Timing the strawberries?

Why is your travel alarm in the fridge, Patty?

It’s an understandable question.

I noticed a few months ago that the milk had been going bad early. Well, the Hiland didn’t, but the Walmart did. Repeatedly. So I turned the fridge somewhat colder and promptly forgot about it until several weeks later, when there wasn’t any appreciable change in the shelf life of our milk, but the lettuce and tomatoes were just a notch shy of frozen. Hmm.  So I nudged the fridge temp back up a skoash.

Then last week I began to wonder what temp the fridge actually was. And what temp it was supposed to be. To answer the first question, I needed a thermometer. The one that hangs in the oven only goes down to 100 F, so that was no help. But Scott had a brilliant idea. He brought in the little transmitter gizmo that hangs on the side of the smokehouse. We have its partner on the windowsill in our office, and that’s how we know what the temp is outside. The set has been setting there and showing us the temp for four or five years. It seems like only three years, but I have learned that nowadays those “seems likes” are always off. As in, it seems like we’ve had the new stove for about four years, but it’s really been seven. Or, it seems like I bought that can opener about five years ago, but it’s really been nine.

We also have the big round, cheap, Walmart thermometer hanging on the smokehouse facing the house, but it’s not very precise – only good for a range of, say, about ten degrees. It lets us know at a glance if the temp is 74 or 86 (depending on whether or not the sun is shining on it), but that’s about it. For more detailed info, we go with the digital one in the office. It has a button on top that, when pressed, toggles between “Indoors” and “Outdoors,” but we never think to press that button, figuring that since we’re by definition standing inside when we’re looking at it, we can already tell whether we’re hot, cold, or comfortable.

So Scott brought in the little gizmo and plopped it in the fridge, and an hour later, it read “73 F.” But the next day, it read “73 F.” As it did four hours after four more hours reposing in the fridge. That was alarming, to say the least. So we took it out of the fridge and set it on the kitchen counter where, for the next two days, it continued to read 73 F. Which was probably pretty close to accurate, although we do leave our thermostat at 80 during the day and 74 at night…?

It then occurred to me that our ACME wonder thermometer that had served us so well for (well, I guess I don’t really know how) many years, was either dead, dying, or… or maybe it needed new batteries! Of course, I didn’t have enough of the right size, so that would have to wait for a Walmart run, but in the meantime, I remembered that my nifty orange travel alarm always has a digital read-out of the ambient temperature. Aha! I got it out of my toiletries bag and set it in the fridge on top of a a clam shell of strawberries. Fifteen minutes later, it read 33 F. Finally! I googgled ideal fridge temp a, arrived at 36 F, and then played around with the fridge temp dial for parts of two days till I got it to stay at 36.

My travel alarm is back where it belongs, our high tech thermometer is doing well, our milk is cold, and our lettuce is crisp but not icy. All is well in the Shade.

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