The summer heat has finally found us here in the Central Valley. But before you retire to sitting in front of the a/c with a glass of iced tea for the next two months know you can put the summer heat to work for you.
There are a variety of activities that are improved by our dry heat. We’ll review some of them.
Sun drying foods
You may have heard the phrase “it’s like an oven out here” sometime during the summer. When temperatures reach triple digits the reality is, it is like an oven. So why not use this outside oven to do a little “baking?” From tomatoes to raisins, sun dying is relatively easy, especially on triple-digit days. You can buy a sun drying food rack/dehydrator or you can make your own (most likely the cheaper option). We made our own last year using a standard baking pan and a picnic food netting mini-umbrella (keeps the bugs out) and were able to make great sun-dried tomatoes out of our Romas. Bring the pan or dryer in at night to lessen the risk of spoilage. You can also dry inside either in a window or in a warm, dry room. Drying herbs is great in laundry rooms or garages. Lay them out on a tray or hang them.
Conventional weed killers work better when it’s hot, as do natural killers. Here’s a recipe we’ve used on extra hot days using a standard weed spraying container you’d use for the conventional stuff (don’t reuse one that conventional herbicides were in): one gallon white vinegar, 2 cups lemon juice, 2 TBSPs of liquid castile soap (try Dr. Bonners) and 1/3 cup salt. Leave out the salt if you plan to plant anything there for awhile. Spray at the roots of the weed(s). While it’s a bit stinky for a little while (the vinegar is to blame), it works well and you don’t have to worry about using it around kids or pets. It will kill most weeds, but some like crabgrass may need more than one application. Again triple-digit days are best for this. Spray in the morning and then get out of the heat.
You can compost year round, but the summer heat speeds up the process. Keep your pile damp, like a moist sponge and turn it regularly. You might even see steam rising from it, that’s okay. If it gets hot enough, it will kill pathogens and weed seeds. You’ll have “black-gold” before you know it.
You can buy a fancy-dancy solar cooker for around $250. Some people make their own, which is probably what we’ll end up doing cause we’re cheap (at least I’m honest about it). Solar cookers utilize sunlight or the heat, trap it and use it to slow cook food. Solar box cookers can get above 300º F. Not bad for a box lined with newspapers, topped with tempered glass. Research solar cookers and you’ll be amazed what these little babies can cook up.
Everyone knows that before dryers, the sun did all the work of drying clothes. If you’re looking to lower a portion of your gas or electric bill sun drying is a great idea especially for bulky cottons and whites. You can wash and dry a giant load of towels easily this way. If they are a bit stiff throw them in the dryer for about 10 minutes and they’ll find their fluffiness. For whites, sun-drying is perfect because the sun does its own bleaching action as whites hang on the line.
So there you have it, the summer heat isn’t so bad (kind of). If you have large solar panels then you’ll probably be one of the few people who won’t cry when they get their utility bill in August. But for those that don’t there are still plenty of things to do to utilize the summer heat. Put summer to work!