Category: Summer

The Delight of Bread, Berries & Shallots

The delight of bread, berries and shallots are just part of a summer day at Serendipity Farmhouse. In the course of a day, any number of surprises can fill our home with unexpected joy. And this day, joy came in the form of a fresh loaf of bread, a container full of wild berries, and a basket of our own garden-grown shallots. Each serves to remind me of why Hubby and I love our life together in this little old farmhouse.

Shallots Bring Flavor to the Table

bread, berries and shallots

Whether it’s Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, or just good old-fashioned American cuisine, shallots bring a unique flavor to the table. Last year, we planted shallots, and this year we harvested. – This was success on a first try.

Last night, some of our shallots joined us for dinner and today some joined us for lunch. – They were welcomed guests!

Sourdough Bread – Almost Ready for the Great Reveal

Hubby was up at 4 AM today. With Mr. Monte’s help, he continued his series of sourdough bread recipe tests.

Once, Hubby is satisfied that this recipe is foolproof, he’ll provide a post with all the details.

bread, berries and shallots

Hubby Beat the Bear to the Berries

Bread, berries and shallots

The last few days, there have been several sightings of a black bear in our neighborhood. Perhaps the bear is looking for the patch of raspberries that Hubby spotted while mowing today. – Well, today, Hubby beat the bear to the berries.

As soon as he saw the berries, he ran to the house and yelled to me. “Give me my camera and a plastic bowl! – I’ve got to get those berries before the bear does!”

Within a minute, my brave (sometimes foolish) Hubby was out picking those berries. He had his signature gnat net covering his head to protect him from ticks. He put on his rubber boots to protect himself from snakes. And all the while he picked berries, he kept checking to make sure his multitool knife was close by. Who knew when the bear might come?

Hubby’s bravery was rewarded. He came back to the farmhouse with a container of the most beautiful raspberries. There wasn’t a single one of them that had a flaw.

My knight in shining armor, having been most successful in his quest, presented the berries to me. – In his own way, he showed me that to him Serendipity Farmhouse is his castle, and I am his queen.

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.


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.

“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



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


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.


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.



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 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian


  • Food processor


  • 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


  • 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


Woodchuck & Wood Chuckin’

There’s a difference between a woodchuck and wood chucking, but here at Serendipity Farmhouse we have learned that the two can live in harmony – at least for a time. Today, we will discuss that harmony.

You might remember in our post WWWT? #1 – What a Lovely Wood Stove! we were confronted by two harsh realities: old farmhouses get cold and wood stoves have to be fed. So, 2014 was the year we had to adapt to those realities.

My sweet, adorable spouse emphatically emphasized on more than one occasion during that Spring and Summer – “Buy wood! We have to buy wood before Winter comes.” Being wiser than I usually am, I decided to listen to her. I bought wood. How much wood did I buy. I bought three whole cords of wood, a truckload of wood, a pile of wood, a veritable mountain of wood. More wood than I could move in a lifetime.

Now, we were not dismayed by the immensity of our task to move the mountain of wood from the driveway to the woodshed, nearly a football field away. We had two aces up our sleeves – first we have grandchildren. But that particular labor force needs motivation. The second ace provided that motivation – Yes, the best pizza ever known to SperryvilleRudy and Rappahannock County was Rudy’s Pizza. Not only does it motivate grandchildren, it also goes a long way to motivating sons-in-law. — We played both aces. The Wood Chuckin’ Pizza Party would become a new family tradition.

The next problem was how to move the wood. We had found that it would probably take two to three years to move the wood with a wheelbarrow. So, the only answer was to fork out 100 bucks and buy a cart that could be hooked up to the lawn tractor.

SkunkThat brought the next problem. We refer to 2014 as the “Year of the Skunk. Why”? Because not one, not two, but three skunks resided in our yard under the main shed. One of the three was a very pregnant female. Before the end of Summer, Serendipity Farmhouse was called home by eight, overly friendly skunks. This picture shows how curious one of those skunks was as yours truly was assembling the new cart.


Finally we had everything together: one cart free of unwanted odors; several grandchildren; son-in-law and daughter No. 1. So, we were off to chuckin’ wood.

Meanwhile, the skunks had moved on and a new character entered stage right. George the Groundhog was at first a little disgruntled because we were making noise in the woodshed just above his head. After he saw what we were about, he managed the moving project from the sidelines. Only after he had made a thorough inspection of all our work, were we to receive his seal of approval.

To this day George still resides under the woodshed. Although he’s not into Rudy’s Pizza, he does like the fresh apples from our five or so apple trees. Pizza for us, apples for him, and the skunks have moved on. There is harmony at Serendipity!

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