Category: Critters

SFH Journal: 2021-02-15 through 02-21 – Serenity @ Serendipity

In the midst of Winter, when the snows fall, when the ice hangs from the branches, this is when Serendipity Farmhouse surrenders to a quiet time and a type of mystical serenity all dictated by the season. Pantry shelves remain filled with the preserved foods from Summer and the woodshed shelters the fuel for many more warm fires. – Even though the temperature has just dipped to 13°F, there is no reason to fear February in the Blue Ridge.

This brief moment of relative silence and calm is the perfect time to reflect upon mysteries and truths extending beyond our valley, beyond our country, even beyond this present world. This last Wednesday began the season we call Lent. It is a season of reflection, prayer, and much more. It is for us the time when we replenish our spiritual foods and draw from them the fuel to rekindle our spiritual fire. – Even though there is turmoil throughout the world, there is no reason to fear Lent in the Blue Ridge.

Meal planning in Lent can be challenging, even for the master chefs at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. Meatless meals, reduced portions, no snacks, and other modifications must all be considered when planning the weekly menu. Add to that the fact that getting out to buy groceries is harder than during other seasons.

This last week, we revisited a type of dish that is quite open to variations, modifications, and innovations – sheet pan meals. We learned about this style of meal quite a while back from an allrecipes recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. Interestingly, this month, allrecipes featured an article by Caitlyn Diinig highlighting an array of sheet pan meals and dinner ideas. (See Use this Simple Formula for Your Best Sheet Pan Dinners.) Rather than sticking to any single recipe we made a Mediterranean Chicken dinner with the ingredients we had on hand. We added spices and other touches that are only known by SFH Test Kitchen staff members. The result was an enjoyable meal on Thursday, followed by a delightful encore last night. – Try it. You’ll like it.

Each day in February at SFH brings new lessons and new perspectives. For example, last week Mr. Monte showed you a picture of what happens when I make the trek in deep snow to the woodshed. The load is heavy and the wagon wheels sink down into the snow. Some days ago, we had a great deal of snow and ice. That type of wintry mix always bring concerns about power outages and other damage. Yet, with the bad sometimes comes a pleasing good. Yesterday, when I brought in wood from the shed, the ice was so hard and thick that the wagon wheels did not sink. It was as if I were pulling it across a smooth asphalt parking lot.

There was incident that threatened the calm and quiet of this past week in February. – I won’t say that Mr. Monte, SFH Chief of Security, was caught off guard. In fact, he was very much on guard. But, even for an experienced and globally acclaimed security chief like Mr. Monte, it is impossible to be fully prepared for all circumstances. Mr. Monte knows full well that opossums are nocturnal critters. They pose no major threat to the SFH estate. Mr. Monte has viewed security camera photos of the critters, but because he is primarily diurnal and opossums are primarily nocturnal, he had never had a real-life encounter with one.

During the late afternoon of Friday the 19th, Mr. Monte was on watch. I had just come out onto the porch where he was standing guard. It was then that we both noticed simultaneously that a strange, rather ugly looking creature was roaming near the east side of the porch. Mr. Monte immediately went into full alert status, jumping from table to benches, and benches to window sills. There was an unauthorized intruder approaching the SFH inner security perimeter and Mr. Monte was set to respond with full force.

Recognizing that there was no real threat. I quickly picked up Mr. Monte and rapidly explained that this was only a harmless opossum on an unusual daytime foray. Mr. Monte quickly grasped the situation and backed down from full alert. He did ask me, however, to take a picture of the creature as it was retreating to safety. Our Chief of Security had to have documentary evidence to support his official security log entry. And here is proof that Mr. Monte, as always, was on the job.

Opossum in rapid retreat

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-15 through 02-21

SFH Journal: 2021-01-18 through 01-31 – Visitors

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, before we get into the boring “human interest” malarkey, here is this month’s lesson on how to wage a psychological influence campaign successfully. In this case, the objective of the campaign was to influence my two big cats to purchase a new comforter set suitable to my regal position at Serendipity Farmhouse.

First, it is necessary to understand that in waging such a campaign, the subjects must be worn down, tired, and mentally confused – sleep deficit tactics are most useful. For nearly a week, I would wake both of them, alternately purring, nuzzling, and sitting on their heads. Once they were suitably disoriented, I then pretended that something was in the comforter, perhaps bugs or gnats. I would paw at the comforter, sniff at the comforter, and then pounce on the comforter as if something were actually there. They finally couldn’t stand the notion that something might be crawling around, so they got up and turned on the lights to see what it was – they saw nothing.

I continued attacking the imaginary critters to the point that Fuzzy and Blondie brought in flashlights and minutely inspected every thread of the comforter. They couldn’t see a thing. – I resumed alternately stalking and attacking the imaginary critters.

Fast forward to the next morning. Blondie hit the Internet before the sun was up and looked for a comforter set worthy of yours truly – price was of no concern. – – My dear feline followers please observe the picture above. There you will see the spoils of psychological warfare – my new comforter set. Blondie and Fuzz Face never had a chance!

SFH Security Force Staff Award

Lightning After Disposing of an Intruder

On different note, it always gives me great pleasure to recognize our faithful and exceptionally talented SFH Security Force Staff members. While Bronto the bear and Rusty the Ratsnake take a little time out for their Winter naps, Lightning the broad-winged hawk continues to make his patrols in an effort to rid the SFH estate of unwanted rodents. No matter what the season or what the weather you can hear Lightning overhead, monitoring every corner of this vast estate, ever vigilant to seek out and deter unwanted intruders. – – Today stands as the most recent example of Lightning’s unusual dedication to service. Even now as Winter Storm Orlena is dumping many inches of snow on SFH and the surrounding regions, Lightning’s call can be heard echoing throughout our valley. – – As one proud predator to another: “I commend you, Lightning!”

Visitors

Okay, the important information has been dutifully conveyed, I guess I can spend some time on that “human interest” stuff that so boars me. We’ll start off with the feature picture of a Great Blue Heron. We on the SFH Security Force call this guy “Benny the Blue.” He is a sporadic, but welcomed visitor. He’s colorful, has lots of good stories, and can show folks a few things about fishing in the North Fork of the Thornton River. He’s also quite welcome because of his eating habits. According to the Audubon Field Guide, his diet is “highly variable and adaptable.” In addition to all the aquatic and amphibian creatures you might expect, he’s quite capable of joining in with Lightning eating snakes and rodents.

I would be greatly remiss even I didn’t spend some time talking about our most recent and greatly cherished guest, Granddaughter #1. She’s no stranger to SFH. In fact she has been featured in several posts including Monticello & Granddaughter #1. Just like Benny the Blue, Granddaughter #1 has many endearing attributes. For example, she is a cat fancier. She knows how to talk to big guys like me without using one of those overly sweet voices. More importantly, however, she is a great cook. She has a natural talent for understanding taste, aroma, and the magical aspects of preparing a fine dish. So, it was with great pleasure that Blondie and I could sit back Friday evening and watch Granddaughter #1 and Ol’ Fuzz Face put together the most aromatic and enticing pizza I’ve ever seen. Our visitor needed no recipe or instructions. She selected the finest ingredients; mixed and matched a wonderful balance of spices and herbs; and ensured that Fuzzy didn’t mess up the crust.

Of course the result was a perfect example of the finest dishes ever produced at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. But it didn’t end there. No, if you refer back to our post Hot Peppers Above & Beyond you will note that mere, ordinary crushed red peppers are not what one should put on a truly great pizza. The perfect topping is, of course, our very own SFH Spicy Hot Peppers.

Finally, although I might be one of the world’s finest felines, a truly exquisite blend of knowledge, cunning, and loving affection, Blondie and Fuzzy have something that I would envy. I would envy the fact that they have such wonderful grandchildren. But I don’t have to live in envy. That’s because my two big cats share their grandchildren with me. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like it so much here at SFH. Well, that and the fact that I now have a comfy new comforter set.

Oh, and one last thing. When I get on Fuzzy’s computer to write my exceedingly witty and insightful posts, I often take time to look at pictures of the grandchildren. Just today, I ran across this picture of Granddaughter #1 on a ‘great explore’ at Craters of the Moon National Park. I think Fuzzy captured a bit of her personality in this photo. She is someone who seeks and explores. – As a 21-pound Maine Coon cat, I can appreciate that kind of spirit.

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-01-18 through 01-24

SFH WX 2021-01-25 through 01-31

SFH Journal: 2020-11-30 through 12-16 – 1st Snow!

The featured picture above shows one of Mr. Monte’s cardinal friends patiently reminding us that his feeder needs replenishment. He has been with us for many seasons and he is confident that, even if the weather is severe, someone at Serendipity Farmhouse will tend to his need. – For him, the first snow is nothing to be feared.

We at Serendipity Farmhouse live within our beliefs and our traditions, even if the tradition is as simple as providing food for our resident cardinals. However, holding to tradition is not always easy. For example we are now deep within the season of Advent, a period or preparation. Our thoughts should be centered on the coming feast of Christmas – this should be a season of peace and prayer. Yet, all to often, the ways of the world, with all their artificial fuss and clamor, stand as obstacles in our path. – Nevertheless, we hold fast.

So, the last few weeks have been very busy, but SFH keeps the coming of Christmas clearly in sight. Here is a short sampling of the many preparations underway.

04 DEC – First Fire: As we approach the Winter Solstice and Christmas, the days grow colder. In order to keep SFH cozy and warm, and to reduce stress on our brand new propane furnace, we use our wood stove as our primary means of heating. The first fire always starts off with a little smoke, but then, as the stove and chimney warm, we end up with a clean burning fire and a very warm and comfortable SFH.

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08 DEC – Official Theme: As noted in our last post, the official theme for this year is recreational vehicles (RVs). That is because our Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte, served faithfully as our “getaway vehicle” and provided us safe haven during this disquieting year. The obnoxious, little red elf will lead off in showing you some of our RV collection.

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12 DEC – Outside Decoration: The outside decorations and Nativity scene are placed on display. our dearest piece of tacky yard art, Miss Florence Flamingo, dons her Christmas cap. Meanwhile, Mr. Monte sets up his own beloved little Christmas tree and investigates the mysteries of the snow globe and tasty Christmas elves.

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13 DEC – Gaudéte Sunday: Despite the rush of shopping, decorating, sending greeting cards, wrapping, and all the seasonal distractions, it is necessary to remember the true intent of Advent. This Third Sunday, we took time to rejoice – Gaudéte!! – – Why? – – Dóminus enim prope est – The Lord is nigh.

13-15 DEC – Family First: Blondie spends a couple of days with Daughter #2 – It’s a tradition. Meanwhile, Mr. Monte is left in charge and must ensure that Ol’ Fuzz Face stays out of trouble.

16 DEC – First Snow: There’s a story or two to tell about Winter Storm Gail, but we will save that for out next post. Suffice it to say, the wood stove kept us warm; the Advent wreath provided a shining light of hope, and Mr. Monte’s Christmas tree is where we gathered in prayer.

And that brings us back to where we began. Keep in mind this Advent that, just as Mr Monte’s little cardinal friend knows well,  the first snow is nothing to be feared and it is important to hold fast to your traditions.

There is nothing to fear.

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-11-30 through 12-06

SFH WX 2020-12-07 through 12-13

SFH WX 2020-12-14 through 12-16

SFH Journal: 2020-11-16 through 11-29 – Thanksgiving?

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

My 23, 417 feline followers will look at this selfie and immediately realize that I am not a happy 21-pound Maine Coon cat. Those initiated and wise in the ways of cats will know that the positioning of my ears is an unmistakable signal of extreme displeasure. – – Why might that be?

I won’t beat around the bush and make you wait in suspense. – – I just had a perfectly miserable Thanksgiving!!

While Ol’ Fuzz Face and Blondie blissfully wandered off to who-knows-where to celebrate this most important holiday of giving thanks, I was left alone at home for innumerable hours, abandoned and virtually orphaned. – So much for the bonds of familial love.

Nevertheless, I am a feline possessing great measures of love, devotion, and forgiveness. Rather than dwell on the indignity of my circumstances, I counted my blessings and gave thanks for them. For example, my dearest Miss Fleur sent a most wonderful Thanksgiving card and thoughtfully included a bag of tasty chicken & turkey treats.

As I wandered through the vast hallways and rooms of Serendipity Farmhouse, I pondered the meaning of loneliness and how my heart was saddened by the absence of my two big cats. It was then that I realized that my situation was no different than Blondie’s not-so-great birthday bash. There was no way that she could be with the whole family all at one time. No, her birthday had been divided and segmented, a little here and a little there. (See details here, here, and here.)

As my mind mulled on these thoughts, I realized Blondie and Fuzzy were needed by others elsewhere on this day of great thanks. They hadn’t left me to be alone, they had gone to another house to be with at least part of the family.

The sun had just set as I heard their car come into the driveway. My ears perked up; I stood up in full anticipation – Fuzzy and Blondie had finally returned. – The door opened and they came in with great smiles on their faces. – They picked me up and there were the most enjoyable ‘family’ smells about them. And there were cousin smells – Cousin Gizmo and Cousin Cosmo!!!

Suddenly, I was no longer sullen and forlorn. My family had returned and I gave great thanks. – – I just had a perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving!!

SFH Security Force Winter Realignment

When one is in charge of a most professional and capable security department as I am, one must be aware of the changing threat-space and particular strengths and weaknesses of security force members. Because I know and uniquely understand the SFH threat-space, I have had to make certain modifications to our defensive alignment. As of December 1st, duty assignments will be as follow:

  1. SFH Security Department Director, yours truly, will perform all necessary management and backup duties;
  2. Bronto the bear will conduct perimeter patrols as breaks in hibernation permit;
  3. Rusty the rat snake is excused from duty until Spring due to cold weather and cold blood; and
  4. Lightning the broad-winged hawk will continue all assigned duties.

My special thanks to Lightning. He persuaded his parents to join in the effort to reduce the exploding subterranean mammal population. The feature picture at the beginning of this post shows that they have already taken on their assignment. These are truly the ‘friendly skies’ of SFH – providing you’re not a small surface or subterranean mammal.

El Camino Del Monte Winter Stand-Down

It was a better than average RVing season. El Camino Del Monte (ECDM) served faithfully, providing SFH staff members five relaxing camping trips. Additionally, ECDM provided comfortable lodging during two delightful stays at Serendipity River RV Park. Thank you to family friends Don and Louise for the very special invites.

So, with a successful RV season sadly at an end, Ol’ Fuzz Face set to the task of washing ECDM one final time. Once the RV had dried, it was time to put on the protective cover to shield ECDM from the harsh Winter winds, snow, and ice.

Fuzzy did a relatively good job. Of course, that was only because of my exceedingly watchful supervision and direction.

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Plans are already being made for RV Season 2021. As you can see, Blondie has made it one of the themes for her Advent decorations.

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-11-16 through 11-22

SFH WX 2020-11-23 through 11-29

SFH Journal: 2020-10-26 through 11-15 – Autumn – All too Brief

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

Ol’ Fuzz Face turned the keyboard over to me today because he and Blondie are a little under the weather. Nope, nothing serious like acute Cagamagas or the dreaded Canguskin disease, but a less deadly and more treatable ailment.

In a way, it’s fortunate that I have the reporting duties today because it gives me the opportunity to update all of my 23, 417 feline followers on the health status of my dearest Miss Fleur. As you learned in my post For Want of Winter Warmth, Miss Fleur had visited my very least-loved veterinarian, Dr. Dog-man. Apparently, based upon my threat of bodily harm, Dr. Dog-man sought medical opinions from a total of eight of the country’s most renowned experts in feline medicine. For once in his life, he wisely followed their advice. Now, I can advise all of you that my most cherished Miss Fleur has fully recovered. – Dr. Dog-man may live another day.

Oops! Wrong turn? Dang GPS!

This morning, while I was on security patrol upstairs, Blondie and Fuzzy alerted to yet another home invasion via the wood stove chimney. (See here and here for historical perspective.) This time the invader was an errant bluebird who, sadly for him, depended too much on his internal GPS. Alas, he made a very, very mistaken wrong turn while looking for a secure place to avoid an incoming cold front.

Blondie and Fuzzy have developed a fairly good procedure for responding to cases like this and they handled the situation with great professionalism. In fact, they’ve gotten so good at this they didn’t even call me for assistance. Their after-action report gave me reason for great pride – my SFH security team is well-trained and ever vigilant.

Admittedly, had I partaken in the rescue and release operation, I might have been a little conflicted. After all, it had been over two hours since I had my last meal. In any event, the cute little guy has happily returned to his mate. I strongly recommend that he get that internal GPS adjusted.

Day-by-day, the rapid progression from Autumn to Winter becomes more dramatic. Recently, the sweet and most pleasant female humans whom Blondie calls Daughter #1 and Granddaughter #1 came out for visit. As I watched Granddaughter #1 walking beside the river, it was easy to see that she was most happy to be in the midst of the autumnal beauty to be found here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (See the feature image.)

It’s not just the array of colorful Autumn leaves and plants that captured Granddaughter #1’s interest. Even a creature of questionable value and charm such as the hundreds of Camel crickets that inhabit the SFH well house were a subject of her curiosity. These little guys are also called ‘sprickets’ (spider crickets). As for me, I call them a barrel full of fun. They hop, jump, and generally give me an opportunity to sharpen my unusually well-developed hunting skills.

As I noted earlier, the colors of Autumn are waning. But, even 21 pound Main Coon cats like me know that life is not ending. The so-called Christmas cactus upstairs, which is really more of a Thanksgiving cactus, is blooming as it has for well over a decade, long before I was born. And Fuzzy came running into the house the other day, almost delirious with some strange sort of joy, proclaiming that the garlic plants had already begun to sprout. He and Blondie see hope almost everywhere. I guess that’s just another reason why I’m so happy to call Serendipity Farmhouse my one true home.

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-10-26 through 11-01

SFH WX 2020-11-01 through 11-08

SFH WX 2020-11-09 through 11-015

SFH Journal: 2020-09-20 through 10-04 – The Best Time of Year

—-SFH SECURITY BULLETIN—-

Mr. Monte is excused from post writing duties this week due to an emergency strategy meeting with the SFH Security Department Staff. In addition to the recent rise in malicious pilfering of bird feed by squirrels (click here for details), massive subterranean lawn and garden devastation is evident throughout our vast 1.204 acre estate.

I have been advised that Lightening the hawk and Rusty the rat snake have been overwhelmed by the infestation. Although they are capturing and consuming the moles/voles (species identification remains uncertain) at a record pace, they are unable to keep up with the unusual increase in numbers of the delinquent dirt dwellers.

Lightening and Rusty suggested deputizing several feral cats to assist in staving off the infestation, however, Blondie noted that those ne’er-do-wells are not to be trusted. Mr. Monte wholeheartedly concurred with Blondie’s assessment and nixed the ferals.

—-END OF BULLETIN—-

Red Spider Lilies

With the exception of the crazed critter attacks on lovely Serendipity Farmhouse grounds, Autumn continues to reveal its charm and color. Wherever one’s gaze might wander, there are manifestations of glorious new colors and seasonal changes welcomed by heart and memory. Although we may tend to see Spring as the birth of new life and an awakening, these crisp Autumn days transmit a message of expectation and a promise that, indeed, life will continue and prosper.

Perhaps one can see that in the Red Spider Lily shown here. It rises when other flowers have decided their time is past. And it states quite clearly that it will return next year with new ones beside it. It is more than a passing beauty, it declares a prophecy of Hope.

Okra, peppers, arugula, and beets are finishing off our garden season. Our okra plants have grown tall and have produced abundantly this year. The cooler weather and shorter days have slowed them down considerably. Tonight might be our last chance to have a full portion of fresh fried okra. We will savor it.

Meanwhile, Autumn brings with it the need to complete some strenuous chores. The air conditioners and fans have to be moved from their assigned positions indoors out to the shed for Winter storage. I have no idea how much a BTU weighs, but when you’re lifting 8,000 of them you’re not engaged in lighthearted pleasure.

By the way, BTU’s take many forms. Did you know, there are many BTU’s in each piece of firewood and, in my opinion, that’s what makes it so heavy.  And, sure enough, today my dear, sweet Spouse enlisted me to start moving firewood from the big stack on the lawn to the woodshed and stacking it there in precisely measured rows. So, between air conditioners and firewood, I feel tired and a little weighed down. – – Which is to say, I don’t take heavy labor lightly. – – Please forgive my heavy-handed levity.

Despite my statements about the seasonal chores, Autumn remains our favorite time of year. With that thought in mind, beautiful Spouse and I purchased a new bench and placed it under our maple tree. Next to it, we have placed two pots of pansies to add a dash of color. – – As the day begins to fade and the sun flirts with Skyline Drive, you will find us sitting there viewing Mary’s garden, adorned with the Red Spider Lilies proclaiming their message of Hope.

                                 New garden bench with pansies nearby

SFH by the Numbers

This week we will begin dehydrating peppers. The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-09-28 through 10-04

SFH Journal: 2020-09-14 through 09-27 – New Condo!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

Important note to my 23, 417 feline followers: September 24th was my birthday. Greetings and accolades have been pouring in from around the world. For example, the Center for Applied Threat Surveillance (CATS) announced the selection of the Serendipity Farmhouse Security Department, headed by Chief of Security Mr. Monte, as the “Outstanding Security Center of 2020”. The accompanying citation was certainly correct when it stated the “award is well deserved, and Mr. Monte stands as a shining example of what it means to be a dedicated Chief of Security.”

Humility restrains me from listing all of the incredible but true statements made concerning my outstanding achievements over this last year. Likewise, modesty and prudence require me to request (if you haven’t already done so) that you send me only inexpensive tokens of your affection and admiration for my birthday – simple snacks and interactive toys will do just fine.

On the other hand, Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face, owing to their complete dependence on my protection of their beloved SFH, are required by contract and conscience to ensure that I receive, high-quality presents as suitable tributes to my invaluable services rendered at Serendipity Farmhouse.

This year, my two big cats met the challenge and ensured domestic tranquility by purchasing a lavish and well-appointed new Cat Condo for me. Although they attempted to keep the present a surprise, they failed miserably. The primary reason for their failure is that I understand everything they say – of course, I just don’t let them know that I do. The second reason for failure is that it is my duty to inspect all incoming boxes and packages. As you, my fellow felines, know there is no way to disguise the distinctive scent of cat tree – the sisal rope is unmistakable. Here are pictures of the “Maestro” performing his inspection.

The big day finally came. Blondie and Fuzzy did their best at paying due homage. They pampered me royally and treated me with the greatest respect – if only they were as thoughtful every day. I showed my appreciation as best I could. I even provided instruction and guidance to Fuzz Face as he assembled the amazing cat condo – he followed my every command flawlessly.

So, dear and faithful followers, I set about the task of testing my birthday condo. My two big cats are to be commended – for once, they got it right.

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But, the new cat condo was not the highlight of the day. No, dear friends. The true highlight was the card and gift from my dear, sweet Miss Fleur. She was so very thoughtful. Those dairy flavor Temptations and her handwritten birthday card made my heart beat faster – it is such a joy when you know your are loved.

With cat treats in hand, Blondie did her best to perform a trick I taught her. Upon my request she will shake my paw and then give me a treat. She has almost mastered this trick – some day she will learn how to shake with her right paw rather than her left.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, Blondie and Fuzz Face did attempt to provide a birthday celebration equal to my stature, prowess, and fundamentally outstanding feline nature. Though their attempt may have been somewhat lacking in its execution, they are nevertheless to be commended. And, no matter what their failings, they did manage to remember to have a fresh, tasty half gallon of ice cream ready for a perfect end to a memorable birthday bash.

Unfortunately, the short but enjoyable respite from my normal duties came to an end and it was necessary to return to the work of maintaining security here at Serendipity Farmhouse. And this week, a new critter problem has reared its ugly head. My SFH Security Department staff and I are meeting in the morning to develop a strategy to bring an immediate halt to the malicious activity pictured below.

SFH by the Numbers

Canning season has almost come to an end. This week we will begin dehydrating peppers. The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-09-14 through 09-20

SFH WX 2020-09-20 through 09-27

 

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

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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