Category: Pray, Prepare, Preserve

Blondie’s Birthday – Part III and Final

This post will be somewhat less polished than I had originally planned. There are two reasons why. First, my time today is limited. Second, I’m having trouble accessing my regular editor and I’m not familiar with the one I’m using now. – Please have patience with my attempt to master this new format.

While Parts I & II of Blondie’s Birthday were open and lively events, Part III was far more private and personal. Perhaps that was the one advantage to not having a single, coordinated birthday bash. This year, Blondie could spend more one-on-one time with each person involved

Daughter #2: Visiting Daughter #2 and Granddaughter #4, not to mention two of Mr. Monte’s cat cousins, was a very enjoyable treat. It’s so difficult these days to be able to share with family members without a distracting phone or computer in between. Just sitting in the living room together with cats jumping about and a granddaughter playing peekaboo, talking about what really matters, that is the way life is supposed to be. I could tell Blondie was happy. – Daughter #2, as always, had the most beautiful bouquet of roses for her Mom.

Dear Friend: Dearest Friend Nancy drove many miles and made the trek to Serendipity Farmhouse to spend some time with Blondie. I did my best to let them have some time alone, drinking their tea and tasting selected sweets and treats. Dear friends are such a great blessing. – Nancy, of course, had a most beautiful addition for Blondie’s garden – a multi-colored, dwarf Crepe Myrtle.

Thoughtful Neighbors: As you might guess by now, there has been a minor theme to Part III of Blondie’s Birthday – Flowers, many, many beautiful flowers. Our most thoughtful next door neighbors added to the array of blossoming beauties with this gorgeous, colorful chrysanthemum.

The Cleanup: All good things, even birthday bashes, must come to an end. The presents, the sweets, the smiles, the hugs, and the many signs of sincere love and caring, must take their place in residence along with other fond memories. And for Blondie, the signal that this wonderful birthday week had come to an end was her statement to one and all that she was going to clean our RV El Camino Del Monte all by herself.

Before Blondie takes over the keyboard to write this part of the story, Mr. Monte invoked his privilege as SFH Chief Enforcer of Truth to add the following notice and warning.

At SFH, everything must be clean. Not just slightly clean, but entirely clean. Although my Hubby does a fair job cleaning El Camino Del Monte, he sometimes cuts corners or avoids hard things like cleaning up the roof on our RV.

This cleaning had to be different. If Hubby wasn’t up to doing the job properly, then I was going to do it – no matter how much work it took or how dangerous it might be.

So, here is the pictorial proof that I cleaned that RV, I cleaned it right. There I was on top cleaning the air conditioner and plastic covers. Every bit, every piece, every inch, with my trusty brushes and sponges I cleaned that rascal and I cleaned it right.

Today, it stands in the yard shining in the sun. A monument to cleanliness and good order, immaculate in a way that only this woman’s hands can make it.

 

And with this great feat accomplished, I can stand back and admire my work. That’s because, I’m happy. After all, I had a most memorable Serendipity Farmhouse birthday bash. The people who mean the most to me were there to help me celebrate a most important birthday.

At SFH, there are high standards – High standards of cleanliness and good order. And there are even higher standards of Faith and Family. No matter what is going on in this crazy world, we will be there for each other.

And if I got a little carried away with this cleaning job, it’s only because I had such a good birthday week. Even my RV wished me a Happy Birthday! – – Thank you Family and thank you Friends!

SFH Journal: 2020-07-13 through 07-26

The Good

Allow me to start on a good note. Despite near drought conditions, high heat and humidity, the gardens of the vast 1.24 acre estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse (SFH) have begun to yield a bounty of tomatoes, okra, and peppers. As followers of this blog well know, these three crops constitute the primary focus of our yearly canning, pickling, and preserving efforts.

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A key ingredient for pickled okra and peppers is the addition of fresh garlic cloves. This year’s crop of 30 heads of garlic has been dried and cleaned, and is now in waiting to be used during canning. These lovely garlic cloves will also be the highlight of many dishes to be created in the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. (Please click here to see what has been harvested to date.)

On another note, a severe deficiency here at SFH has finally been remedied. Until this week, to support such an extensive array of gardens and other estate holdings, needed supplies had to be transported in our two small passenger vehicles. At last, SFH can boast a truly worthy support vehicle. Yes, the massive SFH parking lot and utility area is now the home the high-quality, used pickup truck known as “Crockett”. Co-op and hardware stores, here we come.

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“Crockett” – King of the wild Frontier

The Bad – But Getting Better

In Mr. Monte’s post SFH Journal: 2020-07-06 through 07-12, you learned of our ongoing water shortage. Beautiful Wife and I considered our circumstances and drew up a plan to make it through the Summer. We realized that using our well water for watering our extensive assortment of gardens had to stop. We also understood that our conservation effort would have to extend to limiting shower time, loads of clothes to be washed, and even toilet flushing.

Eventually, rain would come (and so it did this last week), but we needed a good way to get water to the gardens, otherwise we would lose them altogether. Carrying buckets of water from the river was out of the question – too many gardens and too much of a risk for yours truly.

Eventually, we decided to buy a small water pump and use two 5-gallon, two 6-gallon, and one 15-gallon water tanks we had purchased over a decade ago. To make a long story short, the pump arrived and it worked. Over a two week period, we refined our techniques and now we can say the gardens will have more than adequate water for the remainder of the Summer. To supplement our conservation efforts for well water, the 5- and 6-gall water tanks are being used for flushing.

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As a side note, we have had to replace the tires on our utility cart twice over the last fourIMG_20200719_142937628_HDR_edited years. The tires were cheaply made and would go flat even under minimal loads. All four tires have now been replaced with a foam-filled type wheel that is guaranteed not to go flat.

 

The Ugly

IMG_20200425_155922618_editedHi! Mr. Monte here.

Warning to my 23, 417 feline followers: If you have a weak stomach please don’t read the next paragraph.

Ol’ Fuzz Face is a seemingly “intelligent” human being. He is, for the most part, hard working and occasionally even inventive. His efforts to obtain a supply of water from the river tends to support that conclusion. But, as you saw in my last post, his offer to quit taking showers in order to conserve water was not what one would consider to be “intelligent”. After Blondie and I voiced our disapproval, Fuzzie moped around for a while. Oddly, he kept watching me, especially when I was grooming my luxuriant feline coat. Last night, when I noticed that his shower was unusually short, I stuck my head into the shower stall and saw him licking his forearms and hands and then rubbing his balding head with them. – – Even for me, that was toooooooo much. – – I intend to keep my distance from now on and groom only in private.

SFH by the Numbers

Hot & Humid

July

Heat

The following links will catch you up with what’s gone into the gardens and what has come out since our last Journal post. They will also update you on the hazy, hot, and humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-07-03 through 07-26

Why St. Isadore?

HC-St._Isidore-Front_grandeToday 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 0924191434b (2)for the proper treatment of animals. Mr. Monte ranks St. Isadore among his most highly favored saints.

Making Better Than “Do” – Sometimes

It’s not my intention to burden our readers, followers, and friends with needless words this day. Perhaps a few background notes, a descriptive sentence, and well chosen photos will suffice. Let’s give it a try.

In our post How We Make Do we discussed menu changes, food substitutions, and a few other ways to make a good meal even though we have the present set of challenges. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to experiment and develop our food preparation strategy. Some experiments have worked quite well – some have not. Here are some examples of both types of results.

Example 1 – Goat Milk Cheese – (Rating *****): This was a no-brainer. We have written IMG_20200416_144648722_editedseveral posts about how we make goat milk cheese here at SFH. We have plenty of supplies on hand and the goats at our local dairy farm have been very obliging this year. – – I’ll be making some more tomorrow.

Example 2 – Ham & Bean Soup – (Rating **): We had leftover ham and ham bone from Christmas. We have many pounds of dried beans. The Instant Pot recipe was highly confident in saying that the beans need no soaking before cooking – “No Presoaking Dry Beans.” The recipe lied!! Beautiful wife was unhappy. Mr. Monte and I sought shelter.

The next day the house was filled with the delightful smell of the first day’s failed ham & bean soup as it the cooked in the slow cooker. After hours of additional cooking, wondrous Spouse announced that the terrible mistakes of the preceding day had been successfully remediated.  Although the final result was acceptable, only two stars can be awarded to this meal.

Lesson Learned: Always, always presoak the beans.

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Example 3 – Pasta Carbonara – (Rating ****): There is no shortage of pasta in the SFHIMG_20200421_180304825_edited pantry. Bacon, however, is a precious commodity these days. No problem. We had some prosciutto approaching its expiration date. Farm fresh eggs are available in abundance at our local dairy farm and, most happily, our asparagus is now producing enough for limited use. Voila! Pasta Carbonara with the SFH magic touch.

Example 4 – SFH Salad Deluxe – (Rating *****): Our motto is Pray, Prepare, Preserve. This year, our vegetable gardens add some meaning and illustration to why we say “Prepare.” Food will be there when we need it. So, last night there was an amazing salad featuring Serendipity Farmhouse vegetables. The veggies that came from our own garden included: garlic leaves, parsley, red leaf lettuce, purple kale, and romaine. We added fresh asparagus to the baked chicken thighs. They absorbed the flavor of the chicken and, in turn, added a minor but noticeable accent to the chicken.  The pictures below show how far the vegetable garden has come already this Spring.

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Example 5 – Homemade Whole Wheat Bread (Rating ****): As promised in our post How We Make Do, we made our first loaf of bread machine wheat bread yesterday. This required that I take out the wheat grinder we purchased in 2010 and grind up enough hard red wheat to make flour for at least one loaf of bread. We used a recipe called Easy Whole Wheat Bread by Allrecipes. A whole egg was added instead of egg substitute or egg powder. With one minor exception, the results were excellent. Flavor and texture were perfect, but the top rose and then fell. No damage to the bread, mind you, but an imperfection not acceptable in the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. – Thus we could only award four stars to this beautiful loaf of the staff of life.

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Example 6 – She Won’t Let Me Do it (Rating – We’ll never know): There are many plants in this yard that are edible but not on our regular menu. Long ago I told you that Redbud tree buds, leaves, and seed pods are all edible. Imagine how delighted I was when I found out that the leaves on the hosta bushes that surround SFH are also edible. I immediately wanted to try out this new wonder. Lovely Wife objected. – Ergo, we will not eat the hosta leaves unless in extremis. However, I can’t help but looking at all those hostas and wondering.

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How We Make Do

For some time to come, what is now in the Serendipity Farmhouse pantry will have to suffice. Oh, to be sure, some items such as milk, eggs, and greens can be found locally. Yet it’s quite clear that in the coming weeks dearest Wife will have to call upon her imagination and incredible resourcefulness to plan our weekly menu. In fact, she has already demonstrated some of the skills that are essential for times like these. – So, here are some examples of How We Make Do here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

IMG_20200322_170557204_editedTaco Salad: In this case, beautiful Spouse brought together a a simple meal by using what was at hand. We had leftover salad and a third of a bag of corn chips. We learned long ago that solid and shredded cheese could be frozen, so we had the necessary cheese. And, of course, we have many jars of salsa from last year’s growing season. Ground beef was in the freezer. Unfortunately, this was the last of the sour cream. But, a dollop of sour cream on a superbly crafted taco salad is one of life’s great joys. – In short, resourceful Wife benefited by using preserved items and leftovers.

Modifying an Instant Pot Recipe: There is an excellent instant pot recipe for ground beef and pasta that we have used several times. (You can find it here Instant Pot Ground Beef and Pasta.) It’s easy to make and doesn’t take much time to prepare. When my wondrous Spouse began to prepare this meal, she found that we lacked two items in the recipe – 8 ounces of campanelle pasta and a jar of marinara sauce. No problem! We have an entire assortment of pastas to substitute – we chose penne rigate pasta. To solve the marinara sauce problem, clever Wife mixed a can of tomato sauce with our very own SFH G&G Pasta Sauce. – The end result was a much more flavorful version of this instant pot dish.

Bread Machine Bread: It’s not worth the trip to a grocery store to get a loaf of store bought bread – ever. Read the ingredients – if you can’t pronounce it, perhaps you shouldn’t eat it. Sweet Spouse has been making bread with a bread machine for decades. So, it’s no wonder that, over the last few weeks, that beloved homemade staple has become an important item in our menu planning.

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White Bread: The soon to be famous SFH kitchen recommends a very simple white bread recipe for beginners. (Check it out here White Bread For The Bread Machine.

Wheat Bread: To stretch out our flour supply, we will start making wheat bread this week. We have a good supply of hard red wheat berries and a flour mill. I will grind up sufficient quantities of wheat flour for bread making. We will try out a number of recipes and will provide updates to let you know which recipes you might want to try.

So there it is. We’ve given you a small taste of How We Make Do here at Serendipity Farmhouse. And, I suppose, we have also given you a small taste of How We Make Dough here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

Bon appetit!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Birthday Post

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.)

DSC_0928 (2)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.

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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!

 

 

SFH Journal: 2020-03-09 through 03-15 – Truckin’ On

Despite what you may have read in the news or seen on TV, there are places where life continues on pretty much as usual. Serendipity Farmhouse is one of those places. To be sure, we are aware of the outside world. But as you know, dear readers, since the first day of this blog, our motto has been “Pray, Prepare, Preserve.” At SFH, that is what we do.

That is why, on Tuesday, beautiful, industrious Spouse and I had the time to plant three rows of Early Wonder beets. As we worked in new soil with the old, we could see that all of our 30 garlic plants were prospering and promising to provide a bountiful crop in July.

On Wednesday, hard working Wife set to the task of planting a bagful of tulip bulbs given to us by a most gracious neighbor. Mary’s Garden benefited with the inclusion of several new bulbs and the gardens in the front yard received 27 new bulbs. – Now we can sit back and see how the bulbs will take to their new home at SFH.

Yesterday was the big day. Our Class-C RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM) was uncovered and now we have begun the process of readying Mr. Monte’s motor home for another season of travel and adventure. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), it was a delight when I turned the ignition key and ECDM started and, how shall I say it, “Purred like a kitten.” Mr. Monte nodded approvingly.

In my personal view, putting a cover on our RV is dangerous and requires great care. By comparison, removing the cover is much easier. Nevertheless, managing to get that huge cover into the very small storage bag is a task that requires ingenuity, patience, and some measure of luck. – There is reason to rejoice when the job is finally done.

Mr. Monte is a great believer in preparedness. He foresaw some of the recent events and recognized that there might be a run on some of his most needed supplies. In January, he made a special order for a most essential item. The following picture shows the day when his cat litter was delivered. With his stockpile well established he can keep “Truckin’ on.”

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SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-03-09 through 03-15

SFH Journal: 2019-11-25 through 12-01 – Advent: Peace or Panic?

No pictures from Thanksgiving. The reason – we were enjoying our time with Daughter #1 and her family far too much to interrupt with artificial posing or potentially embarrassing snapshots. No, this was family time. Thank you, dear Daughter, Son-in-law #1, Granddaughter #1, and Grandson #3 for joining us here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of family.

– – – – –

The left hand column of the SFH blog now features a reminder of the real season that begins today (Advent) and a countdown of the days to Christmas. There is a tension between those two thoughts. Advent makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah and should be a time of thoughtful and peaceful preparation. But, the world has constructed alluring fantasies that obscure the true meaning of this season that are filled with emotion akin to panic. The tension grows greater each year.

We at SFH resolve to spend our Advent in thoughtful preparation. And, if there is to be a countdown, it will not be shopping days that we count, it will be days in anticipation of the great feast day that is known as “Christmas”.

It is also resolved by the residents of SFH to encounter this Advent with joy and, this must be said, Advent will be a time of great and good humor. Our SFH traditions will continue – yes, even “Yard Trash Day”. (See “All things have their season” – Even Yard Trash and SFH Journal: 2018-12-08 through 14 “Yard Trash Day”).

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Now there is one seasonal tradition, unfortunately, that might not be observed this Advent – the Elf on the Shelf. (See SFH Journal: 2018-12-04 through 07.)

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Why is that? Well, it seems that in our decorating SFH for Advent, my beautiful Wife has been unable to find the little guy. At least six times whilst I’ve been composing this post, my beloved Spouse has entered the office exclaiming with a slight southern drawl, “I can’t find my Elf on the Shelf, dadgum!”

I consulted with Mr. Monte, our SFH Chief of Security, with regard to our concern over the fact that the aforesaid Elf was apparently AWOL. He quickly responded that his search of the premises had not uncovered anything unusual. His report, however, was a bit less than reassuring because I thought I saw some red velvet fuzz on his upper lip.

Meanwhile the search continues.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2019-11-25 through 12-01

 

Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

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Here at Serendipity Farmhouse we try to live by our motto – “Pray, Prepare, Preserve”. That motto has meanings on many levels. One level speaks to mankind’s most primitive and essential need – food. We “Pray” for our harvest; we “Prepare” the gardens with physical labor and constant care; then, when all is ripe and ready, we carefully “Preserve” a portion of the harvest so there will be “food for tomorrow”.

And so, this preserving season has begun. No, I don’t say the canning season has begun because there are many ways to preserve food. Yes, we do canning, but we also freeze, dehydrate, dry can, ferment, and many other things to preserve our food. By way of example, while this preserving season is quite young we have already:

  • Frozen three 4oz containers of pesto, made from our own basil;
  • Pickled five ½ pint jars of hot peppers; and
  • Frozen one package of sliced okra.

Granted, in the grand scheme things, many might think that SFH is just a very small, amateurish enterprise. That’s OK. Let them think what they will. Lovely Spouse, Mr.Monte, and I, however, greatly enjoy what we do and we take pride in what we do.

It’s the little things that add up. For example, let’s take a look at those five ½ pint jars of  “Peter’s Pickled Peppers”. You cannot find the equivalent in any grocery store. First, the jalapeno peppers were perfect in every detail. Then we added Cow Horn peppers to impart a subtle nuance to the flavor. Finally, each jar of peppers has a clove of garlic grown in our very own herb garden. Everything in each of those five jars is fresh and high quality.

Dear and gentle Reader, when we open one of those jars in December, and spread out the contents on a relish tray for Christmas dinner, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that only the best of the best will be on the table as we call to mind the birth of the One Who has given us everything.

So, quietly and without fanfare the 2019 SFH preserving season has begun. There will be time enough for fanfare and compliments when the cold days of Winter are upon us.

This year, we have added a page to the blog to allow you to keep up with the daily harvest. Go and check out SFH 2019 Harvest to see how bountiful this growing season has been already.

Another new page, just added today, will give you a chance to see how the harvest translates into “food for tomorrow” by means of preserving. Go check out SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow because this is going be a great year for tomatoes, okra, and peppers.

P.S. Mr. Monte has been especially vigilant this year, performing inspections all of our preserving supplies, monitoring general cleanliness, and ensuring adherence to SFH Test Kitchen “best practices”.

 

 

St. Benedict of Nursia – July 11

St. Benedict of Nursia is the patron saint of Serendipity Farmhouse and this blog. Today is his feast. We are Oblates of St. Benedict and we strive to live by his Holy Rule. Prayer and Work, practicing hospitality and leading a spiritual life have become primary considerations for daily life at SFH.

Because we are in the midst of our growing season, and the heat and humidity are oppressive, we take heart from the Rule of St. Benedict. This extract from Chapter 48 provides an insight on how we try learn from the Rule and apply it to our daily lives.

 

CHAPTER 48: THE DAILY MANUAL LABOR

364px-Heiligenkreuz.St._Benedict-AIdleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.

We believe that the times for both may be arranged as follows: From Easter to the first of October, they will spend their mornings after Prime till about the fourth hour at whatever work needs to be done. From the fourth hour until the time of Sext, they will devote themselves to reading. But after Sext and their meal, they may rest on their beds in complete silence; should a brother wish to read privately, let him do so, but without disturbing the others. They should say None a little early, about midway through the eighth hour, and then until Vespers they are to return to whatever work is necessary. They must not become distressed if local conditions or their poverty should force them to do the harvesting themselves. When they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are really monks. Yet, all things are to be done with moderation on account of the fainthearted.

(As taken from The Rule of St. Benedict – In Latin and English with Notes – 1980)

Picture Credit: St Benedict of Nursia writing the Benedictine rule, portrait in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1926) by Herman Nieg (1849-1928) |Source= own photo |Date= 21 June 2006