As I sit down to write this blog post the temperature gauge is reading 40.3C outside, and we have yet to reach the hottest point of the day. In the last week we've had a run of particularly hot weather, and the temperature has already exceeded 40C at least twice in the last couple of days. We barely know what to do with ourselves. From about 10am every day the house is plunged into darkness as we go around closing all the windows, the shutters, and doors to keep both the sunshine and the hot air out, and it stays like that until about 8pm when the evening air just starts to cool down slightly and we rush around the house throwing open all windows and doors to capitalise on the temperature differential. So, for the best part of 10 hours each day we've been hiding indoors in what feels like a cave through lack of natural daylight - yet it isn't anywhere near as cool as a cave should be or would be!
Of course, looking around at the rest of the world we know we are not alone in this extreme heat, and in fact we realise we should be grateful that the mercury has "only" hit 40C. This week in Sicily the temperature reached a record (for Europe) 48.8C. I simply cannot imagine how uncomfortable that must feel - even earlier this week when we took a trip into Pescia for some shopping it almost felt as if my eyeballs were burning. Thankfully, here in our area we have not been affected by forest fires this summer (so far at least - and long may it continue that way), whereas so many other places around the world have not been so fortunate.
So it's a Saturday afternoon and we are stuck indoors - having spent Saturday morning driving around in the car with the air conditioning on (not something we usually treat ourselves to - usually having the windows open in the car suffices, but today we gave up on that after 10 hot and sweaty minutes and resorted to the A/C - that is with the exception of when we came to one particularly steep hill at which point we had to turn the A/C off in order to give the struggling car a fighting chance to make it to the top of the hill!). Our mission this morning was to try to find a small fan (mission accomplished, and in a blissfully air-conditioned electricals shop to boot) so that this afternoon, Stuart can attempt to make a DIY swamp cooler.
Last week Stuart successfully made a DIY air con unit that runs by blowing air over a block of ice inside a coolbox; this weekend it is the turn of a swamp cooler, which uses water evaporation to cool the air, rather than needing to rely on blocks of ice (which only remain blocks of ice for a limited period). Here's the theory: https://enviroinc.com/diy-swamp-cooler/.
And here's how the coolbox air con unit was made:
|One cool box.|
|Hole cut in the lid for the fan.|
|And a hole cut in the lid for the pipe outlet.|
|Fan and pipe inserted|
|Ice added to the cool box.|
We are thankful that, while the temperature has been high for many weeks now, it is only really the last week that has been a really significant struggle to cope with. Up until this week we had been managing to keep the house at a reasonably comfortable temperature, and although outdoor temperatures have regularly hit the mid 30s they haven't (until now) been so extreme that we haven't been able to do anything. Having said that, the mid to high 30s is still pretty hot and our work rate always slows significantly in these hot summer months; in part due to a higher work load for me in the office, in part due to the weather not being conducive to physical work, and in part due to there being fewer necessary tasks to get done. The main jobs that still need doing are the cutting of the grass on the terraces and getting the winter firewood ready and under cover.
|Your guess is as good as mine. Good job the experts know what they are looking at.|
|Back in the game!!|
|Pretty in pink centaury.|
|Lilium bulbiferum var croceum (Orange lily) - it's six years since we last saw one here.|
|Nature creates such beautiful colour combinations - centaury, sheep's bit scabious, st John's wort and more.|
|The morning sun gives everything a beautiful summery meadowy feel.|
|Sheep's bit scabious.|
This month (last week, in fact) we finished the other big job of the summer, that of moving all the winter firewood down from the storage area by the gate to the winter woodpile near the house. We had delayed bringing it down this year because we are still hosting 36 bee hives on the small flat piece of land next to the gate. Usually the beekeeper brings them here in the spring and leaves them for roughly 3-6 weeks, purely for the flowering season of the acacia (robinia) trees. This year, the acacia flowering season (and thus the acacia honey season) was disastrous. No sooner had all the flowers opened than we had a period of very wet, very windy weather and all the blossoms were knocked off the trees. It was so bad, that local beekeepers have not been able to produce any of the highly prized acacia honey this year.
|(The dog is not not an essential part of the process or recipe).|
|Yet another stinkhorn fungus (and yes, they do stink).|
|Aesculapian snake, constricting a mole.|
|Lesser stag beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus).|
|Male broad bodied chaser (Libellula depressa).|
|A type of bee-fly (Exoprosopa).|
|Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi),|
|Peacock fly (Callopistromyia annulipes).|
|Normal service resumed.|
|And not forgetting our boy.|