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.

 

 

 

Memorial Day – Thoughts & Leftovers

Memorial Day – Thoughts: My Dad always told me to do the hard things first. So, I will.

I’ve been in harm’s way several times, but I always came home to my family. However, many I knew, some acquaintances and some close friends, are still on patrol. That I am here and safe and free with children and grandchildren is both by God’s grace and their sacrifice. This is no small topic nor is it easy to ponder. It is a hard thing to remember, a very hard thing to recall, but on Memorial Day, I do the hard things first and to those still on patrol, I salute you all!

Memorial Day – Leftovers: It all came together yesterday, the 28th of May. Today will be spent in recovery. – – “What happened? Why need for recovery?” you ask. Allow me to lay out the timeline and you will begin to understand.

25 May: Our celebration of the national holiday and the unofficial start of Summer began in a quite unexpected and pleasing way. While piloting my massive and powerful lawn tractor, navigating through the varied and pleasant grounds of our vast (nearly 1.25 acre) estate, my excellent and most neighborly neighbor entered the yard carrying a quite heavily laden sack of something.  My curiosity as to the contents of the sack was quickly satisfied as he handed me the parcel containing 42 Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Beautiful wife saw the exchange of oysters and a relatively small amount of cash and quickly closed in on us. She had a very justified suspicion that this transaction would bring about some type of change to her menu for the holiday weekend – and so it did.

Because chicken thighs and legs had already been thawed for supper, dear Spouse declared that the oysters would have to wait until the following day. Although somewhat disappointed that we would have to postpone the oysters, the grilled chicken, potatoes, and salad made a great meal and all of us, including the somewhat hard-to-please Mr. Monte, were content. – – So it was on 25 May.

26 May: Dawn brought with it the delightful anticipation of an evening repast of more oysters than we could have ever imagined. When the appropriate time arrived, yours truly, following the same procedures we outlined in our post of SFH 0520181632 Journal: 2018-09-20, prepared a seafood feast fit for royalty. Needless to say, we found that large quantity of oysters more than sated any cravings or hunger pangs that we might have had. Then, we called our neighbor to thank him for his efforts in procuring the oysters. Instead of replying with a simple thank you, he said he had actually shortchanged us and within minutes he was at our doorstep with 20 more oysters to complete our feast.

Oysters don’t keep well and we were too full to eat any more. So, we stored the tasty sea critters carefully in the fridge, knowing they would have to be prepared very soon. – – So it was on 26 May.

27 May: The intended, planned, and clearly outlined intent for dinner on Memorial Day was aDSC_0273 rack of baby back ribs. They had been removed from the freezer on the 25th and thawed. Yours truly, following the same procedures we outlined in our post Baby Back Ribs at SFH, grilled the ribs to perfection. There were some slight modifications to side dishes, but the main ingredient, that huge rack of ribs, was present before us. We ate heartily and for a second day we had eaten to our capacity. Well almost – that is when we remembered the ice cream and chocolate syrup. Yes, we added the ice cream to finish the feast. But there was still a half rack of ribs unconsumed. It was stored in the fridge alongside the extra oysters. – – So it was on 27 May.

28 May: The fridge was now overflowing with leftovers. But my dear, creative Spouse0908181555 (2) noted that to make a meal with just oysters and ribs left something lacking. There were no vegetables to adorn the plate. Having been in the garden recently and imagining how good the newly planted okra would be when mature, it came to her that we had frozen several packs of okra at the end of the last growing season. (See our post SFH Journal: 2018-09-06 through 08 for details) She immediately seized upon the idea to add fried okra to the evening repast – the okra surely would be the item to bring together oysters and ribs and make them a balanced meal.

Yours truly, following the same procedures we outlined in our post of SFH Journal: 2018-09-20, prepared for the second time in three days a seafood feast fit for royalty. At the same time, I warmed leftover ribs and corn on the cob.

Our timing was perfect. Charming and creative wife fried up two bags of okra using her as yet secret fried okra recipe. She finished precisely at the same time I pulled the last oyster off the grill.

We brought the oysters to the table and ate them as an appetizer in the same way the rich and famous would do at a fine restaurant. Then, we made our way to the kitchen and filled our plates with ribs, corn on the cob, and the most tasty fried okra in the universe. Returning to the table, Mr. Monte examined all the components of the feast and nodded his head in approval. And then we ate. – – Perhaps we ate more than we should have, but, surely, there was never such a fine array of leftovers assembled in all of Creation.

Of course, knowing that this meal and all meals come to us by God’s grace, we gave thanks and prayed in remembrance of those whom we honor on Memorial Day. – – So it was on 28 May.

The Day of the Cup Plants

This may be the last post from Serendipity Farmhouse.

Beautiful but terrified Spouse is in her office on the second floor, afraid of going down to who knows what may be downstairs. She is still in partial denial, nevertheless, she asked me to write this post. She also knew that a credible witness would have to help me and attest to the veracity of my statements, so Mr. Monte is here at my side. He and I are both a little shaken over what we’ve seen and heard these last two days. It’s important that we complete this narrative so that you may be forewarned.

It began a few years ago. A very sweet and precious, elderly neighbor lady asked dear Wife if she would like to have some cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum), which is a species native to this area. Without asking too many questions (never look a gift horse in the mouth), dearest Spouse gladly accepted the offer. Immediately, I was called to plant the small plants near our vegetable garden – a place where they could get lots of sunshine.

They prospered!

cropped-img_20170910_121720541-2.jpg
Soaking up the sun

Oh, did they prosper! Each year, they grew taller and broader. Ever more blossoms appeared. We were so happy with them that we added pictures of them to our portfolio of blooms and blossoms at SFH.

Late last year, however, sweet Wife made what would turn out to be a terrible mistake. The cup plants had spread too widely and were blocking the sunshine we needed on our vegetables. Dearest Spouse told me to move the wonderfully prolific flowers to our wildflower garden. That was when terrifying things began to happen.

As I dug up the plants and severed roots one from another, there were strange sounds. One could almost imagine eerie cries of pain. “No matter!”, says I, the cup plants must be moved. And, though the roots fought my attempts, I finally removed the offending plants and transplanted them.

All was quiet during the Winter months, but that silence only lulled me into a false sense of security.

Spring, warm temperatures, and gentle rains woke all of the living things here at Serendipity Farmhouse. The cup plants began to grow in the wildflower garden, but were slow and sluggish compared to years gone by.

Then the strangeness began. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Monte and I started hearing the cry of what sounded like injured small animals from the direction of the main vegetable garden. Each evening, they grew more frequent and more distressed. I checked out the SFH official critter camera, but saw no unusual activity. In fact, I saw no activity at all. There were no pictures of the usual raccoons, opossums, foxes, and other critters we usually see.

A few days ago, beautiful Wife and I noticed that the area where the cup flowers were originally planted was now being overrun by a myriad, nay, an army of of cup flower sprouts. I bravely attempted to mow them down one day. By dawn of the next day they had returned, but in far greater numbers. They were marching underground towards our newly planted vegetables. A second group started heading towards the Farmhouse.

And that brings us to today. We are now stranded inside SFH. On all sides, cup plants are growing, each of them with leaves pointed towards our windows, looking for a way to get in.

DSC_1164 (2)

This is all true, every word of it and Mr. Monte attests to the facts presented here. The pictures also bear witness to this report.

DSC_1163 (2)

Hopefully, Mr. Monte will devise a way to save us. Remember, Triffids were fiction, Cup Plants are real!!

SFH Journal: 2019-05-13 through 25

Highlight #1: Spring is rapidly moving into Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Daffodils and irises are giving way to roses and magnolias. The wild chives are on the wane, but strawberry plants around the yard are bearing their sweet red fruits. The colors and smells are changing in accord to the dictates of the length of days and rising temperatures. So be it and let it be so.

Highlight #2: The promise of a harvest, perhaps a very bountiful harvest, is being announced in all our gardens and on our trees. If one were to walk through our vast, nearly 1.25 acre estate as I did yesterday, you would have seen some of these signs of promise.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DSC_1151 (2)Highlight #3: This is our first year growing garlic and we are learning as we go. We planted 17 garlic cloves in Autumn last year. The first garlic sprouts bravely emerged in mid-January this year. One sign that the plants are beginning to mature is the appearance of “scapes” (the flower bud of the garlic plant). We let them grow, but not flower. If they flower, it will retard the growth of the garlic cloves. Scapes are edible and tasty. They can be prepared in several different ways and make a welcome addition to salads.

Harvest: Here’s a brief recap of what came from the garden to our table over the last two weeks:

05-17: 1 large bunch of curly kale & 2 asparagus spears
05-18: 6 strawberries
05-20: 5 asparagus
05-21: 1 bunch of curly kale
05-24: Parsley, basil, 2 garlic scapes (all went into a pasta salad)
05-25: Last harvest of curly kale

SFH WX Station Report: For right now, we have settled into what appears to be a normal Spring weather pattern. The gardens are responding quite well. So far, the rain has come at regular intervals and has been adequate in quantity. Hopefully, this pattern will stay with us over the growing season. For the sake of brevity and clarity, I am only showing the running, monthly summaries.

WX-A

WX-B

So Beautiful – She has left us too soon!

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

0316191617 (2)
Mr. Monte and his mean, grumpy face

What a very sad day this is. She was my YouTube idol. Though a few years my senior, I knew that if I ever we were to meet in person, she would fall for me instantly. She was a true beauty and a role model. Whenever old Fuzz Face would make a wrong move, I would give him me well-practiced Grumpy Cat look. He would back off and begin to tremble.

590px-Grumpy_Cat_by_Gage_Skidmore

Yet, that is the way it is in the feline world. Grumpy Cat (Tardar Saucue) was only given a very short time among us. Yet, as we all know,  she lived life to the fullest, never failing to let others know exactly what she thought of them. And, dear readers, that is the way I shall live my life.

Grumpy – I will miss you!

Thank you to Gage Skidmore and his picture of my sorely missed Tardar Sauce on Wiki Commons.

SFH Journal: 2019-05-01 through 12

Highlight 1: This year’s major garden project was the addition of two, two-section raised garden boxes, dedicated to growing tomatoes. In addition to the boxes, other materials for the project included:

  • 76 feet of wire fence,
  • 6 six-foot fence poles,
  • 7 five-foot fence poles,
  • 2 one-foot bungee cords,
  • 28 cubic feet of garden soil, and
  • 1 five-gallon bucket of seasoned cow manure.

Good things: The project is complete and several tomato plants are already in the garden. Beautiful wife is now happy because Mr. Stripey, who has resided on the porch for two weeks, now has a permanent home. “When Momma’s happy …..”

0509191530b (2)
Not so good things: As you can see from the picture, several of the fence posts are crooked, especially the one on the far right. That, dear friends, is because one of the primary and most abundant crops in this part of the Piedmont is rocks – big rocks – boulders – bedrock – nay, actually an entire tectonic plate. Yours truly and a three-pound sledge hammer are no match for the rocks that reside on the vast estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse. Despite my desire for perfectly vertical, firmly planted fence posts, I will have to learn to live with the soon-to-be-world famous “leaning fence posts of the Piedmont”.

Highlight 2: With an expression of great gratitude to the previous owners and to my industrious wife, SFH is adorned with the gentle and inspiring beauty of flowers everywhere. Here is some of what I am seeing out the window as I write this post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SFH Garden & Harvest Report: Not only are the vegetables growing, we are already bringing the bounty of the harvest to the table. Here’s what we’ve brought in during this period:

  • 04 May – Five asparagus;
  • 06 May – Curly Kale and 2 asparagus;
  • 10 May – Basil for a Mother’s Day lunch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SFH WX Station Report: The last couple of days have been cool, but earlier in the month were were looking at temperatures in the high 80’s. Rain has been abundant, perhaps overly so. The gardens, however, seem to be pleased with current conditions. Here are summaries of recent weather statistics.

May 01-11 Summary

May 06-11 Summary

May 06-11 Summary-B

Mother’s Day at SFH

When it comes to Mother’s Day, either there are not enough words or there are too many words. For example, I cannot say enough about my Mom and my Mother-in-law, but the cards you buy in the store never ever get it just right no matter how many words they use. – Perhaps the best I could ever say to my Mom and my Mother-in-law or hear from my children is just a simple, “I love you, Mom!”

DSC_1126 (2).JPG

DSC_0341 (2)I spent today with wonderful Daughters #1 & #2. They are both mothers and, because of that common experience, we have so much we can share. I’m so proud of the mothers they have become. There is no greater joy.

Daughter-in-law #1, a truly wonderful match for Son #1, is also a great joy in my life. Today, we spent over half an hour on the phone talking about children, and cats, and gardening, and all the great loves of our life. She too is a terrific mom.

Finally, in this beautiful month of May, it is a time to remember our Lord’s Blessed Mother. By His words, she became a mother to us all.

I love you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

0509191529_HDR (2).jpg

 

SFH Journal: 2019-04-21 through 30 – First Harvest!!

Highlights: The longer days, the weather, and available free time continue to dictate our daily schedule and routine. We are now at a high point of activity outside, caring for the vast estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse. There is much demand for physical labor and very little time for writing posts. In addition to our first harvest from Vegetable Garden #1, here’s a sample of what we’ve been doing. Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-04-21 through 30 – First Harvest!!”

SFH Journal: 2019-04-14 through 20 – Easter Vacation

Question: Why have there been no posts over the last two weeks?

Answer: Life at Serendipity Farmhouse requires a balance between activity and time for reflection; conversation and silence, work and rest; and spiritual and physical endeavors. That is why Holy Week and the Octave of Easter are so very important to us. – We don’t take a “Spring break” – We take an Easter Vacation.

That is not to say that nothing has been happening here at SFH. To the contrary, much has been going on. But instead of cluttering this post with words, let me show you some pictures so you can see for yourself. Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-04-14 through 20 – Easter Vacation”