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photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An A/C-Free Summer...By Choice

Not exactly true, as we do have window units in the bedrooms- but they don't get turned on till bedtime, unless it's over 100 degrees and even THEN not till after noon.

Oh. And except in the rarest of cases, the window is still open (it's on the shady side of the house and behind a big bush) and the door is ajar as well. I can't stand that stuffy, cloying, clammy conditioned air. I need a breeze.

Otherwise, though, we're A/C-Free and love it. Summer in Texas is hot. Summer in Wisconsin was hot. Most of the time, if you live north of the equator, the summer months are going to be hot. That's sort of the definition of summer- those months that are hot. Winter is the opposite.

I hate winter.

Summer in Texas can be blazing blinding blast-furnace burn your lungs hot, no doubt about it. Last summer was a doozy (or so I hear- through the worst of the hottest parts we were in Montana where I was freezing my tail off). And it can be deadly if you don't take precautions- but those precautions don't necessarily have to include using enough electricity to cause rolling brownouts across the countryside.

Most of the "Summer Tips" I see on the TV are pretty basic, even though they're delivered with the serious intensity generally saved for things like flu epidemics, elementary school hostage situations, or the latest breakup/marriage/overdose/underdress of some Hollywood chicklet.

Drink lots of water. Really. Not Coke, or beer, or coffee, or whatever fitness liquid that's currently in style- water. This is the one I personally have trouble with. I don't get thirsty. For anything. I have the hydration instinct of a gerbil. And what's with the cases of water? There's that faucet thing in your kitchen? If there are questions about the safety of your municipal drinking water, get one of those little screw-on-the-faucet filters, or if you're feeling REALLY fancy- get a Berkey water filter. Use re-usable bottles.

Although I'm ambivalent regarding the Water Bottle thing. I think they're fine in the car on long trips, or running errands, but they really should stay in the car- I see people walking everywhere inside, outside, even on what are clearly 5 minutes away from the car errands sucking on their water bottles. If I'da said "Mom- I'm thirsty", an hour after leaving the house, she woulda said "See? I told you to get a drink before we left". and that would be the end of it.

Do all your outside work early in the day or in the evenings. Do as the critters do and follow the shade. See your dog out there with one paw dangling in his water dish and the rest of him in a freshly dug hole in the cool earth under the big tree? The dog who looks puzzled when you call his name, chases his tail and is surprised each and every sunrise by the big shiny thing in the sky? Ya. If you decide to take your power walk or mow the lawn between the hours of 11am and 6pm he's smarter than you are.

Sit in the shade outside, and in front of a fan inside. Take advantage of cross-breezes wherever you are. If you are lucky enough to live in a house that's pre-central a/c vintage your house probably has windows and doors that cross-ventilate- give a straight path for air to flow into, through, and out of the house. Make sure all these are open and not blocked. An attic fan is a stellar way to move the air in the house around and the hot air up and out.

On a hot Texas afternoon, the air is sharp with heat, with dust, with the aroma of the sap inside the pines boiling. Things I'd miss in a closed-up house.

If your house was built with central a/c in place, good luck. You likely have a lot of dead end airspace that really does no good to keep cool with. A fan in the window can help some. But ya. If your house was built with no intention of depending on outside breezes, most likely it was built for Style Over Function. Sucks to be you.

Embrace your sweat. Hmmm...Sounds kinda racy- here's what I mean. Summer is hot. Heat means getting sweaty. Sweat never kilt anyone. In fact, if you're hot and you STOP sweating, you're in trouble and need intervention from heat stroke. What I mean is summer is the time to anticipate that you'll be sweating, and dress accordingly. Shorts. Tank tops. Flip flops. Little or no makeup or Hair Product. It's ok to sweat.

When we were kids we expected to be hot in summer and cold in winter. Somehow we've become a people who can only function if it's 72 degrees.

Our family actually has a tough time in the summer going into places with air conditioning- we freeze our hineys off. We're acclimatized to the heat. Movie theaters? Don't speak to me of the frozen tundras of movie theaters...

One bonus, of course, is that our electric bill in the summer is only for a few box fans and a tiny window unit or two. While our neighbors' and friends' bills require a good five Ben Franklins every month, ours is one Ben, and maybe the left ear of another one.

The main bonus is being able to stay connected with Outside. The summer night is filled with the cacophony of crickets, frogs, owls and coyotes. Daytime is one songbird after another- the Ultimate Playlist. This afternoon we've got thunderboomers rolling through and the birds are subdued with each of Thor's echoes rolling under the clouds- stilling the leaves on the trees.

I smell rain. And earth.

And it's good.

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