Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Beat the Heat!

Laura’s guide to getting work done, even in the heat and humidity of summer

Over the years, I’ve figured out several ways to combat the stresses of working in the heat of a Tennessee summer. 

1.) The first is one many of you won’t like, but trust me, it’s the very best one: Work during the “shoulders” of the day. This is EARLY, like 5:30 am, and late, like after 6. When you go out early, you get slowly acclimated to the heat of the day. And there is nothing more beautiful than morning in the garden.

I typically save my “standing up chores” (weed eating, laying mulch or compost, and mowing) for midday. The grass is drier by then. In addition, the ground absorbs and even reflects heat, so working up close to it is easier during the cooler parts of the day. I also plan my work during midday around shade patterns on the farm. Notice when various parts of your yard are in shade and plan work for those times. 

2.) Plan many mini-goals. For instance, I tell myself, I’m going to weed to the end of this row, then get some water and sit in the shade. I DO NOT go back in the house! This is important. I want my body to acclimate to the heat and if I go into the air conditioning, it’s not going to. Fact is, I actually spend most of my free time on the porch in the summer. I want my body to stay acclimated, and going in and out of an air conditioned house will not allow that happen. I take a lawn chair with me to each field I work on. 

3.) HYDRATE! This can’t be stressed enough! I take a 2-gallon cooler of ICE WATER out with me and drink a small amount every time I take a break. Those breaks might only be 2 minutes each, but they are important. They are short and I drink a small amount of water, but they are FREQUENT. 

4.) Use a “Cooling Cloth”. Some people use gators, but I don’t like them. They don’t let my neck breathe and are too hard to get on and off. On each of my frequent breaks, I re-douse my cooling cloth in water. I actually carry a separate cooler with ice water so I don’t get my drinking water dirty. 

5.) Cover your skin! It took me a long time to twig to this. But after getting a big skin cancer cut out of my arm that left a terrible scar, I decided to take skin protection seriously. At first I used those gloppy thick sunscreens, which closed my pores and just made me hotter. Then I discovered SPF shirts. I wear a sports bra or bikini top underneath and can douse the shirt in the water. I have two that actually button up, so I can leave them open in the front. 

6.) Wear a hat. And not just a baseball cap, because it won’t protect your face and neck — it only keeps the sun out of your eyes. I wear a wide-brimmed hat that is open on top, so my hair gets piled on top and the hat sits around it. 

7.) Share your water with your dog! Remember that he’s wearing a fur coat. Every time you get a drink, make sure your best friend drinks, too. I carry a collapsible bowl with me whenever my dogs join me in the garden. But in the hottest parts of the day, I leave them inside. 

I hope this list helps. Heat stroke is real and very dangerous. Don’t put yourself at risk. If you feel nauseous, get a headache, or start to feel shaky, take a break immediately. Go where it’s cool, and lie down. It can take a long time to get heat-acclimated. Just because you have a tolerance for heat and humidity DOES NOT mean you are strong enough to work out in the blazing sun. Don’t push it! Your health is not worth it!

Happy gardening!


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