Category: Pray, Prepare, Preserve

A Case of Lawn Tractor Blues😒

They say you should prepare for nasty seasonal diseases, but how can you prepare for the most frightening of them all – a case of lawn tractor blues? And this year it hit me hard. The weakness and pain persist. I’m only beginning to recover. – So, let me tell you how it struck; what I did to ease the pain; and the nearly miraculous cure.

Onset of the Lawn Tractor Blues

I felt the blues coming on at the worst possible time. The National Weather Service predicted a sustained heat wave. At the same time, Serendipity Farmhouse was in the midst of a severe drought. I was hot and tired, but the farmhouse chores had to be done.

lawn tractor blues

There’s a lot of rugged terrain on the vast 1.203-acre SFH estate. Even the best-made lawn tractors would only have a limited lifetime here. The rocks, holes, and ridges make it a rough ride for driver and tractor alike. On the 2nd of September, my Cub Cadet and I were both very weary.

This is what happened.

We were clearing leaves, mowing weeds, all the usual things. The north 40 was done, and we were just finishing off the south 40. That’s when it happened. The old Cub Cadet just stopped moving. – The motor was running. The blades were spinning. But we just stopped.

I checked everything I could. It seemed that the drive belt was still in place. With the little I had to go on, I had to conclude that the worst possible thing had happened. – It appeared that I had just witnessed the death of the tractor’s transmission. And along with that, I foresaw the death of large portion of emergency funds. (Fortunately, we plan ahead and have some emergency funds.)

Of course, it was a holiday weekend. Nothing could be done until Tuesday. When I finally talked to the repair tech, he said we’ll pick it up later this week.

On the scheduled day, I singlehandedly pushed my beloved tractor to the front drive. Later that day, they took it away.

Meanwhile, because it’s that time of year, I ordered two cords of firewood. – Like everything else, it cost more than last year.

lawn tractor blues

The Pain of Lawn Tractor Blues

Yep, my case of the lawn tractor blues was setting in hard. Then, when I talked to the repair service, it only got worse. Let’s just say the estimate for repair was somewhere around $1,800.00. – That’s when my dear wife Blondie and my erstwhile companion Mr. Monte caught the lawn tractor blues from me. – It was over 100 degrees outside, and inside we were all moaning from financial pain.

The firewood was coming soon. The tractor wouldn’t be fixed for many weeks to come. That meant that the Cub Cadet wouldn’t be available to haul wood to the shed. Every cartload would have to be pulled by hand. – I felt very sick, indeed!

A Nearly Miraculous Cure

Yesterday, I received a call from the tractor service repair technician. He had already told me that he was preparing to order the replacement transmission from Cleveland. So, I figured he had called to give me the final estimate. I had some tissue sitting next to me to wipe away the tears. – – – – I waited for his words with the same feeling of agony as someone awaiting the sound of the blade sliding down the guillotine.

“Sir, the problem with your lawn tractor isn’t quite what we originally thought. I had my technician bring it in so we could check it again. That’s when we found the oil residue around the front drive pulley. We also found a lot of oil on the drive belt.”

“Sir, it’s not often that I get to give this kind of good news to a customer. There’s nothing wrong with your transmission. The oil filter was loose and dripping oil on the belt. We tightened up the oil filter and replaced the drive belt. We can return your tractor next week – Of course there will be a service charge, but it will be nearly $1,500 dollars less than our original estimate. – Is that okay with you?”

Suddenly, all the symptoms of my case of lawn tractor blues disappeared. And when I told Blondie and Mr. Monte, they were instantly cured as well.

The Moral of this Story

Blondie and I prayed that things would work out for us. But we didn’t see how they could. And, as I’ve said all these many years, “Serendipity is the answer to a prayer you should have prayed but didn’t. – The moral of this story is: The cure for a case of lawn tractor blues is prayer and a little bit of Serendipity.

lawn tractor blues

No Need for A Farmhouse Nightmare

Wednesday morning, fire destroyed a Sperryville auto shop and nearby utility lines; it could have caused a Serendipity Farmhouse nightmare. But, due to practical planning and a small measure of serendipity, it didn’t.

According to the Rappahannock News story Explosions, fire destroy Sperryville auto shop:

A local auto shop in Sperryville was razed early Wednesday morning after catching fire and exploding, downing power lines and leaving more than 300 homes in the area without electricity.

The article explains that the incident occurred just before 5 AM. That was about when I had just finished my prayer time and was eating breakfast. I had heard some strange sounds outside and noticed the lights flickering. Then the Internet went dead and my telephone flashed, saying that I should check the line.

Something was going on. Soon the sound of sirens confirmed that a serious event had happened near Serendipity Farmhouse. It was only hours later that I would have the opportunity to assess the nature of this critical infrastructure event.

Critical Infrastructure Security

I suspect that very few of you have read A Guide to Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). – – Why would you?

That publication lists the 16 Current U.S. Critical Infrastructure Sectors. It also notes that there are four designated lifeline functionstransportation, water, energy, and
communications. The crucial assertion by this CISA publication is:

These connections and interdependencies between infrastructure elements and sectors mean that the loss of one or more lifeline function(s) typically has an immediate impact on the operation or mission in multiple sectors. [My emphasis added.]

Preliminary Lifeline Functions Assessment

Here is the event scene as it looked at 3 PM. The auto repair shop was totally destroyed. Most of the fire crews had departed. Apparently, Rappahannock Electric Company had already completed their on-site work. Power had been restored.

Multiple Verizon trucks had arrived, and workers were repairing telephone lines.

Xfinity technicians were performing repairs on Internet, TV cable, and digital phone lines.


Did the fire have an impact on transportation?

At 5:12 AM, The Rappahannock County Fire & Rescue Department reported: “Crews are working to extinguish a commercial structure fire in Sperryville. Please avoid the immediate town of Sperryville due to multiple exposures and dangerous conditions.”

Additionally, Son’s Road and Water Street were closed to through traffic. – This had some impact on Serendipity Farmhouse.


Did the fire have an impact on energy?

According to the Rappahannock News, over 300 homes in the area lost electric power. Owing to a bit of serendipity, electric power is fed to Serendipity Farmhouse via a different distribution circuit than feeds the central portion of Sperryville. But for those 300+ families, there was great concern and inconvenience.


Did the fire have an impact on water?

For the 300+ families without power, this was most certainly a big problem. Almost everyone in Sperryville gets their water from wells using electric pumps. No electricity means no water. No water for drinking, cooking, washing, or flushing.


Did the fire have an impact on communications?

As I noted earlier, Serendipity Farmhouse lost Xfinity/Comcast Internet access, cable, and telephone just before 5 AM. But Xfinity/Comcast users were not the only ones impacted. Verizon telephone lines are on the same utility poles as the electric and cable lines. This meant that, with the exception of mobile cell service, Sperryville was without communications.

Consider the implications of this 11:47 AM report from Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office: “Rappahannock County Public Safety Communication Center 911 lines are back up and operating. For non-emergency calls please dial 540-522-7355. Administrative lines remain down.

Lifeline Functions Resilience Plan

What do we do at Serendipity Farmhouse when the lights go out? – In the words of my most wonderful wife Blondie – “Panic!!”

But she and I know that after we allow ourselves a brief moment of panic and dread, we immediately set about implementing our Lifeline Functions Resilience Plan.

At Serendipity Farmhouse, we don’t live off-grid. And, as you can see by Wednesday’s fire, we are dependent on critical infrastructure. But because of thoughtful planning, there is no need for this type of event to become a farmhouse nightmare. Although we’re not homesteaders, preppers, or survivalists, we live a practical life. And we adhere to a commonsense motto that allows us to enjoy a good night’s sleep. That motto, of course, is Pray, Prepare, Preserve. That motto motivates us to prepare for events like this.

We know what the four lifeline functions are. We understand what loss of those functions means. So, we have developed a plan to build resilience into the way we run Serendipity Farmhouse. CISA defines resilience as:

Resilience may be defined as the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions. This means being able to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions, deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally-occurring threats or incidents.

Over the next few months, Blondie and I will show you what we do to ensure lifeline functions resilience. You will learn why, here at the vast 1.203-acre estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse, there is no need to have a farmhouse nightmare.

Sperryville is our community, the place where we live. Wednesday’s fire was destructive and tragic. Our prayers go out to Andrew Manuel, the owner of Wrextorations. You can donate to Wrextorations here.

The Wake-up Call

As always, the alarm went off at 4 AM today. But this was not just any day, and the wake-up call was filled with more than the simple expectations of other days. This was the wake-up call that comes from the readings of the 1st Sunday of Advent:

Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)

For us here at Serendipity Farmhouse and for millions throughout the world, this day marks the beginning of a new year; a year that renews a cycle of the divine promise and its fulfillment. With knowledge that the promise will be and is fulfilled, it is essential to take the time and to make the time in this season of Advent to pray to cast off the works of darkness; to prepare for our salvation; and to preserve in the heart of our family all that sustains the armor of light.

During Advent, our posts will be much as they usually are. There will be the practicality that is a happy part of our rural life. And of course, there will be humor wherever it can be found. To be sure, Mr. Monte will have a word or two to put Fuzzy in his proper place and to correct all of our human failings. But at the same time, we will attempt to reflect some of our Benedictine understanding of life as proclaimed in the Rule of St. Benedict, 43,3:

Ergo nihil operi Dei præponatur.
Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.

Report to St. Isidore – 2022

Dear St. Isidore,

Most of our readers know that May 15th is your feast day. With that in mind, I submitted my Spring planting report to you in our post Feast Day Garden Talk. I suspect, however, that few of our readers know that, at one time, your feast was also celebrated on October 25th. The two dates are both appropriate, each in its own way, as being representative of the gentle cycle of life we live here at Serendipity Farmhouse. May 15th can readily be seen as the beginning of our farming year, and October 25th coincides so well with the end of the harvest.

So, Hubby and I have decided that it is quite fitting to submit our harvest and food preserving report to you as soon as possible after the 25th. We ask that you please accept this report, which highlights the successes of our stewardship and humbly records some of our dismal failures.

Bottom Line Up Front:

The harvest for 2022 will go down in history as the best year yet for the vegetable and herb gardens proudly cultivated here on the vast 1.203 acres of the Serendipity Farmhouse estate. As you will see in the tables at the end of this post, the totals for our two specialty crops, okra and tomatoes, far exceeded all expectations. This is the first time that we have ever been able to have extra produce to use in experiments testing out different methods of preserving.


Big Okra Plants & Big Okra Totals: As you know Hubby added two new boxes to Vegetable Garden #2. He filled each with new garden soil and prepared half of one box specifically for okra. Over the years, we’ve come to agree with this statement made on the Southern States website: “Okra can grow from three to six feet tall.” One of the plants we bought from our local CSA, Waterpenny Farm, however, decided to reach a little higher than the average plant. That magnificent plant measured in at a fantastic 10 feet 3 inches from its base. It’s easy to see why our final okra totals were so high.

Varieties are the Spice of Life: The two new boxes finally gave us the room to compete twelve different varieties of tomatoes in a single season. For the first time, we were able compare quality and quantity to assist us in deciding the best varieties for cooking, salad making, canning, and freezing. In our table of harvest totals you will see which varieties we’ve decided will make a return appearance in the SFH gardens next year.

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Experiments in Food Preserving: With extra produce and array of new fresh herbs on hand, we were free to try a number experiments. All but one went quite well. Three of the more interesting experiments gave us: Dehydrated Okra, a most tasty snack; Pickled Dilly Beans, a great side for a light meal; and Tomato Jam, excellent on top of a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

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Not all that is planned well works out well: We planted quite a few beet seeds. But whatever we did in the planting and soil preparation obviously was not the right thing. For all of our effort all we received in turn was a single scrawny beet.

Likewise, we were really hot on the idea of fermenting. Our big mistake, however, was thinking that we should start with okra. After buying special equipment for fermenting and reading tens of articles, we decided to go ahead with a full quart jar of some of our finest okra. Now the world knows that if okra is not prepared properly, it can be quite slimy. Take it from us, fermenting okra increases the slime factor by several orders of magnitude. The best way to describe the results of this experiment gone wrong is to watch the 1958 American science fiction horror film “The Blob”.


That concludes the narrative part of our our report, St. Isidore. It was the best year ever. We’ve learned from our successes. We’ve learned from our failures. We’ve tried to be good stewards of what God has bestowed on Serendipity. The fruits of these labors constantly bring us joy.

The following two sections summarize the SFH 2022 Planting and Preserving season. You will find the full reports here and here.

2022 SFH Harvest Totals

Basil11Bunches12-May13-SepNext year
Dill5Bunches03-Jun11-SepNext year
Garlic Heads32Heads29-Jun29-JunNext year
Garlic Scapes32Scapes31-May31-MayNext year
Green Beans438Pods20-Jun24-SepNext year
Kale2Bunches12-May23-MayNext year
Okra, Green578Pods28-Jun19-OctNext year
Okra, Purple23Pods07-Jul07-JulRCHS
Oregano1Bunch27-Oct27-OctNext year
Parsley8Bunches12-May08-AugNext year
Peppers, Habanero59Peppers25-Jul24-Sep
Peppers, Jalapeno217Peppers20-Jun25-OctNext year
Romaine2Bunches12-May23-MayNext year
Tomato, Better Boy47Tomatoes15-Jul18-SepNext year
Tomato, Better Bush24Tomatoes13-Jul25-Sep
Tomato, Big Beef32Tomatoes20-Jul25-SepNext year
Tomato, Celebrity25Tomatoes12-Jul23-AugNext year
Tomato, Early Girl28Tomatoes06-Jul25-SepNext year
Tomato, German Queen9Tomatoes18-Aug03-Sep
Tomato, Husky Cherry381Tomatoes08-Jul25-SepNext year
Tomato, Mr. Stripey14Tomatoes28-Jul25-Sep
Tomato, Pink Brandywine8Tomatoes13-Aug29-Aug
Tomato, Roma61Tomatoes17-Jul25-SepNext year
Tomato, Super Sweet Cherry1106Tomatoes24-Jun05-OctNext year
Tomato, Zebra17Tomatoes28-Jul17-Sep

2022 SFH Preserving Totals

ItemQuantityType of Preservation
Dill Seeds1 packetStoring
Green Beans3 8-ounce bagsFreezing
Green Beans4 pint jarsPickling
Habanero Peppers2 pint & 1 1/4 jarsDehydrating
Jalapeno Peppers, Pickled9 half pint jarsCanning
Okra2 pint jarsDehydrating
Okra1 quart jarFermenting
Okra10 bagsFreezing
Okra, Pickled8 pint jarsCanning
Okra, Pickled1 quart jarRefrigerated
Oregano1/2 pint jarsDehydrating
Pasta Sauce6 pint jarsCanning
Sage1 pint jarDehydrating
Salsa24 pint jarsCanning
Tomato Jam5 1/2-pint jarsCanning
Tomatoes16+ lbs.Freezing

Feast Day Garden Talk

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

This is May 15th, the feast of St. Isidore. It is fitting and proper that on this day we make this report. That’s because we’ve asked St. Isidore 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. Isidore). 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. Isidore 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. Isidore, 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. Isidore, 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. Isidore, 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. Isidore. 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