July 16, 2019

Summer! (Is It Over Yet? LOL)

Oh my, but the heat of summer has set in and it's no fun. Our daily highs are in the mid-90s (35°C) and the humidity has been high with false promises of rain. It isn't so bad if it cools down to the upper 60s at night (20°C), but once summer kicks into high gear with its nightly low of around 75°F (24°C), it's difficult to cool down the house. Using window fans at night to vent the heat and pull in cooler air helps. So does keeping curtains closed on the sunny side of the house. So does venting the attic with our solar attic fan. And so does keeping our ceiling fans going all the time. So does using my summer kitchen or solar oven instead of cooking inside. Needless to say, it's still hot.

Living without air conditioning (why? here) has both negative and positive sides. The negative is obvious; the house gets hot! It's cooler than outdoors, but by the end of the day the inside temp is around 85°F (30°C). The positive side is that there isn't as great a temperature difference when we go in and out, so no shock to the system. It's warmer outside, but not as wilting as on errand day, when I'm in and out of the frigidly air conditioned stores.

I do most of my outdoor work in the morning when it's coolest. Afternoons are for house projects or at least things I can do in the shade. If the humidity is low and there's a breeze, even those low 90s aren't too bad. When the humidity goes up and the air is still, it's horrible. I work up a sweat just hanging laundry on the line!

We pace ourselves, take frequent breaks, and drink lots of water. Although I have to say that by later in the day I'm tired of drinking water. It just doesn't seem to quench well anymore. I often get a craving for something carbonated then, although I'm not sure why. Does anyone else experience that? Something about the CO2 bubbles that satisfies. Instead, though, we drink switchel. It's an old fashioned homemade electrolyte replacer that really does satisfy thirst and keeps us going. There are lots of recipes for it, but I thought I'd share mine, along with options for ingredient substitutions.


Ingredients for two quarts:
  • Ginger - 1/4 cup shredded fresh or 1 tbsp dry powder
  • Raw organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother) - 1/2 cup
  • Honey or maple syrup - 1/2 cup
  • Himalayan pink salt - 1 teaspoon
  • Water to make 2 quarts

To make:
  • Simmer ginger in about a pint of water. Cool and squeeze out the ginger water.
  • Mix ginger water, vinegar, honey, and salt in a 2-quart container.  Mix well. 
  • Add water to fill container.

Ingredient notes:
  • Adjust ingredients to taste
  • May substitute:
    • lemon juice for vinegar
    • Celtic or sea for salt 
    • coconut palm sugar for honey or maple syrup
  • Sodium chloride content in salt varies:
    • Sea salt (like table salt) is 97 to 99% sodium chloride
    • Himalayan salt is roughly 87% sodium chloride
    • Celtic sea salt is about 85% sodium chloride
    • The remaining percentage is minerals.
  • Table salt isn't recommended because it contains sugar as dextrose and sometimes aluminum as either sodium aluminosilicate or calcium aluminosilicate. 

Drink freely while sweating. Dan and I take water with us when we work outside, then drink a glass of switchel when we get back to the house.

The primary electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium and chloride. Others include potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Carbohydrates help the digestive system absorb sodium and chloride. That's one reason for the sweetener, but it also increases palatability which encourages drinking more. This is important because when one is sweating a lot, it is imperative to replace the water lost through sweat. That means drinking more than the recommended 8 ounces 8 times a day. The test of good hydration is producing clear to pale yellow urine. Darker urine indicates progressive levels of dehydration.

Why is switchel better than commercial sports drinks? For me, the issues are the kinds of sweeteners they use (often high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose from bleached beet sugar. The problem there is that commercially grown beets are GMO). They also can contain brominated vegetable oil. Apparently, this acts as an emulsifier and keeps the citrus flavor from floating to the top of the drink. (However, it's banned in most countries except the U.S.)

So here's the list of my switchel ingredients and what the electrolytes they help replace. I also included the vitamins that help for energy.

Electrolyte replacement:
  • apple cider vinegar - potassium, magnesium
  • or lemon juice - potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C
  • honey - calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, carbohydrates (for energy and to help assimilate sodium and chloride)  
  • or maple syrup - riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, carbohydrates
  • or coconut sugar - calcium, potassium, carbohydrates
  • ginger
    • fresh - B vitamins, magnesium, potassium
    • dried, ground - B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt - sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium.

A lot of claims are made about the Himalayan and Celtic salts, but I found little actual research on them. I did find a study which indicates that Himalayan pink salt increases hydration as opposed to white sea salt (which increases dehydration). You can read that study here. One study does not a scientific fact make, but to me, it recommends it as a good choice for sodium and chloride replacement.

As far as summer being over, we still have a way to go. July and August are usually our hottest months, although September can be pretty toasty as well. We certainly could do with more rain. While we wait for fall, we'll take it slow and stick with our summer routine. It's not too bad now that we're used to it.


Michelle said...

Do you have to strain the ginger water if you use powdered ginger? I'd like to try this! My guys drink Gatorade; I won't touch the toxic stuff.

Leigh said...

Michelle, I don't know why you'd have to. Just shake before drinking or leave it to settle in the bottom of the jar. I strain it through a coffee filter and get a sort of ginger paste afterward. The paste still smells so gingery that I hate to compost it. So I add it to baked goods.

Retired Knitter said...

Air conditioning. At this point in my life, I am not sure how I would do without it. I think my decision is partly based on the fact my body is conditioned to it after so long. But where I live also plays into that. I am not in a country setting ... I am surrounded by cement and buildings. We live in a condo - 2 sides have windows, but the windows have sun all day long - great in the winter for heat - not great in the summer. Mid-atlantic states have lots of humidity. And I think summers are now hotter than when I was young - global warming?? The weather is diffinetly different. We have deep coverings for the windows to block the sun, many many ceiling fans and free standing fans and when I cook, I use a dehumidifier in the kitchen. Even with all those adjustments - electric this month of July ran $140 for 1375 square feet of cooling. Usually runs under $100 during non-winter months. We are fortunate ... $140 isn't a hardship. I don't have to choose between air conditioning and food or medicine. And it is a big improvement over living in our townhouse when I electric bill would reach closer to $275 in the worst months. At least I am cooling only the small area I live in rather than a jumbo size house or townhouse. My hat is off to anyone - like you - who lives without air-conditioning AND must work in that environment as well.

Janice in GA said...

Back in the 80s, I lived in a duplex with no a/c. It wasn't too bad for temperature. I worked during the day, used fans to blow in cooler air at night, etc.

But the humidity in the house was ALWAYS high. Things in the closet would start to mildew. The dehumidifier stuff I could get at the store wasn't much help. I never figured out how to deal with that. We use a/c to dry out the house now as much as to cool.

How do you deal with humidity in the house?

Mama Pea said...

Even though we're in what is a hot period for us up here near the tundra (80s and very humid), it does cool off at night so we can comfortably sleep. And we're very lucky that our house stays cool on all but the hottest days . . . or when I'm canning. :o\ We had a storm yesterday that gave us a much needed inch of rain. Now at 10 a.m. this morning, everything is still wet and drippy outside because of the humidity, but the temp is only 75° in the shade. You'd take that right?? Yep, it is summertime.

Goatldi said...

No AC here either. Dislike how it drys the air out. In addition this house was built with an odd addition for a off grid home. Central heat and air. The heat gets a pass as it is propane with an electric start. Electric starts especially those on propane or gas ovens are a tool of the devil in my book. Give me back my pilot light. I digress back to heater I heat with wood. So it hasn’t ever been used.

The real head shaker is why someone would put an AC unit in a off grid house that requires one to use the generator to get up to speed 250 as without it the system only supports 110. Who knows? And propane isn’t cheap either.

Good post over all. Miss Willa calls time to milk.

Ed said...

Spent many a summer without A/C growing up so I know it is definitely doable. One gets used to it after awhile. We always had our own personal box fan so when we were doing things inside, we always found the nearest plug-in and pointed at where ever we happened to be working/sitting/sleeping. To this day, I still like white noise while sleeping.

Leigh said...

RT, a condo surrounded by lots of concrete would definitely be too warm for doing what we're doing. Cities and towns are always considerably warmer than rural areas with little concrete and plenty of trees. It's a blessing you can run your A/C without financial hardship. Cost was one of the reasons we chose to not use it, but we do have other options. And you're right about being conditioned to it.

Janice, humidity in the house is the biggest problem, even though I do most of my cooking in my back porch summer kitchen. We still get it from dishwashing and taking showers. That's the main reason our ceiling fans run night and day. Closet doors stay cracked and we use box and floor fans quite a bit too when we're in a room. So far all of that has kept mildew to a minimum.

Mama Pea, high humidity is a nuisance no matter what the temperature is! In winter it makes things feel so much colder! Before we did our energy improvements on the house it was hot all day long in summer. Now it's okay until the end of the day, then it feels stuffy even with the fans running. A whole house attic fan is on my wish list! Cooling off at night really makes it tolerable, though, doesn't it?

Goatldi, it is extremely odd that anyone would put central air and heat in an off-grid house! I wonder if the previous owners ever used it. We don't have gas so I never thought about electric starters on gas stoves and ovens. The one my mom had had a pilot light. Obviously electric starts weren't made with solar energy in mind!

Ed, I have to agree about the white noise! Fans make all the difference in the world for summer comfort. As long as a breeze is blowing, it's tolerable.

catladymac said...

In the mid-1950's my Mom found this recipe (she always credited the Amish) and made pitcher after pitcher to take out to my Dad and the others in the fields. I have it somewhere tucked in one of her cookbooks, but how nice to see it pop up on the internet !
Since I was a grade-schooler, it didn't appeal to me (Kool-Aid was my drink of choice) but now I would definitely drink this before trying shandy !

Leigh said...

Catladymac, interesting! I first heard about it in Little House on the Prairie where it was called "ginger water." I later got the Little House Cookbook and found the recipe in it. I've modified it (as have others) and have to say it's really refreshing on a day of hot work.

Lady Locust said...

We now have air conditioning for the first time in about 25 years. Hubby is in love. It doesn't bother me not to have it. I do all those things you mentioned to help keep the house a little cooler. I'm not a fan of carbonated drinks, but when it gets hot like this I do like a bit of lemon juice in my water. It just seems more refreshing. There are still those occasional days when I spray the hose towards the air while I'm under it for a little false rain. 😊

The Wykeham Observer said...

I don't have a/c, but I do have 2 dehumidifiers in the basement, and they keep the house very comfortable during the hot spells, with windows covered and light fixtures kept to a minimum. I try not to use the oven more than necessary. I don't open windows in summer. Too humid, even in central Minnesota, except for the rare day of winds out of the northwest, then it's free air-conditioning. I think the craving for carbonated bevs might be the need for salt. I have that too, but I never buy pop (soda). I just get by with water and milk for supper. I think you will find a way to continue enjoying (tolerating) summer without a/c! Phil

Leigh said...

Lady Locust, most people do love their air conditioning! And that's true about lemon water. It does seem more refreshing.

Phil, that sounds very likely about the craving for something carbonated. The switchel really fills the bill on that score. It takes the edge off heat weariness! I didn't realize you had a lot of humidity in central MN. That's the very thing that spoils a nice day!

Annie in Ocala said...

I lived without AC untill 2016. I was born in '62 so l sweat it out for a few years... especially in Florida. I've been lucky enough to live in 'cracker houses' until 2013... (built before electricity). But now have my own place with a cheap home an it needs AC... Still, the highest ele bill has been $86. (so far)I just cool the living room, l sleep there to an use a fan to blow the 'skeeters around. I have a toaster oven and a grill elsewhere i use when cooking anything that needs more than a burner... I have a large plastic water trough I keep chlorinated to use as a pool an cleanish water reservoir.... 600 gal I think. A dip it that anytime im feeling like I'm melting helps a lot... Soon as the summer solstice happens I start dreaming of fall....

Cockeyed Jo said...

Switchel sounds good.When I was in Bermuda, there was a drink in one of the bars called Swazzle. Similar to switchel except the 2 quarts of of water was half and half pineapple juice and water. They also added six shots of rum to the pitcher. The bar/restaurant was called the Swizzle Inn. Their catch phrase...You Swizzle Inn, You Swazzle out. You could replace your electrolytes and pitch a drunk too.

Rain said...

How neat! I never heard of Switchel, I think that's fabulous. Alex drinks Gatorade but we hate buying it because of the ingredients. It does a good job rehydrating him though. I can't drink it because it gives me heartburn. I know that feeling of getting tired of water. Sometimes I find it makes my throat dryer too. And funnily enough (or obviously enough in my case lol) I crave WINE during the afternoon!! White wine spritzers actually. I try to control myself a little because the alcohol does dehydrate, but I mix it half and half with cold water and ice cubes and I can sip on that before dinner.

Nancy In Boise said...

I grew up in Southern California with no air conditioning at all. Lived in Portland Oregon for a long time and never had t there either. We moved to Boise with its dry heat, but hot temperatures going to the hundreds during the summer. We have AC and yes we use it, but also installed ceiling fans in all rooms, and use a tower fan to help cool off the kitchen. I bought insulated curtains for all rooms and our huge maple tree helps a lot! I use the floor fan mode on the AC to circulate air, which helps. We have a programmed thermostat that keeps it off while we're gone. Set for 80 degrees. We use it, but also use other means. Came with house, but dry heat is much more bearable! I could never live in high humidity after this. We haven't hit 100 yet, not really hot yet...

Leigh said...

Annie, there's a lot to be said for the way a house is built, especially the quality of the materials. It sounds like you've worked out a good way to deal with the heat. I love your idea of a small pool for cooling off. As soon as the temp reaches 80° for the first time I'm dreaming of fall, lol.

Jo, pineapple juice sounds really good. Fresh would be best, I'm sure. But the rum - I'd be looped! Probably wouldn't care how hot it was, lol.

Rain, try the switchel! Interesting about your craving for wine. Are wine spritzers carbonated? That's true about the alcohol, though, and why it isn't the best choice for rehydrating.

Nancy, humidity makes a huge difference. Although at 100° it's hot no matter how dry it is! Sounds like you've come up with good solutions to stay comfortable in the summer.

Rain said...

Leigh, usually a spritzer is white wine and carbonated soda...but I use regular water and it's very refreshing! But yeah, dehydrating!

wyomingheart said...

Thanks for the Switchel recipe ! I really need the electrolytes this time of year, because I spend most of my day outside. I have been using Propel water, but like Rain, I find I do get heartburn some days. I will definitely be making some of your recipe! I never knew we could have a replacement drink that we could make ourselves. We have ac, but it is set at 80 degrees, just to pull the humidity out of the air. We run the dehumidifiers in the basement year round, but it does not collect the moisture on the first or second floor. The temps have been going down to the 60s at night, which is a savings for sure! Great post today, Leigh!

wyomingheart said...

Let me add here that I had my first cup of switchel, and its a hit! Thanks again!

Leigh said...

Rain, back to carbonation again. Sometimes I think it's just the need for a change-up when drinking lots of water.

Wyomingheart, huzzah! It's wonderful to keep on hand because it tastes good and is good for you. Dan and I both feel better at the end of a long hot day if we drink switchel as opposed to only water.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I have to confess to getting overwhelmed drinking enough water sometimes. I like the carbonated version as well - more for a switch up than anything else, I suppose.

Michelle said...

I feel like I am a unicorn here. We have the most wonderful, sweet well water that I rarely tire of, and I dislike carbonation!

Leigh said...

TB, I think switch up has a lot to do with it. Maybe that's why the carbonated flavored waters are so popular.

Michelle, then you are most fortunate! We have terrible water. It's city water and the chlorine is so strong it almost makes me gag sometimes. We have a Berkey filter which helps. But it's still terrible water.

Henny Penny said...

Can you believe this heat and humidity! I am seriously worried about doing the event at Duke Homestead this Saturday with the heat index at 113 to 115. Wish they would cancel the whole thing. Just yesterday I googled how to make a drink using apple cider vinegar and honey and didn't find much of anything. Your recipe sounds good. I have been mixing the Bragg apple cider vinegar with local honey in a glass of cold water. My granddaughter was on a swim team in high school and she made some type drink like yours. I'll have to ask her about it. Thank you Leigh. "Fall" sounds good about now, doesn't it?

M.K. said...

I'e been gone from our home on the NC coast for 3 weeks, but heat indexes over there have been up to 109, just horrific. I was in Mississippi, where it wasn't nearly so bad. It's a rough summer thus far. We also have severe drought, and our garden is simply toast - done for the summer :( I'm hoping my herb beds survived my absence!
AC is a curse in many ways. When we were kids, we played outside and it didn't seem so awful, but that's because (as you say) there wasn't that shock to the system between inside and outside. Now the outside feels much worse b/c we're sitting in rooms at 68 or 70 degrees.

deb harvey said...

janice military man stationed in hawaii told me put a small lamp with a 15 watt bulb in every closet, door cocked open and it reduces humidity in closet and keeps mold away.
use regular bulb not the new kind

Quinn said...

Leigh, we are having exactly the same weather conditions here but with thunderstorms added. Unfortunately they do not "clear the air" they just turn the vegetation into a steamy jungle and the paddocks into a mucky mess. The bugs are so bad some of the goats are trying to stay in the barn all the time, which is unusual for my gang.
I had switchel years ago but it was made with molasses. I can imagine honey or maple syrup would be a lighter, more refreshing flavor. Can't say I ever crave bubbles in my beverages, but I do like a bit of flavor - not necessarily sweetness. I always have a water bottle at hand, and it's usually 70-90% water and the rest a splash of juice or herbal tea, or - a recent favorite - bitters.

Leigh said...

Henny, those temps will be difficult for folks not used to them, especially out in the sun. I have no idea what our heat index is, but it's probably close to that. The switchel helps. Actually, so would the vinegar and honey in water. You're almost there except for the ginger and a little salt!

M.K., yes, comfort has a lot to do with what one is used to! Even so, this isn't as bad as the summer of 2016. We were up around 100 every day and no rain for months. Mid-90s is better than that!

Deb, good to hear from you. Thanks for the tip! 15 watts wouldn't put out much heat, but I can't recall the last time I saw a regular light bulb. Do they still make them anymore?

Quinn, your poor goats. Really makes for some tough summer days. I think the ginger water recipe in Little House on the Prairie had molasses in it instead of homey. That would be a nice change of pace.

Chris said...

I suspect, the carbonated bubbles, give a slight air conditioning effect, as it goes to your mouth. I love that about drinking C02, lol. Any home-made substitute, which can avoid chemicals in store bought soda though, is a good thing.

Which is why I've taken to second-ferment, Kombucha. It's made with lemon rind and ginger too, which is also very refreshing on a hot day. It's naturally carbonated, and the bubbles are extremely refreshing. I will share it on my blog, as I haven't seen it made, the way I make it (on the second ferment). With all things bacterial however, I like to experiment for a while, before sharing. Just to get consistency.

Just over a month though, before Autumn. Hopefully the heat will have turned down by then, and you can harvest all those squash and sweet-potatoes, in slightly cooler weather.

Leigh said...

Chris, I would love it if you shared about making second-ferment Kombucha. I've only heard good things about Kombucha, but have yet to try it. Naturally carbonated drinks interest me, but I've yet to tackle the learning curve! I really need to!

I always hope for cooler temps in September. Sometimes they come earlier, sometimes later, but I'm always ready for them. :)