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Creating A Summer Kitchen :: How and Why (plus a sneak peek at ours!)

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When you’re a mom, it seems like Murphy’s Law is the rule, not the exception.

This past Thursday, I was jotting down notes for most of the day for my blog post for our homeschooling series.  At 3:30 that afternoon, our power went out.  No warning.  No storms.  Just nothing.  It was sunny and we had spent most of the day outside, so it wasn’t a big deal, but still, a momma likes to know when she’s going to have electricity.  After calling our power company, we were told that it was  a planned outage (thanks for the warning…) and we would be back to normal in about 30 minutes, once some wires had been fiddled with and a doo-hickey had been re-calibrated (in essence…).

At 5:30, we still didn’t have power.

We called again, and this time, we were told that the re-configuration of the humdinger had gone wrong, so we would have power back by 8PM.

Short story long, we didn’t get power back until the following morning.

So, if you popped in, looking for the homeschooling post, my apologies.  The whozamajigger has been plugged back in and we really are back to the 21st Century.

So, what, you ask, did you do for an entire evening without power?  Glad you asked!

We built a kitchen.

A summer kitchen, to be exact.  This was an idea I’d been toying with for awhile, and since we didn’t have anything else to do, Thursday seemed like a great night to try it out!

We finally caved this year and considered moving much of our cooking outside.  Our house was built in 1904 and the man who built it really had no intention of letting air flow throughout.  There is almost no cross ventilation, and although we do have fans through out the house, it still gets unbearably hot and muggy in the summertime, especially in our kitchen, which has wonderful vaulted ceilings with sky lights that serve dual purpose as a sauna and green house from June-September.

Cooking is the worst.  We have a gas range, and the minute it comes on, the heat begins to rise.  We eat a lot of cold dishes or salads in the summer time, but I still needed a solution to the problem of using our stove.

I’ve used summer kitchens while living abroad so I already had a bit of a jump start.  In countries that have hot climates year round, kitchens are almost never located IN or NEAR the living or sleeping area; it simply doesn’t make sense.  To those living near the equator, summer kitchens aren’t a novelty, they’re a necessity.

Last year in Indiana, we experienced the worst draught in 70+ years, as well as temperatures that reached 95-100’F for weeks with very little break in between.

Given last summer’s heat wave, I was willing to try anything to make this summer more comfortable.

But did people really have summer kitchens here in the United States?  Especially here in the midwest?

The answer, my friends, is: I have no idea.

I don’t know if anyone else in my part of the country is trying this, but I can tell you that I found some really cute pictures on pinterest, so I decided to give it a try!

From what I’ve gathered, here are some of the main reasons you might want to consider a summer kitchen:

  1. Like me, your home may be poorly ventilated.

  2. You live in a southern climate which makes cooking with high heat in the main house quite uncomfortable for a large part of the year.

  3. You live in an area that experiences extremely high temperatures during the summer.

  4. You intend to do a lot of canning/preserving.

  5. You don’t mind some inconvenience for the sake of keeping your home cooler and saving money on your energy bills.

The last one is huge for us.  We had ridiculously high energy bills last year because we ran our air conditioner simply to make sleeping bearable.  And we all know energy prices are not getting any lower…

Some things to consider when planning your summer kitchen:

  1. Easy access to water (for us, this is the hose!)

  2. A cooking surface (ie: hot plate, fire pit, grill, etc)

  3. A surface for “kitchen prep” – this could be a separate table or counter space, or you can just use a picnic table

Anything else is a bonus and summer kitcehns can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like.  The goal of a summer kitchen is to take your cooking outside – be it in your garage, a shed or, in our case, under a tree!

Our summer kitchen is about 30 feet or so from our back door and it’s nothing elaborate, but it’s quaint, it’s made from up-cycled items, and it’s ours (plus, my house has been wonderfully cool these last few days since I’ve been doing everything outside!!)

Here’s the quick tour, and once we have things a little more settled, then I’ll be posting an update – there are still a few things I’d like to add:


This year, we are putting up a wooden pallet fence around our garden (thanks to the digging prowess of our boxer puppy), so the kitchen sits just outside the garden.  The gate to enter the garden is there on the left (and is soon to be painted a fun color), and in the background to the right you can see the edges of our raised beds, and the remnants of our son’s crib, which will become trellises for our cucumbers and pole beans.  On the far right, you can almost make out our enormous tree, and farther right, and out of the picture is our picnic table.


Our summer kitchen is quite simple:

  1. The backsplash is a piece of old weathered fence that we took down when we bought our house several years ago.  It had such a great weathered look that I couldn’t part with it, and I’ve used it in my photography studio as a backdrop on occasion!

  2. The red table is actually a sewing table that has seen better days that I snagged at a yard sale for $5.  It opens up to almost 4 feet wide, which gives us plenty of work space.  

  3. The wash tub was a vintage find from my favorite antique store (hi, Steve!).  We use that for washing dishes (yep, we even wash dishes outside, more on that in a minute).  

  4. The old green window is purely for fun and was another $5 find.

  5. The white circular metal tray on the fence is handy for serving food from the grill to the table and makes cleanup easy.

  6. The blue lantern is an indoor/outdoor light that I grabbed for $3 on clearance last fall.

  7. The table cloth is an oil cloth that I cut to size and secured with clamps.  It’s waterproof and cleans up very easily.

  8. The wooden boat oar was one that we used for years with our canoe.  The wood started to split, so now it’s decor!

Everything else is purely functional.  We keep dishes and basic kitchen utensils in the blue plastic tub to keep dirt and critters away and all of my cooking is done on our grill.  I’m able to bake in it and it has one burner off to the side for frying or heating up small pots of food.  We also have a power source nearby, so I’m able to hook up my crock-pot outside as well.  And as for the cleanup?  We have dishes specifically set aside now for outdoor use, and once we are done cooking, we fill our wash basin with boiling water from our tea pot.  It cools as we eat, and once we’re done, my girls Olivia and Maddi, otherwise known during this time as Laura and Mary Ingalls, work together to “wash the dishes the way they did it on the prairie”.

All in all?  I’m really glad we’ve put this together.  Our kitchen (and the rest of the house for that matter!) has stayed pleasantly cool this week, our meals have been simple, and the amount of time that we are now spending outside (in our “kitchen”) has quadrupled.  It’s a homey, cozy space, nestled next to our tree, and it’s perfect for us…

There will be more pictures and updates coming as we use our summer kitchen.  Has anyone out there tried this before?  

Linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

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