Category: Critters

SFH Journal: 2021-06-21 through 27 – Interloper!

Interloper!

Mr. Monte is on special assignment this week. He has been thoroughly briefed on the following incident report. After viewing the slides and my interviews with our resident Mockingbird and Grey Catbird, he has nothing but high praise for them and their quick response to an imminent threat against the peace and tranquility of Serendipity Farmhouse.

Mr. Monte also directed Rusty the rat snake to advise his cousin “Bad-news Blacky” to keep his ugly self out of the SFH estate.

The pictures pretty much speak for themselves. Two unrelated species, a Mockingbird and a Grey Catbird showed a fantastic display of Serendipity Farmhouse-style cooperation. Sensing the common threat from Blacky, they devised a well executed tactical plan to evict Blacky from the premises.  Although it appeared that the Mockingbird carried the majority of the action, it must be noted that our fearsome Catbird was the the one that dared to make actual physical contact with Blacky. Both birds deserve maximum credit for their heroic and successful action.

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Garlic!

The slideshow below tells the story. This year’s garlic is in. 100% of the cloves planted developed mature garlic heads. Thank you St. Isadore!

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Bug Control – The Next Generation

Only a half an inch long, but ready to go

 

SFH Gardens by the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-06-21 through 06-27

SFH Journal: 2021-06-07 through 06-20

This post will be short. That’s because there has been a lot going on over the last two weeks here at Serendipity Farmhouse. We will save that story for a post sometime in the future.

Two items are worthy of note – Rain and Grapes.

As you may or may not know, a large portion of the vast SFH estate lies on a flood plane. The North Fork of the Thornton River, while restful and pleasing to the eye most of the time, can quickly become a threat to our safety and property. (See the post Monte’s Bug Out Buggy to the Rescue.) So, it was with great concern we received the National Weather Service flash flood watch alerts on June 10th.

The heavy rain came as predicted. The three of us found it hard to sleep that night as we could hear the pounding of rain on our metal roof. It had been very dry recently ans we knew that the river was running low. We also knew that the ground was extremely dry. But, what we did not know was whether those factors would be enough to keep the river from suffering a flash flood and surrounding the house as it has done before.

At 4:00 AM on the 11th, I ventured outside in the rain with a flashlight. To my great relief there was no water flowing through the driveway. I approached the river cautiously and looked over the bank. To my surprise the river was at a much lower level than I had imagined it might be. – The earlier dry weather had indeed provided us an unusual margin of safety. – Prayers do get answered.

When it was all over we had received a total of 6.66 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. The house was safe and the overly dry garden beds were once again moist and happy.

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As we have noted earlier, SFH is likely to have the largest grape harvest ever. To protect the mass of new grapes, I have set up a temporary fence around our extensive vineyard that contains our single vine. The job was labor intensive but I was compelled to do it with my own two hands. Now all we have to worry about is Japanese beetles.

 

 

 

SFH Gardens by the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-06-07 through 06-13

SFH WX 2021-06-14 through 06-20

SFH Journal: 2021-05-02 through 05-16

May 15th, the Feast of St. Isadore

“Dear St. Isidore, you know how normal it is to cultivate the land for you were employed as a farm laborer most of your life. Although you received God’s help materially through Angels in the field, all farmers are aided spiritually to see the wonders God has strewn on this earth.  Encourage all farmers in their labors and help them to feed many people. – Amen”

A report and accounting of our labors at Serendipity Farmhouse.

In 2018, we first posted a Report to St. Isadore. This year, we will resume that custom.

Part I – The Herb Garden

Close to our back door, we have planted herbs to add flavor to our foods. Interestingly, our two parsley plants survived the Winter cold and are going strong. Other herbs are doing well and now there is a new basil plant. This year, we are experimenting with a different variety of cherry tomatoes – Sun Sugar Yellow Cherry Tomato. More herbs will be planted later

Part II-A – Vegetable Garden #1

Not all is going well in Vegetable Garden #1. Only three of our beet seeds germinated. Likewise, our beans have responded less than enthusiastically to sunshine and gentle rains. On the other hand, the arugula and lettuce are producing in abundance. Every clove of garlic planted last Fall has sprouted and all plants are thriving. Four types of hot peppers have been planted and they appear quite happy. There are now seven asparagus plants capable of producing for the dinner table, and all are doing well.

Part II-B – Vegetable Garden #2

Vegetable Garden #2 is reserved for several varieties of tomatoes. So far, we have planted one of each of the following varieties: Better Boy, Big Beef, Bush Goliath, Early Girl, and Pink Brandywine

Part III – Flowers and Plants

We planted grass where the new water line was installed last December. All of the flowering plants and trees have done well this year and small apples are replacing the white blossoms that adorned the yard earlier this Spring. Once again, the magnolia tree is promising many blooms come June.

On the 2nd, we held a May Crowning in our garden dedicated to Mary. Both azalea bushes are filled with flowers and the irises have grown so thick that we had to transplant some elsewhere.

Part V – Vineyard

Our vineyard is having its finest year ever. As you can see in our feature picture, a large number of vine (the number “1” is much larger than “0”) shows the potential to eclipse all past years.

Part V – Critters

St. Isadore, this next item is probably outside your area of patronage. If so, please talk to St. Francis and see if he has any advice. – – It seems that Mr. Monte, our Chief of Security, had to issue an eviction notice to some loony birds that thought that our RV would make a fine nesting place. Blondie and I were commissioned to serve the eviction notice to the squatters. Although those crazy birds weren’t present at the time, we had to move all of their belongings out on the road. — It’s important that you tell St. Francis that we determined that the nest was empty before we executed the eviction.

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That concludes our report, St. Isadore. We have tried to be good stewards of what God has bestowed on Serendipity. The fruits of these labors constantly bring us joy.

The First SFH 2021 Plantings

Date: Month-DayItemQTYGarden
03-15Red Beets20 seedsVegetable #1
03-27Arugula 4 rowsVegetable #1
03-27Lettuce4 rowsVegetable #1
04-18Italian green beans25 seedsVegetable #1
05-02Better Boy tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Pink Brandywine tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Big Beef1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Sun Sugar Yellow tomato1 plantHerb
05-02Mammoth jalapeno pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-02Jalapeno pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-02Anaheim pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-21Italian green beans21 seedsVegetable #1
05-15Basil1 plantHerb
05-15Bush Goliath tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-15Early Girl tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-15Roma1 plantVegetable #2
05-30Cow's Horn okra23 seedVegetable #1
05-31Burgandy okra10Vegetable #1
06-07Heat Master tomato1 plantVegetable #2
06-09Cow's horn okra1 seedVegetable #1
06-09Burgandy okra1 seedVegetable #1

The First SFH 2021 Harvest

Date: Month - DayItemQTYMeasure
04-27Asparagus5Spears
04-28Asparagus2Spears
05-03Asparagus5Spears
05-04Asparagus3Spears
05-04Parsley1Bunch
05-04Lettuce1Bunch
05-04Arugula1Bunch
05-06Asparagus5Spears
05-06Parsley1Bunch
05-06Lettuce1Bunch
05-06Arugula1Bunch
05-10Asparagus1Spear
05-10Arugula1Bunch
05-10Lettuce1Bunch
05-14Asparagus8Spears
05-16Arugula1Bunch
05-16Lettuce1Bunch
05-19Arugula1Bunch, end of season
05-19Lettuce1Bunch
05-19Asparagus2Spears
05-21Asparagus3Spears
05-23Strawberries7Berries
05-25Aspraragus3Spears
05-29Garlic scapes8Scapes
05-31Garlic Scapes22Scapes
05-31Strawberries3Berries
06-03Strawberries4Berries
06-17Beets5Beets
06-23Garlic30Heads
07-02Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow 2Tomatoes; 1st of season
07-03Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow5Tomatoes
07-03Jalapeno1Pepper; 1st of season
07-03Green beans, Italian 28Bean pods; 1st of season
07-04Green beans, Italian 9Bean pods
07-06Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow3Tomatoes
07-06Green beans, Italian 24bean pods
07-07Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow2Tomatoes
07-07Basil1Bunch
07-07Green beans, Italian21Bean pods
07-09Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow2Tomatoes
07-10Strawberries1Berry
07-10Tomato, Early Girl3Tomatoes, 1st of season
07-10Jalapeno1Jalapeno
07-10Green beans, Italian14Bean pods
07-11Green beans, Italian4Bean pods
07-14Tomato, Big Beef2Tomatoes
07-14Jalapeno, Mammoth4Jalapenos
07-14Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow8Tomatoes
07-15Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow4Tomatoes
07-15Green beans, Italian26Bean pods
07-15Tomato, Big Beef1Tomato
07-17Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow9Tomatoes
07-17Tomato, Roma1Tomato
07-17Green beans, Italian2Bean pods
07-18Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow11Tomatoes
07-19Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow2Tomatoes
07-19Tomato, Better Boy1Tomato
07-19Tomato, Big Boy1Tomato
07-19Tomato, Bush Goliath1Tomato
07-20Tomato, Early Girl3Tomatoes
07-20Tomato, Roma1Tomato
07-20Tomato, Big Boy2Tomatoes
07-20Tomato, Better Boy1Tomato
07-20Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow8Tomatoes
07-22Tomato, Big Boy1Tomato
07-22Tomato, Roma1Tomato
07-22Tomato, Bush Goliath1Tomato
07-22Tomato, Early Girl3Tomatoes
07-22Tomato, Better Boy2Tomatoes
07-22Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow9Tomatoes
07-23Tomato, Early Girl1Tomato
07-23Tomato, Better Boy2Tomatoes
07-23Tomato, Big Boy1Tomato
07-24Tomato, Early Girl1Tomato
07-24Tomato, Roma3Tomatoes
07-24Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow12Tomatoes

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-05-03 through 05-09

SFH WX 2021-05-10 through 05-16

SFH Journal: 2021-03-29 through 05-02 – Whew!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, “I’m late, I’m late for. A very important date. No time to say hello, good-bye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.”

This post is long overdue. It should have been published last Sunday. Obviously, it wasn’t. Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face haven’t had time to sit for even a moment. That means that they’ve dumped many of their tasks onto good old reliable “FELINE PRODUCTIVE.” And now I haven’t had time to sit for even a moment.

Suffice it to say there are not sufficient time nor words to suffice. So, major insufficiency will have to suffice.

Here’s just a small sampling of what was going on through May 2nd:

04 April – Easter: See post Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia.

10 April – Grandson #7: See post Breaking News: Grandson #7!!

12-14 April – RV Trip 2021-01: See posts RV Trip 2021-01: A Very Tent Situation and RV Trip 2021-01: Project Sausage

23-24 April – Tree Removal: From the SFH treasurer – “To the person who planted those four willow trees on the now vast SFH Estate: You owe us over $10,000 for the removal of those ghastly, hideous, dangerous, menacing, destructive willows.”

25 April – Godzilla v. King Kong: Fuzzy tells me he had a glorious three hours respite from the cares of this world when highly cherished Daughter #1 and her family took him to see his hero in action. As he always says: “Godzilla is real, everything else is fake!” See post: SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash

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28-29 April – Masked Marauder: A major breach to SFH security took place on these dates. Blondie was horrified. Our friendly avian residents were distraught. Fuzzy came up with an almost a good solution. He sprayed WD-40 on the pole. Unfortunately, it dried too quickly, so we intend to use Vaseline in the future.

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In the meantime, we gathered the SFH Security Staff, including Fuzzy. We all confronted this felonious, masked bandit and I made it quite clear to that maleficent marauder what would happen to him should he violate our security perimeter again. The last time we saw him, he was hightailing it off the property.

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30 April – Deck, Porch, Furnace & Dinner Guest: It is difficult enough when one contractor or handyman must do work on our soon-to-be-famous, historic mansion. Schedules must be adjusted; parking space must be made available; and, the SFH Security Staff must be alerted. But, April 30th, the potential for schedule conflict went over the top. First, SFH was visited by contractors to prepare the front porch and rear deck for painting and staining. Next came the contractor who maintains our newly installed furnace to perform seasonal maintenance. And, if that wasn’t enough, the entire, soon-to-be-world famous SFH Test Kitchen staff was engaged in a maximum effort to prepare a delicious meal for a highly esteemed dinner guest. – – Fuzzy and Blondie, under my close direction, rose to the occasion. All workmen visits went without incident and there was no mutual interference. – – Our dinner guest was happy with the SFH Test Kitchen’s latest experiment and he went back for seconds. As a Russian Blue cat friend of mine once told me” Всё хорошо́, что хорошо́ конча́ется. (All’s well that ends well.)

In the midst of and intermingled with all of the above, Blondie spent many, many hours in the vegetable gardens. She is really good at directing Ol’ Fuzz Face at moving bags of dirt, turning over soil, weeding, trimming, and bringing those gardens to the highest quality level possible. Because of her efforts, the SFH gardens stand out as among the finest in all of  Rappahannock County. And also to her credit, Spring planting is underway and the first fruits of the 2021 growing season have already been harvested.

The First SFH 2021 Plantings

Date: Month-DayItemQTYGarden
03-15Red Beets20 seedsVegetable #1
03-27Arugula 4 rowsVegetable #1
03-27Lettuce4 rowsVegetable #1
04-18Italian green beans25 seedsVegetable #1
05-02Better Boy tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Pink Brandywine tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Big Beef1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Sun Sugar Yellow tomato1 plantHerb
05-02Mammoth jalapeno pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-02Jalapeno pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-02Anaheim pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-21Italian green beans21 seedsVegetable #1
05-15Basil1 plantHerb
05-15Bush Goliath tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-15Early Girl tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-15Roma1 plantVegetable #2
05-30Cow's Horn okra23 seedVegetable #1
05-31Burgandy okra10Vegetable #1
06-07Heat Master tomato1 plantVegetable #2
06-09Cow's horn okra1 seedVegetable #1
06-09Burgandy okra1 seedVegetable #1

The First SFH 2021 Harvest

Date: Month - DayItemQTYMeasure
04-27Asparagus5Spears
04-28Asparagus2Spears
05-03Asparagus5Spears
05-04Asparagus3Spears
05-04Parsley1Bunch
05-04Lettuce1Bunch
05-04Arugula1Bunch
05-06Asparagus5Spears
05-06Parsley1Bunch
05-06Lettuce1Bunch
05-06Arugula1Bunch
05-10Asparagus1Spear
05-10Arugula1Bunch
05-10Lettuce1Bunch
05-14Asparagus8Spears
05-16Arugula1Bunch
05-16Lettuce1Bunch
05-19Arugula1Bunch, end of season
05-19Lettuce1Bunch
05-19Asparagus2Spears
05-21Asparagus3Spears
05-23Strawberries7Berries
05-25Aspraragus3Spears
05-29Garlic scapes8Scapes
05-31Garlic Scapes22Scapes
05-31Strawberries3Berries
06-03Strawberries4Berries
06-17Beets5Beets
06-23Garlic30Heads
07-02Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow 2Tomatoes; 1st of season
07-03Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow5Tomatoes
07-03Jalapeno1Pepper; 1st of season
07-03Green beans, Italian 28Bean pods; 1st of season
07-04Green beans, Italian 9Bean pods
07-06Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow3Tomatoes
07-06Green beans, Italian 24bean pods
07-07Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow2Tomatoes
07-07Basil1Bunch
07-07Green beans, Italian21Bean pods
07-09Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow2Tomatoes
07-10Strawberries1Berry
07-10Tomato, Early Girl3Tomatoes, 1st of season
07-10Jalapeno1Jalapeno
07-10Green beans, Italian14Bean pods
07-11Green beans, Italian4Bean pods
07-14Tomato, Big Beef2Tomatoes
07-14Jalapeno, Mammoth4Jalapenos
07-14Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow8Tomatoes
07-15Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow4Tomatoes
07-15Green beans, Italian26Bean pods
07-15Tomato, Big Beef1Tomato
07-17Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow9Tomatoes
07-17Tomato, Roma1Tomato
07-17Green beans, Italian2Bean pods
07-18Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow11Tomatoes
07-19Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow2Tomatoes
07-19Tomato, Better Boy1Tomato
07-19Tomato, Big Boy1Tomato
07-19Tomato, Bush Goliath1Tomato
07-20Tomato, Early Girl3Tomatoes
07-20Tomato, Roma1Tomato
07-20Tomato, Big Boy2Tomatoes
07-20Tomato, Better Boy1Tomato
07-20Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow8Tomatoes
07-22Tomato, Big Boy1Tomato
07-22Tomato, Roma1Tomato
07-22Tomato, Bush Goliath1Tomato
07-22Tomato, Early Girl3Tomatoes
07-22Tomato, Better Boy2Tomatoes
07-22Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow9Tomatoes
07-23Tomato, Early Girl1Tomato
07-23Tomato, Better Boy2Tomatoes
07-23Tomato, Big Boy1Tomato
07-24Tomato, Early Girl1Tomato
07-24Tomato, Roma3Tomatoes
07-24Tomato, Sun Sugar Yellow12Tomatoes

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-April

 

SFH Security Blues

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, Friday 12 March was not a good day for yours truly or any members of the world-renowned Serendipity Farmhouse Security Staff. Some cases are not part of our Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). In fact, this particular case was so unusual that all we could do was just “wing it”. – So, for the official record here is the case of the SFH Security Blues.

It all started about 09:30 hours EST. There was a commotion outside. Local critters, squirrels, cardinals, etc., were making a racket. At about the same time, our aerial observer, Lightning the broad-tailed hawk, sent a text saying that there was some sort of disturbance on the western side of the vast SFH estate. Soon afterwards, Rusty the rat snake called and noted that the disturbance was near the avian residential area where Serendipity Farmhouse leases properties (bird houses etc.) to many trusted and reliable feathered tenants.

Simultaneously, with the Security Staff alert calls, I noted that Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face were watching something from the large western picture window (Blondie’s bathroom window). Knowing that they would need a rapid response from me and my staff, I met with them in the bathroom and conveyed what I had learned from my able staff.

During our conference we were able to compile the following facts:

  1. The bluebird house on the western fence was ground zero for the disturbance;
  2. After cleaning the birdhouse recently, several prospective tenants had come to inspect the property;
  3. Unfortunately today, at least one female bluebird and two young males all arrived for a viewing at the same time;
  4. Bluebird real estate prospects are in high demand this time of year and each of the male bluebirds was insisting that he had first rights to the single available residence, and
  5. The female had retired to a nearby tree to await the outcome of the dispute.

That’s when the fight began. Both opponents were resolved and determined to take possession of the birdhouse. From the window, Blondie, Fuzzy, and I could see that this was not going to end well.

I quickly referred to the SFH Security SOP. Just as I thought – there was no procedure for this type of affair. Yet, it was up to me to prevent disharmony and perhaps even bloodshed here at SFH. I quickly called the available staff to a safe distance from the ongoing melee. I figured that if the staff could get the combatants’ attention, perhaps we could resolve the issue and come up with some equitable solution.

Just before I was to call the meeting, however, I made a quick check of what might be the appropriate protocols to be used in such a meeting. That is when all my good intentions proved to be worthless. As I searched for proper sounds and gestures that could be used to communicate with these brawling birds, I noticed in the fine print the host of animals that are common predators of bluebirds. The list prominently noted three predators that could make this whole meeting idea a bit problematic – they were: rat snakes, hawks, and most prominently CATS.

Oops! I recognized at that point that we had to scrub the meeting. I didn’t think that Blondie and Fuzzy would have been very forgiving if the SFH Security Staff were to bring mortal harm to their highly-prized flying friends. – – So, I had the staff stand down and return to their normal duties. I decided that the best thing to do was to ask Fuzzy to take some pictures for the record. I also asked that he make a note in the Official SFH Security Log that the Chief of Security was relieved of any responsibility if the two combatants were to come to any harm.

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So, the pictures were taken and we all went back about our business. This morning, a single nesting pair has taken residence in the bluebird house and all is peaceful once again here at Serendipity Farmhouse. – No, I didn’t suffer a failure but I had no great success and that is why today I have a case of the SFH Security Blues.

 

SFH Journal: 2021-02-22 through 02-28 – Mind Meandering

Hi! This is your Serendipity Farmhouse Girl Raised In The South (GRITS).

Drops of rain announce themselves on our metal roof as I collect my thoughts and linger in enjoyment of this quiet time. It is good to live so close to where the Shenandoah winds its way through the Blue Ridge. Like my early morning thoughts, it meanders in a gentle way from this to that and then on to something else. So, on this last day in February, allow me to share with you some of my mind meandering.

Hubby and I are moon watchers. Its various phases, times for rising and setting, and monthly names are matters for daily Serendipity Farmhouse dinner table discussion. So, it came as no surprise last night when Hubby announced that the clouds had briefly parted and there to the East, over our very own Turkey Mountain, the full Snow Moon was rising. Indeed February had been a snowy month and the Snow Moon was true to its name.

Now I admit it might not sound very romantic to speak of the full moon rising over a mountain named Turkey. Wouldn’t the name Swan Mountain or Eagle Mountain stir up more emotion and romance? Maybe, but we weren’t the first settlers here in this valley and it’s quite likely that the turkeys that abound in Rappahannock County provided needed food for our predecessors.

For them, survival was more important than romance. Naming a mountain in honor of an important source of food made abundant sense. However, our dear friend and guest visitor, Miss Tiffany Turkey, certainly appreciates the fact that more recently-arrived local inhabitants prefer romantic moon watching over turkey shoots.

Yes, February is coming to an end and already everything that fills this vast estate we call Serendipity Farmhouse is poised to move boldly into March and that season we call Spring. The snow on the Blue Ridge is melting and the North Fork of the Thornton River is running high and fast. The sound of the river serves as background music to accompany the first sun-seeking of the daffodils and resurrection lilies.

Now, I am not the only one here at SFH who has a Hubby. Our pair of resident bluebirds have been here with us for quite some time. Like us, they remain together through thick and thin. Like us, there is a pecking order. This week gave demonstration to how that pecking order works.

Mid-week, yours truly, saw that the bluebird pair was sitting on the fence next to the bluebird house. Neither the male nor the female would go inside. It was obvious that the female was not happy with the situation and was letting her hubby know. That is when I called in my dear Hubby and explained the matter to him. I reminded him that he hadn’t cleaned the birdhouse when the season ended last year. He said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Then I said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” – Hubby is not so dumb. He picked up on my tone and facial expression and immediately made his way to the porch to get his tools. Mere moments later he had removed the covering on the birdhouse and cleared out last year’s nest.

Yesterday, as we were sitting on the deck, Hubby pointed out to me that the bluebirds had returned to the birdhouse. The female looked inside. Then she went to the fence and talked to her hubby. He hopped up and looked inside the birdhouse and then flew off. When he returned he entered the house and it appeared that he had nesting material in his mouth. – Yes, girls, there’s a lot to be said about the value of a proper pecking order.

February can be a cruel month. Its cold and damp and darkness seem to remind of us how very temporary are the things of this world. This February has been no different than many others before. For example, over ten years ago Hubby and I purchased a bread maker. It proved itself to be a very good one as you have seen in many of our posts. Though it had served us so well, it too was one of the temporary things of this world. The last weeks of its life it moaned and groaned. Mechanical scraping sounds were evident – metal pieces had fatigued and were bent out of shape. Hubby explained to me that it could not be fixed and had to be replaced. With proper solemnity he prepared it for its trip to the metal recycling bin at the county dump. I watched on as he took my old friend from the pickup truck to the bin – I could see he too was a little choked up. Then we made our trip home in silence.

But life and bread go on! We did our homework and ordered a replacement. It arrived on Thursday. On Friday I quickly set about making acquaintance with our new bread maker. Clearly, and most emphatically it is not the same as my dearly departed one. Buttons are in different places, settings are unlike what I had come to prefer, this was not my old machine. Nevertheless, the work of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test kitchen must go on.

Hubby and I made a first test loaf from a mix. The quality and texture were not quite as I had hoped. But, it wasn’t clear if it was the fault of the machine or the age of the mix. – This week and next there will be a lot of bread making going on. And it will continue until I master this new machine. Until then, Hubby better be prepared to eat a great deal of toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and anything else that might make a meal of experimental bread.

That brings my mind meandering to one last important place. I use a bread machine out of convenience and the need to save time. Nevertheless, I hold the highest regard for those dedicated people I’ve known who make their bread entirely by hand. I have one friend in Idaho who makes her own bread the traditional way. That is just one aspect of her many charms and accomplishments. Someday, I hope to develop the type of skills she has. And I hope to go one step further. There are many talented cooks among the granddaughters in our fine family. Wouldn’t baking bread with one or two of them in the old way be just the perfect thing for a rainy day like today, when the drops of rain are announcing themselves on our metal roof?

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 2021-02-22 through 02-28

 

 

 

 

 

 

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