I’m not just an interested bystander. No, not me. I’m the guy who gets to document this annual event. And as such, it’s quite important that I observe closely and take detailed mental notes. Why? Well, because there’s nothing, no, not one thing that’s even half as interesting or exciting as watching Annual Yard Trash Day in the Blue Ridge.
Now, let me share with you something that I’ve noticed this year. These two wonderful gals, my beautiful Wife and her best friend Nancy, are truly getting better at this every year. Not only that, they are having more fun. If you need proof, take a look at the pictures below.
On the top-right photo taken in 2017, they had done a good job with the yard trash arrangements but, when it was all done, they were beat, tired, and generally worn out. In the photo on the bottom-right taken in 2018, they were obviously tired, but they at least had their eyes open. That was a sign of improvement.
Finally, in the photo on the left taken yesterday, they’ve worked hard all day and they are still wild-eyed, oops, I mean wide-eyed and bushy tailed. As I said, these gals are getting better every year.
Consider also, how much work has to be done the day before, collecting yard trash, trimming it, and preparing it for the big day – Yard Trash Day. It’s hard work out in the cold wind. Yet, they do it with great expectation.
And, of course, the hard work, the camaraderie, many cups of hot tea, and the intimate discussions about family and preparations for Christmas all lead to the pride of accomplishment in what they’ve created. So, as you will see below, 2019 was a very good year for Annual Yard Trash Day in the Blue Ridge.
No sooner than we had closed on the sale of our beautiful house in Idaho and signed the papers making what would become Serendipity Farmhouse our own, we got the news that we had to hit the road immediately. Winter storms taunted us and plagued us all the way across Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, and my beloved Virginia.
What a trip. We did it all because we wanted, no, we really needed to be with our children and our grandchildren.
God is very good! May He continue to bless this little farmhouse and all who enter it!
Long ago we said that Serendipity Farmhouse is not the house of our dreams, but the house of our realities. This week a friend died and we attended his funeral on Friday. He will be sorely missed. We pray for him and his family.
Long ago we said that Serendipity Farmhouse is not the house of our dreams, but the house of our realities. This week our car suffered the ill effects of 143K miles of Washington, D.C. commuting. After nearly $6K worth of repairs, it is now back in service.
Long ago we said that Serendipity Farmhouse is not the house of our dreams, but the house of our realities. That is how it is, and that is how it is meant to be.
Flash Precedence News Bulletin: The elf has been found!!!!!!! Sweet, beautiful Spouse found his Summer hiding place and now he has returned to plague us with his foolishness.
Dear, sweet, and gentle Wife has taken to the adventure with great glee.
I am somewhat more restrained.
Mr. Monte would gladly put him out of his misery.
So, as all the seasonal decorations are being set in there appointed places, that little red fellow keeps slipping out of sight, defying us to find him. I just might take Mr. Monte up on his offer.
No pictures from Thanksgiving. The reason – we were enjoying our time with Daughter #1 and her family far too much to interrupt with artificial posing or potentially embarrassing snapshots. No, this was family time. Thank you, dear Daughter, Son-in-law #1, Granddaughter #1, and Grandson #3 for joining us here at Serendipity Farmhouse.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of family.
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The left hand column of the SFH blog now features a reminder of the real season that begins today (Advent) and a countdown of the days to Christmas. There is a tension between those two thoughts. Advent makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah and should be a time of thoughtful and peaceful preparation. But, the world has constructed alluring fantasies that obscure the true meaning of this season that are filled with emotion akin to panic. The tension grows greater each year.
We at SFH resolve to spend our Advent in thoughtful preparation. And, if there is to be a countdown, it will not be shopping days that we count, it will be days in anticipation of the great feast day that is known as “Christmas”.
Why is that? Well, it seems that in our decorating SFH for Advent, my beautiful Wife has been unable to find the little guy. At least six times whilst I’ve been composing this post, my beloved Spouse has entered the office exclaiming with a slight southern drawl, “I can’t find my Elf on the Shelf, dadgum!”
I consulted with Mr. Monte, our SFH Chief of Security, with regard to our concern over the fact that the aforesaid Elf was apparently AWOL. He quickly responded that his search of the premises had not uncovered anything unusual. His report, however, was a bit less than reassuring because I thought I saw some red velvet fuzz on his upper lip.
Did you know your every day, run of the mill domestic cat has a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each fore paw, and four toes on each hind paw? – – – Ahem!!! I am not your every day, run of the mill domestic cat. – – – I am a highly prized, certified, documented, polydactyl Main Coon cat. Here’s what I mean. Study the following pictures closely – pay attention to my snow prints.
In the pictures above, you see my hind paw print with five very well defined toe indentations. So, that means I have one more toe than your average cat on each hind paw. But, dear readers, that is only part of the story. As you can see in this selfie of my hind paw, the true story is each of my hind paws actually has six toes (and, of course, six terrifyingly sharp and lethal claws). The sixth toe is somewhat obscured by exceptionally beautiful, shiny fur.
But, dear readers, that is still only part of the story. When we get to my fore paws, there are even more fascinating facts concerning how I am distinguished from your every day, run of the mill domestic cat.
Each of my fore paws is also endowed with six majestic and lethal claws. The sixth toe on each paw gives me an extra catly “thumb”. Because of the breadth of each paw, I am able to accomplish feats impossible to everyday cats. These “thumbs” mimic the human hand and allow me to grasp objects – my paw is a “prehensile” organ.
Other polydactyl cats can open doors, pick up objects, etc. My extra toes, however, are even more capable. For example, all of the closeup shots above were selfies I took using Old Fuzz Face’s smart phone.
Once I got the hang of how the smart phone worked. It wasn’t long before I learned how to text. If you think some humans are fast at texting using two thumbs, imagine how quickly I can send a text using four thumbs.
Although I compose most of my world renowned posts on a regular keyboard using a “hunt and kill” erhh, I mean “hunt and peck” typing method, often I use the smart phone keyboard and type with my four magnificent thumbs.
Now that I have educated you on the joys of being a highly prized, certified, documented, polydactyl Main Coon cat, I guess I should let you know about this past week at Serendipity Farmhouse – it wasn’t so good.
The week started with Blondie enduring sickness. That was complicated by a reaction to medication that had consequences that should not be mentioned here. Just as she was improving and enjoying her first day out of the house, she and Fuzz Face encountered a rather serious problem with their family car.
After being inspected and examined by the dealership, they were told the cost for repair. Both of my big cats (Blondie and Fuzz Face) reacted in somewhat predictable ways. Blondie saw immediate doom coming to all aspects of her life from that moment extending all the way to the grave and beyond.
Old Fuzz Face, reacted to the estimate as if an arrow had just pierced the very heart of his “inner cheap”. The reaction was immediate and severe. But, I couldn’t keep from laughing because, as the picture shows, he has probably been living too long with yours truly.
Industrious and beautiful Wife, widely known for her fabled “green thumb”, has officially declared the growing season and the harvest of 2019 officially at an end. Using all the expertise at her command, and commanding back-breaking labor from her ever admiring hubby, she has planned and executed all that took place in the vast, expansive (somewhat less than 224 square feet), and fruitful gardens of the Serendipity Farmhouse estate.
The result of her labor and planning is the most bounteous harvest ever achieved since the SFH sign was affixed to the entrance way of our humble abode. Her struggle and sweat through one the hottest and most grueling growing seasons ever recorded in this area were rewarded with fresh vegetables on the dinner table on a daily basis, and with frozen, dehydrated, and canned food stores to brighten our table through the holidays, holy days, and days between now and the next harvest.
Yet, my humble Spouse is the first to say that none of this would have been possible without His help and watchful care. That is a reason to be thankful, that is a reason for giving thanks. That is but one of many reasons why we will pray to Him in thanksgiving on November 28th.
And now, without further ado, Mr. Monte, in his capacity as SFH Chief Statistician, has gathered pictures and compiled statistics to show what Blondie has accomplished in her gardens during Anno Domini MMXIX.
SFH 2019 Harvest Totals
Beans, green stringless
Peppers, Cow Horn
Tomatoes, Big Beef
Tomatoes, Golden Jubilee
Tomatoes, Mr. Stripey
SFH 2019 Preserving Totals
8 pint jars
18 pint jars
Peppers, Cow Horn, dry canned
1 pint jar
10 1/2 pint jars
5 4-oz containers
Popcorn, dry canned
6 quart jars
27 pint jars
Serendipity Farmhouse is not a hobby. Serendipity Farmhouse is our way of life.
Serendipity Farmhouse is where we Pray, Prepare, and Preserve.
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
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!
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.
When industrious and ever thoughtful Wife asks me to take a day or two of vacation to work on this vast estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse, it’s not a request. It carries a bit more weight than that. So, being sane and sound of mind, I notify the folks at work that I’m off to perform higher priority tasking.
This time of year in the Blue Ridge, however, is so pleasant that I might be found guilty of planting the idea that a thorough Fall cleanup is needed. Dearest Spouse is quite susceptible to the power of suggestion, especially if it suits her purposes and SFH will be the better for it.
So, here it is! The best time of the year when even a little potentially back-breaking work is a welcome diversion from our normal routine.
28 OCT – Monday: A while back, dearest Wife allegedly put away two cords of wood single-handed. (See: SFH Journal: 2019-09-30 through 10-20 – “V” is for “Victory!”) Today, the chimney sweep arrived early to inspect and clean the SFH wood stove. With wood in the shed and a fully functional wood stove, we are now ready to face the cold days that are coming.
After that, it was out to the gardens to remove the okra and pepper plants. One box was specially prepared for planting garlic.
29 OCT – Tuesday: The second half of Monday and most of Tuesday were all about
cleaning out one side of the storage shed and removing fans, air conditioners, and other Summer equipment to the shed. This year, we purchased, assembled, and put into active use a brand new, heavy-duty storage shelf unit. My only comment at this point is: Either the gravitational pull of the earth is increasing making everything heavier, or I am getting older and more feeble. – – Next year, I may call younger and stronger hands to help out Granddad.
Later in the day, beautiful Spouse and I made the walk to the mailbox. I snapped this picture along the way. In the distance you can see Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. The Autumn colors were just past their peak. Later in the week, we would be up at that spot on Skyline drive taking a picture of SFH and our little part of God’s great creation.
30 OCT – Wednesday: This was a work day for me with a long commute. It was the kind of day that enterprising Wife uses to make multiple additions to the official SFH Honey Do List.
31 OCT – Thursday: This was a notable day because it was Granddaughter #4’s birthday. That being the case, IHOP suddenly becomes one of the most important places in Virginia. Parents and grandparents assisted dear Granddaughter in a splendid celebration.
This was also a day of much-needed rain. The office required some cleaning and I used an hour or two of that time to comprehend, digest, and internally accept all of my dearest Wife’s additions to the official SFH Honey Do List.
01 NOV – Friday – All Saints Day: As the storm system moved northward, much cooler temperatures set in. Autumn in the Blue Ridge had turned the corner towards Winter. With the lower temperatures came the clearest blue sky one can imagine. Just the perfect day to celebrate our dear friend Nancy’s birthday with lunch and picture taking on Skyline Drive.
This picture of dear Wife and Nancy has some hidden meaning that even I find difficult to discern. You will note that I have enlarged the sign pointing to sweet Wife and Nancy. I suppose I will be puzzling over its true significance for some time to come, or at least until most thoughtful Wife requires that I excise the offending photo of the “Farm Fresh Pumpkins” sign.
Immediately after photographing the “Pumpkins”, errh, I mean dearest Spouse and Nancy, we were off for more enjoyment of the Autumnal color display. And this is just some of what we saw.
By the way, you can see some white buildings in the upper third of the bottom photo. Yes, gentle Reader, that is Serendipity Farmhouse just to the left.
02 NOV – Saturday: This was a typical day for strenuous and demanding chores at SFH.
03 NOV – Sunday: This was a day of rest and a day for doing the Lord’s work. All in all, one very fine Autumn week at SFH.
That, Dear Friends, was the sound of my most beautiful, imaginative, and exceedingly innovative Wife as she introduced the new sport of Walnut Whacking to Serendipity Farmhouse – and, dare I say it, to the World.
Origin & History: Although various forms of walnut whacking can be traced to Hungary and other parts of Europe, there is no doubt that the primitive American form was an independent invention of enterprising and inventive American youths.
There are few records of the discovery or development of this sport. Yet, the traditions of schoolyards and family farms throughout the building of this country are filled with similar cases. Consider, for example, “tag”, “keep away”, and “dodge-ball”. In that great kingdom of imagination which is childhood, these games are part of the natural order.
We who are fortunate enough to be grandparents are blessed in many ways. Often we think that grandparents are meant to pass on family traditions. Verily, that is one important role, but grandparents must also stand ready to learn great truths and mysteries from their grandchildren – and, the primitive form of “walnut whacking” is one of those mysterious truths.
For in that primitive form, clever Wife saw the answer to a serious, perennial SFH problem – mounds of rotting black walnuts. The hideous little beasties fall randomly about our vast estate, often bouncing of roofs, automobiles, and occasionally, even unsuspecting heads. They are dangerous and create a perfectly terrible mess. Besides that, as they rot, they stink!!
And so it was when my clever wife encountered the new-found pastime of her beloved grandsons. She was inspired by them. So inspired, in fact, that she immediately set out to develop the once primitive form of “walnut whacking” into a great family sport that someday might even surpass the ever-popular “cornhole.” And, at the same time, the magnificent grounds of SFH would be cleansed of the offensive rotting walnuts.
Rules & Order of Play: There are two variations to SFH Walnut Whacking “River Rules” & “Pasture Rules”.
River Rules apply to SFH and similar grand estates that have natural rivers or creeks. (Please don’t use River Rules with swimming pools.)
Whacksman – the person in possession of the whacking racket and performing the walnut whacking
Whacking Mound – a 3-5 inch elevated mound where a Whacksman does his/her walnut whacking; usually over 60 feet from the edge of the river or creek
Whacksman rotation – the same as cornhole
Grumpire – the large Maine Coon cat that interprets the rules and maintains discipline and decorum on the Walnut Whacking playing field
Ker-plunk (KP) – the whacked walnut can be heard clearly to land in the water without ever having bounced along the ground – Score: 3 points
Woo-hooo!!!!! – The term that must be exclaimed after making a KP, if not said, you lose your points
Bounce-plunk (BP) – the whacked walnut bounced on the ground prior to landing in the water – Score: 2 points
No-plunk (NP) – the ball goes over the edge of the river, but there is no “plunk – Score: 1 point
Short Game: The game is played for less than one hour
Long Game: The game is played until the supply of black walnuts is exhausted
Pasture Rules apply to grand estates that have no natural water features. All that is needed is a fence and a pasture. Scoring is modified as follows.
Ker-plop (KP) – the whacked walnut can be heard clearly to land in a 20-foot diameter circle in a pasture without ever having bounced along the ground – Score: 3 points
Bounce-plop (BP) – the whacked walnut bounced on the ground prior to stopping within the 20-foot diameter circle – Score: 2 points
No-plop (NP) – the ball goes over the pasture fence, but does not make it to the circle – Score: 1 point
Walnut Whacking World Series:
Two games are played, one with River Rules and one with Pasture rules. The team with the highest combined point total is the Walnut Whacking World Champion.
Guide to Perfect Form: Beautiful Wife has prepared this series of pictures to show you how you can attain the whacking form that will help you to become a world champion whacksman.
Equipment: The most important piece of equipment for a great whacksman is a quality racket. Dear, sweet Wife was a bit of a tennis champion while we lived in Japan. She prefers to use her 1978 vintage Shin Nippon Racket. Very few have ever won a match when she had that racket in her hand. (In a follow-on article, we will explore other equipment such as gloves and shoes.)
Potential Problems: Some black walnuts appear to be green and ready for whacking but they have already started to rot inside. The black ooze that emerges when being whacked makes a positively horrific mess of a quality racket. Whacksmen, beware of rotting walnuts!
Challenge: There is a rumor that lovely Wife desires to challenge various children and grandchildren to a Walnut Whacking match. Mind you, that’s only a rumor and you never heard it from me.
Cats know, perhaps even better than humans, the meaning of the adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Now you may recall how pleased I was with my introduction to a new veterinary clinic about a month ago. (See Blondie Comes Through – Guilt Assuaged.) At the time, that visit to the new vet left me in a state of relative catly euphoria. But! Cats, especially cats like me who possess notable intellect and shrewd understanding of the real world, must be aware that humans are basically dishonest. They often speak with soothing words, but their real intent is not benign. Blondie and Fuzz Face are no exceptions.
I had mulled over this thought through the intervening weeks. It was inevitable that another visit to the vet would happen. Thursday was the day of reckoning. My two big cats quietly pulled out my carrier and gently urged me to enter, all the while speaking those soothing words. – – My catly senses suddenly alarmed a shrill – Uh-oh!
Within 20 minutes we were once again in the quiet room in the clinic. Once again, classical music was heard in the background. An array of tasty treats were strewn about my paws. I knew, I just knew, they were laying a trap. Then, the Vet came in and spoke softly to my two big cats. I heard the human words “rabies vaccine” and “inspect his ears”. Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh!
I shan’t bore you with the details. It was not as I expected. The Vet and the Tech quietly, gently, calmly, and professionally did what they had to do. Surely, it was not pleasant, but it was not painful or traumatizing either. It was merely doing what had to be done. In addition to administering the vaccine and probing both ears with cotton swabs, they also administered more tasty treats. In fact, by the time the visit was done, I had almost overdosed on those tender morsels.
Okay, for once Blondie and Fuzz Face spoke the truth when they told me that I have nothing to fear. Perhaps they really are concerned with my better interests. So, for now, I have only two things to say:
I have now vetted the Vet and she is the best Vet yet!
Blondie and Fuzz Face better go out and buy a case of the same treats the Vet gave me or else there are no more amazing tricks by me.
Yes, dear readers, I really did end this post with a seasonal pun – instead of “trick or treat” it is “treats for tricks”!