We have been camping, and swimming (lots of swimming!), and playing cricket, and frisbee, and having water pistol and water balloon fights. We've been bike riding, and scooter riding, and kite flying, and going to the beach, and sand castle making, and kayaking, and searching for fresh water mussels in the river. We have been to wineries, and breweries, and distilleries, and ice-creameries. We've been through a giant maze, and four wheel driving through a giant forest. We have been spending time with lovely friends, and lovely family, from near and far. Nath and I went to see Katie Noonan, Mia Dyson and Wendy Matthews, playing an intimate acoustic gig at my favourite hotel in the Hills. Miya learned to swim in the river near where we were camping, and now she is like a little fish, so full of confidence. A very happy sight, from my girl who screamed whenever we took her close to water when she was younger. She was the oldest of the eleven children we were camping with, and took to the role of pack leader with reckless abandon. Our little tribe of barefoot, grubby little campers became independent explorers and friend-makers, and were right at home among the tents and caravans.
What a lovely holiday.
Too soon, though, it is over, and we are back amidst washing and work and weekly routines. It was very hard to drop Nath at work this morning. I told him it felt like he was a book I had borrowed from the library, and now had to return. Like he doesn't fully belong to us anymore.
Nevertheless, this is where we are at and our days are largely about coping with the heat right now. While the news stories focus on heatwaves happening right across the Eastern Seaboard, our little town in the West quietly goes about it's business of enduring strings of days of 40-degrees-plus. Tomorrow, it is expected to be 45 degrees with a possible thunderstorm (which usually means no rain but bloody muggy!) and as I type at 7pm it is still 37 degrees.
Despite the heat, we have managed to avoid using the air conditioner (apart from a very short spell one afternoon, when Nath's brother and his wife were staying with us from the UK. Nath's brother was unwell for a day or so and definitely needed some cool air! They coped extraordinarily well for the rest of the time!), and we even handled the weather okay whilst camping when nearly every day was above 40. We are acclimatising to the heat again, this being the first year we have chosen not to use air-conditioning, and are finding other ways of 'keeping our cool'.
We get up early to do the things that it is just too hot to do later in the day, such as hanging washing, feeding and watering the chooks, or going for a run. We use the ceiling and pedestal fans and have the windows and doors open in the evening, overnight, and in the early morning, shutting the house up and drawing blinds and curtains at about 9am. We then try to do very little in the heat of the day, to keep as cool as possible. We drink loads of water and have a thirty second cold shower if we need it. That's usually enough to manage the heat. In the evenings, we put the kids to bed, then utilise the rest of the light to do some more of the labour-intensive or 'hot' work, like cooking or gardening.
It has been surprisingly easy to get used to. In some ways, it is almost easier than having the air-con running all day, because it can be hard to acclimatise to the outdoor heat when your house is a constant 18 degrees. I often wonder at people who have their house so cool, that they need to wear warmer clothing! Some days are harder than others (I don't cope as well with the humid weather) but none have been unendurable.
We have chosen to do this for frugality and environmental responsibility, but I definitely do not think this is the right thing for everyone. We are young and fit and healthy, and used to the warmer climate, and are able to keep hydrated. People who are elderly, or unwell, or not in good physical health or families with very young babies should definitely use the air conditioner in extreme heat. Hot weather can be dangerous for some.
So, how do you keep your cool?