Category: What were we thinking?

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.

IMG_20200104_112436926 (2)_edited

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.

IMG_20200104_112129401 (2)_edited

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

IMG_20191104_121642930_HDR (2)
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!

IMG_20191105_145038962 (2)

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.

IMG_20191108_132357973 (2)

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!

cropped-img_20170910_121720541-2.jpg
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.

DSC_1164 (2)

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.

DSC_1163 (2)

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!

WWWT-01-01
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.

WWWT-01-05
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.