Strange weather is afoot. Here on the Mountain we’ve had several unusual cold fronts since our winter officially ended. Our last frost came just when the lilac buds should have formed and we did not have a single lilac bloom this May. Then not quite a frost, but a very cold snap dropping night temperatures back down into the low 40s, knocked out the blooms on the kiwi trees and most of the blackberry bushes. Now the forecast has bizarre cold returning to the middle of the U.S. this week.
We have plenty of blackberry bushes on the perimeter of the forest, but only a handful of them made berries this summer. Each morning I circle the neighbor’s (undeveloped) property, then our own, picking about a quart of blackberries in total. Then I gather about a pint of blueberries from our garden and usually about four to ten ripe strawberries from my raised perennial barrel. I clean and wash them before alternating between freezing them and canning jam every other day. I am grateful I was able to do this before the cold snap reaches us in a few days. I’m not sure if the various berries will continue to ripen or produce after several shockingly cold nights.
Cog is hip deep in gutting our kitchen. The new kitchen cabinets have been delivered, inspected and stacked in their crates in the basement. Well, most of them. The big lazy susan corner base cabinet would not fit through the basement door so it’s sitting in front of the fireplace in the living room awaiting installation. The large island in the center of our kitchen is where the family now eats since the original dining room was converted into the Two Ice Floes Creations home office. The main section of the new island is also too large to fit into the basement, so it is blocking my piano bench in the small sunroom. Our household life has become an intense game of Tetris for the month of July.
Cog repeatedly offered (at one point almost pleading with me) to wait on the kitchen project, but I insisted we move ahead full speed and damn the torpedoes. Cog’s concern is that my tomatoes and other garden goodies will need to be cooked and canned just when the kitchen is unavailable for these operations. And that despite my alternative plans I will end up in tears. With all my redundant cooking systems and backup plans, this was an excellent way to test out my alternatives. After all, what could go wrong?
Well… today I found out. While Cog was upstairs re-wiring the electrical and installing the new sheetrock on the interior kitchen wall I began my first canning adventure in the basement. I had cleaned and prepped, had all my utensils, measuring and stirring devices, canning ingredients, prepared jars etc. I felt extremely confident as I made the jam on my ceramic hotplate, then ladled it into jars and wiped the rims before placing the lids on each one. Oh, and I even corrected my former jam issues with a better ratio of pectin to sugar. I was feeling pretty good about my efforts.
But you know what? A watched pot really does not boil. Even though I have consistently used this pricey ceramic hot plate to pressure can soups and chili, it would not bring the water in my water-bath canner to a boil for some simple Bumbleberry jam. Cog told me the bottom of the pot was not shaped correctly for the hotplate. Ah, the best laid plans…
The good news is that most of my garden recipes are pressure canning recipes so they will be completed in the basement if the tomatoes do indeed ripen before the new kitchen sink and counters are in. Pickles, salsa and jam will have to be worked in around “construction zone” hours since Cog has promised to return the stove to the kitchen each evening.
Actually, I don’t think there will be too much of an overlap in time unless we hit a snag with the kitchen overhaul. The tomatoes are all still green. I estimate there at least two thousand of them with more flowers bursting out each day. I have no idea what this bizarre cooler weather will do to the tomatoes at this point in their development.
Cog had a visitor outside his office window. It seems the raccoon has found the outdoor cat food dish. One must wonder how long it will be until he discovers the kitty door in the window. Perhaps it is time to get that magnet onto the cat’s collar and activate the magnetic lock mechanism before we have more than just bunnies visiting in the night.