Regardless of what I feel inside, I am old, and I am a Farm Wife now. And trying to live sustainably, we don’t turn the air conditioning on unless it climbs over 90 degrees. I sometimes ruminate over the fact that before we moved back to the Ohio country side-we never had air conditioning! Most everyone I know grew up without AC. I insisted on a window unit when the Menopause Bug bit me-just someplace I could park in front of to stop those hot flashes from racing over a body. My mother’s solution to hot summers was to close the whole house up tight, close the drapes (pinning them tightly shut) take a couple more tranquilizers and go back to bed. That left my little sister and I to play soundlessly in a sweltering house. Now there, right there, is when I became an avid reader.
Summers with Grandma Olive were a completely different deal. We got up at 5:30am and started the day by closing the windows and drapes on the south side of the house-and leaving everything else open to the breeze off the river. Then we ate Lucky Charms or Trix with canned milk, made jars of real lemonade and iced tea, boiled a couple eggs for lunch, planned & prepped supper, emptied and made sure the one aluminum ice tray was filled, got dressed, put on an apron and started the day. I am going to share a few of the hacks that I learned from Grandma Olive, and some I have come up with myself, for the really hot dog days of summer.
1. Every morning I unmake my bed. Grandma Olive said that if you sweat on your sheets, when you got up in the morning you were to fluff the pillows really hard, and neatly fold the light blanket and sheet to the bottom of the bed, allowing the sheets to air dry in the fresh breeze. Remember, laundry was done in a wringer washer and hung outside to dry, so there was no stripping the bed for a set of clean sheets. I find this works just dandy, as long as I keep the cats from napping on my bed. I often spritz the sheets with a lavender scented linen spray too.
2. The mattress gets turned every Solstice-summer and winter. That was one of Grandma Olive’s rules, and it jives with what the experts say nowadays.
3. Lighten up the underclothes. This one is kind of personal and humorous. On wash days, canning days and weeding days, Grandma gave up her iron sided bra, nylon slip, and nylon stockings with elastic garters. She made herself a strange bra-like item out of one of Grandpa’s sleeveless undershirts. She cut it off under the bust and put an elastic band on it. Then she donned cotton bloomers-with short legs on them-they shielded her inner thighs from chafing. Then the sleeveless house dress made from 2 feedsacks and an apron were donned. Wedged, peep-toed shoes finished off her ensemble. The peep-toed shoes were religiously cleaned and put away on Labor Day. I, who also suffer from the family trait of a larger bust, trade in my balconette underwire for a modern “leisure bra”-very similar to Grandma’s altered tee shirt! And denim crops or yoga pants with a roomy tee shirt and flipflops or Crocs-and an apron .
4. Stay hydrated. At Grandma Olive’s, staying hydrated consisted of a pause in the days occupation to sit on the porch swing with a glass of lemonade or iced tea-only one ice cube per customer.
5. Canning was done in the canning kitchen. Grandma’s house was built on the side of the hill, so the lower level was much cooler. The lower level consisted of a canning kitchen/laundry room containing a huge old gas range, two stone wash sinks, a Maytag ringer washer, a couple of kitchen tables-with leaves that pulled out from underneath, a giant kitchen cupboard full of canning jars, a smaller cupboard full of canning salt,spices, lids, seals and Grandma’s stash of clothing dyes. Canning or laundry done in the lower kitchen kept the upstairs of the house cool. Supper was also cooked downstairs if we were canning or doing laundry all day-then we would eat at an old table under the grape arbor.
6. Lighten up your menu. I keep a hearty salad of some sort-potato, pasta, tomato and cheese, or coleslaw on hand. For supper we simply grill two small pieces of meat or enjoy some pre- cooked boneless chicken from the freezer, slice some home-baked bread, open up the salad and add whatever we can pick from the garden and eat raw. Hopefully there is some melon or ice cream around for dessert.
7. Shorten your work day. Getting up earlier assured that all the chores were done by 2pm. Grandma Olive then sat in the little chair with the phone stand attached, and listened in on the party line. I occupied myself with needlework or a book. Then Grandma read a Scripture and we prayed for whoever was in need- our information being gleaned from the party line. Nowadays, I check the Internet news, and pray for whoever needs the help. Even Donald Trump.
8. A nap is totally allowed.
9. Standing in front of a small brass fan with your skirt up is also acceptable. So is wading in the crick with your skirt hiked up-watching out for water snakes and snapping turtles!
10. Take a spit bath. Baths only came once a week. So every night you were scrubbed from top to toe with soap ( Cashmere Bouquet or Ivory) and rinsed with cool water. Then you were popped into a cotton nighty-no panties allowed-for health reasons. A tepid shower, nowadays, is easier,but not as refreshing as that wash-up. And I still think that I might die of an urinary tract infection if I wear underpants to bed.
There,in a nutshell-all that I know about keeping cool-Out in the Pasture.