SFH Journal: 2018-10-27 through 29

1029181701c_HDR (2)Highlight: Summer’s heat and humidity have been replaced by crisp and cool Autumn days. Beautiful wife’s face is now aglow with an unburdened smile. She quietly states that now is the time to make a warm fire with old wood and dead branches brought down by recent winds. Without the slightest hesitation, I agree.

The scrap wood and branches are formed into the shape of a small teepee in the old brick grill and a match lights a small blaze. Wonderful spouse and I come close together and enjoy the heat from the flames. From that warm and loving vantage point we look at the signs of Autumn in our yard, presenting themselves in festal array.

Many of these leaves, branches, and berries that we affectionately call “yard trash” will become the makings for many Christmas and holiday arrangements. Yes, we have turned the corner into that wondrous time of year. And every tree and plant at Serendipity Farm House affirms that this will be a time reserved for family, friends, and the Creator of all.

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Weather: Sunshine, partly cloudy, partly sunny, a little rain, calm, winds – it all = variable weather. The Autumn color change has begun.

2018-10-27: High/Low – 51º/42º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-28: High/Low – 57º/44º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-29: High/Low – 55º/44º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-10-25 & 26

Highlight: The majority of my life I was oblivious to the natural wonders going on around me. Work, marriage, raising children – all of these were priorities. I was aware of magnolia trees and their blossoms, but there was no time to observe, to question, or to record anything about them.

Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, however, there is more time for observation and much less to distract me. I don’t claim to understand the life cycle of a magnolia blossom, but I do claim to have seen it. And, as great as the satisfaction of seeing a magnolia tree in full blossom might be, the satisfaction of knowing what becomes of those blossoms is far greater.

Despite the unusually rainy year we have had, our magnolia tree has prospered. Now, that tree is engaged in performing its most important work – spreading the seeds that promise new life and new blossoms for generations to come.

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Weather: Originally billed as a “nor’easter”, we will only be seeing some showers on the 26th and 27th. Most of the rain is passing to the east of us. So, compared to Florence and Michael, this amounts to a typical, rainy autumn day.

2018-10-25: High/Low – 53º/30º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-26: High/Low – 44º/35º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

SFH Journal: 2018-10-23 & 24

Highlight: The featured picture, taken on the 19th, pretty much says it all. For this growing year, we have hit the bottom of the bucket. Thus ends the harvest at Serendipity Farmhouse.

Over the next few months, we will assess what went right and what went wrong this past year. We will make adjustments and modifications to our plans for the next growing season.

Weather: The seasonal cooling trend continues.

2018-10-23: High/Low – 69º/37º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-224: High/Low – 59º/35º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Reporting suspended until the first planting of 2019.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

“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.


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!






SFH Journal: 2018-10-16 through 22 – First Frost

Highlight: There it was on the roof, on the grass, and on the windshields of our cars. The sun rose on the morning of October 19th to the sight of the first frost.  This first frost of the the year brought with it a sense of relief. We at Serendipity Farmhouse are finally relieved from further worry over the ill effects of too much rain. We are relieved from concern about leaf curl, insect invaders, and fungus.

It’s now time to put the gardens to rest and plan for a better growing season next year. We’ll talk about that planning in coming posts.

Weather: First frost came on the morning of October 19th. The first hard frost was on the morning of October 22nd.

2018-10-14: High/Low – 55º/41º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-15: High/Low – 73º/53º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-16: High/Low – 64º/51º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-17: High/Low – 66º/44º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-18: High/Low – 59º/37º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-19: High/Low – 68º/32º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-20: High/Low – 68º/46º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-21: High/Low – 48º/33º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-22: High/Low – 60º/30º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: Due to the two recent frosts, the okra gave up the ghost and the habaneros suffered damage. The serranos continue on. Meanwhile, the jalapenos remain standing, but without peppers.

2018-10-14: 10 okra pods

2018-10-15: Nothing to report

2018-10-16: Nothing to report

2018-10-17: 6 small okra pods, 1 jalapeno

2018-10-18: Nothing to report

2018-10-19: 4 very small okra pods, 2 jalapenos

2018-10-21: Nothing to report

2018-10-22: Nothing to report

SFH Journal: 2018-10-14 & 15

Highlight: What did you have for breakfast this morning? I hope it was something good. As for me, my breakfasts are usually pretty routine – cold cereal or oatmeal with coffee and Saturday is reserved for grits with butter and cheese.

This morning was different, however, because last week my beautiful and usually patient wife had an all out argument with four unworthy bananas. There they were, in the house for only a day or two, and already speckled brown and loudly declaring their over-ripeness. Now you have to understand that my wonderful spouse considers a banana virtually without worth very soon after it begins to turn yellow. I don’t know when, where, or how she developed that little taste quirk, but it’s very real. Many speckled bananas have met their untimely demise at her hands.

This time, however, dear wife, after sharing several disparaging thoughts with that worthless “bunch”, had a sudden change of heart. Within an instant, the kitchen shown with the light of mercy and kindness – she had a plan of salvation for those spoiling fruits. Without a moment’s hesitation, all four of them were placed gently into the refrigerator to await a mercy-filled fate.

Yesterday, those four old and completely brown bananas were brought out into the kitchen – they were to become the main ingredient of what was for me the world’s most tasty Banana Pumpkin Bread ever.

Wife’s skillful hands, following a recipe from allrecipes.com, gathered the needed ingredients; made necessary substitutions; and stirred the mixture with loving care. Roughly an hour later, there it was – beautiful to the eyes, filling the house with a most enticing aroma. Ah! The joy of having a wife who brings mercy to offending bananas and gives them a purpose for existence!

What did you have for breakfast this morning? I hope it was something good. As for me, I had a new SFH specialty – Banana Pumpkin bread, slightly warmed, with a bit of butter.

Thank you, dear Wife!

Weather: The cool weather is upon us.

2018-10-14: High – 55º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-15: High – 73º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: The harvest continues to slow, but we had enough okra for dinner last night.

2018-10-14: 10 okra pods and 3 jalapenos

2018-10-15: Nothing to report

SFH Journal: 2018-10-08 through 13

Highlight: No, the trees haven’t really begun to show their seasonal change of colors yet. That is still some weeks away. But, the black walnut trees have already lost most of their leaves. Their obnoxious and annoying green balls, along with their offensively malodorous, rotting husks, are littering the yard and endangering the windshields of our vehicles. And, as with so many of life’s contradictions, the unpleasant black walnut litter, in its own way, engenders a certain type of optimism. Yes,  the most highly favored season at Serendipity Farmhouse is now beginning to wrap itself around us – our dearly treasured Autumn.

Weather: The remnants of Hurricane Michael and a welcome cold front brought rain, wind, and a dramatic drop in temperatures. As has been the case all year, weather dominates our work in the yard and gardens.

2018-10-08: High – 86º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-09: High – 77º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-10: High – 78º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-11: High – 77º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-12: High – 62º (Details – click here.)

2018-10-13: High – 55º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: The harvest continues to slow.

2018-10-08: Nothing to report

2018-10-09: Nothing to report

2018-10-10: 11 okra pods, 1 jalapeno

2018-10-11: Nothing to report

2018-10-12: 5 okra pods

2018-10-13: Nothing to report