Category: SFH Skills

SFH-TK SKills – Herbs

Hi! Blondie here with a mix of garden and food talk.

In this post we will discuss how the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) is mastering herb skills. So, come join me on the back porch and let’s talk about what’s going on.

Although Mr. Monte would probably disagree, my dear Hubby is greatly underrated when it comes to practical skills and  long-range planning. – – Well, come to think of it, sometimes Monte’s low opinion concerning Fuzzy’s skills is spot-on. – – Whatever. This year, Hubby did have some good ideas relating to herbs and spices that have led to improvements for the SFH-TK.

I guess his long-range plan began to come into focus this time last year when he decided to give me a set of herb and spice bottles for Christmas. When I opened the rather large box containing the 48 little bottles, all I managed to say was, “Just what am I supposed to do with these?” He merely answered, “You’ll see.” – – And so I did in early March when Hubby installed two sets of herb and spice storage racks, one set for the kitchen and one for the pantry. (See the item Bringing Order to a Real Mess in the post Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking))

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The next step in his plan was to improve our ability to grow herbs by preparing an entirely new herb garden in SFH Vegetable Garden #2. (See the item Part I – The Herb Garden Gardens in the post Feast Day Garden Talk)

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Throughout the growing season, Hubby could be found gazing into his crystal ball (his computer and the Internet) looking for the best information sources needed to complete his master plan. That’s when he started collecting articles, items, and notes from places like the National Center for Home Food Preservation. From these resources he learned how to dry herbs. A big part of his master plan was to dehydrate some of our new crops of Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, and Tarragon and to become self-sufficient in these frequently used herbs. He thought this would be possible because all four herbs are perennials and we won’t have plant any new ones for some time. His newfound knowledge highlighted distinctions between the various types of herbs that would help him in selecting the best combinations of dehydrating times and temperatures. For example, he learned:

Less Tender Herbs —  Include rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley – these are easier to dry

Tender-Leaf Herbs — Include basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints – these have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly

When the pressure from the main growing season subsided, Hubby had the time to pursue the task of perfecting his SFH-TK herb dehydrating skills. For a period of two weeks, every day was filled with either picking, dehydrating, or storing our herbs. Although he learned that it is better to store some herbs whole, that is not ground, he did experiment with grinding herbs using a make-do mortar and pestle. Here are pictures of the process and the results. Sometime in the future, I’ll let Hubby go into more detail. – – For now, however, let’s just say Hubby actually had a plan that worked.

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Don’t Rest on Your Laurels, Hubby

Hubby was a bit overly proud of his new dehydrating skills. Consequently, Mr. Monte and I had to bring him down a peg or two. So, I took the opportunity to tell him that it was time to replace my special flashing light display on the back porch. Reluctantly, he set up the step ladder, climbed to dizzying and dangerous heights (for him) and proceeded to install the new lights. — Fortunately, there were no accidents and surprisingly the lights worked the first night.

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First Fire of the Season

First fire of the year – November 13

Now it’s getting a bit cold out here on the porch. It’s time to go back inside and warm up. I’ve asked Hubby to light a fire in our trusty old wood stove. While he’s doing that I’ll make some hot chocolate for the two of us.

Once again, it was the best harvest ever! – No, we’re not preppers; we’re not homesteaders; and we’re not farmers. We’re just a happily married couple living rural life in a practical way. – It’s all a great blessing.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

The extensive and highly productive vegetable gardens here at SFH have been blessed with a most abundant harvest. For now, the following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last report:

SFH 2022 Plantings

SFH 2022 Harvest

SFH 2022 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2022-11-01 through 11-30


Farewell Virginia Craftsman

I know of no greater compliment to a man than to pay tribute to what he made with his own hands. From a simple 1920s farmhouse, surrounded by mud, all the way to our own beloved Serendipity Farmhouse, there have been men and women who have had skills, patience, imagination, and great ability. They were caring individuals who knew what this simple farmhouse could be, should be, and would be. And they made it happen.

0221181236_hdr-2Today, we learned of the passing of one of those people – Our dear friend Bill. (Please see post SFH Skills 2018-01: Bill Skills.)

There is virtually no building on this property, no room in this house, no direction we might turn that does not reflect the work of this inspired craftsman. And every fixture or feature that has known his touch is now better, brighter, more functional, more pleasing, and more highly valued. We would tell him our vision, he would make it a reality.

When we moved into this house, the wood on both the front porch and the back deck had rotted. This was a img_20140524_152424_569-2matter of replacement not repair. Bill got it done. There was no door for the rear porch and it was a non-standard size. Bill custom made the new door. Two joists under what is now our living room had broken and needed to be shored up. Bill got it done. – – I could go on, but there is no room in this post to list all Bill did here at Serendipity.

IMG_20140405_100638_375_editedBill was not just a repairman, he was a craftsman. When we explained that we had more books than space to store them, Bill came up with a perfect design for a set of shelves for the living room. Practical and functional as it was, it was also what could be expected in a house of this vintage. It was not out of place. In fact, it probably should have been here to begin with.

I think the previous owners and occupants, those who either grew up here or had children here can understand why my beautiful wife and I are feeling a great loss tonight. This little old Virginia farmhouse deserves great care and constant attention. So many have done so much for this house. And tonight one of those people is no longer here. Yet, when we look at the paint, walk up the  steps, open the screen door, turn on the tap at the kitchen sink, we cannot help but be thankful and appreciative of the work that Bill did here. He loved old homes and had a craftsman’s skill and Serendipity Farmhouse will display his love for years to come.

Rest in peace, dear friend.


* Thank you to Jackie for the old picture featured in this post.

SFH Journal: 2020-03-02 through 03-08

The word “busy” is quite inadequate to describe the events here at Serendipity Farmhouse this week. Consequently, all of our daily chores and work on this post have had to take a back seat to doing the important things. Here are just a few of the events that, most happily, occupied our time.

Driving Lessons: A certain grandson visited us from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning. This was not your usual run-of-the-mill, fantastically exciting visit to SFH. No! This was a visit with a purpose. What purpose you might ask?

This young man and yours truly set about the serious task of driver training. I could fill pages with narrative about the event, but let me just say the following. Early on Monday morning I sat beside a grandson who had never started an auto engine. At 10:30 AM on Wednesday, that same grandson drove his granny and granddad to Mass on a four-lane divided highway at 55 mph. – – Granny was favorably impressed.

There will be more to this saga in coming weeks.

Liver & Onions for a New Generation: In honor of my dear brother Tim, whose birthday was March 3rd, Blondie and I made one of his favorite dishes, liver & onions, as a memorial dinner. We gave our visiting grandson the option of eating something else or trying Tim’s favorite. To make a long story very short, dear grandson ate the meal with great enthusiasm and was ready for more. – – Tim, a new generation has taken the torch in hand, the tradition will live on. – – P.S. We miss you!

Annual SFH “First Robin of Spring Contest: In the past, this event has been both a cause for great rejoicing and, at times, a cause for some passionate discussion. This year, the three judges, Blondie, Mr. Monte and I, seriously considered the photographic entries for the contest in all manners, aspects, and ways. – The decision was unanimous. Both entries from the Eastern branch of the family were selected as winners.

There was one judge, however, who indicated that next year he would like to have more substantial evidence than mere photos. He suggested that the subject robins be brought to SFH for his close personal examination. – – Meeooww!

Level-headed Wife: My dearest spouse, level in hand, requested my presence at the site IMG_20200223_120155200_HDR_editedof the new arbor. Under her expert direction, the new arbor is almost level. The new anchor pins held up well under the force of recent high winds. It was still too early to obtain any praise or even simple acknowledgement from my beautiful Wife. – – Perhaps someday I’ll meet her expectations.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-03-02 through 03-08

“All things have their season” – Even Yard Trash

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

There are many ways to prepare for Christmas. By living Advent fully as a time of preparation and prayer, you can find a deeper meaning in the mystery of Christmas. My beautiful wife and her close friend give expression to that sentiment in their yearly tradition of making Advent/Christmas arrangements.

Continue reading ““All things have their season” – Even Yard Trash”

SFH Journal: 2018-12-08 through 14 “Yard Trash Day”

Highlight: Yard Trash Day Is Here! – This year, Annual Yard Trash Day – 2018 was observed on Friday, December 14th. “Yard Trash Day” is a tradition where we go through our yards and gather all kinds of evergreens, magnolia branches, and assorted greens adorned with colorful berries. Then, adorable spouse and her best friend turn what I call “yard trash” into festive, seasonal works of beauty.

Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2018-12-08 through 14 “Yard Trash Day””

SFH Journal: 2018-07-27 through 29

Highlight: Summer has its own spirit. Perhaps there is an angel that helps to open our eyes to the beauty created for us by God. So, as the Resurrection lilies come to full blossom along the river’s edge, we have come to see beautiful days surround us.

0724181257b (2)And in this time of Summer delights, beautiful  and resourceful wife came across a magazine article that caused her imagination to go into full bloom. She has wanted a potting station for quite some time, but most on the market are cheaply made and expensively priced. The idea of building one like shown in the picture sparked her creativity. So, below, you will see her progress on this latest venture. Stay tuned, there will be more to come.

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Weather: The temperatures have gotten a bit cooler and the humidity is now back on the tolerable side.

2018-07-27: High – 87º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-07-28: High – 82º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-07-29: High – 80º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report


2018-07-27: 9 okra pods

2018-07-28: 2 cherry tomatoes

SFH Skills 2018-01: Bill Skills

Everyone has skills. Skills are very important. You can’t live without them. Even Mr. Monte has skills. (Read What Were They Thinking?) Unfortunately, some people have the wrong skills for where they are. Serendipity Farmhouse, for example, requires some unusual skills. For example, we have recently acquired “bird in wood stove skills”.

Although we have developed several requisite SFH skills, and someday we might even have blogging skills, there is no way that I will ever have wood working skills, plumbing skills, generator fixing skills, or deck building skills. That, dear friends, is why we are blessed to have Bill and all of his “Bill Skills”.

You can see Bill here with a project he completed last week. Yup, Bill has railing skills. Those stairs under the railing? Yup, Bill built those steps – he has stair skills. Over the course of this coming year we will talk about Bill and his Bill Skills.



Oh, some day, you might find someone like Bill, but I guarantee you, you’ll never find someone with the entire set of Bill Skills. That set of skills only belongs to Bill. Bill is our “go to guy”. Every day, Serendipity Farmhouse shows off more and more why it was happy to be introduced to Bill and his skills.

Don’t think we take this lightly. Bill is a craftsman, a professional, he’s worked on this house inside and outside since we first moved in. It’s more than just skills, he loves what he does, and he’s the best.

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