Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia.

Easter at Serendipity Farmhouse will be quiet and reflective this year. There will be prayer, good food, and thoughts of family and friends. And, while Easter is not about cherry blossoms, daffodils, or forsythias, the fact that they have again returned to SFH provides us a vivid reminder of the Resurrection. – – That is how it is meant to be here at our beloved Serendipity.

 

SFH Journal: 2021-03-15 through 03-28 – Obsessions

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face have been exceedingly busy over the last two weeks. And I, the officially proclaimed “FELINE PRODUCTIVE,” have had to take on more and more editing duties for the Serendipity Farmhouse Blog. It is both a duty and an honor. Besides that, I’m far more capable, honest, and objective than Fuzzy is.

Lately, my two big cats have been preoccupied by two competing obsessions – food and Spring gardening. Frankly, I have to admit that I share the food obsession and the gardening thing affords me added time out on the back porch.

St. Patrick & St. Joseph: If you view the featured photo at the top of the page very closely, you will see that culinary delights created in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen were a centerpiece at a dinner party honoring the great St. Patrick and St. Joseph. First there was a simple fruit salad. Then, Blondie outdid herself by baking not one, but two delicious loaves of bread. One was Scandinavian Light Rye Bread and the other was Irish Potato Brown Bread. The breads were SFH variations of recipes by Beth Hensberger as found in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook.

Fuzzy’s Follies: Fuzzy added a finishing touch to the bread concept with homemade butter. In so doing, he set a new SFH and personal record – from start of process to end of cleanup, less than 20 minutes. Unfortunately, he was unable to even come close to that record time later in the week.

Normally, the old guy uses store-bought heavy cream to make butter. Ten ounces of cream will give you a quarter pound of butter and six ounces of buttermilk. When that type of cream is at room temperature, it only takes Fuzzy about 5-7 minutes to churn up a quarter pound of my favorite licking butter. His record time is three minutes and forty seconds. But, on this recent occasion, he desired to show that he was a true purist and decided to use cream skimmed off the top of a half gallon of raw milk directly from the dairy farm.

Well, Fuzzy was able to skim off the requisite 10 ounces, leaving about a quarter inch of cream still in the jar. He poured the cream into his churn and began to turn and turn … churn and churn … turn and turn … churn and churn … I think you get the picture. Some fifty minutes later, a tired, panting, moaning and groaning old guy finally threw his hands up in the air and confessed he could turn and churn no more. He ended up with about two-thirds of what he usually produces. – – For the record, though: It was probably some of best butter this feline connoisseur has ever tasted.

Lesson Learned: If it’s butter you’re making, consider the time it will be taking. Because if it’s raw milk you’re using, a great deal of time you’ll be losing, not to mention, though it was not your intention, you’re going to turn and churn until your arms begin to  ache and burn. – – So sayeth Mencius (孟子) Maine Coon

Foodies’ Preview: Both my big cats are foodies. These last two weeks they have been deep into the creativity thing. For years they have been making pizzas, but they’ve always made the crust from store-bought mixes. A few days ago, they finally said that the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen could not be entirely authentic and true to its founding principles so long as store-bought mixes were to be used. That is when they created this beauty of a three-cheese pizza. But, sad to say, my dear friends, you’ll never be able to reproduce it yourselves because you don’t have the secret SFH cheese ingredient.

Meanwhile, Ol’ Fuzz Face, while a partial failure at raw-milk butter, scored a great success with homemade sausage. He and a friend, who has the needed tools, spent a Saturday, each making eight pounds of pork and beef sausage.

In the coming weeks, there will be special posts describing the intricacies and ins and outs of how the SFH Three-Cheese Pizza and the SFH Special Sausage were conceived and how they became truly masterful culinary delights. – – Yes, I got to taste them.

Gardening: Blondie is the SFH Master Gardener. She has already started Spring planting. The raw intensity of garden is in the air. If you are around Blondie, never ever make the mistake of joking about her gardens. She takes them very seriously and she does not abide by humor about such an important undertaking. SFH is nothing if it is not about its bountiful gardens and the food that comes from them. – – It is what brings the family together – children, grandchildren, and good food to share – all bound together with a prayer. – – Yes, of course, this Maine Coon does join in family prayer.

More of Fuzzy’s Follies: Ol’ Fuzzface has a well-developed and abiding appreciation for maintaining the “perfectly manicured lawn.” Often, he can be heard happily chatting to himself about how beautiful and verdant are the many lawns spread about the vast 1.204 acres of the Serendipity Farmhouse estate. This week, he has been almost ecstatic because of the great success he has had in cultivating one of his favorite winter annual ground covers – Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).

After doing some research, Blondie and I are less enthused. After all, Corn Speedwell is a weed!

This is not a lawn! These are weeds!

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-03-15 through 03-21

SFH WX 2021-03-21 through 03-28

 

Birthday Conspiracy

СОВЕРШЕННО СЕКРЕТНО – 最高机密

Hi! Mr. Monte & Blondie here.

Conspiracy, coverups, and secrets have reigned supreme here at Serendipity Farmhouse this past month. Bribes and strong-arm tactics have been employed. We even had to pay off the UPS driver so that he wouldn’t leave anything incriminating on the front porch. Of course I, Mr. Monte, with my sly and cunning character and unequaled stealth have felt quite at home in this conspiracy. Blondie has turned into a real master at deception and the trade-craft known only by master spies.

Why all the secrecy and conspiracy you might ask? Oh, that’s quite simple to answer.

Ol’ Fuzz Face, who fancies himself to be a veritable, real-life James Bond, the analyst’s analyst so-to-speak, has repeatedly tried to uncover what the family has prepared for his birthday. So far, he has been a complete failure. We have outfoxed the old fox. We have beat him at his game. This year, he will just have wait to see what his conspiratorial family has planned for him.

So, let us end by saying, “Don’t you dare reveal anything to the old guy. If you do, the price you pay will be quite dear.”

One last thing, the reason we’re doing this is because, on his good days, Ol’ Fuzzy is really a pretty nice guy. In fact, Blondie recommends that you check out this clip from Julie & Julia to see how she thinks of him. Also, when the day finally comes, tomorrow, feel free to wish him a happy birthday. – – Happy birthday, Sweetheart. I love you!! Blondie

СОВЕРШЕННО СЕКРЕТНО – 最高机密

?Bituminous? Birthday

SFH History: Cleanup after the great Christmas plumbing project continues. (See Plumbing the Depths of History.) The yard and driveway are still a mess. That mess, however, has provided a great opportunity for the official Serendipity Farmhouse Historian & Archeologist to uncover important historical materials and artifacts. For example, our Historian can now say with some confidence that one or more of the original four SFH heating stoves and perhaps even the kitchen cookstove were fueled with either anthracite or bituminous coal.

Due to the amount of coal that was unearthed on the eastern side of our farmhouse, it appears that the coal was stored near there in a pile, perhaps in some type of enclosure. The use of coal for heating and cooking would have been consistent with common practice when the house was built. Having coal delivered by wagon or truck would have been far more convenient than gathering the large amount of wood necessary for wood burning heating and cookstoves.

As our SFH Official Historian was working the SFH archeological digs, a serious question nagged and bothered him intensely – Is that coal anthracite or bituminous? – Dang! He should be able to remember. After all, he had an international expert explain it all to him years ago.

A Little Family History & Birthdays

Portas da Cidade, by Historian, March 2002

In the very early part of the 20th Century, the grandparents of our Historian passed through the Portas da Cidade and entered the old quay of Ponta Delgada on the Azorian island of São Maguel. That would be the last time they would see sites like the one in our featured picture. They boarded a craft bound for Bristol, Massachusetts and eventually would make a home near Fall River. On March 21st, 1907, a son was born to them.

There is neither time nor room here to dwell on details. Suffice it to say, the son, whose first language was Portuguese, grew and prospered, eventually becoming a Field Service Engineer for McDowell-Wellman Engineering in Cleveland, Ohio. His primary technical concentration was in the field of Coal Gasification. During the 1950s and 1960s, he would travel to far-off places, showing chemical engineers in Peru, Taiwan, Spain, Canada, and throughout the U.S. how to make an inexpensive, clean gas fuel from coal.

Outside Chimbote, Peru – Andes in Background

But it was more than just making a gas fuel. That gas could also be used in chemical processing to produce fertilizers for agriculture. That was the reason for his travel to Taiwan. The Taiwan Fertilizer Company he assisted in the 1950s in developing some of its processes is now a major producer of fertilizer and industrial chemicals. – – I guess the bottom line is – the SFH Official Historian’s father knew coal – he knew it just about as well as anyone could. – – Below you can see how he saw a lump of coal as compared to how most people see coal.

That son of the Azorian immigrants yearned to travel and he had an abiding love for the sea and ships that sail the seas. Below, you can see him in 1932 as the “Captain” of the the “Charles W. Morgan” – the last wooden whaleship in the world. He passed on that love of the sea to his son, the SFH Official Historian, by taking him to see ports and ships on the eastern seacoast, including the Mayflower II when it first arrived at Plimoth Plantation in the 1950s.

Our then young SFH Historian was able to accompany his father to several nearby worksites on a number of occasions. He was even able to join his dad on a two-week, work-vacation adventure in Woodstock, Ontario. On those trips, our Historian was able to tour the inside of large steel plants and view the world-renowned Wellman-Galusha gas producer in operation. Yes, our very own Official SFH Historian had received an education in chemical engineering and coal at a very young age.

In retrospect, it is no surprise that our Historian’s childhood house on Rob Roy Road had the best-working, most efficiently-run, coal-fired furnace to heat water for the radiators found in every room. – Our Historian’s father was definitely not like Ralphie’s dad in the movie A Christmas Story.

Now, there was one detail about the carbon that makes up coal that always interested our young Historian whenever his dad would talk about it. – That was the process by which carbon can be transformed into that beautiful, useful, and valuable substance known as a diamond. Just like coal, a diamond is composed of carbon. But, unlike coal which is formed by an entirely different and more recent process, pure carbon, through the influence of time and pressure, can become the beautiful, shining, crystalline object that captures our imagination.

As noted earlier, our Historian’s father was born on March 21st, 1907. That would make today the anniversary of his birth. But there is someone else in our Historian’s family who shares that same date of birth. And she carries on in at least one important family tradition. Like her great grandfather and her grandfather, she yearns to travel to distant places. That is why she is studying Japanese language and culture.

Granddaughter #1 on a visit to SFH

At this point, there are only three more things to say:

First, our SFH Historian’s Granddaughter #1 is a most beautiful, shining, and adventuresome member of the family. If her great grandfather were to describe her today, he might compare her personality to the radiance of a diamond.

Second, from our Historian and all here at SFH, Happy Birthday, Dad and Granddaughter #1!!!

Third, our Historian has finally determined, after long and serious consideration, that it was anthracite coal that was used in the stoves at SFH, not bituminous coal. So, this should be an Anthracite Birthday not a ?Bituminous? Birthday. – – – Am I right, Dad?

 

SFH Journal: 2021-03-08 through 03-14 – Spring into Action

SFH Unwritten Rule (until just now): No matter what the calendar says, when the warm weather comes, make use of it.

And this week that is just what we did. Daytime highs ranged from the upper 60s to a high of 80.4° F on Thursday the 11th. With no high winds and no precipitation, there was no excuse. This was an early window of opportunity that called us to Spring into Action. Chronicled below are just a few of the tasks accomplished here at SFH this past week.

08 MAR – Bread Making: Early in the day, my most resourceful Spouse performed another test with the new official SFH Test Kitchen bread maker. This time she made Scandinavian Light Rye using a recipe by Beth Hensberger as found in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. The result was PERFECTION. The success was based on the combination of a great recipe, a properly functioning bread machine, and masterful execution by the love of my life. – One note: Dearest wife has an aversion to caraway seeds, but the flavor of truly well made rye bread is not diminished by the absence of the little black seeds that tend to plant themselves firmly between one’s teeth.

09 MAR – RV Uncovering: Despite the countdown posted on the left hand panel on the blog for the last several weeks, the SFH Unwritten Rule and lack of patience dictated that the cover would come off the RV on this day. No one told me that I would have to become a parachute packer if I bought an RV. But as you can see below, getting a 26-foot long RV cover back into its storage bag is not an easy job. My only regret is that Mr. Monte decided not to allow us to post the picture of beautiful Wife and me both sitting on the folded cover in an attempt to reduce its bulk.

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10 MAR – Gardening: Never ever put off prepping your garden for Spring planting. Get it done while the suns shines. Raking out dry dirt is much easier than working in the mud. ‘Nuf said!

11 MAR – Maintenance & Repair: (SFH Saying: Anything a man can make, either time, another man, or both can break.) For the record, RV hot water tank drain plugs were not designed to last more than a couple seasons. Even when using the proper tools, that plug will wear out quickly. As you can see, I will have to work on a corrosion problem with my propane water heater.

Of course, lawn mowing season is only weeks away. On this day, my lawn tractor was returned after full service maintenance. The expansive meadows, fields, and lawns of the SFH estate shall receive the very best of care this year.

12 MAR – Grass Seeding: Speaking of the expansive meadows, fields, and lawns of the SFH estate, the damage caused by the pre-Christmas water line repair required the purchase of some seed, some hard work with the garden rake, and daily watering.

 

13 MAR – Car Washing: Winter road salt, a muddy lane, dust, dirt, and collateral damage by rude avian creatures require that the entire stable of SFH vehicles receive a thorough cleaning. Industrious Spouse was up to the task. In addition to these pictures, please refer to the footnote at the end of this post.

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14 MAR Day of Rest: Sunday truly is a day of rest at SFH. So it was, so it is, and so it always shall be.

Footnote: All serious works of non-fiction should include footnotes. Beautiful Wife is now ready for Spring with her robin egg blue nail color.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-03-08 through 03-14

SFH Security Blues

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, Friday 12 March was not a good day for yours truly or any members of the world-renowned Serendipity Farmhouse Security Staff. Some cases are not part of our Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). In fact, this particular case was so unusual that all we could do was just “wing it”. – So, for the official record here is the case of the SFH Security Blues.

It all started about 09:30 hours EST. There was a commotion outside. Local critters, squirrels, cardinals, etc., were making a racket. At about the same time, our aerial observer, Lightning the broad-tailed hawk, sent a text saying that there was some sort of disturbance on the western side of the vast SFH estate. Soon afterwards, Rusty the rat snake called and noted that the disturbance was near the avian residential area where Serendipity Farmhouse leases properties (bird houses etc.) to many trusted and reliable feathered tenants.

Simultaneously, with the Security Staff alert calls, I noted that Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face were watching something from the large western picture window (Blondie’s bathroom window). Knowing that they would need a rapid response from me and my staff, I met with them in the bathroom and conveyed what I had learned from my able staff.

During our conference we were able to compile the following facts:

  1. The bluebird house on the western fence was ground zero for the disturbance;
  2. After cleaning the birdhouse recently, several prospective tenants had come to inspect the property;
  3. Unfortunately today, at least one female bluebird and two young males all arrived for a viewing at the same time;
  4. Bluebird real estate prospects are in high demand this time of year and each of the male bluebirds was insisting that he had first rights to the single available residence, and
  5. The female had retired to a nearby tree to await the outcome of the dispute.

That’s when the fight began. Both opponents were resolved and determined to take possession of the birdhouse. From the window, Blondie, Fuzzy, and I could see that this was not going to end well.

I quickly referred to the SFH Security SOP. Just as I thought – there was no procedure for this type of affair. Yet, it was up to me to prevent disharmony and perhaps even bloodshed here at SFH. I quickly called the available staff to a safe distance from the ongoing melee. I figured that if the staff could get the combatants’ attention, perhaps we could resolve the issue and come up with some equitable solution.

Just before I was to call the meeting, however, I made a quick check of what might be the appropriate protocols to be used in such a meeting. That is when all my good intentions proved to be worthless. As I searched for proper sounds and gestures that could be used to communicate with these brawling birds, I noticed in the fine print the host of animals that are common predators of bluebirds. The list prominently noted three predators that could make this whole meeting idea a bit problematic – they were: rat snakes, hawks, and most prominently CATS.

Oops! I recognized at that point that we had to scrub the meeting. I didn’t think that Blondie and Fuzzy would have been very forgiving if the SFH Security Staff were to bring mortal harm to their highly-prized flying friends. – – So, I had the staff stand down and return to their normal duties. I decided that the best thing to do was to ask Fuzzy to take some pictures for the record. I also asked that he make a note in the Official SFH Security Log that the Chief of Security was relieved of any responsibility if the two combatants were to come to any harm.

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So, the pictures were taken and we all went back about our business. This morning, a single nesting pair has taken residence in the bluebird house and all is peaceful once again here at Serendipity Farmhouse. – No, I didn’t suffer a failure but I had no great success and that is why today I have a case of the SFH Security Blues.

 

SFH Journal: 2021-03-01 through 03-07 – Feline Productive

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, diligence, attention to detail, and hard work – that’s what its all about. That is how you can distinguish yourselves and make your own mark on this world. My life achievements, based on those principles, stand as a shining example to all of you. You can do it too – but you must be willing to put in the effort.

Imagine the surprise and pride that were shared by Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face when they turned to page 1 of the March-April edition of Cooperative Living Magazine and saw me, the now-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Chief of Security, featured as “FELINE PRODUCTIVE”. Yes, there was a classic picture of me “hard at work”, proclaiming that yours truly was the“FELINE PRODUCTIVE”. The magazine is distributed to all customers of the 15 member electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. I’m sure that the editors have received many emails and phone calls requesting more details concerning the unique background and capabilities of the SFH Chief of Security. I’m expecting a call from them at any time now to set up an interview to be used in a feature-length article to satisfy the demands of their anxious readers.

Please Note: Today, the feature picture is the work of that highly-esteemed young artist – Grandson #2. He has done an excellent job of capturing the serious, reflective, and alert sides of my nature. His fine drawing has now been designated as my “official” Chief of Security portrait. Thank you Grandson#2!

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-04-01 through 03-07

SFH Journal: 2021-02-22 through 02-28 – Mind Meandering

Hi! This is your Serendipity Farmhouse Girl Raised In The South (GRITS).

Drops of rain announce themselves on our metal roof as I collect my thoughts and linger in enjoyment of this quiet time. It is good to live so close to where the Shenandoah winds its way through the Blue Ridge. Like my early morning thoughts, it meanders in a gentle way from this to that and then on to something else. So, on this last day in February, allow me to share with you some of my mind meandering.

Hubby and I are moon watchers. Its various phases, times for rising and setting, and monthly names are matters for daily Serendipity Farmhouse dinner table discussion. So, it came as no surprise last night when Hubby announced that the clouds had briefly parted and there to the East, over our very own Turkey Mountain, the full Snow Moon was rising. Indeed February had been a snowy month and the Snow Moon was true to its name.

Now I admit it might not sound very romantic to speak of the full moon rising over a mountain named Turkey. Wouldn’t the name Swan Mountain or Eagle Mountain stir up more emotion and romance? Maybe, but we weren’t the first settlers here in this valley and it’s quite likely that the turkeys that abound in Rappahannock County provided needed food for our predecessors.

For them, survival was more important than romance. Naming a mountain in honor of an important source of food made abundant sense. However, our dear friend and guest visitor, Miss Tiffany Turkey, certainly appreciates the fact that more recently-arrived local inhabitants prefer romantic moon watching over turkey shoots.

Yes, February is coming to an end and already everything that fills this vast estate we call Serendipity Farmhouse is poised to move boldly into March and that season we call Spring. The snow on the Blue Ridge is melting and the North Fork of the Thornton River is running high and fast. The sound of the river serves as background music to accompany the first sun-seeking of the daffodils and resurrection lilies.

Now, I am not the only one here at SFH who has a Hubby. Our pair of resident bluebirds have been here with us for quite some time. Like us, they remain together through thick and thin. Like us, there is a pecking order. This week gave demonstration to how that pecking order works.

Mid-week, yours truly, saw that the bluebird pair was sitting on the fence next to the bluebird house. Neither the male nor the female would go inside. It was obvious that the female was not happy with the situation and was letting her hubby know. That is when I called in my dear Hubby and explained the matter to him. I reminded him that he hadn’t cleaned the birdhouse when the season ended last year. He said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Then I said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” – Hubby is not so dumb. He picked up on my tone and facial expression and immediately made his way to the porch to get his tools. Mere moments later he had removed the covering on the birdhouse and cleared out last year’s nest.

Yesterday, as we were sitting on the deck, Hubby pointed out to me that the bluebirds had returned to the birdhouse. The female looked inside. Then she went to the fence and talked to her hubby. He hopped up and looked inside the birdhouse and then flew off. When he returned he entered the house and it appeared that he had nesting material in his mouth. – Yes, girls, there’s a lot to be said about the value of a proper pecking order.

February can be a cruel month. Its cold and damp and darkness seem to remind of us how very temporary are the things of this world. This February has been no different than many others before. For example, over ten years ago Hubby and I purchased a bread maker. It proved itself to be a very good one as you have seen in many of our posts. Though it had served us so well, it too was one of the temporary things of this world. The last weeks of its life it moaned and groaned. Mechanical scraping sounds were evident – metal pieces had fatigued and were bent out of shape. Hubby explained to me that it could not be fixed and had to be replaced. With proper solemnity he prepared it for its trip to the metal recycling bin at the county dump. I watched on as he took my old friend from the pickup truck to the bin – I could see he too was a little choked up. Then we made our trip home in silence.

But life and bread go on! We did our homework and ordered a replacement. It arrived on Thursday. On Friday I quickly set about making acquaintance with our new bread maker. Clearly, and most emphatically it is not the same as my dearly departed one. Buttons are in different places, settings are unlike what I had come to prefer, this was not my old machine. Nevertheless, the work of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test kitchen must go on.

Hubby and I made a first test loaf from a mix. The quality and texture were not quite as I had hoped. But, it wasn’t clear if it was the fault of the machine or the age of the mix. – This week and next there will be a lot of bread making going on. And it will continue until I master this new machine. Until then, Hubby better be prepared to eat a great deal of toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and anything else that might make a meal of experimental bread.

That brings my mind meandering to one last important place. I use a bread machine out of convenience and the need to save time. Nevertheless, I hold the highest regard for those dedicated people I’ve known who make their bread entirely by hand. I have one friend in Idaho who makes her own bread the traditional way. That is just one aspect of her many charms and accomplishments. Someday, I hope to develop the type of skills she has. And I hope to go one step further. There are many talented cooks among the granddaughters in our fine family. Wouldn’t baking bread with one or two of them in the old way be just the perfect thing for a rainy day like today, when the drops of rain are announcing themselves on our metal roof?

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-22 through 02-28

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFH Journal: 2021-02-15 through 02-21 – Serenity @ Serendipity

In the midst of Winter, when the snows fall, when the ice hangs from the branches, this is when Serendipity Farmhouse surrenders to a quiet time and a type of mystical serenity all dictated by the season. Pantry shelves remain filled with the preserved foods from Summer and the woodshed shelters the fuel for many more warm fires. – Even though the temperature has just dipped to 13°F, there is no reason to fear February in the Blue Ridge.

This brief moment of relative silence and calm is the perfect time to reflect upon mysteries and truths extending beyond our valley, beyond our country, even beyond this present world. This last Wednesday began the season we call Lent. It is a season of reflection, prayer, and much more. It is for us the time when we replenish our spiritual foods and draw from them the fuel to rekindle our spiritual fire. – Even though there is turmoil throughout the world, there is no reason to fear Lent in the Blue Ridge.

Meal planning in Lent can be challenging, even for the master chefs at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. Meatless meals, reduced portions, no snacks, and other modifications must all be considered when planning the weekly menu. Add to that the fact that getting out to buy groceries is harder than during other seasons.

This last week, we revisited a type of dish that is quite open to variations, modifications, and innovations – sheet pan meals. We learned about this style of meal quite a while back from an allrecipes recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. Interestingly, this month, allrecipes featured an article by Caitlyn Diinig highlighting an array of sheet pan meals and dinner ideas. (See Use this Simple Formula for Your Best Sheet Pan Dinners.) Rather than sticking to any single recipe we made a Mediterranean Chicken dinner with the ingredients we had on hand. We added spices and other touches that are only known by SFH Test Kitchen staff members. The result was an enjoyable meal on Thursday, followed by a delightful encore last night. – Try it. You’ll like it.

Each day in February at SFH brings new lessons and new perspectives. For example, last week Mr. Monte showed you a picture of what happens when I make the trek in deep snow to the woodshed. The load is heavy and the wagon wheels sink down into the snow. Some days ago, we had a great deal of snow and ice. That type of wintry mix always bring concerns about power outages and other damage. Yet, with the bad sometimes comes a pleasing good. Yesterday, when I brought in wood from the shed, the ice was so hard and thick that the wagon wheels did not sink. It was as if I were pulling it across a smooth asphalt parking lot.

There was incident that threatened the calm and quiet of this past week in February. – I won’t say that Mr. Monte, SFH Chief of Security, was caught off guard. In fact, he was very much on guard. But, even for an experienced and globally acclaimed security chief like Mr. Monte, it is impossible to be fully prepared for all circumstances. Mr. Monte knows full well that opossums are nocturnal critters. They pose no major threat to the SFH estate. Mr. Monte has viewed security camera photos of the critters, but because he is primarily diurnal and opossums are primarily nocturnal, he had never had a real-life encounter with one.

During the late afternoon of Friday the 19th, Mr. Monte was on watch. I had just come out onto the porch where he was standing guard. It was then that we both noticed simultaneously that a strange, rather ugly looking creature was roaming near the east side of the porch. Mr. Monte immediately went into full alert status, jumping from table to benches, and benches to window sills. There was an unauthorized intruder approaching the SFH inner security perimeter and Mr. Monte was set to respond with full force.

Recognizing that there was no real threat. I quickly picked up Mr. Monte and rapidly explained that this was only a harmless opossum on an unusual daytime foray. Mr. Monte quickly grasped the situation and backed down from full alert. He did ask me, however, to take a picture of the creature as it was retreating to safety. Our Chief of Security had to have documentary evidence to support his official security log entry. And here is proof that Mr. Monte, as always, was on the job.

Opossum in rapid retreat

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-15 through 02-21