Monday, August 1, 2022

Ah-Ha-Ha-Ha Stayin Alive! - in the Heat

 OK. Those of you that missed the age of disco may not have caught the energizing sounds of that epic Bee Gee's rip-off - - - but I tried - - -

Anyway, back here in the real world of Central Texas:


It's hot.

Hotter than normal - which may be the new norm for all of us going forward.

This is the high temperature chart for July around here. (At the nearest city with an actual TV station) The red boxes  indicate highs above average and the yellow bars at the top of a box indicate a record high.

I do live in the south, and right under where the summer high-pressure dome sets up shop up for the season some years, driving all rain around it's edges and allowing nothing but heat under it, so triple-digit summer days are not unusual around here, but some years are more brutal than others.

Last year the high-pressure dome had trouble getting itself established and we had a particularly pleasant summer with less than half the 'normal' number of 100+ degree days, but we are making up for that this year.

Interestingly, the 90 triple-digit days we had in 2011 coincided with a drought, and here we are in the middle of another drought this year. Since we still have the hottest month of the year, plus September which isn't usually much better, to get through, I wonder what our final number will be come this fall?


Yes. I do choose to live at a latitude where things are going to heat up during the summer, but there are trade-offs.

First off, we aren't alone when it comes to 100 degree days. In the past four decades, even though I'm only there for a few short days at a time once or twice a year, I have experienced triple-digits up in Michigan more than once. (and with all that water around it is a wet wet heat!) Yet only two or three times have I had to deal with prolonged, as in below freezing for more than 24 straight hours, freezes here at home.

Yes, it gets a little sweaty around here during certain months, but in the winter while Michiganders are dealing with roads like those above several times a season and water-lines have to be 48" below ground to keep from being damaged during that long stretch of short, grey, sub-freezing days of winter, I'm hiking the woods down here in sunny, crisp temperatures, wearing a light jacket.

Sun-shades for vehicle windows are pretty much universal equipment around here during the summer to prevent burned butts, but at the same time I have had the same ice-scraper for 30 years now and have had to use it less than a half-dozen times.

So, while not exactly thrilled about it, I'll put up with the heat.

Heat can be very dangerous. Just as dangerous as the cold. What follows is how I manage the heat on a daily basis while at the same time spending most of my day outside in it. But everybody is different, so be careful because what works for me may not be appropriate for everyone.

I have what I call my own personal AAA approach to dealing with the heat. (actually it works for dealing with pretty much everything from weather to life-events.)

The first A is Attitude!

When it comes to weather, and many other things, it is what it is, and whining about it isn't going to change that. In fact the only thing all that bitching and moaning is going to do is make the source, and everyone around the source, even more miserable.

So knock it off! Accept the situation and move forward rather than crying about it. A positive attitude is a far nicer, and healthier, way to live than the misery of complaint.

The second A is Acclimate.

I'm not really an indoor kinda person, (Which is kind of an understatement!) so regardless of what the weather is, rather than hide from it, I spend much of my time out there in it. This gives my body a chance to acclimatize, which tends to 'normalize' the environment, helping to push the heat, or cold depending on the season, into the background rather than the forefront of my life.

Which, incidentally makes maintaining the Attitude that much easier.

Yep, even during the worst of the summer, if I'm not outside working, or wandering the property you might find me kicked back in one of my two shelters,

or just inside the open main doors of the barn puttering at my workbench,

or, as I'm doing at this very moment, standing at my makeshift - though after 15 years I suppose it's pretty much permanent - computer station just inside the open back doors of the barn typing these very words.  (Huummm mid-afternoon and just now 99 degrees at the computer station. An almost balmy day!)

It might sound like elitists malarkey, but for me acclimating works.

During the winter I'm fine spending the evening in a light shirt in our 65 degree livingroom, yet in the summer when it's more like 76 to 78 in there I wear a heavy over-shirt to keep from shivering while eating my evening popcorn, and I sleep under two blankets. (The Wife's body has a different temperature toleran than mine and she turns the AC on in April and doesn't turn it back off again for good until November!)

I knew a guy that would leave the shelter of his northern Michigan house in -30 degree weather in his shirt-sleeves! While I certainly don't have, or want for that matter, the opportunity get to that point of winter-acclimation, with attitude and acclimation I have no issues functioning outside during our winters here yet also, during the summer months finding that a 97 degree breeze is verging on refreshing and anything below 90 degrees is good sleeping weather.

The third A in my climate-approach mantra is Accommodate.

While all the A's are important, for physical well-being this may be the most critical.

Get this wrong, in the heat or the cold, and I could end up sick or dead.

The main tool I employ here is common sense and paying attention.

For instance, it's hot - I'm going to sweat - That's just a fact of life. But too much sweat, or no sweat, are early warning signs of bad things.

Because I do a lot of it, you know - sweating - I know where that line is for my body.

If you live around here this is a common chart.

But it's really not as complicated as it seems. Because I'm active in all sorts of weather I know what's right for me, and therefor what's not. So when it comes to heat it's a simple matter of paying attention and when things don't feel right, taking a break.

This is me just coming in off the trails after a morning set of laps.

Even though I do my workout early, around here we often just barely make it down to 80 overnight and the cloudless skies and high sun angle heat things up quickly.

Looks pretty nasty, and frankly if The Wife looked like this I'd figure she was just about dead, but because I do it regularly, I know this is normal and safe for me, so, as long as I don't do it all day long, this is fine. (This is also why I have a large collection of sleeveless shirts! I have 12 pairs of socks [when they wear our I buy two 6-packs of identical socks because who in their right mind wants to sort socks!] and when I pull the last clean pair out of the drawer I do my laundry, and not before!)

As a concession to the heat, an accommodation to the conditions, rather than jump right into a project as soon as I come back from my workout like I would in more temperate weather

I'll slow down by kicking back and cooling down for a while first. And I'm not adverse to throwing a few more of these breaks into my day as I go along.

After all - I'm freakin retired man!

Of course there are other accommodations beyond slowing down and taking breaks.

For one thing, other than my workout laps which are done just as it's rising and the angle is low, you won't find me out in the sun with exposed skin.

Lay something like a board out in the sun for a while then put your hand on the exposed surface. Now reach underneath and put your hand on the sheltered surface.

Yeah! One's hot, really hot, and the other is just warm.

The same thing happens with exposed skin. It gets hot! 

A key way the body cools itself is blood coming to the surface through dilated vessels where it attempts to release heat to the skin which is presumably cooling itself by sweat, breeze, or both. But if that skin is directly exposed to the energy of the sun's radiation it just sets up a vicious positive feedback loop and a short trip to hell!

All summer long I keep that light-weight, light-colored, long-sleeved shirt on a handy hook in the barn where I can grab it to throw on over my usual, elegant sleeveless attire anytime I'm going to be exposed to direct sun for more than a few minutes.

Oh. And try sticking one arm in a light-colored shirt-sleeve, the other in a dark shirt-sleeve and putting both out in the sun. Yep! That dark arm is heating up quite a bit more than the light arm! Although there's plenty of them around, dark clothes, dark cars, dark roofs, just don't make sense here in this climate!

Yes, light-colored or not, like most everything else I'm wearing, it quickly gets loaded up with sweat but it also keeps the direct radiation of the sun off my skin and the high SPF fabric is highly thermal-conductive so I get the same cooling effect from sweat as if I was standing bare-armed in the shade.

And to top things off, literally, ever since my 20's I've always had a full-coverage, full-brimmed hat on my head when outside. The Wife won't let me wear this really wide-brimmed, high crowned, well ventilated gardener's hat to town, but it sure does provide a lot of shade, air-space, and ventilation for my head here around the property! 

But just because I'm covered up in the direct sun doesn't mean I forego the sunscreen!

You may have seen this image before. It's of a truck driver showing the effect of 30 years of driving truck with the side window open a lot of the time, but even when closed, side window auto glass averages only about the equivalent of SPF 15.

Since UV isn't only line-of-sight but reflects and bounces around, even under the shade of my hat it is tearing viciously at my skin, so I rely on a little extra help. Not that I'm particularly interested in looking pretty mind you, (That ship sailed a long time ago! - - Frankly, I'm not sure I was ever on that ship!) but that kind of damage can't be good for the overall me in the long run!

Many sunscreens contain organics to absorb UV and those organics degrade over time, but by the time those bottles get through the supply-chain and I get my hands on them they still have a self-life of a little over two years, so even though I buy sunscreen arms-full of bottles at a time, at the rate I use them up there's no way one will ever expire on me before it's empty.

I like this particular one because, even though it's so loaded with anti-emulsifiers and thickened with an abundance of zinc it can be hard to spread, it really does stay put through sweat and water.

And SPF 100 because my one set of - - -


That was freaky!

While I was standing here typing all about the heat on a day with a 2% chance of rain it suddenly got dark, we lost the satellite internet signal, and it rained!

First measurable rain in over 30 days!

(The open door beside my computer station.)

Sun's back out now and the humidity just shot up about 20 points, (anyone that says there's no difference between dry and wet heat has never paid attention while experiencing both and doesn't have even the most basic understanding of heat-indexes!) but for a few minutes there the breeze was almost cool and we got a half inch of rain in 20 minutes.

If I had known that's all it took I would have written about the heat sooner!

Anyway - - - before I was interrupted: 

And SPF 100 because my one set of grandparents are Irish and the other set are - well - Irish too, so tan is an abnormal state for me!

Besides, with my life-style I need the protection of a landscaper, not an office worker, so why screw around?

Of course a major part of accommodating heat is drinking a lot. (But nothing with a proof to it!! That's just asking for trouble! Dehydrate, impair, and sally forth into dangerous heat. Yeah, sounds like a disaster in waiting to me.)

I used to drink coffee, sodas, (or pops depending on where you're from) and the like, but I quit the coffee more than a quarter century ago and for the past two decades my primary source of liquid, other than herbal tea once in a while when camping in the cold weather, has been straight water. (Maybe partially because of the health crap but mostly because I just can't be bothered with anything else.)

I drink collected rainwater that has been run through my Berkey purifier. (Our well-water has way too much sodium in it to be drinking regularly, [unless I give up salting my popcorn, and that's never going to happen!] and bottled water from the store seems like too much of an indulgence.)

I used to rotate partially filled water bottles through the freezer then fill them the rest of the way when I took one out, but I quit doing that some years ago. Now my water is whatever the ambient temperature is. And yes, sometimes it's like drinking hot tea - without the tea - but when I was a kid and we were visiting former neighbors that now lived in Las Vegas, a city worker came along asking if he could drink out of the hose. When offered something cold instead he said that warm water was better for him in the heat than cold water.

Years later I did a little research and learned that wasn't just his opinion, that there is a physiological reason for the increased  efficiency of 'room temp' water. Cold water, in addition to shocking the digestive system and slowing absorption, delaying re-hydration, can also trigger esophageal spasms and fainting through stimulation of something called the Vegas nerve - - - nope, that's not right. Vegas on the mind - - - Oh ya - It's the Vargas nerve.

Anyway, ambient temperature water and plenty of it.

Another advantage is that ambient temp water-bottles don't sweat and leave pools of water all over whatever they are set on or soak the pocket where I carry my water-bottle. (Because, like my hat, in the summer I never go anywhere without my water bottle in my pocket.)

Besides paying attention to my body, slowing down, keeping direct sun off my skin, and drinking a lot of water all day long, I have one more tool in my accommodate kit.

That's my Mission neck gaiter.

It's made of a material that not only holds a lot of water but is also very thermal-conductive so that when that abundant supply of water evaporates the cool is quickly transferred through the fabric to the skin.

When the temps top 100-plus-a-few I'll soak this down, wring it out, snap it, (The instructions say this snap activates the cooling. I'm not really convinced but do it anyway because it's kinda satisfying.) and it's like sticking my head inside a refrigerator. But, since it functions off of evaporation, cooler temps/higher humidities affect the process and the effect is not quite so pronounced. 

Hot damn! Finally a chance to use those two confusing words properly in the same sentence! Take that Mr. Troutwine! (Former English teacher and driver's ed instructor)

There's a bunch of different ways this simple tube of fabric can be worn.

When fairly inactive, such as sitting down working on my Spanish App or reading, I tend to just drape it over the back of my neck.

If I'm doing something a little more active I'll wear it as a proper neck gaiter because it stays in place better.

And yes, I consider the whiskers additional sunscreen during the summer and extra insulation during the winter, so once a week I trim them back a bit with the barefoot hair-clippers and the rest of the time they're on their own.

But if I need to turbo-power the cooling then I'll use the double/layered beanie method for a really cold head. This is particularly effective because after my weekly shave I buzz my hair off  with the #2 foot (1/8th inch) on the clippers so the gaiter-fabric is in close contact with my skull.

Though it means re-charging with water more often, this method of wearing the gaiter takes full advantage of all the moisture in the fabric and the fabric is thin enough that I can still get my hat on over the top. 

Yes, no matter which way you twist it, around here heat is a big part of the day during the summer. Kinda like laundry day - if laundry day was every day, all day. Something that's going to be on your mind a lot and take up some of your time as you deal with it.

It doesn't matter if I bitch and moan about the weather, or choose to take a different approach and, as the phrase goes in Spanish, 'llevarse bien con eso'. (get along with it, as in 'I get along with my friends' - me llevo bien con mis amigos.)

Mother Nature doesn't care either way. So for my own mental well-being I might as well pull up my knickers, put a smile on my face, and llevarse bien con eso, because it is what it is and I can't change that. I can only change how I deal with it.

But enough of this!

Time for me to stop standing here at the keyboard, shade-up, and go do something useful.


  1. Your painting of the street scene is really nice. I've wondered if you were still doing stuff.

    1. Thanks. It was an experiment in using a different pigment than my usual burnt siena (along with Ultra blue) I think I'll stick to burnt siena.

  2. And what're those three tiles outside the door of your computer station? Can we get some better photos of them? Hummmm? Pretty please. And of your painting too, while yer at it?

    1. The white one is a raised computer room floor tile that weighs about 50 lbs. People wrote all over it and gave it to me when I retired but the ink has faded. The three smaller ones are just cheap plastic "stepping stones". There's a lot of red clay right there and when wet it makes a mess. I use the tiles to recharge the bird feeder without making that mess.

      Yep, still at the painting, but like the music (I "play" 5 different instruments, none very well) I pretty much keep it to myself to avoid embarrassing - well - me!

    2. Speaking of embarrassment, what program are you using for your Spanish studies? A sheepherder from Ecuador came by today and I was totally embarrassed by my rudimentary ability.

    3. There are several out there that I haven't tried, but the one I use is Duolingo

  3. I thought I lived in the only place it can rain with a 2% chance. 106°?? suck it up. LOL

    1. Not sure why they bother with such small percentages, it's not like they are really that accurate!

      Just did some hiking in the high 80s low 90s at the swampy sauna of Turkey Run SP (Indiana) today. Talk about sucking it up!