Hung out to dry in the blink of an eye
No Getting Out Of This Kitchen
Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest, summers are usually temperate, thanks to cool nights that mitigate even the hottest days. Usually. This week, however, we’re experiencing what most of the country usually does; days of high heat with no cooling marine layer to buffer it. Nights are staying warm and there’s no promise of rain in sight. When I went out to water various gardens this morning, it was just as hot at 5 am as it had been at 10 pm. Soaking wet yarn I hung out was dry in 20 minutes. We just aren’t ready for this. Until recently, Seattle area houses famously lacked air conditioning and insulation, though that’s starting to change. My daughter and I are extremely grateful for our elderly heat pump, which is working hard day and night to keep the temperature livable in our elderly mobile home, which is basically an aluminum box. When we renovated, we replaced insulation in the roof and the crawl space, but there’s nothing in the sides but plywood, air and aluminum.
We can’t rebuild the walls, but there are things we can do: We hang wet towels everywhere to help cool things off. We drape wet bandanas around our necks or over our heads, where they dry out in a matter of minutes. We drink a lot of water. We nap. Plants need help too: I water the gardens early and late, spraying dust off foliage to help the leaves do their job. My huge fuchsia baskets get a gallon of water each morning and evening and an extra half gallon two or three times a day as well. That keeps them from collapsing, which helps nurture our resident hummingbirds, who buzz both the baskets and the shrubby fuchsias constantly all day long. Bird baths get cleaned every morning and topped off twice a day or more. I put rocks in each basin and it’s sweet to see the bees drinking eagerly as well as fluttering birds. Bees and other pollinators have breakfast in the pollinator patch by 5 am, and someone will feed eagerly on every blossom, whether it’s tiny hoverflies on oregano and thyme or big bumbles on foxgloves and lavender, or various bees on the various catmints. Variety is important, as is planting for long and overlapping seasons of bloom to keep our smaller neighbors nourished.
How We Can Help
Keeping the gardens alive and flourishing despite the heat is challenging and takes time and planning, but it’s something we can do. There are just so many things we can’t directly affect, at least not easily. Wildfire threats are mounting daily and I can’t stop thinking that severe climate change effects are already here, sooner than predicted, because we have not been willing to change our wasteful ways. What will it take? I suspect that in some ways, this dire heat wave will push us to become more willing to be aware of the effects of our actions. Most of us aren’t running huge multinational corporations and can’t change their policies individually but it’s been interesting to watch major companies change their ways because of public pressure and cultural shifts. Each of us is a part of that or can be, and it can be as simple as voting with your checkbook. It’s also still useful to make calls to elected officials and voice your views. The easiest way I know to do that is with 5 Calls, a nifty program that helps you choose your topic(s), offers scripts and bullet points, then directs you to your local, regional and state officials. You can make 5 calls while you drink your morning tea or coffee:
You’ve probably read a bunch of lists about ways to reduce our impact on the suffering planet, but here’s mine: Plant trees and take care of them afterwards. Heal the soil on your property and anywhere else you can. Protect birds and insects, including pollinators. Use water wisely. Eat more plant based foods and less meat (or none). Buy locally grown food. Grow some of your own. Drive less, walk more. Use LED bulbs. Unplug all devices and device chargers when not in use (keeping them plugged in uses a surprising amount of power). Change investments from extractive companies to green energy and building companies. The best way I’ve found to keep up with good intentions is to do any of them for a month, then add another one. A month later, add another. Go faster if you feel inspired, or slower if you need to, but don’t stop doing any of them.
Cool Food For Hot Days
Before the heat hit, I hard boiled beautiful eggs from our neighbor’s chickens so we don’t have to fire up the stovetop. I also made our favorite lovely melange of pesto and hummus. This version of the twin classics is light and fresh tasting because it doesn’t use oil or cheese, though you can certainly add either one if you like, or use almond or walnut butter instead of tahini or sunflower butter. Combining the nutritive value of hummus with the sheer delectability of pesto, this fragrant melange is perfect with raw vegetables, crackers, or toast and makes a lovely pita stuffing.
Fresher Basil Pesto Hummus
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or white beans
1-3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups basil leaves and stems, lightly packed
1-2 tablespoons tahini or sunflower butter
juice and grated rind of 1 organic lemon
Freshly ground pepper and/or hot smoked paprika
Grind chickpeas or beans with garlic, salt and basil to a thick slurry, adding water as needed. Add tahini or nut or seed butter and 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and grated rind. Adjust seasoning to taste (salt, tahini, pepper/paprika, lemon juice) and thin to desired consistency with water. Makes about 3 cups and keeps, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
Ann, I always enjoy reading your posts! I laughed out loud when reading your description of your AC and your vintage trailer. My husband wondered what I was laughing about so I read that portion of your post to him. He wondered (he’s a retired engineer) if you could drill holes in your wall and have insulation blown in. I thought I would mention it to you as this heat is something else.
Thanks, Sue, I thought of that too but apparently it’s not possible to blow insulation in, as there’s really no space for it; just plywood against aluminum cladding. Newer manufactured homes are made more like real houses and they are all insulated, but these charming old gals can only be updated so much. We did renew the insulation when the new roof was put on and when the crawl space was cleaned and sealed against rodents etc (with proper ventilation of course). Part of the issue is that mobile home lots are pretty small with a high ratio of impermeable and heat-reflective hard surface. My lot is of course packed with as many plants as possible which definitely helps.
Thanks so much for you’re valuable insight and humor 🌸
Fare well in this heatwave, dear Ann. That is some lovely yarn! As a fiber-arts enthusiast, I’ve done the sheep raising / spinning / dying thing some, and along with just about everyone else, (finally) started knitting to help calm and focus myself during the pandemic. Like gardening, it’s deliciously addictive. What is the name of that yummy blue yarn color? Thanks for all the inspiration over the years, and pointing the way to my horticultural profession. Why am I not surprised to see the yarn??
Thanks, Margot, Hmm, I guess we can call this color brilliant blue or whatever sounds most fun. And yes, I enjoy pretty much everything to do with fiber arts, from sheep to shawl, as they say. Natural dyes are always intriguing but in my experience, colors like this must be mixed from commercial dyes, which takes some experimenting (and that’s totally fun too). Knitting is one of my favorite self-soothing meditations; when times are tough, I find it especially soothing to think or even say out loud words like courage, kindness, wisdom, generosity, forgiveness, willingness, offering a thought or word for every stitch (more or less). Makes me calmer and imbues the knitted whatever with some grace as well (or so I like to think).
This sounds like a wonderful version of both hummus and pesto! Thank you so much. I draped remay over as much of my vegetable garden as I could, but we reached 120 degrees here in Rogue River, OR two days ago! I use the local irrigation water and it is reduced to a trickle, so I am running soaker hoses 24/7 to try to keep things watered, but at this point it is a matter of choosing the plants I want to save most and just trying to give everything enough to keep them alive. Roses and berries are scorched. My blackberries are drying up on the vine. It is really a very sad state of affairs. Thank you for your inspiring words and ideas. I hope this is a wakeup call to some people!
Oh Tamara, that sounds heartbreaking! I’m so sad for our beloved planet and hope indeed that this is a wake up call for all of us to change our thoughtless ways.