Dear Little House

Hi all you cat lovers out there, Mr. Monte here. Old Fuzz Face let me at the keyboard tonight without a fight, a fuss, or any deep, painful scratches. It seems he and I have declared a truce for Advent. I guess it’s because of that “naughty or nice” thing imposed by St. Nicholas. More likely, it’s because that pointy-headed twerp, Clyde the Elf, is a lowdown snitch and blabbermouth. (See SFH Journal: 2018-12-04 through 07.)

Speaking of Clyde, I keep hearing sighs, moans, whines, and complaining noises because Blondie can’t find him. Fuzz Face is up here with me laughing quietly to himself. Poor guy, his turn is next and Blondie is better at this silly game than he is.

So, the two of them, after four years of cowardice, finally got the nerve and gumption to bring a Christmas tree into Serendipity Farmhouse. Since I entered their lives, bringing untold sunshine and happiness, they have assumed that I, the most intelligent and well-behaved of Maine Coon cats, could not be trusted. Just because I love to play with things that are round, things that hang down, things that sparkle, and things that shine, they thought that I would cause some type of damage.

They also have this fear that I will eat things I shouldn’t. They think that I would chew on branches, or climb into the tree, or some other, perhaps unspeakable, cat-like thing to a real tree. Oh, they have so little faith. But, I digress.

Today, Fuzz Face assembled (with Blondie’s guidance) the most hideous replica of fir tree any right-minded person or cat could imagine. They reasoned (if humans are truly capable of conscious thought) that I would be less likely to approach or harm an artificial tree.

1208181539b (2)Then they stared at the tree. They fluffed up the stupid looking bottle brush branches. Then they stared again. They tried to say nice things about that mutant, green creation and bring themselves to imagine that it wasn’t really that ghastly. Sometimes, I wish I could protect them from their follies.

Pictures were taken. Blondie, dressed in a very strange looking hat, made great sport of hanging a single decoration high up, where it was thought that I would not be able to get to it. I love Blondie a lot. She looked happy. That helped my heart to soften a bit. Perhaps that tree has some merits. Even Fuzz Face appeared to be taken by the thought of having a tree in the house once again.

Now it was time to allow me to make my required examination of the strangely lit faux fir.1208181546a (2) Intriguing as the thing was to my catly curiosity, it seemed oddly out of place and its odor was so synthetic and unnatural. Blondie was smart enough to see my displeasure and she brought out her old remedy – feline pheromone spray. —- That did it! True it was artificial and unnatural, but my sides began to buzz with purring and, before I knew what was happening, I was rolling on the floor and rubbing against the tree – we were friends. Yeah, I might have made a couple of attacks on one of the branches and taken a few bites at it but, in the end, the tree and I are on good terms now.

Serendipity Farmhouse History: It has been our family tradition to set up the Christmas tree every year on December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This year, even though it is faux, the tree is again inside in it’s rightful place.

Directly behind the tree is small sewing sampler that says a lot about our family and Serendipity:

1208181538 (2)DEAR HOUSE

You’re really very small

Just big enough for

LOVE

That’s All

 

SFH Journal: 2018-12-04 through 07

Highlight: It is now the time of prayer and preparation for Christmas. We call it Advent. Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, we strive to make each Advent more meaningful than the last. That is a difficult task because TV and the other media would have you think that now is the time to party. We prefer to live in the Advent spirit; the TV is off; the Nativity scene is on display; the Wise Men are making their way to Bethlehem; the manger will remain empty until Christmas Eve.

Despite all our defenses against the troubling demands of the world, we still can feel some of the tension, anxiety, and stress of the “Holiday Season”. It is unwelcome, yet it is there.

Humor is a good way to rid oneself of tension and stress. In years past, our family had several traditions such as Kriskindl. We added our own variations. Old Kris was known to leave walnuts under pillows and pieces of candy in shoes. You never knew until Christmas Eve who your Kriskindl was.

Now that the children are grown and it’s only the two of us, there would be no way to keep the secret. Even Mr. Monte would be smart enough to know that Blondie was putting cat snacks next to his bowl. So, this year, we have switched to the Elf on the Shelf.

The first night, I read the story to my beautiful spouse and Mr. Monte. We all heard the rules and then we decided on some adaptions. Then, the game was afoot!

Our elf’s name is Clyde. Not because the book mentioned that name, but for a private reason that all in the family are well aware. Well, let me tell you, Clyde is an elusive and aggravating little guy. He has shown up in the most unusual places. Wife will find a clever hiding spot then laugh at me while I beg for a hint. Then, I will hide Clyde in an even more clever spot and wife will complain that I broke the rules or that I put him up too high, where she wouldn’t look.

Mr. Monte sits quietly through all of this and says but one thing, “Put that little twerp just a little lower where I can get to him. I have exquisite plans for his demise!”

And so it goes. Tension is relieved. There is laughter and lightheartedness. And then, we return to prayer and recollection. There is no need for Christmas to come too soon!

Weather:  (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-12-04: High/Low – 45º/32º

2018-12-05: High/Low – 34º/30º

2018-12-06: High/Low – 41º/32º

2018-12-07: High/Low – 39º/32º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-11-29 through 2018-12-03 – 200 Amp Service!!!

Highlight: When Serendipity Farmhouse was built, circa 1927, electrical wiring was of little concern. In fact, it appears that, along with indoor plumbing, electricity was of no concern at all. As time moved on, and two extensions were added to the original house, plumbing made its way into the extensions and electricity made it into the entire house.

In the minds of those who made the additions, everything seemed fit and proper. A circuit here, a circuit there, no more wood stove for cooking, electric heat in the bathroom – everybody was happy.  Right?

In October 2013, the eyes of one beholder, our home inspector, the picture (or pictures) of the state of the SFH electrical system were not so rosy. Nope, here is some of what she saw and some of what she thought.

Old box-1

“6.1 (1) Main panel does not have a main shut off breaker for entire panel–only a breaker (60 amp) labeled as “lighting main”. Also, other lighting circuits have been added — this could be confusing if someone trying to work on lights / switches thinks that power off to all those circuits if “lighting main” breaker is off. Suggest upgrade panel to include panel main breaker.”

Old box-2

“Note wire coming up in bottom of panel through knockout hole — but grommet missing. This protects wire from damage.”

Then, of course, there was the problem that SFH only had (barely had) 100 Amp service. That is why you heard me whine all Summer about the heat – attempting to run even two small air conditioners at the same time could have dire consequences.

1202181116b (2)So, that is why the last two months have been filled with the sounds of electricians tearing out old wires, installing conduit, running new wire, drilling holes, etc., etc., etc. Needless to say, Mr. Monte was not happy with the noise. Yet, despite the noise and strange humans wandering through the house, Mr. Monte frequently made forays into the work areas in order to assess the quality of the work. He let us know when he thought there was something amiss.

 

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Then finally, just as we readied to roll the calendar over from November to December, the work was done. Serendipity Farmhouse now has modern, legal, and safe 200 Amp service. Come next Summer, we will be able to run air conditioners in the house, wherever and whenever we want.

1202181118 (2)As a wonderful side benefit, we now have a special 30 Amp circuit for our Class C RV “El Camino Del Monte”. And that, dear readers, signals the opportunity for the next big upgrade at SFH – an updated kitchen. Yup, either in 2019 or 2020 we will update the SFH Test Kitchen. And, when we do, we can move into the RV and live comfortably there. With the new 30 Amp service, we will be able to run the RV air conditioner, watch TV, listen to music, and prepare Julia Child meals while the workers are performing their magic on the “new and improved” SFH Test Kitchen.

Weather:  Chilly and damp; rain, mist, fog on Saturday the 1st. (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-29: High/Low -39º/27º

2018-11-30: High/Low – 43º/32º

2018-12-01: High/Low – 37º/30º

2018-12-02: High/Low – 59º/37º

2018-12-03: High/Low – 57º/39º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-11-25 through 28

Highlight: When a friend is called home unexpectedly, you are given cause to think. In these Autumn days your thoughts cannot resist the influence of the wind and chill that surround you.

Those of us who hail from from the Great Lakes region know the cold wind off the lakes as “the Hawk”. The term is most closely associated with the Windy City, Chicago. My time at the nearby Naval Training Center Great Lakes gave me many days out in the open on the “grinder” (drill field). That was where I met the Hawk close up and personal. That is where the chill of the wind and my thoughts of life and death began to merge.

Today was a cold, blustery day. It was a day I would spend time out in the wind with my hat off of my balding head. Standing at my friend’s graveside, I recalled those cold days back in the 60’s. I was not overly saddened. How could I be? Even though unexpected, I knew that times like these must come. Was it not true, my friend was called home as some day I hope to be?

It was appropriate that today a local critter friend, our lone hawk, would return to Serendipity Farmhouse to take up his Winter residence. I spotted him sitting on the clothes line post, enjoying the brisk morning breeze atop his majestic vantage point. He and I have something in common. Even on a cold, blustery day, Serendipity Farmhouse is but a temporary home.

As evening brings an end to this day, I take time to pray, “May my dear friend, who has answered the call, have eternal rest and everlasting peace in his true home.”

Weather:  Temperatures all over the place. Wednesday the 28th was blustery. (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-25: High/Low – 61º/34º

2018-11-26: High/Low – 59º/43º

2018-11-27: High/Low – 41º/32º

2018-11-28: High/Low – 36º/30º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-11-24 Turkey Mountain Leftovers

Highlight: In these days after the Thanksgiving Day feast, we are accustomed to having leftover turkey show up in unusual places on our menu. At dinner time, we recreate the original feast, but with much less fanfare and formality. At lunchtime, we raid the refrigerator and make huge turkey sandwiches. Some of us even sneak into the fridge at breakfast time and grab a piece of turkey as a nibbling morsel.

All of that is well and good and certainly to be expected. But as you have learned, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. So, let me turn from food to weather and show you a Serendipity Farmhouse parallel.

All this year, you have read my complaints and whining about the unusual amount of rain. There has been so much rain that the ground can not absorb it and the immense grounds belonging to SFH are covered with standing water. You have also read about our flooding episode. You should be quite aware that, here at SFH, weather prognostications announcing another dousing with unwelcome precipitation are not taken lightly. So it was with the prediction for heavy rain and wintry mix for the 24th of November.

The precipitation did come. It sleeted. It drizzled. It poured. It froze. It thawed. It rained some more. It poured some more. It seemed as if it would never stop.

The farm on the other side of the Thornton River is the home of mountain, a mountain with the unusual name of “Turkey Mountain”. In years gone by, we had seen some runoff from Turkey Mountain after exceptionally heavy rains. This year, however, the constant rain has caused Turkey Mountain to merely be an aqueduct, a mechanism not for retaining or restraining water, but merely for shedding water into the river.

The featured picture shows the flow of water from Turkey Mountain into the Thornton river. These are the leftovers, the Thanksgiving day leftovers from Turkey Mountain.

Like most of you, by this time, I am tired of turkey leftovers. I’m even more unhappy with the prospect of Turkey Mountain leftovers.

Weather:  Too much rain and nasty wintry mix! (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-24: High/Low – 36º/28º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

A Christmas Carol – Yes, I can be objective!

 

There was a serious, disturbing, and slightly bloody tussle over who would write this critical review of the play “A Christmas Carol” presented by St. John’s Drama at Skyline High School in Front Royal on November 18th. It seems that Mr. Monte, our highly literate scholar of the fine arts, considered his ability to provide an objective and unbiased review of the play was far superior to yours truly. He based his claim on the trumped up, fallacious charge that I could not avoid favoritism due to the fact that my beautiful, charming, and amazingly talented Granddaughter No. 1 had a part in the play. Although I could understand why he made this baseless charge, his argument was shredded to pieces when I reminded him that he had not even seen the play. After that, he reluctantly allowed me the use of the keyboard. Meanwhile, he began to chew ferociously on the mouse out of frustration over losing an argument to Old Fuzz Face.

Introduction: Public school and parochial high school students usually have access to a stage with proper lighting and facilities. Qualified drama teachers or others with appropriate training are available to direct and coordinate production of a play or musical. For many home schooled children, however, these things are not readily available. That is why St. John’s Drama in Front Royal has worked mightily since 2008 to afford home schoolers and others in the area the opportunity to share in the theatrical experience. That is the answer for the big questions “how” and “why” did this production of “A Christmas Carol” come to be. (For more background about how this all came to be, click here.)

Plot Summary: “A Christmas Carol” is based on the 1843 novella by Charles Dickens as adapted by Jacqueline Goldfinger. All our readers should be familiar with the story line, but if you need a quick refresher click here.

Performance: Objectivity dictates that one must consider the situation as it is and not to compare it to something that it was never intended to be. This was not a professional quality production. It was the performance of amateurs. But to be just, it was a vibrant combined performance of a group of talented, enthusiastic, and dedicated amateurs. Surely, some lines were not well delivered and there were some missed cues. Yet, this member of the audience was both entertained and inspired. The intent of Dickens to increase compassion for and awareness of those around us was fulfilled.

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It must be noted that in scenes such as the Fezziwig Party, the cast did an excellent job of intricately balancing four different actions simultaneously. There were dance, drama, acting to the side, and convincing period music, all performed without clashing or distracting.

Design Elements: Simplicity was the order of the day. The cast of actors carried the action using a simple set. There was never a doubt about where you were in any scene. The focus remained on the powerful narrative and message created by Dickens. Costumes, on the other hand, were elaborate and seemingly authentic. They visually assisted each performer to assume the manner of the individual characters.

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Reaction: As you can see, I was pleased and entertained by what was accomplished by St. John’s Drama last Sunday >>>>///Bang – crashh!!! /// Oh, there’s a strange noise downstairs! I better go check on what’s happening///

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Hi, to all of my fans. This Mr. Monte here. While Old Fuzz Face is checking out the distraction I caused downstairs, let me fill you in on the real story. His Granddaughter No. 1 played the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past. As you can see in the picture, she was stunning. And, from personal observation over almost four years, she has far more talent than you can imagine.

That young lady is a bona fide cat lover. She has two cute little females of her own and Blondie tells me that she treats them like queens. Whenever she comes over here to Serendipity Farmhouse, she calls for me and I come running. She has a certain charm about her. When I think of her, the term “cat whisperer” comes readily to mind.

Now, Old Fuzz Face has trouble being objective about sweet Granddaughter No. 1, but no one ever said I have that problem. Nope, she’s the smartest, most beautiful young lady in the world, at least as far as I’m concerned.

SFH Journal: 2018-11-16 through 23

Yes, yes, I know it’s been over a week since my last update. Mr. Monte has repeatedly registered his complaints about my inattention to you our faithful readers. And, for once, I have to agree with that 20 pound, ill-behaved and unruly furrball. I have been delinquent and negligent in my duties.

This past week has been very trying and time for writing posts has been almost nonexistent. So, let me give you a recap of the daily highlights and let you know what kind of posts you can expect some time in the near future:

FRI 16 NOV: Our electric service is being upgraded from 100 to 200 Amps. The outside of the house is surrounded by new conduit runs and trenches for underground wiring. (Expect a special post.)

SAT 17 NOV: Fire wood has to be rearranged and the yard has to be cleaned up.

SUN 18 NOV: We make the trek to Front Royal to watch granddaughter No. 1 in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. (Expect a special post.) Dearest daughter No. 1 is sick – soon the entire family will be sick.

MON 19 NOV: Electric upgrade work continues; the electricity is off all day; we heat the house with the wood stove and run our emergency generator to power the freezer and refrigerator; beautiful wife assists her best friend taking a rescue cat to the vet. (Expect a special post.)

When the electricity comes back on, we learn that a dear friend in our parish has passed away. It is my duty to pass the word along to many in our parish.

TUE 20 NOV: I work on my real job.

WED 21 NOV: I work on my real job. Then, I help beautiful wife prepare Thanksgiving dishes; I try my hand at making buttery scones. (Expect a special post.)

THU 22 NOV: We go to Mass to give our thanksgiving to the One Who truly deserves it. When we get home the dryer dies – wet clothes are dried by the side of the wood stove. (Expect a special post.) Then we cook the turkey and complete preparations for the feast. (Expect a special post.) Daughter No. 2 breaks her toe.

FRI 23 NOV: In complete defiance of all logic, reason, and right thinking, wonderful spouse and I go to a major hardware store on BLACK FRIDAY in order to purchase a new washer and dryer. (Expect a special post.) We then drive nearly 60 miles to our Son’s home to deliver birthday presents. We can only go to the door – the entire family is sick.

Those were just the high/low points in our week. There was a whole lot more. So, look for the special posts and pictures in coming days.

Weather:  Variable with chill and frost. (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-16: High/Low – 45º/32º

2018-11-17: High/Low – 48º/30º

2018-11-18: High/Low – 50º/28º

2018-11-19: High/Low – 61º/39º

2018-11-20: High/Low – 46º/41º

2018-11-21: High/Low – 52º/30º

2018-11-22: High/Low – 37º/28º

2018-11-23: High/Low – 37º/21º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.