5 Ways To Keep Cool While Doing Farm Work

A little sweat never hurts—but there’s no need to suffer in summer’s sweltering heat.

by Frank Hyman
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

I remember a time when I can truthfully say I enjoyed sweating. But as I’ve acquired an appreciation for comfort, working during the sweaty season has lost a tiny bit of its appeal. I still enjoy the sensation of being a part of nature that I get from outdoor work, but being a practical guy, I’ve also adopted a few techniques and tools to get me through summer with a bit more comfort.

1. Install A Fan

Working from the outside-in, I’ve laid out some hefty cash for a very big fan. It has a 24-inch diameter, a handle, a long cord, an adjustable stand and two settings: either low-speed and loud, or hurricane-speed and loud. It’s especially helpful when I’m working in one spot: doing carpentry, transplanting crops, etc. It makes a sunny, hot, early summer day feel like a sunny, cool, late spring day. I have it running even when I’m moving around doing some planting, pruning or weeding. When I need a break, I plop myself in front of this air blaster.

2. Wear A Hat

I’ve also adopted the headgear of the universal peasant: a wide-brimmed straw hat. A wide brim not only protects your face and neck, but it also keeps the sun off of most of your shoulders. Search out a hat with as wide a brim as you can find. If I’m driving around, I loop the neck strap over the headrest of the passenger seat with the hat hanging behind the seat; it’s out of the way but still easily accessible.

Keep your hat dry, but don’t let it get too dry: That’s when the fibers start cracking and breaking apart. Once a year, wear it out in the weather as a rain hat or push it underwater in the horse trough for just a few seconds, and then let it dry out slowly in some shade. The fibers need a very small percentage of moisture to stay limber, and without it, they become too dry to be flexible and start breaking apart.

At the other end, I wear muck boots. Black ones get hot in summer, so I buy the white boots that shrimpers and other professional fisherman wear to help stay cool.

3. Change Your Wardrobe

Generally, I’m not a fan of moisture-wicking clothes, but I’ve been making good use of CoolMax brand T-shirts and boxers. They don’t get soggy and clingy like cotton, and they help your sweat to evaporate the way it should to cool you down. Their one downside is that they can retain some body odors, but I’ve found a solution to that: When I run them through a load of wash, I add a quarter-­cup of antibacterial hand soap to kill the stinky bacteria. It works, and because that’s my only use for that kind of soap, a refill bottle lasts a long time.

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4. Get Good Gloves

Our bodies get rid of heat through our extremities, so wearing gloves can leave you feeling hot, but the concrete-supply house and an old-fashioned hardware store in my community sell of cotton gloves with a waterproof layer on the palm. They’re $30 for a pack of 10 pairs or $3 per pair—cheap. They allow me to handle wet or rough material with the palm and fingers of my hand protected, but the back of my hand and fingers can breathe through the cotton to keep me from overheating.

5. Keep Water Close By

Of course, staying hydrated is important, so I keep a non-BPA water bottle handy. I put a carabiner through the loop for the cap, which lets me clip the bottle onto a belt loop to keep it handy.

But have you ever noticed that you can drink plenty of water on a hot day and still feel very fatigued by day’s end? That’s because you haven’t replaced the salts you’ve sweated out. I’ve never cottoned to the flavor of Gatorade; I think they add lots of unnecessary sugar to simply obscure the salt. Yuck. I counter my loss of salt by starting my day with a can of V8. I like the flavor of the vegetables, and the big shot of salt—which would be too strong under other circumstances—carries me through the day. There’s a real difference between the way I feel after a sweaty day with or without a V8. I buy it by the case as soon as the weather warms up.

Then at the end of a hot day, I break out a beer. But only to apply the ice cold can to my forehead and the back of my neck

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