Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot….

Hi! Remember me?

Between that fabulous Extra-Long Weekend and the heat-wave with which we’ve been blessed, I just never got around to the blog.

I get really excited about hot, hot weather, much to the chagrin of a lot of people around here. It’s been around 34 degrees Celsius or 94 Fahrenheit with 85- 95% humidity which brings the temperatures close to 40 (over 100 in American).

And it’s sunny, sunny, sunny.

When I was a kid, back on the farm, I used to hate this weather so much it would make me cry. Picking cloyingly sticky sour cherries in this weather was an unbearable torture – a thick harness with a basket heavy with fruit strapped to my front; perched on a ladder; my head deep in the branches of the tree; juice of the cherries running down my arms/in my hair mingling with sweat; every bug, twig, leaf, molecule of dirt sticking to me; climbing up and down the ladder, reaching, bending, stretching.

Picking peaches in this weather was, arguably, even worse – with the peach fuzz clinging to every inch of naked flesh and embedding itself deep into every fibre of my clothing. I would itch. Itch and sweat. Sweat and itch. It was enough to drive a person mad.

And at the end of the day, no matter how thoroughly I washed I would still feel sticky or itchy or both. And when I closed my eyes at night, sweltering in my room, high up on the 3rd floor of our old, un-airconditioned farmhouse – I would not see blessed darkness. I would only see cherries or peaches dancing tauntingly before me. Pick me! Pick me!

I would have prayed for rain, but rain brings no relief to a Niagara summer. We couldn’t pick in the rain, but we could do the canning. So instead of being in the blistering outdoors, we would spend the day in an even hotter kitchen – peeling, pitting, sugaring, bottling and boiling vats and vats of Mason jars filled with fruit.

We had a little pool in the yard that we had to fill from the well at the top of the hill in the cherry orchard. We couldn’t use the water from the well that supplied the house because it had a limited capacity and depended on rain to keep it filled. So we’d take our buckets to the well at the top of the hill and pump and pump and pump. And carry our buckets back down the hill and slowly – ever-so-slowly fill that pool. We filled that pool with water that came from so far underground that it was only a few degrees from freezing.

So, of course we couldn’t use the pool until the water had warmed up in the sun for a few days. And then we could use it for a couple of days before the water became stagnant and then we had to empty the pool and clean the pool and start over.

I guess it must have been worth it, because we kept doing it.

But summer wasn’t all bad. There were always lots of people around – fruit pickers of all ages, sizes and description. That was fun. You never knew who was going to turn up from one day to the next. A few came back every day and even year after year. Most would just arrive early in the morning, seemingly out of the blue.

Some were crazy; some were lazy; some were fun; some were mysterious; some were handsome; some were hideous. The orchards would be full of these strangers working silently, quickly since they got paid by piece-work. But during lunch breaks they’d all gather in the yard at the picnic tables or under some trees and chat or argue; tell jokes; flirt, tease and share food and drinks. Some would even have instruments and play a little music or sing as they relaxed before heading back to the orchards.

And sometimes, when there was a lot of fruit ripe at once, they’d stay and pick until dark and then my dad would lay on bit of a barbeque for them for being good enough to work such a long day. And then there’d be a party – with an assorted and motley collection of strangers.

Anyway, over the years I came to mind the heat less and less. When I left Niagara to move to Halifax it had been around 40 degrees for a couple of months already. When I got to Halifax, they were also experiencing a “heat wave” too. It was 24 and they were dropping in the streets from heat exhaustion. So for 9 years, I lived with summers that never got above 24 or 25 (75 American). And that was only for a few days each summer. And only between about 11:00 am and 3:00 pm when it would cool off again. And there was always – always – a stiff breeze off the ocean. And I found myself missing the heat, more and more each year.

So, I’m back in it now and I plan to revel in each and every moment of it. I hope your summer is being nice and summery, too!

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32 responses to “Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot….

  1. I lived in Welland from 1965-66, St. Catharines from 1966-1970 (although I don’t remember much from those pre-1970 days), 1972-1979, and 1981-1983. I remember Niagara summers well.

    I seldom picked peaches though. There were a lot of wild raspberries near my house in the 70’s, so most of my fruit-picking time was spent there.

    In the gaps, I lived in southwestern British Columbia, where it was nice and pleasant all summer, much like on the east coast… Of course, it was nice all winter too, albeit rather wet. Despite living here in Ottawa since 1988, I’ve never really grown used to the hot sticky summers, and the obscenely long winters. I like the autumn here though, it’s pretty and pleasant.

  2. I love the heat but sleeping and commuting in it suck the big one!

    Why did they pay all that money for the call system instead of ensuring each bus is air conditioned? 😛

  3. It’s been above 90 F for the past few weeks here. The lows dip into the low 70’s and the humidity makes the air almost solid with moisture, which is good because it hasn’t rained in over a month.

  4. I never had the experience for fruit picking here in Niagara as we are from a grape growing background. But summers hoeing and weeding and doing all the stuff that has to be done in the vineyards in this weather is just horrific. I remember once driving a tractor through the vineyard and it was so hot…. the sweat was running off every part of my body and the tractor was built in such a way that a parasol wasn’t an option. One of the employees was tucking vine shoots and as I drove by I noticed that she was topless and her boobs were glistening with sweat…. a single drop was hanging from the tip of ……

    Here’s a musical inter-lewd about migrant workers from he 1920’s. Remember that this was around the start of the dust bowl…..

  5. god i love it too. i love walking out the door and feeling the heat hit me.
    i liken your cherry picking hell to govt office excessive air conditioning hell – it makes me want to cry.

  6. @lebanowski1728, lol.

    @XUP This post brought back memories. Ohhh, I love the heat. Just like you’ve described. As a kid, of course doing chores is not the ideal way to be in the heat though — sticky and itchy and heat is a rotten combination.

    I recall haying season; the sweet smell of the freshly cut hay, tossing it with a pitchfork onto the wagon, piling it high (just like Little House on the Prairie), until we got a baler. At the end of the day our arms and legs ached, we itched from chaff and sweat, had scratches, bruises and sunburns. Still, I remember it fondly.

    I’m jealous of your heat and your thunderstorms. We’re lucky to have a couple of days above 24 and at the faint rumble of thunder I charge to the window to see what *might* be in store. I miss that about northern Ontario.

  7. An hour from Halifax here in the Annapolis Valley (land of orchards and tides – we must have the same climate as Niagara) the days are hot and humid too. But here in the Gaspereau Valley the neatest thing happens – a deep little valley – the sun starts to set, and the Valley becomes a wind tunnel and it literally blows out all the day’s heat so the night time is cool enough to bring up goosebumps.

    As soon as the sun starts to rise the heat is back.

    I’m building a summer kitchen to keep the heat of canning out of the house. There’s a wonderful satisfaction in seeing all those jars lined up, but I’m not attached nostalgically or otherwise to the sweat and juice stinging my eyes and all those little cuts you get around your finger nails!

  8. This is getting silly, XUP…. I wrote a summer-related post today as well… though with my usual political slant…

    My favourite part of summer as a kid was my annual week-long visit with my Grandma in Mississauga.

    The big family pool and tennis court nestled in the middle of the apple orchard. The rickety change room ripe with the smell of chlorline and wet bathing suits… I can still remember that smell.

    Now my Grandma is gone. As is the orchard, pool and tennis court… but not forgotten. Good times, man. Good times.

  9. Squid – Yes, those Niagara summers sure are memorable. With the lake on one side and the escarpment on the other, the heat is nice and concentrated and has nowhere to go.

    Pauline – A good fan, some dark curtains and a cool shower before bed will make for a comfortable sleep no matter how hot it gets. Also, not sleeping with another body next to you helps.

    Dr. Monkey – I don’t understand it, but the humidity seems to dry things out rather than moisturize them. I’m out for 10 minutes in this weather and need a gallon of water. We’ve had this 90% humidity for days and everything looks dry and crisp.

    Lebanowski – Oh ya, driving a tractor in the heat is real tough. It’s no fun, for sure, but it beats picking sour cherries or peaches all to heck.

    Meanie – I know! I went out at lunchtime today and when I came back in and ran smack into the wall of cold I actually felt a little woozy for a while. We need a decompression chamber or something to hang out in before going out or in.

    Davina – Niagara has the best thunderstorms – loud and long and wicked. I haven’t experienced anything quite like that in Ottawa. They’ve had a couple, but they’re nothing like the ones in southern Ontario. The east coast never gets thunderstorms either. Something about the ocean, I think dissipates the electricity.

    Mudmama – Oh ya, the little cuts… you guys are close to the Bay of Fundy, aren’t you? Doesn’t that serve to cool things down a bit? Niagara it stays hot all night long. No wind tunnel.

    Marsjoh – Perhaps we should coordinate the blogs from now on?

  10. I’m melting in the heat, though right now am enjoying some a/c and wi-fi at Starbucks. In any case the room I am staying at has no a/c, no fan, and effectively no window – it’s bloody sauna in there and I’m not happy with it, though I’m liking everything else about Ottawa.

  11. Sean – Do you want to move? That’s ridiculous. Send me an email, perhaps we can find an alternative.

  12. I don’t mind the heat – it’s the humidity I can’t take. I used to go every summer to Niagara with my parents for peaches, plums, grapes etc. I can relate to the canning/preserving but had no idea the work that was involved in picking the fruit. How awful! The heat never bothered me that much as a child. Now that I’m an adult I cannot take it. The climate in Halifax sounds more to my liking.

  13. I’m loving the heat. Absolutely revelling in it. Yes I am hot and sweaty but since I hate the cold I’m thrilled to have heat in whatever form.

    Like you a fan and a cool shower keep me happy. Oh, and a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc on the balcony.

    I am a happy little froggy.

  14. who are all these people who are loving this heat? it’s 44 degrees with the humides at the moment. that’s 111 degrees faranheit people!! how the heck am i supposed to ride home without dropping of heat stroke in this heat? only to go home to a house that is 35 degrees and no breeze or ac. ugh. love summer, hate humidity.

    xup, the non-picking parts of the farm work sounded like fun. but the picking parts? i’m surprised you like this heat so much.

  15. I was born in California. I lived in Vegas, Idaho, Denver, and Albuquerque. We had the dry heat. And guess what else we had. Water!!! Blessed WATER!!! When I was ten, I moved to illinois, and got my first taste of humidity! Let me tell ya. Not pretty. I also lived in Missouri for a good part of my teen years, and again, not pretty. I had to stay in doors just to breathe. If I wanted to be in a sana, I’d join a gym, and go sit in one all day. Also, with this humidity? No water to speak of. That was unless you wanted to risk playing in the Mississippi river or something nice like that.
    I prefer the dry heat, but since I have to deal with this humidity, There’s got to be some kind of body of water. But since there’s not, I got a brand new AC installed in my apartment, and it’s getting a major work out this week. It’s either that, or go hang out at the beach where everything and it’s brother’s waste has been dumped in the water. Yay!!!

  16. Coming from Malaysia, which is almost always about 32 celsius and high humidity, I like the cold. Although having survived a few Ottawa winters, I remember looking forward to the heat too. You would like Malaysian temperatures.

  17. We are close to the Fundy tides but where we are is a protected micro climate (hence the wineries). The Wolfville Ridge and the South Mountain cradle us and protect us from winds off the basin. The basin is strange though depending on how deep it is it can be really still and wind free (like Kingsport – land of noseeums and sucking mud)

  18. All things considered, I must say I prefer the heat for various reasons.

    (Probably the biggest one is that the “heat” doesn’t require us to dump large quantities of corrosive salt on the roadways that ends up destroying our vehicles, tracking into our homes and damaging the flooring, polluting our waterways etc. – oh, and I like the taste of cold beer better than hot chocolate.)

    A colleague of mine summed it up like this, he said it was the wide swing in temperature in Canada that he finds harsh. He hails from what used to be called Madras, India – he was telling me that temperatures there would typically range from about 15-20 degrees C to maybe 40-45 degrees C, and in the Ottawa region, -30 to +30 (or lower, or higher) is common – very harsh swing over the course of a year.

    He said he preferred things where he used to live, and I would almost tend to agree with him…

  19. I’ve been in New York for the last week and it is totally sucking because of the horrible heat. It’s a big change to what it was when we left London, for sure, and I’ll be glad to be getting back there later this week. I’m not a fan of the heat but I’ve almost always lived in places with lots of it – Kansas, Illinois, Arizona, and Texas. Arizona was probably the best because the heat wasn’t accompanied by ridiculous humidity and bugs too.

    This post reminded me of a chapter or two from one of my favorite books, Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald, where she talks about working in an orchard picking fruit.

  20. Pingback: Schmaltz « XUP

  21. MM – Funny, I’m the other way around. It used to kill me as a kid and now I like it.

    Jazz – Me, too, Jazz. And the best news ever is that according to Food & Drink magazine, it’s okay to chill some red wines in the summer – Beaujolais or Pinot Noirs. Put them in the fridge for 90 minutes or the freezer for 30 minutes so they’re not as cold as whites, but nice and chilled for a hot summer day. Because I’d rather drink reds anyway, but they always seemed to heavy for summer – you’d be amazed what a difference a little chilling will make.

    Smothermother – I know! Fun eh? I find it fascinating that I can step outdoors and fluids will instantly begin flowing out of every pore. It’s like walking into a living thing.

    Violetsky – You shouldn’t be wearing so many clothes. Then you wouldn’t have so much lundry OR laundry. Also, you work in the night, don’t you? It’s still relatively cool then.

    Lebanowski – I WILL be listening to the vuvuselas this afternoon.

    JessicaM – Ya, you want to stay away from the beaches – unfortunately. So, I guess it’s true what they say about it not being the heat, but the humidity that kills ya, eh? I don’t think I’ve ever experienced dry heat. It always looks pretty awful in those desert movies though.

    LGS – I think one of our problems here is that this sort of weather hits us suddenly – last Wednesday was so cold I was in long pants, socks, shoes a t-shirt and a woolly sweater to go outside at high noon. Then BAM it’s 36 degrees. They say it takes a body 2 solid weeks of the same temperatures to get used to extremes like this. So, if we had 30+ temps all the time we’d know how to dress, how to eat and drink for the heat and how to behave. People around here think they can continue jogging at lunch and other stuff like that as if it were 25 degrees and then bad stuff happens and we all freak out.

    Mudmama – Very much like Niagara then.

    Brett – Yes, like I said to LGS, we get thrown for a loop when it gets this hot and we don’t know what to do. It takes a body a while to adjust and by the time we do, the temps have changed again. I don’t know if I would like this all the time, much as I’m enjoying it. Perhaps a bit of cooling off for a few months then a slow re-entry into the hotness would be perfect. No winter though.

    Kimberly – I’ll have to look that up. Did Betty have the same fruit picking experiences as I did?

  22. This is a great story.

    My grandmother and most of her siblings spent summers hoeing and picking cotton. All day in the miserable heat, straight out in the sun.

    One interesting part of this is that none of them have ever developed skin cancer. Lung cancers from smoking, yes. And they’re spotty & wrinkly from all that sun, but no cancers. Wonder why? Just genetics?

    In the part of Texas where I grew up there was a man who hated hoeing so much that he started a chain of burger joints called Ha-Ta-Hoe (hate to hoe) as an adult.

    I loved reading this, about this experience. I don’t care for the heat much, but it is far better than the bitter cold, that is for sure.

  23. Wendy – I think the sun was a lot different back in the day, too. Because of the hole in the ozone layer, the sun is a lot stronger and sending out more damaging UV rays than even 50 years ago.

  24. I’ve teased Xup just a little about her weird actually liking this heat thing on my own blog a time or two. And I still say anyone who actually enjoys the kind of hot we’re dealing with this week is seriously broken. Yeah, I’m still looking at you, Xup. 😉

  25. Kimberly – I’ll definitely have to read it then.

    James – Look all you want, dude! At least I’m not whining and grumbling and in a foul mood like a whole bunch of other people these days. Don’t worry, the hot will be over soon enough.

    Linda – The heat wave seems to be international. Crazy.

  26. 97 degrees and dying here. I’m thinking I’d like to know exactly where you lived before so I can move there. Everything sounds so pleasant and upbeat and cool.