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.
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
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.”
24 July, Wednesday: A family friend, possessing many interesting skills, including a well 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.
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”.
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.
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.
“Too few tomatoes … too tired from yard work … too blasted hot!!!“
This has been our constant refrain every July since 2014.
But it isn’t that way this year!!!
Of course, every season starts off with “Too few tomatoes”. This year, we have found two local sources of organically grown tomatoes to provide us sufficient numbers until all of our bushes are producing at full capacity. We have seven bushes. Three are just now coming into their maturity, while the other four will start producing in a couple of weeks
Of course, every July there is much to do and we are “… too tired from yard work”. We have studied this problem and devised ways to spread the yard work and other chores out over the week so that we don’t get overly tired. We’ve also moved heavy work periods to the early morning hours, before the heat of the day sets in.
That leaves the most serious problem – “… too blasted hot!!!“ Canning salsa or pasta sauce in mid-July in Virginia without air conditioning is not for the faint of heart. It might be 95° with 90% humidity outside, but when the jars are sterilizing, the tomatoes are simmering, and the lids are heating up, the temperature in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen begins to soar to well over 100°. The only sensible dress under those conditions is shorty pants and matching wife- and husband-beater shirts. – – Believe me, it’s not a pretty sight and Mr. Monte is not so pleased by the odors brought on with the heat.
Previous owners of Serendipity Farmhouse ran air conditioners, but it was a somewhat risky situation. The house only had 100 Amp service. We changed that last year. (See SFH Journal: 2018-11-29 through 2018-12-03 – 200 Amp Service!!!) With that upgrade, we feel a bit more confident about running multiple air conditioners.
And that brings us to the meaning of this post’s title: Serendipitous Salsa – No Sweat!
Our first tomato canning event for this season was accomplished without bleating out our old constant refrain. We had enough tomatoes to make seven pint jars of salsa in a single session. We were well rested and up to the task at hand. And, most importantly, we were dressed comfortably and not in the manner that so scandalized poor Mr. Monte. In fact, he even came over and rubbed my leg several times in animated appreciation of my lack of troublesome and annoying odors.
Yes, dear friends, this was a serendipitous occasion and the preparation of the seven jars of salsa was – No Sweat!
There were several other happy facets of this uncanny canning event. One was the introduction of Cow Horn peppers to our tried and true salsa recipe. These peppers are roughly in the same range as Jalapenos, measuring in at 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville heat units. They bring with them their own distinctive flavor.
Another change to our recipe this year was leaving most of the Jalapeno and Cow Horn seeds in the mix. This will make for a little stronger kick, hopefully without shocking the taste sensibilities of the regular fans of Granny & Grandad’s (G&G’s) Salsa.
G&G’s Salsa is becoming a regional favorite for as many as tens of people. This fantastic rate of growth attests to the high quality of our products. In keeping with our aspirations to become a world-famous brand, this year, we have modernized our labeling as you will see below. But, keep in mind, it’s not the label that counts as much as the quality of the product inside. So, dear readers, we present to you the story of this year’s G&G’s Serendipitous Salsa. We put a lot of work into it, but it was – No Sweat!
Here at Serendipity Farmhouse we try to live by our motto – “Pray, Prepare, Preserve”. That motto has meanings on many levels. One level speaks to mankind’s most primitive and essential need – food. We “Pray” for our harvest; we “Prepare” the gardens with physical labor and constant care; then, when all is ripe and ready, we carefully “Preserve” a portion of the harvest so there will be “food for tomorrow”.
And so, this preserving season has begun. No, I don’t say the canning season has begun because there are many ways to preserve food. Yes, we do canning, but we also freeze, dehydrate, dry can, ferment, and many other things to preserve our food. By way of example, while this preserving season is quite young we have already:
Frozen three 4oz containers of pesto, made from our own basil;
Pickled five ½ pint jars of hot peppers; and
Frozen one package of sliced okra.
Granted, in the grand scheme things, many might think that SFH is just a very small, amateurish enterprise. That’s OK. Let them think what they will. Lovely Spouse, Mr.Monte, and I, however, greatly enjoy what we do and we take pride in what we do.
It’s the little things that add up. For example, let’s take a look at those five ½ pint jars of “Peter’s Pickled Peppers”. You cannot find the equivalent in any grocery store. First, the jalapeno peppers were perfect in every detail. Then we added Cow Horn peppers to impart a subtle nuance to the flavor. Finally, each jar of peppers has a clove of garlic grown in our very own herb garden. Everything in each of those five jars is fresh and high quality.
Dear and gentle Reader, when we open one of those jars in December, and spread out the contents on a relish tray for Christmas dinner, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that only the best of the best will be on the table as we call to mind the birth of the One Who has given us everything.
So, quietly and without fanfare the 2019 SFH preserving season has begun. There will be time enough for fanfare and compliments when the cold days of Winter are upon us.
This year, we have added a page to the blog to allow you to keep up with the daily harvest. Go and check out SFH 2019 Harvest to see how bountiful this growing season has been already.
Another new page, just added today, will give you a chance to see how the harvest translates into “food for tomorrow” by means of preserving. Go check out SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow because this is going be a great year for tomatoes, okra, and peppers.
P.S. Mr. Monte has been especially vigilant this year, performing inspections all of our preserving supplies, monitoring general cleanliness, and ensuring adherence to SFH Test Kitchen “best practices”.
Hi! Mr. Monte here. Ol’ Fuzz Face was complaining (as usual) about the heat and other discomforts of Summer in Virginia. The last time I saw him, he was huddled up next to an air conditioner, sucking on an overly expensive bottle of Perrier mineral water. So, if he can’t handle the heat, then I guess I will have to write this post. – – Maybe that’s just as well, because the topic today is Cat Cousins, something he knows little or nothing about.
Highlight: Blondie and Fuzz Faces’s Daughter #2 has just blessed the extended family with a new Cat Cousin. “Cosmo” is just a little tyke, all black and grey, and full of that usual, juvenile feline cuteness. (By the way, mine never went away.)
Daughter #2 already had “Gizmo”, a decent enough fellow, who is one year my senior. I won’t dispute his seniority in this space, but I will staunchly assert my claim to full authority over all Cat Cousins in the family. They may be cute, but I rule.
In any event, we cats are somewhat territorial and consider ourselves masters of our established domains. Although the picture suggests that Gizmo is adapting to Cosmo’s presence, there will surely be some tensions in the household for a while to come. At this point, all I can say to Gizmo and Cosmo is: “Lots of luck, fellas, and don’t ever try setting a foot onto my territory here at Serendipity Farmhouse!”
By the way, my other Cat Cousins include “Blossom” & “Cinder”, now residing happily with Daughter #1. Fuzz Face tells me they are sweet and adorable. Meanwhile, Son #1 and family are proudly owned by my Cat Cousin “Erso”. Rumor has it that she is quite nice as well.
Oh, I guess right about now Ol’ Fuzz Face would say check out the links below. The garden is producing in great abundance and my two big cats seem to be pleased.
St. Benedict of Nursia is the patron saint of Serendipity Farmhouse and this blog. Today is his feast. We are Oblates of St. Benedict and we strive to live by his Holy Rule. Prayer and Work, practicing hospitality and leading a spiritual life have become primary considerations for daily life at SFH.
Because we are in the midst of our growing season, and the heat and humidity are oppressive, we take heart from the Rule of St. Benedict. This extract from Chapter 48 provides an insight on how we try learn from the Rule and apply it to our daily lives.
CHAPTER 48: THE DAILY MANUAL LABOR
Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.
We believe that the times for both may be arranged as follows: From Easter to the first of October, they will spend their mornings after Prime till about the fourth hour at whatever work needs to be done. From the fourth hour until the time of Sext, they will devote themselves to reading. But after Sext and their meal, they may rest on their beds in complete silence; should a brother wish to read privately, let him do so, but without disturbing the others. They should say None a little early, about midway through the eighth hour, and then until Vespers they are to return to whatever work is necessary. They must not become distressed if local conditions or their poverty should force them to do the harvesting themselves. When they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are really monks. Yet, all things are to be done with moderation on account of the fainthearted.
(As taken from The Rule of St. Benedict – In Latin and English with Notes – 1980)
Picture Credit: St Benedict of Nursia writing the Benedictine rule, portrait in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1926) by Herman Nieg (1849-1928) |Source= own photo |Date= 21 June 2006
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.
Highlight: We’ve been busy – very busy. In the last week, the vegetables have really started coming in. It is with great joy, pride of accomplishment, and thanksgiving to God that we can say we’ve kept the tomatoes standing and have protected all our gardens from damage by insects, heavy rain, and strong winds.
And the reward for all of that work speaks for itself. This week we harvested our first big tomato – a Big Beef. It arrived almost simultaneously with our first yellow squash and first cucumber.
Mr. Monte is currently checking out the soon-to-be-famous SFH Test Kitchen to ensure that all is ready for canning, which should start in a week or two. To see how bountiful the harvest is check out SFH 2019 Harvesthere.
Nestled along the North Fork of the Thornton River, deep in the heart of the Blue Ridge, there is a camping spot quiet and serene. My beautiful and exceptionally talented spouse chose that particular spot as the perfect place to celebrate Independence Day.
We had to drive our Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte, precisely zero miles to access this perfect spot. I had to pull out my wallet and pay precisely $0.00 to rent this site to park the RV and set up camp. Even before the setup was complete, we could see the that adorable wife had chosen quite wisely.
While the day was still young, just a bit past mid-day, the Master Glamper and Wife Extraordinaire, decided it was time for tea.
Afterwards, we discussed the holiday menu. Yes, certainly a steak would be in order. That would be joined by corn on the cob, yellow squash recently picked from our vegetable garden, and watermelon. As we made the final adjustments to the menu, we watched the cool mountain water as it flowed by on its sparkling and gurgling way.
It was a unanimous decision (yes, Mr. Monte was allowed to vote) that ice cream would be the finale.
To enjoy this independence that we celebrate, this freedom that we share, is a great blessing. It’s not just the words written on a piece of paper 243 years ago; it’s what is written on the hearts of men by their Creator that makes this celebration so important.