We’re at the tail end of a record heat wave here in Victoria. I believe South Australia and Western Australia are probably in the same boat. It is hot. VERY hot. My house is currently 30°C (at 9am) and my greenhouse reached a whopping 54.1°C on Tuesday. It took me 10 minutes hosing down the roof, walls and plants to get the temperature back down to a manageable 39°C. All the water on the roof and walls runs into the garden beds so it’s not wasted water. 🙂
Yesterday I employed the same technique to cool the oven in my back yard also known as the chook and goat shed. The water that dripped off the corrugated iron onto my skin was hot enough to literally scald. It’s insane! We lost a chook yesterday to the heat. I went out and found the poor thing curled up and dying in a nesting box. I hosed her down under her feathers as gently and as thoroughly as I could in triage on the goats floor, flicked the hose over the other hens and ducks briefly before bringing the poor Henny Penny inside. As I was filling a bucket with cold water in which to dunk her, she convulsed twice in my arms, laid an egg which promptly smashed on the tiled floor then died in my arms. I had to then explain it to the kids. Not a wonderful afternoon.
Martin also hosed down our poor sheep. The goats would have none of it but the sheep probably weighed up wearing a woolen jumper vs a soaking wet woolen jumper and opted for the water. It helped them.
My kids stayed cool by running around like crazy beings (as you do when you’re 5, 4 and 2 😉 ) and later, lying on the tiled floor to absorb the cool watching films on the iPad. It’s not a bad idea really. They’ve all had hair cuts and have spent the week in nappies or undies only. Aside from water play inside on the tiled floor I can’t do much else.
Anyway, with a week of temperatures over 35°C here I’ve been trying to think of ways to keep things cool, or at least slightly cooler here and here are my ideas.
1. Do your cooking late at night. Yes this will heat the house up but it will heat it up at a time when you can open the house up to help get the heat out.
2. Cook in bulk. This applies to big things and little things. When you have a week of high temperatures the last thing you want to be doing is slaving over a hot stove every night. Make a double batch of a meal and put the leftovers in the fridge. I don’t enjoy eating the same meal day after day but eating it on a Monday and then again on a Thursday isn’t too repetitive. I have been doing the same thing with my coffee in the morning. I make up 2 coffees and put 1 in my heat saving travel mug. I’ve learned, to the detriment of my taste buds, just how long that cup keeps things hot. I’ve scalded my tongue badly on a cup of tea from that mug an hour after I’d made it. Making up 2 coffees at the same time means the stove is only on once (we use an electric hob (no gas connected yet) and a stove top kettle) and I don’t need to drink both at once either. If you drink tea then boil your kettle once and fill a thermos or two. 🙂
3. Keep your house closed up against the heat. If your house is cool then fight to keep it cool. If you use air conditioning then this makes sense too. Your air conditioner won’t need to work so hard to keep things cool. Pull down the blinds, inside and outside if you have them, reduce any internal heat sources and keep doors and windows closed (if at all possible). And as an extra note with air conditioning, try to set your temperature a little warmer than “cold”. Everyone else out there with air con will have it on and the strain on the power grid will mean brownouts. We’ve had our power in and out, although only for a few seconds at a time thankfully.
4. Open your house up. Ok, this sounds like a contradiction but it’s not. Not really. Open it up when it’s cooler out than in. Leave windows and doors open (if you have fly-screens and security doors to keep the mozzies out) and let any breezes in to move out any warm air. If you can open doors and windows on opposite sides of your house and allow cross breezes then even better. It will cycle the air around a lot better. Our house simply isn’t keeping in the cool at all so we’ve had everything open that can be left open all week. That includes the blinds in the living area at night. I want that breeze blowing through.
5. Insulate. Ok, this isn’t something you can do the day before a heat wave (unless you had things ready to go beforehand) but long-term it makes the most sense of all. Our house has insulation but it’s pretty poor to say the least. We have “blue paper” in the walls and some insulation in the roof but with incomplete cladding there are huge gaps for the heat to leak out/in. The ceiling is insulated but as we discovered the other day, once the manhole is open (it often blows open in windy weather) that we can see daylight right along the ridge-line on the roof. It means our house is hemorrhaging heat in winter and cool in summer. We have a guy lined up to put insulation in both the ceiling and the walls. It will be a big and likely pricey job but we will make the money back very quickly with needing a lot less firewood in winter and less electricity spent in summer running the ceiling fans. In fact, insulating your house to the hilt is the best money you will ever spend. 🙂
6. Drink lots of water. We all know we’re supposed to drink our 2L a day and that drinking water keeps us cool but it took me a bit to piece together exactly why. When our bodies begin to overheat we begin to sweat. As gross as a hot sweaty body can be it is actually a sign that we are too warm. The sweat comes out of the skin and then in any breeze, cools down. The cooled sweat on our bodies then acts to cool the rest of the body. If you find that you’re feeling overheated but you’re not sweating then you’re likely dehydrated to some degree. Drink water and fast and I’d suggest a tepid bath or shower or at the least, spray yourself with a spray bottle of water to simulate the same effect as sweat and cool yourself down. And a funny fact I heard some years ago. Drinking ice water will actually cool you less than drinking tap or room temperature water. As much as slamming down something icy makes you feel good immediately your body needs to work much harder to warm that cool drink to body temperature in order to begin to use it so an icy drink will actually in the long run do the opposite of what you want it to. If you’re dehydrated and/or overheating then drink some tepid water. 🙂 If you feel unwell, please seek medical advice. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are no joke. If your body gets too hot your organs can begin to shut down and you can die.
7. Keep activity to a minimum. If you need to do any running around then do it early, the earlier the better. Activity heats our bodies up so better to do so when the temperature in our environment is better suited to cooling us down. Garden in the early morning or at dusk. Hang washing and bring it in around the same time. Even if you hang the washing around 7pm, in this sort of weather it will be dry by 8 or 9. 🙂 If you can have a nap, then do so. Our bodies are at their least active during sleep so even if sleep is impossible then try to rest as much as you can.
8. Change location. I don’t mean hop a plane and fly to Canada to hang out in their snow (the temperatures there are as far below zero as ours are above) but if you’re not coping with the heat and don’t have air conditioning then find somewhere cool. As much as it’s not so eco-friendly, shopping centres are usually well air-conditioned. The cinema is also another place where you can go to cool down. Our local council have opened cooling centres to help those with no air conditioning at home.
9. And although it doesn’t help you to stay cool, keep an eye on your neighbours and friends. I’ve been touched this week to receive emails and SMS’s from Lynda, touching base to see if we’re coping ok and also from my parents and mother-in-law too. She sees the reports of fires and worries at how close they are to us (no threat). I’ve also been on the phone to several friends to make sure they’re coping ok with the heat. There’s not much I can really do to help but I know I’ve greatly appreciated friends touching base to show they care. 🙂
If you have animals, make sure they have access to cool drinking water at all times and spray them down if needs be. Spraying down their sheds and buildings can help to lower internal temperatures as well. I’ve got 2 large containers with a single large ice block in each for their drinking water. I’ll take them out early afternoon when the water is no longer cool, change their water and then ice them up to keep them cool a bit longer.
Do you have any other tips for staying cool? This heat wave might soon be over (and I cannot count the minutes fast enough) but this will not be the last. Climate change has come with 1 certainty, more extreme temperatures, hot and cold (ask America at the moment about extreme cold) and more days of those extreme temperatures. This is likely the new normal folks.