Category: Pray, Prepare, Preserve

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

Memorial Day – Thoughts & Leftovers

Memorial Day – Thoughts: My Dad always told me to do the hard things first. So, I will.

I’ve been in harm’s way several times, but I always came home to my family. However, many I knew, some acquaintances and some close friends, are still on patrol. That I am here and safe and free with children and grandchildren is both by God’s grace and their sacrifice. This is no small topic nor is it easy to ponder. It is a hard thing to remember, a very hard thing to recall, but on Memorial Day, I do the hard things first and to those still on patrol, I salute you all!

Memorial Day – Leftovers: It all came together yesterday, the 28th of May. Today will be spent in recovery. – – “What happened? Why need for recovery?” you ask. Allow me to lay out the timeline and you will begin to understand.

25 May: Our celebration of the national holiday and the unofficial start of Summer began in a quite unexpected and pleasing way. While piloting my massive and powerful lawn tractor, navigating through the varied and pleasant grounds of our vast (nearly 1.25 acre) estate, my excellent and most neighborly neighbor entered the yard carrying a quite heavily laden sack of something.  My curiosity as to the contents of the sack was quickly satisfied as he handed me the parcel containing 42 Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Beautiful wife saw the exchange of oysters and a relatively small amount of cash and quickly closed in on us. She had a very justified suspicion that this transaction would bring about some type of change to her menu for the holiday weekend – and so it did.

Because chicken thighs and legs had already been thawed for supper, dear Spouse declared that the oysters would have to wait until the following day. Although somewhat disappointed that we would have to postpone the oysters, the grilled chicken, potatoes, and salad made a great meal and all of us, including the somewhat hard-to-please Mr. Monte, were content. – – So it was on 25 May.

26 May: Dawn brought with it the delightful anticipation of an evening repast of more oysters than we could have ever imagined. When the appropriate time arrived, yours truly, following the same procedures we outlined in our post of SFH 0520181632 Journal: 2018-09-20, prepared a seafood feast fit for royalty. Needless to say, we found that large quantity of oysters more than sated any cravings or hunger pangs that we might have had. Then, we called our neighbor to thank him for his efforts in procuring the oysters. Instead of replying with a simple thank you, he said he had actually shortchanged us and within minutes he was at our doorstep with 20 more oysters to complete our feast.

Oysters don’t keep well and we were too full to eat any more. So, we stored the tasty sea critters carefully in the fridge, knowing they would have to be prepared very soon. – – So it was on 26 May.

27 May: The intended, planned, and clearly outlined intent for dinner on Memorial Day was aDSC_0273 rack of baby back ribs. They had been removed from the freezer on the 25th and thawed. Yours truly, following the same procedures we outlined in our post Baby Back Ribs at SFH, grilled the ribs to perfection. There were some slight modifications to side dishes, but the main ingredient, that huge rack of ribs, was present before us. We ate heartily and for a second day we had eaten to our capacity. Well almost – that is when we remembered the ice cream and chocolate syrup. Yes, we added the ice cream to finish the feast. But there was still a half rack of ribs unconsumed. It was stored in the fridge alongside the extra oysters. – – So it was on 27 May.

28 May: The fridge was now overflowing with leftovers. But my dear, creative Spouse0908181555 (2) noted that to make a meal with just oysters and ribs left something lacking. There were no vegetables to adorn the plate. Having been in the garden recently and imagining how good the newly planted okra would be when mature, it came to her that we had frozen several packs of okra at the end of the last growing season. (See our post SFH Journal: 2018-09-06 through 08 for details) She immediately seized upon the idea to add fried okra to the evening repast – the okra surely would be the item to bring together oysters and ribs and make them a balanced meal.

Yours truly, following the same procedures we outlined in our post of SFH Journal: 2018-09-20, prepared for the second time in three days a seafood feast fit for royalty. At the same time, I warmed leftover ribs and corn on the cob.

Our timing was perfect. Charming and creative wife fried up two bags of okra using her as yet secret fried okra recipe. She finished precisely at the same time I pulled the last oyster off the grill.

We brought the oysters to the table and ate them as an appetizer in the same way the rich and famous would do at a fine restaurant. Then, we made our way to the kitchen and filled our plates with ribs, corn on the cob, and the most tasty fried okra in the universe. Returning to the table, Mr. Monte examined all the components of the feast and nodded his head in approval. And then we ate. – – Perhaps we ate more than we should have, but, surely, there was never such a fine array of leftovers assembled in all of Creation.

Of course, knowing that this meal and all meals come to us by God’s grace, we gave thanks and prayed in remembrance of those whom we honor on Memorial Day. – – So it was on 28 May.

SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash

Many who don’t know me well think it odd that I often speak of Godzilla movies and Japanese monsters. They would think it even more odd if they knew that the first time I held each of my grandchildren I said, “God, Baseball, Godzilla.” And it would seem to those same people entirely unfathomable why my dear, sweet spouse would choose Godzilla as the theme for my 70th birthday. Yet, so she did. – Here’s the reason why. Continue reading “SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash”

SFH Journal: 2019-01-20 through 24

Highlight: The Serendipity Farmhouse motto is Pray, Prepare, Preserve. Recently, we here at the Farmhouse have had to live by that motto. Two family members have had to undergo serious medical procedures. This has been a time where our close family has grown closer. We have prayed with hope and humility. We have prepared for outcomes, both the favorable and the not so favorable. We have preserved our faith in God and our trust in each other. As a family, this is what we do and who we are.

Now you can understand why we may have seemed a bit preoccupied and why there haven’t been many posts. Family takes precedence. Even Mr. Monte knows that. This week he has been exceptionally well behaved – no teeth and no claws for yours truly and he has stayed close to my beautiful wife, ever showing that he understands her concerns.

In need of cheer, my wonderfully talented spouse brought color and beauty to the soon to be world famous SFH Test Kitchen. It was a simple addition and it was a truly welcomed addition – a few colorful flowers, simply arranged in a porcelain five-finger vase. Now, the place where we make our meals has also become a place to lift our spirits. It’s just another way, in a world so filled with doubts and fears, to Pray, Prepare, Preserve.

SFH WX Station Report: The wood stove has had a workout this last week; temperatures dipped into the single digits. Another cold spell is expected within a few days. Winter is upon us.

2019-01-20 Full details here.

Summary High Low Average
Temperature 44.2 °F 17.2 °F 30.6 °F
Dew Point 40.6 °F 0.9 °F 21.1 °F
Humidity 99% 41% 70%
Precipitation 0.18 in

2019-01-21 Full details here.

Summary High Low Average
Temperature 25 °F 11.7 °F 18.4 °F
Dew Point 4.5 °F -7.2 °F -2.7 °F
Humidity 57% 26% 42%
Precipitation 0 in

2019-01-22 Full details here.

Summary High Low Average
Temperature 32.4 °F 9.5 °F 21 °F
Dew Point 14.5 °F -2.2 °F 4.9 °F
Humidity 85% 24% 49%
Precipitation 0 in

2019-01-23 Full details here.

Summary High Low Average
Temperature 51.8 °F 25.9 °F 38.8 °F
Dew Point 48.6 °F 11.8 °F 31.1 °F
Humidity 98% 54% 76%
Precipitation 0.12 in

2019-01-24 Full details here.

Summary High Low Average
Temperature 57.2 °F 32.2 °F 44.7 °F
Dew Point 56.1 °F 21 °F 38.9 °F
Humidity 99% 56% 81%
Precipitation 0.58 in

SFH Journal: 2018-11-25 through 28

Highlight: When a friend is called home unexpectedly, you are given cause to think. In these Autumn days your thoughts cannot resist the influence of the wind and chill that surround you.

Those of us who hail from from the Great Lakes region know the cold wind off the lakes as “the Hawk”. The term is most closely associated with the Windy City, Chicago. My time at the nearby Naval Training Center Great Lakes gave me many days out in the open on the “grinder” (drill field). That was where I met the Hawk close up and personal. That is where the chill of the wind and my thoughts of life and death began to merge.

Today was a cold, blustery day. It was a day I would spend time out in the wind with my hat off of my balding head. Standing at my friend’s graveside, I recalled those cold days back in the 60’s. I was not overly saddened. How could I be? Even though unexpected, I knew that times like these must come. Was it not true, my friend was called home as some day I hope to be?

It was appropriate that today a local critter friend, our lone hawk, would return to Serendipity Farmhouse to take up his Winter residence. I spotted him sitting on the clothes line post, enjoying the brisk morning breeze atop his majestic vantage point. He and I have something in common. Even on a cold, blustery day, Serendipity Farmhouse is but a temporary home.

As evening brings an end to this day, I take time to pray, “May my dear friend, who has answered the call, have eternal rest and everlasting peace in his true home.”

Weather:  Temperatures all over the place. Wednesday the 28th was blustery. (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-25: High/Low – 61º/34º

2018-11-26: High/Low – 59º/43º

2018-11-27: High/Low – 41º/32º

2018-11-28: High/Low – 36º/30º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-09-17 through 19

Highlight: Let’s keep the lady who mistakenly pulled into our driveway this afternoon in our prayers. She was lost and seemed somewhat distressed. The reason was apparent when you looked at her license plate – it said “North Carolina”. She was trying to get back home and find her loved ones. I pray that she was able to follow my directions and that she will soon be reunited with her family.

Weather: Until SFH has its own weather sensors and rain gauges, any of the weather data reported below is likely to be skewed or entirely incorrect. For example, on Monday, we had to evacuate SFH due to a flash flood. Some local folks are saying that over eight inches fell in our area. In Luray, just a few miles away, they reported a total of 0.47 inches of rain and most of that was in the morning.

2018-09-17: High – 80º (Details – click here.)

2018-09-18: High – 82º (Details – click here.)

2018-09-19: High – 86º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: Unlike the weather reports, the harvest count is entirely accurate and credible. Each time beautiful wife brings the harvest bucket into the house, Mr. Monte carefully sorts the various items into stacks – okra in one pile, tomatoes in another pile, etc. Then he writes down his count of the individual items. How does he do that you might ask? If you had a cat as smart as Mr. Monte the answer would be immediately obvious to you – he uses a scratch pad.

2018-09-17: Nothing to report

2018-09-18: Nothing to report

2018-09-19: 7 okra pods, 9 cherry tomatoes, no fingers

Monte’s Bug Out Buggy to the Rescue

They say, “A man’s home is his castle.” And, in my mind, Serendipity Farmhouse is my castle. It is where I find my solitude. It is a safe haven for my family. It is our fortress. Having said that, I have never, ever requested that my castle have a moat. Last night, however, despite my strident objections, Florence blessed Serendipity Farmhouse with a quite impressive moat. A moat that effectively cut SFH off from the rest of the world with a terrifying mass of surging water.

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The water begins pooling up

It started with a series of intense downpours. A narrow band of storms moved north-north easterly up the Blue Ridge. When they passed Charlottesville, the grew in strength. By the time they reached SFH, they dumped rain in a concentrated deluge into our local watershed.

Water began to cascade down from the nearby golf course and road into our driveway and yard. Meanwhile, the North Fork of the Thornton River was rapidly reaching full capacity. The rush of water was nearing the edge of the banks. Prudence dictated that we take the two cars to higher ground. El Camino Del Monte (Monte’s Bug Out Buggy) remained in the driveway, ready if needed.

I had watched the situation on radar and saw that more rain was coming. My natural concern was now becoming an urgent worry. Sweet, adorable wife, on the other hand, was more concerned about what might be happening to our son and two daughters. Tornadoes were predicted in my Son’s area and both daughters had homes prone to flooding. Wife was intent on praying for them and was putting off the idea that we might need prayers ourselves.

The downpours continued to visit us, one after another, and each one brought new intensity and greater amounts of water. Beautiful wife and I needed to talk. And so we did. We encountered difficulty in deciding whether we should evacuate or remain ensconced in SFH.

Two events helped us make a rapid decision. First, wonderful spouse saw water lapping at the side of the house opposite from the river. She began to see that there was a chance for us being cut off from an escape route. The second thing was the true deciding factor, the tie-breaker. Mr. Monte entered the room wearing a pair of swimming goggles and a snorkel.

Wife immediately said she would gather some extra food and supplies. Mr. Monte, a bit indignantly, entered into his carrier. We turned off lights, secured the house, and made our way into Mr. Monte’s Bug Out Buggy. In just a few minutes, the driveway had become covered by two to six inches of water. It was filling from both the high ground runoff and from the river overflowing its banks. We had little time to spare.

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Our driveway as it appeared moments before we pulled out

All passengers were in place. The engine was started. It was getting dark and the rain was obscuring the view. Lights were turned on. Wipers were activated. I put the RV into drive. Slowly and carefully I began the journey out the flooding lane. Water splashed to both sides. Mr. Monte hunkered down in his carrier and released a worried mew. Wife was praying.

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The threatening railroad tie early the next morning

As a swipe of the wipers cleared the windshield for a brief moment, I saw it. It was just ahead of us on the right side of the drive. It was large, long, and dark. I had to veer sharply to the left. As we passed by the object, the next swipe of the wipers allowed me to see the large railroad tie that the water had pushed into our driveway.

Minutes later, we had made it to the high ground. The Bug Out Buggy was parked next to our two cars. We began to settle in. Mr. Monte emerged from his carrier and had some food. He reckoned rightly that we were out of harms way. Wife and I prayed a Rosary in thanksgiving and asked that our home might remain safe. There were a few more details that had to be handled, then we turned in for the night.

Mr. Monte, now a veteran RV cat, stood watch at the window while we slept. Assured in his mind that all was well, he jumped into the upper bunk and kept vigil while we slept.

Promptly at 3:55 AM, Mr. Monte called reveille. Get up Fuzz Face! Get up Blondie! First feed me, then let’s get back to Serendipity Farmhouse and assess the damage. We did precisely as he requested.

Though the water came to all sides of the house, it never rose high enough to do damage. But the force of the flowing water was evident. One large stone, perhaps weighing twenty pounds was rolled over 30 feet from it place in the garden. The grass around the house was flattened and matted, but all the damage was superficial.

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We had prayed – our prayers were answered.

We had prepared – but we learned some new lessons.

We had preserved our loved ones – each other.

Having lived through this relatively minor emergency, we can only think about the folks in North Carolina and other places who had to suffer through so much more. Tonight, our prayers are with them. May God protect and preserve them.

Also it is necessary to say to Mr. Monte – thank you for letting us use your Bug Out Buggy.

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The Bug Out Buggy deployed for evacuation

 

 

 

El Camino Del Monte – Shakedown Cruise #2

Good day to all of my adoring fans throughout the world!

After a threat of terrible bloodshed and carnage, Old Fuzz Face relinquished the keyboard and allowed me my rightly due, that is, I shall be the one to relate the sequence of events that took place on the second Shakedown Cruise of the good RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM).

As reported in SFH Journal: 2018-09-12 & 13 yesterday, I and my sometimes intrepid crew have returned to the safe harbor of Serendipity Farmhouse. Old Fuzz Face, Blondie, and I, Mr. Monte the Magnificent, once again, have braved the open road, steep hill climbs, perilous descents at excessive speed from high ridges, and the exhausting life of a luxury RV campground.

(Please note carefully: A “luxury RV campground” only refers to luxury for humans. The fact that canines (slobbering, yapping, flea-infested dogs) are allowed in an RV campground, seriously detracts from the “luxury” that any exalted feline might enjoy.)

I must commend Blondie for having the forethought to understand how stressful the pet-remedy-200ml-spray-750x750barking, yapping, and generally distasteful sound of dogs might be to my royal sensitivities. She had sprayed ECDM with a preparation called “pet remedy”, a “natural de-stress and calming” spray.

Now, you must understand that, although the spray may have helped me some, there is more to this story. A close reading of the “pet remedy” box shows that this product works with all mammals. Let’s face it, Fuzz Face and Blondie are, in fact, mammals. It is my contention that one reason why this shakedown cruise went so well was because my two humans were even more influenced by this spray than was I.

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Blondie just made my lunch and I express my satisfaction

This was a far, far better cruise than the first. It was highlighted by many successful undertakings. One might say that my two big cats (i.e. trainable humans) have almost gotten their act together. And, although not all things went perfectly, for example the large knot on Fuzz Face’s forehead and the severely scraped and bruised area on Blondie’s right shin, we return with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Join us over the next week or two as I, with feeble and faltering technical assistance from Fuzz Face, recount our shakedown cruise experiences.

(For a look at what happened on Shakedown Cruise #1, look here, here, here, here & here.)

SFH Journal: 2018-09-09 through 11

Highlight: As you will see in the Weather topic, there is every reason to believe that we will have a high water event at Serendipity Farmhouse. Our motto is “Pray, Prepare, Preserve”. So, it should come as no surprise that Mr. Monte, my beautiful spouse, and yours truly, old Fuzz Face, are making preparations for heavy rain and high winds. Be assured, the generator is working, the lightweight objects in the yard have been stored away, and Mr. Monte’s bug out buggy (our RV, El Camino Del Monte) has been readied to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Weather: The story can be told with two names – GORDON & FLORENCE. The remnants of tropical storm GORDON dumped water in our area and has kept the river unusually high. Now there is the prospect of hurricane FLORENCE bringing enough rain to cause the river to overflow its banks.

2018-09-09: High – 60º, precipitation 0.75 (Details – click here.)

2018-09-10: High – 68º, precipitation 0.12 (Details – click here.)

2018-09-11: High – 69º, precipitation 0.00 (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: 

2018-09-09: Nothing to report

2018-09-10: 10 okra pods, 6 jalapenos

2018-09-11: Nothing to report