Believe it or not, summer is upon us. And for us at least, summer means 3+ months of blistering heat! When you have a homestead to run and lots of outside chores to do, you need ways to beat the heat. Here are some tips to help you keep cool when it’s super hot out.
Keep cool while gardening and doing yard work
Gardening and yard work keeps most homesteaders busy all summer. But it’s important to do it smart, so you don’t get dehydrated and exhausted. There are a few ways to keep cool while getting your chores done.
Have water always available
If you have to work outside in the heat, make sure you always have water available for you to drink. Iced tea or soda is okay, but water is best. Make sure you don’t get dehydrated. It’s even a good idea to occasionally spray your hair, feet, or clothes with your hose to ensure you don’t overheat.
Work in the shade
If it’s at all possible, try to work in the shade. Obviously most gardens aren’t shaded, but if you have some shady spots, take advantage of them! Shade reduces the temperature by about 10 degrees. If it’s not possible to do your work in the shade, at least take your breaks in the shade.
Get up early, or work in the evening
I find the best way of doing my chores in the hot summer months, is to do them either early in the morning, or later in the evening. I personally spend a lot of time indoors (with the air conditioning) during the hottest parts of the day. That way, I get my outdoor stuff done when it’s bearable, and do my indoor stuff done when it’s not.
I can’t say I’m in this group, but lots of lady homesteaders prefer to do their chores in a dress. Flowy dresses allow air flow and can help keep you cooler. Make sure you wear sunscreen when you’re out in the sun. You might even consider wearing a sun hat to keep some of the sun off your face and neck. Sunglasses are a good idea too, to help protect your vision and prevent wrinkles from squinting.
There is even a cooling towel that you might consider getting. These things are amazing! Just dip them in cool water, and they stay damp and cool for hours. Then you can simply drape them over your neck and shoulders to help you keep cool. My husband works outside for his job, and he’s never without his.
Help your animals keep cool
Keeping your animals cool should be a big concern for you during the summer. Some animals find it very difficult to self-regulate their temperature, and need assistance from us.
Keep water available
Your animals need to have water available to them at all times, especially when it’s extra hot. If they don’t have enough water, they will get dehydrated and can die. We even fill up old kiddie pools for our free ranging animals so that we know they always have water available. Even if they don’t actually get IN the water, it’s there for them to drink.
If your animals still seem to be struggling in the heat, try spraying down part of their area with the garden hose. The evaporation actually helps cool the air.
Make sure your animals have access to shade when it’s really hot. Animals will seek out shade when they need it. Plant trees if possible. If you have a chicken coop and attached run, consider growing fast-growing vines up the sides. A shade cloth over the top of the run is a nice touch also. Even simply leaning large pieces of wood (like a sheet of plywood) over the fence can be a big help.
Ensure plenty of air flow
If you can pull it off, it’s nice to have a fan or two set up in the hotter areas, such as the chicken coop, or near the rabbit hutches. Don’t block your animals off into an enclosed building while it’s super hot unless you absolutely have to. And IF you have to, please provide fans or misters for them!
Give them frozen treats
Chickens love to eat frozen treats. Try freezing some corn in ice cubes, or freezing some watermelon. You can put assorted goodies in a bowl and fill with water, then put that in their run. They will love picking the treats out of the ice.
Rabbits, since they are so sensitive to heat, need special treatment as well. Putting frozen water bottles in their cages is a very good idea. I like to have at least 2 available per cage, so I can alternate, and replace a melted one with a frozen one.
Ducks need to be able to swim, especially when it’s hot. Make sure they have a pool of some kind. We use a kiddie pool. Chickens take dust baths when it’s hot. The dust helps keep them cool and helps deter pests. Sheep need to be sheared (unless they’re hair sheep) to make sure they don’t overheat. Rabbits can die from it just being too hot. You should consider setting up a mister and fans next to their cages.
Cool fun for the family
Sure, when you have a homestead you’re usually focused on the work that needs to be done. But having some cool fun with your family is important as well. Kids get bored with school being out for the summer, and sitting inside in the air conditioning all the time isn’t good for them.
We love playing in the water when it’s hot. We’re lucky enough that we have both a river and a reservoir within just a few miles of our house. So we go there often when we need to cool down. Floating the river is a favorite pastime, as is fishing.
Some kids like to run through sprinklers or the flood irrigation when it goes through the yard. Squirt guns are a fun way to get at least 2 people playing and getting wet. So are water balloons. Kiddie pools are great for little kids, and to put your feet in while you’re relaxing in your lawn chair.
While some kids might enjoy just running through the sprinklers, others might find it more enjoyable to have actual games to play with other kids.
The good thing about water games is that they usually aren’t expensive or elaborate. Most of them are just items you probably have laying around, or can get really cheap.
Maybe you can use some of these ideas for your old fashioned 4th of July party.
If you are lucky enough to have a pool, there are some games that you can play to get everyone active in the water, instead of just floating around or swimming.
Marco Polo is a classic pool game for parties, or even just for 3-4 people to play. One person is “it” and keeps their eyes closed (or blindfolded, if you don’t want them to cheat). “It” calls out “Marco”, and the other players call out “Polo”. The one who is “it” then tries to tag the other players based on where their voice is coming from. When another person gets tagged, they are now “it”.
Here is a good article with 24 pool games that you can try the next time the kids are saying “I’m bored!”.
Other cool ideas
You don’t have to be playing in the water to keep cool. We love to go to the mountains when it’s hot. It’s usually 10-15 degrees cooler than in our valley, and there’s lots of shade and creeks.
Maybe try going to an aquarium or some other indoor, air conditioned event. Or pack a picnic and take it to a nice, shady park.
Wherever you do plan to have your fun, make sure you have lots of water available to drink. Serve cool food, like fruits and yogurt. Make sure your cooler is packed with ice to keep everything cold. If the kids are being active, make sure they take lots of water breaks.
Whatever it is that you decide to spend your time on, make sure you take the proper steps to keep cool. Summer safety is more than staying away from dangerous waterways, and following water safety rules. Dehydration and heat strokes are a serious health issue that we all need to avoid.
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