We spent half an hour scything grass for the goats and I couldn’t tell where the moisture in the air started . . . and my contribution of perspiration ended. The air felt like soup. Minutes after getting after the shower I was sweating again.
On days like this, all you want to do is sit in front of a fan. Work . . . exercise . . . even walking down the hallway . . . seems impossible.
And forget maintaining a cool demeanor. You can feel your temper simmering just under the surface, ready to spill over if someone so much as whispers your name, lets alone asks, “Mom, what’s for lunch?”
For years I’ve had to work through the summer heat at home with my husband, two kids, several pigs, over 50 chickens, six turkeys and three billy goats gruff along for the ride. We don’t have an air conditioner in the house. Sure, it’s not Texas. It’s the New England hills. But we certainly get quite a few soupy days in the 80′s and 90′s.
And I’ve managed to keep up with my scheduled projects and stay active without too many meltdowns. Thanks to a huge deep cool well of tactics for keeping chilled. Some of them pretty common. Some of them downright unusual.
So if you’re struggling to beat the heat . . . read on . . .
33 Ways To Beat The Heat And Stay Cool
- Put rocks in your freezer – Yes. I did say that. We’ve collected a set of smooth beach rocks that sit on the woodstove in the winter to warm up our beds or hands. In the summer they move to the freezer. Rocks hold the coolness and can keep you cool without melting and getting messy.
- Wrap the cold rock in a damp rag – Add just enough water to a washcloth and wrap the rock in it. Again – not as messy as ice. The rock keeps the washcloth cool and the slight dampness helps your body get rid of heat through convection. You can also just drape the damp rag over your neck.
- Cool your neck and head – Because your body is focused on keeping your brain comfy and wellfed, an enormous amount of blood cruises up through your neck. Use that rock or damp rag to keep cooling your neck and forehead down. Your whole body will feel the difference.
- Wear damp headgear – When I have to go out in the heat to hang up laundry or do farm chores, I’ll dampen a cotton hat and wear it. Again, just by keeping your head cool – your whole body stays cool. My son prefers to wear a t-shirt like a turban. You can even wear a damp t-shirt for an added degree of coolness.
- Wear loose cotton clothes – Tight shorts are a no-no for comfortable circulation and cooling. For summer I stock up on thrift store finds of short-sleeved cotton shirts I wear loosely over sports bras, loose cotton sweat capris and airy summer dresses and skirts.
- Wear shade – Because of my fair and temperamental skin, I wear lots of hats and those cotton shirts when I’m out. But they don’t offer just sunburn protection, they keep you cooler simply by shading your body. It’s your own private shady porch!
- Get going early – Beat the day’s heat by getting your exercise in before the sun gets too high in the sky. As a family, we do our kickboxing and soccer drills in the morning before breakfast. Same with work. I sometimes get up a couple hours early to get some work in early in the morning while it’s cooler (and I can think straight). This way I can join the kids for a cooling swim in the afternoon and not worry about work.
- Get out late – Enjoy a family bike ride or hike in the evening cool. Same with work. I often get a wave of productivity at night in the summer when – again – it’s cool enough to think straight. Working like a night owl has its advantage.
- Go up high – The other day, picking blueberries, we were amazed how much cooler the mountain was. And our house on the hill is always cooler than town. If you’ve got a hill or mountain nearby – climb it.
- Go down below – Our basement is the best place to cool down in the summer. Many times I’ve retreated down there sitting at a fold up chair near the cool concrete. If your basement air quality is good enough, consider using a fan to bring it up to the rest of the house.
- Go outside – Many a warm day, I’ll catch a breeze outside that hasn’t been able to penetrate into the house. We’ve set up a screen tent on the northeast side of the house where it stays shady among the lilacs most of the day. And we’ve put up a tarp curtain to shade out the late afternoon sun. It’s also one of our favorite places in the evening to listen to the bullfrogs and watch the stars.
- Go into the woods – I fantasize about building a tree house workspace – or at least relocating the tent to a spot deep within our maple grove. Maybe next year . . .
- Go inside – Our house usually retains the coolness of the night longer (see step #15). So by mid-morning, inside is usually cooler than outside.
- Go to the dark side – My home office is on the southern side of the house – cozy in winter, but deadly in summer. So often I relocate to the cooler living room or bedroom.
- Keep the curtains drawn and the windows shut. What? Without air conditioning?! On the hottest days, we managed to keep much of the summer’s heat out by closing all the windows and curtains on the southern side of the house. You can feel the sun-heated air seeping into the house if you stand near a window on the south side. Go try it.
- Open all the windows and curtains. And then at night we open all the windows wide to let in all the cool air. By repeating step #15 when morning comes, we then try to trap inside with us for as long as possible.
- Drink lots of water – Water allows you to sweat. I know sweat is not appealing – but it’s your innate cooling system and it does do a good job of cooling you down.
- Drink lots of ice water, iced tea, icy drinks in any form – No need for explanation here.
- Eat cool – Eat cool pasta salads, icy smoothies, tepid hummus, chilled fruit like watermelon, no-cook sardines (Yes, I love sardines).
- Cook outside – I try to cook much of our food outside on a wood fire. I get hot. But the house stays cooler.
- Cook big - I cook enough food for several days – 2 chickens, a pot of beans, pasta, grilled vegetables. Sure, I have a couple hours of hot outdoor cooking. But then I get to enjoy the next option . . .
- Don’t cook – By cooking lots in advance, we can eat salads with a little meat or boiled eggs for several days. It’s the best form of fast food. Push comes to shove, we’ll pick up some takeout.
- Cook in a basket. One of the best gifts my mother gave me was a great invention developed by women in South Central Africa to save on fuel. It’s a big insulated basket for cooking. All I have to do is bring my rice or beans to a boil. And then I put the boiling pot into the basket and put the insulated lid on. It then cooks my food to perfection without any additional heat or energy.
- Cook early – sometimes I have to cook inside. If that’s the case, I try to do the cooking in the early morning cool.
- Cook fast – If I cook inside, I cook stirfries over stews. Broiled over roasts.
- Eat hot – Put an extra dash of hot sauce in your food and enjoy the sweat that comes with that capsaicin-induced heat!
- Eat cool – The menthol in mint makes you feel cool. One of my favorite summer drinks is iced mint green tea.
- Go swimming – You can find a bunch of great family swimming games in this post. And if you’re a mom or dad with little ones who you have to keep an eye on, here’s a sneaky way to fit a swim fitness workout in.
- Go splash – We’ve filled wading pools, coolers, inflatable pools, sleds, and laundry baskets with water for our kids to splash in and for us to dip our toes in. We’ve uses squirt guns and sprinklers . . . made slippery slides with a tarp and a hose and simply poured water on each other. If you want some more ideas for how to splash as a family and cool down, check out our splashy water games for families.
- Take a warm shower – Warm??! Yes, if you go too cool, your blood will retreat to the core of your body and make your perception of temperature feel warmer than it is. If you go tepid/warm, your shower will keep your blood circulating near your periphery so you’ll feel cooler when you get out.
- Move the air around – Set up a fan and move the air around the room. To make it extra cooling, place a tray of ice water in front of it and it will pick up the cooler air.
- Move the air in – Set up a fan to pull the cool air in from outside in the evening and from shady sides of the house in the day.
- Think cool – When all else fails, use the power of the mind . . . My daughter put a beautiful screensaver picture of a wintry river on the family computer. Just a couple days ago – when the thermometer was heading towards 90 – I caught sight of it. Part of me longed for the beautiful iciness in the picture. But a wiser part of me felt a little better knowing that this too will pass.
Have you got some great stay-cool tips to add? Please share below!