #4 visited SFH with the purpose of assisting Ol’ Fuzz Face move two cords of firewood from the driveway to the woodshed. A second purpose of their visit was to partake in ample portions of Granny Blondie’s home cooking. Being wise and conscientious grandsons, their very first act upon arriving at SFH was to report to yours truly the SFH Chief of Security. I presented the mandatory security briefing and they, being so impressed by my presentation, volunteered to be deputized as SFH Security Officers. One of their duties was to maintain a detailed and accurate log of events pertaining to SFH security.

Following are excerpts of text and artist’s renditions from their log with amplification and clarification based on my official records along with photos from the ultramodern and extensive SFH security surveillance system:

To: SFH Chief of Security

While we were working, we encountered some unusual and, in some cases, slightly concerning forms of wildlife. The first of these was a snake with a distinct pattern, that we believe to have been a pine snake [Pituophis melanoleucus]. At the time it was discovered however, not knowing what kind of snake it was, there was certainly cause for concern and alarm. [Grandson #4 had picked up a log to place it in the wood cart and was startled when the snake began to move. He dropped the log, and the snake slowly made its way toward the river.]

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This concern was increased, when sometime later [the next morning], our grandfather was attacked by another such creature, who had positioned itself atop the doorway of the barn. [I was watching from the porch and saw the snake drop from the top of the door and pass just in front of Fuzzy’s face as it fell to the ground at his feet. Knowing that he was in sight of his grandsons, he uncharacteristically did not scream and made his best attempt to act in a manly fashion. This was utterly hilarious as seen from my vantage point because it was clear to me that he was scared beyond description. – Fuzzy, removed the snake with a shovel, warning his grandsons to be ever on the lookout for more snakes.]

Another critter was later found inside of the woodpile, a coal skink. [Plestiodon anthracinus] It was harmless and scurried up a tree when it was uncovered. [Once again, it was Grandson #4 who found the critter. He has an uncanny knack for finding nuisance critters. In just a short period of time, he surpassed the achievements of some of my permanent security officers.]

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Our Grandfather also brought our attention to the skeleton of a zombie raccoon. And while this one had met its fate, there are apparently more in the area. We were fortunate to not run into the wild zombie raccoons while we were trapped in the woodshed by a sudden downpour of rain. [The zombie raccoons in question were suffering from baylisascaris, a genus of roundworms that infects many animals including raccoons. I described the symptoms to the grandsons and advised them to steer clear of these poor infected creatures for reasons of personal safety.]

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The level of security inside the SFH, as well as the ECDM [El Camino Del Monte] RV was impressive however, and while the outdoors was chaotic at times, we both more than enjoyed our stay. [I and the entire SFH Security Force accept this compliment, noting that we’re just doing our job with our usual professional dedication to duty.] 

Respectfully submitted on Thursday, September 8

It was obvious to me throughout their visit that Grandson’s #2 and #4 are strong young lads with a well-developed work ethic. They respect and honor their grandparents. I look forward to having them return and once more assist me the world-renowned SFH Chief of Security.

Below you will see the disappearance of a woodpile and the filling of a woodshed. The successful completion of the combined effort of grandfather and grandsons was celebrated by a most enthusiastic victory lap around the entire SFH estate.

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It is certainly important to note that Granny Blondie provided logistical support to the wood-moving crew. A highlight of the workday was her preparation of a total of 50 Godzilla Tongues (jalapeno poppers) in her new SFH TK air fryer. It was a memorable feast.

Godzilla Tongues ready to eat

 

 

Catiquette Tutorial

Doctor of Classical Catiquette

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, the following is FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.”

Last week, I noted the case of one of my followers who made a severe breach of Catiquette that resulted in the great indignity of a “scruffing” by its owner. (See Caturday & Catiquette.) A recent email from the poor humbled feline suggests that he/she deserves a bit more instruction on the proper techniques prescribed by Catiquette. (Please note that I will do my best to avoid revealing the identity of the feline in question or of its humans.)

The email informed me that the cat made a sincere attempt to communicate its desire to partake in the enjoyment of a chicken bone. The feline crawled up on the shoulder of its human and demonstrated its great interest in the chicken on the human’s plate. Unfortunately, the said feline was too abrupt in its actions, signaling to the human that the feline would lunge for the chicken in an attempt to steal it away from the human. Here, look for yourself and see how the feline’s objectives might be misinterpreted.

I think it’s clear that this approach is far too overt and could lead to an untoward outcome. So, for all 23,417 of my dear followers, please observe the master of Catiquette in action and learn from him. – – Announce your intent/desire, show your human how important it is to you, convince your human that it was really his/her idea, and, most importantly, signal that satisfying your desire will result in great purrfull attention to your human. – – This is your way a saying “Thank you!” beforehand. – – It works every time.

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Caturday & Catiquette

Le Chat – the Feline in Command

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, the following is FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.”

Once again, in an effort to broaden your horizons and expand your capabilities, I will endeavor to discharge the duties conferred upon me by “noblesse oblige“. This week, I will discuss two items that are intimately related to your standing and privilege in your respective households.

As you well know, Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face are so strongly influenced by my regal nature that they would be willing to do almost anything to ensure my comfort and well-being. I did not attain this level of respect by feline mystique alone. No! I had to work to earn their respect and trust. I had to contribute to the culture that makes Serendipity Farmhouse so unique among households. Yes! It is an everyday effort, but it is worth the work invested to make it so. Ultimately, you will find that the effort pays off in substantial benefits and perquisites. I offer to you the example of Caturday to illustrate the truth in my statements.

Caturday

We felines seldom discuss certain rituals and habits that are very much a part of our daily lives. To be blunt, we don’t discuss our cat pans and the litter therein. Here at SFH, however, I have trained Blondie and Fuzzy in how to ensure they have a happy cat when it comes to this particular topic. They have learned that my pan has to be cleaned multiple times daily and topped off with fresh litter every two days or so. They’ve also learned that should not go more than two weeks without emptying my pan, cleaning it thoroughly, and filling it with fresh litter. I have taught them that doing these things for me will bring great rewards. Or more correctly, if they don’t perform these tasks, I might go elsewhere, if you know what I mean. – – The ritual of cleaning the pan usually falls on Saturday, and this day at SFH is affectionately known as ‘Caturday’.

Now, Blondie is a quick learner and very perceptive. She has learned that it is not enough to just clean my pan regularly. She now understands that I should receive a brand-new pan at 18-month intervals. Fuzzy tends to complain about the expense, but Blondie has trained him to keep his mouth shut and do what’s required.

It just so happens that yesterday was Caturday and it was also the day to unbox a new cat pan. Humans will never understand nor appreciate the joys that a cultured feline such as yours truly feels on the day when a new cat pan with fresh litter comes into his life. – – I would show you a picture of how quickly I made use of my new pan, but please understand that I must adhere strictly to the longstanding code of Catiquette that we felines must obey.

Catiquette

And that brings me to a brief discussion of how a breach of Catiquette can cause problems for an unsuspecting feline. It seems that a cat cousin of mine unwittingly made a terrible mistake the other day. In his efforts to ensure that his humans would be spared the problems caused by unwanted rodent pests, he proceeded directly to a garbage can where a chicken bone had been deposited. It was clear to him that the bone was an open invitation to pests, and he took it upon himself to remove the temptation. Unfortunately for my cat cousin, he failed to announce his intentions to his humans beforehand. Not surprisingly, they thought that the cousin merely wanted to satisfy his appetite by chewing on the bone. This breakdown in feline-to-human communications ended up causing a rather unhappy reaction by the humans. The poor cousin cat, all because of his breach of Catiquette, found himself being gently scruffed. No physical harm to the cousin, but a great deal of feline dignity was injured.

The lesson to be learned here is to announce your intentions first. If your humans don’t understand, refrain from doing anything that might be misinterpreted. Got it?

On the other hand, if your real intention is to chew on the bone, do yourself a favor and wait until your humans go to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

An Odd Weather Event

In her post I Married a Weather Geek from Outer Space my dearest, most lovely Spouse, Blondie, affectionately (I hope) called me a weather geek. When I read her post, however, my initial reaction was one of mixed sadness and disappointment. I had hoped that she would have been both pleased and excited by the prospect of Serendipity Farmhouse having its very own weather station. Instead, her words were filled with dissatisfaction with regards to my pursuit of this technical enhancement of the SFH Blog. Here’s what she said:

“Mr. Monte and I have had our fill of this blasted obsession. Look at what he’s done with our once beautiful blog. Post after post, here and here and here and here, are filled with the most boring, and ridiculous weather nonsense. Why can’t he just get a life and talk about good things like food and family and his beautiful and creative wife.”

Fortunately, over time, sweetest Blondie, grew to appreciate the data provided by the weather station. Every morning she would either check out the indoor monitor herself or ask me about total rainfall or humidity levels. Factually, it was Blondie who was first to observe that the outdoor sensor unit had died during the night of July 25th and was no longer communicating to the indoor monitor.

It was on January 3rd, 2019, when I assembled Weather WiFi OSPREY station; mounted and activated the device; activated the monitor panel; enabled WiFi connection; and activated the Weather Underground account for Serendipity Farmhouse Station. For over three and a half years, the sensor unit had functioned faithfully. The manufacturer states that the sensor unit can operate up to ten years, but, in a humid, wet climate such as we have here at SFH, the life expectancy is only about three years. So, the inevitably inevitable occurred – the sensor unit had died.

All senior members of the SFH staff met and unanimously decided that money should be allocated to purchase a new sensor unit. We waited anxiously for the arrival of the UPS delivery truck. Chores, errands, and family matters made it necessary to wait a day before the new unit could be installed.

The initial installation in 2019 required eight hours of frustrating labor. Many technical problems were encountered, and special workarounds and solutions were developed. The morning of August 4th, 2022 was an entirely different matter. Just a little more than a half hour was needed to install the new sensor unit. As you can see below, the official SFH Weather Station was up and running at almost precisely 10:00 AM. – – There was great jubilation and celebration here! – – Former doubters and naysayers, Blondie and Mr. Monte, were beaming with joy. – – I humbly accepted their praise and adulation.

 

The Odd Event

I must admit that, even though I have posted many times about the official SFH Weather Station, there have been virtually no comments from our followers concerning those posts. I myself find it quite difficult to believe that people aren’t as interested in weather reporting as I am. I suppose it’s a matter of ‘each to his own.’

Given the seeming lack of interest in weather reporting, I was absolutely dumbfounded on the morning of July 26th when I found thousands of emails in my inbox, all bemoaning the fact that there was no current weather data from the official SFH Weather Station. Many of the emails specifically complained about the loss because they rely on the data to know when thunderstorms are coming – they needed the information to find shelter in a timely manner. – – This, dear Friends, was one of the reasons why we at SFH made such a rapid decision to purchase the new sensor unit.

A good blogger knows that it is necessary to constantly analyze the needs and expectations of his audience. With that in mind, I studied the huge influx of email and noted the two following points:

First: There were a total of 23, 417 emails noting the loss of the weather data.

Second: The names of the emailers were oddly different from what I usually see when studying blog-related correspondence. Here. Let me show you some of the names: Oliver, Gizmo, Leo, Cosmo, Milo, Cactus, Charlie, Max, Blossom, Simba, Cinder, Jack, Loki, Jackie, Dumpling, Ollie, Erso, Jasper, Buddy, Baggins, Smokey, Fluffy, Oscar, Toby, TiIvy, Boo, Roxy, Belle, Ella, Suki, Zelda, Mochi, Alice, Lucky, Thor, Frank, Midnight, Benny, Tome, Tom, Ginger, Angel, etc.

Another odd thing was that, while I was studying all the email data, Mr. Monte jumped into my lap; looked intently at the computer monitor; and purred most loudly, in a manner that seemed to express deep satisfaction. – – I’m very puzzled by all this. But that’s the way life is here at Serendipity Farmhouse, always puzzling yet always interesting.

SFH TK Renovation – Feature #1

What can happen in a 13.50 x 11.25 foot room in the course of 95 years? Of course, the possibilities are endless. In the case of what is now the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen, let’s consider what the realities might have been:

  • 1927 (or thereabouts) – The kitchen was a barebones cooking space. There were few cupboards. There was no electricity. The only known water well was in the front yard, so water had to be carried to the kitchen. A probable wood cookstove dominated the southern end of the room which vented to a chimney that remains standing to this day.
  • The hidden period – The Millers owned the house and several relatives and/or apple orchard workers moved in and out. Electricity finally arrived, an electric pump for the well brought water into the kitchen. The woodstove was replaced, likely with an electric range.
  • 1978-1987 – The Millers sold the house to the Settles. During the next nine years, the kitchen was ‘modernized’, cabinets and storage space was increased dramatically.
  • 1987-2000 – The Wyants bought the house and probably added some of their own touches.
  • 2000-2009 – The Crosleys owned the house during this period. They were responsible for a number of innovations and improvements in the kitchen. The refrigerator was moved from its rather awkward position at the northwest corner of the kitchen to the northeast corner of the kitchen. This was a good move for several reasons, but it caused the loss of quite a bit of cabinet and counter space. Big improvements included, using paint to make the room brighter, installing black granite countertops, the introduction of a beautiful farm sink, and adding hardwood floors.
  • 2009-2013 – The Grainers made relatively few changes to the kitchen, but they were responsible for many major projects throughout the house and the addition of two new sheds.
  • 2013- Present – Keeping the best of what had come before and looking forward to the arrival of the next occupants, we, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH TK have renovated the kitchen, bringing it into the 21st Century while maintaining a memory or two from 1927.

And my dear Friends, I Pierre LeChat, working under the inspiration and guidance of SFH TK Executive Chef Blondie, have now brought you to a level of historical knowledge that will enable you to understand the importance of each and every feature of the renovation as I presented it to you in my post Oh Yes, it is!. And for the first feature to be discussed, I have chosen the one that is perhaps closest to Chef Blondie’s heart: The Custom Corner Cabinet.

You now know that cabinet storage space and counter space were sacrificed when the refrigerator was moved from its very awkward and inefficient location in the northwest corner. The SFH TK had placed a movable cabinet there with a microwave on top. Storage was minimal to say the least. The picture below will give you an idea of how much storage space has been recovered with the advent of the new cabinet.

The new kitchen storage configuration

Great attention was paid to the design and construction of the new cabinet. Mr. Monte inspected every facet of the cabinet to ensure that it met the highest SFH TK standards. Every step along the way, he consulted with me and with the contractors, pointing out minor imperfections and never allowing work to resume until all discrepancies were corrected.

Then came the day when the paint was dry. All that was left was for Chef Blondie to add the finishing touches. Not a single piece of kitchenware or any item was put in place until she gave her go-ahead.

 

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SFH TK Grand Reopening – Almost

It took a while. Factually, it took over eight years of planning, saving, and waiting for the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen renovation to be complete. And finally, we are just about there. The unofficial reopening for the SFH TK was on Monday when the final piece of decor, a red utensil cannister arrived. Now, all that remains is a blessing of the kitchen by our pastor. From that point forward, the SFH TK will once again be ready to welcome children, grandchildren, and friends for adventures in the culinary arts and the world of fine cuisine.

At my urging (notice the rolling pin in my hands), Hubby has prepared a few pictures of the newly renovated SFH TK. Also, at my urging (once again, note the rolling pin), Hubby is working on a series of posts to provide a detailed description of the renovation process. I’ve assigned Mr. Monte to oversee that process. He was last seen at his scratching post sharpening his claws in anticipation of any problems that might arise from dearest Hubby.

The first picture below shows a general view of the main working area. It features the new subway tile, new stove (lovingly called ‘Mr. Clyde’), and the all-so-useful under cabinet lighting. Also shown is a new schoolhouse light fixture installed by Hubby.

This final picture illustrates how important it is to us to personalize the SFH TK and ensure that all can see how important family and our shared experiences are to us. It highlights the new yellow paint, which accentuates the beauty of the antique shelf and all the memory-filled items on it.

Maine Coon Medic

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, the following is FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.”

In an effort to broaden your horizons and expand your capabilities, I am documenting one week of virtuous service to my poor overstressed big cats, Ol’ Fuzz Face and Blondie. Please read this closely and consider how you might use some of the techniques I use to establish and increase your bonds with your big cats. – Remember, there are many treats and snacks in store for felines who master these techniques.

It all started nearly two weeks ago. Fuzzy was in obvious physical decline. He was fatigued and somewhat irritable. When asked, he told Blondie that he was okay and just a little tired. – Friends, I know Fuzzy’s voice all too well, and I know when he is being less than honest. That was when my Maine Coon Medic sense began to alarm!! – it was apparent that Fuzzy was going to attempt to “man-out” whatever was afflicting him. Knowing that things were not right with Fuzzy, I decided to open a clandestine effort to learn Fuzzy’s real health status.

Now I am the one-and-only Maine Coon Medic. I have learned how to detect various physical and behavioral symptoms in my humans. Quite often, they suffer from stress and often that stress either leads to sickness or accompanies sickness. In Fuzzy’s case, it was necessary for me to use every skill at my command. Rather than just relying on my senses alone, I realized that I needed to access accurate medical information to aid my diagnosis and development of a plan to rescue Fuzzy from his own manly pride and ignorance.

Dear Feline Followers, only you know my secret identity – “White-hat Hacker Cat” (白帽黑客猫). Recently, I have advanced my hacking techniques to a much higher level. And one of my newly acquired skills is the ability to read medical/health status data from Fuzzy’s new fitness watch. It was last Saturday when I made my way to the data. Immediately, I could see that Fuzzy was sick, fatigued, and overstressed. As soon as Fuzzy got up that morning, I stayed close to him and did my best to indicate by nudging him that it was time to head to the urgent care clinic. When Blondie awoke, Fuzzy explained that he should have someone see him. Unfortunately for all of us, the attending nurse practitioner at the clinic said that there was no sign of infection, but she would send off a sample for a culture. – That left Fuzzy with nothing to do except wait for 2-3 days for the culture. Meanwhile all his symptoms and his stress level continued to intensify.

Monday was really bad. Blondie and I urged Fuzzy to call the clinic. Fuzzy did so and proceeded to explain his problem. He was told a prescription for antibiotics would be sent to his pharmacy. Later, he and Blondie drove the 27+ miles to the pharmacy, only to be told there was no prescription. He then went to the clinic and, after over an hour of waiting, talked to the same nurse practitioner. That was not a happy encounter. Fuzzy and Blondie left the clinic without a prescription or anything to relieve Fuzzy’s symptoms. You can see below that Fuzzy’s Body Battery was low and his stress levels were high. In fact, his fitness watch stated: “Your Body Battery was nearly depleted. Get more rest after days like this and pace yourself to avoid fatigue.”

18 JUL: Low Body Battery, High Stress

Tuesday wasn’t much better than Monday and, in some ways, it was worse. Fuzzy, had to take Son-in-Law #1 to the UVA Medical Center for an operation, a trip of about 100 miles. Soon after they departed SIL#1’s home, I listened as Blondie called Fuzzy to tell him that his culture was positive for the suspected infection – where should the clinic send the prescription. Blondie relayed that Fuzzy would call them soon with the answer. – – And that’s where the situation made an abrupt turn towards idiocy.

After much pre-op time, Fuzzy watched as SIL#1 was wheeled toward the operating room. He had called the clinic earlier and told them which Charlottesville Walgreen should get the prescription. Now that he was free to leave the hospital for a short time, Fuzzy made his way to the pharmacy. With a smile on his face, he politely asked for his medication. – There was no prescription for him. Despite his request, the clinic sent the prescription directly to the pharmacy he had said should not receive it.

This is where I, the Maine Coon Medic, need to interpret the following chart. Just after 12 PM, Fuzzy’s stress levels shot up to 90%. Fortunately, the very nice pharmacist was able to come up with a work-around and by 12:36 PM, Fuzzy had his medication in hand. Unfortunately, Fuzzy’s body battery was depleted and Fuzzy’s stress level hit 100%. As you can see below, the remainder of the day was not a pleasant experience for Ol’ Fuzz Face. – There was nothing I could do from Serendipity Farmhouse, so I did my best to soothe Blondie’s poor nerves – she was at least as upset as Fuzzy was.

19 JUL: Low Body Battery, Max stress

After a long day in the hospital with poor Son-in-Law #1 who was having and equally bad day, Fuzzy did the right thing. He went to the hotel, took a shower, said his prayers, and crashed.

The next day was better for Fuzzy, I could see on my computer that his watch indicated that his body battery had recharged. The time he spent sitting with and praying for SIL#1 kept his stress levels low. Finally, at about 10:30 PM the hospital released SIL#1, and Fuzzy returned a very sore, very tired, very stressed SIL#1 to Daughter #1.

It must be said that SIL#1 has had several post-op complications and is not feeling well at all. I know we felines don’t have to pray, but we can certainly nudge our humans and urge them to pray for the poor guy and Daughter #1.

The following chart show’s Fuzzy’s Wednesday. At the end of the chart, you can see the stress induced from driving at night on dark country roads with deer hiding at every turn.

20 JUL: Slow Improvement

Now my Job as official Maine Coon Medic at SFH, is to ensure peace and tranquility for all who reside here. Seeing that Blondie and Fuzzy continued at high stress levels for the remainder of the week, I had to devise a plan to get their minds off their bad experiences. – This is how I did it. When my two big cats were discussing all their frustrations, their anger, and their concern, I walked over to Fuzzy and nudged him. He thought I wanted a snack, but I indicated that’s not what I wanted. And that’s when I pointed to the store-bought garlic on the counter. I nudged him again. – Suddenly, he loudly declared to Blondie that the new SFH garlic crop in the shed had dried enough and was ready to bring in.

Blondie nearly jumped from her chair. She said, “I want help this time, I’ve never been there when you prepared it before.” In a flash, the two were out the door and on their way to the woodshed where the garlic was. Later that day, I heard Blondie say, “I never thought that preparing garlic would be so much fun. It might be a small dirty job, but the result is a store of garlic for the rest of the season.

Blondie was happy. Fuzzy was happy. I, the world’s only Maine Coon Medic, was happy.

Garlic Harvest July 23, 2022

Please pray for Son-in-Law #1 and his entire family!

Windfall Okra

C’est une situation très grave. The final piece of the renovation of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen was to have taken place yesterday. But that did not happen. Non, instead, two days ago the vendor called to inform us that the new electric stove had not yet arrived at the warehouse. The delivery date is now uncertain, but certainly no sooner than this coming Wednesday. – – There was indeed a mood of great disappointment amongst the members of the highly dedicated SFH TK staff.

But I, the indomitable Pierre LeChat, was able to restore the spirits of the staff and renew their sense of mission. And I was able to do that with the help of recourse to the SFH TK secret ingredient – ‘serendipity. In this case it was the ‘serendipity of ‘Windfall Okra’. – And you might ask, just what is ‘Windfall Okra’?

Mon amis, in this case, ‘Windfall Okra’ is the unexpected ringing of the telephone with the news of a serendipitous event. And that event was that a class at the Rappahannock County High School had planted okra earlier this year and the okra was ready for harvest – ready for harvest, but no one really knew what to do with that harvest. The caller, however, knew that the SFH TK was always willing to take in any stray or unwanted harvest and turn it into a gastronomic delight. (Perhaps this blog should refer to itself as a “Homeless Harvest Rescue Site”.)

Within minutes, the homeless harvest found itself in the safety and security of the caring hands of the Test Kitchen staff. I immediately devised a plan to transform this abandoned okra into a gourmet snack – it would soon become crunchy pickled okra for snacks and dinner side dishes. (See the recipe we used below.)

It will be a week or so before we perform a taste test. We suspect that this will be a test with mixed results. Pourquoi? The poor abandoned okra pods we received were somewhat past their prime (6-7 inches). When okra pods grow beyond 3-4 inches in length, they tend to become stringy and fibrous. We anticipate that some of our crunchy, pickled okra will be well beyond crunchy. If that is the case, then we will let the neighborhood dogs use them for chewing exercise. I, for one, am quite hopeful though that ‘serendipity‘ will continue to prevail, and that at least some pickled okra will become the tasty and crunchy delight for which we hope.

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Crunchy Pickled Okra

This is a crunchy dill-style, vinegar-based pickled okra recipe. It is a refrigerator pickle to preserve a summer harvest without canning. It is based on a recipe by John Amato in The Culinary Garden.
For step-by-step instructions refer to the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NIyVdJHQ6M

Ingredients
  

Ingredients for Mason Jar

  • 4-6 sprigs fresh dill Note #1
  • 12 oz 1 QT washed and trimmed okra
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 small hot pepper Serrano or Fresno - Note #2

Brine Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon whole coriander seed Note #3
  • 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns Note #3
  • 1 3/4 Cups white distilled vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pickling salt - Add same time as sugar
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Notes

Note #1 - Our homegrown dill was at a perfect stage for use.
Note #2 - All we had available was a small homegrown jalapeno. We sliced it lengthwise and removed the seeds to avoid excess heat.
Note #3 - We had no coriander seeds, so we resorted to using mrs. wages Mixed Pickling Spice 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

The sun rose a little over an hour ago. Here at Serendipity Farmhouse this is our time for prayer and reflection. On this great national holiday, my mind comes naturally to these words.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This year, the meaning of these words has been restored and renewed – at least in part. Here are two shining examples:

Life Prevails

Liberty Triumphs

As the sun continues to rise, there remains a quiet and peaceful calm. My beautiful Spouse has declared “holiday routine” for the entire SFH staff. For all of us, today will provide a special opportunity to enjoy that third enumerated right which the Declaration states was endowed by our Creator –

“the pursuit of Happiness”

Pierre LeChat has buried himself in a pile of cookbooks looking for new recipes for the soon-to-be-world-famous, recently renovated SFH Test Kitchen. The ever-vigilant Mr. Monte has made his morning security rounds and is taking a well-deserved nap. In a short while, Blondie and I will start preparations for today’s holiday Feast. And that feast, as it is every year on this day, will be festive, filling, and flavorful. Behold! Here is the traditional SFH 4th of July menu.

Although today will be relaxed and restful, the latter part of June and the first few days of July were filled with a multitude of chores related to completion of the SFH TK renovation. There has been organizing, cleaning, ordering a new stove, and preparing for the 2022 preserving and canning season. In fact, the harvest has already begun. So far, we have picked over two pounds of green beans, several jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, and the first pods of okra.

Because our green bean harvest is the largest ever, we have had a chance to freeze the surplus beans (three bags so far). We’ve never done that before, but it turned out to be quite simple. We used freezing advice provided at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. For green beans, we used the instructions listed here.

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The SFH TK renovation, although not complete, is already making life better here. Several years ago, we had to store away our Breville juicer and have not had the opportunity to partake of the wonderful “green juice” we used to make. The art of juicing was introduced to our daily routine by our friends Rob and Carol Hoffman. Now that we have easy access to the juicer, and because many vegetables are available to us from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, we have once again been able to make “green juice” a morning standard.

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Neither the Declaration of Independence nor our Creator gives us a right to “Happiness”. Rather we are endowed with the right of “pursuit of Happiness”. Here at SFH, we always try to remember that distinction. Sometimes, things other than “Happiness” come our way. For example, when we came home one day last week, we found that a storm had caused some destruction to our vast SFH gardens and arboreal treasures. Compared to what happened to our neighbors’ house two weeks ago, when a large Maple tree crushed a portion of their roof, the damage we had was entirely insignificant. – –

It’s at times like this, that our “Liberty” and the right to pray when and where we want becomes so important. In other countries, that is not the case. We must remember that the rights we celebrate today were won for us by brave men who were inspired by “divine Providence” to say:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Happy 4th of July!!!