SFH Journal: 2020-01-20 through 01-26 – Gotta Have a Plan

When you have a large-scale agricultural undertaking like we have here at Serendipity Farmhouse and Spring is lurking around the corner, you gotta have a plan. Dear, sweet Spouse and I are now locked into intense, collaborative brainstorming sessions on just how to manage the multiple vegetable gardens on our vast 1.24 acre estate. It’s not a simple task.

If that were not enough to fill every spare moment in our mid-Winter days, we also have the gigantic burden of planning a full season of RV-ing in our Class-C RV El Camino Del Monte. Maintenance, meal planning, provisioning, route selection, making reservations, and general logistics all come into play requiring intricate and detailed scheduling of time and resources. To make this the best RV-ing year ever, we have to invest time and work together as a well-disciplined team.


Ahem! Mr. Monte here.

I’m interrupting Ol’ Fuzz Face during his over extended, crazed bloviating and useless prattle to let you in on what a cat with a real life is doing. Yes, right now, your beloved feline friend, moi, is planning out my strategy to capture the heart of my dearest love, Miss Fleur. Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and sweet Miss Fleur is certainly the most lovely young thing in this part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I already have a card and some tasty snacks for her. Tonight, I will compose a love letter that will surely win her heart.

This is how it is at SFH on a mid-Winter day – especially when “You Gotta Have a Plan”.


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 2020-01-20 through 01-26

SFH Journal: 2020-01-13 through 01-19 – What’s our favorite comfort food?

Hi, Blondie here!

As you might have noticed, Hubby and I are foodies. Different seasons bring different foods and the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen is always experimenting with one recipe or another. But, when it’s 3:00 PM on a mid-January day and the temperature is in the mid-30’s, what kind of food do you start thinking about?

Many of us tend to forget about gourmet recipes, filled with sautes and reductions. Nope, that’s not what we think of. Instead, we think about something that Mom used to make or some dish that we developed a liking for over the years. It’s our “go to” food, it’s our favorite comfort food.

Now, Hubby, spent a long time in the Far East and his favorite food on a cold rainy or snowy day is S&B Golden Curry with beef on Japanese-style sticky rice.  And I have to admit I like it, but, no, it’s not my “favorite” comfort food. (Check out the featured picture and see our post here.)

For me, the dish that most means “comfort” is cheese and tuna casserole. It’s easy to make, easy on the budget, and the leftovers are as good as the first serving. What more could a girl like me want on a mid-January day?

This week’s menu is already made and, unfortunately, tuna casserole is not on it. But, just you wait and see what’s on the menu for next week. Dear Hubby, guess what you’re gonna be having for dinner.

So, if you have a chance, please let us know what your favorite comfort food is. Maybe, some day we will experiment with your favorite here in the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen.

P.S. – – Mr. Monte says his favorite comfort food in the Winter time is a teaspoon of heavy whipping cream. – – Meowwww, purrrrrr!

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 2020-01-06 through 13-19






Hot Peppers Above & Beyond

Last night was a food disappointment. Today was a Serendipity Farmhouse, spicy food delight.

Here’s what happened.

Granddaughter #1 was here for a visit last night – that, by no means, was a disappointment. No, it was the food that was disappointing. Yours truly engaged in the ritual outlined for making Italian Herb and Garlic Focaccia Bread sold by the Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho. I followed the directions nearly to perfection. Neither Granddaughter #1 nor the SFH Master Chef, Mr. Monte, found any flaws in my execution. The bread turned out as advertised.

So, what caused the disappointment? It was our choice to use store-bought, crushed red peppers. That was the mistake. Those peppers were lifeless, devoid of zing and zest, just humdrum, lazy old peppers that left one wanting and, as I’ve said, they rendered the overall meal disappointing.

Here’s what we did to rectify our error.

As the clock chimed Noon today, Granddaughter #1, Mr. Monte, Blondie, and I commenced our quest for a spicy hot pepper topping that would be “Hot peppers above & beyond”. So, without further needless prattle, let me explain how we took some of our own homegrown SFH peppers and turned them into a magic spice topping.

As you well know from many of our posts, SFH grows a new kind of hot pepper each year and preserves them. To make our new topping, all we had to do was pull out five jars of our dehydrated, dry-canned hot peppers, select, mix, and crush them.

Utensils & Appliances: As shown below, an electric coffee grinder, a FoodSaver with vacuum attachments, two measuring cups, two plastic bowls, and two small spice shakers were all the utensils we needed.

Ingredients: The five varieties of hot peppers we selected are listed below. To be sure, we paid great respect to the relative spiciness/heat of each of the pepper varieties. In addition to quantity of each pepper variety used, I’ve also provided the original date that we dehydrated and dry-canned the peppers. That will help to understand how preserving our harvest by dehydrating and dry-canning has saved us money over the course of several years.

1 cup – Jalapeno peppers – 2015-10-22
1 cup – Salsa peppers – 2017-08-18
½ cup – Seranno peppers – 2018-08-04
½ cup – Cow Horn peppers – 2019-09-13
½ cup – Habanero peppers – 2017-08-19

The time expended from beginning to the end of this venture was barely 30 minutes. As you can see, 3½ cups of peppers, when crushed and ground, reduced to a rather small quantity of finished product. But, that’s no problem because this mixture is gram-for-gram a very potent mix. It doesn’t take much of this topping to turn what was just a humdrum piece of focaccia into a fantastically tasty joy to eat. – – Today for lunch, yours truly, had a piece of focaccia that was a spicy food delight.


Lesson Learned 2020-02: Before you try preparing this mixture in your own kitchen, please pay heed to my most earnest and sincere warning. Working with any one of these five varieties of hot peppers would require that you take precautionary measures during preparation. When all five of them come together, if not handled properly, they become a toxic brew that causes coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, and a myriad of other ill effects. At a very minimum, use a face mask as I did.


Now, some people have an extremely strong reaction to airborne ingredients present during the preparation of our SFH spicy topping. Although you might not be able to recognize her, that is my dear, sweet wife who decided to use a more radical approach to self protection. Mr. Monte wore a similar suit, but I wasn’t able to get him to hold still for a picture.


SFH Journal: 2020-01-06 through 01-12

As we told you in our post First Snow – 2020-01-07, Tuesday the 7th we were blessed with a quiet Winter interlude. The days passed by and the snow slowly disappeared. Saturday the 11th and today the 12th were warm and balmy. The contrast between the 7th and the 12th reveal an amazing range of beauty and color. Serendipity Farmhouse is always ready to fascinate one with its charm and nearly infinite variations in personality.

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The unexpectedly warm days provided a perfect opportunity to move some seasonal items to the shed for storage. Happily, there was also some spare time to mount a brand new cast iron rooster bell at the entrance to the back porch. This was a present from dear Daughter #1 and family, intended to provide a means to announce the arrival of welcomed guests. Well done, dear Daughter #1, and thank you.

Stop the presses!! News Bulletin!! – Beautiful Wife just came into the house and made the joyous announcement that several garlic sprouts have made their way to the surface in search of the sun. Yes, Friends, there are great prospects for fresh, homegrown garlic this year.

UntitledSFH 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 2020-01-06 through 01-12





First Snow – 2020-01-07

Describing the first real snowfall of the season here at Serendipity Farmhouse doesn’t require many words – just a few pictures, a fresh cup of coffee, and a fire in the wood stove. Here are the pictures, meanwhile, I’ll sit back in a cozy chair to enjoy my coffee and the warmth of the fire.

And, if you prefer an action shot, this is about the best I can do on short notice.

And, if you are a weather geek like me, the stats for the day are here.

SFH Journal: 2019-12-30 through 2020-01-05

My beautiful, highly supportive wife and loving Maine Coon Cat sometimes find it amusing to make sport of yours truly. The photos below illustrate that fact and they also show that my balding head is often the object of their labored attempts at humor. They can’t refrain from adorning the place where a luxuriant head of hair used to reside with various items calculated to raise a belly laugh or hardy guffaw from the huge audience following our adventures here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

Be that as it may, the year 2019 at SFH was filled with technological achievements and successes and I will have you know this balding, geeky object of their scurrilous humor was the mastermind behind them.

It was just over a year ago when Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station KVAFLETC4 made its debut. (See SFH Journal: 2019-01-01 through 03 – SFH Weather Station Online for the details.) Each and every day since then the world has been able to monitor the meteorological events here at SFH. This knowledge has become useful to us during the planting, growing, and harvesting of our crops during this best gardening year ever at SFH.

Likewise, the introduction of new appliances for the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen, such as our new Instant Pot, have markedly improved the way we get things done. Sure, there’s a learning curve, and plugs can become disconnected, but we here at SFH get the job done. And, yes, I’m the geek behind the scenes who eventually  makes things work – sort of. (See SFH Test Kitchen – Hubby Under Pressure for the details.)

So, if you want to call me a Weather Geek from Outer Space or disseminate wildly falsified accounts of what I do to satisfy my vanity, feel free to take your best shot. After all, dear Blondie, you truly are my beautiful, highly supportive wife and, Mr. Monte, you certainly are my loving Maine Coon Cat. You make Serendipity Farmhouse what it was meant to be.

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 2019-12-30 through 2020-01-05




SFH Test Kitchen – Hubby Under Pressure

OK you foodies, I had hoped to bring you a very fine food & recipe post based on our most recent adventures in the culinary arts. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen in this post because my dear, sweet Hubby once again succumbed to his knack of “over thinking” a problem.

A little background is needed. I have the distinct pleasure of being one of those “girls raised in the South” (GRITS). New Year’s Day would not be complete without the traditional black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread. Hubby is a Yankee, but this traditional meal is one of his favorites. In fact, he offered to make it the first featured meal of the soon-to-be-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen for the year 2020.

Being the geek that he is, he declared that the ever so important black-eyed peas would be prepared in our almost brand new Instant Pot. Hubby has background experience with pressure cookers since he was young and he thought using the Instant Pot would be a stimulating challenge. – – This, devoted readers, was his plan – his Plan A. He had no Plan B.

Hubby chose the recipe “Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas” by Laurel Randolph in her book Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook. He elected to go with leftover Christmas ham rather than bacon and added and subtracted a few other items.

Late in the morning on New Year’s Day, the clock was ticking. My dear friend Nancy would be here at 1PM. I had prepared the collard greens – perfect! The cornbread had just come out of the oven – heavenly! Freshly homemade butter was at room temperature waiting to meet the cornbread.

Hubby, with flair and enthusiasm, had sauteed the onions and ham in the Instant Pot. The aroma incited high expectations for what was to come. The broth and black-eyed peas and other ingredients were added to the pot. The lid was locked in place. Hubby set the pressure cook time … and then … and then … and then there was nothing. – – No indicator lights, no build up of pressure.

Meanwhile, Mr. Monte jumped up on the counter. We told him it wasn’t time to eat. He insisted on staying on the counter and was laboring to get an important message across to us. We had no time for that. Mr. Monte was removed from the counter.

My almost but not quite in a state of panic Spouse checked the plug. He moved it from socket to socket. He cycled ground fault buttons. He noted that there was some warming in the pot, but still no indicator lights and no pressure build up.

It was past 1PM. Nancy was late. Hubby was turning in tight little circles. His ears were turning red. Nothing was going as it should.

Then, Nancy arrived. We greeted her. Hubby attempted to look untroubled. He wasn’t very convincing. His ears turned more red and it was obvious that he was suppressing his speech out of consideration of the presence of dear friend Nancy.

At just about the same time, Hubby and I asked the question, “Can’t we take the black-eyed peas and finish cooking them in our old pressure cooker?” Hubby immediately answered the question and said, “That’s it, that’s my Plan B.”

Within 30 seconds, my enterprising spouse had pulled out the old pressure cooker; transferred all of the black-eyed peas; and had the pot heating up on the trusty SFH Test Kitchen stove.

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While the peas were heating, Hubby cleaned out the Instant Pot and was preparing to put it away. – – That is when he saw it! – That’s when he realized that Mr. Monte was calling the wrong person Blondie. That’s when he saw that the plug was no longer attached to the Instant Pot.

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Now to make a very long story very short. The peas went back into the Instant Pot. When they were served they far exceeded the expectations of all gathered around the table. Dearest Hubby said not a word as he completed cleaning the old pressure cooker and, of course, the Instant Pot for the second time of the day.

Lesson Learned 2020-01: An Instant Pot is not like a crock pot or a toaster. The electric cord is detachable. That cord is subject to Murphy’s Law and it will detach itself when you least expect it.

Lesson Learned 2020-02: When your 20-pound Maine Coon Cat jumps on the counter and tries to tell you that the Instant Pot electric cord is detached – – Listen to him!!!

Happy New Year!!!


SFH Journal: 2019-12-23-29 – No! Christmas is Not Over Yet!

As you can see from the feature picture, I’m just about as easy going as anyone can be. For example, look at what Mr. Monte did to me in his last post. (See it here.) That new hairdo shown in the featured picture of this post was just supposed to be a joke. And it would have been if that mischievous Maine Coon cat had not put Gorilla Glue on the double-sided tape when I wasn’t looking. The tape with Monte’s hair attached is likely to be with me for quite some time.  Nevertheless, I can see the humor in that – maybe.

There is one thing that can make me very grumpy. Although I can handle Maine Coon cats making fun of me. It’s a little bit more difficult to watch what the world outside Serendipity Farmhouse has done to Christmas. Saying that Christmas is “over” on December 26th is just about the saddest thing that one can hear. Yet, I’ve heard that statement so many times this week. For the folks that think like that, Christmas for them was sometime between the so called “Black Friday” and about 12 Noon on December 25th. Everything after that was an anticlimax. How sad, how very sad!

Click on this picture to see an expanded version of this calendar

If you click on the picture above, you will find out that Christmas, or what we call the “Christmas Season” is still just beginning. Christmas is a “season” not just a day. And here at Serendipity Farmhouse, it’s always going to be that way.

And the same goes for all 11 grandchildren. The reports from Daughters #1 and #2, as well as Son #1 all attest to that fact. None of them, no not even one of them is going to let this Christmas Season slip away without making the most out of every minute. Every day from December 25th through January 12th has been, is, and will be filled with true Christmas cheer and joy.

No, dear friends, Christmas is Not Over Yet!

So, on this the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, from all of the residents of Serendipity Farmhouse, and all the children, children-in-law, and grandchildren –

Merry Christmas!!!


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 2019-12-23 through 12-29



SFH Christmas Eve Traditions

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Hi! Mr. Monte here!

On behalf of all of us here at Serendipity Farmhouse, let me wish you the best of Christmas greetings and blessings.

Even for a fearsome, 20-pound Main Coon cat like me, this is a joyous if not confusing time of year. Why! Well, humans are just about the most curious and unpredictable creatures on this planet. Much of that has to do with their strange customs and traditions.

Here’s what I mean. You and I know that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and what that meant and still means for the World. My humans celebrate that with great enthusiasm. However!! They also do some rather strange and unfathomable things they call their “Christmas customs.” For example, every Christmas Eve they get up at 4:00 AM, or even earlier and head to the local Wegmans Food Market. Of course they leave me behind because I’m too intelligent to give up my sleeping time to accompany them on their foolish pursuits.

This year, they arrived at Wegmans just after 6:00 AM, purchased coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and took their place at a table in the balcony dining area. – Why? Well, to watch last-minute Christmas shoppers (especially husbands) frantically trying find the perfect gift for the someone they love, but whom they forgot until the last minute.

My humans tend to take some sadistic delight in watching these poor gentlemen try to save themselves from the shame of having been so tardy and delinquent in their shopping. Thus, in the featured picture at the beginning of this post, you can see how Blondie, through her sleep-filled eyes, manages to draw some type of enjoyment out of this spectacle.

Now, let’s back up to the previous day. – – Old Fuzz Face decided he was going to give me a grooming, which he does every other day. He was extra thorough on this occasion, because he wanted me to look purrfect for Santa Paws. As it turned out, he was amazed at how much of my beautiful, luxurious fur he had recovered during the grooming session. So, he decided to take a picture to document the event. Take a look for yourself. It really is some of the finest cat fur than one can find anywhere in the world.

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Just after he took the picture, though, I could see that he had come up with an idea that only his twisted mind could conceive. – – – Without a moment’s hesitation, he went to the drawer and pulled out the Scotch “Permanent Double Sided Tape“. What happened next was most shocking and so very typical of Ol’ Fuzzy with the rapidly balding head.

So, dear readers, if you were at Wegmans on Christmas Eve morning and saw this rather disturbing sight, please remember, I don’t know this human and I had nothing to do with this. – – – I truly hope the word “Permanent” is not correct. I can only hide my eyes for so long.

XMas Eve




SFH Journal: 2019-12-16 through 12-22

A Precious Birthday: Today, Daughter #1 celebrates her birthday. And it is no exaggeration to say that this is a day of great joy for those who reside here at Serendipity Farmhouse. That is because dear, sweet Daughter is connected to Serendipity Farmhouse in a singular way.

Though still quite young, her journey to Virginia and perhaps one day to SFH has covered great distances. Her story is one that fills the hearts of her parents with profoundly beautiful memories. She was, is, and always will be our first child. And as such, she came with no set of instructions. She would be the one that would teach us the art of parenting. – The fact that she is now a woman of great grace and beauty with delightful children of her own stands as silent testimony to what she taught us and what she has helped us to become – grandparents.

For that and so much more we thank Daughter #1 on this joyful anniversary of her birth.

Below we can see Daughter #1 when she taught us how to make it through the paperwork necessary to obtain her first passport. She then took us to Japan where she showed us how to raise a child in the understanding and appreciation of a foreign culture. Finally, we see her as she participates at a family gathering here at SFH.

Tonight we will join lovely Daughter #1 as the family comes together to wish her the best of birthdays. And it may come as no surprise that the restaurant where we will meet features her favorite Japanese cuisine.

The End of Bottom Wood: For over a year now, I have chronicled the sad tale and bitter disappointments of bottom wood. Today, I filled the wood cart with the very last load of that disgusting, fungus and mushroom filled firewood onto the wood cart. The feature picture shows how much of that miserable excuse for fuel remained in the woodshed as we started this wood stove season. Within a week or two it will all be gone, burned, incinerated, with only a mere bit of ash to haunt my memories. Farewell, hideous bottom wood – I will miss you not!

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 2019-12-16 through 12-22