It’s been pretty miserable around here the last few days, with temperatures in the triple digits. We hit 110 today, which is a record. What makes it miserable is that we’ve also had high humidity — very unusual in our neck of the woods. We even had a rainstorm last week that dumped three inches of rain on us, which is unheard of at this time of year. And of course, yesterday the power went out for about three hours in the hottest part of the day.
I guess I’m just a wimp. Don’t know how the heck my great-grandmother coped with heat like this in the clothes she wore, not to mention no air conditioning or even a swamp cooler, and cooking on a wood stove. Still, even when the weather’s awful, you have to take care of the stock, and they need a little extra attention on these really hot days. Horses can sweat, so they spend a little more time in the sun, but the cows and sheep graze in the morning when it’s cool and then head for the shade to chew their cud. Pigs — who don’t sweat, despite the expression — need their wallows kept full of water so they have lots of nice sloppy mud. The mud is cooler, of course, but it also builds up on their coats and provides insulation. We also hose them down periodically. Chickens can’t sweat either; they cool off by holding their wings away from their bodies and panting. The chicken’s comb and wattles are part of its personal air-conditioning system. They’re full of blood vessels that act like the radiator in your car, constantly circulating so the heat can be radiated off. They need shade, of course, but it also helps to dump a few buckets of water in a soft spot where they usually take their dust baths, so they can get their feathers damp and let the evaporation cool them off.
When it’s like this, you should follow a few basic rules. Ranchers can’t stay in the house and enjoy the air conditioner, but we don’t like getting heat stroke any more than the next fellow, so we’ve learned how to live with the heat. First and foremost, don’t hurry unless it’s a matter of life and death. Second, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Stay ahead of it. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already starting to get dehydrated. An adult woman needs at least two quarts of water a day, and in the summer, I typically drink at least three and sometimes four. The key is to pay attention to what your urine looks like (if you’ll forgive my digression into the clinical world I once inhabited) — you want a nice pale straw color. Don’t substitute other liquids for water, either; drink them in addition to whatever water you’re drinking. Gulping really cold water on a hot day is a good way to get belly cramps. Water should be cool, but not ice cold. Third, follow the custom of siesta if you can. Get up before dawn, work until about 10, and then get under cover until 4 or later. Go back out later in the evening when it’s cool. Take a nap so you don’t get sleep deprived. I always had a tough time in the summer when I was younger because I was constitutionally unable to nap. Once I hit 60, things changed, and now I can sometimes even get 45 minutes of afternoon snooze time. Fourth, contrary to what the medical pundits tell you, add some extra salt to your diet. Not only will you be sweating heavily, but drinking lots of water washes sodium out of your system. If you get hyponatremic, which is the two-dollar word for low salt in the blood, you can get nauseated, shaky and confused. Skip the Gatorade. It’s expensive, high in calories and comes in plastic bottles. Here are a couple of better choices:
Brown Sugar, 1/2; if you don’t have brown sugar, use white sugar and 1 1/2 tsp of molasses
Powdered ginger, 1 tsp
Cider Vinegar 1/2 C
Dissolve brown sugar and ginger in vinegar by shaking or stirring. Add 1 quart of cold water, mix well and let stand for a few hours to blend the flavors.Strain through a coffee filter to get the ginger out. This recipe is at least 150 years old. It’s also great for women in the early stages of morning sickness or for keeping your fluid intake up when you have the intestinal version of the flu. Ginger is useful for relieving nausea.
2 cups Water
2 cups Juice
2 Tbs Sugar
¼ tsp Citric Acid (or 1/2 crushed 500 milligram vitamin C tablet)
¼ tsp Sodium Chloride (eg. table salt)
¼ tsp Potassium Chloride (salt substitute eg. NU-SALT®)
Mix well, chill and serve.