Category: Seasons

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

SFH Journal: 2020-07-06 through 07-12

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Hi! Mr. Monte here.

Warning to my 23, 417 feline followers: If you don’t live in Virginia and you can’t handle heat and high humidity, do not, I repeat, do not venture to this Commonwealth during July or August. Don’t question me on this point and don’t disregard my warning – you will be very sorry if you do.

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Ol’ Fuzz Face has taken the day off to drink iced coffee and huddle alongside the air conditioner. He is not a native Virginian like I am and he literally wilts in the heat. Poor guy, his brain gets addled when he has to mow or perform the other outside chores I assign to him. Add to that the current concern that many of Fuzzie’s “little grey cells” are migrating to the few hairs remaining on his head. The poor guy just isn’t what he used to be. In fact, I’m beginning to question whether he ever really was.

However, Blondie and Fuzz Face do have a legitimate concern about the long string of hot days with virtually no rain. As you can see below in the stats for July, we are working our way towards drought conditions. Just yesterday, my two big cats realized that they could no longer water the vegetable, herb, and flower gardens as liberally as they had been doing. While watering the Coneflowers and strawberries, the water pressure dropped to nearly zero.

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Fuzzie checked the pump and it was operating normally. The filter was relatively clean and showing no signs of sediment buildup. After he, Blondie and I talked the problem through, we determined that the problem, simply put, is the well is not refreshing itself rapidly enough to keep up with the demand.

The SFH well is old, relatively shallow (less than 60 feet) and has always been considered low-yielding. Now that water tables are dropping, Blondie and Fuzz Face are going to have to moderate their water usage. For example, only food producing plants are going to be watered regularly. Flower gardens are going to have wait for rain or an occasional dousing from a watering can.

I love Blondie and Fuzzie because they were smart enough to bring me into their lives and because they are willing to sacrifice for their family and for the well-being of Serendipity Farmhouse. – – Sometimes, their willingness to sacrifice goes a little too far. Blondie and I both had to stop Fuzz Face from going ahead with his own personal list of sacrifices. Right at the top of his list was only taking a shower every two weeks. – – Blondie and I both vetoed that offer immediately. – – I suspect this was another manifestation of his migrating “little grey cells”.

SFH by the Numbers

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 2020-07-06 through 07-12

SFH Journal: 2020-05-18 through 06-07 – Summer Arrives

Meteorological Summer: There are several conventions for what constitutes “summer.” Here at Serendipity Farmhouse we use the meteorological convention, that is, “summer” is comprised of the months of June, July, and August. That being said, we can now declare that Summer has arrived at SFH.

I didn’t need an encyclopedia to understand that Summer was here. There are literally hundreds of obvious clues and indicators to make the point. For example, the first blossom on our magnolia tree tells the story. It is surrounded by a myriad of buds, each ready to burst open in their magnificent seasonal display.

There is one exceedingly unavoidable sign proving that the hot, humid days of Summer have arrived. Observe the following pictures.

– Can there be any doubt left in your mind? – One rather overheated kitty has retreated to his favorite place – a place of warmth in the Winter and coolness in the Summer. – Mr. Monte’s one smart feline.

The Great Scape!

No, not the 1963 American epic war film starring Steve McQueen “The Great Escape.” I’m talking about the stalk and flower that grow directly from the center of a garlic plant. With garlic you get two harvests. The familiar head, made up of a number of cloves, is the second harvest. The first harvest is the scape. It can be used in much the same way as garlic, and it can go directly into salads or be sauteed with other vegetables. For a quick description of garlic scapes and their uses, click here.

IMG_20200530_144937657_HDR_editedHere you see this year’s harvest of 30 garlic scapes. They’ve just been cleaned and resourceful wife is planning to use them in a number of dishes. But, before she dares use them in any of our food, they must pass a very strict inspection by the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen’s Chief of Food Quality. The following sequence of pictures shows the inspection process. As you will see, our inspector determined beyond any reasonable doubt that the scapes were high quality, clean, completely organic, and that they unquestionably meet the high standards we maintain here at SFH. You will also note that he considers scapes to be among his most favored vegetables.

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Today, we are going to gift all of our dear readers with a basic recipe for a simple cilantro pesto, featuring fresh garlic scapes. I must, however, confess that this recipe has only received one and a half stars from the SFH Test Kitchen judging staff. Nevertheless, it is our job to keep you apprised of all tests conducted in our highly esteemed test kitchen. We are committed to exposing the truth and let it stand on its own merits. So, without further ado here is:

"Not So" Fabulous Cilantro Pesto

When your Spring garden is overproducing garlic scapes and your community supported agriculture (CSA) farm has just handed you a half ton of cilantro, which your beautiful Spouse detests, this is how you modify a basic recipe from allrecipes to make it somewhat palitable. For the slightly atypical family that resides at and cares for Serendipity Farmhouse, this dish guaranteed that half the family would go to bed hungry.
Prep Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 3 each garlic scapes substitute for 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 taplespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan chees
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts substitute for walnuts or pecans
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and return water to a boil. Cook pasta for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain well. Reserve 1/2 cup water.
  • In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, nuts, and salt. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and blend the pesto. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.
  • Pour pesto in a small saucepan and warm over low heat, stirring constantly, until pesto begins to simmer. Pour over cooked pasta and toss. Add reserved water to thin as desired.

SFH by the Numbers

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 arrival of the hot, humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-05-18 through 05-24

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-05-25 through 05-31

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-06-01 through 06-07

 

SFH Journal: 2020-01-06 through 01-12

As we told you in our post First Snow – 2020-01-07, Tuesday the 7th we were blessed with a quiet Winter interlude. The days passed by and the snow slowly disappeared. Saturday the 11th and today the 12th were warm and balmy. The contrast between the 7th and the 12th reveal an amazing range of beauty and color. Serendipity Farmhouse is always ready to fascinate one with its charm and nearly infinite variations in personality.

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The unexpectedly warm days provided a perfect opportunity to move some seasonal items to the shed for storage. Happily, there was also some spare time to mount a brand new cast iron rooster bell at the entrance to the back porch. This was a present from dear Daughter #1 and family, intended to provide a means to announce the arrival of welcomed guests. Well done, dear Daughter #1, and thank you.

Stop the presses!! News Bulletin!! – Beautiful Wife just came into the house and made the joyous announcement that several garlic sprouts have made their way to the surface in search of the sun. Yes, Friends, there are great prospects for fresh, homegrown garlic this year.

UntitledSFH 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 2020-01-06 through 01-12

 

 

 

 

First Snow – 2020-01-07

Describing the first real snowfall of the season here at Serendipity Farmhouse doesn’t require many words – just a few pictures, a fresh cup of coffee, and a fire in the wood stove. Here are the pictures, meanwhile, I’ll sit back in a cozy chair to enjoy my coffee and the warmth of the fire.

And, if you prefer an action shot, this is about the best I can do on short notice.

And, if you are a weather geek like me, the stats for the day are here.

Yard Trash Day – 2019

I’m not just an interested bystander. No, not me. I’m the guy who gets to document this annual event. And as such, it’s quite important that I observe closely and take detailed mental notes. Why? Well, because there’s nothing, no, not one thing that’s even half as interesting or exciting as watching Annual Yard Trash Day in the Blue Ridge.

Now, let me share with you something that I’ve noticed this year. These two wonderful gals, my beautiful Wife and her best friend Nancy, are truly getting better at this every year. Not only that, they are having more fun. If you need proof, take a look at the pictures below.

On the top-right photo taken in 2017, they had done a good job with the yard trash arrangements but, when it was all done, they were beat, tired, and generally worn out. In the photo on the bottom-right taken in 2018, they were obviously tired, but they at least had their eyes open. That was a sign of improvement.

Finally, in the photo on the left taken yesterday, they’ve worked hard all day and they are still wild-eyed, oops, I mean wide-eyed and bushy tailed. As I said, these gals are getting better every year.

Consider also, how much work has to be done the day before, collecting yard trash, trimming it, and preparing it for the big day – Yard Trash Day. It’s hard work out in the cold wind. Yet, they do it with great expectation.

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And, of course, the hard work, the camaraderie, many cups of hot tea, and the intimate discussions about family and preparations for Christmas all lead to the pride of accomplishment in what they’ve created. So, as you will see below, 2019 was a very good year for Annual Yard Trash Day in the Blue Ridge.

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SFH Journal: 2019-10-28 through 11-03 – Fall Comes to SFH

When industrious and ever thoughtful Wife asks me to take a day or two of vacation to work on this vast estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse, it’s not a request. It carries a bit more weight than that. So, being sane and sound of mind, I notify the folks at work that I’m off to perform higher priority tasking.

This time of year in the Blue Ridge, however, is so pleasant that I might be found guilty of planting the idea that a thorough Fall cleanup is needed. Dearest Spouse is quite susceptible to the power of suggestion, especially if it suits her purposes and SFH will be the better for it.

So, here it is! The best time of the year when even a little potentially back-breaking work is a welcome diversion from our normal routine.

28 OCT – Monday: A while back, dearest Wife allegedly put away two cords of wood single-handed. (See: SFH Journal: 2019-09-30 through 10-20 – “V” is for “Victory!”) Today, the chimney sweep arrived early to inspect and clean the SFH wood stove. With wood in the shed and a fully functional wood stove, we are now ready to face the cold days that are coming.

After that, it was out to the gardens to remove the okra and pepper plants. One box was specially prepared for planting garlic.

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Three of the nine boxes now ready for next season

29 OCT – Tuesday: The second half of Monday and most of Tuesday were all about

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New shelves with AC units & fans

cleaning out one side of the storage shed and removing fans, air conditioners, and other Summer equipment to the shed. This year, we purchased, assembled, and put into active use a brand new, heavy-duty storage shelf unit. My only comment at this point is: Either the gravitational pull of the earth is increasing making everything heavier, or I am getting older and more feeble. – – Next year, I may call younger and stronger hands to help out Granddad.

Later in the day, beautiful Spouse and I made the walk to the mailbox. I snapped this picture along the way. In the distance you can see Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. The Autumn colors were just past their peak. Later in the week, we would be up at that spot on Skyline drive taking a picture of SFH and our little part of God’s great creation.

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A view of the Blue Ridge & Skyline Drive as we walk to the mail box

30 OCT – Wednesday: This was a work  day for me with a long commute. It was the kind of day that enterprising Wife uses to make multiple additions to the official SFH Honey Do List.

31 OCT – Thursday: This was a notable day because it was Granddaughter #4’s birthday. That being the case, IHOP suddenly becomes one of the most important places in Virginia. Parents and grandparents assisted dear Granddaughter in a splendid celebration.

This was also a day of much-needed rain. The office required some cleaning and I used an hour or two of that time to comprehend, digest, and internally accept all of my dearest Wife’s additions to the official SFH Honey Do List.

01 NOV – Friday – All Saints Day: As the storm system moved northward, much cooler temperatures set in. Autumn in the Blue Ridge had turned the corner towards Winter. With the lower temperatures came the clearest blue sky one can imagine. Just the perfect day to celebrate our dear friend Nancy’s birthday with lunch and picture taking on Skyline Drive.

This picture of dear Wife and Nancy has some hidden meaning that even I find difficult to discern. You will note that I have enlarged the sign pointing to sweet Wife and Nancy. I suppose I will be puzzling over its true significance for some time to come, or at least until most thoughtful Wife requires that I excise the offending photo of the “Farm Fresh Pumpkins” sign.

Immediately after photographing the “Pumpkins”, errh, I mean dearest Spouse and Nancy, we were off for more enjoyment of the Autumnal color display.  And this is just some of what we saw.

By the way, you can see some white buildings in the upper third of the bottom photo. Yes, gentle Reader, that is Serendipity Farmhouse just to the left.

02 NOV – Saturday: This was a typical day for strenuous and demanding chores at SFH.

03 NOV – Sunday: This was a day of rest and a day for doing the Lord’s work. All in all, one very fine Autumn week at SFH.

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 2019-10-27 through 11-03

SFH Journal: 2019-05-13 through 25

Highlight #1: Spring is rapidly moving into Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Daffodils and irises are giving way to roses and magnolias. The wild chives are on the wane, but strawberry plants around the yard are bearing their sweet red fruits. The colors and smells are changing in accord to the dictates of the length of days and rising temperatures. So be it and let it be so.

Highlight #2: The promise of a harvest, perhaps a very bountiful harvest, is being announced in all our gardens and on our trees. If one were to walk through our vast, nearly 1.25 acre estate as I did yesterday, you would have seen some of these signs of promise.

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DSC_1151 (2)Highlight #3: This is our first year growing garlic and we are learning as we go. We planted 17 garlic cloves in Autumn last year. The first garlic sprouts bravely emerged in mid-January this year. One sign that the plants are beginning to mature is the appearance of “scapes” (the flower bud of the garlic plant). We let them grow, but not flower. If they flower, it will retard the growth of the garlic cloves. Scapes are edible and tasty. They can be prepared in several different ways and make a welcome addition to salads.

Harvest: Here’s a brief recap of what came from the garden to our table over the last two weeks:

05-17: 1 large bunch of curly kale & 2 asparagus spears
05-18: 6 strawberries
05-20: 5 asparagus
05-21: 1 bunch of curly kale
05-24: Parsley, basil, 2 garlic scapes (all went into a pasta salad)
05-25: Last harvest of curly kale

SFH WX Station Report: For right now, we have settled into what appears to be a normal Spring weather pattern. The gardens are responding quite well. So far, the rain has come at regular intervals and has been adequate in quantity. Hopefully, this pattern will stay with us over the growing season. For the sake of brevity and clarity, I am only showing the running, monthly summaries.

WX-A

WX-B

SFH Journal: 2019-04-21 through 30 – First Harvest!!

Highlights: The longer days, the weather, and available free time continue to dictate our daily schedule and routine. We are now at a high point of activity outside, caring for the vast estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse. There is much demand for physical labor and very little time for writing posts. In addition to our first harvest from Vegetable Garden #1, here’s a sample of what we’ve been doing. Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-04-21 through 30 – First Harvest!!”

SFH Journal: 2019-04-14 through 20 – Easter Vacation

Question: Why have there been no posts over the last two weeks?

Answer: Life at Serendipity Farmhouse requires a balance between activity and time for reflection; conversation and silence, work and rest; and spiritual and physical endeavors. That is why Holy Week and the Octave of Easter are so very important to us. – We don’t take a “Spring break” – We take an Easter Vacation.

That is not to say that nothing has been happening here at SFH. To the contrary, much has been going on. But instead of cluttering this post with words, let me show you some pictures so you can see for yourself. Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-04-14 through 20 – Easter Vacation”