Category: Critters

SFH Journal: 2020-08-31 through 09-13 – New Hire

IMG_20200826_194012872_editedHi! Mr. Monte here!

To all my followers and ardent fans, as another sign of my dedication to duty and fervent desire to maintain security, good order, and peaceful tranquility here at Serendipity Farmhouse, in my capacity as SFH Chief of Security, I have taken on a new member to join the SFH Security Department. Our new hire, Rusty the Rat Snake comes with an impressive resume. He is adept at controlling destructive rodents and other pesky critters, especially subterranean dwellers.

Rusty rounds out our Security Department with his ability to identify and engage security threats at ground level and below. Meanwhile, Lightning, our broad-winged hawk, has secured the skies over SFH and Bronto the bear has ensured the integrity of our perimeter areas. Now, with no further ado, here is the official SFH Security Department staff picture for 2020.

Harvest and Preserving

Old Fuzz Face is our official SFH statistician. He maintains the planting, harvest and preserving tables. Because he’s currently tied up with other pressing matters, all I intend to do at this point is give you the latest preserving table. When he gets a chance he will tell you about the end of the tomato season and other changes as we move into Autumn. You will see from the table that, even though Blondie and Fuzzy were engaged in the great 2020 Birthday Bash, they still found time to harvest and preserve the bounty.

Date: Month/DayItemQuantityType of PreservationComments
08-04Okra4 pint jarsPickling
08-06Salsa6 pint jarsCanningHowlin' Coyote
1 Jalapeno, 1 Serrano, 1 Cayenne
08-13Banana Peppers1 1/2 pint jarPickling
08-13Jalapeno Pepper Mix3 1/2 pint jarsPicklingJalapeno, serrano, cayenne peppers
08/14Salsa6 pint jarsCanningSome Like It Hot
1 Jalapeno, 1 large Salsa, 2 Serrano, 2 Cayenne
08-18Popcorn7 quart jarsDry Canning
08-19Pasta Sauce5 pint jarsCanning1 clove garlic, dried basil
08-20Okra4 pint jarsPickling
08-23Salsa6 pint jarsCanningMax Karl's Bad
1 Habanero, 2 Jalapeno, 2 Cayenne
09-01Okra3 bagsFreezing
09-07Okra4 pint jarsPickling
09-07Banana Peppers1 1/2 pint jarPickling
09-07Jalapeno Pepper Mix3 1/2 pint jarsPicklingJalapeno, serrano, cayenne peppers

SFH by the Numbers

Canning season continues. The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-08-31 through 09-06

SFH WX 2020-09-07 through 09-13

 

I Know Something You Don’t Know!

IMG_20200425_155922618_editedHi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23, 417 feline followers: This post is to be shared just among us cats. I wouldn’t want any humans to find out what happened at Serendipity Farmhouse this morning. Although it was a high point of hilarity for me, it might cause Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face some embarrassment. Fuzzy could do with some humor at his expense, but Blondie is still ailing and deserves her privacy.

It all started a couple of days ago. As has happened in the past, I heard the telltale sounds of an intruder attempting to enter SFH via the wood stove chimney. (You should check out the post What Were They Thinking? to get some background on a break-in attempt in 2018.)

Being the SFH Chief of Security and having a great deal of practical experience in this type of incident, I immediately alerted on the wood stove and got Fuzz Face’s attention. But, rather than reacting as he should in matters like this, he just continued on with his daily routine. Oh yeah, later he casually informed Blondie, but she was feeling poorly and left the matter in Fuzzy’s less than capable hands.

Now, fast forward to this morning at about 7:00 AM. I was pretending to be asleep in the hallway. Blondie had started her morning chores and I knew she would soon be cleaning up Fuzzy’s bathroom. Then, suddenly but not unexpectedly, I heard a loud, high-pitched shriek from the bathroom. That was followed by Fuzz Face being urgently summoned from the upstairs office.

Sensing the note of terror in Blondie’s voice, Fuzzy came down the stairs at a run, wearing only his pajama shorts and a t-shirt. He bounded into the bathroom and Blondie directed his attention to a small, dark object in the corner of the shower. Fuzzy looked, but could not identify the thing in front of him because it was dark and in a shadow.

He grabbed for a flashlight and trained the beam on whatever it was. – – It had the shape of a small toad, but it had hair. He said, “No, Blondie its not a toad, it has hair, but it’s not a mouse – – I don’t know what it is.”

His statement was not convincing. I could hear from my place in the hallway that there was a hint in the way he spoke that he had a pretty good idea of what it was. Perhaps he knew if he said what he really thought, that it might increase Blondie’s already excessively high anxiety level.

Of course, dear cat friends, you know by now that I already knew what confronted Fuzz Face in that shower. I already knew that he would have to step up to this situation and be a hero in Blondie’s eyes. In fact, friends, I knew in my “little grey cells” two days ago that this moment would arrive.

Fuzz Face immediately went and found a pair of long, heavy duty rubber gloves and marched back into the bathroom, feigning courage and calm. – – Imagine the sight of an older man wearing pajama shorts, a t-shirt, and big black heavy gloves striding courageously into a shower to confront a poor, helpless bat, weighing less than an ounce.

Oh! How I was enjoying this moment.

The great battle soon followed, our courageous SFH Hercules manfully grabbed that vicious beast and whisked it out the doorway. In his mind he was Godzilla defeating the winged monster Rodan. The harmless bat flew away. – – Once back in the safety of his office, that Godzilla of man, that SFH Hercules collapsed in his chair and went comatose for at least fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, Blondie is now totally paranoid and knows that bats are hiding in every corner of the house.

So, my dear feline followers there is a moral to this story – Never, ever disregard a warning presented by the SFH Chief of Security.

 

SFH Journal: 2020-07-27 through 08-02

This post is several days overdue. No excuses, we’re just doing what has to be done to keep up with the more important things.

Signs of Hope

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Our premier crops (okra and tomatoes) are finally coming into season. My dear, sweet, and most industrious Spouse has been tending the garden, paying close attention to intrusive weeds, pesky bugs, and need for watering. If all goes well, the coming week will bring the beginning of canning season. Pickled okra and spicy salsa will soon be here.

We have turned the corner on our water shortage, but conservation measures are still in effect. We were worried about canning and pickling and how much water that requires. Now that there has been some rain, it looks like all will go ahead as planned.

With some of our worries behind us, we can take a moment to enjoy the Resurrection Lilies that are blooming everywhere. This is the best year for blossoms in recent memory. Even some of the more shy little guys have decided to come out and add color to the yard.

SFH Homeland Defense Force – Meet My Staff

IMG_20200425_155922618_editedHi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23, 417 feline followers: Many of you are performing necessary defensive actions where you live. I have cousins in Spotsylvania, Front Royal, and Woodstock who all patrol their assigned areas and protect their humans from nasty vermin.

Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, the job of “homeland defense” is much more demanding. We have various predators, obnoxious critters, and wily rodents that invade and wreak havoc here on our vast 1.24 acre estate.

In order to handle this constant threat, I have enlisted the aid of two formidable security

Digital Camera
Bronto on Patrol

staff members. The first, and possibly most intimidating, is Bronto. He normally works nights and does perimeter patrol. Here is a picture of him right next to the “No Trespassing” sign. Anyone who is too stupid to read the sign, will make acquaintance with Bronto. – – They will only make that mistake once.

 

DSC_1495_editedRecently, we here at SFH have noted that our nearby neighbors, a lovely pair of broad-winged hawks, had fledged a new brood. Sensing a rare opportunity, I talked to the couple and we worked out an agreement based on mutual needs. Their young son, who was in need of employment reported for work with our security forces in mid-June. Below, you will find his picture, taken while he was going through initial training.

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SFH Homeland Security – The Next Generation

At first, we intend to have him go after moles and voles that are causing great damage to our manicured lawns and gardens. Later on, when he has reached full size, keeping watch on this particular long-tailed rodent will be his primary duty.

The new staff member is greatly pleased with the perquisites that come with the job. He can take home anything he catches and may do with it as he pleases.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s gone into the gardens and what has come out since our last Journal post. They will also update you on the hazy, hot, and humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-07-27 through 08-02

 

 

SFH Journal: 2020-01-27 through 02-02

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Maine Coons Rule!

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

After that thoroughly shameless display of childish goat gabbing and gibberish yesterday, Ol’ Fuzz Face decided to take a break and let me have the keyboard. Finally, dear readers, you will have the opportunity to partake in the fullness of rational, adult commentary on life and all things of importance. I offer it at no charge, knowing that you will be greatly edified.

As a stealthy and cunning predator, I have disciplined myself to be a careful observer of all things in nature. That’s because so many of those things are edible or at least fun to play with before introducing them to the afterlife.

For example, I watched Fuzz Face closely as he was attempting to get a bag of cat litter to bring into the house. I calculated all of his possible moves and determined that he couldn’t get to the bag without coming into striking range of my deadly claws. – He attempted to get by; he weaved to-and-fro, and then fro-and-to, but he could not pass. I had the best of him and was ready to advance towards the kill. That’s when he spoiled the game and simultaneously revealed his great cowardice. – That’s when he called for Blondie to come and help. That’s when the words “spineless” and “wimp” entered my mind. – Oh well, there will be a next time and I shall prevail.

Now, back to the post. As I said earlier, I am careful observer of all things in nature. If it weren’t for me, Fuzz Face would have never known that a pileated woodpecker was in clear view just outside his window. Even with my early notification, Fuzzy was only able to take a substandard, mediocre photo of that beautiful feathered creature. Despite it’s imperfection, I have made it the featured picture for this post.

Yesterday, before Fuzz Face went out for that silly rendezvous with his funny looking, floppy-eared friends, I advised him that daffodils and resurrection lilies are now making apparent their longing for Spring. In his own, dull sort of manner, he made his way to the river’s edge and snapped a few poorly staged pictures. Nevertheless, I guess they make the point. Some day, Fuzzy will learn to take my artistic advice, but I’m not very confident that will take place during any of my nine lives.

Finally, he came back to the house, camera in hand, with a stupid smile on his face. Once more he had taken substandard photos about which he could not refrain from bragging. “Look, Look!” he said, “Garlic! The garlic is growing and there’s more of it now!”

What a sad and demented creature is Ol’ Fuzz Face, if goats and garlic are the high points in his life. If it weren’t for the fact that he knows my grooming preferences and plays a fairly good game of “Hunt and Kill”, I would have asked Blondie to pack up his things and take him to Reality Farm, where he could play with goats and eat garlic to his heart’s content.

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Another useless garlic picture

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-01-27 through 02-02

 

 

 

Goats & Reality

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Hidden somewhere in the midst of Reality

In my life, it has always been better to seek reality than to hide from it. Here in Rappahannock County, reality exists with both a small and a capital ‘R’. For example, in this blog, you have heard us say about Serendipity Farmhouse, “This is not the house of our dreams; this is the house is the house of our realities.”

In our post Goat milk cheese? – No, not just yet. we introduced you to Reality Farm in Washington, VA. And that farm is an SFH “Reality” deserving of a capital ‘R’. This is not a show farm, this is a working farm. And in the midst of that Reality are large gatherings of my favorite farm animal – goats. And, other than my 20-pound Maine Coon cat, Mr. Monte, there is no animal with which I would rather spend my time.

So, it was with great joy and jubilation that I received word from our dear friends at Reality Farm that the new kids were being born and were arriving in great numbers. Dearest Spouse understood how important this was to me and she released me early from my chores today so that I could talk with my old friends and meet with the brand new young ones.

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Hi, Fuzz Face! Where have you been?

After 140+ days of gestation through late Autumn and well into Winter, the does/nannies had carried their young ones. Now, almost as if they were waiting for this temporary warm spell, the young ones are making their appearance.

Though somewhat shaky at first, they gain their footing, and begin to do what naturally comes to young kids – they romp. For a young goat this is a most joyful reality.

And each nanny and young kid finds a natural bond; and, this too, is a most joyful reality.

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With hunger satisfied and love bestowed, it is time to explore.

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An afternoon stroll to meet our neighbors

For my new found friends, the joyful realities multiply with each hour and day. Curiosity and discovery far exceed the limitations of mere imagination. These kids are comfortably at home in their new realities.

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Don’t worry, Mom, we’re just playing.

Today, at least for a brief time, I was able to step out of this world’s foolish fantasies and walk in a small part of  God’s great Reality. And there will always be much more to see.

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One last look at Reality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Day of the Cup Plants

This may be the last post from Serendipity Farmhouse.

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

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

They prospered!

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Soaking up the sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SFH Journal: 2019-04-07 through 13 – Things You Never Expected!

Beautiful wife and I started the week by listing tasks to ready Serendipity Farmhouse for planting season and the changeover to warm weather routine. More than 35 tasks emerged from this session. Many of these are non-trivial and labor intensive.

When the list was complete, sweet and loving wife looked at me, smiled at the thought of how beautiful SFH would be once the tasks were accomplished, and then looked at me with a stern expression that said: “Well, what are you waiting for? Get to work.” And so I did, and so I have been doing all week. But, I must add, my industrious spouse has been working just as hard as I have.

Highlights: Here are just two recollections of this week’s many memorable events.

Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-04-07 through 13 – Things You Never Expected!”

SFH Journal: 2018-11-25 through 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018-11-25: High/Low – 61º/34º

2018-11-26: High/Low – 59º/43º

2018-11-27: High/Low – 41º/32º

2018-11-28: High/Low – 36º/30º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.