Today is the feast of St. Isadore the Farmer. As you may or may not know, he is one of the patrons of Serendipity Farmhouse. We think of him when we are planting. We ask him to intercede for us so that we might have a good harvest. But, we don’t ask for miracles. Instead we ask him to inspire us to live as he did. That is because he was known for his love of the poor. There are many stories about Isidore providing for the poor in miraculous ways with food. – – That is why we share our harvest and our canned and pickled foods with family, friends, and those in need.
In a few days, I will write a post about how we lost several plants to a couple of hard freezes. That’s when we turned to St. Isadore to ask for a little help. – – The featured picture shows the first strawberry of the year. It was picked just this afternoon. It survived the freezes and there are many others that are ready to ripen. – – There’s reason for hope and there’s reason to be at peace.
Another reason why we consider the life of St. Isadore as being inspirational is because he had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals. Mr. Monte ranks St. Isadore among his most highly favored saints.
My Friend Upson: Sometime during my junior year in high school I met a quite engaging individual. He lived in a somewhat peculiar manner. I thought at the time that his approach to life was odd and I would never, nor would I ever, want to live as he did. For, you see, he was quite prone to having mistakes, errors, and other minor hardships befall him with little or no advance notice. Yet, no matter what happened to him, Upson would always come out of it with a shrug of the shoulders and a simple smile. His life was no puzzle or oddity to him; he came to expect these things and he was quite content.
Now, Upson was not a one-of-a-kind individual. Since high school, I have met many a man like him. For example, I had an acquaintance whose name, when translated from its original language, was Mr. Unlucky. He too, took the misadventures of his life completely in stride.
Many years have passed since I met Upson and worked with Mr. Unlucky. More and more I realize I have become much like them. The day will bring what it brings. It is the best I can hope to get. And, in the end, the best is good enough for me.
By they way did I tell you Upson’s last name? Could it have been anything else? Yes, it was Downsof. So, when I wrote a short biography of my friend, I couldn’t help but call it The Upson Downsof Life.
And all of that written above, dear reader, leads me to a couple of topics for this week’s journal. Yes, for my dear Wife and me, this week has been a chapter from that never published biography The Upson Downsof Life.
Frost Warning: As I wrote last week, clever and industrious Spouse, has filled several garden boxes with early season plantings. A couple of the young plants were not quite as strong as the others. Then our usually unreliable weather prognosticators made their first correct call of the season – “There will be frost.” Of course, that call had to be correct because they were announcing impending doom to the plantings at SFH. So, when the two weak, young plants were exposed to a chilly low temperature of 32.2°F, they sank low in their beds never to recover. – Upson would have seen this coming.
Birdie and the Battery: As you can see in the feature picture at the top of the post, our bluebirds have returned to take up temporary shelter in the safe surroundings of Serendipity Farmhouse. Now, yours truly, has been waiting for quite a while to take a picture of our temporary lodgers that is something more than just a snapshot. To be sure, I couldn’t complain about the feature picture with Mr. Bluebird all puffed up trying to stay warm. Even this picture of Mr. & Mrs. Bluebird on the fence next to their home is in the category of “okay.” But I wanted something better. There I was perched on the deck, camera in hand, when the perfect shot arrived. I pressed the button and awaited the reassuring “click”. – – No, no, no! – No “Click”! – – The battery was dead. – Mr. Unlucky would have seen this coming.
As you can imagine, I thought of Upson and Mr. Unlucky. Such is life for such as we. I shrugged it all off and charged up my camera battery. – – Easter Sunday arrived and all things have been made new. (See our Easter post here.) Even my camera battery. And the following picture will explain why it is easy for me to say: “The day will bring what it brings. It is the best I can hope to get. And, in the end, the best is good enough for me.”
Mr. Monte is taking the day off, but he reports that all here at Serendipity Farmhouse is safe and secure. Beautiful Wife and I will spend this Easter Sunday enjoying the life God has given us. – – Indeed, the best is good enough for me.
“The splendor of Christ risen from the dead has shone on the people redeemed by his blood, alleluia.”
And with that antiphon we here at Serendipity Farmhouse witness the rising of the Son. This is Easter Sunday. Yet it is an Easter unlike any other in our time. Even as it brings great joy and comfort, it also brings a longing. The first psalm of the day brings that thought to mind.
O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.
To our family and friends, please know that you are in our prayers today. May we soon – very soon – be able to share with you the fullness of joy at Holy Mass.
The featured picture at the head of this post leaves little doubt that there has been a birthday here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Unlike last year, however, family and friends could not come to join yours truly in the celebration this year. (Click here to see highlights from last year’s SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash.)
In times like these, certain sacrifices must be made, especially by those of us who are older than Godzilla. [Note: Yes, I am older than Godzilla because he first appeared in Ishirō Honda‘s film Godzilla in 1954. Ergo, I preceded him by several years. Of course, one must remember that my long held belief is that “Godzilla is real and everything else is fake.” Based on that assumption, I must admit that Godzilla is probably older than I am.]
This year, my birthday party was a quiet affair. Beautiful Wife and Mr. Monte dedicated themselves to making it a grand and glorious day despite the fact that we must remain isolated on our vast 1.24 acre estate.
Our next door neighbors outdid themselves with creativity and humor. The large sign on the fence across from my office window was the very first thing I saw at sunrise. Lacking regular sign making materials they improvised with a huge length of sandpaper. The sign spoke for itself as did the bottle of wine. How can one ever forget a birthday when they receive a fine bottle of wine that says, “Happy social distancing!”?
Among my most highly prized gifts of the day was a piece of art that speaks directly and poignantly to the meaning of family and family traditions. Eight of my grandchildren, in simple drawings, illustrated their love for their grandfather and their strong desire to carry on the humor and sentiment of our family culture. These drawings also speak for themselves.
There you have it, dear readers. Through the dark clouds of these uncertain times, so many rays of sunshine and good cheer continue to shine through. A very sincere thank you to all who sent me presents, cards, and other forms of birthday greetings. May God greatly bless each and every one of you!
On behalf of all of us here at Serendipity Farmhouse, let me wish you the best of Christmas greetings and blessings.
Even for a fearsome, 20-pound Main Coon cat like me, this is a joyous if not confusing time of year. Why! Well, humans are just about the most curious and unpredictable creatures on this planet. Much of that has to do with their strange customs and traditions.
Here’s what I mean. You and I know that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and what that meant and still means for the World. My humans celebrate that with great enthusiasm. However!! They also do some rather strange and unfathomable things they call their “Christmas customs.” For example, every Christmas Eve they get up at 4:00 AM, or even earlier and head to the local Wegmans Food Market. Of course they leave me behind because I’m too intelligent to give up my sleeping time to accompany them on their foolish pursuits.
This year, they arrived at Wegmans just after 6:00 AM, purchased coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and took their place at a table in the balcony dining area. – Why? Well, to watch last-minute Christmas shoppers (especially husbands) frantically trying find the perfect gift for the someone they love, but whom they forgot until the last minute.
My humans tend to take some sadistic delight in watching these poor gentlemen try to save themselves from the shame of having been so tardy and delinquent in their shopping. Thus, in the featured picture at the beginning of this post, you can see how Blondie, through her sleep-filled eyes, manages to draw some type of enjoyment out of this spectacle.
Now, let’s back up to the previous day. – – Old Fuzz Face decided he was going to give me a grooming, which he does every other day. He was extra thorough on this occasion, because he wanted me to look purrfect for Santa Paws. As it turned out, he was amazed at how much of my beautiful, luxurious fur he had recovered during the grooming session. So, he decided to take a picture to document the event. Take a look for yourself. It really is some of the finest cat fur than one can find anywhere in the world.
Just after he took the picture, though, I could see that he had come up with an idea that only his twisted mind could conceive. – – – Without a moment’s hesitation, he went to the drawer and pulled out the Scotch “Permanent Double Sided Tape“. What happened next was most shocking and so very typical of Ol’ Fuzzy with the rapidly balding head.
So, dear readers, if you were at Wegmans on Christmas Eve morning and saw this rather disturbing sight, please remember, I don’t know this human and I had nothing to do with this. – – – I truly hope the word “Permanent” is not correct. I can only hide my eyes for so long.
A Precious Birthday: Today, Daughter #1 celebrates her birthday. And it is no exaggeration to say that this is a day of great joy for those who reside here at Serendipity Farmhouse. That is because dear, sweet Daughter is connected to Serendipity Farmhouse in a singular way.
Though still quite young, her journey to Virginia and perhaps one day to SFH has covered great distances. Her story is one that fills the hearts of her parents with profoundly beautiful memories. She was, is, and always will be our first child. And as such, she came with no set of instructions. She would be the one that would teach us the art of parenting. – The fact that she is now a woman of great grace and beauty with delightful children of her own stands as silent testimony to what she taught us and what she has helped us to become – grandparents.
For that and so much more we thank Daughter #1 on this joyful anniversary of her birth.
Below we can see Daughter #1 when she taught us how to make it through the paperwork necessary to obtain her first passport. She then took us to Japan where she showed us how to raise a child in the understanding and appreciation of a foreign culture. Finally, we see her as she participates at a family gathering here at SFH.
Tonight we will join lovely Daughter #1 as the family comes together to wish her the best of birthdays. And it may come as no surprise that the restaurant where we will meet features her favorite Japanese cuisine.
The End of Bottom Wood: For over a year now, I have chronicled the sad tale and bitter disappointments of bottom wood. Today, I filled the wood cart with the very last load of that disgusting, fungus and mushroom filled firewood onto the wood cart. The feature picture shows how much of that miserable excuse for fuel remained in the woodshed as we started this wood stove season. Within a week or two it will all be gone, burned, incinerated, with only a mere bit of ash to haunt my memories. Farewell, hideous bottom wood – I will miss you not!
A large, faith-filled family is more than the sum of its parts – it is the sum of its hearts.
You don’t get to be grandparents in good standing by just standing by. You must actively take part in all that makes a family. You must realize also that, as your children marry and have children, your extended family increases exponentially and becomes lovingly intertwined with in-laws, uncles, aunts, and many, many cousins.
So it was this week. My beautiful Spouse had the great honor and privilege to sponsor dearest Granddaughter #3 in the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation. It was for my sweet Wife an awesome and humbling experience accompanied by solemn responsibility and commitment. Though pictures were taken, they could not capture the radiance and peace that shown on our Granddaughter’s face that evening.
We then journeyed through time from the singular joy of Tuesday evening at the Cathedral to a raucous and jovial gathering of the clans on Saturday afternoon. Slightly less than 40 souls bound by family ties and friendship joined together in rural Virginia to celebrate the Confirmation. Three essential elements of the gathering of a true family set the theme for the day – prayer, food, and baseball.
Prayer: It was not and could not be forgotten why we were assembled in that loving home – Granddaughter #3’s Confirmation. All gifts, greetings, and actions centered around our common faith. No food would be eaten until thankful prayer was said. That is what we do in our family.
Food: The dining room and kitchen were both filled with an array of the tastiest assortment of party food. No one, not one single person could say that there wasn’t something there on those tables that wasn’t a special delight for him or her. Many brought special dishes or treats with them. For example Serendipity Farmhouse provided a fantastic banana nut bread, a jar of G&G’s Serendipitous Salsa, a jar of G&G’s Nick of Thyme Salsa, and a jar of Pete’s Pickled Jalapeno Peppers (the jars within the yellow circle). Unfortunately, yours Truly didn’t take a picture until the hungry hoard had made their first pass through the food line.
Baseball: It must be explained that all in this wonderful extended family are great baseball fans. Many have roots in Houston, Texas. So, it goes without saying that enthusiasm was running higher than usual. All were convinced that the Astros were going to the World Series and that, once there at the Series, they would promptly trounce the Nationals. With that background in mind and understanding that the party venue was blessed with enough acreage for a full sized baseball field, it is no wonder that balls, bats, helmets, and gloves quickly made their appearance and – the game was on.
Some families have feuds. That is unfortunate. Our family has friendly rivalries. This is how parents can challenge children and teach them to grow into adulthood. So, the match up of a father against a son on a baseball diamond is a priceless moment. It speaks to the meaning of a family – a place where children are nurtured and brought to maturity.
And that, gentle Reader, is just a part of how we spent our week – how we spent our days for Faith and Family.
A day I had been looking forward to for quite some time, and a bit of a surprise for me, bestowed by my wonderful grandparents.
Your post today is written by Granddaughter #1; the following is a description of some of the events which transpired during our little vacation to the grand Monticello.
After arriving from an extended but very peaceful drive, we had a bit of a problem looking for a good place to park. That wasn’t difficult for me though because of a little tradition I have for each time I travel. I find it very interesting to try and record every license plate I find (I also feel somewhat proud that people come from all over the country to visit my state, ahaha) and there were a lot of nice ones to see. Unfortunately, I was not able to record all of them, as I had nothing with which to write; however, I can tell you that many of them were from quite far away (Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington State).
Following this, we were taken on a shuttle bus to the top of the mountain, where the tour would soon begin. However, I (rather foolishly) forgot that at high altitudes, it’s freezing, even in the summer. We walked all over and tried to keep warm, but it was not very effective, so we took to trying to record how beautiful the view was instead. This turned into some interesting “games”, as you can see below.
No, Granddaughter! No picture this time!
No, Granddad! No picture this time!
When we were finally able to begin the tour, it was slightly unnerving, as some of our fellow visitors seemed a bit dour. There was one boy who apparently was there with his parents for the benefit of his education; it seemed he was required to ask a certain number of questions of the tour guide. One time, I heard him mutter to his mother, “I’ve already asked 3 questions … ” I felt bad for him, as there was a chance he already understood everything and did not need to ask any additional questions. However, it was a bit amusing, to say the least.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the interior of Monticello, but I can tell you that it was absolutely stunning. Thomas Jefferson, though not an inventor, was certainly a very intuitive and reflective man, and came up with many ways to make his home not only visually appealing, but also as efficient as was possible at the time.
The garden tour came next. However, a tour had already begun, and it was really too late to join in on the next tour, so we ended up seeing everything ourselves. In my humble opinion, it was all for the better, as the experience I was most looking forward to at Monticello was photographing all of the flowers and vegetables. I love photography, especially still life, as it’s the only kind I’m very good at. I only had my phone, but had a nice time and was very satisfied with the photos I took.
Look at the beautiful view!
I leave you with some of the exquisite sights from the garden, including some rarely seen “potato pumpkins” and giant okra. Except for the cock’s comb, I took all the pictures of the flowers seen, including that lovely, giant, white, rather energetic and adorable flower with the cute face … hehehe.
There was anticipation and there was anxiety. There was planning and there was preparation. There was cleaning and there was cooking. There were all the things that are essential to a successful “high tea”. Yet, with composure and confidence, dear, sweet, beautiful wife managed to make it all come together. Therefore, we can say with great pride of accomplishment, the Annual SFH High Tea for 2019 now belongs to the glorious history and tradition of Serendipity Farmhouse.
As announced earlier by Mr. Monte in his post Annual High Tea at SFH, the world renowned SFH Maine Coon Cat, the clever, articulate, and ever-faithful Son #1, and I, your humble author, were banished for the duration of the “high tea” to a safe shelter from feminine frivolity, our Class C RV El Camino Del Monte. There, we enjoyed manly conversation, discussed matters of great import, and generally set about solving the world’s problems. Banishment is not necessarily an unhappy thing.
There wasn’t an opportunity to record all the arrivals. Nevertheless, it is worthy noting that each and every lady attending the SFH High Tea was dazzling, radiant, and beautiful beyond words. We see below just one example of the grand arrivals.
Gentle Reader, I am just a “banished” male, and was not privy to all the events of this Annual High Tea. Yet, it is clear to me that all was as it should have been and was meant to be. When I was finally summoned to take the group photo of all the attendees, there was no doubt that all were in fine and elevated spirits.
Food preparation began days before the High Tea. Several people baked pastries and other items for the event. Even Old Fuzz Face lent a hand for baking scones and lavender tea bread. Most of the difficult cooking tasks fell on the shoulders of dear Wife and her most faithful friend, Nancy. Let me just say, culinary miracles were performed in the kitchen, and I was fortunate enough to partake of some of the leftovers.
So the 2019 SFH Annual High Tea is a memory – a very good memory, indeed. I leave you now with the menu as a reminder of just one small part of that joyous event.
Today, Old Fuzz Face and I stand united! It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, its due to a matter of the utmost gravity. – – Both he and I have been watching the countdown register in the left hand margin of this website. For Blondie, the countdown signals the approach of the most important social event of the year here at Serendipity Farmhouse – the SFH Annual High Tea.
For Fuzz Face and me, however, this countdown proclaims the imminent arrival of the most undesirable prospects of intense servile labor and a series of supreme indignities.
In her endeavor to have the “best” tea party ever, I will be unceremoniously removed from my favorite resting place on the dining room table. I will be chided severely for each and every one of the elegant tufts of hair that falls from my wondrous coat of fur and lands on counters, floors, carpets, and chairs. Ultimately, on the disastrous Day Zero, Fuzz Face and I will be banished to El Camino Del Monte, our Class C RV, to spend the day “out of sight and out of mind”. When Son #1 arrives and completes his menial tasks of chauffeuring his wife and daughters and carrying a multitude of items into the house, he too will be forced into exile in the RV.
I don’t quite understand Fuzz Face’s response to this event. Normally, he is one to whine and complain. During these terrible female events, though, he takes on a different attitude. No matter what Blondie tells him to do, no matter how degrading it might be, he always answers with a wimpy “Yes, Dear – Anything you say, Dear.” For some reason, Blondie shows great irritation whenever he says this. – – I’m surprised at his defiance and audacity in the face of certain reproof and reprisal from Blondie. – – All I can say concerning his uncharacteristic bravery is, “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”
By the way if you’re wondering about that featured image. Old Fuzz Face and I secretly hid a camera in the dining room during last year’s SFH High Tea. Both Fuzz Face and I agree that it would be unwise to place the names under the various attendees. – – That would be certain extinction for both of us.
So, we’ll keep counting the days, but not to when the High Tea will take place, rather to the day when it is over and we can safely come out of hiding.