Friday, July 14, 2006

The heat is on

We Minnesotarcticans are pretty wimpy when it comes to heat. We get it, for a precious few days each year the thermometer rises above 90 and we say the old platitude: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity..." Actually it's not that humid this year. We could use some rain big time.

It used to be (back in the good old days when I was growing up) hot weather was a fact of life. You didn't go do stupid things like try to run a triathalon, but if you were in marching band and in a parade, which proliferate this time of year, you just expected to have a lot of sweat lubricating the space between your lips and your mouthpiece. And you went to a lake somewhere at 11 pm, after the parade, to go skinny dipping afterwards, and hoped the police didn't come by.

Now, if the temperature is forecast to rise above 90, "heat advisories" are issued. People are urged to not exert themselves outside, to stay indoors in air conditioning and watch out for signs of heat stroke. Give me a break, I don't do heat well myself but I don't need a weatherboy telling me the weather is "dangerous"! What do you folks in southern climes do? I mean, I spent a little less than a year in Pablo's country, and it was unbearable for me but normal for there. And I remember traveling to my grandparents place in Florida, a place Floridacracker is somewhat familiar with, and upon returning to Minnesota I was acclimated to high temperatures even when they were experiencing a 90 degree heat wave.

The house I spent most of my youth in was not designed for air circulation. That was not helped by the facts that a) my parents did not believe in air conditioning (too much money) and b) if windows were opened at all, it was just a one inch crack at most. Burglars love open windows you know. So we had a fan, one loud, inefficient fan, that my parents believed would do wonders in cooling if they placed it in the window at the top of the stairs and had it set to not suck in cool air, but blow out warm air. Ummmm...if you don't have any windows open enough to let in the cool night air, well...but I was young, and it was my parents' house, who was I to argue? I think a window air conditioner would have been quieter and more efficient. I have memories of hot sweaty nights lying on top of my sheets, my own windows open wide enough to invite danger.

My parents changed their mind a little when my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just after I left for college. MS and heat just do not mix. So they broke down and bought two window air conditioners, one for the bedroom and one for the living room. But a mindset of extreme frugality kept my mom from enjoying any of the relief they might have offered. She absolutely refused to turn the air conditioner on until it was about 85 degrees in the house, at which time it was too late, and she only turned it on low anyway. These are the same folks who have an inefficient 1940's era furnace, converted from a coal burner, just because if it works, why spend the money to change it. Sigh.

So maybe that is why I personally don't like air conditioning; I was raised to be tough and live without it. I really don't think it's a necessity here. People lived without it for hundreds of years (gotta include the Anishinabe here, European settlers have been here for maybe 150 years), and I think instead of recommending an energy-intense solution they should maybe design buildings to accomodate heat as well as cold, and require less energy to remediate either. And, the air conditioning is currently not working in my car; much as I would love to have it fixed, I can tolerate driving with the windows and sunroof open. That gives me an excuse to enjoy a cold beverage along the way. ;)

At least here on my little homestead we have the advantage that I complain about sometimes; we are in a low spot and cool air settles here at night. Until a few days ago it was it the 40's at night--good "sleeping weather"! And we have the pond, and a creek that is fed from some really cold springs upstream. And I am not adverse to keeping the windows wide open, except that our cat Puffball likes to climb on the screens...bad kitty! And on the hottest nights, we do have a screen tent that might be nice to sleep in. We briefly discussed buying a window air conditioner today; I still contend that we would only use it one week out of the year.

Hot weather is forecasted to last into the middle of next week. And we will survive it.

Update- the low temperature here last night was 54, while at official weather stations to the north it was in the low seventies. The Hermit and I slept indoors, but woke at 5 am and went out to the screen tent to sleep another hour or so- nice!


madcapmum said...

We had a heat wave here that lasted two weeks. This week, finally, the temperature dropped and the rains came, and oh, did I appreciate it!

Here, too, the nights usually cool off considerably. It's one of the great pleasures of summer to be tossing sleepless on your pallet and suddenly to notice that there's a small breeze, and after an hour of that, realizing that you do need that blanket after all.

pablo said...

Ah, air conditioning. It is a love/hate relationship. I can recall reading a John Cheever story in which the protagonist complains of working in an office building that has air conditioning because she can't enjoy fresh air any longer. I think we adjust to the physical circumstances of our setting. In my youth, my parents had a similar fan solution to summer heat, and while my rich friends shivered in their air-conditioned houses, I just lived with the heat as a fact of life (and swore, foolishly, that when I had my own home, I would never sweat as I slept at night). Today, if one lived in Missouri and didn't have air conditioning, I think he could probably have his children taken away because of "child endangerment" or some such offense. What would Thoreau think? We've insulated ourselves from the natural world so much that we have begun to consider it "wrong" and "dangerous."

Lynne said...

Yes, we are wimps. This morning it was 76 degrees sitting outside with coffee at 0630! We could feel the humidity creep up as the sun burned the dew off the grass. My car is going in to get the AC fixed Monday morning. But still, I think this has been the prettiest Minnesota summer we've had in ages!

Jim said...


It's been in the 90s here too, way too hot for 6750' high mountain folks, so we've been sleeping out on the deck for the past couple of weeks.
There's not many bugs here so we don't need the netting, and I wouldn't know what to do with an air conditioner, I've never lived in a house that had one.

"Weatherboy", just delightful!!!
It reminds me of that new word recently added to dictionaries; himbo, the male version of bimbo, which also reminds me of some of those TV 'weathergirls'.

LauraHinNJ said...

I appreciate the heat at home to an extent because my office is kept so frigid - somedays I need a blanket around my shoulders to keep the goosebumps away.

So long as it cools off at night a bit I can live with and a fan making a gentle breeze.

Deb said...

madcap- hooray, maybe some of your cooler weather will make its way here!

pablo- That was a very thoughtful comment, and thought provoking. Yes, I think we try so hard to insulate ourselves from nature that some people don't even know how to appreciate the coolness of a slight evening breeze, as madcapmum says.

lynne- When we went out to the screen house I had a jacket on and it felt good to cuddle in a sleeping bag. When we left, some time after 7 am, I had removed the jacket and I was already sweating.

Jim- That must be nice to sleep out without worrying about bugs! Of course lately with how dry it's been, the mosquitoes haven't been a problem.

The "weatherboy" remark comes from our local TV stations; we live closest to a fairly small-market city, so the news reporters are mostly young and inexperienced, but charming in a way. The weatherboys all are at least ten years younger than me, with names like Justin and Kyle and Josh. :)

By the way, wasn't there a song, i think around 1980, by a group called the Weathergirls, "It's Raining Men"?

Laura- I'm glad I don't work in a cold office! That can't be very good for a person, going in and out of temperature extremes.

Floridacracker said...

Wow...psychic connection. I was fussing about the weatherboobs telling us how to live instead of just reporting the weather yesterday.
Have we become such a nation of wimps that we can't go outside on a hot day?

Tracy said...

I also grew up with the fan blowing the hot air out of the house. I thought my dad was crazy - it's good to know there were a few more dads like him out there!