Category: Critters

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.

Breakfast with Tiffany

DSC_0383Friday evening, while washing dishes, we spotted her. She was a magnificent sight, all charm and grace, arrayed in her faintly iridescent plumage. She was very large and her stride was imposing yet cautious. She had made the journey to our neck of the woods and decided to join us here at Serendipity Farmhouse, at least for these last four days.

Mr. Monte has been very accepting of the new guest. Unlike the way he reacts to squirrels or other cats in the yard, he has remained calm and only slightly curious.

Our topnotch, Maine Coon security guard explained to me that the new arrival is no threat whatsoever. In fact, she should be welcomed. In addition to her natural diet of leaves, grasses, fruits, and berries, our new guest loves to eat deer ticks. Here in Virginia this eating habit would make most any such critter a welcomed guest.

Mr. Monte went on to advise me that, should I wish to speak to her, her proper name is Tiffany, Tiffany Turkey. With that knowledge in mind, I went out to the deck with my camera in hand; addressed her as advised; and requested that Miss Tiffany pose for a couple of pictures. She was so taken with my good manners and use of her proper name that she posed, as you can see in my photo, in a most fascinating way.

So, these last several mornings we have watched Miss Tiffany roaming about the yard eating from the delectable selection of foods that interest a turkey. It was very apparent and she affirmed to us that the mulberries falling from the tree near the woodshed were her favorite.

Despite the rain and concerns about our garden, we at SFH were blessed with the opportunity to enjoy breakfast with Tiffany.

SFH Journal: 2018-06-07

Highlight: We attended the Mass and burial of our friend today. It was a time for some sadness and for some fond remembrances. We will remember this day as we remember our friend, with a strong feeling of God’s peace.

Afterwards, preparations for the Third Annual Serendipity Farmhouse Tea Party revved into high gear. My beautiful wife made lavender tea bread while I was mowing and manicuring the yard. (Of course, yours truly and my faithful lawn tractor got stuck in the muck left behind by the rains.) Later, lovely spouse and I joined forces to make “Mom’s Pimento Cheese”. (See SFH Food 2018-01: My Mom & Pimento Cheese.)

While making a round of the yard on my faithful lawn tractor, I saw adorable wife gesticulating and making wild gestures to get my attention. I pulled the tractor to a screeching halt, jumped off, and ran to her aid. That is when she showed me these two huge winged insects with large and fearsome mandibles. The larger one (male) was nearly six inches long. (Please note: Beautiful spouse asserts that I may have ever so slightly embellished the truth in the reporting of this event.)

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We took pictures (very, very carefully) at a safe distance and rushed inside to determine the nature of the alien beasts that had invaded our yard. Fortunately, we discovered that these enormous flying escapees from a Godzilla movie were called Dobsonflies. According to Wikipedia: “Dobsonflies are a subfamily of insects, Corydalinae, part of the Megalopteran family Corydalidae.” (Learn more about this worthwhile predator of bugs and flies along rivers like ours: click here.)

Weather:  It was a very pleasant day.  (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-31

Highlight: Bluebird fledglings were conducting flight practice in our side yard today. Mom and dad bluebird sat apart on our fence and urged the young ones to take wing and learn some basic maneuvers. We didn’t have our camera at hand and the angles were bad, but from the bedroom window it was a beautiful sight to behold.

On April 13th we posted Bluebirds – Our New Neighbors. At that time, the nesting pair was just checking out the birdhouse and setting up housekeeping. That was just shy of seven weeks ago. The North American Bluebird Society states that: “For bluebirds, incubation typically lasts approximately 12–14 days. After hatching, the chicks will remain in the nest for about 17–21 days.”

Serendipity Farmhouse has watched this event from the beginning. The young ones will soon depart. We will clean out the birdhouse and hope to see the cycle begin again.

I had lunch with three exquisite ladies today. Three generations of grace and loveliness – mother, daughter, and granddaughter. In such a setting there can be no happier man than I!

Weather: Some clearing and some rain. The yard is far too wet to mow. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-27

Highlight: Two things are worthy of note today. First a good friend, who has experience in owning and operating a Class C RV, has offered to help us in our new quest for what we will call “El Camino del Monte”. We greatly appreciate his offer and will consult with him as we move through this labyrinthine process. (See SFH Journal: 2018-05-26 for details.)

DSC_0245The dear, dear friend of my most wonderful spouse has given us a thistle seed bag filled with seed for the local birds to enjoy. As requested, I have hung the bag from a limb of our magnolia tree. We now await the coming of some new flying critter friends

Weather: Hot and sticky. We worked for an hour in the gardens and by the time we finished, we had to clean ourselves up and change clothes. An extended afternoon thunderstorm cooled things off and ended in time to watch lightning bugs. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Our featured photo for today shows the first tomatoes developing on our Husky Red Cherry tomato plant. In June, these little guys will be part of our fresh garden salads.

In the past, Mr. Stripey has been our best producer of tomatoes for salsa andDSC_0249 pasta sauce. He requires great care. Because he is an “indeterminate” variety he will continue to grow until the end of the season, perhaps to 8 – 10 feet tall. As the season progresses, you will see how we have to extend this initial group of stakes to support his size and weight.

DSC_0234Harvest: Previous owners had planted strawberries near the well house. Beautiful spouse found that some were already ripe. She washed them off immediately and gave them to me. They were consumed before a picture could be taken. So, you get to see a picture of the plant with two unripened strawberries. Yes, they tasted great.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-24

Highlight: So much time was spent on chores and yard work, there was no time to take pictures and record highlights for you. However, almost exactly one year ago, we did have an interesting event that’s worth revisiting.

The featured picture shows a female, turtle.

Question: How did I know it was a female?

Answer: This picture caught her in the midst of laying eggs and covering them up. That’s a relatively good indication the turtle was a she.

We were fairly confident she was a snapping turtle. Unfortunately, neither my adorable spouse nor Mr. Monte took my suggestion to offer the laboring lady turtle a morsel of food on their bare finger or paw. It’s really hard to verify a theory when the helping hands are so timid.

After our turtle friend departed, we watched the area very closely for about three months (incubation takes 55 – 95 days depending on geographic location), but we were never able to determine if the eggs hatched and the little snappers made it to safety in the river. Right now we are on the lookout for our turtle friend or one of her young ones to return. It’s not likely to happen, but Mr. Monte is standing sentinel duty in the kitchen window. His dedication to duty is inspiring.

Weather: Finally catching  up with mowing and trimming. I tried to get most of it done early in the day. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: We harvested one asparagus spear. The season is hanging on.