Category: Pray, Prepare, Preserve

Feast Day Garden Talk

May 15th, the Feast of St. Isadore – A report and accounting of our labors at Serendipity Farmhouse.

This is May 15th, the feast of St. Isadore. It is fitting and proper that on this day we make this report. That’s because we’ve asked St. Isadore to be our patron for all things agricultural, horticultural, and in all efforts involving physical labor. Our last full public report was made in 2018 (Report to St. Isadore). Much has happened in our gardens since that report and, despite a few setbacks, we’ve had many blessings. It now falls on me, Blondie, the Chief Gardener, to carry on the SFH tradition of rendering an accounting to St. Isadore concerning what we’ve done with the God’s gifts.

Part I – The Herb Garden Gardens

The first herb garden my Hubby constructed several years ago was initially a great success. However, each succeeding year the garden became less productive. We had heard that Black Walnut trees could be harmful to nearby plants, so we did some research. Sure enough, articles like Black Walnut: The Killer Tree confirmed our suspicions. Those ‘killer trees’ produce a chemical (juglone) that is toxic to most plants we had in the herb garden. Consequently, we’ve heeded the article’s advice: “Gardeners who have large walnut trees near their vegetable gardens should consider an alternate site.” This year, Hubby has set up a second herb garden located far from the offending Black Walnuts.

In the process, we’ve noted that some of our older raised beds are getting “long in the tooth.” They are warping and no longer hold together on their own. Hubby has temporarily reinforced the boxes with short fence posts.

Thanks to my dearest friend Nancy, I have a new, high-quality pot for a new mint plant.

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St. Isadore, of course you know Mr. Monte holds you in high regard due to your kindness to animals. This year, he made his first venture into farming. Rather unsurprisingly, he chose to start his agricultural career with Nepeta Cataria (commonly known as catnip, catswort, catwort, or catmint).

Part II – The Vegetable Garden Gardens

When we last reported to you, St. Isadore, we only had one vegetable garden containing four raised beds, each with two sections. Later, we fenced in a new vegetable garden containing two raised beds. Hubby was never happy with his fencing job on Vegetable Garden #2. All he had to drive in the posts was a 3-pound sledge. That just wasn’t good enough when going up against some of the clever and defiant rocks that abide here on the vast Serendipity Farmhouse estate. Rather than holding up the fence, the fence posts were held up by the fence and most were crooked.

Because we needed to move most of our herbs to a new location and because we wanted to increase the number and varieties of vegetable crops, we decided to add two more raised beds to Vegetable Garden #2. Under my expert supervision, Hubby engineered the garden expansion. He even went so far as to obtain a 12-pound heavy-duty hand post pounder with handle.

When we attempted to order raised bed kits similar to the ones we already had, they either couldn’t be found or were unreasonably expensive. We opted instead for two galvanized steel raised beds, which were slightly larger than the old ones. – – Two identical boxes arrived on the same day. Both boxes had identical instructions – Hubby got to work. The first box was completed in fairly good time – about 45 minutes. Hubby exclaimed he could assemble the second box in half the time! Two hours later ……… – – What caused the problem?? The contents of the two boxes were different. By the time Hubby assembled half of the box, he realized that he would have to disassemble everything and start from scratch. He also found that one key piece was broken. Dang!!

St. Isadore, although Hubby got visibly angry, to his credit, he said no bad words. – – Eventually, he developed a workaround solution and completed assembling the second box. – – Here are some pictures of the garden expansion and assembly.

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Part III – Plantings

There’s not enough time to go into detail on all the different plantings this year. Here’s a condensed recap: the garlic we planted last Autumn is thriving; we expect scapes to appear soon; and our vast SFH vineyard has had an exceptional start. We avoided the ravages of frost and wind, and all of our other plantings are doing well. A more detailed report can be seen here.

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Part IV – Flowers and Plants

Finally, with the exception of our rhododendron, all of our plants and flowers are doing well. In fact, the Irises in Mary’s Garden have been doing too well and we have to keep thinning them out. Hubby mowed over the remains of the discarded plants last year, and we thought that was that. Nope, they decided to invade the lawn and are growing in multiple patches. I guess they like it here.

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

The Annual May Crowning – May 13th

 

Paschal Triduum Journey

He is risen as He said, Alleluia!

In keeping with the solemnity of this day, allow me to tell you about a special place here at Serendipity Farmhouse. This garden spot alongside the river is reserved for meditation and prayerful reflection. Throughout the Spring and Summer, flowers grow nearby.

The Resurrection Lilies in that garden spot remind us of the Paschal Triduum. This month, we can see their leaves reaching upwards, perhaps praying for strength and courage, somewhat like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani on Holy Thursday.

Good Friday comes to this garden and all signs of the lilies vanish. Now we are left to wait.

Holy Saturday is a very long dark night.

This year we went to our garden spot to reflect on the mystery of the Paschal Triduum. We went to spend an hour awake in prayer in Gethsemani. We went to meditate on the meaning of His Crucifixion. We went to wait along with Mary and the apostles through the long dark night.

And like the Church does throughout the world, we lit a fire so that we could be filled with heavenly aspirations and prepare for the perpetual brightness of Easter.

DEUS, qui per Filium tuum, angularem scilicet lapidem, claritatis tuæ ignem fidelibus contulisti: productum e silice, nostris profuturum usibus, novum hanc ignem sancti✠fica: et concede nobis, ita per hæc festa paschalia cælestibus desideriis inflammari; ut ad perpetuæ claritatis, puris mentibus, valeamus festa pertingere. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.
℟. Amen.

O God, Who through Thy Son, the cornerstone, hast given to Thy faithful the fire of Thy brightness, sancti✠fy this new fire, produced out of a flint-stone, to be serviceable for our uses; and grant unto us to be so fired with heavenly aspirations through these paschal festivities, that with pure hearts we may be able to attain to the festivities of perpetual brightness. Through the same Christ our Lord.
℟. Amen.

That is when the full moon rose and shown down on our river and on us. That was the same moon that was visible in the Garden of Gethsemani and during the nights of the first Triduum. – – Certainly, this time spent in our garden spot gave us great solace and cause to believe that the dark night would end. And so it has – He is risen as He said. Alleluia!

Retiree Revery

It’s official! As of this day, I am on casual part-time status. That means I only have to work a minimum of 20 hours per year – that means I am virtually retired – that means Blondie is now my full-time boss. As I ponder the merits and advantages of my new status, let me review other recent happenings here at Serendipity Farmhouse. – – Oh, by the way, the picture of those beautiful orchids will be part of a future post and revery.

My Birthday: Recently, I celebrated the anniversary of my birth. In honor of the occasion, wonderful and creative Daughter #2 once again outdid herself and prepared a surprise meal for me. Departing from her display of expertise in French cuisine (see French Cuisine & GRITS), this time she went around the globe to Korea. She knew I had spent some time there and guessed quite correctly that I would find the experience enjoyable. – She was spot on!

The meal consisted of Korean-style miso soup, bulgogi, cucumber kimchee, sticky rice. One crowning achievement was steamed Korean-style chicken dumplings. Failing to find any authentic dumpling wrappers in local grocery stores, Daughter #2 and Son-in-law #2 did it themselves. Perfect!

As a final caring gesture, Daughter #2 prepared homemade ice cream served with a chocolate brownie made by my most loving Spouse.

– – Typical Korean beers such as OB or Crown weren’t available, so Kirin Ichiban served as a satisfactory substitute.

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El Camino Del Monte: Our faithful Class-C RV, El Camino Del Monte (ECDM), is showing some signs of age. The most noticeable sign was a rapidly deteriorating awning. Replacement awning fabric was ordered, and our local RV service center switched out the old fabric and installed the new awning. The photos below show the old awning (left) and the replacement (right). Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t show just how tattered the old fabric was. Nevertheless, the replacement is done and ECDM looks much the better for it.

Daring Dairy: As you know, we make our own goat milk cheese. (See Goat milk cheese? – Yes, now!) This last week, I tried a simple new recipe. It worked fairly well, but I want to experiment with it some more before I present it to you. In the meantime, consider the possibilities. This new recipe created a light, tasty cheese that makes a perfect topping for Greek Sloppy Joes. Take a look!

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Waking Up: Right before our eyes, the vast SFH estate is waking up. Some years the appearance of the various spring flowers is staggered, but this year almost everything is coming into bloom at the same time. In addition to the sheer beauty emerging around us, we are reminded that we must start now with preparations for planting. This year, I surprised Blondie with a small, portable greenhouse. When there is more time, I’ll provide details on how my clever Wife is using it to start seeds and protect young plants.

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Pray, Prepare, Preserve: When one is retired, one has a bit more time to consider what is important and what is not. The secular news tends to focus on sensational events, most of them disheartening and disquieting. Some truly historic and monumental events are often shunted to the last page of the paper, or never reported at all. – – Yes, there is a war in Europe. However, that war is merely a symptom of a much greater problem. – On March 25th, Pope Francis did something of great merit to solve that problem. If you are interested in what happened, you can start your research at these two links: Pope Francis consecrates Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking)

An SFH Editorial – What a Mess!

Several weeks ago, I started a project in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. My objective was to make sense of and bring order to the completely shameful and disgusting mess that we called our herb and spice storage. There was no word in English that could capture the awful sight that would confront Blondie and me whenever we had to retrieve a needed spice. However, there was a Russian word that we have used since 1972 to describe messes like this. That word is – ‘безобразие’.

As you well know, while this blog often speaks of God and religion, it never discusses politics, whether local, national, or international. Nevertheless, what is happening in Europe now meets every definition for the word ‘безобразие’. It is truly a shameful situation. The repercussions of these events will be felt for years or even generations. The impact of these events is already being felt here at SFH and by our family. Times such as these explain why the SFH motto is – Pray, Prepare, Preserve

Spring is Here!

Traditionally, Spring begins with the vernal equinox. To be precise, this year in Sperryville, Virginia, USA: Spring will arrive on Sunday, March 20 at 11:33 am EDT. Meteorologically speaking, Spring begins each year on March 1st. Here at SFH we have an entirely different scientific method for determining the official arrival of Spring. For all of us at SFH, Spring began this year at precisely 2022-03-02 12:17PM EST, when the cover came off of our ever-reliable Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte (ECDM).

SFH official Spring began a little early this year because ECDM is going to get a new awning. It may take some time for the new awning to arrive at our local RV service center but be assured ECDM is now ready to go. Her engine started at the first turn of the ignition key and her primary systems are functioning as designed. So, let us share some pictures of El Camino Del Monte as she awakens to SFH official Spring.

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SFH has other measures for determining the arrival of Spring. We can now see that all 33 cloves of garlic planted in late-Autumn have now emerged from their Winter rest. – – There is still some good in this world!

Bringing Order to a Real Mess

As noted in our editorial, herb and spice storage in the SFH Test Kitchen was a disaster. Scattered throughout the kitchen and the pantry we had nearly 100 containers of herbs and spices. There was no logic or order to the way these containers were stored. In some cases, they were just thrown into plastic containers. Many of the items had reached the end of their shelf lives years ago. Something had to be done. So, we developed a three-step plan:

1 – Sort all items and discard unneeded/out-of-date items
2 – Purchase suitable space-saving storage containers
3 – Inventory all items, listing container size & storage location

For the kitchen spice cabinet, we purchased three storage systems called Cabinet Caddy. For the pantry, we purchased two storage systems described as Simple Trending Stackable 2-Tier Spice Rack Kitchen Organizer Cabinet Storage with Sliding Storage Drawer, Chrome. Though no plan is ever perfect, and no product lives up to expectations, Blondie is quite happy with the results of the project. She has hung the inventory list we made on the refrigerator so that, whenever she needs an item, all she has to do is look it up and then go to the listed Cabinet Caddy or the pantry container shelf. Following are some pictures of the project results.

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SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2022- January

2022- February

2022- March

Windfall/Rainfall Profit

Our newest contributor, the distinguished M. Pierre LeChat is currently emersed in piles of notes and pictures. He is preparing his first full-blown amateur chef review. It will be about a six-course meal prepared and served by our own lovely Daughter #2. We look forward to the review with great anticipation.

Likewise, Mr. Monte is engaged in anxious preparation for St. Valentine’s Day. His every waking moment has been focused on ensuring that his gifts and card for his dearly beloved Miss Fleur will be well received.

So, with our primary contributors set on much higher priority tasking, it falls to me to recount recent happenings here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Today, I will touch on how we can profit from the unexpected and convert unfortunate events into something of value.

Windfall Profit

Although now it is a financial term, “windfall profit” was originally associated with something of potential use (such as a tree or fruit from a branch) knocked down by the wind. The first winter storm of January paralyzed parts of Virginia. SFH was in the path of the storm and a great number of dead tree branches came down under the weight of the snow and ice. A large maple tree on the southeast side of SFH lost some deadwood and it also lost a relatively large live limb.

The fallen maple limb

Due to four fractured ribs, I was unable to go out and clear the debris from the storm. It wasn’t until this past Friday that I felt sufficiently healed and able to tackle this job.

Just some of our windfall profit

In years gone by, I might have hauled off all the debris. This year, however, we have been noting that, due to an unusually cold winter, our firewood supply was being depleted faster than we had expected. Additionally, we have been concerned by the steady rise in propane prices. With that in mind, I endeavored to ensure that all fallen debris that could be used to fuel the woodstove was cut and stacked near the woodshed to be used as firewood and kindling next winter.

The point is quite simple – January’s winter storm gave SFH a windfall profit.

Rainfall Profit

This last Thursday was the feast day of one of our patron saints, St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict. Accounts of one incident in her life make it clear that she well understood how to reap benefit from a seemingly unexpected natural event. Unlike, our winter storm, Scholastica also demonstrated the power of prayer.

Briefly stated, St. Benedict visited his sister on a day when there was good weather. He made it clear that he had to return to the abbey that evening. St. Scholastica felt it necessary to spend more time with her brother so she prayed so that somehow he would stay. Then unexpectedly the weather changed and heavy rain and high winds made it impossible for St. Benedict to depart. He stayed the night with his sister. The stay was most memorable, and St. Scholastica had benefitted from prayer and a rainfall profit.

Saints Benedict and Scholastica in conversation, Klosterkirche Elchingen, Public domain

Septuagesima Sunday

If you are viewing this post on your PC, you will note that we have a countdown to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Here at SFH, Lent is a most important season. It provides us the opportunity to retreat from the world and spend time in penance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. By so doing, we renew our spiritual strength. Septuagesima Sunday under the traditional calendar marks the first of three consecutive Sundays dedicated to preparation for Lent – a pre-Lent, so to speak.

This Sunday, we reflect on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16). This parable brings home the sobering thought: “So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2021- December

2022- January

2022- February

SFH Journal: 2021-10-18 through 31 – Look Up!

My recent post Dark Autumn Reflections was, as its title stated, quite dark. I look back on that post and note my listing of worries and concerns. My words left no doubt that I was in the grips of depression. Yet, even with my recounting of problems, real and perceived, I was able to remember a most important fact:

“We here at SFH have hidden strength and resilience that enables us to weather any storm. We know that we will always come through the problems that beset us – there is always a sunny day after the storm.”

For us here at SFH, October 27th was the sunny day after the storm. The featured picture was taken immediately after attending Mass that morning. The sky was clear, the Autumn colors were vibrant, and the moon, a waning gibbous, was still high. To see this warm reflection of God’s might and splendor, all we had to do was to just “Look Up!”

RV Trip 2021-05: This storm in our life at SFH began to break when Grandson #3, Son-in-Law #1, and I made an excellent RV trip to Serendipity River Park.* It was during that trip that Blondie and I were first able to place our worries and concerns far in the background where they rightly belong.

* See The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – Section 1, Chapter 1. This was the first post in a series that will memorialize a truly epic adventure.

Water Leak: One of our ‘dark Autumn reflections’ centered on a serious water leak directly under our front walkway. We knew that the charge for repairing the leak could easily match or exceed the $3,800.00 we spent to repair a similar leak last December. We had mentally prepared ourselves for another massive expense. The day the plumbers came, we watched with dread and trepidation. Of course, the leak was directly under our brick walkway. Of course, the plumbers would announce that they were only plumbers and not landscapers. Of course, yours truly would have become a landscaper to repair the walkway once repairs had been completed. But, and this was a most important but, the entire line would not have to be replaced – the line could be fixed at the point of the leak.

Despite a large hole in the front yard and despite an upcoming day or two of bricklaying work on hand and knee, I was quite happy to pay the plumbers $458.00 for their day’s work.

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COVidiocy: COVidiocy knows no bounds. It manifests itself in many ways and none of those manifestations are rational. COVidiocy has caused pain and mental anguish for many, many good Americans. And my wife and I can count ourselves among that group.

Natural serendipity cannot ward off the harmful effects of COVidiocy. Only supernatural serendipity, i.e. the very Hand of God at work, can dispel the diabolical darkness of COVidiocy. And so it was on the morning of October 27th when I learned that my prayers had been answered and supernatural serendipity freed Serendipity Farmhouse from the grips of one manifestation of COVidiocy. – – But what of the many, many good Americans who have not been freed? What of the good Americans who are losing their jobs and being stripped of their freedoms? – – We here at SFH pray for them daily.

Birthday: What in life is better than having wonderful grandchildren? There is great peace and joy that comes from spending a Sunday afternoon sharing a birthday with these splendid little people. And this peace and joy only increases when a granddad can successfully assemble the “big present” and watch a growing granddaughter learn how it works. – – Yes, this was a most perfect day for Granny & Granddad!

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Firewood: Sweet, hardworking Wife and I hauled and stacked one cord of firewood in record time – three days at three loads per day.

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And surely, life can’t be quite so bad and the future can’t be quite so dark, when during the midst of the storm, a truck pulls up and delivers a cord of firewood. This wood will keep us warm during the cold of the coming Winter. – And so it is with God’s grace, it will always be there, even when we are lost in Dark Autumn Reflections. – There’s always a sunny day after the storm when you surrender to the realities of the life God gives you. All you have to do is just “Look Up!”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-18 through 10-24

SFH WX 2021-10-25 through 10-31

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-01 through 10-31

 

SFH Journal: 2021-08-15 through 10-10 – Do the hard things first!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, it has been nearly two months since the last post on this site. By now, you must know that I hold each of you in the highest regard and with the greatest affection. I understand how stressful the last year and a half has been for you. You’ve been anxious about the health and happiness of your humans. Some of you may have even lost one of your human companions and you are suffering the heartbreak of agonizing loneliness.

Your are not alone in your world of worries. Yes, their are even reports that some my dearest web followers, such as Shera, have fallen ill. If you haven’t heard about her, you can read the story Delta variant nearly killed a lion during National Zoo’s covid outbreak. Fortunately for Shera and her companions there are is now the report Lions and Tigers Recovering Well at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

We here at Serendipity Farmhouse have always strived to bring you news and commentary that is uplifting, edifying, and occasionally humorous. Yet, there are times here in this “the house of our realities” when it is necessary to acknowledge that we also are overburdened with cares and concerns. That is when we must pause and reflect and make serious decisions about what is most important in our lives; that is when, as Ol’ Fuzz Face says, we must “Do the hard things first.”

And so it has been here at SFH for the last two months. We have paused. We have reflected. We have considered our real priorities. And we have been doing the hard things first.

Thus, after consultation with my beloved humans Fuzzy and Blondie, I am writing today to introduce a series posts that will show you my 23,417 feline followers and those few devoted human followers how the SFH family has come together to do the hard things first. At the same time, Fuzz Face and I will endeavor to continue in our quest to provide commentary that is uplifting, edifying, and occasionally humorous. This series of posts will include discussions on the following serious topics:

  • How an elderly couple cared for each other while beset by Covid;
  • Grandparents’ response upon learning that a grandson has acute lymphoblastic leukemia; and
  • Making a decision that may mean the loss of employment.

But, there will also be more typical SFH stories about:

  • Trips in our Class-C RV El Camino Del Monte,
  • Blondie’s birthday, and
  • My birthday!!!!!!!

Of course, the series will update you on the almost bountiful harvest from the extensive SFH vegetable gardens and how much canning, pickling, and freezing has been done.

If you were wondering about the featured picture, and how could you not wonder, our upcoming series of posts will demonstrate beyond any doubt that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen, even during these hard times, remains in full-scale operation. In fact, the picture to the left was inspired by Blondie’s whimsical thought: What if Julia Child had combined Japanese watercolor art with her French cuisine?

 

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-08-01 through 08-31

SFH WX 2021-09-01 through 09-30

SFH Heatwave Chicken

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, this has been and continues to be a very hot and dry Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (Please refer to Ol’ Fuzz Face’s comments on the matter in his post SFH Journal: 2021-07-26 through 08-01 – Hot & Spicy.) As you can see by this candid photo of me, I have taken the appropriate feline approach to ensure that I remain cool and comfortable.

Blondie and Fuzzy, on the other hand, see things in an different way and have chosen to make a period of what should be a time for rest and relaxation into an unnecessarily frustrating time of tension, and drama. Rather than try to make sense of their heat-induced delirium, I will turn the writing of this post over to Fuzzy while I resume my nap.

——————————————————————-

Despite Mr. Monte’s less than flattering remarks, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had a remarkable and noteworthy week. No, I wouldn’t say it was our best week ever, but I would say it demonstrates our unique ability to bounce back from an apparent failure and turn it into a resounding success. Here’s the story.

On August 5th, our weekly menu called for us to use our Sun Oven to prepare Barbecued Chicken according to a recipe in the Solar Chef cookbook by Rose Marie Kern. But my most perceptive Wife noted that tomatoes harvested over the past few days had reached their prime and had to be canned immediately. So, we changed our plans and spent the day preparing a “new and improved” (N&I) version of our long-time favorite SFH Pasta Sauce.

All went well with the initial stage of canning of our “SFH N&I Pasta Sauce.” To our basic recipe we added homegrown garlic, Italian spice and a couple of other twists. The wonderful aroma of the simmering pasta sauce filled the house. Then we performed the required processing of the five pint jars of sauce. We retrieved the jars from the boiling water at the 40-minute mark and waited for the five pings from the cooling jars. Within seconds, we had ping numbers one, two, and three. Number four took a little longer. … … Unfortunately, ping number five never came – the jar had failed to seal. – – Dang!

Then, simultaneously, resourceful Wife and I stumbled across the same idea. – – Tomorrow, we shall use the un-pinged jar of N&I Pasta Sauce in an entirely new SFH Test Kitchen creation – “SFH Heatwave Chicken”! (Providing there is sunshine …)

Background

We purchased our Sun Oven in Idaho. We only used it once, but that was a great success because we lived in high desert with virtually no trees nearby. More often than not, the sky was very clear and our home sat on a point that was nearly a mile high. – With these perfect conditions for solar cooking, we could get that Sun Oven up to over 400°.

A couple of years ago, we attempted to use the Sun Oven to make a pot roast here at SFH. For many reasons, that was an abysmal failure. Virginia has trees and many of them reside right here on our vast estate. Even when the rare sunny day comes, those trees are dedicated to a single cause – – blocking the Sun Oven. There is one Sycamore tree that is particularly nasty and vicious because it knows it commands access to the precious southern exposure. It is a bully of a tree and I have often thought of having our local tree service remove it.

Day of Reckoning

On August 6th, the sun rose and there was some haze in the sky. The forecast indicated that clouds would move in later in the day. Our chances of success were diminishing rapidly and we knew we wouldn’t be free to start cooking until nearly 1 PM. Nevertheless, Blondie and I were committed – we were going to make this work. So, at about 12:10 I set up the oven and began preheating it. By 12:31 it had reached 275°.

Blondie took charge of preparing the chicken by adding some salt and pepper and then the layering the chicken in our untested, untried, and untasted, brand new “N&I Pasta Sauce. When she finished, I carefully took the pot to the oven and placed it on the leveling rack. The glass door was closed and sealed at 12:51 – this cooking game was now afoot.

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The red arrow in the graphic taken from the official SFH Weather Station shows that, when we began cooking our SFH Heatwave Chicken, we were already past the prime conditions we had earlier in the day. We decided we would let the chicken cook for four hours at about 325°. The question was would that work? Would we be able to get to the desired 180° internal temperature required for poultry? Only time – four full hours – would tell.

The picture above answers that big question. When the picture was taken, the gauge was still climbing and we knew our chicken was fully cooked. Later, when we sat down to eat. We found that it was not only fully cooked, but it was at the point where the meat just fell off the bone; we didn’t even need our knives to cut the meat.

So, on this 92°+ day, we sat down inside the cool SFH dining room and ate a wonderful meal of solar oven cooked SFH Heatwave Chicken, which was resting on a layer of couscous that readily absorbed the savory flavor of our own SFH New & Improved Pasta Sauce.

There are few failures in the SFH Test Kitchen, but there many ways to find paths to new successes!

 

SFH Happy New Year – 2021!

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

As you can see by my ears and the expression on my face, you will certainly understand that I remain troubled. I’m still trying to shake off the negative feelings that disturbed my courageous yet sensitive feline soul throughout the scandalous year of 2020. But shake it off and be rid of it I will! I shall begin anew!

To My 23, 417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, and to all the faithful followers of this journal of Serendipity Farmhouse – Happy New Year! Be it hereby resolved that we all make 2021 the best year ever and may we earnestly Pray for, Prepare for, and Preserve all that is right, goodly, Godly, and true!

A Sixth Anniversary

It was on December 31, 2014 that Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face made their way to Virginia Beach and we first met. This blog provides a living journal of how those two highly favored big cats of mine have grown and prospered under my care and protection. They have dutifully attended to my needs and have been relatively faithful and obedient servants. After all these years, I must admit to having developed an affection for them. I will also admit that we are fortunate to have each other.

Vanquish the Elf

I find it difficult to understand why Blondie and Fuzzy have allowed this little red intruder to reside within Serendipity Farmhouse. His only purpose is to spy on good and innocent individuals and then snitch to Santa if they accidentally happen to cross some arbitrary line between ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’. He skulks within the corridors and rooms of SFH, not unlike an unwanted rodent or bug. He hides on shelves and in concealed lairs to perform his evil deeds of espionage. – – Is it any wonder then that I, the Chief of Security for SFH, would not be willing to act peaceably towards him when Blondie attempted to bring about a reconciliation between me and that disreputable elf. – – I think the following video clearly sums up my feelings on this matter.

 

 

 

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