Category: RV Living

Mobile Test Kitchen on the Shenandoah

The Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff never takes a vacation. Nope, we just take to our Mobile Test Kitchen and do our cooking on the Shenandoah. Even in August, when the Blue Ridge can be most uncomfortable, we work to master, adapt, and enjoy recipes by Julia Child and Jacques Pépin. – Come along with me and let this awesome 24-pound Main Coon cat show you what goes on behind the scenes.

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

You, my faithful 23,417 feline followers are probably not much into human gourmet cooking. But you do know that a day of hard work must begin with the very best breakfast. And that’s just the way it is here in the Mobile Test Kitchen. Chef Blondie always ensures that I’m properly fed and ready to do my assigned duties.

Because the amazing Pierre LeChat could not join us on this trip, it fell on me to observe the Test Kitchen staff in action, record video, and take copious notes. – A hardy breakfast made by Chef Blondie guaranteed that I would be up to the task.

And that’s the way a day of deployment in the Mobile Test Kitchen always begins. Then comes housecleaning chores, menu and recipe review, food inventory, and preparation of mise en place. Every member of the Test Kitchen staff has assigned duties, and they perform them with deft precision. – – Of course, there is always one member of the staff who’s a bit out of synch with the real world and Test Kitchen work.

Ol’ Fuzz Face is celebrating one year of full retirement. And to prove that he hasn’t lost his touch, he decided to take a selfie while standing precariously on top of the Mobile Test Kitchen roof. Fortunately, he survived this foolish stunt.

Once we coaxed Fuzzy down from the roof, we forced him back into the kitchen to do his job. Eventually, he put on his apron, and joined us preparing for the big test of Jacques Pépin’s recipe for Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus.

In the Shenandoah Valley, weather makes a difference.

In August, temperatures climb into the 90’s in the Shenandoah Valley. Although the Mobile Test Kitchen is air conditioned, the high humidity can be stifling. But, as you see here, the humidity was unusually low on recipe testing day. – That made for a kitchen staff in very high spirits.

Mobile Test Kitchen – Testing Underway

Yes, under the expert guidance from Executive Chef Blondie, things were coming together. I busied myself by determining proper camera angles and lighting requirements. That required me to jump from tabletop to the over cab loft and various other select positions. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I performed video and photo tasks flawlessly.

As the test was nearing completion, Chef Blondie invited me over to taste test Jacques’s recipe. I think the pictures below adequately show my anticipation and my reaction.

Yes, the staff members of the Serendipity Farmhouse Mobile Test Kitchen had outdone themselves. – I could now hand over my notes, videos, and still pictures to Pierre LeChat for his evaluation.

Like you, I will be waiting for his post which will be published early next week. – Until then: Happy Cooking!

Monte’s Feline Fantasy RV Trip

I used to hate RV trips and I deplored RV living. But that’s all changed. As a highly intelligent and manipulative Maine Coon cat, I’ve learned how to turn RV trips into great adventures. Of course, Ol’ Fuzz Face and Blondie might have to sacrifice some of their vacation pleasures. Yet, as everyone at Serendipity Farmhouse knows, if Mr. Monte ain’t happy, there ain’t nobody happy.

Getting there is half the fun.

So, with that thought in mind, I sent Fuzzy a Father’s Day email. It stated my plan for El Camino Del Monte’s next adventure.

Then, I conducted a thorough examination of Commonwealth of Virginia law. I found nothing specifying that a Maine Coon cat was required to have a license to pilot an RV. – Therefore, I advised Fuzzy that, “I’m doing the driving!”

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway. My RV driving was flawless. Even though my Class-C has six wheels, I found that we really only needed two for sharp curves. – Fuzzy and Blondie remained speechless for several hours.

Menu making – An RV living ‘must-do.’

RV living

I also advised Fuzzy that I would take care of menu planning. – I figured a pound of my favorite blue cheese would suffice! Of course, large quantities of Gruyère and Jarlsberg would be nice too.

Once they regained their composure, Fuzzy and Blondie made a gourmet dinner for me. They also threw together some odds and ends for themselves. Fuzzy grilled lamb chops. Blondie sauteed asparagus and prepared wild rice as sides. – This was my view of their meal from my overcab perch.

Settling in – Ship’s routine

After the exhilaration of the drive to Shenandoah River State Park, and a fine meal, I decided to let my two big cats get some rest the first night. I only woke them up three times.

When they prepared breakfast the next morning, they made sure I was provided sufficient quantities of melted butter and peanut butter fingers. – They had suitably met my minimum expectations regarding care and feeding, so I granted them time for liberty ashore.

RV Living

You might expect that this would be the perfect time for a feline to take a nap. But you see, I am no common feline. As the Serendipity Farmhouse Chief of Security, it was time for me to make my rounds. – You can be sure every square inch of my RV was inspected to ensure there were no security threats.

When the two aging romantics returned from their liberty time, they appeared somewhat refreshed. Fuzzy, as usual, bored me with excessive detail about the beauty and enchantment of the Shenandoah Valley.

RV living

Time for Jacques and Feline Pranks

That evening, we settled in to view our favorite cooking shows. As you can see, I positioned myself in the first row of the balcony. After all, what feline gourmand can resist watching Jacques turn common ingredients into a joyous feast. The feature attraction for the evening was Jacques Pepin: The Essential Pepin.

Ol’ Fuzz Face has a habit of falling asleep while watching videos. I’ve found that’s when he is most vulnerable to feline practical jokes. Recently, I’ve been working on developing a new Maine Coon superpower. It’s my Xray-brain-scan vision. Fuzzy happened to wake up just as I was scanning the 2 or 3 grey cells remaining in his cranium. – It’s quite likely that he’ll never fully recover from the fear and panic that arose in him when he saw my eyes.

RV Living

Is it really time to go?

I’m not quite sure why Fuzzy and Blondie insisted that I take a rest and let Fuzzy drive home. Driving to the park had been such fun.

Blondie had me jump into my carrier, But I jumped right back out. I’d had such a good time and so much good food on this trip.

Not ready to go

Eventually, they coaxed me back into my carrier. I settled in and crossed my paws. The return trip would be slow. For some reason, Fuzzy goes no faster than what the numbers on those white road signs say. – As for me, I was already thinking about when we would come back this way.

RV Living

Happy Camping! & Happy Cooking!

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.

Attack of the Electric Coal Skink

Sunday night, while camping in our RV, I saved Ol’ Fuzz Face from the attack of the electric coal skink. I knew his life was surely in mortal danger, especially when I accidentally discovered this skink’s secret power. And though this incident didn’t turn out quite as I expected, it was one of the most courageous acts I ever performed.

That’s my story, and I’m Sticking to it!

Mr. Monte

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, today I will tell you a tale of great courage. You must understand that I relate this story with the deepest humility. I’m certain that it will edify you and aid you in your never-ending quest to protect your humans from great harm.

Coal Skinks Are Not Our Friends

Many think coal skinks (Plestiodon anthracinus) are merely harmless creatures. Although they may bite, they are not venomous. That said, we felines know that small creatures that trespass in our humans’ habitat are not to be tolerated. Indeed, we take no prisoners – they must be exterminated!

History of the Coal Skink Menace

My first recollection of the menace coal skinks posed to my humans goes back to our post Oh, Shenandoah, we came to see you. When you read the section labeled Mr. Monte’s Log, you will note how seriously I take my job as Serendipity Farmhouse Chief of Security. In that particular log entry, I stated the following:

Coal Skink

“Observe the picture of the lizard that menaced our RV. I suspect it was a Northern Coal Skink. As soon as he approached our camp site, I alerted and went into stealth predator mode. Fortunately for him, he sensed my presence and was urged by his instinct of self preservation to avoid conflict with a superior force.”

There have been many other encounters with coal skinks menacing my two human’s loved ones. For example, in the post SFH Critter Control, Grandsons #2 and #4 were unfortunate enough to encounter one hidden in the stack of wood they were moving.

I had briefed them earlier to be cautious. So when Grandson #4 found the creature, he immediately nullified the threat by scaring off the skink and forcing it to climb a tree. – Grandson #4 is a lad with great courage.

Coal Skink

How I Ended the Coal Skink Threat

Coal skink

Fuzzy was snoring loudly. Nothing new here. He was sleeping like a log on the dinette bed. The only usable light came from the weather station view screen just above Fuzzy’s feet. I watched over him from the over-cab bed. – My instinct told me something was wrong.

At about 0145 hours (military time, of course), I saw a thin, black shape move near Fuzzy’s feet. Like a flash, I CATapulted from my observation post and pounced on the shape which could only be a coal skink’s long, black tail.

Even my keen, feline night vision could not reveal much useful information concerning the presumed coal skink intruder. I shoved my massive, polydactyl paw between the cushions and searched out the body of the beast. I was only able to nab a portion of its slithering tail. Immediately, I pulled it into my waiting jaws and bit down with all my might.

Two things happened simultaneously. I felt the snap of the bones in the tail, and most unexpectedly felt a sudden numbing electric shock. Like an electric eel, that lizard-like beast had used a heretofore unknown electric shocking power to stymie my attack.

Despite the unpleasant sensation, which rapidly approached a level of intense pain, I held onto that tail until it snapped and the electric charge had died.

I was a bit surprised that the entire area was now in complete darkness. I noticed that the weather station panel was no longer illuminated. But, that was of no concern to me. After all, Fuzzy was safe and I had defeated the beast!

The Menace has Ended

Ol’ Fuzz Face woke up just as the battle ended. He looked to find out what had happened. But, because of the weather station malfunction, Fuzzy had no light by which he could see. So, he had no understanding of my struggle with the electric coal skink and my battle to protect his life.

While still groggy, after being wrenched from his deep sleep, Fuzzy seemed to be somewhat annoyed with me. I don’t know why. – Then, he pulled me close to his side, gave me a pat on the head, and said that tomorrow morning we needed to have a long chat. I was sure that he wanted to thank me for my act of great courage and perhaps give me one of my favorite treats.

And though our chat didn’t turn out quite as I expected, I maintain that my effort to thwart the attack of the electric coal skink was one of the most courageous acts I ever performed.

That’s my story, and I’m Sticking to it!

Note: After reading my story you might be interested in the amazing powers we felines possess and how we have used them during 9,500 years in service to our humans. If so, read the article The cat’s meow: Genome reveals clues to domestication.

RV Commander at Work

Le Chat – the Feline in Command

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, in my last post, 50th – The Celebration, I said: “In conjunction with our innate cognitive superiority, our instincts have enabled us to interpret human behavior and fashion it to our personal designs. If there is any doubt that my statements are not correct, I offer you my total and uncontested control over Blondie, Ol’ Fuzz Face, and the entire Serendipity Farmhouse establishment as supporting evidence.” (Emphasis added) – – As you will see later in this post, I sometimes employ my power of ‘control’ with humorous results.

But before I engage in lighthearted tales, I must first give you a quick description of how I so flawlessly carried out my duties as Chief of Security during our most recent trip in El Camino Del Monte (ECDM) – RV Trip 2022-02.

The primary purpose of this trip was to determine if Fuzzy and Blondie could endure the joy and shear excitement of spending three whole nights with me in ECDM. To do so they would have to modify their sleeping and waking times to my schedule. They would also have to reconcile themselves to the reality that if I wanted to be fed at 2:18 AM, then they would have to depart their restful dreamlands and join me, pet me, speak with me, and play with me as I take part in my early morning snack. – – Mostly because of my lovable demeanor and appreciative purring, my two ‘big cats’ outdid themselves and met all my outrageous demands. In that respect, RV Trip 2022-02 was a resounding success.

Mr. Monte – Ever Alert

As you can see in this picture, I am ever on the alert. In this particular case, I pointed out to Blondie that there was a pair of cardinals nearby. She was quite happy that I called them to her attention because she could view them more closely than we do at Serendipity Farmhouse. I humbly accepted her praise. – – After all, it’s just part of the job.


Over the course of our three-day trip, I spent the majority of my time checking out what might best be called a ‘claim jumper’ or a ‘squatter’. Our camp site was clearly marked with our name and the dates for our stay were posted. This guy, whom I later named ‘Jacques’ as in ‘Jacques-rabbit’, however, paid no attention to our rightful residence. For three days, this guy just hung around. I tried getting his attention through the screen door, but he seldom even looked my way.

I must admit that he was a somewhat cute, though he would not have been allowed to roam freely near our vast gardens on the SFH estate. Yes, I’ll give him cute, but I don’t think I’ll concede that he was very smart. How smart could any creature be if they don’t respond to my calling and immediately tremble in terror. – – So, it remains to be seen whether I will include Jacques on my list of friends or on my list of recipes.

Now, Blondie and Fuzzy have some mystifying behaviors. For example, they often play cards, Rummy to be precise. After years of watching them, it has become abundantly clear that Blondie is the superior player by far. Fuzzy is slow and dull and quite capable of making moves that are extraordinarily foolish. On the first full day of our trip, Blondie once again exhibited her prowess and crushed Fuzzy four hands to one. – – It was brutal!

As I mentioned earlier, I exercise total control over all that happens within the SFH family. All it takes from me is a turning of the ears, a flip of the tail, or a purring sound. Having seen the humbled mess of a man that was all that remained of Fuzzy after his loss to Blondie, I decided that it was time to have some fun.

The next day, I put my plan into action. In an earlier picture, you can see how easy it is for me to sit behind Blondie. That is where she normally sits in the dinette when playing cards. So, there it was that I sat during the Rummy rematch on the second full day. From there, I could see Blondie’s hand. From there, Fuzzy could see me. From there, I ‘the feline in command’ could change the outcome of the game. – – No, Fuzzy didn’t consciously cheat. He wasn’t even aware of what was happening. When he looked at me, he could see me twist my ears. He could see me flip my tail. Subconsciously, he was being controlled by my entirely innocent looking movements.

Only I knew what the result would be. – – On this day, it was Blondie who was crushed four hands to one. I allowed her one win to spare her pride. – – There it was. Blondie won the first day and Fuzzy won the second day. The score was even and – absolutely no card games – were played on the third day. My two big cats remain happy and loving with each other.

And with that righteous good work concluded, I deserve a long nap.

A fitting end to another hard day at work

Retiree Revery

It’s official! As of this day, I am on casual part-time status. That means I only have to work a minimum of 20 hours per year – that means I am virtually retired – that means Blondie is now my full-time boss. As I ponder the merits and advantages of my new status, let me review other recent happenings here at Serendipity Farmhouse. – – Oh, by the way, the picture of those beautiful orchids will be part of a future post and revery.

My Birthday: Recently, I celebrated the anniversary of my birth. In honor of the occasion, wonderful and creative Daughter #2 once again outdid herself and prepared a surprise meal for me. Departing from her display of expertise in French cuisine (see French Cuisine & GRITS), this time she went around the globe to Korea. She knew I had spent some time there and guessed quite correctly that I would find the experience enjoyable. – She was spot on!

The meal consisted of Korean-style miso soup, bulgogi, cucumber kimchee, sticky rice. One crowning achievement was steamed Korean-style chicken dumplings. Failing to find any authentic dumpling wrappers in local grocery stores, Daughter #2 and Son-in-law #2 did it themselves. Perfect!

As a final caring gesture, Daughter #2 prepared homemade ice cream served with a chocolate brownie made by my most loving Spouse.

– – Typical Korean beers such as OB or Crown weren’t available, so Kirin Ichiban served as a satisfactory substitute.

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El Camino Del Monte: Our faithful Class-C RV, El Camino Del Monte (ECDM), is showing some signs of age. The most noticeable sign was a rapidly deteriorating awning. Replacement awning fabric was ordered, and our local RV service center switched out the old fabric and installed the new awning. The photos below show the old awning (left) and the replacement (right). Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t show just how tattered the old fabric was. Nevertheless, the replacement is done and ECDM looks much the better for it.

Daring Dairy: As you know, we make our own goat milk cheese. (See Goat milk cheese? – Yes, now!) This last week, I tried a simple new recipe. It worked fairly well, but I want to experiment with it some more before I present it to you. In the meantime, consider the possibilities. This new recipe created a light, tasty cheese that makes a perfect topping for Greek Sloppy Joes. Take a look!

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Waking Up: Right before our eyes, the vast SFH estate is waking up. Some years the appearance of the various spring flowers is staggered, but this year almost everything is coming into bloom at the same time. In addition to the sheer beauty emerging around us, we are reminded that we must start now with preparations for planting. This year, I surprised Blondie with a small, portable greenhouse. When there is more time, I’ll provide details on how my clever Wife is using it to start seeds and protect young plants.

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Pray, Prepare, Preserve: When one is retired, one has a bit more time to consider what is important and what is not. The secular news tends to focus on sensational events, most of them disheartening and disquieting. Some truly historic and monumental events are often shunted to the last page of the paper, or never reported at all. – – Yes, there is a war in Europe. However, that war is merely a symptom of a much greater problem. – On March 25th, Pope Francis did something of great merit to solve that problem. If you are interested in what happened, you can start your research at these two links: Pope Francis consecrates Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Daylight Raving Time

Le Chat – the Feline in Command

To my 23,416 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, life is hard these days. I dearly grieve my departed Miss Fleur. All around me seems to be a deep, unlit void. I conduct my daily security duties without enthusiasm. I would rather just sleep – sleep until a better time. But, without Miss Fleur, how can there ever be a better time? (See A Valentine’s Day Reality)

Then, in the midst of my sorrow, in the moment of my greatest need for the solace and comfort of sleep, there comes that annual insane intrusion on feline sensibility, that modern monument to the ignorance of humankind – Daylight Saving Time!

The invention of this most unnecessary and unjustifiable perversion of the natural order is unquestionably the most convincing proof that humankind is on a path bound for self-destruction. We felines, however, have done our best to remind our humans that natural body rhythms, perfectly in accord with the universe around us, are the only sure way to attain balance and stability in daily life. – If one is drowsy, it’s time to sleep. If one is cheerful, it’s time to play. If one is angry, it’s time to growl. And, most importantly, if one is hungry, it’s time to eat. But, somehow, humans just don’t seem to get it.

So, yesterday and today, Ol’ Fuzz Face’s alarm clock made its wretched noise one full hour before my ultra-high precision, internal time standard said that it should. To say the least, this was disturbing to my inner peace. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Unfortunately, Fuzzy was already an hour into his daily routine and was nowhere to be seen when I emerged from the bedroom. That meant that he wasn’t there to give me my first feeding or to spar with me in our mandatory morning play session. – There is a price to pay for that negligence on his part. – Tomorrow, he will suffer my wrath!

The First Robin of Spring Contest

The remainder of the animal kingdom has a much better understanding of time than does humankind. For example, each Spring we can count on the robins to return to our area. Humans, with all their so-called science, can never figure out for sure when they are coming, but robins know precisely when they should make their way north. Serendipity Farmhouse extended family members have made a ritual of their collective ignorance concerning nature’s timetable. For example, each Spring, they compete to be the first one to see a robin. Whoever snaps the first picture of a returning robin is awarded a prize, usually a candy bar. Last Monday, Blondie spied a robin and immediately ordered Fuzzy to take a picture. He did. They reported to all that they had won. Blondie rightfully should be awarded a candy bar. Fuzzy might get a piece for his assist – if he’s lucky.

Spring is Here! – Really???

Another example of humankind’s ignorance concerning the world around them is Fuzzy’s last post Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking). The old goat was so very clever, he thought, in the way that he had discussed the various definitions of the beginning of Spring. As was usual, his best example for his argument, the uncovering of El Camino Del Monte, was to be the most illustrative proof of his ignorance. The picture that you see here of ECDM shows a snow-covered, ice-laden Class C RV on Saturday morning. – Good job, Fuzzy, do you still think it’s Spring??? Really???

As a suggestion, Fuzzy, why don’t you take your highly prized “Daylight Saving Time” alarm clock out to your springtime RV and sleep out there with the heat off for a few nights while I get some good sleep here in a warm house without any of your useless interruptions?

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2022- January

2022- February

2022- March

Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking)

An SFH Editorial – What a Mess!

Several weeks ago, I started a project in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. My objective was to make sense of and bring order to the completely shameful and disgusting mess that we called our herb and spice storage. There was no word in English that could capture the awful sight that would confront Blondie and me whenever we had to retrieve a needed spice. However, there was a Russian word that we have used since 1972 to describe messes like this. That word is – ‘безобразие’.

As you well know, while this blog often speaks of God and religion, it never discusses politics, whether local, national, or international. Nevertheless, what is happening in Europe now meets every definition for the word ‘безобразие’. It is truly a shameful situation. The repercussions of these events will be felt for years or even generations. The impact of these events is already being felt here at SFH and by our family. Times such as these explain why the SFH motto is – Pray, Prepare, Preserve

Spring is Here!

Traditionally, Spring begins with the vernal equinox. To be precise, this year in Sperryville, Virginia, USA: Spring will arrive on Sunday, March 20 at 11:33 am EDT. Meteorologically speaking, Spring begins each year on March 1st. Here at SFH we have an entirely different scientific method for determining the official arrival of Spring. For all of us at SFH, Spring began this year at precisely 2022-03-02 12:17PM EST, when the cover came off of our ever-reliable Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte (ECDM).

SFH official Spring began a little early this year because ECDM is going to get a new awning. It may take some time for the new awning to arrive at our local RV service center but be assured ECDM is now ready to go. Her engine started at the first turn of the ignition key and her primary systems are functioning as designed. So, let us share some pictures of El Camino Del Monte as she awakens to SFH official Spring.

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SFH has other measures for determining the arrival of Spring. We can now see that all 33 cloves of garlic planted in late-Autumn have now emerged from their Winter rest. – – There is still some good in this world!

Bringing Order to a Real Mess

As noted in our editorial, herb and spice storage in the SFH Test Kitchen was a disaster. Scattered throughout the kitchen and the pantry we had nearly 100 containers of herbs and spices. There was no logic or order to the way these containers were stored. In some cases, they were just thrown into plastic containers. Many of the items had reached the end of their shelf lives years ago. Something had to be done. So, we developed a three-step plan:

1 – Sort all items and discard unneeded/out-of-date items
2 – Purchase suitable space-saving storage containers
3 – Inventory all items, listing container size & storage location

For the kitchen spice cabinet, we purchased three storage systems called Cabinet Caddy. For the pantry, we purchased two storage systems described as Simple Trending Stackable 2-Tier Spice Rack Kitchen Organizer Cabinet Storage with Sliding Storage Drawer, Chrome. Though no plan is ever perfect, and no product lives up to expectations, Blondie is quite happy with the results of the project. She has hung the inventory list we made on the refrigerator so that, whenever she needs an item, all she has to do is look it up and then go to the listed Cabinet Caddy or the pantry container shelf. Following are some pictures of the project results.

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SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2022- January

2022- February

2022- March

SFH Journal: 2021-11-01 through 11-21 – Deep Autumn

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, observe the pictures above. Everything in them conveys a most important point – this is Le Chat, this is a feline in command. And that is precisely the case – I am the Feline in Command. While conducting my command and control duties on RV trips in El Camino Del Monte, my Command Post is strategically located in the over cab loft. From there I can observer all, monitor each and every activity, and maintain close control of my humans as they conduct all their activities within ECDM. It’s a difficult job ‘herding humans’, but it’s what I do.

The same can be said of my most necessary work at Serendipity Farmhouse. It’s a daily ritual. I get Ol’ Fuzz Face and Blondie up at an appropriately early hour. I make sure that they waste no time doing their required chores, e.g. feeding me, cleaning my pan, making my bed, etc. Blondie’s pretty good at following all my instructions, but I have to confess Fuzz Face is not exactly the ‘sharpest claw on the paw’.

Yep, Fuzzy is a little slow on the intake and downright bad at time management. He was supposed get this post out on Sunday, yet he hasn’t written a single word. The SFH blog has to maintain its five-star reputation, and Fuzz Face really isn’t up to the job. That’s why I have to take matters into my own paws and let you know what’s been happening here at SFH. So, sit back, relax, catch up on your grooming, and be informed by this report on all the SFH local news.

10 -12 NOV – RV Trip 2021-06: This was the last trip of the year. Blondie and Fuzz Face had made some ridiculously bad scheduling errors for some of our mid-season trips. Of course, you remember my post RV Trip 2021-02: I Wanna Go Home!. My big cats couldn’t have picked a worse time to take our rig out camping. – Dang! I hate that air conditioner!

RV Trip 2021-06, however, couldn’t have been any better. The weather was perfect in the mid-60s. The Autumn foliage was at its peak, and I was a happy cat camper. If he ever gets his scat together, Fuzzy will write a post and provide some pictures.

Looking southwest at the Massanutten Mountain Range

11 NOV – Dinner with Julia: Now, I’m not much into people food, but Julia Child and I share a love of butter. You can be sure that when the smell of butter is in the air, you will accompanied by Le Chat Chef Extraordinaire. And so it was on the evening of November 11th. Blondie and Fuzzy, under the close scrutiny and guidance of yours truly, successfully executed Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin. Once again, if Ol’ Fuzz Face ever gets his scat together, he will write a post and provide some pictures.

Coq au Vin a la El Camino Del Monte

17 NOV – River Cleanup: For several years now, we at SFH have watched as our lovely riverfront was slowly overgrown by small trees, invasive shrubs, and killer vines. The presence of established trees along the river bank is essential to prevent erosion, but many of the recent plant arrivals were hostile creatures, seeking to destroy all useful varieties of vegetation in their path. Enough was enough, Blondie commissioned a work crew to turn back the invasion. Although we know this is not the end of the war, and we will have to remain ever vigilant, the pictures below show that we are now winning.

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16-19 NOV – ECDM Winter Storage: Even for those of us who are somewhat reluctant to admit that RV life can be fun, it is always a sad time of the year when El Camino Del Monte has to be serviced, cleaned, and wrapped up in its protective cocoon for the winter.

As usual, Fuzzy provided examples of his all too frequent buffoonery. He stated to all of us here at SFH that gas prices were only going to go up. So, he rushed off to the nearby service station and pumped $102.92 worth of gasoline into ECDM at $3.29/gallon. Of course, the very next day, the gas price dropped by 10¢/gallon. — Fuzzy next showed off his ability to make simple jobs look hard, while at the same time taking foolish risks with his aging life and limb. I suspect Blondie was willing to take the pictures of him up atop ECDM so that it would support her claims for a maximum payoff from Fuzzy’s life insurance.

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20 NOV – First Woodstove Fire: So, we here at SFH have made the turn into the midst of what we call ‘Deep Autumn’. Finally, we’ve reached the time of year when the trusty old woodstove is used as our main source of heat. And for me, now that this post is complete, it’s time to curl up and take a long deserved nap, enjoying the warmth of the fire.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-07

SFH WX 2021-11-08 through 11-14

SFH WX 2021-11-15 through 11-21

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-30

The Guy’s Guide to Glamping: Guys’ Night & Guys’ Day

(Note: See The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – Section 1, Chapter 1 for Part 1 of this amazing adventure.)

Section 1, Chapter 1: RV Trip 2021-05 – Serendipity River Park – Part 2:

Guys’ Night & Guys’ Day

The Code of Guy is a complex and fortunately not well known set of unwritten rules used to guide the behavior and guard the reputation of guys. For example, if you were to ask if the guys in our camping group took showers while on our camping adventure, the Code of Guy would demand each of us to avoid comment on the question – after all, we have a right to privacy.

Likewise, should one inquire regarding the nature or topics of our nighttime, round-table discussions, one would be answered only with a smile that loudly proclaimed that one was quite foolhardy to pry into the secret inner sanctum of ‘guy’. So, I will relate the happenings of Guys’ Night and Guys’ Day at Serendipity River park in full adherence to the Code of Guy.

Guys’ Night

In Part 1 you were introduced to guy camping conducted on a lavish scale. Yes, Grandson #3 and Son-in-Law #1 dined on an exquisitely prepared dinner of hot dogs and other healthful and nutritious foods as listed in our guy camping menu. Now it’s important to note that the beverages offered with the meal were not listed – that was due to certain privacy concerns. Serendipity River Park is located quite close to several breweries, and a fine distillery is within easy walking distance. With this in mind, GS#3, SIL#1, and I were confronted with an array of beverage options. It was only after a long and meaningful discussion that we finally settled upon the manly beverage that would accompany our meal. That’s right, you guessed it – Chocolate Milk!

Guys’ Night would not have been complete without our astounding store of snacks to accompany our three-movie marathon. M&Ms were measured out by the pound. There were bags and bags of trail mix, containing all possible ingredients to satisfy the varied tastes of our guy ensemble. Chex Mix was the favored treat for GS#3. And the list goes on and on. There is no way whatsoever to wonder why our movie watching consisted of equally high decibel levels of laughter, discussion, and snack munching and crunching. – The local wildlife would have no rest on this night.

Then, in the wee still hours of the early morning, three guys decided to call it quits. We said our bedtime prayers and climbed into our assigned berthing areas. I went to the queen sized bed, SIL#1 curled up in the dinette sleeping area, and GS#3 climbed up into the loft over the cab. Thus ended Day 1 of our two-day trip.

Guys’ Day

Breakfast the next morning was notable for the way we all pitched in to prepare this glorious first meal of the day. Fried bacon was in abundant supply. Eggs enough for seconds all around were prepared outside on the cook stove. SIL#1 prepared toast and other sides in the commodious RV kitchen. And, of course, there was coffee and orange juice. Yes, a hearty breakfast for a hungry group of guys!

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Once the dishes were cleaned and the RV was made “ship shape” (not necessarily to glamping standards), we started on full day of manly exploring adventures. First we found our way to nearby Civil War historical locations. GS#3 took great interest in the campsite of Union soldiers from Pennsylvania.

We followed the Thornton River into village of Sperryville, noting all points of interest. This was the beginning of tourist season here in the Blue Ridge. Early lookie-loos from the big cities, expecting the Autumn colors already to be at full peak, meandered about in disappointed groups wondering why their timing was so incredibly wrong. We, on the other hand, know the Shenandoah National Park area quite well. There was no disappointment for us. No, we merely enjoyed all that was around us, including the lookie-loos. – Then we made our way back to our base camp. It had been a tiring outing.

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The realities of Grandson #3’s disease have a way of intruding into all aspects of our lives. Perhaps the hike had been too long and too tiring. GS#3 was showing signs of fatigue caused by the side effects of recent chemotherapy. – Sometimes you have to surrender to reality. – Son-in-Law #1 and I decided now was the appropriate time to bring this guy camping adventure to an end. So, we packed up all our belongings, broke camp, and made preparations for the homeward leg of our journey. We bid farewell to Louise, thanking her for all she had done. And then we made our way up the long and bumpy lane, looking back one more time at our riverside campground at Serendipity River Park.

Along the way, SIL#1 proposed that we should pray the Rosary together. And so we did. GS#3 led us in that Rosary. We offered it in dedication to the real patron of guy camping, a special saint to whom this past year has been devoted. Yes, we dedicated our Rosary to that man who had to take his family on several extended trips that required long treks, camping under the stars, and one time even staying in a stable – a real man, a real guy, a real father – St. Joseph.

And as I went to rest that night in my comfortable bedroom at Serendipity Farmhouse, I looked up to see the painting just above my bed – Flight into Egypt. And now it is my ritual, each and every night to look up at that painting and I say, “Dear St. Joseph, please remember me and those in my family, especially Grandson #3, to your Son.”
Flight into Egypt – G. Hitchcock


Author’s Note: It is necessary for me to acknowledge that I am the husband of a hard core, die hard glamper and, for the sake of self preservation, I have conformed myself to almost all facets of her glamping lifestyle. That means, of course, that my credentials as a 100% ‘guy’ are somewhat sullied and do not hold full weight and merit in the eyes of 100% bona fide guys. Although severely compromised on this point, I remain a happily married coward.

In an effort to overcome that loss of acceptance by the guy community at large, let it be known by one and all that in writing The Guy’s Guide to Glamping I have consulted on a regular basis with two stalwart proponents of the real guy philosophy. The first is legendary in this region of the Shenandoah Valley. He is the world renowned Donald Wiser, Ph.D.* the author of what some refer to as the ‘definitive guide to guy’. And no book about what it means to be a guy camper would be complete without frequent reference to the thoughts and opinions of that true icon of guy camping, our own highly distinguished Mr. Monte.

*Factoid: The nickname for Donald is “Bud”.