Category: SFH Journal

50th – The Celebration

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, instinct is a very strong and protective force for us felines. It ensures our survival as a species and guides us through unexpected encounters with the harsh realities of life. In essence, our feline instincts are the basis of our predatorial dominance. In conjunction with our innate cognitive superiority, our instincts have enabled us to interpret human behavior and fashion it to our personal designs. If there is any doubt that my statements are not correct, I offer you my total and uncontested control over Blondie, Ol’ Fuzz Face, and the entire Serendipity Farmhouse establishment as supporting evidence.

Having said all that, I must acknowledge that my two humans demonstrate some traits that are as endearing as they are mysterious. For over a month now, this human couple has been engaging in a set of most unique rituals. All of these quaint activities seem to be centered around something referred to as their “50th”.

The rituals begin early each morning. Fuzzy will kiss Blondie on the forehead and say something sickeningly sweet. Blondie will reply with a smile and something that sounds like a pigeon cooing. Frequently throughout the day, they will hold hands. Sometimes they will even hug each other. They take walks together around the yard. And, when working together in the garden, they thoughtfully help each other, smiling the whole time. – – If this is getting a bit too mushy for you, dear feline friends, just be glad you don’t have to witness it firsthand as I must.

This last week, their unusual activities intensified. The week started off with a two-night RV trip to Shenandoah River State Park. There, I was subjected to uncharacteristically charitable treatment from them. Even when I would wake them with frequent and loud meowing, they would merely get up, feed me, play with me, and hug me as if I were some type of prize possession. During the daytime, they would hold lighthearted conversations and gaze into each others eyes. In the evening, with all the RV lights off, they would view the colorful sunsets and speak of their years together.

Good grief! I tried to sleep through all this, but their romantic chatter kept disturbing my sleep. Wouldn’t it ever stop? A cat has to have his naps to stay fit and alert.

But, during the entire trip and the remainder of the week, it never stopped.

I gathered from all their endless and inane prattle that there was to be some big event this Sunday – today. Apparently, Daughter #2 and the other siblings conspired to organize a celebration honoring the big “50th”. There are to be many guests – family and friends. It is intended to be an event honoring the thing humans call Holy Matrimony and it is in thanksgiving for God’s grace that made it possible.

Even with my golden feline instincts and superior cognitive skills, I don’t claim to understand what this thing called Matrimony is all about. Nevertheless, if it is something that makes Blondie and Fuzz Face happy together, and if it is big enough to include children and even a 21-pound Maine Coon cat, then I’m all for it.

So, along with all the others today, let me simply and sincerely say to Blondie and Fuzzy – “Happy 50th!”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  We are currently revising and updating our tables and presentations of statistics for the Official SHF Year 2022. The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2022 Plantings

SFH 2022 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2022 – February

2022 – March

2022 – April

 

 

 

 

Retiree Revery

It’s official! As of this day, I am on casual part-time status. That means I only have to work a minimum of 20 hours per year – that means I am virtually retired – that means Blondie is now my full-time boss. As I ponder the merits and advantages of my new status, let me review other recent happenings here at Serendipity Farmhouse. – – Oh, by the way, the picture of those beautiful orchids will be part of a future post and revery.

My Birthday: Recently, I celebrated the anniversary of my birth. In honor of the occasion, wonderful and creative Daughter #2 once again outdid herself and prepared a surprise meal for me. Departing from her display of expertise in French cuisine (see French Cuisine & GRITS), this time she went around the globe to Korea. She knew I had spent some time there and guessed quite correctly that I would find the experience enjoyable. – She was spot on!

The meal consisted of Korean-style miso soup, bulgogi, cucumber kimchee, sticky rice. One crowning achievement was steamed Korean-style chicken dumplings. Failing to find any authentic dumpling wrappers in local grocery stores, Daughter #2 and Son-in-law #2 did it themselves. Perfect!

As a final caring gesture, Daughter #2 prepared homemade ice cream served with a chocolate brownie made by my most loving Spouse.

– – Typical Korean beers such as OB or Crown weren’t available, so Kirin Ichiban served as a satisfactory substitute.

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El Camino Del Monte: Our faithful Class-C RV, El Camino Del Monte (ECDM), is showing some signs of age. The most noticeable sign was a rapidly deteriorating awning. Replacement awning fabric was ordered, and our local RV service center switched out the old fabric and installed the new awning. The photos below show the old awning (left) and the replacement (right). Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t show just how tattered the old fabric was. Nevertheless, the replacement is done and ECDM looks much the better for it.

Daring Dairy: As you know, we make our own goat milk cheese. (See Goat milk cheese? – Yes, now!) This last week, I tried a simple new recipe. It worked fairly well, but I want to experiment with it some more before I present it to you. In the meantime, consider the possibilities. This new recipe created a light, tasty cheese that makes a perfect topping for Greek Sloppy Joes. Take a look!

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Waking Up: Right before our eyes, the vast SFH estate is waking up. Some years the appearance of the various spring flowers is staggered, but this year almost everything is coming into bloom at the same time. In addition to the sheer beauty emerging around us, we are reminded that we must start now with preparations for planting. This year, I surprised Blondie with a small, portable greenhouse. When there is more time, I’ll provide details on how my clever Wife is using it to start seeds and protect young plants.

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Pray, Prepare, Preserve: When one is retired, one has a bit more time to consider what is important and what is not. The secular news tends to focus on sensational events, most of them disheartening and disquieting. Some truly historic and monumental events are often shunted to the last page of the paper, or never reported at all. – – Yes, there is a war in Europe. However, that war is merely a symptom of a much greater problem. – On March 25th, Pope Francis did something of great merit to solve that problem. If you are interested in what happened, you can start your research at these two links: Pope Francis consecrates Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

23,417 Again!

To my 23,416 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, good news need not have a long story behind it. The truly memorable events in life, the events that fill your heart with joy, are seldom planned or expected. As Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face are often heard to say, “One must always be on the watch for ‘serendipity’.”

I’ve waited over a week to tell you about this. You might well ask why it took so long to report a story of such great importance. The answer is simple – I had to wait for a new email address to show up on my followers list. That happened this morning at 3:12 AM. And now I can report to all 23,416 of you dear feline followers that we now have a new 23,417th follower, my new neighbor Miss Suki!

So, let me not bother you with a lot of words. Instead, let me introduce Miss Suki to you just as she introduced herself to me.

As soon as I read Miss Suki’s card, I sent this reply to her

March 18, 2022 

Dear Miss Suki, 

I was so very delighted to receive your St. Patrick’s Day card. It was a true surprise filled with the most welcome news. How wonderful it is to have a new feline neighbor who will surely become a close friend and confidant. 

I could hardly believe it when I received your card. In an attempt to record my interest and emotion at the time, I had my human, Blondie, hold the card while I took this selfie. Perhaps, someday when you have the time, you could send a picture. 

It’s very true that our departed Miss Fleur is deeply missed. Although we felines understand the pain of loss of a dear one, we must also keep in mind that human companions, in their own way, suffer too. So, please do what you can to offer your new human companion solace and affection. That is our solemn feline duty. 

I look forward to hearing from you in the future. If you want to know what I do here at Serendipity Farmhouse, sign up to join my 23,416 followers at Serendipity Farmhouse.com. 

Your new friend and neighbor, 

Mr. Monte

So, life goes on here at Serendipity Farmhouse, but it is ever so much better now that this blog’s list of feline followers is

23,417 again!

Daylight Raving Time

Le Chat – the Feline in Command

To my 23,416 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, life is hard these days. I dearly grieve my departed Miss Fleur. All around me seems to be a deep, unlit void. I conduct my daily security duties without enthusiasm. I would rather just sleep – sleep until a better time. But, without Miss Fleur, how can there ever be a better time? (See A Valentine’s Day Reality)

Then, in the midst of my sorrow, in the moment of my greatest need for the solace and comfort of sleep, there comes that annual insane intrusion on feline sensibility, that modern monument to the ignorance of humankind – Daylight Saving Time!

The invention of this most unnecessary and unjustifiable perversion of the natural order is unquestionably the most convincing proof that humankind is on a path bound for self-destruction. We felines, however, have done our best to remind our humans that natural body rhythms, perfectly in accord with the universe around us, are the only sure way to attain balance and stability in daily life. – If one is drowsy, it’s time to sleep. If one is cheerful, it’s time to play. If one is angry, it’s time to growl. And, most importantly, if one is hungry, it’s time to eat. But, somehow, humans just don’t seem to get it.

So, yesterday and today, Ol’ Fuzz Face’s alarm clock made its wretched noise one full hour before my ultra-high precision, internal time standard said that it should. To say the least, this was disturbing to my inner peace. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Unfortunately, Fuzzy was already an hour into his daily routine and was nowhere to be seen when I emerged from the bedroom. That meant that he wasn’t there to give me my first feeding or to spar with me in our mandatory morning play session. – There is a price to pay for that negligence on his part. – Tomorrow, he will suffer my wrath!

The First Robin of Spring Contest

The remainder of the animal kingdom has a much better understanding of time than does humankind. For example, each Spring we can count on the robins to return to our area. Humans, with all their so-called science, can never figure out for sure when they are coming, but robins know precisely when they should make their way north. Serendipity Farmhouse extended family members have made a ritual of their collective ignorance concerning nature’s timetable. For example, each Spring, they compete to be the first one to see a robin. Whoever snaps the first picture of a returning robin is awarded a prize, usually a candy bar. Last Monday, Blondie spied a robin and immediately ordered Fuzzy to take a picture. He did. They reported to all that they had won. Blondie rightfully should be awarded a candy bar. Fuzzy might get a piece for his assist – if he’s lucky.

Spring is Here! – Really???

Another example of humankind’s ignorance concerning the world around them is Fuzzy’s last post Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking). The old goat was so very clever, he thought, in the way that he had discussed the various definitions of the beginning of Spring. As was usual, his best example for his argument, the uncovering of El Camino Del Monte, was to be the most illustrative proof of his ignorance. The picture that you see here of ECDM shows a snow-covered, ice-laden Class C RV on Saturday morning. – Good job, Fuzzy, do you still think it’s Spring??? Really???

As a suggestion, Fuzzy, why don’t you take your highly prized “Daylight Saving Time” alarm clock out to your springtime RV and sleep out there with the heat off for a few nights while I get some good sleep here in a warm house without any of your useless interruptions?

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2022- January

2022- February

2022- March

Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking)

An SFH Editorial – What a Mess!

Several weeks ago, I started a project in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. My objective was to make sense of and bring order to the completely shameful and disgusting mess that we called our herb and spice storage. There was no word in English that could capture the awful sight that would confront Blondie and me whenever we had to retrieve a needed spice. However, there was a Russian word that we have used since 1972 to describe messes like this. That word is – ‘безобразие’.

As you well know, while this blog often speaks of God and religion, it never discusses politics, whether local, national, or international. Nevertheless, what is happening in Europe now meets every definition for the word ‘безобразие’. It is truly a shameful situation. The repercussions of these events will be felt for years or even generations. The impact of these events is already being felt here at SFH and by our family. Times such as these explain why the SFH motto is – Pray, Prepare, Preserve

Spring is Here!

Traditionally, Spring begins with the vernal equinox. To be precise, this year in Sperryville, Virginia, USA: Spring will arrive on Sunday, March 20 at 11:33 am EDT. Meteorologically speaking, Spring begins each year on March 1st. Here at SFH we have an entirely different scientific method for determining the official arrival of Spring. For all of us at SFH, Spring began this year at precisely 2022-03-02 12:17PM EST, when the cover came off of our ever-reliable Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte (ECDM).

SFH official Spring began a little early this year because ECDM is going to get a new awning. It may take some time for the new awning to arrive at our local RV service center but be assured ECDM is now ready to go. Her engine started at the first turn of the ignition key and her primary systems are functioning as designed. So, let us share some pictures of El Camino Del Monte as she awakens to SFH official Spring.

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SFH has other measures for determining the arrival of Spring. We can now see that all 33 cloves of garlic planted in late-Autumn have now emerged from their Winter rest. – – There is still some good in this world!

Bringing Order to a Real Mess

As noted in our editorial, herb and spice storage in the SFH Test Kitchen was a disaster. Scattered throughout the kitchen and the pantry we had nearly 100 containers of herbs and spices. There was no logic or order to the way these containers were stored. In some cases, they were just thrown into plastic containers. Many of the items had reached the end of their shelf lives years ago. Something had to be done. So, we developed a three-step plan:

1 – Sort all items and discard unneeded/out-of-date items
2 – Purchase suitable space-saving storage containers
3 – Inventory all items, listing container size & storage location

For the kitchen spice cabinet, we purchased three storage systems called Cabinet Caddy. For the pantry, we purchased two storage systems described as Simple Trending Stackable 2-Tier Spice Rack Kitchen Organizer Cabinet Storage with Sliding Storage Drawer, Chrome. Though no plan is ever perfect, and no product lives up to expectations, Blondie is quite happy with the results of the project. She has hung the inventory list we made on the refrigerator so that, whenever she needs an item, all she has to do is look it up and then go to the listed Cabinet Caddy or the pantry container shelf. Following are some pictures of the project results.

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SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2022- January

2022- February

2022- March

French Cuisine & GRITS

My dear new friends, today, I Pierre LeChat, the official fine food connoisseur in residence at the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen, will amaze you with a most edifying discussion and review of a world-class French dinner prepared and served in the most unlikely of places. This review will shatter long-standing myths and, hopefully, transport you to a new level of confidence in your ability to take on any culinary challenge, no matter how difficult it may seem. – Before you embark on this journey, it would be considered wise for you to refer to “Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence” as outlined in my last post: Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case

Let Us Set the Table – The Story Behind the Story

It is common knowledge that Mme. Blondie, my employer and culinary collaborator, was born and raised in the South, that beautiful and enchanting region of your United States, where women possess great charm and a strong attachment to traditional ways. While reading through past posts on this excellent blog, I came across a most interesting post, a post that showed me how Mme. Blondie has made it her task and her duty to pass on her traditions in the style of the South. That post was How to Host a Tea Party – SFH Style, a truly marvelous description of how a wise and knowledgeable grandmother can influence the future and enrich the lives of the ones she loves most. Mme. Blondie can proudly say that she and her daughters and her granddaughters are truly Girls Raised In The South (GRITS).

And that brings us to Mme. Blondie’s Daughter #2, a most remarkable woman of strong character and, I say this with firm conviction, a woman of great culinary courage. She currently lives in the majestic Shenandoah Valley, once known as the breadbasket of the South. In the Valley, food of all types surrounds you. Beef, poultry, dairy, and a vast assortment of crops – good food is plentiful and the folks there know how to make a great meal. But Daughter #2 is a woman made for culinary adventure; she’s a woman ready to step out of familiar everyday meals. Like her Momma, she possesses the gift of a mind open to new possibilities, a mind that does not fear to explore.

The Challenge: An Ina Garten French Dinner

Now that you know something of the character of Daughter #2, let us discuss the nature of the challenge. Recently, Daughter #2 has been studying French cuisine through the eyes of Ina Garten and her cookbook Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home. She knew well how strongly her Momma had been influenced by Julia Child and her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I and she thought it would be a grand idea for Mme. Blondie and her to bring what they had learned together in a semi-formal sit-down dinner party. The plans were made, the menu was decided, and the date was set – January 23, 2022, would be the day for French Cuisine & GRITS.

Both chefs started preparations early, actually days in advance. In the post Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case, you saw how Mme. Blondie prepared Julia’s Tartlets. At noon that day, I was chauffeured by Monsieur Fuzz Face to Daughter #2’s residence. Fortunately, I was able to sit in the back seat with Mme. Blondie and was not subjected to Fuzzy’s foolish prattle. When we arrived at Daughter #2’s home, just a short distance from the beautiful North Fork of the Shenandoah, I quietly walked into the kitchen. Daughter #2 was quite busy, and it took a moment or two for her to turn in my direction. When she saw me, dressed as I was in my usual dapper way, her mouth fell open and she uttered a most surprised yet sincere welcome. Recognizing me, perhaps the world’s most distinguished gourmet, she immediately dropped everything and hugged me lovingly, kissing each cheek in the customary French way. I was most flattered and I’m certain that I blushed with the attention she showered upon me.

I knew that my presence would increase the pressure on her to make the perfect meal. I did my best to let her know that she could continue without worry about me. I was here to enjoy the food and to make a new friend. – This is, after all, the way it should be in the world of fine food.

Le Menu

There are those that foolhardily say that a typical French dinner consists of this or that number of courses. Of course, they seldom take into account the customs in different regions, nor do they even consider that perhaps there is room for variation. In but a few minutes of searching, you can find any number of discordant answers to the question of “How many and what are the courses in a typical French Dinner?” I mock these so-called experts. Here, see for yourself how they never can agree:

The 7 Courses of a Formal French Meal
Formal Dinner Party Courses
What are the Courses in a French Dinner?

Here in a loose form is what Daughter #2 served her guests and yours truly, Persnickety Pierre, on this day of days in her culinary life:

  • L’Aperitif: Serendipity Cocktail – This drink was chosen for its name and significance to all associated with Serendipity Farmhouse. For the history of the drink and a recipe see: Serendipity, a Paris Cocktail from the World’s Greatest Bartender
  • L’Entree: Julia’s Tartlets – The background on this appetizer is described in the post Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case.
  • La Soupe: Winter Squash Soup – Taken from Ina Garten’s recipe. See: Winter Squash Soup (Recipe here; Barefoot in Parish (BIP), p. 81)
  • Le Plat Principal: Beef Bourguignon – Taken from Ina Garten’s recipe. See: Beef Bourguignon (Recipe here; BIP, p. 121)
  • Salad: Green Salad Vinaigrette – Taken from Ina Garten’s recipe. See: Green Salad Vinaigrette (Recipe here; BIP, p. 102)
  • Le Fromage: Cheese Plate – This plate featured an assortment of Spanish & French cheeses, from cow, goat, and sheep milk. An appropriate bread was used as the base for the Beef Bourguignon and eating separately.
  • Le Dessert: Mixed Fruit Tart – See: Wegmans Large Mixed Fruit Tart
  • Dinner Wine: Côtes du Rhône – A moderately priced red wine and an excellent pairing with Beef Bourguignon

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My Flawless Professional Review

Among my first impressions was the fact that at various points during meal preparation there were as many as six people in the kitchen. Daughter #2, of course, was the primary chef. She received some minor assistance from Son-in-Law #2 and Granddaughter #4, but, for the most part, Daughter #2 had to prepare the meal with a horde of bystanders in a very small kitchen. – To her very great credit, Daughter #2 maintained her composure throughout. Now, let us examine her meal from the perspective of Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence:

  1. Level of the challenge: I am happily compelled to score Daughter #2 very highly on this criterion. In fact, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that she has earned the coveted Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence (PPPE). Not only was her menu exceedingly ambitious, filled with many potential pitfalls, but each item was artfully chosen with the intent to please her dinner guests. Daughter #2 also had to deal with the totally unexpected arrival of Persnickety Pierre and remain calm and focused while under his intense scrutiny.  Oui, truly a remarkable performance worthy of a PPPE!
  2. Selection of good-quality ingredients: I have come to learn that Daughter #2 spent several days shopping for the ingredients to be served in her dinner. She carefully studied several cookbooks to enlighten herself concerning the right foods for an authentic French-style cuisine. She also sought advice from those whom she regards as knowledgeable. There were several calls to Mme. Blondie concerning selection of ingredients. She even called upon the assistance of M. Fuzz Face concerning selection of wines and European cheeses. Rather atypically, M. Fuzzy actually provided worthwhile advice.
  3. Use of cooking techniques: There are two reasons why I have chosen to award Daughter #2 an unprecedented second PPPE. As you can see from the featured image at the top of this post, when I first entered the kitchen, I was both amazed and delighted to see several courses in the midst of simultaneous preparation. My picture shows the blue pot containing the main course. Off to the left, preparation of the soup has begun. At the other side of the kitchen, Daughter was describing the history and ingredients of the aperitif to her guests. My picture also shows the second reason for awarding the PPPE. You will see in the foreground a very large pot containing a rendition of Ina Garten’s Homemade Chicken Stock (Recipe here; BIP, p. 84). Oui, Daughter #2 had elected to make her own chicken stock for use in the Winter Squash soup. Mon Dieu, what a great undertaking! Yet, Daughter #2 desired to make the extra effort.
  4. Development of superior taste and flavor: It goes without saying yet it is necessary that I say it. Daughter #2, due to her advance study, selection of fine ingredients, and diligent adherence to proper technique, was able to bring together in her masterpiece meal a symphony of tastes, flavors, and aromas. There were no sour notes. This music for the palate would render any audience breathless. The reason I have chosen not to award a PPPE is because I think it only right to allow this amazing amateur chef room to grow. I firmly believe that she should, when the time is right, depart from the recipe and explore her own native ability to experiment with herbs, spices, and techniques that will expand her repertoire.
  5. Presentation: Great care was taken to present the meal in a manner that was authentic but not overly formal. This was, after all, a meal for the family to enjoy. Interestingly, Daughter #2 called upon Granddaughter #4 to assist in setting the table. My earlier picture of the table setting shows that was done quite well. The attention to detail is evident. Daughter #2 personally served all guests. She did so with the charm, efficiency, and professional quality that would be worthy of a large tip, had this been a fine restaurant. I must point out that, in the future, Daughter #2 might be well-advised to consider portion size. This was a multi-course meal and use of a smaller bowl for the soup would have been more appropriate. That being said, I found myself happily pleased by the flavor of the soup and consumed all of it.

And there it is! Two amateur chefs, both Girls Raised in the South, a mother and daughter working together to prepare a memorable French dinner. The mother was awarded Persnickety Pierre’s first Paw of Excellence. The daughter won Pierre’s heart with her unusually challenging and most assuredly successful effort to bring fine French cuisine to the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, the breadbasket of the South. Indeed, it is without question that Daughter #2 deserves two PPPEs for her remarkable achievement of bringing together French Cuisine & GRITS!

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2021- December

2022- January

2022- February

Windfall/Rainfall Profit

Our newest contributor, the distinguished M. Pierre LeChat is currently emersed in piles of notes and pictures. He is preparing his first full-blown amateur chef review. It will be about a six-course meal prepared and served by our own lovely Daughter #2. We look forward to the review with great anticipation.

Likewise, Mr. Monte is engaged in anxious preparation for St. Valentine’s Day. His every waking moment has been focused on ensuring that his gifts and card for his dearly beloved Miss Fleur will be well received.

So, with our primary contributors set on much higher priority tasking, it falls to me to recount recent happenings here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Today, I will touch on how we can profit from the unexpected and convert unfortunate events into something of value.

Windfall Profit

Although now it is a financial term, “windfall profit” was originally associated with something of potential use (such as a tree or fruit from a branch) knocked down by the wind. The first winter storm of January paralyzed parts of Virginia. SFH was in the path of the storm and a great number of dead tree branches came down under the weight of the snow and ice. A large maple tree on the southeast side of SFH lost some deadwood and it also lost a relatively large live limb.

The fallen maple limb

Due to four fractured ribs, I was unable to go out and clear the debris from the storm. It wasn’t until this past Friday that I felt sufficiently healed and able to tackle this job.

Just some of our windfall profit

In years gone by, I might have hauled off all the debris. This year, however, we have been noting that, due to an unusually cold winter, our firewood supply was being depleted faster than we had expected. Additionally, we have been concerned by the steady rise in propane prices. With that in mind, I endeavored to ensure that all fallen debris that could be used to fuel the woodstove was cut and stacked near the woodshed to be used as firewood and kindling next winter.

The point is quite simple – January’s winter storm gave SFH a windfall profit.

Rainfall Profit

This last Thursday was the feast day of one of our patron saints, St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict. Accounts of one incident in her life make it clear that she well understood how to reap benefit from a seemingly unexpected natural event. Unlike, our winter storm, Scholastica also demonstrated the power of prayer.

Briefly stated, St. Benedict visited his sister on a day when there was good weather. He made it clear that he had to return to the abbey that evening. St. Scholastica felt it necessary to spend more time with her brother so she prayed so that somehow he would stay. Then unexpectedly the weather changed and heavy rain and high winds made it impossible for St. Benedict to depart. He stayed the night with his sister. The stay was most memorable, and St. Scholastica had benefitted from prayer and a rainfall profit.

Saints Benedict and Scholastica in conversation, Klosterkirche Elchingen, Public domain

Septuagesima Sunday

If you are viewing this post on your PC, you will note that we have a countdown to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Here at SFH, Lent is a most important season. It provides us the opportunity to retreat from the world and spend time in penance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. By so doing, we renew our spiritual strength. Septuagesima Sunday under the traditional calendar marks the first of three consecutive Sundays dedicated to preparation for Lent – a pre-Lent, so to speak.

This Sunday, we reflect on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16). This parable brings home the sobering thought: “So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2021- December

2022- January

2022- February

Julia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case

My dear new friends, as you learned in the recent post Gourmet Ketchup, I am Pierre LeChat, gourmand and expert on all that is food. As you can tell by my name, I am French, but my love of good food extends to all points on the globe.

It is not my way to attempt to impress you by resorting to food snobbery. After all, it goes without saying that the enjoyment of any food is a matter of personal taste. Yet now that I have said that which goes without saying, I will tell you that I have met food critics who would want you to think that all food must be judged by their own narrowly defined personal tastes. Critics like these have no place in my world and they will never be acknowledged by me so long as I am a staff member of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen.

Nevertheless, there must be some standard criteria by which to judge the labors of an amateur chef or team of chefs. Throughout my career, I have pondered this most important question: What are the appropriate criteria for judgement? Although, my notes concerning this question fill multiple volumes, for the sake of simplicity, I have settled upon five criteria that are critical to the success for any amateur chef. Here they are.

Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence

1. Level of the challenge
2. Selection of good-quality ingredients
3. Use of cooking techniques
4. Development of superior taste and flavor
5. Presentation

My Test Case – Julia’s Tartlets by SFH TK

Now that you know my general philosophy, criteria, and approach to evaluation, let us quickly observe how I will go about my task of revealing the talents of some of the world’s finest amateur chefs. The obvious best place to begin, of course, is right here at my new place of employment, the almost world-renowned Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH TK). My dear employer, Mme. Blondie graciously offered the services of SFH TK and a select cooking team to undergo the scrutiny of Persnickety Pierre. She knew that I would be brutally honest and that I would not withhold criticism – it would be her challenge and she willingly accepted. – Let us move on to the review.

  1. Level of the challenge: Although Mme. Blondie was only preparing an appetizer, barely a moderate technical challenge, she knew that the whole world would be watching. She knew the golden reputation of the SFH TK was at stake. She accepted this added pressure and managed to maintain her composure throughout this test case. – High marks here for Mme. Blondie
  2. Selection of good-quality ingredients: Both Mme. Blondie and her somewhat less capable assistant M. Fuzz Face seek to prepare high-quality meals on a tightly controlled budget. After all, SFH is not the house of their dreams; it is the house of their realities. I see this as an excellent objective. In our test, I was not displeased nor offended by any choice of individual ingredients. This chef team hit the mark on quality while remaining well within their allotted budget.
  3. Use of cooking techniques: This, most unfortunately, was where the SFH TK team stumbled. While Mme. Blondie displayed outstanding ability in cleanliness, selection of proper tools, and use of high-standard process and procedure, her junior partner was not so well disposed. It was my observation that M. Fuzz Face is clumsy, lazy, and lacking in proper respect for food and its preparation. His particularly disturbing blunder during this test was the way in which he clumsily employed the tart tamper, breaking the bottoms of the tartlet shells. His shaping of the shells in the cups was crude and uneven. And to add to those failures, he departed from proper procedure by stabbing the base of the tartlet shells multiple times, rather than lightly pricking the shell just once. Please view for yourself the slovenly work of M. Fuzz Face.
  4. Development of superior taste and flavor: Mme. Blondie is a most creative chef. She has an innate sense of what will lift the taste and flavor of a dish from the merely superb to the heavenly sublime. If you compare the original recipe to Mme. Blondie’s adaptation, you will find that she does not fear to experiment and innovate. Later in the day of this test case, the tartlets were presented at a family gathering. There were no leftovers! That is the highest form of praise.
  5. Presentation: I had to score Mme. Blondie a little lower on this criterion. But that was not due to any failure on her part. Her appetizer only made it to the kitchen at the family gathering – it was totally consumed before there was a chance for it to make it to the dinner table. In this test case, the aroma, taste, and flavor outweighed all other criteria; final presentation could not be judged due to the rush by all to engage Mme. Blondie’s tartlets in a first-hand taste test.

And after review of the pictures, reference to my notes, and, of course, my personal evaluation of taste and flavor, I can now inform the world that the SFH TK has won the first ever Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence. It would have been two paws, but the inept and bungling preparation of the tartlet cups by M. Fuzz Face made it impossible for me to award a highly coveted second paw.

 

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18-inch French Rolling Pin

With regard to the blunders made by M. Fuzz Face, Mme. Blondie was more than ready to provide some rather enthusiastic and dramatic remedial action. The French rolling pin you see in her hands was going to be the instrument used to deliver the remedial action. M. Fuzz Face, recognizing that his goose had been cooked, offered to administer penitential remedial action to himself using a 6-inch tart tamper. Mme. Blondie mercifully accepted his compromise and now the blundering chef wears the marks of his self-chastisement. – As M. Monte had informed me, M. Fuzzy definitely “is not the sharpest claw on the paw.”

6-inch Tart M. Fuzzy Tamper

Julia’s Cheese Tartlets the SFH TK Way

Blondie
This is the Serendipity Farmhouse adaptation of Jackie DeKnock's version of
JuliaChild’s Cheese Tartlets at Gourmet Safari.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine French

Equipment

  • Chicago Metallic Professional Mini-Pie Pan with Cutting Tool, 13.8-Inch-by-10.6-Inch
  • Baking Dual-Sided Pastry Dough Tart Tamper, Hardwood, 6-Inches

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp Cultured buttermilk - Original uses 1 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 Large egg
  • 1 dash Hot pepper sauce
  • 1 Frozen, ready-to-bake pie crust - Original uses pre-made tart shells or your own pie dough
  • 12 3-inch tartlet shells
  • ½ cup Cheddar, Fontina, Gruyère or Swiss Cheese - A good melting cheese
  • cup Creme fraiche - Recipe below

Instructions
 

Creme Fraiche Recipe:

  • In saucepan over very low heat, combine heavy cream and buttermilk, warm, stirring constantly, just until mixture reaches body temperature. Pour into metal or glass bowl; cover with plastic and place in warm spot. Let thicken for 24-48 hours. It should look like yogurt. Refrigerate until ready to use (it will thicken more in the refrigerator).

Tartlet Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (Original uses 425 degrees)
  • If you make your own small tart shells, roll out pie dough to ⅛-inch thickness and cut into circles a little bigger than the tops of the cups in the tartlet pan. Press pie dough circles into cups, with piecrusts coming to the tops of the cup. (We use a tart tamper to do this.) Prick bottom of shell with fork.
  • Place grated cheese in each tart shell, filling almost to top.
  • Mix egg and hot pepper sauce into creme fraiche. Then, pour a little of this mixture into each tart shell, filling almost to top of each shell. (NOTE: You can add a sprinkle of dried herbs on top, such as thyme or herbes de Provence, as a garnish if you like). Place filled tartlet pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned and set in centers.
  • ** Salt may not be needed if a salty cheese is used. Taste your cheese before deciding how much salt to add.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Report – Last Three Months

2021- December

2022- January

2022- February

Gourmet Ketchup

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, absolutely nothing would get done at SFH if I weren’t here to do it. No, I don’t mean I do all the physical labor. That would be beneath my dignity. What it means is, I am the one with the real initiative and creativity in this multifaceted enterprise we call Serendipity Farmhouse. For example, here I am writing this post, when, by all rights, Ol’ Fuzz Face should be performing this task. But, as you can see, Fuzzy is absent without leave once again. – How he ever made it in this world, I’ll never understand.

Alas, there’s no need to continue in this vein of thought. After all, Fuzzy and Blondie are the humans they are, and I have to make the most of it. – – So, I’ll just have to continue on to the ‘meet’ of this post. So, here it is:

‘Meet’ SFH TK’s Distinguished New Staff Member

For years, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen has endeavored to prepare some of the finest meals imaginable. With my guidance and amazing sense of taste, I have conducted Fuzzy and Blondie through some of the most extraordinary adventures in the culinary arts. Yet, with all that we have accomplished, I knew deep down inside that the SFH TK is capable of so much more. That is why, in a recent staff meeting, I broached the idea of hiring a freelance gourmet and food critic. The new hire would bring the professional touch to our already high level of food writing. I let the staff know I had someone special in mind.

As usual, Fuzzy was a little slow on the intake and questioned the prospects of such a venture. Blondie, on the other hand, immediately fell in love with the idea. In fact, she had ideas of her own that would add color and interest to this type of food writing project. – Fuzzy, somewhat bewildered by the whole thing, finally agreed to the venture when he realized he was once again outnumbered.

As you might suspect, I keep myself abreast of all that is important in the world of food. In my extensive reading, some years back, I came across the mysterious food critic known as Pierre LeChat. Though his talent and experience were legendary, there were no pictures of Pierre to be had anywhere. – There were no pictures until this day, in this post, in this blog, authored by this cat.

For anyone else it would be difficult to make contact with such an elusive celebrity. But for me, it only took a few minutes online to make the acquaintance of Monsieur LeChat. Another few minutes were spent in minor chitchat, and in that short period, we recognized that we hold so very much in common. And the most important thing I learned from our chat was, true to his name, M. LeChat loves cats to an extent seldom seen among those of the unfortunate human persuasion. – So, without further ado, here’s our newest staff member, M. Pierre LeChat.

Bonjour to all of you! For nearly five decades, I have worked virtually unseen and unnoticed in my relentless pursuit of the exquisite meal, the artfully prepared dish that has no equal, the blending of taste and flavor that leaves one speechless. On rare occasions, I have found that meal. But more often I have found seemingly artificial concoctions, prepared by so-called chefs who possess great pride but no talent. – Those misbegotten chefs are only deserving of disdain and derision. And in my reviews, that is what I have given them – a meal of truth served on a bitter platter. That is why they have dubbed me ‘Persnickety Pierre.’ – I wear that title as a badge of honor.

Now, after all those years hiding my true identity, I come to the esteemed Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen. It is here that I will bring honor and tribute to the chefs who really matter, the amateur chefs who strive to do what many professional chefs will never learn, to prepare the exquisite meal for the ones they cherish most – their families and friends. I will seek out these gifted ones, the ones who take on great culinary challenges simply because they love to cook, and because they love those for whom they cook.

But of course, I will continue to be persnickety. After all, that is who I am. Yet, I will be truthful in gentle ways. I will always keep in mind the difficulty of the challenge undertaken and give recognition to the effort made to please. For those who meet their self-made goals, for those who reach a new level of excellence, there will be the soon-to-be-highly-coveted award known as ‘Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence’ (PPPE).

If you fail to see the symbolism in the PPPE, allow me to explain. The forepaw of a polydactyl cat, such as my new-found protégé, Monsieur Monte, has two extra toes, which some call thumbs. The PPPE is my way of saying that I give a particular dish or meal two thumbs up.

That is enough for now. I will present to you more of my persnickety personal views on the art of cooking in the future. Until then, if you would like to have your special meal judged by a real expert, give the SFH TK a call, and I will be there to join you for a most memorable tasting experience.   

SFH Journal: 2022-01 – Winter Ketchup

What need is there to ketchup on this January’s events? It’s been snowy and cold. Blondie makes that quite clear.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

  The following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last Journal post:

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

Official SFH Weather Station Statistics

Likewise, the following links will provide the latest ketchup on what has been recorded by the Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station – KVAFLETC4 since our last Journal post:

Last Week: 

SFH WX 2022-01-17 through 01-23

Report – Last Two Months

2021- December

2022- January

 

SFH Christmas – 2021 BC!!

Attention!!!!

To all of Mr. Monte’s 23,417 feline followers, including his many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, do not, I repeat, do not expect to see any posts authored by Mr. Monte for a long, long, long, long, long time. As of this morning at 5:00 AM, I changed the passwords on every electronic device here are Serendipity Farmhouse, and Mr. Monte is hereby denied access to any communication device whatsoever until further notice. – – He, the once world-renowned SFH Chief of Security, has committed a severe breach of professional conduct. That is why, commencing now and extending far into the forseeable future, his communications privileges are hereby revoked.

Background: Due to an unfortunate incident three weeks ago, I sustained a somewhat severe injury – I fractured four ribs and two of those ribs have multiple fractures. As a consequence of the injury, I have been unable to sleep in bed and must sleep on a chair in the SFH living room. Although this has been a hardship, my spirits were lifted on December 23rd when my dear, sweet Wife and I were finally able to erect our humble but happy little Christmas tree. Of course, that little tree, with the baby Jesus nestled at its base, was the focal point for our quiet and prayerful Christmas Eve.

3:25 AM This Morning: As I was peacefully sleeping in the easy chair next to the Christmas tree early this morning, all feelings of blissful sleep, happiness, and joy came to a nerve shattering, traumatic end as our dear SFH Christmas tree crashed down on me in my chair. Through the branches laying near my face, I looked up with a start and saw a large, frightened, 21-pound Maine Coon cat hightailing it out through the kitchen and into the dining room. It was as if you could actually see “guilt” floating in the air behind him. – – I harshly uttered a word or two is some long-forgotten language known to be spoken by very salty sailors.

From the SFH master bedroom, my most wondrous and protective Spouse asked what had happened, but her voice clearly indicated that she really knew what it was without needing to be told. She quickly entered the living room and turned on the lights. Now that she could see, she first looked for broken glass ornaments or other dangerous debris. Next, she came over to the fallen tree and began the task of moving ornaments and Christmas tree parts in hopes of finding her husband somewhere underneath.

It took about 10-15 minutes before it was safe for me to move from my chair. Together, my beautiful Bride and I resumed the search for fallen ornaments. Then, we reassembled the tree and hastily returned it to the table where it had been placed so carefully on December 23rd. – – The only fact that made this matter less bad than it could have been, was that not a single ornament was broken.

We put some of the fallen decorations back onto the tree and others we put into a bowl. Later today, we will try to restore our poor tree to its former glory.

Perhaps: Perhaps this was all just an accident. Perhaps the SFH Chief of Security was merely trying to make the placement of the ornaments more symmetrical or pleasing to the eye. Perhaps the tree was not positioned safely, and Mr. Monte was attempting to slide the tree to a safer position on the table. Perhaps …

Perhaps all of those perhapses are just a bunch of malarky, and Mr. Monte momentarily slipped into a feline fit of felonious, juvenile behavior. As I said before, “It was as if you could actually see “guilt” floating in the air behind him.”

Nevertheless, at this time, and until there is any hint of evidence to acquit him, we here at SFH will have to make the judgement that perhaps Mr. Monte was just being an SFH Christmas – 2021 BC!! and BC stands for ……