Category: SFH Weather

Tannenbaum Evictions

It’s happening all around us. Innocent, unsuspecting trees are being robbed of their rightful destiny. Already, they are laying at the side of road, waiting to be carried off to oblivion. This is the sad case of the Tannenbaum Evictions. What’s worse is that in the process of evicting these poor trees, parents are depriving their children and themselves of the fullness of the  Christmas Season. It is an abuse. It is a poverty.

“The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord [this year celebrated on January 8th]. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him, including the fact that he was born to die for us.”USCCB

Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, our tree is still up, the Nativity scene remains in place on the front porch, and my sweet and wonderful Spouse and I continue to exchange Christmas greetings. If something is worth celebrating, it is worth hanging on to it as long as possible – and so we do.

Advent this year was filled with prayer and preparations. Just as we said we would in our post The Wake-up Call, we took the time “to pray to cast off the works of darkness; to prepare for our salvation; and to preserve in the heart of our family all that sustains the armor of light.”

Unfortunately, this Advent was filled with sickness. The families of our three children were each burdened with one or the other of the many diseases now in our region. Beautiful Wife and I likewise came down with some nasty ailments, the effects of which linger to this day. Even worse, a chronic condition had already weakened my dear Wife. Consequently, she was bedridden for several days by the flu.

Despite all of the sickness. Advent was a wonderful time. We had planned ahead, and our shopping and sending of Christmas greetings was completed a full week earlier than usual. So, when we arrived at our church on Christmas Eve, we were fully ready to partake in the joy of the Mass and the beautiful music from the choir. It was a Mass to remember.

Much of the country was dealt a harsh blow by Winter Storm Elliot on Christmas. Although our county did not receive heavy snow or ice, it did feel the winter chill – a low of 5.7 F° on Christmas morning. Three days earlier, SFH was inundated with nearly three inches of rain. So, the river was running high and cold on Christmas day.

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Winter weather, sickness, Christmas preparations, all the things that can make for distress and worry – they were all there ready to assault your peace of mind, unless you reminded yourself constantly that there is indeed a reason for this season. The Christ Child was coming. Even Mr. Monte knew that he should ready himself for what was to come. We had the Advent wreath and cranberry scones to remind us and Monte had the warmth of the wood stove to remind him.

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We here at SFH are hoping you are having the very best Christmas ever.

Merry Christmas, God bless! & Don’t evict your tannenbaum!!

An Odd Weather Event

In her post I Married a Weather Geek from Outer Space my dearest, most lovely Spouse, Blondie, affectionately (I hope) called me a weather geek. When I read her post, however, my initial reaction was one of mixed sadness and disappointment. I had hoped that she would have been both pleased and excited by the prospect of Serendipity Farmhouse having its very own weather station. Instead, her words were filled with dissatisfaction with regards to my pursuit of this technical enhancement of the SFH Blog. Here’s what she said:

“Mr. Monte and I have had our fill of this blasted obsession. Look at what he’s done with our once beautiful blog. Post after post, here and here and here and here, are filled with the most boring, and ridiculous weather nonsense. Why can’t he just get a life and talk about good things like food and family and his beautiful and creative wife.”

Fortunately, over time, sweetest Blondie, grew to appreciate the data provided by the weather station. Every morning she would either check out the indoor monitor herself or ask me about total rainfall or humidity levels. Factually, it was Blondie who was first to observe that the outdoor sensor unit had died during the night of July 25th and was no longer communicating to the indoor monitor.

It was on January 3rd, 2019, when I assembled Weather WiFi OSPREY station; mounted and activated the device; activated the monitor panel; enabled WiFi connection; and activated the Weather Underground account for Serendipity Farmhouse Station. For over three and a half years, the sensor unit had functioned faithfully. The manufacturer states that the sensor unit can operate up to ten years, but, in a humid, wet climate such as we have here at SFH, the life expectancy is only about three years. So, the inevitably inevitable occurred – the sensor unit had died.

All senior members of the SFH staff met and unanimously decided that money should be allocated to purchase a new sensor unit. We waited anxiously for the arrival of the UPS delivery truck. Chores, errands, and family matters made it necessary to wait a day before the new unit could be installed.

The initial installation in 2019 required eight hours of frustrating labor. Many technical problems were encountered, and special workarounds and solutions were developed. The morning of August 4th, 2022 was an entirely different matter. Just a little more than a half hour was needed to install the new sensor unit. As you can see below, the official SFH Weather Station was up and running at almost precisely 10:00 AM. – – There was great jubilation and celebration here! – – Former doubters and naysayers, Blondie and Mr. Monte, were beaming with joy. – – I humbly accepted their praise and adulation.


The Odd Event

I must admit that, even though I have posted many times about the official SFH Weather Station, there have been virtually no comments from our followers concerning those posts. I myself find it quite difficult to believe that people aren’t as interested in weather reporting as I am. I suppose it’s a matter of ‘each to his own.’

Given the seeming lack of interest in weather reporting, I was absolutely dumbfounded on the morning of July 26th when I found thousands of emails in my inbox, all bemoaning the fact that there was no current weather data from the official SFH Weather Station. Many of the emails specifically complained about the loss because they rely on the data to know when thunderstorms are coming – they needed the information to find shelter in a timely manner. – – This, dear Friends, was one of the reasons why we at SFH made such a rapid decision to purchase the new sensor unit.

A good blogger knows that it is necessary to constantly analyze the needs and expectations of his audience. With that in mind, I studied the huge influx of email and noted the two following points:

First: There were a total of 23, 417 emails noting the loss of the weather data.

Second: The names of the emailers were oddly different from what I usually see when studying blog-related correspondence. Here. Let me show you some of the names: Oliver, Gizmo, Leo, Cosmo, Milo, Cactus, Charlie, Max, Blossom, Simba, Cinder, Jack, Loki, Jackie, Dumpling, Ollie, Erso, Jasper, Buddy, Baggins, Smokey, Fluffy, Oscar, Toby, TiIvy, Boo, Roxy, Belle, Ella, Suki, Zelda, Mochi, Alice, Lucky, Thor, Frank, Midnight, Benny, Tome, Tom, Ginger, Angel, etc.

Another odd thing was that, while I was studying all the email data, Mr. Monte jumped into my lap; looked intently at the computer monitor; and purred most loudly, in a manner that seemed to express deep satisfaction. – – I’m very puzzled by all this. But that’s the way life is here at Serendipity Farmhouse, always puzzling yet always interesting.

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

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


  • 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


  • 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


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 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: 2021-08-15 through 10-10 – Do the hard things first!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, it has been nearly two months since the last post on this site. By now, you must know that I hold each of you in the highest regard and with the greatest affection. I understand how stressful the last year and a half has been for you. You’ve been anxious about the health and happiness of your humans. Some of you may have even lost one of your human companions and you are suffering the heartbreak of agonizing loneliness.

Your are not alone in your world of worries. Yes, their are even reports that some my dearest web followers, such as Shera, have fallen ill. If you haven’t heard about her, you can read the story Delta variant nearly killed a lion during National Zoo’s covid outbreak. Fortunately for Shera and her companions there are is now the report Lions and Tigers Recovering Well at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

We here at Serendipity Farmhouse have always strived to bring you news and commentary that is uplifting, edifying, and occasionally humorous. Yet, there are times here in this “the house of our realities” when it is necessary to acknowledge that we also are overburdened with cares and concerns. That is when we must pause and reflect and make serious decisions about what is most important in our lives; that is when, as Ol’ Fuzz Face says, we must “Do the hard things first.”

And so it has been here at SFH for the last two months. We have paused. We have reflected. We have considered our real priorities. And we have been doing the hard things first.

Thus, after consultation with my beloved humans Fuzzy and Blondie, I am writing today to introduce a series posts that will show you my 23,417 feline followers and those few devoted human followers how the SFH family has come together to do the hard things first. At the same time, Fuzz Face and I will endeavor to continue in our quest to provide commentary that is uplifting, edifying, and occasionally humorous. This series of posts will include discussions on the following serious topics:

  • How an elderly couple cared for each other while beset by Covid;
  • Grandparents’ response upon learning that a grandson has acute lymphoblastic leukemia; and
  • Making a decision that may mean the loss of employment.

But, there will also be more typical SFH stories about:

  • Trips in our Class-C RV El Camino Del Monte,
  • Blondie’s birthday, and
  • My birthday!!!!!!!

Of course, the series will update you on the almost bountiful harvest from the extensive SFH vegetable gardens and how much canning, pickling, and freezing has been done.

If you were wondering about the featured picture, and how could you not wonder, our upcoming series of posts will demonstrate beyond any doubt that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen, even during these hard times, remains in full-scale operation. In fact, the picture to the left was inspired by Blondie’s whimsical thought: What if Julia Child had combined Japanese watercolor art with her French cuisine?


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 – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2021-08-01 through 08-31

SFH WX 2021-09-01 through 09-30

SFH Journal: 2021-08-02 through 08-15 – Back in Business (Almost)

The featured picture is a couple of years old, but it definitely conveys the sense of joy one feels when important, labor-saving equipment is operating as it should. Late this week, after a very long and painful absence, my cherished lawn tractor was returned to its rightful place here at Serendipity Farmhouse. While it was in the “hospital” suffering from an ailment that took over three weeks to diagnose, yours truly was mowing the somewhat less than verdant lawns of the vast SFH Estate with a push mower. To give you an idea of what that was like, consider that eight of the first fifteen days of August were in the 90’s and, during that same period, the average humidity was 82%.

Now that the lawn tractor has returned, I am a much happier man. You might well ask, what was it that caused the lawn tractor to cease functioning? Well, dear Readers, it turns out that the electronic control module, with its embedded computer chip, had its brains scrambled. Consequently, the lawn tractor was almost fatally infected with – Complete Operational loss of Vital and Indispensable Data – i.e., COVID.

If you recall, we listed a rash of problems that beset SFH almost like a plague of locusts in our post SFH Journal: 2021-07-05 through 07-25: Upson Downsof Life Re-Revisited. Now that the lawn tractor has returned, we have resolved almost all of our problems. One problem remains however as a distressing reminder of how we can feel the loss of a modern day convenience. Our 21-year-old dishwasher has neither been repaired nor replaced. The whole affair is a nasty mess reminiscent of the movie Catch-22. I will refrain from boring you with the details, but I will let you know that dear and wondrous Wife is not happy with her dishpan hands and she has discussed the matter with me on numerous occasions. Needless to say, I’ve been on the telephone attempting to untangle this mess.

Canning has been underway for a few weeks now. If you click here, you can see what we’ve put away thus far.

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 2021-08-02 through 08-08

SFH WX 2021-08-09 through 08-15

SFH Journal: 2021-06-07 through 06-20

This post will be short. That’s because there has been a lot going on over the last two weeks here at Serendipity Farmhouse. We will save that story for a post sometime in the future.

Two items are worthy of note – Rain and Grapes.

As you may or may not know, a large portion of the vast SFH estate lies on a flood plane. The North Fork of the Thornton River, while restful and pleasing to the eye most of the time, can quickly become a threat to our safety and property. (See the post Monte’s Bug Out Buggy to the Rescue.) So, it was with great concern we received the National Weather Service flash flood watch alerts on June 10th.

The heavy rain came as predicted. The three of us found it hard to sleep that night as we could hear the pounding of rain on our metal roof. It had been very dry recently ans we knew that the river was running low. We also knew that the ground was extremely dry. But, what we did not know was whether those factors would be enough to keep the river from suffering a flash flood and surrounding the house as it has done before.

At 4:00 AM on the 11th, I ventured outside in the rain with a flashlight. To my great relief there was no water flowing through the driveway. I approached the river cautiously and looked over the bank. To my surprise the river was at a much lower level than I had imagined it might be. – The earlier dry weather had indeed provided us an unusual margin of safety. – Prayers do get answered.

When it was all over we had received a total of 6.66 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. The house was safe and the overly dry garden beds were once again moist and happy.

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As we have noted earlier, SFH is likely to have the largest grape harvest ever. To protect the mass of new grapes, I have set up a temporary fence around our extensive vineyard that contains our single vine. The job was labor intensive but I was compelled to do it with my own two hands. Now all we have to worry about is Japanese beetles.




SFH Gardens by the Numbers

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

SFH 2021 Plantings

SFH 2021 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-06-07 through 06-13

SFH WX 2021-06-14 through 06-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opossum in rapid retreat

SFH by the Numbers

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

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-15 through 02-21