Category: SFH Journal

SFH Journal: 2021-05-30 through 06-06 – Intensity

———————NOTE——————–

It’s obvious that this post is getting out two days late. Due to the never ending demands of my SFH security enforcement duties, this post was unavoidably delayed. I would express my regrets and apologies but, as you well know by now, cats, especially yours truly, have no shame, sorrow, or regret. You have to admit that life is so much simpler that way. — DelMonte, SFH Chief of Security

———————END OF NOTE——————–

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, with the exception of tactically advisable ‘catnaps’, we have entered the season where there is no rest for a highly decorated, world-renowned Chief of Security. There is too much at stake for me to allow myself to drop my guard or fall into complacence.

As you can see by this picture, taken by Ol’ Fuzz Face using the Night Vision setting, even after the sun goes down, I am on watch – ever alert. Although no picture can capture the true intensity with which I conduct security affairs here at Serendipity Farmhouse, at least a picture can substantiate the fact that, if anyone dare attempt to penetrate the SFH security perimeter, they will have to deal with me.

Interestingly, this week my powers of observation were called upon to resolve a somewhat trivial dispute between Blondie and Fuzzy concerning the evening of May 28th. On the night in question, Fuzzy declared that he had seen the first firefly of the year. Blondie was somewhat skeptical of his claim and declared that, because she hadn’t seen it, it did not happen.

Fuzzy asked me to intervene and provide my expert opinion. Being the all-seeing Chief of Security that I am, I advised Blondie that she should take Fuzzy’s claim seriously because my surveillance network had recorded an airborne intruder sporadically emitting low-level light flashes that evening. (When you think of my surveillance network, imagine something on the same scale as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).) Upon listening to my testimony, Blondie backtracked a bit and stated that perhaps Fuzzy had seen something, but she still had to see it for herself.

For the remainder of the week, Blondie would sneak outside after sunset, and then return declaring there were no fireflies active on the SFH estate. It wasn’t until last evening (June 5th) that all three of us were sitting on the porch and a myriad of fireflies made their presence manifest. It was at this point that Blondie finally admitted that firefly season had indeed arrived at SFH. Fuzzy and I, recognizing that reminding Blondie of her earlier skepticism might bring about serious consequences for both of us, decided to say nothing except, “Yes dear, my what beautiful fireflies!” – Then Fuzzy and I winked at each other in a quiet moment of male bonding.

SFH Gardens by the Numbers

The vegetable gardens are doing very well this year. As you can see in the feature picture, the SFH vineyard is on its way to producing a record crop of grapes this year. We are taking measures to ensure that deer and other varmints are kept far distant from the maturing grapes.

  The following links will catch you up with what has been planted and what has been harvested since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-05-31 through 06-06

SFH Journal: 2021-05-17 through 05-30 – Remember

Each person enlisting in an armed force shall take the following oath:

“I, __________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Would Serendipity Farmhouse and the free exercise of our Faith exist if it were not for the brave and dedicated souls who have lived and died upholding this solemn oath? – – Remembering and thanking those who have sworn this oath is the rightful way to celebrate this national holiday.

We here at SFH have made a special effort to prepare for this weekend that marks the unofficial start of Summer. It was a truly grueling effort to clean up garden beds, trim and manicure our broad and extensive lawns, plant seeds and young plants in our herb garden and two vegetable gardens, repair or replace aging outside furnishings, install four heavy window air conditioners, and clean everything covered by pollen and dust. And that was just the beginning. We called on outside help to paint the front porch and to add two coats of stain to our deck and railings.

It was a quite ambitious plan. My ever resourceful and highly zealous Spouse was responsible for motivating all the workers involved. Although one could never accuse her of being ruthless, one might describe her leadership style as relentless and unwavering. She enlisted Mr. Monte to act as overseer and work inspector. In his case, one might describe his approach to be less forgiving than my dear and beautiful Wife. In fact, one might say his approach to leadership was on the vicious side of ruthless, or so it seemed to the majority of the work force under his command.

Despite all that, I, the work force, survived the effects of Mr. Monte’s management style. And, to her great credit, the inspired vision of a beautified Serendipity Farmhouse conceived by my most beloved Spouse, resulted in the most pleasant improvements. For example, see what she had done to the front porch.

Newly painted porch & new decorative bench

Dearest Spouse recognized that the deck needed to be brightened up and made more comfortable. So here it is with an eye-catching Cape Cod Red stain and some new deck furniture.

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So, with SFH cleaned up for the unofficial start of Summer, the residents of SFH will take some time off from work and celebrate Memorial Day in fitting ways. I will take time to pray for close friends who died while serving our Country. Beautiful Wife and I will call to mind what it was like starting our family and raising children while stationed overseas. There will be memories of sacrifices and there will be memories of great adventures. After all, SFH is about Faith, Family, & Country.

SFH Cleaned up and ready to celebrate Memorial Day

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what has been planted and what has been harvested since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-05-17 through 05-23

SFH WX 2021-05-24 through 05-30

SFH Journal: 2021-03-29 through 05-02 – Whew!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, “I’m late, I’m late for. A very important date. No time to say hello, good-bye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.”

This post is long overdue. It should have been published last Sunday. Obviously, it wasn’t. Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face haven’t had time to sit for even a moment. That means that they’ve dumped many of their tasks onto good old reliable “FELINE PRODUCTIVE.” And now I haven’t had time to sit for even a moment.

Suffice it to say there are not sufficient time nor words to suffice. So, major insufficiency will have to suffice.

Here’s just a small sampling of what was going on through May 2nd:

04 April – Easter: See post Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia.

10 April – Grandson #7: See post Breaking News: Grandson #7!!

12-14 April – RV Trip 2021-01: See posts RV Trip 2021-01: A Very Tent Situation and RV Trip 2021-01: Project Sausage

23-24 April – Tree Removal: From the SFH treasurer – “To the person who planted those four willow trees on the now vast SFH Estate: You owe us over $10,000 for the removal of those ghastly, hideous, dangerous, menacing, destructive willows.”

25 April – Godzilla v. King Kong: Fuzzy tells me he had a glorious three hours respite from the cares of this world when highly cherished Daughter #1 and her family took him to see his hero in action. As he always says: “Godzilla is real, everything else is fake!” See post: SFH Godzilla Birthday Bash

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28-29 April – Masked Marauder: A major breach to SFH security took place on these dates. Blondie was horrified. Our friendly avian residents were distraught. Fuzzy came up with an almost a good solution. He sprayed WD-40 on the pole. Unfortunately, it dried too quickly, so we intend to use Vaseline in the future.

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In the meantime, we gathered the SFH Security Staff, including Fuzzy. We all confronted this felonious, masked bandit and I made it quite clear to that maleficent marauder what would happen to him should he violate our security perimeter again. The last time we saw him, he was hightailing it off the property.

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30 April – Deck, Porch, Furnace & Dinner Guest: It is difficult enough when one contractor or handyman must do work on our soon-to-be-famous, historic mansion. Schedules must be adjusted; parking space must be made available; and, the SFH Security Staff must be alerted. But, April 30th, the potential for schedule conflict went over the top. First, SFH was visited by contractors to prepare the front porch and rear deck for painting and staining. Next came the contractor who maintains our newly installed furnace to perform seasonal maintenance. And, if that wasn’t enough, the entire, soon-to-be-world famous SFH Test Kitchen staff was engaged in a maximum effort to prepare a delicious meal for a highly esteemed dinner guest. – – Fuzzy and Blondie, under my close direction, rose to the occasion. All workmen visits went without incident and there was no mutual interference. – – Our dinner guest was happy with the SFH Test Kitchen’s latest experiment and he went back for seconds. As a Russian Blue cat friend of mine once told me” Всё хорошо́, что хорошо́ конча́ется. (All’s well that ends well.)

In the midst of and intermingled with all of the above, Blondie spent many, many hours in the vegetable gardens. She is really good at directing Ol’ Fuzz Face at moving bags of dirt, turning over soil, weeding, trimming, and bringing those gardens to the highest quality level possible. Because of her efforts, the SFH gardens stand out as among the finest in all of  Rappahannock County. And also to her credit, Spring planting is underway and the first fruits of the 2021 growing season have already been harvested.

The First SFH 2021 Plantings

Date: Month-DayItemQTYGarden
03-15Red Beets20 seedsVegetable #1
03-27Arugula 4 rowsVegetable #1
03-27Lettuce4 rowsVegetable #1
04-18Italian green beans25 seedsVegetable #1
05-02Better Boy tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Pink Brandywine tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Big Beef1 plantVegetable #2
05-02Sun Sugar Yellow tomato1 plantHerb
05-02Mammoth jalapeno pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-02Jalapeno pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-02Anaheim pepper1 plantVegetable #1
05-21Italian green beans21 seedsVegetable #1
05-15Basil1 plantHerb
05-15Bush Goliath tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-15Early Girl tomato1 plantVegetable #2
05-15Roma1 plantVegetable #2
05-30Cow's Horn okra23 seedVegetable #1
05-31Burgandy okra10Vegetable #1

The First SFH 2021 Harvest

Date: Month - DayItemQTYMeasure
04-27Asparagus5Spears
04-28Asparagus2Spears
05-03Asparagus5Spears
05-04Asparagus3Spears
05-04Parsley1Bunch
05-04Lettuce1Bunch
05-04Arugula1Bunch
05-06Asparagus5Spears
05-06Parsley1Bunch
05-06Lettuce1Bunch
05-06Arugula1Bunch
05-10Asparagus1Spear
05-10Arugula1Bunch
05-10Lettuce1Bunch
05-14Asparagus8Spears
05-16Arugula1Bunch
05-16Lettuce1Bunch
05-19Arugula1Bunch, end of season
05-19Lettuce1Bunch
05-19Asparagus2Spears
05-21Asparagus3Spears
05-23Strawberries7Berries
05-25Aspraragus3Spears
05-29Garlic scapes8Scapes
05-31Garlic Scapes22Scapes
05-31Strawberries3Berries
06-03Strawberries4Berries

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what has been planted and what has been harvested since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-April

 

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.

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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.

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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: 2021-03-01 through 03-07 – Feline Productive

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, diligence, attention to detail, and hard work – that’s what its all about. That is how you can distinguish yourselves and make your own mark on this world. My life achievements, based on those principles, stand as a shining example to all of you. You can do it too – but you must be willing to put in the effort.

Imagine the surprise and pride that were shared by Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face when they turned to page 1 of the March-April edition of Cooperative Living Magazine and saw me, the now-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Chief of Security, featured as “FELINE PRODUCTIVE”. Yes, there was a classic picture of me “hard at work”, proclaiming that yours truly was the“FELINE PRODUCTIVE”. The magazine is distributed to all customers of the 15 member electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. I’m sure that the editors have received many emails and phone calls requesting more details concerning the unique background and capabilities of the SFH Chief of Security. I’m expecting a call from them at any time now to set up an interview to be used in a feature-length article to satisfy the demands of their anxious readers.

Please Note: Today, the feature picture is the work of that highly-esteemed young artist – Grandson #2. He has done an excellent job of capturing the serious, reflective, and alert sides of my nature. His fine drawing has now been designated as my “official” Chief of Security portrait. Thank you Grandson#2!

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 2021-04-01 through 03-07

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: 2021-02-08 through 02-14 – Winter Dreams & Valentines

Thinking of my dearest Miss Fleur

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, I am a most fortunate feline. My dearest Miss Fleur remains faithful and has grown in her affection for me. When I was young, I thought that love would be an unwanted distraction. Yet, now that Miss Fleur has entered my life (and my heart), I can’t help but feeling fully fulfilled and far more capable of facing any unpleasantness that might come into any of my nine lives. – I hope that each of you can find the happiness and  consolation of your own “Miss Fleur”.

This year my Dearest One sent me a quite thoughtfully selected toy and she baked the most tasty heart cookies. To thank her for all that she means to me, today I will call all members of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen to join me in preparing the special Valentine’s pie that Miss Fleur so loves.

And now for the incalculably valuable words of wisdom that you humans, including my two big cats, have come to expect from yours truly. – –

For some, Winter, especially the month of February, is synonymous with dark, cold, damp, and dreary. There are days when even I, with my most commanding and positive personality, can fall into the trap of surrendering to the Winter doldrums. Consider for example my two big cats, Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face. They are gardeners, hobbyists, and RV-enthusiasts. When weather permits, they actively pursue their interests. They seldom sit while the sun is shining. But February is quite another matter. Then they are locked into limited routines and chores.

Path to the woodshed

This picture of wagon tracks shows the path Fuzzie takes from our old farmhouse to the woodshed. When the cart is filled with wood, Fuzzie struggles to pull the heavy wagon through the snow. But that is what he does to keep the wood stove fueled and to provide the warm, comfortable fire going for Blondie and me. He’s not as young as he used to be. In fact, no one really is. That trek past our vast vineyard and huge tomato garden and then back again represents devotion and love on his part, but it is not done for the sake of fun.

Likewise, Blondie washes clothes, cleans floors, prepares meals and does my bidding. She works harder than anyone here at SFH. And just like Fuzzie, her work represents devotion and love on her part, but it is not done for the sake of fun.

El Camino Del Monte in an ice storm

So this is why Winter is filled with dreams – dreams of working in the garden, dreams of canning tomatoes and pickling okra, dreams of walking beside a flowing river, dreams of hitting the road and finding a camp site for our RV El Camino Del Monte.

There are only 29 days to go before Ol’ Fuzz Face will remove the cover protecting El Camino Del Monte from the Winter wind, snow, and ice. Yes, only 29 days to go before the big engine is started again, the generator is tested, and preparations are made for a warmer season.

Until those warmer days come, we at SFH have the wood stove to keep us warm; we have our chores to keep things as they should be; and we have our plans to make for warmer days. Most of all, we have each other.

———————–A Word from Blondie & Fuzz Face————————

Mr. Monte, as usual, is absolutely correct. We would like to point out that here at SFH this day is celebrated as the traditional feast of St. Valentine, a man who gave his life for his faith in the God he loved. He is the patron of “courtly love”. It’s not just hearts and chocolates. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

 

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 2021-02-07 through 02-14

 

SFH Journal: 2021-02-01 through 02-07 – Plumbing the Depths of History

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, Mr. Monte is anxiously preparing a card, presents, and many other signs of sincere affection for his dearest Miss Fleur. So, on this very snowy Sunday, I have been able to regain access to the official Serendipity Farmhouse blogging computer. There’s a warm fire in the wood stove, and I look forward to a delicious lunch because my most beautiful and capable Wife will be making pastrami sandwiches with a perfect loaf of her exquisite homemade bread. – Indeed, all is well here at SFH!

A simple dashed line – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

For some, including Mr. Monte’s claimed 23,417 feline followers, the following story may be too long and tedious. Too bad for them. This story isn’t meant for those folks. It is meant for lovers of history and those who will follow us as residents here at our cherished Serendipity Farmhouse.

Sometimes you do the right thing and you don’t even know it. Or, you don’t know it until many years later. For example, in late-2016, dearest Wife and I commissioned the Rappahannock Historical Society to compile a detailed history of what is now the vast 1.203 acre estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse.

We were both impressed and overwhelmed by the more than 200-page document we received in early-2017. It was filled with maps, charts, photocopies of deeds, contracts, and other official documents. Even the cover page gave us pause to think about the historical significance of the land upon which our little farmhouse is built – “Formerly part of 1731 Colonial Land Grant from King George II and a 1751 land grant from Thomas 6th Lord Fairfax.”

Wondrous Spouse and I are students of history. We enjoy finding the puzzle pieces of the past and making a picture out of them. That explains why we have paged through the huge binder many times, trying our best to sort out the different names, persons, and relationships, creating a small “who’s who” in the SFH historical timeline. – Our reading of the history provided entertainment.

It wasn’t until December 22nd, during the week before last Christmas, that we found how fortuitous was our decision made in 2016. It was on that day that we found a practical application of historical documentation that saved us many hundreds of dollars that week and perhaps thousands of dollars over the next several years.

In 2013, our home inspector’s report noted that SFH had very low water pressure. In February 2014, our water pump died and had to be replaced. We thought the new pump would improve the water pressure. It did not.

For several years we lived with the problem. Various plumbers suggested that we might need a new pressure tank, but they weren’t sure. In July of 2020, our well went almost completely dry. We thought that several weeks without rain caused the problem. (See SFH Journal: 2020-07-06 through 07-12 and SFH Journal: 2020-07-13 through 07-26.) When we did have water, the pressure was very low. By December, almost nothing was coming out of the tap. So, we called in the professionals.

After testing this and that, that and this, a plumber, wiser than his years might suggest, stated without hesitation it wasn’t our pump or our pressure tank. No, we were the proud owners of an underground water line with an ever-growing leak. “We can fix it for about $3,800.00 – if you’re lucky.”

Worn out fitting

Left with no alternatives, we accepted the bid and waited for digging day. After one weather-related postponement, the day finally came. The two workmen arrived, looked at the colored lines painted on the grass by Miss Utility, and immediately started digging directly in front of the pump house.  Their plan was to find the leak and simply repair the leak at its source. Within an hour they found the source of the leak. It was an old, worn out galvanized steel 90° angle fitting. – That was the good news.

The plumbers immediately replaced the fitting; turned on the system; breathlessly waited for signs of success; and soon found out there was probably another leak somewhere else along the line. – That was the bad news.

The workers casually mentioned to me that when they tried to trace the path of the existing line, it went away from the farmhouse rather than towards it. That didn’t make much sense to them. – But … But … It suddenly made all the sense in the world to me.

Quickly, I ran into the house pulled out the history binder and started looking for old survey documents. No, the survey made in 2013 wasn’t the right one. The survey made in February of 1978 was the one. Years ago, I had wondered why that survey showed a dashed line running from the original water pump down our lane. But there it was on the survey.

Below is a comparison of the 1978 and 2013 surveys. The answer was all in a simple dashed line – – – – – – – – –

Next I looked at a deed from the same year stating the following: “The right to use the water from the well located on Lot D for the benefit of Lots A, B and C, as set forth on the plat herein.” – Serendipity Farmhouse was Lot D, and the other three lots on our lane were Lots A, B and C. That was the answer – the water line did not go directly from the well to our house. No, instead it headed westward down the lane. The line to our house branched off of it further down the lane.

I informed the workmen of my finding and showed them the survey. It was at that point they decided there was no need wasting time looking for a second leak. Instead, they would run an entirely new line from the pump house directly to Serendipity Farmhouse. – Once the new line was in place, they turned on the water system and behold – there we no leaks and our water pressure was greatly increased.

The work was done for the originally estimated $3,800.00. It could have been more. The life of our water pump was increased because it was no longer continuously pumping water back into the ground. Finally, my neighbor across the way now had an answer to a question he had for years: “Why is it always so wet and soggy on the east side of my house?” – – Now the answer was clear, we at SFH had been giving him free water to keep his grass green through the longest droughts.

Lesson Learned 2021-01: Read your history – it will save you money and heartache.

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 2021-02-01 through 02-07

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!”

Visitors

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