SFH Journal: 2019-09-09 through 09-15

On one hand, things have been very good this year. For example, the Okra harvest keeps coming in bit-by-bit. To date, we have frozen six packages and pickled eight pint jars of that tasty vegetable. This year’s crop has also provided for many meals for ourselves and for guests.

WS5On the other hand, weather events from as far back as March of last year continue to rack up their toll in destruction. During Winter Storm Riley in March of  2018, our beautiful pine tree in the front yard was damaged and was leaning at a bad angle. (See our post SFH PPP 2018-01: Living the Life of Riley for details.)

Apparently, the tree was damaged more than we suspected. This year, when the rains subsided, the tree began to go brown. Now, it looks like the tree is past saving. It’s likely that some of the root structure was damaged and, when water became scarce, the roots couldn’t supply enough water to sustain growth. It’s a sad thing, but it looks like we will have to have it taken down and removed.
SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2019-09-09 through 09-15

Crisis Averted in Rainy Day Catch Up

Question 1: What was the crisis?

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Running low

Answer 1: The official Serendipity Farmhouse Pantry inventory revealed we were almost out of popcorn – the single most important and tasty food snack known to humankind.

Question 2: What relationship could possibly exist between popcorn and dehydrated Cow Horn peppers?

Answer 2: Both items have an extended shelf life when they are dry canned.

Question 3: What in the heck is “dry canning”?

Answer 3: Read this post and find out.

0913190927_HDR (2)Normally, we buy popcorn twelve pounds at a time. There is a cost savings when bought in quantity. When we realized we were running low on this essential snack, we found that the dealer had been out of the large bags for almost two months. So, we purchased two four-pound bags to get us through the crisis.

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Note:  Not Cow Horn peppers

Meanwhile, we had amassed a quantity of Cow Horn peppers from the garden. They weren’t needed any more for canning with salsa. Following our SFH maxim “never waste anything”, the Cow Horns were dehydrated last week and temporarily stored in a mason jar.

Now, with popcorn and peppers ready for preserving, we waited for a convenient lull in household activities. Yesterday came with rain, fog, and cooler temperatures. There was no outside work that could be done on our vast, rambling, 1.24 acre estate. This was the perfect time for “rainy day catch up”.

With Mr. Monte’s advice, consent, guidance, and watchful assistance, I assembled all that was needed to do the job at hand – dry can five quarts of popcorn and one pint of Cow Horn peppers. All that was needed for the job was:

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FoodSaver with regular & wide mouth sealers

1 FoodSaver unit,
1 regular mouth jar sealer,
1 wide mouth jar sealer,
1 one accessory hose,
6 oxygen absorber packets,
5 quart size mason jars,
1 pint size mason jar,

 

The rest was simple. (Only because Mr. Monte kept nagging and pointing me in the right direction. He has no patience for those who obviously have inferior intellect.)

0913190940a (2)Popcorn was added to the five quart jars and Cow Horns were added to the pint jar. One oxygen absorber packet was added to each of the six jars.

 

0913190943a (2)Because oxygen absorber packs immediately start absorbing whatever oxygen is available, unused packets need to be vacuum sealed to preserve them for future use. So, even before I sealed the jars, I made a new bag for the unused packets and sealed them.

Next, I sealed the five wide mouth jars. I finished up by sealing the regular mouth jar containing the Cow Horn peppers. Note: The ring is not screwed onto the jar until after the sealer does its job.

 

Question 4: What was the result of my half hour investment in time?

Answer 4: When dry canned, dry food goods such as popcorn and beans remain unspoiled for between 10 to 20 years. For example, we have some great northern beans that were dry canned in 2012 and they are just as good as the day we dry canned them.

Rather than growing four or five different types of hot peppers each season, we usually

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The perfect jar of  Cow Horn peppers

grow only two types – jalapenos and “something else”. We dehydrate the “something else” peppers and dry can them. Last year it was serranos, the year before it was habaneros, and this year it is Cow Horns. These can easily be reconstituted by sitting in water or merely cooking them in with whatever recipe calls for them.

We also mix three or four types of dehydrated hot peppers and crush and grind them. This becomes a spicy topping for pizzas or it can be applied (very carefully and cautiously) to various dishes.

In addition to dehydrated peppers, we have dry canned dehydrated apples. Over the coming years we hope to expand the dehydrating and dry canning to other foods.

Bottom Line: It’s easy. It’s practical. It’s not overly taxing on the nerves. And, it saves money.

So, now you know how to prevent a popcorn crisis and turn a rainy day into a sunshine event. God bless!

SFH Journal: 2019-09-02 through 08

We’ll keep this short today with just a few words about preserving and planting.

On September 5th, Serendipity Farmhouse set an all-time record for preserving our own garden grown vegetables. Tomatoes were in great abundance this year, so we can boast of canning a total of 27 pints of salsa and 18 pints of pasta sauce.

There are still many more tomatoes ripening on the vines. We plan on giving some away to friends and family and experimenting with recipes for spicy green tomato salsa and fried green tomatoes. Mr. Monte has already started collecting recipes.

Meanwhile, the okra crop keeps coming in. The plants have not grown to their usual size and their leaves are sparse and ragged. This may be due to attacks by Japanese beetles and shield bugs (stink bugs) in addition to extended periods of 90° plus temperatures. Nevertheless, the plants keep producing and appear to be recovering from pests and heat.

This week, dearest beautiful Wife planted three rows of an 18th-century English variety of black-seeded Romaine lettuce called Bath Cos lettuce. That, along with the three rows of arugula she planted a couple of weeks ago, will be coming into its maturity as we move into Autumn.

As in any year of great bounty, thanks must be given. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful harvest!

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2019-09-02 through 09-08

SFH Journal: 2019-08-26 through 09-01

This past week was highlighted by a visit by our most sweet, charming, and imaginative Granddaughter #1. She brightened up Serendipity Farmhouse with delightful conversation and insights into a surprisingly positive and hopeful worldview. Even Mr. Monte moped about with a feeling of absence in our home when Granddaughter #1 had to leave.

As this journal week ends on the beginning of a new month, we can see that the Summer is now giving way to the first signs of Autumn. For several plants in the vegetable garden, the growing season has come to or soon will come to an end. This is natural and good. For those who Pray, Prepare, and Preserve, this is expected and it is welcomed.

 

Here are some brighter moments from the week – – –

0826191337_HDR (2)08-26 Monday: This was an all-day adventure delving into the the history of political thought, horticulture, and innovative thinking in our Commonwealth of Virginia. Granddaughter #1 captured the essence of the day in her post Monticello & Granddaughter #1.

08-27 Tuesday: A day of conversation, work in the garden, and catching up on chores provided necessary relief from driving, waiting in lines, and tourist frustration. There is joy to be found in waking up to a cup of coffee and some honest labor. As you can see below, this was a productive day for the gardens.

0827191604c (2)The never-to-be-world-famous apple trees here at SFH have suffered greatly from a year of extreme over watering followed by a summer of extended, extreme heat. That we have any apples at all this year must be considered a blessing. So, today, with the apple picker I purchased last year but was never able to use, I went out and picked a representative sample of what is growing on our trees. (Full disclosure: This picture was staged and all the spots and blemishes have been hidden from view. Even with that, these are not prize winning apples.)

A Great and Wonderful Birthday Gift: DSC_0719 (2)Oh, by the way, did I ever tell you that our family loves Japanese Gyoza. Of course I have, you just didn’t remember. (To refresh your memory see How to Make Japanese Gyoza.) Well, Daughter #1 outdid herself by treating my wondrous Wife to a Gyoza feast for her birthday. Loving daughter spent the best part of a day preparing approximately 100 of those delicious treats. The fortunate partakers in the feast included Daughter #1’s family, adorable Wife, and yours truly. Mr. Monte refrained from joining in due to certain private weight control issues.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:

See SFH WX 2019-08-25 through 09-01

Monticello & Granddaughter #1

Finally, the day has arrived.

A day I had been looking forward to for quite some time, and a bit of a surprise for me, bestowed by my wonderful grandparents.

Your post today is written by Granddaughter #1; the following is a description of some of the events which transpired during our little vacation to the grand Monticello.

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A first stop on life’s great adventure

After arriving from an extended but very peaceful drive, we had a bit of a problem looking for a good place to park. That wasn’t difficult for me though because of a little tradition I have for each time I travel. I find it very interesting to try and record every license plate I find (I also feel somewhat proud that people come from all over the country to visit my state, ahaha) and there were a lot of nice ones to see. Unfortunately, I was not able to record all of them, as I had nothing with which to write; however, I can tell you that many of them were from quite far away (Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington State).

Following this, we were taken on a shuttle bus to the top of the mountain, where the tour would soon begin. However, I (rather foolishly) forgot that at high altitudes, it’s freezing, even in the summer. We walked all over and tried to keep warm, but it was not very effective, so we took to trying to record how beautiful the view was instead. This turned into some interesting “games”, as you can see below.

When we were finally able to begin the tour, it was slightly unnerving, as some of our fellow visitors seemed a bit dour. There was one boy who apparently was there with his parents for the benefit of his education; it seemed he was required to ask a certain number of questions of the tour guide.  One time, I heard him mutter to his mother, “I’ve already asked 3 questions … ” I felt bad for him, as there was a chance he already understood everything and did not need to ask any additional questions. However, it was a bit amusing, to say the least.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the interior of Monticello, but I can tell you that it was absolutely stunning. Thomas Jefferson, though not an inventor, was certainly a very intuitive and reflective man, and came up with many ways to make his home not only visually appealing, but also as efficient as was possible at the time.

The garden tour came next. However, a tour had already begun, and it was really too late to join in on the next tour, so we ended up seeing everything ourselves. In my humble opinion, it was all for the better, as the experience I was most looking forward to at Monticello was photographing all of the flowers and vegetables. I love photography, especially still life, as it’s the only kind I’m very good at. I only had my phone, but had a nice time and was very satisfied with the photos I took.

Look at the beautiful view!

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I leave you with some of the exquisite sights from the garden, including some rarely seen “potato pumpkins” and giant okra. Except for the cock’s comb, I took all the pictures of the flowers seen, including that lovely, giant, white, rather energetic and adorable flower with the cute face … hehehe.

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SFH Journal: 2019-08-12 through 25

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

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Mr. Monte

“The end is not in sight.”

“There is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

“- That’s because the tunnel has no end.”

Folks, I think Old Fuzz Face has finally lost it. He just walks around muttering to himself like a living page from Eeyore’s Little Book of Gloom. He’s talked himself into a state of total uselessness. He just doesn’t know how to leave the past behind and let the future take care of itself. All he can think about is how badly things might turn out.

Along with Blondie, he fretted and fretted about the Great High Tea. He’s worried about too much sun, too little rain and just about anything that might be too “too”. He took a wonderful two-day RV trip with Blondie and me (yes! there will be a post). We made great food and I was on my best behavior (sort of). All he can talk about is the problems caused by having to replace the RV battery.

Even on the fantastic day when Granddaughter #1 is visiting, all he can think about is buying and stacking the three cords of firewood for heating; getting the wood stove chimney cleaned; and getting the tree service out here to take down the dead sycamore tree that is threatening to fall on the RV and Blondie’s car.

– – Fuzz Face, give it up – – enjoy life – – get yourself together so I don’t have to write blog posts for you.

There’s lots to be happy about. Just take a look at what we preserved this week:

Sometimes I wish Maine Coon cats could wear big, heavy boots. I’m sure Old Fuzz Face would get a kick out of that. Just sayin’ …

Here are all the statistics for the last two weeks that I had to collect, collate, and record on my own.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:

See SFH WX 2019-08-12 through 18

See SFH WX 2019-08-19 through 25

 

High Tea – High Serendipity

The Hostess

There was anticipation and there was anxiety. There was planning and there was preparation. There was cleaning and there was cooking. There were all the things that are essential to a successful “high tea”. Yet, with composure and confidence, dear, sweet, beautiful wife managed to make it all come together. Therefore, we can say with great pride of accomplishment, the Annual SFH High Tea for 2019 now belongs to the glorious history and tradition of Serendipity Farmhouse.

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The charming hostess wearing the apron handmade by her big Sister, Admiral #1

The Banished

As announced earlier by Mr. Monte in his post Annual High Tea at SFH, the world renowned SFH Maine Coon Cat, the  clever, articulate, and ever-faithful Son #1, and I, your humble author, were banished for the duration of the “high tea” to a safe shelter from feminine frivolity, our Class C RV El Camino Del Monte. There, we enjoyed manly conversation, discussed matters of great import, and generally set about solving the world’s problems. Banishment is not necessarily an unhappy thing.

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Old Fuzz Face rescues Mr. Monte from the “high tea” – He was ever so grateful

The Ladies

There wasn’t an opportunity to record all the arrivals. Nevertheless, it is worthy noting that each and every lady attending the SFH High Tea was dazzling, radiant, and beautiful beyond words. We see below just one example of the grand arrivals.

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Daughter-in-law #1 with Granddaughters #3 & #5

Gentle Reader, I am just a “banished” male, and was not privy to all the events of this Annual High Tea. Yet, it is clear to me that all was as it should have been and was meant to be. When I was finally summoned to take the group photo of all the attendees, there was no doubt that all were in fine and elevated spirits.

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The amazingly wondrous and enchanting attendees of the 2019 SFH Annual High Tea

The Food

Food preparation began days before the High Tea. Several people baked pastries and other items for the event. Even Old Fuzz Face lent a hand for baking scones and lavender tea bread. Most of the difficult cooking tasks fell on the shoulders of dear Wife and her most faithful friend, Nancy. Let me just say, culinary miracles were performed in the kitchen, and I was fortunate enough to partake of some of the leftovers.

So the 2019 SFH Annual High Tea is a memory – a very good memory, indeed. I leave you now with the menu as a reminder of just one small part of that joyous event.

 

2019 SFH High Tea Menu

ItemContributorComments
English Buttery SconesBlondie & Fuzz Face
Blueberry SconesNancy
Parmesan Mini MuffinsBlondie & Fuzz Face
Carrot CakeGranddaughter #1
MacaronsBlondieVanilla, lime, lemon, rose, lavender, strawberry
Lemon BarsNancy
Almond BiscottiBlondie
Lavender Tea BreadBlondie & Fuzz Face
Fresh Fruit SaladBlondie & Fuzz FaceStrawberries, peaches, raspberries & blueberries
Assorted Dark ChocolatesBlondie
Butter MintsBlondie
Iced TeaBlondieLavender & regular
Peach TeaBlondie
Strawberry White TeaBlondie
Raspberry TeaBlondie
French Vanilla TeaBlondie
Sugar CubesBlondie
LemonBlondie
MilkBlondie
Cucumber SandwichesBlondie & Fuzz Face

 

 

Annual High Tea at SFH

Hi, Mr. Monte here!

TP_CountdownToday, Old Fuzz Face and I stand united! It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, its due to a matter of the utmost gravity. – – Both he and I have been watching the countdown register in the left hand margin of this website. For Blondie, the countdown signals the approach of the most important social event of the year here at Serendipity Farmhouse – the SFH Annual High Tea.

DSC_0293For Fuzz Face and me, however, this countdown proclaims the imminent arrival of the most undesirable prospects of intense servile labor and a series of supreme indignities.

In her endeavor to have the “best” tea party ever, I will be unceremoniously removed from my favorite resting place on the dining room table. I will be chided severely for each and every one of the elegant tufts of hair that falls from my wondrous coat of fur and lands on counters, floors, carpets, and chairs. Ultimately, on the disastrous Day Zero, Fuzz Face and I will be banished to El Camino Del Monte, our Class C RV, to spend the day “out of sight and out of mind”. When Son #1 arrives and completes his menial tasks of chauffeuring his wife and daughters and carrying a multitude of items into the house, he too will be forced into exile in the RV.

I don’t quite understand Fuzz Face’s response to this event. Normally, he is one to whine and complain. During these terrible female events, though, he takes on a different attitude. No matter what Blondie tells him to do, no matter how degrading it might be, he always answers with a wimpy “Yes, Dear – Anything you say, Dear.” For some reason, Blondie shows great irritation whenever he says this. – – I’m surprised at his defiance and audacity in the face of certain reproof and reprisal from Blondie. – – All I can say concerning his uncharacteristic bravery is, “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”

Series_of_photographs_showing_the_Westchester_County_Thrift_Shop_and_the_many_activities_conducted_-_(3856223710)By the way if you’re wondering about that featured image. Old Fuzz Face and I secretly hid a camera in the dining room during last year’s SFH High Tea. Both Fuzz Face and I agree that it would be unwise to place the names under the various attendees. – – That would be certain extinction for both of us.

So, we’ll keep counting the days, but not to when the High Tea will take place, rather to the day when it is over and we can safely come out of hiding.

 

 

SFH Journal: 2019-08-04 through 11

Hi, Mr. Monte here! – – Old Fuzz Face is once again trying to convince all at Serendipity Farm House that he has been overworked, is bone-weary, and is generally incapable of performing any task, no matter how minor. – – He even pleads to be spared from bringing in a single, 40 pound bag of cat litter. – – So, I guess I will have to write this post while the old man feigns fatigue and a host of other maladies.

04 August, Sunday (Cat Cousins continued): If you remember my wonderful, enchanting, and ever so truly true post about the two cat cousins Gizmo and Cosmo (refresh you memory here), we were all concerned about how this relationship would develop. Well, as may observe in the picture below, there appears to be a growing affection between the two. You have to understand feline body language, however, to read between the lines and see that this, at best, can only be considered a temporary truce – tolerance is not affection – and it easily wears thin. I’ll keep you updated on how this tense situation finally resolves itself.

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05 August, Monday: First full day without Blondie. As you know, Blondie went to see her big sister for a few days. Fuzz Face reacted to the absence in the manner I had anticipated and expected. The lazy lout took almost no heed when I beckoned for his assistance. He had his face stuck in an expressionless trance, staring at that computer screen and calling his actions work. I responded to his lack of attention by splattering, flipping, and tossing cat litter in all directions. I only achieved true satisfaction, when I spread some between his sheets.

06 August, Tuesday: Second full day without Blondie. Once again, Fuzz Face told me that he had to work at his desk. He got away with that for about an hour – then, I bit his leg and said quite clearly, “It’s time to brush Moi!” – – He got the message

07 August, Wednesday: Third full day without Blondie. Fuzz Face said it was another work day and foolishly sat at his desk, thinking I would let him accomplish anything that wasn’t related to me. So, in the most subtle and discreet fashion, I jumped on his lap, climbed on his shoulders, and threatened to bit his ear lobe. I indicated, that when finished, he would have enough piercings to be able to wear more earrings than Blondie and both of his daughters put together. Once again, he got the message. – – I allowed him to brush me for almost half an hour.

Later in the day, I had to save his bacon. He had over seven pounds of tomatoes that he foolishly promised Blondie that he would turn into canned pasta sauce. – – Consider the prospect of that prize dolt attempting to can six jars of pasta sauce – without assistance. Needless, to say, in order to protect the soon to be world famous SFH Test Kitchen from total destruction and ruin I had to direct him in his every move. The idiot almost lost a finger in the blender while pureeing the tomatoes – you really don’t want to know the details.

08 August, Thursday: Blondie’s coming home! It is rumored among humans that, by virtue of her hair color, Blondie has some extra challenges. I don’t hold to that line of thought, but I will say that Blondie is perfectly paired with Fuzz Face. Nevertheless, it is better to have her here, taking care of me, than it is to have her elsewhere, leaving me alone with Fuzz Face. So, when he said to me that today she’s coming home, I immediately got into a better mood. Fuzz Face, on the other hand, went into deep depression. – – He had to clean the house that he had so thoroughly messed up. Not only did he have to clean it, he had to clean it to Blondie’s standards. – the old man was in a compete panic. Sensing that he needed my help, I made sure that the floor throughout the house had layers of cat litter sufficiently deep to trip a circus elephant. – – – Oh, what amazing bliss when Blondie walked in the door – – – She immediately spotted the cat litter and took Old Fuzz Face to task.

09 August, Friday: Perhaps the most important event of the year took place on this day. Blondie and Fuzz Face decided it was time to harvest the grapes from the massive SFH vineyards. You can see the full harvest in the featured picture. It’s most unfortunate that critters and varmints consumed three of the grapes leaving us with only 81% of the original crop. Although a final decision hasn’t been made, yours truly has offered to stomp the grapes. Nowhere else in the world could you get fine wine made from grapes masterfully processed by the four large paws of a handsome 20-pound Maine Coon cat. The wonderful vintage of 2019 should, of course, be called SFH Cat’s Paw Wine. (We were going to copyright the name, but found a winery in South Carolina already has it. Perhaps we’ll just call it Monte-ster Mash)

10 August, Saturday: Life was getting better with Blondie back at home. It was getting better until Friday night when Fuzz Face decided he was going to take me out to the RV with him. I was not enthused. – – But, then I thought about it. If I go out with Fuzz Face, he and I could play. He would be a captive audience – captive in more ways than one. So, we played all night long. I purred and rubbed up beside him and showed my teeth, and we played some more. – – – We came back in at 4:30AM and I slept all day. — Blondie added to my enjoyment of the experience by working Fuzz Face nearly to exhaustion.

11 August, Sunday: This was a day of rest. I did, however, take some pleasure in chasing Blondie up the stairs. She threatened to throw her pink flip flop at me, but I’m so cute she couldn’t follow through.

So, the weather continues hot and dry. Here are the stats.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: See SFH WX 2019-08-05 through 11