Category: Uncategorized

SFH Journal: 2019-09-02 through 08

We’ll keep this short today with just a few words about preserving and planting.

On September 5th, Serendipity Farmhouse set an all-time record for preserving our own garden grown vegetables. Tomatoes were in great abundance this year, so we can boast of canning a total of 27 pints of salsa and 18 pints of pasta sauce.

There are still many more tomatoes ripening on the vines. We plan on giving some away to friends and family and experimenting with recipes for spicy green tomato salsa and fried green tomatoes. Mr. Monte has already started collecting recipes.

Meanwhile, the okra crop keeps coming in. The plants have not grown to their usual size and their leaves are sparse and ragged. This may be due to attacks by Japanese beetles and shield bugs (stink bugs) in addition to extended periods of 90° plus temperatures. Nevertheless, the plants keep producing and appear to be recovering from pests and heat.

This week, dearest beautiful Wife planted three rows of an 18th-century English variety of black-seeded Romaine lettuce called Bath Cos lettuce. That, along with the three rows of arugula she planted a couple of weeks ago, will be coming into its maturity as we move into Autumn.

As in any year of great bounty, thanks must be given. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful harvest!

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 2019-09-02 through 09-08

SFH Journal: 2019-07-26 through 08-04

Much work, many chores, multiple distractions, and a myriad of other things have dominated our time and attention. There are so many good background stories and Mr. Monte episodes that deserve recounting in this space. Alas! There is no time.

On top of all that, my dear, sweet, lovely, talented, and most lovable spouse is preparing to visit Admiral Sister-in Law. (See ‘Ruffles & Flourishes’ and Ruffles & Flourishes – Admiral Departing for the significance and importance of this upcoming visit.) That means that Mr. Monte and I will be alone together for a period of time. This could become like a the worst/best episodes from the Survivor reality series.

The feature picture shows what is coming to us from the gardens in just one day (this morning in fact). Needless to say, much of our time has been spent keeping up with these bountiful gifts.

 

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: See SFH WX 2019-07-26 through 07-04

SFH Journal: 2019-07-22 through 29 – Blessings & Abundance

This has been a very busy week filled with family blessings and Serendipity Farmhouse abundance. Here are some pictures and brief descriptions of what we did. One or two incidences of unusual disaster or hilarity (depending on your point of view) will be related in greater detail in special posts.

22 July, Monday: Monday, was indeed a day of blessing. Daughter #1 came to visit us for

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Butter scooped from churner

two days. She is a delightful, charming, and beautiful person filled with good humor and great “curiosity”. She is deeply interested in all the serendipitous happenings here at SFH. On this day, she learned her first secrets of “Daring Dairy”. She is now fully certified in making SFH Butter.

23 July, Tuesday: On the second day of Daughter #1’s visit, she participated in making fresh pesto with ingredients from the SFH Herb Garden. Almost immediately after that meal was completed she was initiated into the ranks of goat milk cheese makers. She helped in many ways and said, “It was stirring experience.”

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24 July, Wednesday: A family friend, possessing many interesting skills, including a well0728191251b (2) trained palate recently told us that, while he greatly appreciates the flavors found in G&G’s Serendipitous Salsa, he suspects that it would become an even more exiting treat with the addition of more hot spices. There it was – there was the challenge. So on this day the soon-to-be world famous SFH Test Kitchen created Karl’s “Bad!” Salsa, V1.0. The new recipe now includes Jalapeno, Cow Horn, and Habanero peppers (and all their hot little seeds!). A total of seven pint jars were produced. Should our friend decide that the recipe requires even more spices, we are prepared to produce Karl’s “Bad!” Salsa, V2.0.

25 July, Thursday: This day was filled with errands and yard work.

26 July, Friday: On this day the SFH Test Kitchen produced four pint jars of Peter’s Pickled Okra. Let us just say the process did not run smoothly. We will save that story for an upcoming post now being drafted by Blondie and Mr. Monte – it will be a scorcher.

27 July, Saturday: With the bountiful crop of tomatoes this year, the SFH Test Kitchen is being hard pressed to keep up with canning. On this day, the Test Kitchen produced six pint jars of the ever-popular G&G’s Pasta Sauce. Fortunately, there were no repeats of the disaster that occurred on Friday. (Well almost. Mr. Monte and Old Fuzz Face spent a night in the RV together. While not technically a disaster, two alpha males in an RV overnight can be a rather touchy situation.)

28 July, Sunday: Sunday, of course, was/is our day of rest. Beautiful spouse picked 18 huge Big Beef tomatoes. When the simple chores were completed, we gave our family friend a jar of his very own Karl’s “Bad!” Salsa, V1.0. We look forward to his review of the new recipe. In the pictures below, note the size of the tomato bushes and the size and weight of the tomatoes. Several of these Big Beef tomatoes are well in excess of a pound.

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There it was – a wonderful week filled with creativity and excitement.

So, as we settle into another heat wave and week of work, chores, harvesting, and preserving, we recognize that all of these things and all of these wonderful people in our lives are to be seen as “Blessings & Abundance”.

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: See SFH WX 2019-07-22 through 28

SFH Journal: 2019-07-15 through 21 – Hot!

Why waste words? We at SFH all know what Summer in Virginia can be like. Here’s the simple summary for the past week. – – – Please note that today is not over yet and the temperature could go even higher than the 98º our weather station is reporting.

Yikes! As of 3:19 PM, we are showing a temperature of 100º with a “feels like” temperature of 119º.

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Lest you think all we have to say is negative. Please take a look at our harvest statistics below. The gardens are doing very well.

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

 

 

 

 

That does amount to a “hill of beans”!

From one day to the next, it’s difficult to comprehend how well our various vegetable plantings are doing. For example, we planted two rows of stringless green beans. Roughly, eight plants came to maturity. Now that the season for the beans is nearly over, we have brought in 190 bean pods. Now add to that the 159 Monticello bean pods we have harvested from four plants. The bottom line is, that makes for a lot of green beans.

This was the first year that we had attempted green bean with any serious intent. We were experimenting with technique and had no plan on preserving them. Well, our experiments were successful and we ended up with more beans than expected. That meant we had to come up with some novel ways for preparation.

At this point, I might add that our single cherry tomato plant has been unusually cooperative. Since it’s first tomato on June 22, it has yielded 71 beautiful, tiny orbs of veggie goodness.

Beautiful, lovely, and highly capable Spouse is a master at recipe research. Armed with her knowledge of our resources and capabilities at the soon-to-be famous SFH Test Kitchen, she uncovered a gem of a recipe at Allrecipes.com. This simple, quick-to-prepare (only 20 minutes) recipe called Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes not only met our two primary ingredients criteria (green beans and cherry tomatoes), it also brought in two other important essentials for living a happy life – garlic & butter. (Have I ever told you how much we love garlic and butter?)

We only made one minor adjustment to the recipe – we used minced garlic instead of garlic salt. The end product was highlighted by the use of our own fresh basil.

So, dear and gentle readers, if you find this gardening season that you have an abundance of green beans and cherry tomatoes, try out this recipe.

 

 

I Married a Weather Geek from Outer Space

Enough is enough is enough! My hubby is unusual, unique, eccentric, and lately he is just plain obsessed. Ever since he convinced me that the new Serendipity Farmhouse Weather Station would be “something we would both enjoy”, he has been lost in some geeky lala weather land.

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.

At this point, for you our beloved readers and for me and my sanity, I can only hope and pray that he regains his senses. When I married him, I knew that he was geeky and loved technology, but I never thought that it would come to this.

Hi! Mr. Monte here. Blondie, the poor dear, just broke down in tears and asked me to finish this post. Amidst her mournful sobbing, I could hear her sigh that she was now just a “technology widow”. Even my hard and cold catly heart had to break when I heard those words.

Old Fuzz Face, is a weather geek and a cyber obsessed weirdo, but he really isn’t all that smart. He doesn’t understand the science behind what he’s doing. He’s really not much better than a misguided high school dropout – a real sad case, if you ask me.

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Mr. Monte alias Cyber-Tooth

Nope, here at Serendipity Farmhouse, I’m the one with skills – stalking skills, hunting skills, even cyber skills. In fact, Blondie, who knows that I’m the real genius behind this blog, calls me “Cyber-Tooth”. Fuzz Face is just a geeky human juvenile that never grew up.

 

And as far as understanding weather goes, especially winter weather, Fuzz Face is a mere amateur. Winter weather is in my blood, wrapped within the spirals of my DNA. We cats, especially Maine Coons, go way back and we have instincts about weather that Fuzz Face could never comprehend. Let me share with you two pictures from when I was just two years old. They show how well prepared, through instinct and incredible catly intellect, I am to handle any weather that nature might throw my way.

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For Blondie’s sake and for my own, I hope that Old Fuzz Face recovers from his compulsive-obsessive weather dementia and returns to this world. Until he does, I can only consider him to be of even lesser mental capacity than Kip Dynamite.

 

SFH Journal: 2018-12-04 through 07

Highlight: It is now the time of prayer and preparation for Christmas. We call it Advent. Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, we strive to make each Advent more meaningful than the last. That is a difficult task because TV and the other media would have you think that now is the time to party. We prefer to live in the Advent spirit; the TV is off; the Nativity scene is on display; the Wise Men are making their way to Bethlehem; the manger will remain empty until Christmas Eve.

Despite all our defenses against the troubling demands of the world, we still can feel some of the tension, anxiety, and stress of the “Holiday Season”. It is unwelcome, yet it is there.

Humor is a good way to rid oneself of tension and stress. In years past, our family had several traditions such as Kriskindl. We added our own variations. Old Kris was known to leave walnuts under pillows and pieces of candy in shoes. You never knew until Christmas Eve who your Kriskindl was.

Now that the children are grown and it’s only the two of us, there would be no way to keep the secret. Even Mr. Monte would be smart enough to know that Blondie was putting cat snacks next to his bowl. So, this year, we have switched to the Elf on the Shelf.

The first night, I read the story to my beautiful spouse and Mr. Monte. We all heard the rules and then we decided on some adaptions. Then, the game was afoot!

Our elf’s name is Clyde. Not because the book mentioned that name, but for a private reason that all in the family are well aware. Well, let me tell you, Clyde is an elusive and aggravating little guy. He has shown up in the most unusual places. Wife will find a clever hiding spot then laugh at me while I beg for a hint. Then, I will hide Clyde in an even more clever spot and wife will complain that I broke the rules or that I put him up too high, where she wouldn’t look.

Mr. Monte sits quietly through all of this and says but one thing, “Put that little twerp just a little lower where I can get to him. I have exquisite plans for his demise!”

And so it goes. Tension is relieved. There is laughter and lightheartedness. And then, we return to prayer and recollection. There is no need for Christmas to come too soon!

Weather:  (For details of Sperryville, VA weather in November 2018 – click here.)

2018-12-04: High/Low – 45º/32º

2018-12-05: High/Low – 34º/30º

2018-12-06: High/Low – 41º/32º

2018-12-07: High/Low – 39º/32º

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

A Way to Prepare

FullFor those readers who live near Front Royal, VA, there is an event that you should consider attending either this weekend or next. St. John’s Drama is presenting the play A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Advent is but a few weeks away and A Christmas Carol is a perfect way to help you prepare for that time of prayerful reflection and preparation.

With the exception of Mr. Monte, all of us at Serendipity Farmhouse will be in attendance next weekend.

Full disclosure, however, dictates that we must advise that our sweet, charming, and talented Granddaughter #1 has a part in the play. We can also point out, with great pride, that dear Granddaughter also created the artwork that you see in the play announcement.

All information concerning venue, times, and ticket prices are in the announcement. We hope to see you there!

 

 

“Serendipity, we have a problem!”

The good RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM) embarked on its third official cruise on  October 21st. Unlike the unofficial emergency evacuation adventure, Monte’s Bug Out Buggy to the Rescue, this two-day expedition was thoroughly planned and prepared well in advance. The crew was ready to check out ECDM’s heating system and experiment with some new RV-friendly menu items. (Did someone say “Boeuf Bourguignon”?)

With the exception of Mr. Monte, who displayed some displeasure in leaving his familiar surroundings, the crew was in fine form and good humor – it was time to disconnect from current events and the agitation of this world.

Uncharacteristically, ECDM was a bit hard to start. At one point, there was a three or four word message on the dashboard, but it vanished before yours truly could catch the words or meaning of the phrase.

With engine running smoothly, all crew members safely secured, and GPS showing the way, ECDM began the trek toward the main highway. We were on our way!

imagesUnexpectedly, there it was, quietly, alarmingly, disturbingly, confusingly telling us that something was wrong – the dreaded “CHECK ENGINE” icon. No, it didn’t say what was wrong. No, it didn’t say whether it was serious. No, it merely laid out an omen of terror on our day, on our safety, perhaps even on our lives.

How should one interpret this masterpiece of information, misinformation, disinformation, designed solely to destroy one’s inner tranquility? Of course, the “experts” are in diametric disagreement.

If the check engine light comes on: Look for a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Check your dashboard gauges and lights for indications of low oil pressure or overheating. These conditions mean you should pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can find a safe place to do so. (See full text here.)

Regardless, you’re safe to drive for now as long as the car isn’t performing strangely. Just have the Check Engine Light checked and the problem repaired. (See full text here.)

There you go, “imminent doom” or “no biggie”, the choice was mine to make. Beautiful, trusting spouse asked quietly, “Is this a problem, Sweetie?” I, with a great big, hardening ball of concern in my gut said, “No biggie, dear.”

ECDM made the steep climb through Shenandoah National Park up to Skyline Drive without a whimper, a sputter, or a gasp. Despite the weight of our heavily loaded coach, she made the climb seem like child’s play. That big ball of concern in my gut began to loosen. But, the “CHECK ENGINE” icon continued to glow threateningly.

With the steep ridge behind us now, we made our way to the RV camp thoroughly enjoying the glorious, albeit windy, Autumn day. Our assigned site was, however, somewhat disappointing. Very short and uneven, we found it difficult to level out ECDM. We had a distinct lean to the left that would cause water in the shower to flow away from the drain and attempt to flow over the side. I decided that first thing next morning I would correct that problem.

The RV camp was almost completely filled. There were virtually no empty sites. Dogs were barking, RVs were pulling in and parking, others were leaving, and the farmer next to the camp was target shooting. Each and every sound alarmed and frightened poor Mr. Monte. It took him a full six hours to come out from hiding.

Dear, wondrous, and capable wife made a simple but excellent supper consisting of soup and grilled cheese on ciabatta bread. She was saving the more challenging Boeuf Bourguignon for the second day of our trip. Later, with popcorn and tissues at the ready, lovely, sentimental spouse and I watched the timeless chick flick Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Mr. Monte, setting aside his normal macho, alpha male, Main Coon demeanor, watched with riveted attention.

Meanwhile, that little ball of concern in my gut began to grow slightly and tighten. I knew in the morning I would have to start the engine in order to re-level ECDM.

Mr. Monte, perhaps attempting to cover up his indiscreet show of emotion during the chick flick, ensured that a minimal amount of sleep was had by all. Dear wife, had the Monte watch duty from midnight to 4:00 AM. Outside, the temperature plummeted to a chilly 28 degrees, but the RV heater, much to Mr. Monte’s displeasure, came on, somewhat noisily, several times throughout the night.

Morning came, fresh coffee was brewed, breakfast was eaten, and showers were taken. It was now time for re-leveling. We unhooked, water, sewer, and electric. Wife took station in front of ECDM to guide me off and back onto leveling blocks. Mr. Monte quietly watched me as I made my way to the driver’s seat, placed my foot on the brake, and inserted the key and watched lights appear.

Nothing!

Another twist of the key. Another nothing!

Another twist of the key – sputter, gasp, whimper, wheeze, vibration. Engine started, but engine sick. The evil “CHECK ENGINE” icon appeared and laughed at me – “See! I told you so!”

Then the most ominous phrase appeared on the dash, “ENGINE POWER IS REDUCED”.

Drat! Double Drat!! Triple Drat!!! – – Formerly trusting, now confused wife looked at me, the guy who said “No biggie, dear.”

“Serendipity, we have a problem!”

Mr. Monte looked at me from inside his carrier and said, “Well, Fuzz Face, what are you going to do now? You’ve brought us to this forsaken refuge of dogs and cows and now we are stranded – perhaps forever.” (That cat has no mercy when it comes to me.)

I turned off the engine, then restarted it – same result. I turned off the engine again, then restarted it – same result. I turned off the engine and waited. Wife looked at me questioningly, but with love. Mr. Monte looked at me accusingly and without love.

The great big, hardening ball of concern in my gut had grown to planetoid proportions. Would I have to call for a repair service or towing and all the problems and expenses that go along with that?

One more twist of the key – the big engine inside ECDM started. It purred, it hummed, it idled gently – it was alive again! Everything was perfect except the “CHECK ENGINE” icon was still there.

Instantly, wife and I conferred while the engine continued idling. We packed up the sewer hose, the power cable, the water hose, and secured all doors and hatches. We made sure all things were fastened down inside and we drove out to the RV camp office. Amazingly and unexpectedly, the very cordial attendant gave us a full refund for our second day.

imagesThen we were on our way back to SFH, or were we? There was still the steep, curving, treacherous road over the ridge between us and home. Should we dare make that drive? The “CHECK ENGINE” icon was still there. The great big, hardening ball of concern in my gut continued to grow and tighten.

We prayed!

ECDM made the steep climb through Shenandoah National Park up to Skyline Drive without a whimper, a sputter, or a gasp. Despite the weight of our heavily loaded coach, she made the climb seem like child’s play. That big ball of concern in my gut began to loosen.

We made it home safely!

We immediately called our local garage, and John said he thinks he knows what the problem is. Tomorrow or the next day, El Camino Del Monte will go in to be serviced. At the same time, it will be winterized then stored in our yard to await next year’s RV season.

El Camino Del Monte has made three shakedown cruises and one emergency evacuation trip this year. There was a story to be told every time. A wife, a husband, and a cantankerous Maine Coon cat living a strangely wonderful life together.  This story is just one small part of the serendipity at our little farmhouse. We prayed, we prepared, and in this story we have preserved the memories.

Pray, Prepare, Preserve!

 

 

 

 

 

My Big Cats Got it Done!

Monte-wood_stove Old Fuzz Face left me in charge of the blog this week. That was certainly a mistake on his part. So, let yours truly, Mr. Monte, tell you this story the way it should be told.

In this picture you can plainly see that by my second year, I had developed a meaningful relationship with the Serendipity Farmhouse wood stove. Old Fuzz Face and Blondie quickly learned that, if they stoked the wood stove regularly and kept the temperature sufficiently warm, I would be a happy cat.

If, however, they got lazy and just ran the propane furnace, this old house would be drafty, cold, and generally unpleasant. Needless to say, but it’s worth saying anyway, if I’m feeling unpleasant, they will pay the price. Consider for a second the meaning of the phrase “tooth and nail” and apply it in the context of an unhappy, 20 pound Maine Coon cat.

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This year, at my behest, my big cats ordered two cords of firewood. When it was delivered, I noticed that Old Fuzz Face merely looked at the beautiful pile of potential warmth for the winter and then went on about his business. He didn’t even lift a finger to move that wood immediately to its proper place to dry and season. Blondie wasn’t much better. She kept on picking okra, baking bread, and vacuuming floors. Somewhat uncharacteristically, she didn’t even nag Fuzz Face to get on with this most important task.

Showing their laziness, Fuzz Face and Blondie tried to use the old Tom Sawyer ploy – get the family over here to move the wood. They went so low as to use guilt and extortion. See SFH Journal: 2018-09-29 through 2018-10-02 – I was ashamed to even be associated with Fuzz Face, much less admit that he was one of my big cats.

Oh, then one day, Fuzz Face nearly freaked out when he saw that Tropical Storm Michael was brewing and fixing to head our way. Panic was in his voice and he quickly sent out an urgent post to the whole extended family. “Help!”, he screamed. “All the firewood is going to wash away!”

1009181557h (2)See SFH Journal: 2018-10-03 through 07 to witness first hand how pitiful and undignified was his plea for help. He became a raving “Chicken Little”. He immediately, put on his work clothes and forced Blondie to do the same. Fuzz Face pulled out the lawn tractor and wood cart and forced his dear, sweet, and fragile wife to load wood. Nearly, four hours he spent working that poor woman nearly to death.

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Fortunately for me and Blondie, SFH has some real friends who came to the rescue the next day. Daughter #1, son-in-law #1, and granddaughter #1, in a calm and collected fashion traveled nearly 25 miles to SFH. They saved the day and they save my beloved big cat Blondie from overwork.

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They worked calmly and efficiently. Granddaughter #1 found fascinating fungus and mushroom growths on the wood. Avoiding spiders and centipedes, she found other critters in the midst of the wood pile that aroused great interest and awe. She and her parents demonstrated the true SFH family spirit.

So, yesterday, the wood that promises to bring me a warm and cozy winter, was all transported to the shed and stored until needed. Daughter #1’s family now holds a much higher place in my warm and fuzzy feline heart – I highly esteem them.

My big cats got it done!

Fuzz Face, however, will be served justice during the coming winter. You can be sure that when the wood stove starts to grow cold, I will force that lazy lout to go out to the shed and bring back wood sufficient to serve my needs.