Category: SFH- Upkeep & Improvements

Feast Day Garden Talk

May 15th, the Feast of St. Isadore – A report and accounting of our labors at Serendipity Farmhouse.

This is May 15th, the feast of St. Isadore. It is fitting and proper that on this day we make this report. That’s because we’ve asked St. Isadore to be our patron for all things agricultural, horticultural, and in all efforts involving physical labor. Our last full public report was made in 2018 (Report to St. Isadore). Much has happened in our gardens since that report and, despite a few setbacks, we’ve had many blessings. It now falls on me, Blondie, the Chief Gardener, to carry on the SFH tradition of rendering an accounting to St. Isadore concerning what we’ve done with the God’s gifts.

Part I – The Herb Garden Gardens

The first herb garden my Hubby constructed several years ago was initially a great success. However, each succeeding year the garden became less productive. We had heard that Black Walnut trees could be harmful to nearby plants, so we did some research. Sure enough, articles like Black Walnut: The Killer Tree confirmed our suspicions. Those ‘killer trees’ produce a chemical (juglone) that is toxic to most plants we had in the herb garden. Consequently, we’ve heeded the article’s advice: “Gardeners who have large walnut trees near their vegetable gardens should consider an alternate site.” This year, Hubby has set up a second herb garden located far from the offending Black Walnuts.

In the process, we’ve noted that some of our older raised beds are getting “long in the tooth.” They are warping and no longer hold together on their own. Hubby has temporarily reinforced the boxes with short fence posts.

Thanks to my dearest friend Nancy, I have a new, high-quality pot for a new mint plant.

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St. Isadore, of course you know Mr. Monte holds you in high regard due to your kindness to animals. This year, he made his first venture into farming. Rather unsurprisingly, he chose to start his agricultural career with Nepeta Cataria (commonly known as catnip, catswort, catwort, or catmint).

Part II – The Vegetable Garden Gardens

When we last reported to you, St. Isadore, we only had one vegetable garden containing four raised beds, each with two sections. Later, we fenced in a new vegetable garden containing two raised beds. Hubby was never happy with his fencing job on Vegetable Garden #2. All he had to drive in the posts was a 3-pound sledge. That just wasn’t good enough when going up against some of the clever and defiant rocks that abide here on the vast Serendipity Farmhouse estate. Rather than holding up the fence, the fence posts were held up by the fence and most were crooked.

Because we needed to move most of our herbs to a new location and because we wanted to increase the number and varieties of vegetable crops, we decided to add two more raised beds to Vegetable Garden #2. Under my expert supervision, Hubby engineered the garden expansion. He even went so far as to obtain a 12-pound heavy-duty hand post pounder with handle.

When we attempted to order raised bed kits similar to the ones we already had, they either couldn’t be found or were unreasonably expensive. We opted instead for two galvanized steel raised beds, which were slightly larger than the old ones. – – Two identical boxes arrived on the same day. Both boxes had identical instructions – Hubby got to work. The first box was completed in fairly good time – about 45 minutes. Hubby exclaimed he could assemble the second box in half the time! Two hours later ……… – – What caused the problem?? The contents of the two boxes were different. By the time Hubby assembled half of the box, he realized that he would have to disassemble everything and start from scratch. He also found that one key piece was broken. Dang!!

St. Isadore, although Hubby got visibly angry, to his credit, he said no bad words. – – Eventually, he developed a workaround solution and completed assembling the second box. – – Here are some pictures of the garden expansion and assembly.

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Part III – Plantings

There’s not enough time to go into detail on all the different plantings this year. Here’s a condensed recap: the garlic we planted last Autumn is thriving; we expect scapes to appear soon; and our vast SFH vineyard has had an exceptional start. We avoided the ravages of frost and wind, and all of our other plantings are doing well. A more detailed report can be seen here.

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Part IV – Flowers and Plants

Finally, with the exception of our rhododendron, all of our plants and flowers are doing well. In fact, the Irises in Mary’s Garden have been doing too well and we have to keep thinning them out. Hubby mowed over the remains of the discarded plants last year, and we thought that was that. Nope, they decided to invade the lawn and are growing in multiple patches. I guess they like it here.

That concludes our report, St. Isadore. We’ve tried to be good stewards of what God has bestowed on Serendipity. The fruits of these labors constantly bring us joy.

The Annual May Crowning – May 13th

 

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

SFH Journal: 2021-11-01 through 11-21 – Deep Autumn

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, observe the pictures above. Everything in them conveys a most important point – this is Le Chat, this is a feline in command. And that is precisely the case – I am the Feline in Command. While conducting my command and control duties on RV trips in El Camino Del Monte, my Command Post is strategically located in the over cab loft. From there I can observer all, monitor each and every activity, and maintain close control of my humans as they conduct all their activities within ECDM. It’s a difficult job ‘herding humans’, but it’s what I do.

The same can be said of my most necessary work at Serendipity Farmhouse. It’s a daily ritual. I get Ol’ Fuzz Face and Blondie up at an appropriately early hour. I make sure that they waste no time doing their required chores, e.g. feeding me, cleaning my pan, making my bed, etc. Blondie’s pretty good at following all my instructions, but I have to confess Fuzz Face is not exactly the ‘sharpest claw on the paw’.

Yep, Fuzzy is a little slow on the intake and downright bad at time management. He was supposed get this post out on Sunday, yet he hasn’t written a single word. The SFH blog has to maintain its five-star reputation, and Fuzz Face really isn’t up to the job. That’s why I have to take matters into my own paws and let you know what’s been happening here at SFH. So, sit back, relax, catch up on your grooming, and be informed by this report on all the SFH local news.

10 -12 NOV – RV Trip 2021-06: This was the last trip of the year. Blondie and Fuzz Face had made some ridiculously bad scheduling errors for some of our mid-season trips. Of course, you remember my post RV Trip 2021-02: I Wanna Go Home!. My big cats couldn’t have picked a worse time to take our rig out camping. – Dang! I hate that air conditioner!

RV Trip 2021-06, however, couldn’t have been any better. The weather was perfect in the mid-60s. The Autumn foliage was at its peak, and I was a happy cat camper. If he ever gets his scat together, Fuzzy will write a post and provide some pictures.

Looking southwest at the Massanutten Mountain Range

11 NOV – Dinner with Julia: Now, I’m not much into people food, but Julia Child and I share a love of butter. You can be sure that when the smell of butter is in the air, you will accompanied by Le Chat Chef Extraordinaire. And so it was on the evening of November 11th. Blondie and Fuzzy, under the close scrutiny and guidance of yours truly, successfully executed Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin. Once again, if Ol’ Fuzz Face ever gets his scat together, he will write a post and provide some pictures.

Coq au Vin a la El Camino Del Monte

17 NOV – River Cleanup: For several years now, we at SFH have watched as our lovely riverfront was slowly overgrown by small trees, invasive shrubs, and killer vines. The presence of established trees along the river bank is essential to prevent erosion, but many of the recent plant arrivals were hostile creatures, seeking to destroy all useful varieties of vegetation in their path. Enough was enough, Blondie commissioned a work crew to turn back the invasion. Although we know this is not the end of the war, and we will have to remain ever vigilant, the pictures below show that we are now winning.

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16-19 NOV – ECDM Winter Storage: Even for those of us who are somewhat reluctant to admit that RV life can be fun, it is always a sad time of the year when El Camino Del Monte has to be serviced, cleaned, and wrapped up in its protective cocoon for the winter.

As usual, Fuzzy provided examples of his all too frequent buffoonery. He stated to all of us here at SFH that gas prices were only going to go up. So, he rushed off to the nearby service station and pumped $102.92 worth of gasoline into ECDM at $3.29/gallon. Of course, the very next day, the gas price dropped by 10¢/gallon. — Fuzzy next showed off his ability to make simple jobs look hard, while at the same time taking foolish risks with his aging life and limb. I suspect Blondie was willing to take the pictures of him up atop ECDM so that it would support her claims for a maximum payoff from Fuzzy’s life insurance.

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20 NOV – First Woodstove Fire: So, we here at SFH have made the turn into the midst of what we call ‘Deep Autumn’. Finally, we’ve reached the time of year when the trusty old woodstove is used as our main source of heat. And for me, now that this post is complete, it’s time to curl up and take a long deserved nap, enjoying the warmth of the fire.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-07

SFH WX 2021-11-08 through 11-14

SFH WX 2021-11-15 through 11-21

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-11-01 through 11-30

SFH Journal: 2021-10-18 through 31 – Look Up!

My recent post Dark Autumn Reflections was, as its title stated, quite dark. I look back on that post and note my listing of worries and concerns. My words left no doubt that I was in the grips of depression. Yet, even with my recounting of problems, real and perceived, I was able to remember a most important fact:

“We here at SFH have hidden strength and resilience that enables us to weather any storm. We know that we will always come through the problems that beset us – there is always a sunny day after the storm.”

For us here at SFH, October 27th was the sunny day after the storm. The featured picture was taken immediately after attending Mass that morning. The sky was clear, the Autumn colors were vibrant, and the moon, a waning gibbous, was still high. To see this warm reflection of God’s might and splendor, all we had to do was to just “Look Up!”

RV Trip 2021-05: This storm in our life at SFH began to break when Grandson #3, Son-in-Law #1, and I made an excellent RV trip to Serendipity River Park.* It was during that trip that Blondie and I were first able to place our worries and concerns far in the background where they rightly belong.

* See The Guy’s Guide to Glamping – Section 1, Chapter 1. This was the first post in a series that will memorialize a truly epic adventure.

Water Leak: One of our ‘dark Autumn reflections’ centered on a serious water leak directly under our front walkway. We knew that the charge for repairing the leak could easily match or exceed the $3,800.00 we spent to repair a similar leak last December. We had mentally prepared ourselves for another massive expense. The day the plumbers came, we watched with dread and trepidation. Of course, the leak was directly under our brick walkway. Of course, the plumbers would announce that they were only plumbers and not landscapers. Of course, yours truly would have become a landscaper to repair the walkway once repairs had been completed. But, and this was a most important but, the entire line would not have to be replaced – the line could be fixed at the point of the leak.

Despite a large hole in the front yard and despite an upcoming day or two of bricklaying work on hand and knee, I was quite happy to pay the plumbers $458.00 for their day’s work.

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COVidiocy: COVidiocy knows no bounds. It manifests itself in many ways and none of those manifestations are rational. COVidiocy has caused pain and mental anguish for many, many good Americans. And my wife and I can count ourselves among that group.

Natural serendipity cannot ward off the harmful effects of COVidiocy. Only supernatural serendipity, i.e. the very Hand of God at work, can dispel the diabolical darkness of COVidiocy. And so it was on the morning of October 27th when I learned that my prayers had been answered and supernatural serendipity freed Serendipity Farmhouse from the grips of one manifestation of COVidiocy. – – But what of the many, many good Americans who have not been freed? What of the good Americans who are losing their jobs and being stripped of their freedoms? – – We here at SFH pray for them daily.

Birthday: What in life is better than having wonderful grandchildren? There is great peace and joy that comes from spending a Sunday afternoon sharing a birthday with these splendid little people. And this peace and joy only increases when a granddad can successfully assemble the “big present” and watch a growing granddaughter learn how it works. – – Yes, this was a most perfect day for Granny & Granddad!

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Firewood: Sweet, hardworking Wife and I hauled and stacked one cord of firewood in record time – three days at three loads per day.

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And surely, life can’t be quite so bad and the future can’t be quite so dark, when during the midst of the storm, a truck pulls up and delivers a cord of firewood. This wood will keep us warm during the cold of the coming Winter. – And so it is with God’s grace, it will always be there, even when we are lost in Dark Autumn Reflections. – There’s always a sunny day after the storm when you surrender to the realities of the life God gives you. All you have to do is just “Look Up!”

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2021 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-18 through 10-24

SFH WX 2021-10-25 through 10-31

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-10-01 through 10-31

 

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: 2019-04-07 through 13 – Things You Never Expected!

Beautiful wife and I started the week by listing tasks to ready Serendipity Farmhouse for planting season and the changeover to warm weather routine. More than 35 tasks emerged from this session. Many of these are non-trivial and labor intensive.

When the list was complete, sweet and loving wife looked at me, smiled at the thought of how beautiful SFH would be once the tasks were accomplished, and then looked at me with a stern expression that said: “Well, what are you waiting for? Get to work.” And so I did, and so I have been doing all week. But, I must add, my industrious spouse has been working just as hard as I have.

Highlights: Here are just two recollections of this week’s many memorable events.

Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-04-07 through 13 – Things You Never Expected!”

SFH Journal: 2018-11-29 through 2018-12-03 – 200 Amp Service!!!

Highlight: When Serendipity Farmhouse was built, circa 1927, electrical wiring was of little concern. In fact, it appears that, along with indoor plumbing, electricity was of no concern at all. As time moved on, and two extensions were added to the original house, plumbing made its way into the extensions and electricity made it into the entire house.

In the minds of those who made the additions, everything seemed fit and proper. A circuit here, a circuit there, no more wood stove for cooking, electric heat in the bathroom – everybody was happy.  Right?

In October 2013, the eyes of one beholder, our home inspector, the picture (or pictures) of the state of the SFH electrical system were not so rosy. Nope, here is some of what she saw and some of what she thought.

Old box-1

“6.1 (1) Main panel does not have a main shut off breaker for entire panel–only a breaker (60 amp) labeled as “lighting main”. Also, other lighting circuits have been added — this could be confusing if someone trying to work on lights / switches thinks that power off to all those circuits if “lighting main” breaker is off. Suggest upgrade panel to include panel main breaker.”

Old box-2

“Note wire coming up in bottom of panel through knockout hole — but grommet missing. This protects wire from damage.”

Then, of course, there was the problem that SFH only had (barely had) 100 Amp service. That is why you heard me whine all Summer about the heat – attempting to run even two small air conditioners at the same time could have dire consequences.

1202181116b (2)So, that is why the last two months have been filled with the sounds of electricians tearing out old wires, installing conduit, running new wire, drilling holes, etc., etc., etc. Needless to say, Mr. Monte was not happy with the noise. Yet, despite the noise and strange humans wandering through the house, Mr. Monte frequently made forays into the work areas in order to assess the quality of the work. He let us know when he thought there was something amiss.

 

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Then finally, just as we readied to roll the calendar over from November to December, the work was done. Serendipity Farmhouse now has modern, legal, and safe 200 Amp service. Come next Summer, we will be able to run air conditioners in the house, wherever and whenever we want.

1202181118 (2)As a wonderful side benefit, we now have a special 30 Amp circuit for our Class C RV “El Camino Del Monte”. And that, dear readers, signals the opportunity for the next big upgrade at SFH – an updated kitchen. Yup, either in 2019 or 2020 we will update the SFH Test Kitchen. And, when we do, we can move into the RV and live comfortably there. With the new 30 Amp service, we will be able to run the RV air conditioner, watch TV, listen to music, and prepare Julia Child meals while the workers are performing their magic on the “new and improved” SFH Test Kitchen.

Weather:  Chilly and damp; rain, mist, fog on Saturday the 1st. (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-11-29: High/Low -39º/27º

2018-11-30: High/Low – 43º/32º

2018-12-01: High/Low – 37º/30º

2018-12-02: High/Low – 59º/37º

2018-12-03: High/Low – 57º/39º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.