Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

0714191658 (2)

Here at Serendipity Farmhouse we try to live by our motto – “Pray, Prepare, Preserve”. That motto has meanings on many levels. One level speaks to mankind’s most primitive and essential need – food. We “Pray” for our harvest; we “Prepare” the gardens with physical labor and constant care; then, when all is ripe and ready, we carefully “Preserve” a portion of the harvest so there will be “food for tomorrow”.

And so, this preserving season has begun. No, I don’t say the canning season has begun because there are many ways to preserve food. Yes, we do canning, but we also freeze, dehydrate, dry can, ferment, and many other things to preserve our food. By way of example, while this preserving season is quite young we have already:

  • Frozen three 4oz containers of pesto, made from our own basil;
  • Pickled five ½ pint jars of hot peppers; and
  • Frozen one package of sliced okra.

Granted, in the grand scheme things, many might think that SFH is just a very small, amateurish enterprise. That’s OK. Let them think what they will. Lovely Spouse, Mr.Monte, and I, however, greatly enjoy what we do and we take pride in what we do.

It’s the little things that add up. For example, let’s take a look at those five ½ pint jars of  “Peter’s Pickled Peppers”. You cannot find the equivalent in any grocery store. First, the jalapeno peppers were perfect in every detail. Then we added Cow Horn peppers to impart a subtle nuance to the flavor. Finally, each jar of peppers has a clove of garlic grown in our very own herb garden. Everything in each of those five jars is fresh and high quality.

Dear and gentle Reader, when we open one of those jars in December, and spread out the contents on a relish tray for Christmas dinner, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that only the best of the best will be on the table as we call to mind the birth of the One Who has given us everything.

So, quietly and without fanfare the 2019 SFH preserving season has begun. There will be time enough for fanfare and compliments when the cold days of Winter are upon us.

This year, we have added a page to the blog to allow you to keep up with the daily harvest. Go and check out SFH 2019 Harvest to see how bountiful this growing season has been already.

Another new page, just added today, will give you a chance to see how the harvest translates into “food for tomorrow” by means of preserving. Go check out SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow because this is going be a great year for tomatoes, okra, and peppers.

P.S. Mr. Monte has been especially vigilant this year, performing inspections all of our preserving supplies, monitoring general cleanliness, and ensuring adherence to SFH Test Kitchen “best practices”.

 

 

SFH Journal: 2019-07-08 through 14 – Cat Cousins

0619191925c (3)

Hi! Mr. Monte here. Ol’ Fuzz Face was complaining (as usual) about the heat and other discomforts of Summer in Virginia. The last time I saw him, he was huddled up next to an air conditioner, sucking on an overly expensive bottle of Perrier mineral water. So, if he can’t handle the heat, then I guess I will have to write this post. – – Maybe that’s just as well, because the topic today is Cat Cousins, something he knows little or nothing about.

Highlight: Blondie and Fuzz Faces’s Daughter #2 has just blessed the extended family with a new Cat Cousin. “Cosmo” is just a little tyke, all black and grey, and full of that usual, juvenile feline cuteness. (By the way, mine never went away.)

Daughter #2 already had “Gizmo”, a decent enough fellow, who is one year my senior. I won’t dispute his seniority in this space, but I will staunchly assert my claim to full authority over all Cat Cousins in the family. They may be cute, but I rule.

In any event, we cats are somewhat territorial and consider ourselves masters of our established domains. Although the picture suggests that Gizmo is adapting to Cosmo’s presence, there will surely be some tensions in the household for a while to come. At this point, all I can say to Gizmo and Cosmo is: “Lots of luck, fellas, and don’t ever try setting a foot onto my territory here at Serendipity Farmhouse!”

By the way, my other Cat Cousins include “Blossom” & “Cinder”, now residing happily with Daughter #1. Fuzz Face tells me they are sweet and adorable. Meanwhile, Son #1 and family are proudly owned by my Cat Cousin “Erso”. Rumor has it that she is quite nice as well.

Oh, I guess right about now Ol’ Fuzz Face would say check out the links below. The garden is producing in great abundance and my two big cats seem to be pleased.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

 

 

St. Benedict of Nursia – July 11

St. Benedict of Nursia is the patron saint of Serendipity Farmhouse and this blog. Today is his feast. We are Oblates of St. Benedict and we strive to live by his Holy Rule. Prayer and Work, practicing hospitality and leading a spiritual life have become primary considerations for daily life at SFH.

Because we are in the midst of our growing season, and the heat and humidity are oppressive, we take heart from the Rule of St. Benedict. This extract from Chapter 48 provides an insight on how we try learn from the Rule and apply it to our daily lives.

 

CHAPTER 48: THE DAILY MANUAL LABOR

364px-Heiligenkreuz.St._Benedict-AIdleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.

We believe that the times for both may be arranged as follows: From Easter to the first of October, they will spend their mornings after Prime till about the fourth hour at whatever work needs to be done. From the fourth hour until the time of Sext, they will devote themselves to reading. But after Sext and their meal, they may rest on their beds in complete silence; should a brother wish to read privately, let him do so, but without disturbing the others. They should say None a little early, about midway through the eighth hour, and then until Vespers they are to return to whatever work is necessary. They must not become distressed if local conditions or their poverty should force them to do the harvesting themselves. When they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are really monks. Yet, all things are to be done with moderation on account of the fainthearted.

(As taken from The Rule of St. Benedict – In Latin and English with Notes – 1980)

Picture Credit: St Benedict of Nursia writing the Benedictine rule, portrait in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1926) by Herman Nieg (1849-1928) |Source= own photo |Date= 21 June 2006

That does amount to a “hill of beans”!

From one day to the next, it’s difficult to comprehend how well our various vegetable plantings are doing. For example, we planted two rows of stringless green beans. Roughly, eight plants came to maturity. Now that the season for the beans is nearly over, we have brought in 190 bean pods. Now add to that the 159 Monticello bean pods we have harvested from four plants. The bottom line is, that makes for a lot of green beans.

This was the first year that we had attempted green bean with any serious intent. We were experimenting with technique and had no plan on preserving them. Well, our experiments were successful and we ended up with more beans than expected. That meant we had to come up with some novel ways for preparation.

At this point, I might add that our single cherry tomato plant has been unusually cooperative. Since it’s first tomato on June 22, it has yielded 71 beautiful, tiny orbs of veggie goodness.

Beautiful, lovely, and highly capable Spouse is a master at recipe research. Armed with her knowledge of our resources and capabilities at the soon-to-be famous SFH Test Kitchen, she uncovered a gem of a recipe at Allrecipes.com. This simple, quick-to-prepare (only 20 minutes) recipe called Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes not only met our two primary ingredients criteria (green beans and cherry tomatoes), it also brought in two other important essentials for living a happy life – garlic & butter. (Have I ever told you how much we love garlic and butter?)

We only made one minor adjustment to the recipe – we used minced garlic instead of garlic salt. The end product was highlighted by the use of our own fresh basil.

So, dear and gentle readers, if you find this gardening season that you have an abundance of green beans and cherry tomatoes, try out this recipe.

 

 

SFH Journal: 2019-07-02 through 07

Highlight: We’ve been busy – very busy. In the last week, the vegetables have really started coming in. It is with great joy, pride of accomplishment, and thanksgiving to God that we can say we’ve kept the tomatoes standing and have protected all our gardens from damage by insects, heavy rain, and strong winds.

And the reward for all of that work speaks for itself. This week we harvested our first big tomato – a Big Beef. It arrived almost simultaneously with our first yellow squash and first cucumber.

Mr. Monte is currently checking out the soon-to-be-famous SFH Test Kitchen to ensure that all is ready for canning, which should start in a week or two. To see how bountiful the harvest is check out SFH 2019 Harvest here.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

4th of July Glamping

Nestled along the North Fork of the Thornton River, deep in the heart of the Blue Ridge, there is a camping spot quiet and serene. My beautiful and exceptionally talented spouse chose that particular spot as the perfect place to celebrate Independence Day.

We had to drive our Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte, precisely zero miles to access this perfect spot. I had to pull out my wallet and pay precisely $0.00 to rent this site to park the RV and set up camp. Even before the setup was complete, we could see the that adorable wife had chosen quite wisely.

0704191318b_HDR (2)

While the day was still young, just a bit past mid-day, the Master Glamper and Wife Extraordinaire, decided it was time for tea.

0704191323_HDR (2)

Afterwards, we discussed the holiday menu. Yes, certainly a steak would be in order. That would be joined by corn on the cob, yellow squash recently picked from our vegetable garden, and watermelon. As we made the final adjustments to the menu, we watched the cool mountain water as it flowed by on its sparkling and gurgling way.

0704191321c (2)

It was a unanimous decision (yes, Mr. Monte was allowed to vote) that ice cream would be the finale.

To enjoy this independence that we celebrate, this freedom that we share, is a great blessing. It’s not just the words written on a piece of paper 243 years ago; it’s what is written on the hearts of men by their Creator that makes this celebration so important.

Happy 4th of July & God bless! – – Serendipity

 

SFH Journal: 2019-07-01 – A Midsummer Day

I took a day of vacation. My chores did not. But, the temperatures stayed in the 80s and sunshine was abundant. Let’s just say it was a pleasant Midsummer day.

Highlight 1 – The Garlic Harvest: Having never done something does not mean that one should not try. So, my endearing spouse and I watched all kinds of contradictory videos claiming to show the proper technique for harvesting garlic.  –  Whether we did it right or not doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the SFH woodshed is now the curing place for 18 heads of garlic. The crop is in and the smells are delicious. This week there will be a pasta dish with very fresh garlic included.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Highlight 2 – Summer Blossoms: Spring flowers have made way for the arrival of the blossoms of Summer. Hostas, roses, blue mist, lilies, and many more now adorn our gardens. The humming birds are very happy to see their arrival.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Highlight 3 – At Home Glamping: While many RVs will be on the road this week to remote and distant locations, El Camino Del Monte will be happily parked near a beautiful flowing river, amidst tall shade trees, in a most pleasant and tranquil surrounding. Yes, adorable spouse has declared this Glamping Week at SFH. We shall celebrate our country’s birthday at one of the most beautiful locations in all of these United States – here at Serendipity Farmhouse. One couldn’t ask for more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH Journal: 2019-06-15 through 30

Highlight 1: The longest days of the year are now passing into Serendipity Farmhouse history. Though not the “White Nights” that one would experience in St. Petersburg, Russia, for us here at SFH, the long days always mean more time in the gardens, doing yard work, and RV adventures.

All that hard work in the garden is paying great dividends. Below you will see my beautiful and industrious spouse with her tomato garden. The three large plants, now standing taller than our gifted gardener, represent a collection of three store bought plants – two heirlooms and one hybrid. All three are blooming and bearing young tomatoes. The four smaller plants were grown from seed we gathered from our first Mr. Stripey plant several seasons ago.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Of course, all the outdoor work means there is less time to write posts and do the indoor chores. Having fallen hopelessly behind on recording all that has happened over the last half month, all I can do is recall for you some of the events in somewhat abbreviated posts. So, here are just a few of the topics I plan to cover in the future as time permits:

El Camino Del Monte: On the Road Again – Our first RV trip of the year

A Stay in a Yurt – The story of a traveling couple enjoying their twilight years (No, this will not about us.)

El Camino Del Monte: Scouting Out New Destinations (The featured image of my beautiful spouse will be part of this upcoming post)

SFH 2019 Harvest – A Promising Year

Georgie Goes Rogue – Blondie Goes to War

Highlight 2: Dear and gentle reader, the SFH Blog is for you. We hope that, in some little way, we can entertain, amuse, or inform you with tales from Serendipity Farmhouse. The blog is also for the ones who will someday occupy SFH and assume stewardship of this humble abode situated on the bank of the North Fork of the Thornton River.

We include details about plantings, harvests, and weather so that, when the new occupants move in, they will not be baffled, confused, or puzzled by how things work or be concerned about what maintenance needs to be done or when to do it.

To some, these details may be tedious, repetitive, or even boring. So starting with this post, those details will be recorded on their own separate pages. In each SFH Journal post I will include links to the records and statistics pages. For those of you who are so inclined, all you will have to do is click on the given link. For those of you who are not so inclined – – – – – – Mr. Monte will find you! I can only speculate on your life expectancy when he does.

So here is what the new format will look like.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

 

SFH Journal: 2019-05-26 through 06-14

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

You certainly would be justified to ask why there have been so few posts over the last three weeks. Don’t look at me. I am a highly organized and methodical Maine Coon cat. I live according to a rigid schedule and leave nothing to chance.

No, as usual, Old Fuzz Face is the problem. He blames it on work. He blames it on all the yard maintenance here at SFH. He blames it on family and social commitments. He blames it on just about everything. – – The truth is he has some sort weird attachment to my namesake, our Class C RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM). Yup, he spends every waking moment working on problems with ECDM when he should be paying attention to me and this blog. He’s also been noted using some vocabulary words with which I am not quite familiar – nor do I desire to be.

Oh well, he is as he is and someone has to write this post. So, sit back and relax while I make up for his laziness, incompetence, and negligence.

11728814_1035285009818137_6564691899487469967_o (2)

There’s been a lot going on here at SFH, but I guess the biggest news is our vast, extensive, enormous, and generally huge vineyard has scored its first major success in its nearly five year history. Let me tell you, though, that success had nothing to do with our first vintner, Hector. In the picture above, you will notice that Hector started off on the wrong foot and things only got worse as time went on.

His first big mistake was trying to get the grapevine to attach itself to and grow on a black metal arbor. Wrong!!! When the sun came out that arbor would heat up and fry the little tendrils and cause the entire plant to scream in agony.

Hector wasn’t much of a planner and had no sense for return on investment. At the pace he was moving, we expected to be bottling a fine vintage wine by 2053 or so.

Just like Fuzz Face, Hector made excuses for his mistakes. He told us us that working conditions would be a little more pleasant if that cat weren’t watching so closely. When Fuzz Face told us about Hector’s complaint, I merely said, “Mmmmmmm yummy, what a tasty morsel he’d be.”

Hector’s poor performance was too much even for Fuzz Face and Blondie. He was given his walking papers and a poor recommendation. I’ll never know how he would have tasted – too bad.

Well, there’s big news here this year. Upon Hector’s departure, Blondie took over all vintner duties. She got rid of the murderous metal arbor and had Fuzz Face erect a wooden one in its place. During the intervening years, she has watered the vineyard, trimmed the vines, and battled the Japanese beetles. This year, her hard work finally paid off. Just look at the amazing bumper crop of grapes that is now growing on our vines. There are at least 16 of those beautiful darlings just waiting to be stomped by a joyous group of bare-footed stompers.

0611191715a_HDR (2)

Considering that it takes roughly 2.6 pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine, I figure that we will need to get at least seven, 59-gallon oak casks for this years vintage. Of course, math is not my strong suit.

Someday, yes someday, the Serendipity Farmhouse label will become the hallmark of fine wines.

Enough for now. Once Old Fuzz Face can break away from fixing the problems he caused in El Camino Del Monte, I will have him post all the weather statistics since May 26. Until then, save your money so that you can be the first to buy a (very little) bottle of Serendipity Farmhouse Chardonnay.  – – Cheers!

 

 

 

Daring Dairy – The Next Generation

Mr. Monte here!

What a very pleasant, relaxing, and refreshing week this has been. Instead of having to sit up in that stuffy, dark office with Old Fuzz Face, I have had the great good fortune to have adorable, intelligent, and enchanting Granddaughter #3 here at Serendipity Farmhouse to visit me. Oh, to be sure, she spent some time with Fuzz Face and Blondie because she is a devoted granddaughter, but she really came to see me.

Because she is rather new at writing posts, she kindly asked me to assist her in telling you about how she has become the very first of her generation in this family to study and begin to master the difficult and demanding arts of “Daring Dairy”.  In this case, she wants to tell you how she took the challenge to make authentic homemade butter. (If you care to see what that entails, refer to the post Julia, Butter & Serendipity Farmhouse.)

So, with no further expository prattle, let me relate the story to you as she dictates the highs and lows of her butter making experience to me.

Hi! I’m new at this, but Mr. Monte is helping, so I don’t think much can go wrong. It all started when we were shopping in Wegmans. Granny told Granddad to get some heavy whipping cream. Granny then turned to me and said Granddad is going to show you how to make butter. – – I think I said something like, “That sounds like fun … it would be neat to try.”

By the time we got to Serendipity Farmhouse, we had to make supper and eat. So, it was too late to make butter. We’d have to wait until tomorrow.

The next day, in the early afternoon, Granny and Granddad said that it was time to make butter. Granddad joked with me and made it sound like butter making was really hard and I was going to have to do everything. Then, I found out he wasn’t joking. He gave me all the utensils and showed me how to use them. I guess he was showing me:

Step 1 – Prepare Utensils & Ingredients

Preparing the utensils wasn’t really that hard. Actually, it was rather easy. So, I wondered why was Granddad telling me it was going to be so hard.

Well, all I had to do was to wait and then the hard part came to me. It was:

Step 2 – Churning the Cream

It was then that Granddad said the next thing to do is “churn the cream”. He said it wouldn’t take too long. One time, he had made butter in four minutes. What Granddad didn’t tell me was, one time it took him almost half an hour of churning. So, I began to churn. And I continued to churn. Then, I churned some more. Granddad stood beside me and just smiled.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then, still with a smile on his face, Granddad started taking pictures of me churning and churning and churning. My wrist began to hurt. My fingers became a little numb. And my legs began to ache from standing in one position for so long. – – Granddad took some more pictures.

It seemed like 40 minutes of churning, and churning, and churning. But, Granddad pointed to the clock on the stove and said, “No, no it hasn’t been 40 minutes.” Then I looked at the clock and saw it was only about eight minutes. – – Granddad just smiled. Granny was nearby and she just smiled. Mr. Monte had been watching and he was rolling on the floor. – – I think he was laughing.

Step 3: – Rinsing the butter

The rest was easy. Granddad helped me scoop the butter out of the churn and then we put it into the butter dish. – – I had made butter! – – As Granddad would say, “The pictures show that this story is all true!”

0602191440c_HDR (2)

Now, when you use 10 ounces of heavy whipping cream to make butter, you get 4 ounces of butter and 6 ounces of something very special – – fresh, sweet, tasty butter milk. As our reward for the hard work making the butter, Granny divided the butter milk in two cups and Granddad and I drank it all down. – – If you every have the chance to drink fresh butter milk, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

0602191442_HDR (2)

Hi, again! Mr. Monte here. Tomorrow, Granddaughter #3 has to go back home. I guess there won’t be much to do around here when she goes. It’s going to be a little lonely. I think I”m going to miss her. After all, Maine Coon cats have big feelings.