Category: Pray, Prepare, Preserve

SFH Journal: 2018-07-22

Highlight: The Acts of the Apostles records the encounter of St. Philip, evangelist and deacon, who met the Ethiopian eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Ethiopia and converted him to Christianity. From this story, the elements of travel, safety, and salvation have all come together in the form of a prayer from the Roman Ritual used for the blessing of a wagon or other vehicle.

“Be gracious, O Lord God, to our prayers and bless this vehicle with Thy right hand. Send Thy holy angels to accompany it that they may keep from all evils those who ride in it; and as once Thou didst grant faith and grace through Thy deacon Philip to the Ethiopian riding in his chariot and reading the word of God, so now show the way of salvation to Thy servants that, always given to good works, they attain to everlasting joys after the vicissitudes of the journey and of this life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Today, our Deacon kindly visited our home and used a much longer form of the blessing for vehicles and blessed our Class C RV. You can be certain that, when El Camino Del Monte takes to the road on its maiden voyage, we will be accompanied by holy angels to guide and protect us on our journey.

Weather: Today was cloudy, cool, with mixed sunshine, rain, and drizzle.

2018-07-22: High – 77º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: Beautiful wife checked on the garden and harvested one okra pod.

Mr. Monte’s New Bug Out Bag

Of course, you remember this year’s first bout with heavy rain and potential flooding in early-June. If you don’t, see A Rainy Day – Pray, Prepare, Preserve.) One of Serendipity Farmhouse’s most notable characters, Mr. Monte to be precise, voiced his great displeasure.

0603181618cIt seems that he was not pleased with with the provisions we had made to evacuate him should the need arise. No, he wasn’t the least bit happy. Although, we had a cat pan, litter, and some food ready to go, His Excellency was exceedingly perturbed because he did not have his own personal bug out bag (BOB). While the big cats had taken care of themselves with brand new, well equipped BOBs, there was none at the ready for Mr. Monte.

Lesson Learned: His Highness demands, deserves, and will get a personal BOB for rainy days and other SFH contingencies.

Now, after giving sufficient thought to the problem of how to keep our feline friend happy, no matter what the circumstance, we have hopefully found a way to satisfy, if not all, at least most of the requirements levied by His Royal Highness. Here it is – Mr. Monte’s almost like new bug out bag:

0627181215b_HDR (2)

You will note in the featured picture at the beginning of this post how closely Mr. Monte is inspecting his almost like new BOB. He found two or three minor discrepancies during the first phase of his inspection and demanded that we email the dealer immediately. I meekly did so – and with appropriate haste.

Yes, our quest for this Class C RV, all along, was the result of demands made by SFH’s one and only Mr. Monte. As you might think, there will be many more episodes to this adventure.

Threat from the North Fork

Once again the North Fork of the Thornton River has threatened Serendipity Farmhouse. Once again Serendipity Farmhouse has weathered the storm safely.

The year 2018 will go down in the SFH  journal as a “weather year”. Weather has been the dominant factor in almost all of our many undertakings this year. A severe cold spell caused damage to plants and shrubs in January. High winds in March took down trees, forcing us to modify our garden landscaping – and our budget as well. And if you have been following our journal closely, you know how our vegetable garden has suffered the effects of too much water in May and June.

The most recent challenge to SFH was the threat that the North Fork of the Thornton River would overflow its banks and cause flooding in our yard. Heavy rains on the 21st and 22nd of June brought the river to the highest point we have ever seen it. Simultaneously, heavy runoff from higher ground filled our yard and driveway and was approaching Serendipity Farmhouse itself.

Beautiful and courageous wife had to face the challenge alone. Yours truly was nearly 2,000 miles away and could only lend support through prayer and advice. We had to determine our reaction to this event over the phone and through email as I made my way through three airports, running to catch flights.

We decided that our car was in jeopardy and valiant spouse piloted the vehicle to higher ground. Armed with only an umbrella and a pair of rubber boots, she forded the rising waters and and made the perilous trek. Of course, the faithful bugout bag and supplies for Mr. Monte were at the ready should an evacuation be required. Brave wife, however, declared to me on the phone that she had no intention of abandoning our beloved Serendipity Farmhouse.

By the time I made my way home, the danger had passed and the waters were receding. Sweet, dear wife and I embraced and Mr. Monte rubbed against my leg and characteristically meowed, “Where the heck have you been, Fuzz Face?”

As I write this Sunday morning, our yard still has abundant standing water. Although the garden appears to have weathered the storm, we are concerned that we will lose this year’s tomato crop.

In the end, we must be thankful to God. The house is safe and more importantly beautiful wife and I are together again. The saga of SFH continues.


A Rainy Day – Pray, Prepare, Preserve

There’s no reason to dwell on the obvious. When you live in an old farmhouse next to a river you must be aware and take care. Serendipity Farmhouse is technically on the 100 year flood plain. Any given year, that gives us a 1% chance of flooding. Yes – We do have flood insurance.

Having said all that, when weather events such as the last three weeks of rain, come our way, we:

  • pray for safety and protection;
  • prepare to limit damage and make a graceful retreat; and
  • preserve our collective calm and peace.

The bug out bags shown here are one measure we take to be prepared.


Mr. Monte, however, was not pleased with today’s events for one very good reason. Although, we have a cat pan, litter, and some food ready to go, His Excellency was exceedingly perturbed because he does not have a personal bug out bag.

Lesson Learned: His Highness demands, deserves, and will get a personal bug out bag for rainy days and other SFH contingencies.

We at SFH hope you have given sufficient thought to the problem of how to keep your feline friends happy no matter what the circumstance.



SFH Journal: 2018-05-17

Daily Highlight: The steady rains are continuing and it is becoming worrisome. Daughters #1 and #2 both have had water related incidents at their homes. Meanwhile our river continues to rise. I took some video two days ago and even then the volume and rate of flow were increasing. Below is some video we took in May of 2017 that shows what it looks like when the river is almost overflowing.

One might say that, with the forecasts for much heavy rain tonight and tomorrow, it’s time to prepare our “bug out bags” and extra kitty litter just in case we need to perform a minor evacuation to higher ground.

Prayers for the safety and security for all in the family are requested.

Weather: The rain continues and it is becoming worrisome.  (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.

Report to St. Isadore

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


St. Isadore, because we have asked you to be our patron for all things agricultural, horticultural, and in all efforts involving physical labor, it is proper that on the day of your Feast that we make this report.


Part I – The Herb Garden

Close to our back door, we have planted herbs to add flavor to our foods. A small cherry tomato bush will provide color for our salads. Loving Spouse has added several flowers because they are pleasant to the eye and for the practical reason to keep insects away. Although there was damage due to frost, the herb garden is now flourishing.

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Part II – The Vegetable Garden

Not all is going well in the vegetable garden. Recent heavy rains have beaten down the collards and beets. More rain is predicted this week. On the other hand, the okra and beans are sprouting quite nicely. Three different types of hot peppers are thriving. It was the first season for the asparagus. They have done well and they are tasty. Next year looks to be even better.

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Part III – Flowers and Plants

Today, we planted a new lilac bush in the place where a holly tree was taken down by strong winds. We also planted new grass in several areas. Yes, we even planted grass where our world-famous dirt pile used to be. Meanwhile, the rhododendrons near the shed are in full bloom, as are the small irises near the wellhead in the front. Our magnolia tree is promising many blooms come June.

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

Finally, today we held a belated May Crowning in our special garden.

May Crowning

Living by Chapter 49 – Lent

Saint_Benedict_Medal1 The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. 2 Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure 3 and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. (Excerpt from the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 49)

We said on day one of this blog: “He [God] has led us and guided us through the years and He has given us aid and sustenance all along the way. One very important gift was the grace to become Oblates of St. Benedict and to live in that calling.”

We have passed the midpoint in Lent. Our observance has not been perfect. St. Benedict knew that few “have the strength for this.” Yet, we do our best to deny ourselves “some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”

At the very top of the obverse side of the medal of St. Benedict is the simple word “Pax” – “Peace”. Here at  Serendipity Farmhouse, our simple observance of Lent – the quiet of the evening meals together, the moving of dirt and preparation for planting, and blossoming daffodils – brings us to that Peace.

Just thought you might like to know.

SFH PPP 2018-01: Living the Life of Riley

Sometimes critter cams have a somewhat slanted view.

WS5As we write this, the winds of Winter Storm Riley continue to assault Serendipity Farmhouse, but they are beginning to subside. In their wake there is damage and destruction. We lost two holly trees and now we have a pine tree that looks like a famous bell tower in Pisa, Italy. It will take days to clear the debris and even longer to remove the downed trees. On Monday, I officially begin “semi-retirement”. This, dear readers, is not the way I expected to be “living the life of Riley”.

Let’s put the moral up front this time: Our tagline “Pray, Prepare, Preserve” is more than just a fancy alliteration. Here at SFH, it’s our way of life.

Pray: As Winter Storm Riley approached, my beautiful spouse and I recognized that the predicted 70 mph gusts would necessarily bring damage, power outages, and serious inconveniences. We made it a special intention in our prayers to ask for protection for ourselves, our family, our friends, and all God’s children in the path of Riley.

Prepare: We are not “preppers”. We are not “survivalists”. We are practical people who understand that things can go wrong. For that reason it is always wise to have food, water, fuel, and other items ready for use in time of emergency. You can never be prepared for everything, but you can do a lot to spare yourself from injury and inconvenience.

Preserve: We’ve learned it’s important to remember both what we did right and what we did wrong. We preserve our “lessons learned” – we write them down. We replace mistakes with corrections. We review and revise our emergency plans accordingly. – Then, we go back to Step One – Pray!

So how did we at Serendipity Farmhouse make out during Winter Storm Riley?

Not only did we pray before the storm, we prayed frequently during the early morning hours of March 2nd. It was hard to sleep and by midnight there were brief power outages. By two in the morning, the metal roof was making frightening sounds and by 2:30 the power was completely out.

In the midst of the howling wind and the sounds of distressed metal on the roof, the view from the windows was oddly and eerily captivating. The Full Worm Moon illuminated the yard and the wildly swinging branches became mysteriously moving shadows all about. Mr. Monte was beside himself, running from window to window, both frightened and fascinated.

And then there was no power. There were no lights, no telephone, no Internet, no water, and there was no heat from the propane furnace. Serendipity Farmhouse was returned to the way it was when it was born in 1927 – no electricity and no indoor plumbing.

At four, I lit a fire in the wood stove. There was heat. We broke out the emergency lights WS8and lanterns. If necessary we also had a paraffin lamp on the farm table in the dining room. I also brought out one of our three emergency radios and tuned in a station that carries weather, closings and emergency news. Ten gallons of flushing water and a supply of potable water were stored nearby.

Then the lights came on. Hurrah! Beautiful spouse made herself a cup of coffee in the Keurig. I was next in line (Mr. Monte seldom drinks coffee, otherwise he would have been ahead of me) and I was just about to make my cup – – – – darkness, again! Arghh! Beautiful, wonderful, gracious, kind, adorable wife let me have the last half of her cup.

As the morning progressed, the house was warm and wife went back to bed. I began writing down my lessons learned.

Lesson Learned No. 1: Add a jar of instant coffee to our emergency supplies. We have a percolator coffee pot and a can of Bustelo, but instant coffee require less water.

Lesson Learned No. 2: Filling in my journal of events I, of course, longed for my laptop. Yet, upstairs we have this beautiful old Hermes manual typewriter. If I only had a ribbon for it, I would have greatly enjoyed typing out our experiences.

As we approached hour eight without power, our thoughts turned to the food in our refrigerator and freezer. It wasn’t cold enough to put the frozen food on the porch. That wasn’t an option. So, it was to the shed and load the generator on the wagon. I brought it to the house, ran extension cords to the freezer and refrigerator. Voila! Within minutes the appliances were doing their jobs and the food was preserved from harm.

Lesson Learned No. 3: While hooking up extension cords, never make a mess on the kitchen counters. Wife is OCD and gets very upset.

Then, with wind still whistling and blowing, I surveyed the estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse. There was debris everywhere. Two holly trees, both of which had required a great deal of labor to tame and look presentable, had been uprooted. No damage was done, but we will miss those two hollies.

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WS6SFH has a rather extensive vineyard. Our vast plantings extend to one whole, entire grapevine that has not produced a single grape in three seasons. That grapevine possesses a regal arbor as it resting place. Today, that arbor remains flat on the ground and our forlorn grapevine continues to hold on for dear life.

Finally, there is debris, a great deal of debris – branches, limbs, and twigs.  My beautiful wife insists that it be immediately retrieved and handled in a suitable manner. Yes, my dearest most beloved spouse has explicitly commanded that I take care of it and take care of it soon! (Just because I often make piles of branches and am somewhat tardy in disposing of them, she thinks that this pile of debris would not be handled expeditiously.) Under threat of severe penalties, I have decided to dispose of this new pile soonest.

And so it is and so it was meant to be during this windstorm at Serendipity.