Monday, July 28, 2008

Deep Summer

Strange to use the phrase here in Minnesota, but Deep Summer is what I've got.

It's mostly a phrase from the US South- and it means the heart of summer- and the heat.

My current experience is mild, really; maximum daytime temperature is barely hitting 90°F (32°C); but there's a gaggle of accompanying factors that require a human to adapt, somehow, or collapse.  Here is the day-

The morning is still.  No wind.  No wind for almost 2 weeks now, we're having to haul house water from the solar-pumped greenhouse well, since our windmill isn't moving.  No wind coming in the next week, either.

Soaking dew; until noon, moving anywhere on the farm without tall rubber boots means soaking shoes and socks.  Barefoot?  Not if you're working.  Thistles, hammers...  The rubber boots are hot, and heavy.

Hazy sun; all day.  The humidity stays at "120%" - not actually possible, but that's a reasonable estimate of how it feels.  The 85° air is comfortable; until you move; just walk and you will sweat.  Work will have your clothing soaked through, literally to dripping, within just a few minutes.

You have to be very careful in this weather- it's so damp, wet, drippy you can easily forget you're losing water, dehydrating - and losing salt.  When your skin is covered with salt, sweat evaporates more slowly- cools less well.  When you look up from hoeing the beans, and world fades to white- you're on the edge of "heat exhaustion" - otherwise known as a critical shortage of water and salts; you need more than sodium; you're probably running short on potassium and calcium too.  One thing we do is add some salt, and "salt substitute" (KCl) to our lemonade; do-it-yourself "sports" drink.  Plain water is not enough, if your vision is fading.

People have coped with summer forever, of course.  Two major paths- let your body get used to it, adapt; and/or avoid it.

Your body will adapt, if you ask it to.  Work in the heat an hour today; and aim for two hours tomorrow.  Full adaptation can take weeks.  Be careful.

Or- change your hours.  Become crepuscular.  Wake before sunrise; work in what cool there is, before the sun hits; then move inside for other chores, or a nap- with a little fan, perhaps.  (I have one one me now- 12VDC, running directly from the hot sun on my solar panels; designed as a fan for a boat, 20 years old, I think.)  Evening presents more opportunities for outside work, without the sun.  The mosquitoes, alas, tend to be crepuscular, too.  The evening tends to be warmer; but dry- no rubber boots.  Until the dew starts to form.  Our solar heated shower is dangerous right now- it may be way too hot; shower carefully.

Here we tend to have little wind from mid July through late August.  Fact of life.  Cuss and bear it, mostly.  And drip.

And what are we doing about refrigeration?  Not a thing.  Water out of the well is very cool; water stored a day is still cooler than the hot outdoors.  It's cool enough.

At the moment, I've got gourmet meat for 3 days, ready any time.  No fridge.  

This is where I keep it- inside the charcoal grill, where it was slow-cooked.  

It's a boneless chuck roast; on sale when I was in town.  Tasty- but tough, usually.  I set it to cook slowly, inside the charcoal grill, after using the hotter fire to do a little chicken.  The very slow cooking, not over the coals, but beside them, with a little hickory added to the other side of the fire, actually does a little tenderizing, and does wonders for the flavor.

And, incidentally, sterilizes the roast- and the grill.  Once it was mostly cooked- I closed the grill's vents, thus asphyxiating the fire, and any microbes.  The meat is partly smoked, slightly dried, and quite safe right were it is, inside the closed sterile grill, 90° days, or not.

I've eaten some for dinner yesterday, and lunch today; and have 3 more meals there, I think.  Open the lid; cut off a chunk quickly right on the grill with a sharp knife; close the grill.  Yes, one, or two, bacteria got in when I did that.  They landed on dry, smoked, charred meat surface- not a friendly place to them.

The cooled, slightly dried chuck is pretty firm; easily sliced very thin, which solves most of the remaining toughness problems, and makes it perfect for adding just a little flavor, just a little protein, to whatever else I'm having.  Delightful.  It does require chewing.  Consider it exercise.

Any meat will keep after smoke cooking in a closed grill; at least a day, probably 2.  3 starts getting a bit iffy, particularly if you're dealing with chicken or have kids in the house.  You need to make sure the meat was cooked - hot right through- in the first place, though.  Sometimes a cooling fire may leave your meat cool, and not really kill all the bugs; this is something you need to watch meticulously.  The other hazard with this method is closing the grill and leaving it with the fire still too hot- and finding nice chunks of charcoal instead of chicken, when you open it up tomorrow.

This kind of smoke-heat preservation is really pretty safe for large cuts of meat; but don't try this for sausage or burgers- too much chance for bacteria to be incorporated in the grinding.

Now, I don't have to cook tonight, nor did I last night.  No extra heat required.

I'm gaining on the work adaptation, too.  Or, of course, you could always just move somewhere for sissies!


Crunchy Chicken said...

Hey, I may be a sissy, but at least I'm not dead from eating rotten meat. Maybe from tainted hot cocoa though...

It's actually warmish today. If you can call 73 warm. Lawsie mercy, catch me! I'm a startin' to swoooon!

I'll be dehydrating my tomatoes electrically tomorrow. I don't think we'll be getting much solar action for a while.

Farmer's Daughter said...

My cousins have been getting up very early to pick from the garden. By the time I get to the farm market to open at 8, the corn and all the veggies are already there. And the kids are already swimming in the pond.

knutty knitter said...

I'd like a little heat here! All we've got is rain, rain, sleet, skiffs of snow, more rain. I've had to dry the laundry inside and the kids got away with more computer time than they should and they know it.

I think we made 6 C today. It's 20 in here with the heater but the rest of the house is 'bracing' :) The little lady is outside her house so we should see some sun tomorrow.

viv in nz

ps hubby just boiled water for hot cocoa, I think he's feeling cold...

Unknown said...

I got these rubber boots ( - not heavy, comfortable, tops fold down to keep cool, good quality. Worth every penny and then some depending on how long they last.

But not cheap as your local walmart plastic boots. How did we ever learn to sacrifice quality on the alter of cheap every time?

Anonymous said...

This post was great -- I loved seeing more about your no-fridge life. Sweating and breaking our most-days-over-90-degrees record here in Denver ...

Greenpa said...

Crunchella- and just how easy do you suppose it is to catch a 6' swooner!!?? Still, I'll try.

Abbie- corn! You've got corn? Our is just starting to tassel out here! Cool spring, late planting- now it's hot.

Knutty- no fair, you're in the middle of blooming WINTER down there! No whining; or do you say whinging? Which I totally don't understand.

Eva- my son Middle Child has a cold weather pair of those, and I totally lust after them. I didn't even know they made summer weight stuff; I'll have to see if they're around. I quit buying cheapo ones long ago- the fact is, they're not even worth the cheap prices- the don't last, and let you down when you need them. Not that expensive is always better; but it seems to be correlated in the rubber boot department.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Oh yeah! Two weeks ago was "Corn Week" at Farmer's Daughter!!!

Unknown said...

Oh us lusters for muckboots - a new political party, religious sect, or just a bunch of hick crazies?

Anonymous said...

Ha, silly me! I always used to say "corpuscular"!

Tiff :o) said...

I'm very intrigued by living with out a fridge, or at least moving to a much smaller one...I just can't go without milk and buying the gallons on sale is much much cheaper than buying a pint or two at least once a day. You mentioned something about Foxfire in one of your posts about living without a fridge...I have the first three but I don't remember anything about that in any of those books. Do they talk about it in any of the books? Are there any websites or books with more detailed info on the subject?

Greenpa said...

Hi, Tiff- I don't think Foxfire specifically talks about life without a fridge- it was just ALL, in fact, without a fridge. All that drying, canning, burying in ashes, etc. I'm not aware of other specific places with "instructions", etc. Sharon, over on Casaubon's Book ( does teach classes in food storing and preservation- lots on her site.

Tiff :o) said...

I know about canning and drying food. I just have a tough to sell husband who fights me on everything I try unless I have done lots of research and have tried it for myself first. Well, this is not something I can do on my own without it affecting him so I'll head over to Sharon's site and read through the Foxfire books again so glean what information I can. Thanks for your help. :o)

Greenpa said...

Tiff- two things- you CAN get used to using dry milk... and it saves a ton of money. If you search, you can find 2% and even whole fat dried milk; one trick I've been taught for helping the flavor is to let it sit after mixing in the water for several hours; somehow that helps.

About the hubby- it might help to relate Vanessa's experiences (Greenasathistle) - she was wildly doubtful at first, but eventually found it was actually quite easy, and not a burden, to do without the fridge- good luck!

Tiff :o) said...

When I was younger I had to drink powdered milk but I don't remember my mom ever waiting for it to blend with the water for hours. It was always mix and drink right away. I never liked that milk but it is something I can try without effecting my DH. I can still keep regular milk here for him. But it will be hard to not cheat and just drink the good stuff. As soon as I find the powdered milk (we just moved and the trailer hasn't been unloaded yet), I'll give it a try.

Tiff :o) said...

One last question about the powdered milk. How long can you keep it unrefrigerated, once reconstituted, before you should get rid of it? And is there a good way to keep it cool during the warmer months?

Tiff :o) said...

Well, I did it. Last night I mixed up some powdered milk to have today. I will admit that I let it chill in the fridge overnight. Just trying powdered milk after my horrible experiences with it as a child was a huge step for me. I'll keep drinking it and when I get used to the taste, then I'll try it steps here. Surprisingly though, it wasn't so bad. I can definitely tell a difference but when you drink it with food, you only notice a slight after taste. I still have a few sips left in my glass after eating and the flavor in those sips is definitely more noticeable...but I didn't gag, I didn't have to plug my nose so I'll keep at it. And I learned a trick on another site about adding some evaporated milk to the mix to replace some of the fat since I have non fat milk powder. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.