Category: What were we thinking?

About Page Update

After five full years of blogging, it’s time to return to the beginning and consider what was our original intent for starting the Serendipity Farmhouse Blog. So, today we went back in time and took a look at our About page – About Serendipity Farmhouse. It’s clear from reading that page that our original motivation was to tell a story, a story about a family, an old farmhouse, and the many events and happenings that make Serendipity Farmhouse such a wonderful place.

The final paragraph on our About page reads: “We are just the caretakers. We will be here for a while and then it will be passed on to others in our family. So, for you, and mostly for our family, here is the story of Serendipity Farmhouse.”

Unlike many blogs, our goal has never been about making money. Rather, it has always been about providing our recollections and perspective about life here in our little old farmhouse. These stories and insights are intended primarily for our family, especially for those who someday will reside here. Of course, we are happy that extended family and friends occasionally peek at our site to see what’s new. They have been very supportive and their words of encouragement provide great incentive to keep the site active.

If you were to look at our bottom line, you would see that we have invested well over $1,500.00 in this site and have earned exactly $0.00 in return on investment. By the standards and norms used for evaluating the success of other blogs, you would have to conclude SFH blog is an abysmal failure. For example, discounting Mr. Monte’s alleged 23,417 feline followers, we have a grand total of 31 followers and 16 email subscribers. And don’t think that I delude myself concerning my abilities as an author. After all, the statistics speak for themselves. Even Mr. Monte scores consistently higher view counts than I do.

However, statistics can be deceiving. Despite the numbers, Blondie and I know that this blog is not a failure. How can it be a failure, if our children and grandchildren have a living record of what we have done together as a family? How can it be a failure, if our Faith and values are shared with our family and friends? How can it be a failure, if Blondie and I have so much fun writing these stories?

There it is. After five full years of blogging, my beautiful Spouse and I are having fun, we are living a fulfilling life together, and our family remains close. And all of that is the answer to a prayer we should have prayed – a prayer that was answered here at Serendipity Farmhouse.


Airing Soggy Laundry

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, I have some words of wisdom to pass along to you. Please note that none of this will make any sense whatsoever to John the Hiker, one of my less than ardent human followers.

Now, on with my story. Whether he knows it or not, Ol’ Fuzz Face has given me carte blanche to make full use of my feline sense of honesty to air all the dirty laundry from Serendipity Farmhouse. In this particular case, the laundry is not so much dirty as it is soggy.

Perhaps a little background will help you understand. In his last post, The Wake-up Call, Fuzzy made the grave mistake of saying, “To be sure, Mr. Monte will have a word or two to put Fuzzy in his proper place and to correct all of our human failings.” – Well if that’s what Fuzzy expects, then that’s what Fuzzy and Blondie will get. As an observant and enlightened feline, it is so very easy to see how fraught with failings are my two humans. And, as we move into the season they call Advent, their failings are amplified and multiplied as they go through their frenzied Advent rituals.

If you’ve been following the weather closely on Serendipity Farmhouse – KVAFLETC4, you will know that November 26th was a beautiful day with a high of 65.7 °F. Blondie determined that it was the perfect day to clean her bathroom carpets. These carpets are especially favored by me because they keep my underside warm when I spend my time in contemplation and rest. Perhaps out of affection for me, knowing that I so love the fresh smells of clothes dried outside, she hung the carpets on the clothesline to let them dry. Then, off she trotted to do a myriad of her hurried, ritual tasks. (In Blondie’s case perhaps trotted is a poor choice of terms. Ambled might work, although sometimes it’s more like hobbled.)

The morning of the 27th was wet and dreary, very wet indeed. As I made my security rounds, I observed two very sad and soggy carpets hanging on the line. It was my duty, of course, to tell one of the so-called SFH authorities. So, I went to Fuzzy and reported my finding. In his usual cowardly way, he decided he didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news. He told me it would be better to let Blondie figure it out on her own. – – She did, and Fuzzy and I played dumb.

Three days passed, each was wet and inclement. The carpets remained on the line. Blondie wandered about the house muttering about how wet the carpets were, how dirty they were getting, and how upsetting this was to her peace. I considered needling her about this and add to her list of woes by advising her of how this must look to the neighbors. I dismissed that thought however and merely asked her, “Mom, where are my nice, warm, cozy carpets? I really miss them.” That question was more than sufficient to cause her to fret even more.

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During all of this, Fuzzy laid low. He knew any comments to Blondie about the sad state of the soggy carpets would trigger an entirely unpleasant response. At this point, Fuzzy should have been a little more concerned about his own glass house. He too should have been watching the weather forecasts. At 638 AM EST on the 30th, the National Weather Service issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook bulletin reading in part: “Breezy, with a south wind 15 to 24 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph.

Monument to a Failed Plan

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, that bulletin contained the stone that would break his little glass house. Why and how? Think back to the SFH post SFH Journal: 2020-02-24 through 03-01 – Drat!!!. In Fuzzy’s words, “… wind gusts exceeding 20 mph toppled our newly erected arbor early on the morning of February 26 [2020].” So the great engineer devised what he thought was a clever way to anchor the arbor securely. This picture clearly shows that one of his anchors failed the test and that his clever little plan was an abject failure. – – Great job, Fuzzy!!

So there it is! I am now living with a pair of humbled humans with a great many failings. To be sure, they’re lovable in their own ways and I feel very much a necessary part of the Serendipity Farmhouse family. But also be sure that living with their failings, soothing their feelings of humiliation, and keeping them on the right track is a full-time job.

So, look again at the featured picture at the beginning of this post. – – Their laundry isn’t dirty, but it is soggy. And I will continue to air it whenever the need arises.

I Know Something You Don’t Know!

IMG_20200425_155922618_editedHi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23, 417 feline followers: This post is to be shared just among us cats. I wouldn’t want any humans to find out what happened at Serendipity Farmhouse this morning. Although it was a high point of hilarity for me, it might cause Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face some embarrassment. Fuzzy could do with some humor at his expense, but Blondie is still ailing and deserves her privacy.

It all started a couple of days ago. As has happened in the past, I heard the telltale sounds of an intruder attempting to enter SFH via the wood stove chimney. (You should check out the post What Were They Thinking? to get some background on a break-in attempt in 2018.)

Being the SFH Chief of Security and having a great deal of practical experience in this type of incident, I immediately alerted on the wood stove and got Fuzz Face’s attention. But, rather than reacting as he should in matters like this, he just continued on with his daily routine. Oh yeah, later he casually informed Blondie, but she was feeling poorly and left the matter in Fuzzy’s less than capable hands.

Now, fast forward to this morning at about 7:00 AM. I was pretending to be asleep in the hallway. Blondie had started her morning chores and I knew she would soon be cleaning up Fuzzy’s bathroom. Then, suddenly but not unexpectedly, I heard a loud, high-pitched shriek from the bathroom. That was followed by Fuzz Face being urgently summoned from the upstairs office.

Sensing the note of terror in Blondie’s voice, Fuzzy came down the stairs at a run, wearing only his pajama shorts and a t-shirt. He bounded into the bathroom and Blondie directed his attention to a small, dark object in the corner of the shower. Fuzzy looked, but could not identify the thing in front of him because it was dark and in a shadow.

He grabbed for a flashlight and trained the beam on whatever it was. – – It had the shape of a small toad, but it had hair. He said, “No, Blondie its not a toad, it has hair, but it’s not a mouse – – I don’t know what it is.”

His statement was not convincing. I could hear from my place in the hallway that there was a hint in the way he spoke that he had a pretty good idea of what it was. Perhaps he knew if he said what he really thought, that it might increase Blondie’s already excessively high anxiety level.

Of course, dear cat friends, you know by now that I already knew what confronted Fuzz Face in that shower. I already knew that he would have to step up to this situation and be a hero in Blondie’s eyes. In fact, friends, I knew in my “little grey cells” two days ago that this moment would arrive.

Fuzz Face immediately went and found a pair of long, heavy duty rubber gloves and marched back into the bathroom, feigning courage and calm. – – Imagine the sight of an older man wearing pajama shorts, a t-shirt, and big black heavy gloves striding courageously into a shower to confront a poor, helpless bat, weighing less than an ounce.

Oh! How I was enjoying this moment.

The great battle soon followed, our courageous SFH Hercules manfully grabbed that vicious beast and whisked it out the doorway. In his mind he was Godzilla defeating the winged monster Rodan. The harmless bat flew away. – – Once back in the safety of his office, that Godzilla of man, that SFH Hercules collapsed in his chair and went comatose for at least fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, Blondie is now totally paranoid and knows that bats are hiding in every corner of the house.

So, my dear feline followers there is a moral to this story – Never, ever disregard a warning presented by the SFH Chief of Security.


SFH Test Kitchen – Hubby Under Pressure

OK you foodies, I had hoped to bring you a very fine food & recipe post based on our most recent adventures in the culinary arts. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen in this post because my dear, sweet Hubby once again succumbed to his knack of “over thinking” a problem.

A little background is needed. I have the distinct pleasure of being one of those “girls raised in the South” (GRITS). New Year’s Day would not be complete without the traditional black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread. Hubby is a Yankee, but this traditional meal is one of his favorites. In fact, he offered to make it the first featured meal of the soon-to-be-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen for the year 2020.

Being the geek that he is, he declared that the ever so important black-eyed peas would be prepared in our almost brand new Instant Pot. Hubby has background experience with pressure cookers since he was young and he thought using the Instant Pot would be a stimulating challenge. – – This, devoted readers, was his plan – his Plan A. He had no Plan B.

Hubby chose the recipe “Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas” by Laurel Randolph in her book Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook. He elected to go with leftover Christmas ham rather than bacon and added and subtracted a few other items.

Late in the morning on New Year’s Day, the clock was ticking. My dear friend Nancy would be here at 1PM. I had prepared the collard greens – perfect! The cornbread had just come out of the oven – heavenly! Freshly homemade butter was at room temperature waiting to meet the cornbread.

Hubby, with flair and enthusiasm, had sauteed the onions and ham in the Instant Pot. The aroma incited high expectations for what was to come. The broth and black-eyed peas and other ingredients were added to the pot. The lid was locked in place. Hubby set the pressure cook time … and then … and then … and then there was nothing. – – No indicator lights, no build up of pressure.

Meanwhile, Mr. Monte jumped up on the counter. We told him it wasn’t time to eat. He insisted on staying on the counter and was laboring to get an important message across to us. We had no time for that. Mr. Monte was removed from the counter.

My almost but not quite in a state of panic Spouse checked the plug. He moved it from socket to socket. He cycled ground fault buttons. He noted that there was some warming in the pot, but still no indicator lights and no pressure build up.

It was past 1PM. Nancy was late. Hubby was turning in tight little circles. His ears were turning red. Nothing was going as it should.

Then, Nancy arrived. We greeted her. Hubby attempted to look untroubled. He wasn’t very convincing. His ears turned more red and it was obvious that he was suppressing his speech out of consideration of the presence of dear friend Nancy.

At just about the same time, Hubby and I asked the question, “Can’t we take the black-eyed peas and finish cooking them in our old pressure cooker?” Hubby immediately answered the question and said, “That’s it, that’s my Plan B.”

Within 30 seconds, my enterprising spouse had pulled out the old pressure cooker; transferred all of the black-eyed peas; and had the pot heating up on the trusty SFH Test Kitchen stove.

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While the peas were heating, Hubby cleaned out the Instant Pot and was preparing to put it away. – – That is when he saw it! – That’s when he realized that Mr. Monte was calling the wrong person Blondie. That’s when he saw that the plug was no longer attached to the Instant Pot.

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Now to make a very long story very short. The peas went back into the Instant Pot. When they were served they far exceeded the expectations of all gathered around the table. Dearest Hubby said not a word as he completed cleaning the old pressure cooker and, of course, the Instant Pot for the second time of the day.

Lesson Learned 2020-01: An Instant Pot is not like a crock pot or a toaster. The electric cord is detachable. That cord is subject to Murphy’s Law and it will detach itself when you least expect it.

Lesson Learned 2020-02: When your 20-pound Maine Coon Cat jumps on the counter and tries to tell you that the Instant Pot electric cord is detached – – Listen to him!!!

Happy New Year!!!


SFH Journal: 2019-11-04 through 11-10

The blossoming of our Christmas Cactus is another sign of the seasons here at Serendipity Farmhouse – a very welcome sign, indeed.

We woke up on the morning of November 5th to a hard freeze of 29.7°F. Though we have

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A frozen cherry tomato plant

had several frosts earlier, this was the one that finally signaled “end of season” for our ever-faithful cherry tomato plant. Up until the day it was taken by the cold, this little plant produced abundantly. It may be gone now, but it leaves behind the memory of 654 tasty red orbs.  Truly, a great achievement!

Yet, here at Serendipity Farmhouse there is always confidence and hope. That fact is witnessed to by my energetic and resourceful Wife. On the very day of the loss of our cherry tomato plant, she made her way to SFH Vegetable Garden #1 and planted five rows of garlic with six cloves in each row. Buoyed by her success with last year’s planting and this Summer’s harvest of fresh garlic, she decided to increase the numbers. There is no doubt in the author’s mind that we will see a bountiful SFH garlic harvest in 2020. (See: SFH Journal: 2019-07-01 – A Midsummer Day)

The arrival of colder weather dictates that El Camino Del Monte must be winterized. Now, with a year of experience under our belt, we managed the whole affair with a minimum of problems or concerns. It was not so last year. (See: SFH Journal: 2018-11-15 – First Snow & First Fire)

In case you’re wondering what Mr. Monte has been up to, in addition to leaf  and critter watching from the back porch, he has taken up photography. He submitted this photo as a sample of what the quick eye of a Maine Coon cat and the quick shutter of a digital single lens reflex camera can catch. Good job, Mr. Monte!

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Now if you remember, one of our very first posts (see: WWWT? #1 – What a Lovely Wood Stove!) detailed all the problems we encountered when we first attempted to use our wood stove. Now that we’ve been here for a while and had time to learn from our past mistakes, starting the first fire of the year was without incident and blessed by warmth throughout Serendipity Farmhouse on the afternoon of Thursday, November 7th.

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All-in-all, a very good week at SFH!

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 2019-11-04 through 11-10

The Day of the Cup Plants

This may be the last post from Serendipity Farmhouse.

Beautiful but terrified Spouse is in her office on the second floor, afraid of going down to who knows what may be downstairs. She is still in partial denial, nevertheless, she asked me to write this post. She also knew that a credible witness would have to help me and attest to the veracity of my statements, so Mr. Monte is here at my side. He and I are both a little shaken over what we’ve seen and heard these last two days. It’s important that we complete this narrative so that you may be forewarned.

It began a few years ago. A very sweet and precious, elderly neighbor lady asked dear Wife if she would like to have some cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum), which is a species native to this area. Without asking too many questions (never look a gift horse in the mouth), dearest Spouse gladly accepted the offer. Immediately, I was called to plant the small plants near our vegetable garden – a place where they could get lots of sunshine.

They prospered!

Soaking up the sun

Oh, did they prosper! Each year, they grew taller and broader. Ever more blossoms appeared. We were so happy with them that we added pictures of them to our portfolio of blooms and blossoms at SFH.

Late last year, however, sweet Wife made what would turn out to be a terrible mistake. The cup plants had spread too widely and were blocking the sunshine we needed on our vegetables. Dearest Spouse told me to move the wonderfully prolific flowers to our wildflower garden. That was when terrifying things began to happen.

As I dug up the plants and severed roots one from another, there were strange sounds. One could almost imagine eerie cries of pain. “No matter!”, says I, the cup plants must be moved. And, though the roots fought my attempts, I finally removed the offending plants and transplanted them.

All was quiet during the Winter months, but that silence only lulled me into a false sense of security.

Spring, warm temperatures, and gentle rains woke all of the living things here at Serendipity Farmhouse. The cup plants began to grow in the wildflower garden, but were slow and sluggish compared to years gone by.

Then the strangeness began. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Monte and I started hearing the cry of what sounded like injured small animals from the direction of the main vegetable garden. Each evening, they grew more frequent and more distressed. I checked out the SFH official critter camera, but saw no unusual activity. In fact, I saw no activity at all. There were no pictures of the usual raccoons, opossums, foxes, and other critters we usually see.

A few days ago, beautiful Wife and I noticed that the area where the cup flowers were originally planted was now being overrun by a myriad, nay, an army of of cup flower sprouts. I bravely attempted to mow them down one day. By dawn of the next day they had returned, but in far greater numbers. They were marching underground towards our newly planted vegetables. A second group started heading towards the Farmhouse.

And that brings us to today. We are now stranded inside SFH. On all sides, cup plants are growing, each of them with leaves pointed towards our windows, looking for a way to get in.

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This is all true, every word of it and Mr. Monte attests to the facts presented here. The pictures also bear witness to this report.

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Hopefully, Mr. Monte will devise a way to save us. Remember, Triffids were fiction, Cup Plants are real!!

What Were They Thinking?

What possible confluence of events could possibly bring the coming of Spring and our dearly beloved wood stove together? – Here’s the story of  how that happened.

How lovely and refreshing it was on February 27th to see a daffodil blooming in Amissville. What pleasant thoughts were ready to fill my mind as I drove by that blossom.

But!!! My mind was not filled with pleasant thoughts. Rather it was filled with a dreadful anticipation. My beautiful spouse had just called me during my homeward bound commute. She exclaimed, “There is scratching and thrashing in the wood stove! The chimney is echoing and reverberating with the frantic sounds a trapped creature! I think there’s a bird caught inside, and Mr. Monte is going berserk trying get his claws on it!”

How can one serenely contemplate the wonders of a daffodil and the advent of Spring when one has those words ringing and resounding in their mind? Surely, there would be no peace in the Serendipity Farmhouse tonight until yours truly captured and safely released the poor, stranded creature. Nor would there be any peace until yours truly had calmed the wild beast that now possessed Mr. Monte.

I arrived home. I parked. I opened the door and got out. Beautiful wife was waiting on the porch. I entered the house. Scratching and thrashing were heard from the wood stove. Cat was bouncing off the walls. Wife urgently, urged me to do my duty as husband and protector. What about the daffodil? What about the coming of Spring. Neither wife nor cat cared to know. Scratching and thrashing continued in the wood stove.

Step No. 1: Mr. Monte, claws extended, teeth ready to disable prey, had to be physically removed to the bedroom. The door was securely locked, but it shuddered and rattled from the impact of the 18 lb. wild cat attempting to force his way out.

Step No. 3: (What happened to Step No. 2? You’ll find out soon enough.)0227181549a (2) Turn on all lights, get flashlights. look inside. Yup, there’s a bird inside.

0227181547 (2)Step No. 4: Suit up. One must protect oneself and the feathered intruder from harmful accidents. Long sleeved shirt, jeans, leather wood stove gloves – who knows what kind of bird this might be?

Step No. 5: Look inside again. Survey the scene. Be aware of 0227181550 (2)what might be lurking inside. Apparently, the creature had started plucking some of insulating fiber in the rear of the wood stove. – Keep looking! – Then we saw it. No! Then we saw them! – Not just one bird inside – there were clearly two.

Step No. 6: Get out the first one. Slowly open door. Reach inside. Successfully grab the first bird. Wrong!!!! It flies out and immediately heads for the light coming through the back door. (Now this is where Step No. 2 should have been. Dang it! I should have opened the back door prior to Step No. 3.) Bird number one careens off the back door. Bird reverses course and heads up the stairwell to the second floor.

Step No. 7: Scurry to second floor in hot pursuit. Mr. Monte is heard meowing from behind locked door. After short chase, I capture the bird. I take it to the front door and release. One scared starling flies due north and then it’s out of sight.

Step No. 2: Belatedly, open back door, Dummy!

Step No. 8: Here repeat Step No. 6 with a few variations. Bird number two also escapes inside. Bird number two flies through back doorway and into screened porch.

Step No. 9: Close back door. Open porch door. Herd bird number two out through porch door. One scared starling flies due south and then it’s out of sight.

Step No. 10: Kiss wife. Unlock bedroom door. Kiss cat and sooth wild beast inside that furry exterior.

DSC_0004 (2)Step No. 11: Try to determine if there is something wrong with the chimney. No, the chimney is in fine shape, but it was poorly designed. We have now scientifically determined that birds the size of starlings apparently have no trouble getting in if they have a mind to.


Moral No. 1: A bird in hand is better than two flying freely through the house.

Moral No. 2: There are more daffodils blooming today. There is every sign that eventually Winter will give way to Spring. We can see it and feel it all around us. The starlings that thought the chimney would be a fine place to nest also felt that Spring was coming. Once they made their way into the chimney, they, in their own bird-like way, probably said (with some intense emotion), “What were we thinking!?”

Serendipity Farmhouse is not like the chimney and the wood stove and we are not like the starlings. Although at first, we wondered, “What were we thinking?”, we can now say Serendipity has become our home – our own little nest.

Monte-07Supplemental Comment from Mr. Monte: Those two big cats just have no common sense. They did it all wrong. If they had listened to me, this story would have had an entirely different ending. That’s why I was meowing when old Fuzz Face went rumbling past the bedroom door and up the stairs.

Once again I say, this story could have had a much better ending if only they had listened to me. Oh sure, the big cat with the fur on top of her head might have  complained a bit because of some feathers floating around the house. But, she’d get over it in time.

Oh well, what can you expect from two big cats who try do a job for which God gave them no skills. Next time, let me handle the job. I have bird hunting skills and I was born to use them.


WWWT? #1 – What a Lovely Wood Stove!

My sweet wood stove

This is the first in a series of What Were We Thinking? (WWWT?) stories.

Imagine our brand new, ultra-modern, 4,000 square foot home in Idaho. There was a top-of-the line natural gas furnace, plus two natural gas fire places. The insulation exceeded all normal requirements and specifications. When those 29 degree below zero nights came in the middle of January, we were comfy, walking around the house in shorts or lightweight pajamas. – No problem.

When we came to inspect Serendipity Farmhouse for the first time, there it was sitting there in all its majestic glory – a magnificent, lovely wood stove. In our amazement, we said, “Oh, how lovely! Perhaps we’ll use it some time. It will be so romantic!”

December 2013 was cold. It was very, very cold outside. But it wasn’t much warmer inside. The old (circa 1987) propane furnace was laboring to keep up, but the wind outside and the lack of insulation was too much for it.

There she was! My beautiful, adorable spouse, sitting at the dinner table wearing earmuffs. This was not, I repeat, was not romantic.

We looked at the wood stove sitting there in all its majestic glory. We scratched our heads and ignorantly said, how do you use a wood stove? Then came the dreaded thought – even if we knew how, when was the last time the chimney had been cleaned, if ever. We shuddered in cold and in terror, what if we had a chimney fire? Oh, dear!

Ultimately, sanity prevailed. We called Josh, the former owner, who assured us that all was well and in working order.

Sometimes getting wood ain’t easy

I tramped out to the woodshed in the snowy and blustery dark Winter night. I got a bucket of wood (perhaps five logs – guess how long that lasts). Before the night was over there would be several more trips. – – Oh! How wonderful was the warmth from that wood stove. This was beyond romantic – this was true, true love!

No, that’s not the end to the story.

The very next day, I received a call from my boss in Idaho. “We need you out here, and we need you ASAP!”

I hope you never have to tell your spouse that you’re going to leave them in a cold house when they don’t know how to use a wood stove and are frightened at the prospect. She never forgot that moment and she never forgot that week I left her.

Barely five feet tall, petite, certainly not a weight lifter, there was my gal walking through two feet of snow out to the woodshed with a small bucket to haul the wood. She made that trip many times and I heard about it many times more.

The moral to this story is: Don’t be romantic – be practical and be prepared. If you move into an old farmhouse with a wood stove, make it your very first priority to learn how to use the darned thing and make sure your spouse learns too. Oh, and don’t forget to buy a cart and a sled for hauling more than four or five logs at a time.