Cold Weather, Kitchen Renovations and Wildlife Visits

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.

lilies still in bloom

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.

Rocky is that you

6 thoughts on “Cold Weather, Kitchen Renovations and Wildlife Visits”

  1. Mrs Cog

    The cooler weather shouldn’t hurt your tomato production factory. From what I’ve been told the warmer temps is what ripens them. The plants look awesome:)

  2. Mrs. C:
    Your plants are gorgeous . . . but oh, my! WHAT a volume you are going to have to deal with! You’re worse than I am! LOL! The kind of strainer you described is perfect. Good find. I foresee vast amounts of tomato sauce/paste/etc. in your future.

    Never fear; even if the worst happens and it gets REALLY cold, there’s always green tomato pickles (you now have that recipe). So hang in there, face the onslaught, and get VERY creative: Dried tomatoes, curried tomatoes, tomato relish, tomato chutney, tomato ketchup, canned whole tomatoes, tomato jam, tomato soup, stewed tomatoes . . . the list goes on . . . and on . . . and on. . . and – well, you get the drift!

    Best of Luck; I’ll check back later . . . and bring a box of kleenex for the meltdown.

    :) L/L

  3. Raccoons inside the house are not a good idea at all, unless they have been raised since kits to be domesticated. They can become pets but then can also become much more than a pet if pushed into a situation scary for them. My brother in law tells a mean story of finding and raising a very small female raccoon from before her eyes were even open. It was a miracle she stayed alive but she became a loved member of the family, playing with his daughter and her other pets, a toy poodle and a cat.

    One evening they came home from work to find the entire inside of their house destroyed, with large bloody paw prints 6 feet high on the walls. It seems two large dogs, a neighbor’s doberman and German shepherd must have gotten in the back yard and chased the cat or poodle through the pet door and gotten inside the house. somehow Once inside the house they must have found the raccoon and thought it would be fun to chase one of those things too. The raccoon must have had other ideas and killed the big dogs and probably killed the poodle and cat too in all the confusion. All four were dead in various parts of the house. It took them over a day to find the coon hiding under the clothes in the dirty clothes hamper. They relocated the raccoon to the wilderness 100 miles from their home.

    That fly swatter will not be enough to deal with a raccoon if one gets inside the house.

  4. @ OtB re: racoons
    That’s quite a coon-tale and I can just imagine the shock that the family went thru. The country men that I worked on surveying crews with in my youth would tell similar tales, but always from outdoor settings of coons riding the backs of dogs shredding them and if dogs followed them into water, turning and drowning them.

    We did have a domesticated coon at our back door for a few days, but it wandered on and I wondered why Dad kept the dog and cat indoors during that time. Now I understand from your telling. Thanx.


    1. See, I find that hard to believe lol. These guys are just stupid cute. ;-)

      Kidding guys, I do know how destructive they can be and we are taking steps.

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