Why Do We Live in Sperryville?

“Why do we live in Sperryville?” – That’s a question we’ve been asked quite often. In fact, it’s a question we ask ourselves from time-to-time. Why would we want to abandon our grand view of the majestic Snake River Plain and the mountains beyond? What was there in Virginia, especially in a remote place like Rappahannock County, that would cause us to leave our large, modern home in Idaho and move here? – Let’s see if we can unravel this counterintuitive tale and provide a satisfactory answer.

farmhouse history

Hi! Ol’ Fuzz Face here.

Well, you might not have guessed it, because this the first time I’ve ever done this. How would you know it’s Farmhouse History Time? But here we are together, so let’s make this an opportunity for us to have a little chat about our move to Serendipity Farmhouse.

Over the coming months, this will be our time together to answer your questions over a cup of coffee or tea. I’m so fascinated by your questions because they almost always end with: “What were you thinking?” – Answering that question always is the lead-in to an interesting story.

A Partial Answer

If you’re impatient and just want a quick and simple answer to the question posed today, just go and read How it all began – What were we thinking? But there’s a whole lot more to it than what we said in that post. So, let’s go back and look at a couple of things.

Idaho – The Beautiful, Beautiful Mountains & Rivers

I could easily post a thousand pictures of the mountains and national parks in Idaho and Wyoming. The pictures of sunsets taken from our deck would leave you silent in awe. The mountains states are God’s country, especially where we lived. Take a look at us in places that were no more than just a short drive from our home.

Most people know the Tetons from pictures taken in Wyoming. But my dear Miss Blondie couldn’t help but being entranced by views like this from the Idaho Side.

By the way, this was pretty much the same view I had during my 15-minute commute home from work each day.

Few tourists know of the entrances to Yellowstone Park from the Idaho side. But my beautiful Spouse and I liked to explore and find places like Cave Falls. What could be better than this in Sperryville?

The Kitchen of Our Dreams

We frequently say that in Idaho we had the house of our dreams. But Serendipity Farmhouse is the house of our realities. Here we can see Chef Blondie wishing a fond farewell to the kitchen of her dreams.

How could an old farmhouse kitchen in Sperryville ever match this?

Wonderful Dreams vs. Amazing Realities

If you read our post How it all began – What were we thinking?, you know that we missed our children. Even more, we were deeply distraught that we were missing time with our grandchildren, who were growing older without us there to share with them. – Although we loved it, our house in Idaho wasn’t really our home.

Why we live here

Look at this picture a second time. It shows Sperryville as seen from Tunnel Parking Overlook on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. From an elevation of 2,510 feet, off in the distance, at the base of Turkey Mountain, you might be able to see a small section of Sperryville. If you squint, you might even see a small farmhouse there too.

Now if you are deeply perceptive, and if you’ve been following my tale closely, you will notice that there is something quite conspicuously absent from this picture. Yes, something very important that most certainly should be there is missing. – What might that be?

What was missing from our Picture of Sperryville?

We were!! – But not any longer. Because this is now the home of our realities.

Chicken Livers – An Interesting Way

Jacques Pépin just taught me how to make chicken livers in an interesting way. I’ve always loved fried chicken livers. Growing up, I could count on them always being on the menu. I just couldn’t get enough. But I never had chicken livers anyway but fried. Well, on Mother’s Day, that all changed. That’s when lovely Daughter #1 gave me a new cookbook – Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple. And that is when I first learned about Chicken Livers Persillade.

Hi! Chef Blondie here.

Serendipity Farmhouse

I have to admit that it was my dear Hubby who found the recipe. He and I share this love for liver of all types. As soon as he stumbled upon the recipe on page 318, he shouted, “Eurika!” or some such thing. When he showed me the recipe, my first words were, “Where can we find some chicken livers?! The SFH Test Kitchen is going to make this ASAP!”

Testing Jacques’s Chicken Livers Persillade

We had planned to publish a gardening post today. But Jacques’s cookbook with its great new recipe, combined with the availability of chicken livers and other ingredients, demanded that we disregard our weekly posting schedule. Well, to be more truthful, Hubby and I wanted to have chicken livers, and we wanted them, “Right now!”

It was to that end that we hastily mobilized the entire staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. They all assembled, and we discussed the task. We quickly came to complete agreement on the course of action and grabbed our aprons.

Using Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence, we explored why this recipe introduces one to the preparation of chicken livers in an interesting way.

1. Level of the Chicken Livers Persillade challenge

By its very name, Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple, the title describes the level of challenge in this recipe – “Quick and Simple.” The basic technique of sautéing is at the heart of preparation of this dish. However, because Jacques recommends that the livers be cooked at high heat, the butter and oil will have a tendency to splatter. – A word to the wise, be prepared to cover the pan with a splatter screen. Cleaning up oil splatters takes time and detracts from the enjoyment of the meal.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients

One great joy of cooking is being able to use ingredients of your own making or from your own garden. How unfortunate it was that our homegrown garlic had run out just a few days earlier. We had to use store-bought.

On the other hand, the parsley in our herb garden was thriving. So, we were able to enjoy its fresh flavor in the persillade. (Read more about persillade in Criterion 4 below.)

One big bonus in ingredient selection, was the fact that Hubby recently scored a huge success with a sourdough bread recipe. Not only had the bread come out just perfect, but for the first time, some of our own home-milled hard white wheat was incorporated in the recipe.

When toasted, four slices of this loaf became the perfect foundation for the cooked chicken livers persillade.

3. Use of cooking techniques for Jacques’s Chicken Livers

The two primary techniques used in preparing this dish are quite simple and straightforward. The liver is sautéed, and then the persillade is added. At that point, the pan is immediately removed from the burner. So simple – So elegant. This recipe can make a beginner look like a pro.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

Persillade is a sauce or seasoning mixture of parsley chopped together with seasonings including garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar. Jacques Pépin uses persillade in a range of diverse dishes. For example, in his Roe and Liver Persillade recipe, he demonstrates that a persillade adapts just as well to a fish dish as it does with chicken livers.

Persillade is a common ingredient in many dishes. You might think of it as a standard sauté cook’s mise en place. It is basically built around parsley and garlic. In Jacques’s Chicken Livers recipe, the persillade is added at the very end of the cooking process. That way, the garlic and parsley remain in the foreground and work side-by-side with the flavor of the sautéed livers. – Nothing is hidden.

On the other hand, if you add the persillade early in the cooking process, the parsley and garlic flavors mellow out, and they give an entirely different presentation to the flavor and aroma of the dish.

5. Presentation

Chicken Livers Persillade is a simple dish. It’s rather rustic and the use of toasted slices from a large country loaf like our homemade sourdough bread enhances the impression. So, no need to be fancy. Simply serve and enjoy.

A Couple of Practical Notes

At $1.96 for 1¼ pounds of chicken livers, Chicken Livers Persillade is a gourmet meal without the gourmet expense. According to Jacques, 12 ounces of chicken livers will provide four servings. The SFH Test Kitchen staff had no idea what it would do with the extra 8 ounces of livers. That is when I stepped in and said, “We will cook them all.”

So, we cooked them all. – – Please refrain from asking the obvious question, “Were there any leftovers?” My staff is sworn to secrecy.

chicken livers; Jacques Pépin

Chicken Livers Persillade

This quick dish should be prepared at the last moment and served immediately. It makes a nice appetizer for a dinner, and it can also be served with salad as a main course for a brunch or light lunch.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4


  • 1 Nonstick pan at least 9 inches in diameter


  • 12 ounces chicken livers, about 14 preferably plump and pale in color
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil We used EVOO.
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine (2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 slices from a large country loaf, ½ inch thick and about 5 inches in diameter, toasted We used homemade sourdough bread.


  • Separate each liver into its two halves, discarding any connecting sinews.
  • Pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a nonstick pan at least 9 inches in diameter.
  • When the mixture is a hazelnut color, add the livers in one layer and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Turn and cook on the other side for 1 minute, taking care to avoid splatters. (If using more than 12 ounces of liver, cook a little longer on each side.)
  • Add the persillade (garlic and parsley) and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Mix well.
    chicken livers; Jacques Pépin
  • Place a slice or two of toast on each plate, top with the liver, and serve immediately.
    chicken livers; Jacques Pépin
Keyword Chicken livers

The Best Cranberry Sourdough Muffins

If you have leftover sourdough starter, follow this recipe to make the best cranberry sourdough muffins ever. They’re super easy to make and they give a delightful lift to a simple breakfast or afternoon tea. (Especially when smothered with butter!) Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, we have a special name for these delicious treats – Daisy’s Cranberry Muffins.

farmhouse food

Now that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen is experimenting with sourdough, we have a problem. We have too much sourdough starter and we don’t want to waste the excess. After extensive research, we’ve found several recipes for extra starter that would otherwise be discarded. The recipe for Daisy’s Cranberry Muffins is our favorite so far.

Testing Daisy’s Cranberry Sourdough Muffins

We didn’t arrive at success with this recipe overnight. My Test Kitchen staff started with a very good base recipe for Blueberry Sourdough Muffins from the King Arthur Baking site. After a few tests and several adjustments, the staff came up with the recipe that has become our standard of excellence.

Using Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence, let’s take a closer look at what makes Daisy’s recipe work so well.

1. Level of the cranberry sourdough muffins challenge

King Arthur has developed a very good basic recipe. It’s easy to follow, and the results are consistent. Additionally, the recipe is versatile and allows for easy changes.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients

With the exception of three items, ingredients used in Daisy’s Cranberry Sourdough Muffins are familiar standards. Our Test Kitchen staff has found King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour to be reliable and consistent in quality. With regard to dried cranberries, there are many good products available. We recommend that you pay close attention to the expiration date on the package.

Needless to say, make sure that your sourdough starter discard is either ripe (fed) or still relatively fresh. After all, this is the star ingredient for your muffins.

As an aside, many of us who are into sourdough, give names to our starter. Being Downton Abbey fans, this was a no-brainer. Our starter is known as Mrs. Patmore, named after the senior cook at Downton Abbey.

It only made sense to name the sourdough starter discard after Mrs. Patmore’s assistant cook, Daisy Mason.

Sourdough Starter

3. Use of cooking techniques

If you’ve made muffins before, this will be a cinch. Only regular muffin making techniques are used.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

There was only one point where the Test Kitchen staff decided to make a significant change. The recipe calls for one cup of yellow cornmeal. We determined that was too much for our taste. So, we cut the amount by half and compensated by adding more flour.

During our first test of the recipe, we had no blueberries on hand. That’s when we elected to use dried cranberries. The addition of the cranberries brought about a satisfying burst of flavor. We were so delighted with the result that we’ve decided to stick with cranberries in the future. Of course, blueberries and other types of berries, such as currents, might give you results better suited to your personal taste.

5. Presentation

I’m sorry, but I can’t comment on presentation yet. These muffins have a knack of finding their way directly to the table. The duration of their presence on the table is usually no more than a few seconds. Consequently, there’s no reason to make a big deal over presentation.

What if you don’t have sourdough Starter?

So, you don’t have any starter? Well, there are several ways of going about getting some or making your own. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you have a friend who’s into sourdough baking, ask for a gift of one cup of starter and read up on how to feed and care for it.
  • Should you want to start from scratch and do it yourself, there are many YouTube videos and blog posts with all the information you need. – Here’s a link to a post describing How to Make a Sourdough Starter offered by Farmhouse on Boone.
  • Suppose you think some of this is too complicated. Well, you can purchase starter kits that come with fresh sourdough or sourdough cultures. They usually provide a good set of instructions. Here are links to two examples: Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter & Cultures for Health San Francisco Sourdough.

To quote Jacques Pépin: “Happy cooking!”

cranberry sourdough muffins

Daisy's Cranberry Sourdough Muffins

Make the best cranberry muffins ever with your sourdough starter discard. This recipe is super easy and the muffins taste great.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Afternoon Tea, Breakfast
Cuisine American


  • cups (180g) unbleached all-purpose flour We use King Arthur
  • ½ cup (69g) yellow cornmeal, preferably whole grain
  • ¾ teaspoon salt We use sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup (227g) sourdough starter, ripe (fed) or discard
  • ¼ cup (57g) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup (50g) vegetable oil We use Canola oil
  • ½ cup (170g) honey
  • 1 cup (170g) dried cranberries up to 2 cups if desired
  • Demerara sugar or coarse sparkling sugar, for sprinkling tops if desired


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with papers and grease the inside of the papers.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • In a second bowl, beat together the starter, milk, egg, vegetable oil, and sweetener. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the cranberries just until blended.
  • Fill the cups of the prepared pan two-thirds full. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the muffins with sugar.
  • Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Don't let them cool in the pan, or they'll steam and the outside will become tough.
Keyword Muffins, Sourdough

Never Challenge a Maine Coon

He threw down the gauntlet and challenged me. So, I taught him why one should never challenge a Maine Coon cat.

Hi, Mr. Monte here!

To my 23, 417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, it’s really getting hard to do my job here at Serendipity Farmhouse. My human, Ol’ Fuzz Face, is a constant distraction.

Maine Coon Multitasking

If you are new to the Serendipity Farmhouse Blog, you might not know how much work has been going on here to improve your reading experience. In a recent post, I explained how I am thoroughly reorganizing the SFH Website structure.

Although I’ve made a great deal of progress on this task, I still have to perform all my other duties. For example, as Chief of Security, I must make frequent security patrols, write reports, and supervise the security staff. Likewise, I have a myriad of duties relating to the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. And it goes on and on. – – Thus, I’m a stressed out, overworked, underappreciated, multi-tasked Maine Coon cat.

Then, on top of everything else, along comes Ol’ Fuzz Face with another one of his hare-brained ideas. Let me tell you what he’s done this time.

Caring for a Maine Coon Cat

As far as humans go, Fuzzy is relatively well attuned to my feline needs and whims. He understands the nature of our relationship. I command; he serves. For example, this morning I entered the office, meowed once, and he immediately lifted me up onto the table and brushed me for fifteen minutes. – He performs this duty almost every day.

When he can muster the courage, every other week or so, he will trim my nails. He has learned that there are times when I’m not really in the mood, and he stays clear. He knows the consequences of misjudging my mood. – He keeps a ready supply of Band-Aids nearby.

Maine Coon Play – Sparring

My 23,417 feline followers and I share a common origin – the African Wildcat. We still feel the call of the wild. As predators, we are drawn to the type of play that mimics the hunt and the kill. The feature picture shows my favorite toy, a Kong Kickeroo.

Every morning, as Fuzzy eats his breakfast, I bump his leg with my head. He knows that if he doesn’t respond within 13 seconds it will be his unlucky day. So, he dutifully, leaves the table and joins me in mock combat. He’s my sparring partner.

No matter how he moves or dodges with the Kickeroo, my superior hunting skills allow me to anticipate Fuzzy’s moves and capture my prey. Should a portion of Fuzzy’s arm or hands block my attack on the Kickeroo, too bad for Fuzzy.

The Foolhardy Challenge

Recently, Fuzzy thought that he, the pupil, was smarter than his teacher. He had found a gardening glove with claws. He proposed that this glove would level the playing field if used in one of our sparring matches. So, puffed up with foolhardy pride, he threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to a dual.

Never challenge a Maine Coon
Mr. Monte, I throw down the gauntlet and challenge you to a dual!

Challenge Accepted – No Holds Barred

Being the fearless, invincible Maine Coon cat that I am, there was no way that I would refuse this foolish challenge. So, I accepted and added that no holds would be barred. Fuzzy foolishly accepted my terms.

We met that day on the field of combat. Fuzzy taunted me with derisive terms. He made ugly faces, snarled, and even hissed so as to mock me. I ignored him and bided my time.

Fuzzy was just a sparring partner. He had never known the full extent of my skills. Nor had he ever guessed the fierce nature of the African Wildcat inside me. But on that day, he made his big mistake. He would learn the lesson of how foolish he was to take on his 24-pound Maine Coon in no holds barred combat.

Yes, it was on that day he learned his lesson – NEVER CHALLENG A MAINE COON.

Back to Normal

These days, things have returned to normal. Ol’s Fuzz Face brushes me daily and trims my nails. He comes when I beckon, and he leaves when I tell him. Fuzzy now feeds me snacks and treats me as royalty should be treated. He lives his life as a humbled sparring partner. You can be sure he will never challenge me again.

Miss Blondie has asked that I not reveal any photos of my dual with her Hubby. Many of our readers are children and the pictures would be embarrassing to Fuzzy.

Lastly, acting on the advice of his wise and most beautiful spouse, Fuzzy is taking remedial lessons on caring for his adorable Maine Coon – Moi. As his first reading assignment he is reading the article Maine Coon by Janelle Leeson on the petMD site.

My Tree of Motherly Memory

There it stands, strong and silent, ever there to support me – I call it my tree of motherly memory. In photos from the past, you can see its strength and size. It reminds me of my concern for the children I would raise. This picture of me leaning on my tree shows the worry in my eyes.

A Day for Motherly Memory

Today, children and husbands are giving cards and gifts to mothers everywhere. For many of us, this is a time we think back dearly on our moms who are no longer with us. Hubby lost his mom on the day before Mother’s Day years ago – such a very sad memory. And, of course, my thoughts and prayers will be with my children’s Granny Ida.

There’s So Much More to Say

Let me step aside and take a different view of this day for mothers. With all this praise for us from our children, wouldn’t it be fitting to also think of them. I had the privilege to raise, care for, and teach three beautiful children. A fourth child did not make it to term. I wish I could have met him and cared for him too.

Those three beautiful children have grown and matured. They are now parents like me. They are good parents. And, just like me, my two daughters and my daughter-in-law have experienced the worry of child-bearing and the daily concerns and heartaches of motherhood.

When all is said and done, look how my children have grown. See what they have become. They have loved me so much, and they have helped me to grow in the virtues of patience and perseverance. I am so proud of them and who they are.

What is the Lesson I Have Learned?

My girls visited yesterday. We had tea and charcuterie. They brought flowers and presents, including a gift bag from my son. I’m sure the phone will ring today, there will be a call from each one of them.

There it stands, strong and silent, ever there to support me – I call it my tree of motherly memory. I can picture it as the the large tree behind me in that park in Pacific Grove. But as I open my cards and look at the flowers and gifts today, I know there is a lesson to be learned. That tree in the park is just a symbol of something much larger and stronger.

The real tree that supports me is my Faith, my Hubby, and the three children God has given me. I have learned that it is my family that is my tree of motherly memory.

How to Love Your Garden

Frost alerts, bug infestations, pest invasions, blight devastation, black rot destruction – with all this drama, can you ever learn how to love your garden? Here’s what we do at Serendipity Farmhouse to avoid the recurring yearly dread of impending doom.

Love your garden

Several days ago, I came in from working in the vegetable gardens. It was a cold day, and I had hesitated to go out. But the tomatoes and peppers were begging to be planted.

I wish I could hear everything my plants have to say to me. It seemed that my dad could hear them, and he gave them anything they wanted. – He was a garden whisperer.

Reasons to Love Your Garden

There can be little doubt that we here at Serendipity Farmhouse love our vegetable and herb gardens. We write about them often.

The Joy of Faithful Stewardship

As the SFH Chief Gardener, I am obligated to make an accounting of our successes and failures, our improvements and our setbacks in the garden. It is my job to make a twice-yearly report to our patron, St. Isidore. We know that all that we have and every breath we breathe is a gift. That means that our humble gardens are treasures entrusted to our care. That is why I said in my post Feast Day Garden Talk this time last year:

We’ve tried to be good stewards of what God has bestowed on Serendipity. The fruits of these labors constantly bring us joy.

The Fruits of Our Labor

And that brings us to the question of what to expect from the time and labor invested in vegetable gardening. I think expectations should be based on purpose and scale. For example, if you are a commercial farmer, you need to grow enough to make a profit in the marketplace. But, if you are a homesteader, you seek to produce enough to meet your personal needs.

Hubby and I are neither farmers nor homesteaders. We merely want to supplement our other food sources with vegetables we like that are either hard to find or otherwise too expensive. The feature picture of me reaching for okra pods from a 10.5-foot okra plant is the perfect example. We are still eating frozen and pickled okra from last year’s harvest, even though it is virtually impossible to find okra in the grocery store now. – Certainly, that is a reason to love my garden.

Personal Accomplishment

I started out by listing several of the many disasters that strike fear and dread in the hearts of gardeners. Hubby and I have experienced them all. And that is where perseverance comes into play. Just as we have overcome adversity in our years of marriage, so too have we worked to overcome adversity in our gardens. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be found when you work through your problems. Eventually, you can say as I did in my post Report to St. Isidore – 2022:

The harvest for 2022 will go down in history as the best year yet for the vegetable and herb gardens proudly cultivated here on the vast 1.203 acres of the Serendipity Farmhouse estate.

One More Reason to Love Your Garden

I’m sure, if you think about what really makes you happy in your life, you will be able to find any number of reasons to love your garden. When there’s a frost warning, or the bugs invade, keep those reasons in mind.

Perhaps you will even find a reason that overcomes every fear of failure. I know I have.

When I write about my gardens, I can’t help but thinking about Dad. This is especially true in May, because that is planting season. That’s when Dad’s expectations were high, and when he worked so hard to make everything just right. – Dad passed away some years ago on May 24th. I like to think that, on that day, his thoughts were about going home to a Garden made just for him.

Dad, I know how much you loved working with your tomatoes and other plants. You were the one who taught me how to love my garden. Thank you for that wonderful gift!

2023 Plantings (So far)

No Need for A Farmhouse Nightmare

Wednesday morning, fire destroyed a Sperryville auto shop and nearby utility lines; it could have caused a Serendipity Farmhouse nightmare. But, due to practical planning and a small measure of serendipity, it didn’t.

According to the Rappahannock News story Explosions, fire destroy Sperryville auto shop:

A local auto shop in Sperryville was razed early Wednesday morning after catching fire and exploding, downing power lines and leaving more than 300 homes in the area without electricity.

The article explains that the incident occurred just before 5 AM. That was about when I had just finished my prayer time and was eating breakfast. I had heard some strange sounds outside and noticed the lights flickering. Then the Internet went dead and my telephone flashed, saying that I should check the line.

Something was going on. Soon the sound of sirens confirmed that a serious event had happened near Serendipity Farmhouse. It was only hours later that I would have the opportunity to assess the nature of this critical infrastructure event.

Critical Infrastructure Security

I suspect that very few of you have read A Guide to Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). – – Why would you?

That publication lists the 16 Current U.S. Critical Infrastructure Sectors. It also notes that there are four designated lifeline functionstransportation, water, energy, and
communications. The crucial assertion by this CISA publication is:

These connections and interdependencies between infrastructure elements and sectors mean that the loss of one or more lifeline function(s) typically has an immediate impact on the operation or mission in multiple sectors. [My emphasis added.]

Preliminary Lifeline Functions Assessment

Here is the event scene as it looked at 3 PM. The auto repair shop was totally destroyed. Most of the fire crews had departed. Apparently, Rappahannock Electric Company had already completed their on-site work. Power had been restored.

Multiple Verizon trucks had arrived, and workers were repairing telephone lines.

Xfinity technicians were performing repairs on Internet, TV cable, and digital phone lines.


Did the fire have an impact on transportation?

At 5:12 AM, The Rappahannock County Fire & Rescue Department reported: “Crews are working to extinguish a commercial structure fire in Sperryville. Please avoid the immediate town of Sperryville due to multiple exposures and dangerous conditions.”

Additionally, Son’s Road and Water Street were closed to through traffic. – This had some impact on Serendipity Farmhouse.


Did the fire have an impact on energy?

According to the Rappahannock News, over 300 homes in the area lost electric power. Owing to a bit of serendipity, electric power is fed to Serendipity Farmhouse via a different distribution circuit than feeds the central portion of Sperryville. But for those 300+ families, there was great concern and inconvenience.


Did the fire have an impact on water?

For the 300+ families without power, this was most certainly a big problem. Almost everyone in Sperryville gets their water from wells using electric pumps. No electricity means no water. No water for drinking, cooking, washing, or flushing.


Did the fire have an impact on communications?

As I noted earlier, Serendipity Farmhouse lost Xfinity/Comcast Internet access, cable, and telephone just before 5 AM. But Xfinity/Comcast users were not the only ones impacted. Verizon telephone lines are on the same utility poles as the electric and cable lines. This meant that, with the exception of mobile cell service, Sperryville was without communications.

Consider the implications of this 11:47 AM report from Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office: “Rappahannock County Public Safety Communication Center 911 lines are back up and operating. For non-emergency calls please dial 540-522-7355. Administrative lines remain down.

Lifeline Functions Resilience Plan

What do we do at Serendipity Farmhouse when the lights go out? – In the words of my most wonderful wife Blondie – “Panic!!”

But she and I know that after we allow ourselves a brief moment of panic and dread, we immediately set about implementing our Lifeline Functions Resilience Plan.

At Serendipity Farmhouse, we don’t live off-grid. And, as you can see by Wednesday’s fire, we are dependent on critical infrastructure. But because of thoughtful planning, there is no need for this type of event to become a farmhouse nightmare. Although we’re not homesteaders, preppers, or survivalists, we live a practical life. And we adhere to a commonsense motto that allows us to enjoy a good night’s sleep. That motto, of course, is Pray, Prepare, Preserve. That motto motivates us to prepare for events like this.

We know what the four lifeline functions are. We understand what loss of those functions means. So, we have developed a plan to build resilience into the way we run Serendipity Farmhouse. CISA defines resilience as:

Resilience may be defined as the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions. This means being able to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions, deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally-occurring threats or incidents.

Over the next few months, Blondie and I will show you what we do to ensure lifeline functions resilience. You will learn why, here at the vast 1.203-acre estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse, there is no need to have a farmhouse nightmare.

Sperryville is our community, the place where we live. Wednesday’s fire was destructive and tragic. Our prayers go out to Andrew Manuel, the owner of Wrextorations. You can donate to Wrextorations here.

That Unique Serendipity Farmhouse Flavor

Saturday, we had our first springtime dinner on the deck. We seasoned our dinner with that unique Serendipity Farmhouse flavor. And just what might that unique farmhouse flavor be? Well, let’s find out.

Serendipity Farmhouse Springtime Opera

Don’t be fooled by the word Opera. For us, it has nothing to do with singing. Rather, it has to do with numerous labors and works. Often, these opera combine in a way that give us a taste of that Serendipity Farmhouse Flavor.

It’s Spring! There’s so much to do here on our vast 1.203-acre estate. This is not a time to sit back and rest. We’re in the midst of planting vegetables in our three gardens. The grass is growing, and the lawns must be mowed. The deck needs to be stained. The outdoor chores are multiplying and consume our day.

Meanwhile, the highly trained staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen is working overtime. They are laboring feverishly to complete a huge list of important recipe test-and-evaluations. Our new stove “Mr. Clyde” hasn’t had a moment’s rest.

Farmhouse Hospitality

Just about the time we had thrown up our hands and said we can’t handle one more thing, a new email appeared on my screen. The title says it all. – “So hungry” –

Yikes! In less than two days, an important guest will arrive at SFH and share dinner with us. – I quickly, but carefully (surprises of this sort are not always welcomed) informed my beautiful Spouse Blondie of this sudden change in plans. Together, we consulted our usually, highly comprehensive menu to see what we had planned for Saturday.

Oops! We soon found that our usually, highly comprehensive menu entry was not as comprehensive as it should have been. – We have found two important truths in menu making:

  • 1st: When in doubt, adding TBD (to be determined) to a blank meal space is an easy way to cop out when you entirely lack any culinary inspiration.
  • 2nd: TBD doesn’t taste very good, and you shouldn’t serve it to special guests. This is a most serious breach of farmhouse hospitality.

Benedictine Hospitality

I immediately rounded up the entire SFH Test Kitchen staff. We all gathered together and listened as Chef Blondie explained the reason for this emergency session. As is usual in a situation like this, we opened up the absolute best reference manual ever written to restore peace and purpose to our Test Kitchen.

As you may or may not remember, we are Benedictine Oblates. (See: Dedication to Our Patrons – St. Scholastica & St. Benedict.) Consequently, the Rule of St. Benedict is our standard reference manual and guide. So, when we have a Test Kitchen or hospitality crisis, we immediately refer to Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests.

We zeroed in on two points from Chapter 53 that would solve the problem at hand.

  • 1 – All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). 
  • 18 – Additional help should be available when needed, so that they can perform this service without grumbling.

That was it! We had a plan! We would welcome the guest with the best of whatever we could offer. Blondie, Pierre LeChat, Mr. Monte, and I assumed our battle stations. We did this without grumbling. This was a task of Benedictine Pax (peace) and joy.

Menu with That Unique Serendipity Farmhouse Flavor

Under Chef Blondie’s watchful eye, the Test Kitchen staff planned the venue and menu for the evening of Saturday, April 29th. It reflects the spirit of Chapter 53 and the Benedictine spirit of hospitality.


We would hold our dinner outdoors on the deck. It would be informal.

Serendipity Farmhouse Flavor

I stained the Serendipity Farmhouse deck on Wednesday. Blondie cleaned and positioned the deck furniture in the most elegant and attractive manner. Then, she prepared the porch to be the main serving center. We tirelessly cleaned and re-cleaned the entire area several times. There was not a single stray maple seed to be seen. – It was ready!


We decided to prepare dinner primarily from ingredients we had on hand. Most importantly, we elected to serve items we had made from scratch or obtained locally.

Appetizer: Small Charcuterie Board

  • Gruyère Cheese, Extra-Sharp White Cheddar Cheese, SFH Homemade Chèvre
  • Mozzarella wrapped in Prosciutto.
  • Marcona Almonds
  • Assorted Crackers

Salad: Simple tossed salad, highlighted with Red and Green Romaine picked from SFH Vegetable Garden #1

Entrée: Lasagna with Meat Sauce – We used locally raised, grass-fed grass-finished beef from Reality Farm. The Parsley was picked from SFH Herb Garden #1.

Bread: Freshly baked SFH Sourdough Artisan Bread. Although the SFH Test Kitchen is still testing this recipe, the Staff felt confident that we were ready for our most recent recipe to make its debut. We would serve the bread with our special homemade butter.

Beverages: Assorted – The featured wine was a 2020 Vin de Miason from our favorite local Quièvremont Vineyard & Winery.

Dessert: Chocolate and Walnut Covered Brownies

Serendipity Farmhouse Flavor is for Every Day

And there you have it. Farmhouse living the Serendipity way has its own unique farmhouse flavor. The Serendipity way prompts us to grow our own food. It guides us in how we prepare our food. We season that farmhouse flavor with locally grown meat and dairy items. And when there is need for a toast, we make that toast with an excellent local wine.

But the most important ingredient we add to that unique Serendipity Farmhouse flavor is our Benedictine Farmhouse Hospitality. That is the secret ingredient we share with every guest who visits Serendipity Farmhouse.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin Jacques’s Way

The menu for the week was blank. Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face were in torrid disagreement on what to do. All they could find in the freezer were two pork tenderloin steaks. There was great unhappiness in the air. In a desperate move, I, the one and only Pierre LeChat, made the decision. We will learn how to cook pork tenderloin Jacques’s way.

farmhouse cuisine

No, the freezer wasn’t bare. However, over the last week, Blondie and Fuzzy had prepared beef, lamb, and chicken. They would not speak of vegetables, pasta, or fish because they had just finished a Lenten season in which they voluntarily abstained from meat three days per week.

So, they had to shop their pantry for something different, and pork tenderloin was all there was. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had no recipes for that particular cut of pork.

The Quest for a Jacques Pépin Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Taking my decision to heart, my amazing friends searched high and low for how Jacques Pépin would prepare pork tenderloin with the ingredients they had on hand. None of their standard reference cookbooks contained such a recipe.

Ever onward, they searched through the Internet. Alas! There were no recipes that fit the bill. Blondie and Fuzzy were, to say the least, most frustrated. They needed help.

As we have come to expect, it was Mr. Monte who stumbled across a KQED episode of Jacques Pépin Cooking At Home. The dish Jacques prepared was called Pork Tenderloin Steak with Mushrooms and Corn. But, this was just a video, there was no written recipe. True, the footnotes to the video listed the primary ingredients. It was up to the viewer to interpret and remember what Jacques did and what order he did it.

That is where I stepped in and transcribed the entire episode. The recipe in this post is taken from my copious notes.

Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence

Although this SFH Test Kitchen adventure was not planned, Chef Blondie decided to record the proceedings and make the results available to you, our esteemed and faithful viewers. Of course, the test would be conducted in accord with my personally developed – Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence:

  1. Level of the challenge
  2. Selection of good-quality ingredients
  3. Use of cooking techniques
  4. Development of superior taste and flavor
  5. Presentation

In the SFH Test Kitchen, we take our work seriously. We test recipes under the same conditions and with the same challenges that confront any amateur home chef. The only difference is the SFH-TK staff is scientific and methodical. We record each step of the recipe process and analyze the results. Our end goal is to have a fail-proof, go-to recipe that can be listed on your weekly menu with the highest degree of confidence.

It works for the SFH-TK and it will work for you. 

Test Results & Commentary

As this was not a scheduled recipe test, the Test Kitchen staff had to make a lot of preparations on the fly. This, of course, can lead to some missteps and consume valuable time. Nevertheless, under firm guidance from Chef Blondie, every staff member performed admirably.

It goes without saying, but I shall say it anyway, Jacques Pépin has a range and depth of culinary skill that cannot be matched. This particular recipe presents both the essence of simplicity and an unusual element of surprise. The inclusion of frozen corn caught us off guard, but it contributed greatly to enjoyment of this dish.

1. Level of the Challenge

This is meant to be a simple, low-cost meal. It’s perfect for preparation in an old farmhouse or average home kitchen. Although our recipe allows 20 minutes for preparation and 40 minutes for cooking, the meal could easily be made in half that time. This is a meal that could be used by an entry-level home chef as a means to learn and perfect simple cooking techniques.

2. Selection of Good-quality Ingredients

Sometimes the recipe dictates the ingredients. In this case, however, the ingredients dictated the recipe. This is what the SFH-TK had on hand. The quality of the pork was excellent. The onion and corn were waiting for someone to use them. The mushrooms were fresh and ready take on subtle shades of flavor from the other ingredients. Unfortunately, we had no chives or suitable substitute, to use for a garnish.

3. Use of Cooking Techniques

This is meant to be a simple, low-cost meal. The SFH-TK staff encountered little difficulty in preparation of this recipe. The techniques used are simple and straightforward.

4. Development of Superior Taste and Flavor

Here is where the Test Kitchen staff deviated from Jacques’s video presentation. He chose to use V8 juice to develop a certain degree of acidity. Prior to adding the juice, he mentioned that you could use wine instead, but he did not specify white or red. The SFH-TK pantry had no V8 juice, so we opted to use red wine. We found the results to be quite satisfying. During our tasting session, we found the flavor to be well developed and we did not sense any deficiency in the level of acidity.

5. Presentation

The use of red wine changed the appearance of the dish. It made the meal components take on a reddish hue that tends to detract from the more natural colors of the pork and mushrooms. V8 juice produces the same effect, but to a lesser extent. Perhaps a good choice for us in the future would be to use a white wine.

Obviously, Ol’ Fuzz Face did not read my review Jacques’ Lentil Salad – SFH TK Test. Once again, he trotted out the Willow Pattern China for presenting this dish. Badly done, Fuzzy! That pattern is a distraction. Next time, be more careful in plating.

Remember, I’m watching. And they don’t call me Persnickety Pierre without good reason.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin Jacques’s Way

So, without further ado, here is Jacques’s recipe. We’ve included pictures showing how the Test Kitchen employed his techniques. – If you desire to learn more about Jacques’s approach to cooking, check out his book Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques.

Jacques's pork tenderloin steak

Pork Tenderloin Steak with Mushrooms and Corn

This is meant to be a simple, low-cost meal. It's perfect for preparation in an old farmhouse or average home kitchen. Although our recipe allows for 20 minutes of preparation and 40 minutes of cooking, the meal could easily be made in half that time.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4


  • 1 Frying pan


  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup sliced onion
  • ¼ cup red wine or V8 vegetable juice
  • 8 oz. coarsely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • chives


  • Remove thick skin on top of the steaks using sharp knife.
  • Makes four 4-oz. steaks.
  • Add butter and oil to skillet
  • Place steaks in pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side. The pan doesn't need to be covered, but Jacques partially covers it to prevent splattering.
  • Add sliced onions to pan.
  • Remove steaks, they should be slightly pink in the center
  • Continue to sauté onions and add wine or V8 juice; reduce, then pour over steaks.
  • Add butter and oil to pan
  • Sauté coarsely chopped mushrooms; add a bit of water if necessary
  • Add 1/2 cup corn; salt & pepper to taste
  • Add chives as garnish; sauté slightly
  • Add mushroom & corn as side for loin steaks
    Jacques's pork tenderloin steak


Keyword Pork tenderloin steak

RVing with Cats – Not So Easy

If you’re thinking that RVing with cats is a great idea, let me relate to you a real-life example to illustrate that it’s not so easy as you might think. Your sweet, cuddly feline comes with eons of instinctual behaviors and just barely 9,500 years of semi-domestication. It doesn’t take much for an RV cat to lose its peaceful demeanor. For no apparent reason, it will suddenly revert to its African Wildcat instincts. This is especially true of a particular 24-pound Maine Coon with whom you should be well familiar – Mr. Monte.

Early Morning Chat with a Misguided Cat

Dawn finally arrived on the morning of April 17th. It had been a long night. Mr. Monte held wake-up calls for Blondie and me at 12:45AM and every hour thereafter. One of those wake-ups was particularly annoying. – Two cups of strong coffee would not be enough to keep us awake until noon.

Mr. Monte

Although nothing Mr. Monte ever does can be considered normal, the chat I had with him that morning convinced me I was dealing with a truly alien mind. It was like forcing the truth out of the lips of a deranged politician. – He actually believed what he was saying and he expected me to believe it too.

/// Reader Warning: Nothing after this point will make sense unless you read Monte’s Post – Attack of the Electric Coal Skink ///

Chat with a Cat – Extracts

Q – What made you think there was a coal skink in the RV?

A – We have seen coal skinks in this RV park and my superior feline instincts told me so.

Q – What made you think a coal skink was going to attack me?

A – I was certain he was heading towards you and my superior feline instincts told me so.

Q – Why did you need to jump on me from the upper bunk?

A – There was an urgent need based on my superior feline instincts.

Q – What made you think you had a coal skink tail between your jaws?

A – It was black, the right size, and my superior feline instincts told me so.

Q – What makes you think you broke off the skinks tail and he got away?

A – Skinks shed their tails when attacked and my superior feline instincts told me so.

Q – How did the weather station electric cord get severed?

A – It was in the way and had to go based on my superior feline instincts.

There Might Be Something to His Story

After some research, I’m having a tough time disputing Mr. Monte’s story. The only weakness in his account is his inability two produce any evidence that a coal skink was actually in the RV. However, when I checked out his statement that “Skinks shed their tails when attacked,” I found the article Lizard Tail Loss and Regeneration. That article lends credence to Monte’s assertion. But, there was still one problem with his explanation of events. So, I confronted him.

Q. If the coal skink’s tail was broken off, and it got away, where is his tail now?

A. Based on my superior feline instincts, that’s obvious. He took it with him.

RVing Lessons Learned

RVing with cats

It’s an axiom of RV living: Be prepared to make field repairs. That axiom takes on even greater importance if you are RVing with cats.

Under normal circumstances, you won’t encounter many severed electric wires on an RV trip. If you are RVing with cats, however, it can be a real problem.

Every RV should be equipped with a tool kit. If you don’t have the space for wire strippers, at least pack needle nose pliers that come with a wire cutter/wire stripper section.

Likewise, make sure you pack electricians tape and duct tape in your RV tool kit. There are a myriad of uses for repair tape. Caution: We recommend that you don’t give in to the temptation to use it on your cat.

RVing with cats
RVing with cats

Well, I made the needed repairs. The weather station is up and running again. Mr. Monte is back making his appointed rounds as our Chief of Security – we are under his protection. With regard to the wild tale/tail told by Mr. Monte:

That’s his story, and I’m stuck with it!

Note: After reading our stories you might be interested in this very informative article: A Brief History of Traveling With Cats.