Keep your cool: How are you getting work done in extreme heat?

As someone who has already managed a mild heat stroke this summer, let me say this: it happens fast and can have dire consequences.

Canada Day here in the Ottawa area pushed the thermometer to 47 degrees C with the humidex. Because we have livestock, some things still have to be done every day, and I was the lucky one who moved fences that mid-morning at the solar site we graze at. Within an hour, I was nauseous, disoriented, shaking, and my head started to pound. I knew I had to get out of the sun and heat and home, and I managed to do so with only a fender on my van getting hurt (in my fuzzy-headedness, I mis-judged a turn. No one got hurt, but my ego is a little bruised.)

My partner had the dunk tank ready for me (we’re sheep farmers, so no pool here, but an old washtub fits three kids quite well, FYI) and some cold water in the shade brought me ’round in no time. I was lucky — this 8-day heat wave in eastern Ontario and Western Quebec has claimed more than 18 lives, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Farmers are masters of ingenuity, so washtub pools aside, I thought I’d ask the RealAgriculture community for your best tips on staying cool. Below is what I’ve got started. Send your suggestions to [email protected], or tweet us @RealAgriculture.

  1. Stay hydrated: drink, drink, drink, but not alcohol (no, not even light beer — it’s not actually water).
  2. Move chores and jobs to morning and evening — try, as best you can, to move what work has to be done outside of the hottest parts of the day. You might save some rubber on the old tractor and bale wagon tires, too.
  3. Misting systems, even temporary rudimentary ones, work well for both livestock and farmers. Extra water troughs for laying in or dunking your head in also work. Farm dogs would thank you, I’m sure, if they had language. Consider their undying devotion and loyalty the thank you.
  4. Soak a cloth for the back of your neck, or use an ice pack on your head if you get too warm. Shower off frequently. Water is your friend.
  5. Hats, umbrellas/shade devices, and sunscreen are non-negotiable. Lobsters are for eating, not being. Protect your skin, please.
  6. Move that air: any fans for livestock and farmers, however small, can help keep a breeze going. Combined with water, a little breeze can mean major cooling.
  7. Plan to find A/C: whether it’s a not-really-necessary shopping trip to town or a neighbour’s, take the time to get into some cooler space during the hottest part of the day
 

Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.

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