Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

SFH Heatwave Chicken

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, this has been and continues to be a very hot and dry Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (Please refer to Ol’ Fuzz Face’s comments on the matter in his post SFH Journal: 2021-07-26 through 08-01 – Hot & Spicy.) As you can see by this candid photo of me, I have taken the appropriate feline approach to ensure that I remain cool and comfortable.

Blondie and Fuzzy, on the other hand, see things in an different way and have chosen to make a period of what should be a time for rest and relaxation into an unnecessarily frustrating time of tension, and drama. Rather than try to make sense of their heat-induced delirium, I will turn the writing of this post over to Fuzzy while I resume my nap.


Despite Mr. Monte’s less than flattering remarks, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had a remarkable and noteworthy week. No, I wouldn’t say it was our best week ever, but I would say it demonstrates our unique ability to bounce back from an apparent failure and turn it into a resounding success. Here’s the story.

On August 5th, our weekly menu called for us to use our Sun Oven to prepare Barbecued Chicken according to a recipe in the Solar Chef cookbook by Rose Marie Kern. But my most perceptive Wife noted that tomatoes harvested over the past few days had reached their prime and had to be canned immediately. So, we changed our plans and spent the day preparing a “new and improved” (N&I) version of our long-time favorite SFH Pasta Sauce.

All went well with the initial stage of canning of our “SFH N&I Pasta Sauce.” To our basic recipe we added homegrown garlic, Italian spice and a couple of other twists. The wonderful aroma of the simmering pasta sauce filled the house. Then we performed the required processing of the five pint jars of sauce. We retrieved the jars from the boiling water at the 40-minute mark and waited for the five pings from the cooling jars. Within seconds, we had ping numbers one, two, and three. Number four took a little longer. … … Unfortunately, ping number five never came – the jar had failed to seal. – – Dang!

Then, simultaneously, resourceful Wife and I stumbled across the same idea. – – Tomorrow, we shall use the un-pinged jar of N&I Pasta Sauce in an entirely new SFH Test Kitchen creation – “SFH Heatwave Chicken”! (Providing there is sunshine …)


We purchased our Sun Oven in Idaho. We only used it once, but that was a great success because we lived in high desert with virtually no trees nearby. More often than not, the sky was very clear and our home sat on a point that was nearly a mile high. – With these perfect conditions for solar cooking, we could get that Sun Oven up to over 400°.

A couple of years ago, we attempted to use the Sun Oven to make a pot roast here at SFH. For many reasons, that was an abysmal failure. Virginia has trees and many of them reside right here on our vast estate. Even when the rare sunny day comes, those trees are dedicated to a single cause – – blocking the Sun Oven. There is one Sycamore tree that is particularly nasty and vicious because it knows it commands access to the precious southern exposure. It is a bully of a tree and I have often thought of having our local tree service remove it.

Day of Reckoning

On August 6th, the sun rose and there was some haze in the sky. The forecast indicated that clouds would move in later in the day. Our chances of success were diminishing rapidly and we knew we wouldn’t be free to start cooking until nearly 1 PM. Nevertheless, Blondie and I were committed – we were going to make this work. So, at about 12:10 I set up the oven and began preheating it. By 12:31 it had reached 275°.

Blondie took charge of preparing the chicken by adding some salt and pepper and then the layering the chicken in our untested, untried, and untasted, brand new “N&I Pasta Sauce. When she finished, I carefully took the pot to the oven and placed it on the leveling rack. The glass door was closed and sealed at 12:51 – this cooking game was now afoot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The red arrow in the graphic taken from the official SFH Weather Station shows that, when we began cooking our SFH Heatwave Chicken, we were already past the prime conditions we had earlier in the day. We decided we would let the chicken cook for four hours at about 325°. The question was would that work? Would we be able to get to the desired 180° internal temperature required for poultry? Only time – four full hours – would tell.

The picture above answers that big question. When the picture was taken, the gauge was still climbing and we knew our chicken was fully cooked. Later, when we sat down to eat. We found that it was not only fully cooked, but it was at the point where the meat just fell off the bone; we didn’t even need our knives to cut the meat.

So, on this 92°+ day, we sat down inside the cool SFH dining room and ate a wonderful meal of solar oven cooked SFH Heatwave Chicken, which was resting on a layer of couscous that readily absorbed the savory flavor of our own SFH New & Improved Pasta Sauce.

There are few failures in the SFH Test Kitchen, but there many ways to find paths to new successes!


RV Trip 2021-02: I Wanna Go Home!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, there are clearly defined limits to my ability to tolerate trips in my Class-C RV “El Camino Del Monte” (ECMD). You would think getting out of the hot city and relaxing in a cool woodland setting would be the goal of most intelligent humans.

Obviously, I don’t have two of those. No, I have the kind of humans that think that is fun to go someplace hotter and far less comfortable than Serendipity Farmhouse. Rather than listening to calming classical music, my humans would rather listen to the cacophonous, nerve-shattering noise of an air conditioner running 24/7. – It is my considered opinion that any common sense they may have ever had was baked out of their brains by overexposure to the infernal heat of Virginia in July.

We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park at 2:25 PM. Fuzzy completed setup in record time. By 3:12 PM, he had the weather station assembled, revealing the severity of our situation. The temperatures at the park had climbed into the mid-90s, so all windows and doors had to be shut and the sound of that miserable AC began to numb my mind. You can see for yourself that my humans had made another marvelous choice of camping dates. – What were they thinking, if they were capable of thinking at all?

Of course, the heat was followed by rain, a torrential downpour that crashed down on the roof of ECMD. The splattering of raindrops the size of golf balls shattered my inner peace and grated on every neuron of my highly tuned feline nervous system. By 8 PM, I was a useless, shivering pile of fur, incapable of reacting in any normal way. It was then that I first heard myself say, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Dinner No. 1: Texas Hash

My humans apparently took no notice of my distress. Their only concern was pleasing their belly and their gut, preparing another “gourmet” meal. Granted, they prepared it to a human standard of perfection, nevertheless, its aroma and presentation aroused no interest whatsoever in my feline appetite. Yet, as the author of this post, I am required to give you details that might help those humans among my readers to recreate this culinary delight. So, here you go. The dish is called Texas Hash. The original recipe appeared in the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, 1950. Currently, the recipe can be found in the book Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today’s Kitchen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As an interesting sidelight. In a moment of weakness, Ol’ Fuzz Face confessed to me that, when he was young, he thought that Betty Crocker was a real person and was devastated when he found out otherwise. Poor guy, he never learned the real truth, but I did after doing some internet searches. It turns out that Betty Crocker was a shapeshifter. Her true persona was Mamagon (ママゴン) the lovely kaiju (怪獣) of Japanese fame. You can find out more about her at the Ultraman Wiki.

As you can see below, Betty Crocker/Mamagon had nothing at all to do with the meals I was served on this trip. For me, it’s always the same old stuff. Nope, nothing gourmet quality or special for me. Nope, no ice cream or tasty treats, just the same old swill.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Case of the Obnoxious Fly

The second day of this misadventure was just as hot and steamy as the first. Fuzzy and Blondie attempted to humor themselves and enjoy their outing as if the weather was perfectly pleasant. It was apparent that they had spent too much time in the sun and were delusional. Blondie went so far as to pose for pictures to prove that she was having a delightful time. But, it wasn’t even a half hour later at lunch when she lost all of her composure.

Let me tell you what happened and what I saw through the kitchen window. At lunchtime, Blondie proclaimed that lunch would be served in her beloved screen tent. She opined that it would be ever so pleasant to dine outside and enjoy the sounds of nature and the gentle breeze. Blondie and Fuzzy carried all the fixings for lunch to the tent. They carefully zipped up the doorway screen and sat down to eat their midday repast. Simultaneously, two things began to happen. First, both of those “nature lovers” began to sweat profusely. They smiled at each other attempting to hide their discomfort, but moisture oozing from beneath their garments betrayed them. Second, it became apparent that the screen tent, when closed, does two things: it locks flies out and it locks flies in. In the case of my two humans, they had locked in with them the single most obnoxious fly in the entire Shenandoah Valley. It landed on their food. It landed on their beverage glasses. It did pirouettes on their ears and their noses. It caused them to swat and flail about, feverishly attempting to smush the intruder. And the obnoxious little fellow would not cease.

It wasn’t long after lunch before Fuzzy, at the bidding of Blondie, was taking the tent down, folding it up, and storing it away for the remainder of our misbegotten RV trip. Once again, I could be heard to say, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Dinner No. 2: Persian Shish Kabob

There’s no real need to go into detail about dinner on the second day. Sure, the smell of the meat used for the shish kabobs was somewhat pleasant, but what cat can eat meat that was soaked in lime juice, garlic, and onion for 24 hours. Anyway, Blondie and Fuzzy exclaimed that the allrecipes Persian Shish Kabob recipe was really good and, of course, their cooking skills exceeded that of most mortals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


My dear feline friends, the second night was just as hot as the first. The air conditioner kept running, and running, and running. One could not hear oneself think. Of course that meant nothing to my humans because, obviously, they weren’t thinking. I mistakenly thought that it could get no worse. That was when Fuzzy and Blondie decided to add to the noise by watching a horrid British detective show. Because they couldn’t understand the British accents, they cranked the volume up to an intolerable setting. I was in pain. I was in agony. I had finally reached the point where I could stand no more. And that is when I devised my radical solution – there would be no sleep for anyone in ECMD until this cat was returned to his rightful place in the most peaceful and tranquil Serendipity Farmhouse.

I won’t burden you with the details of my actions, but you can be certain that all of the following tactics were employed: nudging, bumping, nibbling, biting, scratching, jumping, endless meowing, and repeatedly exclaiming, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Let me emphasize that point by showing you how I expressed my feelings to those two insensitive humans: “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Despite all that, Fuzzy and Blondie continued to act as if they didn’t understand. Finally at 2 AM, out of desperation, I went to the corner where the metal door to my carrier was stored. I clawed at it and dislodged it. I dragged it out to where Fuzzy could see what I had. Then I jumped into my carrier and looked at him and bellowed, “Meoowww! Listen you jerk, Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

But it was all to no avail. Even though they could not sleep, they insisted on ignoring my pleas. It wasn’t until the sun had risen and they drank their coffee, that they would begin preparing for the trip home. Meanwhile, I was sleepless and a wreck from my encounter with their ignorant behavior. I rolled over in front of my carrier, feet up in the air, and played dead. And so I remained until Fuzzy said I should get into the carrier. I immediately did as he said, all the time wanting to take a pound of his flesh, but I didn’t want to delay our departure. Forty-five minutes later, we were home. I quietly flopped on the floor in front of the fan and refused to interact with either of them for the remainder of the day. – May it ever be so humble there’s no place like Serendipity Farmhouse!


RV Trip 2021-01: Project Sausage

I will not lower myself to respond to the grossly erroneous and highly embellished statements made by Mr. Monte in last week’s post RV Trip 2021-01: A Very Tent Situation. Besides that, I’m not at liberty to discuss the screen tent incident due to current ongoing libel proceedings in the case of Fuzzy v. Monte.

Nevertheless, I must note that the erection of the screen tent was closely tied to a nearly month-long joint effort by the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff and the intrepid crew of the Class-C RV, El Camino Del Monte. This ambitious effort was conducted under the once secret code name: Project Sausage.

It all started more than a half year ago when a fellow Ohioan named Tom raised the exciting possibility of gathering a group of friends for a day of sausage making and mirth-filled camaraderie. I had no sausage making experience and Tom had very little, so it would be necessary to test the feasibility of his plan with a two-man experimental run. – It was agreed, March 20th would be the day.

While waiting for the big day, I consulted with the entire staff of the SFH Test Kitchen and we planned for a broad-based endeavor that went far beyond just the making of sausage. Project Sausage would bring together several cooking disciplines to include: sausage making, long-term storage, at-home preparation, and ultimately, RV cooking in the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Mobile Test Kitchen.

The big day finally came. Tom was so kind as to provide the necessary equipment (grinder and stuffer). He also procured the pork butt and the hog casings. His well-appointed kitchen became both a cooking laboratory and a playground for two Ohio boys who grew up with a great appreciation for East European sausages. – It wasn’t a pretty sight (no one ever describes sausage making as that), but, oh my, it was fun!

The pictures below show some of the highlights of the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the end of this post you will find the recipe I adapted for this venture. Tom made his own adaptation. Once we had completed step number six, just before stuffing, we cooked up a small sample from each batch. That was our lunch and our chance to determine if changes to spices were needed. – We were both happy with what we had done. Our break was over and we stuffed the casings, cleaned up the mess, and each ended up with over eight pounds of homemade sausage.

The SFH Test Kitchen is no stranger to preparing foods for long-term storage. On March 24th, the Staff assembled for a quick session with the Food Saver and bagged and froze the sausages. That day, seven packs of links and two packs of unstuffed sausage were stored away in the freezer. Two links were reserved for a taste test after grilling. The taste test resulted in a thumbs-up from Blondie.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now that brings us to the true goal of Project Sausage. The objective was to turn our homemade sausage into a staple food for RV expeditions. We wanted to take the simple product and turn it into a fine food, suitable for Blondie’s notion of high-end glamping. In so doing, we manged to transform this humble SFH Hungarian Sausage into a dinner delight and a breakfast treasure. And to all that, we added the ambiance of eating in the bug-free comfort of our new screen tent. It was an ambitious pursuit, but, despite my minor tangle (tango) with the screen tent, it was both successful and rewarding.

Below are pictures of our evening meal served in a romantic yet adventurous way. Next you will see a simple brunch featuring SFH Hungarian Sausage (leftover from the night before) with delightfully seasoned scrambled eggs. – – Two meals, one featured item, and great taste all around. – – Project Sausage was a success!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Note: This SFH Test Kitchen recipe was adapted from Hungarian Homemade Sausage (Hazi Kolbasz), written by Barbara Rolek

Serendipity Hungarian Sausage

Prep Time 1 hr 45 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • Meat grinder, manual or electric
  • Sausage stuffer, manual


  • 6 pounds well-marbled pork butt
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 4+ garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • tbsp paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 14+ feet hog casings (rinsed three times)


  • Gather the ingredients.
  • Rinse hog casings and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • In a small bowl, mix garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and water, and set aside.
  • Slice pork into strips small enough to fit in meat grinder. Coarsely grind the meat in a hand-cranked or electric grinder. Place meat in a large container.
  • Add ground beef to ground pork and mix thoroughly.
  • Combine water-spice mixture with meat until thoroughly incorporated. To ensure the seasonings are just right, fry a small patty and taste. If desired, refrigerate the meat mixture, covered, overnight before stuffing so it flavors.
  • Remove casings from refrigerator and knot one end. Lightly coat the stuffing funnel with cooking spray or some leftover fat from the pork. Slip the other end of the casing over the mouth of the funnel. Continue to push the remainder of casing up onto funnel until you have reached the knot.
  • Begin to force the meat into the casing with one hand while using the other hand to control the thickness of the sausage as it is extruded. - The sausage will shrink when it cooks, so you want a nice plump sausage. But be careful you don't overstuff or the casing will burst.
  • Keep extruding until the casing is used up. Tie a knot in that end. You can either leave the sausage in a large coil or twist it at 6-inch intervals to make links. Use immediately or store sausage refrigerated and covered up to two days until ready to cook.
  • For long-term storage, freeze sausage in suitable freezer bags. The SFH Test Kitchen packs four sausage links in single Food Saver vacuum sealed bags. - You can also freeze un-stuffed sausage for other cooking purposes.

SFH Journal: 2021-03-15 through 03-28 – Obsessions

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face have been exceedingly busy over the last two weeks. And I, the officially proclaimed “FELINE PRODUCTIVE,” have had to take on more and more editing duties for the Serendipity Farmhouse Blog. It is both a duty and an honor. Besides that, I’m far more capable, honest, and objective than Fuzzy is.

Lately, my two big cats have been preoccupied by two competing obsessions – food and Spring gardening. Frankly, I have to admit that I share the food obsession and the gardening thing affords me added time out on the back porch.

St. Patrick & St. Joseph: If you view the featured photo at the top of the page very closely, you will see that culinary delights created in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen were a centerpiece at a dinner party honoring the great St. Patrick and St. Joseph. First there was a simple fruit salad. Then, Blondie outdid herself by baking not one, but two delicious loaves of bread. One was Scandinavian Light Rye Bread and the other was Irish Potato Brown Bread. The breads were SFH variations of recipes by Beth Hensberger as found in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook.

Fuzzy’s Follies: Fuzzy added a finishing touch to the bread concept with homemade butter. In so doing, he set a new SFH and personal record – from start of process to end of cleanup, less than 20 minutes. Unfortunately, he was unable to even come close to that record time later in the week.

Normally, the old guy uses store-bought heavy cream to make butter. Ten ounces of cream will give you a quarter pound of butter and six ounces of buttermilk. When that type of cream is at room temperature, it only takes Fuzzy about 5-7 minutes to churn up a quarter pound of my favorite licking butter. His record time is three minutes and forty seconds. But, on this recent occasion, he desired to show that he was a true purist and decided to use cream skimmed off the top of a half gallon of raw milk directly from the dairy farm.

Well, Fuzzy was able to skim off the requisite 10 ounces, leaving about a quarter inch of cream still in the jar. He poured the cream into his churn and began to turn and turn … churn and churn … turn and turn … churn and churn … I think you get the picture. Some fifty minutes later, a tired, panting, moaning and groaning old guy finally threw his hands up in the air and confessed he could turn and churn no more. He ended up with about two-thirds of what he usually produces. – – For the record, though: It was probably some of best butter this feline connoisseur has ever tasted.

Lesson Learned: If it’s butter you’re making, consider the time it will be taking. Because if it’s raw milk you’re using, a great deal of time you’ll be losing, not to mention, though it was not your intention, you’re going to turn and churn until your arms begin to  ache and burn. – – So sayeth Mencius (孟子) Maine Coon

Foodies’ Preview: Both my big cats are foodies. These last two weeks they have been deep into the creativity thing. For years they have been making pizzas, but they’ve always made the crust from store-bought mixes. A few days ago, they finally said that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen could not be entirely authentic and true to its founding principles so long as store-bought mixes were to be used. That is when they created this beauty of a three-cheese pizza. But, sad to say, my dear friends, you’ll never be able to reproduce it yourselves because you don’t have the secret SFH cheese ingredient.

Meanwhile, Ol’ Fuzz Face, while a partial failure at raw-milk butter, scored a great success with homemade sausage. He and a friend, who has the needed tools, spent a Saturday, each making eight pounds of pork and beef sausage.

In the coming weeks, there will be special posts describing the intricacies and ins and outs of how the SFH Three-Cheese Pizza and the SFH Special Sausage were conceived and how they became truly masterful culinary delights. – – Yes, I got to taste them.

Gardening: Blondie is the SFH Master Gardener. She has already started Spring planting. The raw intensity of garden is in the air. If you are around Blondie, never ever make the mistake of joking about her gardens. She takes them very seriously and she does not abide by humor about such an important undertaking. SFH is nothing if it is not about its bountiful gardens and the food that comes from them. – – It is what brings the family together – children, grandchildren, and good food to share – all bound together with a prayer. – – Yes, of course, this Maine Coon does join in family prayer.

More of Fuzzy’s Follies: Ol’ Fuzzface has a well-developed and abiding appreciation for maintaining the “perfectly manicured lawn.” Often, he can be heard happily chatting to himself about how beautiful and verdant are the many lawns spread about the vast 1.204 acres of the Serendipity Farmhouse estate. This week, he has been almost ecstatic because of the great success he has had in cultivating one of his favorite winter annual ground covers – Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).

After doing some research, Blondie and I are less enthused. After all, Corn Speedwell is a weed!

This is not a lawn! These are weeds!

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-03-15 through 03-21

SFH WX 2021-03-21 through 03-28


SFH Journal: 2021-03-08 through 03-14 – Spring into Action

SFH Unwritten Rule (until just now): No matter what the calendar says, when the warm weather comes, make use of it.

And this week that is just what we did. Daytime highs ranged from the upper 60s to a high of 80.4° F on Thursday the 11th. With no high winds and no precipitation, there was no excuse. This was an early window of opportunity that called us to Spring into Action. Chronicled below are just a few of the tasks accomplished here at SFH this past week.

08 MAR – Bread Making: Early in the day, my most resourceful Spouse performed another test with the new official SFH Test Kitchen bread maker. This time she made Scandinavian Light Rye using a recipe by Beth Hensberger as found in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. The result was PERFECTION. The success was based on the combination of a great recipe, a properly functioning bread machine, and masterful execution by the love of my life. – One note: Dearest wife has an aversion to caraway seeds, but the flavor of truly well made rye bread is not diminished by the absence of the little black seeds that tend to plant themselves firmly between one’s teeth.

09 MAR – RV Uncovering: Despite the countdown posted on the left hand panel on the blog for the last several weeks, the SFH Unwritten Rule and lack of patience dictated that the cover would come off the RV on this day. No one told me that I would have to become a parachute packer if I bought an RV. But as you can see below, getting a 26-foot long RV cover back into its storage bag is not an easy job. My only regret is that Mr. Monte decided not to allow us to post the picture of beautiful Wife and me both sitting on the folded cover in an attempt to reduce its bulk.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10 MAR – Gardening: Never ever put off prepping your garden for Spring planting. Get it done while the suns shines. Raking out dry dirt is much easier than working in the mud. ‘Nuf said!

11 MAR – Maintenance & Repair: (SFH Saying: Anything a man can make, either time, another man, or both can break.) For the record, RV hot water tank drain plugs were not designed to last more than a couple seasons. Even when using the proper tools, that plug will wear out quickly. As you can see, I will have to work on a corrosion problem with my propane water heater.

Of course, lawn mowing season is only weeks away. On this day, my lawn tractor was returned after full service maintenance. The expansive meadows, fields, and lawns of the SFH estate shall receive the very best of care this year.

12 MAR – Grass Seeding: Speaking of the expansive meadows, fields, and lawns of the SFH estate, the damage caused by the pre-Christmas water line repair required the purchase of some seed, some hard work with the garden rake, and daily watering.


13 MAR – Car Washing: Winter road salt, a muddy lane, dust, dirt, and collateral damage by rude avian creatures require that the entire stable of SFH vehicles receive a thorough cleaning. Industrious Spouse was up to the task. In addition to these pictures, please refer to the footnote at the end of this post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

14 MAR Day of Rest: Sunday truly is a day of rest at SFH. So it was, so it is, and so it always shall be.

Footnote: All serious works of non-fiction should include footnotes. Beautiful Wife is now ready for Spring with her robin egg blue nail color.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-03-08 through 03-14

SFH Journal: 2021-02-22 through 02-28 – Mind Meandering

Hi! This is your Serendipity Farmhouse Girl Raised In The South (GRITS).

Drops of rain announce themselves on our metal roof as I collect my thoughts and linger in enjoyment of this quiet time. It is good to live so close to where the Shenandoah winds its way through the Blue Ridge. Like my early morning thoughts, it meanders in a gentle way from this to that and then on to something else. So, on this last day in February, allow me to share with you some of my mind meandering.

Hubby and I are moon watchers. Its various phases, times for rising and setting, and monthly names are matters for daily Serendipity Farmhouse dinner table discussion. So, it came as no surprise last night when Hubby announced that the clouds had briefly parted and there to the East, over our very own Turkey Mountain, the full Snow Moon was rising. Indeed February had been a snowy month and the Snow Moon was true to its name.

Now I admit it might not sound very romantic to speak of the full moon rising over a mountain named Turkey. Wouldn’t the name Swan Mountain or Eagle Mountain stir up more emotion and romance? Maybe, but we weren’t the first settlers here in this valley and it’s quite likely that the turkeys that abound in Rappahannock County provided needed food for our predecessors.

For them, survival was more important than romance. Naming a mountain in honor of an important source of food made abundant sense. However, our dear friend and guest visitor, Miss Tiffany Turkey, certainly appreciates the fact that more recently-arrived local inhabitants prefer romantic moon watching over turkey shoots.

Yes, February is coming to an end and already everything that fills this vast estate we call Serendipity Farmhouse is poised to move boldly into March and that season we call Spring. The snow on the Blue Ridge is melting and the North Fork of the Thornton River is running high and fast. The sound of the river serves as background music to accompany the first sun-seeking of the daffodils and resurrection lilies.

Now, I am not the only one here at SFH who has a Hubby. Our pair of resident bluebirds have been here with us for quite some time. Like us, they remain together through thick and thin. Like us, there is a pecking order. This week gave demonstration to how that pecking order works.

Mid-week, yours truly, saw that the bluebird pair was sitting on the fence next to the bluebird house. Neither the male nor the female would go inside. It was obvious that the female was not happy with the situation and was letting her hubby know. That is when I called in my dear Hubby and explained the matter to him. I reminded him that he hadn’t cleaned the birdhouse when the season ended last year. He said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Then I said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” – Hubby is not so dumb. He picked up on my tone and facial expression and immediately made his way to the porch to get his tools. Mere moments later he had removed the covering on the birdhouse and cleared out last year’s nest.

Yesterday, as we were sitting on the deck, Hubby pointed out to me that the bluebirds had returned to the birdhouse. The female looked inside. Then she went to the fence and talked to her hubby. He hopped up and looked inside the birdhouse and then flew off. When he returned he entered the house and it appeared that he had nesting material in his mouth. – Yes, girls, there’s a lot to be said about the value of a proper pecking order.

February can be a cruel month. Its cold and damp and darkness seem to remind of us how very temporary are the things of this world. This February has been no different than many others before. For example, over ten years ago Hubby and I purchased a bread maker. It proved itself to be a very good one as you have seen in many of our posts. Though it had served us so well, it too was one of the temporary things of this world. The last weeks of its life it moaned and groaned. Mechanical scraping sounds were evident – metal pieces had fatigued and were bent out of shape. Hubby explained to me that it could not be fixed and had to be replaced. With proper solemnity he prepared it for its trip to the metal recycling bin at the county dump. I watched on as he took my old friend from the pickup truck to the bin – I could see he too was a little choked up. Then we made our trip home in silence.

But life and bread go on! We did our homework and ordered a replacement. It arrived on Thursday. On Friday I quickly set about making acquaintance with our new bread maker. Clearly, and most emphatically it is not the same as my dearly departed one. Buttons are in different places, settings are unlike what I had come to prefer, this was not my old machine. Nevertheless, the work of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test kitchen must go on.

Hubby and I made a first test loaf from a mix. The quality and texture were not quite as I had hoped. But, it wasn’t clear if it was the fault of the machine or the age of the mix. – This week and next there will be a lot of bread making going on. And it will continue until I master this new machine. Until then, Hubby better be prepared to eat a great deal of toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and anything else that might make a meal of experimental bread.

That brings my mind meandering to one last important place. I use a bread machine out of convenience and the need to save time. Nevertheless, I hold the highest regard for those dedicated people I’ve known who make their bread entirely by hand. I have one friend in Idaho who makes her own bread the traditional way. That is just one aspect of her many charms and accomplishments. Someday, I hope to develop the type of skills she has. And I hope to go one step further. There are many talented cooks among the granddaughters in our fine family. Wouldn’t baking bread with one or two of them in the old way be just the perfect thing for a rainy day like today, when the drops of rain are announcing themselves on our metal roof?

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-22 through 02-28







SFH Journal: 2021-02-15 through 02-21 – Serenity @ Serendipity

In the midst of Winter, when the snows fall, when the ice hangs from the branches, this is when Serendipity Farmhouse surrenders to a quiet time and a type of mystical serenity all dictated by the season. Pantry shelves remain filled with the preserved foods from Summer and the woodshed shelters the fuel for many more warm fires. – Even though the temperature has just dipped to 13°F, there is no reason to fear February in the Blue Ridge.

This brief moment of relative silence and calm is the perfect time to reflect upon mysteries and truths extending beyond our valley, beyond our country, even beyond this present world. This last Wednesday began the season we call Lent. It is a season of reflection, prayer, and much more. It is for us the time when we replenish our spiritual foods and draw from them the fuel to rekindle our spiritual fire. – Even though there is turmoil throughout the world, there is no reason to fear Lent in the Blue Ridge.

Meal planning in Lent can be challenging, even for the master chefs at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. Meatless meals, reduced portions, no snacks, and other modifications must all be considered when planning the weekly menu. Add to that the fact that getting out to buy groceries is harder than during other seasons.

This last week, we revisited a type of dish that is quite open to variations, modifications, and innovations – sheet pan meals. We learned about this style of meal quite a while back from an allrecipes recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. Interestingly, this month, allrecipes featured an article by Caitlyn Diinig highlighting an array of sheet pan meals and dinner ideas. (See Use this Simple Formula for Your Best Sheet Pan Dinners.) Rather than sticking to any single recipe we made a Mediterranean Chicken dinner with the ingredients we had on hand. We added spices and other touches that are only known by SFH Test Kitchen staff members. The result was an enjoyable meal on Thursday, followed by a delightful encore last night. – Try it. You’ll like it.

Each day in February at SFH brings new lessons and new perspectives. For example, last week Mr. Monte showed you a picture of what happens when I make the trek in deep snow to the woodshed. The load is heavy and the wagon wheels sink down into the snow. Some days ago, we had a great deal of snow and ice. That type of wintry mix always bring concerns about power outages and other damage. Yet, with the bad sometimes comes a pleasing good. Yesterday, when I brought in wood from the shed, the ice was so hard and thick that the wagon wheels did not sink. It was as if I were pulling it across a smooth asphalt parking lot.

There was incident that threatened the calm and quiet of this past week in February. – I won’t say that Mr. Monte, SFH Chief of Security, was caught off guard. In fact, he was very much on guard. But, even for an experienced and globally acclaimed security chief like Mr. Monte, it is impossible to be fully prepared for all circumstances. Mr. Monte knows full well that opossums are nocturnal critters. They pose no major threat to the SFH estate. Mr. Monte has viewed security camera photos of the critters, but because he is primarily diurnal and opossums are primarily nocturnal, he had never had a real-life encounter with one.

During the late afternoon of Friday the 19th, Mr. Monte was on watch. I had just come out onto the porch where he was standing guard. It was then that we both noticed simultaneously that a strange, rather ugly looking creature was roaming near the east side of the porch. Mr. Monte immediately went into full alert status, jumping from table to benches, and benches to window sills. There was an unauthorized intruder approaching the SFH inner security perimeter and Mr. Monte was set to respond with full force.

Recognizing that there was no real threat. I quickly picked up Mr. Monte and rapidly explained that this was only a harmless opossum on an unusual daytime foray. Mr. Monte quickly grasped the situation and backed down from full alert. He did ask me, however, to take a picture of the creature as it was retreating to safety. Our Chief of Security had to have documentary evidence to support his official security log entry. And here is proof that Mr. Monte, as always, was on the job.

Opossum in rapid retreat

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-15 through 02-21

SFH Journal: 2021-01-18 through 01-31 – Visitors

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, before we get into the boring “human interest” malarkey, here is this month’s lesson on how to wage a psychological influence campaign successfully. In this case, the objective of the campaign was to influence my two big cats to purchase a new comforter set suitable to my regal position at Serendipity Farmhouse.

First, it is necessary to understand that in waging such a campaign, the subjects must be worn down, tired, and mentally confused – sleep deficit tactics are most useful. For nearly a week, I would wake both of them, alternately purring, nuzzling, and sitting on their heads. Once they were suitably disoriented, I then pretended that something was in the comforter, perhaps bugs or gnats. I would paw at the comforter, sniff at the comforter, and then pounce on the comforter as if something were actually there. They finally couldn’t stand the notion that something might be crawling around, so they got up and turned on the lights to see what it was – they saw nothing.

I continued attacking the imaginary critters to the point that Fuzzy and Blondie brought in flashlights and minutely inspected every thread of the comforter. They couldn’t see a thing. – I resumed alternately stalking and attacking the imaginary critters.

Fast forward to the next morning. Blondie hit the Internet before the sun was up and looked for a comforter set worthy of yours truly – price was of no concern. – – My dear feline followers please observe the picture above. There you will see the spoils of psychological warfare – my new comforter set. Blondie and Fuzz Face never had a chance!

SFH Security Force Staff Award

Lightning After Disposing of an Intruder

On different note, it always gives me great pleasure to recognize our faithful and exceptionally talented SFH Security Force Staff members. While Bronto the bear and Rusty the Ratsnake take a little time out for their Winter naps, Lightning the broad-winged hawk continues to make his patrols in an effort to rid the SFH estate of unwanted rodents. No matter what the season or what the weather you can hear Lightning overhead, monitoring every corner of this vast estate, ever vigilant to seek out and deter unwanted intruders. – – Today stands as the most recent example of Lightning’s unusual dedication to service. Even now as Winter Storm Orlena is dumping many inches of snow on SFH and the surrounding regions, Lightning’s call can be heard echoing throughout our valley. – – As one proud predator to another: “I commend you, Lightning!”


Okay, the important information has been dutifully conveyed, I guess I can spend some time on that “human interest” stuff that so boars me. We’ll start off with the feature picture of a Great Blue Heron. We on the SFH Security Force call this guy “Benny the Blue.” He is a sporadic, but welcomed visitor. He’s colorful, has lots of good stories, and can show folks a few things about fishing in the North Fork of the Thornton River. He’s also quite welcome because of his eating habits. According to the Audubon Field Guide, his diet is “highly variable and adaptable.” In addition to all the aquatic and amphibian creatures you might expect, he’s quite capable of joining in with Lightning eating snakes and rodents.

I would be greatly remiss even I didn’t spend some time talking about our most recent and greatly cherished guest, Granddaughter #1. She’s no stranger to SFH. In fact she has been featured in several posts including Monticello & Granddaughter #1. Just like Benny the Blue, Granddaughter #1 has many endearing attributes. For example, she is a cat fancier. She knows how to talk to big guys like me without using one of those overly sweet voices. More importantly, however, she is a great cook. She has a natural talent for understanding taste, aroma, and the magical aspects of preparing a fine dish. So, it was with great pleasure that Blondie and I could sit back Friday evening and watch Granddaughter #1 and Ol’ Fuzz Face put together the most aromatic and enticing pizza I’ve ever seen. Our visitor needed no recipe or instructions. She selected the finest ingredients; mixed and matched a wonderful balance of spices and herbs; and ensured that Fuzzy didn’t mess up the crust.

Of course the result was a perfect example of the finest dishes ever produced at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. But it didn’t end there. No, if you refer back to our post Hot Peppers Above & Beyond you will note that mere, ordinary crushed red peppers are not what one should put on a truly great pizza. The perfect topping is, of course, our very own SFH Spicy Hot Peppers.

Finally, although I might be one of the world’s finest felines, a truly exquisite blend of knowledge, cunning, and loving affection, Blondie and Fuzzy have something that I would envy. I would envy the fact that they have such wonderful grandchildren. But I don’t have to live in envy. That’s because my two big cats share their grandchildren with me. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like it so much here at SFH. Well, that and the fact that I now have a comfy new comforter set.

Oh, and one last thing. When I get on Fuzzy’s computer to write my exceedingly witty and insightful posts, I often take time to look at pictures of the grandchildren. Just today, I ran across this picture of Granddaughter #1 on a ‘great explore’ at Craters of the Moon National Park. I think Fuzzy captured a bit of her personality in this photo. She is someone who seeks and explores. – As a 21-pound Maine Coon cat, I can appreciate that kind of spirit.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-01-18 through 01-24

SFH WX 2021-01-25 through 01-31

SFH Journal 2021-01-03 through 01-17 – Just Hanging In There

Hi. Mr. Monte here.

This time of year is very difficult for a fully mature, unusually fit, remarkably agile, and unquestionably intelligent, 21-pound Maine Coon Cat. The days are short. The weather is dreary. And, most unpleasantly, outside time on the porch is greatly curtailed.

Oh, you may may experienced the Winter blahs, but you have never known the uniquely intense sense of frustration and misery that besets me during this time of year. – – – There, now that I have set the proper mood for this post, let’s see what Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face have been doing to keep our spirits high during these Winter doldrums so that we can just hang in there until Spring arrives.

There’s more on the door.

We at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen take great enjoyment in cooking gourmet and traditional American meals. Blondie and Fuzzy do a fair-to-middling job of following my instructions and they occasionally surprise me with some excellent cuisine. We like to experiment with all kinds of meats, but inevitably my two big cats come back to their favorite Julia Child recipes featuring beef (boeuf).

This year, one of the fine friends of Serendipity Farmhouse offered to go in with us for a side of Reality Farm beef. – – What great jubilation there was when Blondie and Fuzzy received their share of the beef. A highlight of the last week was when they prepared beef short ribs for the first time in their years together. It was delicious! – – – As a cat I was happy to see that my two big cats were happy. As for me, beef might be fine for them, but if I didn’t kill it, I’m in no real rush to eat it.

Finally Clean! – An oven doesn’t have to be exceptionally dirty to be exceptionally hard to clean. I’m told that when Fuzzy and Blondie moved into SFH the oven did not meet the high standards of cleanliness that are exacted by Blondie. When I arrived on the scene a year later, even though Fuzzy had spent some time in working on some very resistant, burnt-on stains, several offending stains remained. Over the years since then, Blondie and I have reminded Fuzzy that, until that oven is entirely clean, the soon-to-be-world famous SFH Test Kitchen would not be at its finest.

To his credit, Fuzzy pursued his duty to rid the oven of the offensive signs of filth. Finally, on January 14th, 2021 (mark that date for posterity), Ol’ Fuzz Face achieved success. He has submitted this photo as evidence to those who may have doubts.

Fuzzy, don’t be so foolish as to think that you can now rest on your laurels. – – The oven job was only one item off of Blondie’s “honey do” list. You may get away with resting on the Lord’s Day, but all the other days still belong to Blondie and me. – – Now get back to work!

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-01-04 through 01-10

SFH WX 2021-01-10 through 01-17

SFH Journal: 2020-12-29 through 2020-01-03 – Making Amends to His GRITS

Hi! This is your Serendipity Farmhouse Girl Raised In The South (GRITS).

This is a story about my Hubby. Although, he may have some rough edges and is not quite as cute and cuddly as my sweet Del Monte, in his own way, he is a big part of what makes SFH the pleasant home and quiet retreat from the world that it has become. As I reported to you a year ago, my adventurous and daring Hubby learned two very important lessons concerning common sense and an over abundance of self reliance. The unfortunate affair revolved around Hubby’s desire to master the use of our brand new Instant Pot and to make the best New Year’s Day Southern-style ham and black eye peas ever.

In retrospect, he might have achieved that goal had he read the Instant Pot directions and listened to the most observant and wise creature in all of feline creation – Mr. Monte. No, instead, my Hubby chose a different path, and because of that ill-advised decision, he was publicly humiliated and learned the following two important lessons: IMG_20200104_112051376 (2)_edited

Lesson Learned 2020-01: An Instant Pot is not like a crock pot or a toaster. The electric cord is detachable. That cord is subject to Murphy’s Law and it will detach itself when you least expect it.

Lesson Learned 2020-02: When your 20-pound Maine Coon Cat jumps on the counter and tries to tell you that the Instant Pot electric cord is detached – – Listen to him!!!

(For the full story of how Hubby learned those lessons, see SFH Test Kitchen – Hubby Under Pressure.)

Well, all of that happened a year ago. Since then, dearest Hubby has frequently pondered upon those two lessons learned. Over the course of the last year, many a time Hubby could be seen walking about the vast SFH estate, muttering aloud, over and over again: “Instant Pot – – detachable cord; Mr. Monte – – Listen to him!!!”

So, when it came to this New Year’s Day, I considered his request to redeem his honor. He came to me hat in hand, promising to make amends to his beloved GRITS, promising to to make the best New Year’s Day Southern-style ham and black eye peas ever. – – How could I resist his plea? Although he may have some rough edges and is not quite as cute and cuddly as my sweet Del Monte, in his own way, he is my loving Hubby. – – I could not refuse him. I said, yes.

On New Year’s Day we started the year 2021 all together in the kitchen. I worked the magic that only a GRITS can do, making the best collard greens and cornbread ever. Mr. Monte, the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen Master Chef, observed, advised, and guided our kitchen staff. And, to one side, dear Hubby, ensuring that the Instant Pot cord was firmly fastened and listening to Chef Monte’s every word, prepared the Southern-style ham and black eye peas.

We sat at our places, prayed our grace, and tasted the flavors of the New Year’s Day meal we had prepared. All was as it should be, all was so very good and tasty. Indeed, Hubby had learned his lessons and we feasted on the best Southern-style ham and black eye peas ever. – – Hubby had made his amends to his beloved GRITS.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-12-28 through 2021-01-03