The Summertime Hues

The dog days of summer have come to the mountains … Come dip your toes in the river with the Mountain Farmgirl and share some secrets on how to keep your cool instead of getting all hot and bothered!

Good gracious it’s hot! The blistering heat has finally reached the mountaintops here in New Hampshire, if not all across the country. Fortunately, it doesn’t come here often, but then we’re not quite as adept at dealing with it up here ... though we’re trying our best to cope.  I guess you could say we’ve got the ‘Summertime Blues’, but that’s mostly an attitude- and perspective- type of thing, and I’m working on mine today as you’ll see in a minute. 

Believe it or not, up until about a week ago, some unseasonably crisp mountain air had many of us digging our down quilts out of summer storage (it actually dipped into the upper 30s one night). Being a ‘cold’ person most of the time, I barely have time to thaw out my fingers in-between the spring melt and winter’s first snowfall. (What’s that old saying … ‘Cold hands, warm heart’? Well that’s my rationalization for it, anyway!). 
Once or twice a year, though, I DO feel the heat badly enough to become uncomfortable. Today is definitely one of those days, so I know you’ll forgive me if we don’t fire up the kettle this time ‘round to chat over my favorite mug of tea. Today we’ll just pick some mint and sip the iced variety, with plenty of lemon and orange wedges – poured over a frosty mountain of sparkling ice! This year I planted some apple mint, ginger mint and orange and chocolate mints to add to my growing collection of this wonderful herb. (And grow it does!  As you probably know, if you plant mint in your garden, be sure to contain it or it will overrun everything else). Mint tea is so refreshing as an iced soother that you can drink it all day long and feel fresh as a daisy … well almost.  Care for a glass?  Mmmmm; now we’re talking!

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, these dog days of summer tend to markedly decrease our energy supply. They make us feel lazy and unproductive, but don’t let them fool you, they too have their place.  Aside from the necessary homestead chores and mothering activities, which are a given no matter what the temperature, when the mercury zooms to the triple digits like it is today, its perfectly okay for us to slow down to a snail’s pace, look after ourselves and just take it easy; everything has its season.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this because last time we discussed tips on how busy farmgirls (who wear many hats such as wife, mother, business owner, farmhand, etc.) ‘get it all done’. While that’s good stuff to know, it’s by no means the whole picture.  Just as important as accomplishing our lists of tasks, projects and responsibilities (and way harder!) is our willingness to learn how to slow down long enough to ‘smell the roses’ (though it applies equally to our other senses as well). During this very trying heat wave, I’ve tried to change the ‘summertime blues’ into something much more enjoyable, and have decided to notice the ‘summertime hues’ instead. 

The idea came to me as I took a stroll on our river walk yesterday morning. I wanted to pick some flowers from our gardens for the guestrooms at our lodge, and in the process I discovered that the columbines had suddenly come into bloom. This year, though, rather than the deep reds and purples I’ve come to expect, there were the most amazing pastel hues I’ve ever seen: combinations of pale yellow with cornflower blue; pink with indigo, lavender and crimson. While I’ve always loved these flowers, I somehow never took the time to notice how much like beautiful fairies they are, dancing in their multicolored splendor on the ends of gentle stalks. It may have been close to 100 degrees after breakfast, but these delicate creatures were happily ignoring the thermometer and gave me a precious gift, as if saying, ‘There’s more to this blessed day than oppressive heat; let’s celebrate!’ And fortunately for me, I listened!  I took my bouquet of flowers and cooled their stems in the river, while doing the same for myself! There I sat in the middle of the Ellis River, chin deep in water, chillin’ out for who knows how long! Believe me, I don’t do this often, but what a treat; we all owe ourselves such simple indulgences. (What … 'don’t have a river going through the backyard where you live?  No problem!  Last night before I went to bed, feeling wilted once again, I filled a large bowl with ice water, and  soaked my feet and later my wrists.  Works like a charm!).

Meanwhile, back to the river, I quieted myself down and started centering myself.  I first noticed that the ferns were swaying to an imperceptible breeze. Then I noticed just how many kinds of ferns there are along a riverbank or mountain stream. At first they’re just all ‘ferns’, but if you take the time to really look at them, you’ll see that some varieties are bold and leathery with large toothed leaves; others are delicate like the wisps of a feather, and still others look like palm fronds, almost tropical, with little bumps on their undersides. Just noticing these subtle differences had both a cooling and calming effect on me.  And while I was sitting there taking it all in and feeling my ‘hot and bothered’ state melt into the river, I remembered something really interesting from many years ago. My former 5th grade teacher (a marvelous woman/friend I still keep in close touch with) had once given my oldest child an ‘assignment’ when he was just a tiny little boy. We were all taking a walk in the woods, and she asked Chris to notice how many different hues of green he could discover before we returned. What a challenge!!  Our discoveries were nearly infinite as we counted mosses and lichens, new piney growth, duckweed on the pond, and on and on … Try it; you’ll be amazed! Sometimes just focusing on something unrelated to the problem at hand is all it takes to get some much needed relief.

So next time you feel hot and bothered because the dog days of summer have come, try to slow down and not feel guilty about it! Rest assured that cooler days are coming, and in the meantime, notice the gifts that surround us; they’re easy to access, they’re free, and changing our focus for even a tiny while really does help.  Busy women that we are, the hardest thing is often not 'how' to get it all done, but realizing that once in awhile, it's actually healthy just to do ‘nothing’!

“When we choose not to focus on what’s missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present … we experience heaven on earth.”
        -- Sara Ban Breathnach

I’d love to know some of the little things that you’ve learned over the years to help you all relax and keep from overheating and overloading. Isn’t is fun to make new friends and learn from one another? Until next time, stay cool my friends! I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Mountain Farmgirl Cathi Belcher














By: Marsha
On: 07/11/2010 07:45:12
It has been hot in WV also. I can handle the heat, but the humdity is the bad thing. I try to sit on my back deck every evening for at least 10 minutes (longer if I can) and look into the woods that complete my back yard. I watch for the does and their fawns. Now we are seeing the bucks with the velvet still on their antlers. The velvet looks pristine and magical. Each time I sit on my deck I have complete wonderment for the beauty God has created for us. I enjoy the scenery, the sounds, and the smells. Thank you Cathi for this wonderful blog. I enjoy reading it more than any other blog I have read in the past. Thank you!!!!
By: wendy
On: 07/11/2010 09:51:33
Hi. I found you through the magazine Mary Jane Farms.. which was introduced to my by someone else. Funny how these things happen....connections....
I have been transplanted from Salt Lake City to a quarter section ranch here with new hubby in Alberta, Canada.
I am learning how to become a country girl. So I enjoy reading about other ladies country life experiences as I reinvent myself.
thanks....and It would be lovely indeed to share a cup of that iced tea with you.
It has been on the chilly side here and I WANT some hot weather
By: suzy
On: 07/12/2010 07:09:55
Just looking at those beautiful cool-looking photos with your writing helped me cool off a little! In North Central Alabama right now the HUMIDITY is the key on whether or not we swelter or just simmer!!! But us Southern girls don't sweat....we GLOW!
By: Cyndi
On: 07/12/2010 07:19:59
I adore this blog post. All of it is im my dreams also for these hot summer days! I love the river too and walks by it.

I will join you for the tea invite! Thanks for sharing!
Smiles, Cyndi
By: Jo
On: 07/12/2010 07:35:52
On a very hot afternoon, if I am not in the pool, I love to relax in my pretty blue and white bedroom, air conditioning on, ready a good novel. The evenings will find me on the porch swing of my 120+ year old farmhouse. Mmmmmmmmmmmm......
By: Debbie
On: 07/12/2010 08:22:46
If I HAVE to be out when it's humid and hot, a bandana or cotton scarf dipped in cold water, wrung out, and drapped around my neck is very cooling. This and an open-weave cowgirl hat!
By: Jeannine
On: 07/12/2010 08:38:37
I love to take my knitting/embroidery to the back yard with a big glass of sweet tea. I live right on the edge of Lake Ontario and there is usually a little air moving somewhere and the shade is lovely. As you say, we need to remember to S-L-O-W down. ijs
By: Amy
On: 07/12/2010 08:46:40
I live in Virginia, and we have had the heat too! I went to the store and bought a blow up kiddie pool....We filled it up and my adult daughter and I put on our suits and got our iced teas and sunglasses and relaxed out there! The only thing missing was cup holders...ha ha
By: SuburbanFarmgirl
On: 07/12/2010 08:58:52
I am just going to close my eyes and WILL myself into that sunset foto all day long...thanks!
By: Sarah
On: 07/12/2010 09:40:44
Our heat has hit in Eastern Washington this past week. we had a very cool Spring, which is very unusual for this area of WA. So the heat seems much hotter than usual.
I put off picking the last of my pea's until the weekend and decided I would pull them up and to handle the heat I decided to put the kiddie pool out and let the kids play while I sat with my feet in the kiddie pool as I plucked peas off the bushes I had pulled. It was a great way to stay cool and complete one of my tasks at hand.
By: Nancy J
On: 07/12/2010 10:39:08
Hello Fellow Farmgirls,

Boy is it HOT here!!!! I live at the very end of New Jersey, and it has been breaking records all over the place...And everyone is's more with the high humidity. But when winter comes, we will wish for some of this heat!!! lol Keep cool...Keep drinking water or that mint tea...yum!!!
By: Tammy
On: 07/12/2010 12:46:05
I am a hot tea lady no matter what season so I enjoy sitting with a cup of my favorite and watching the sunset in the evening, love the fireflies and watching the stars come out. It is peaceful to listen how the farm quietly gets ready for the night and I truly miss when I don't get to sit and rest with it. I have a big weeping willow tree that makes the best cool spot to rest and enjoy.
By: Nan
On: 07/12/2010 12:51:58
It has been between 90 and 100 out here in the Colorado Plains with late afternoon thunder storms that rumble across the sky. We hook the sprinkler up to the well and the dogs and I run thru it until we are all soaked and laughing. The well is deep and the water is ice cold and clear. I sip big glasses of ice tea and the dogs have a bowl of ice cubes, we sit under the spruce trees and listen to the birds talk as they flit back and forth from the feeder to the tree to the birdbath. You will often see the little house finches making low passes thru the sprinkler while the robins walk on the ground, the sprinkler spraying them like a spring shower. We dry off and go sit on the front porch with those favorite of childhood chillers, popsicles. I get a double one to myself and the dogs split one. We wave lazily to the neighbors as they drive past, the dogs occasionally coming to life to bark at a passing truck. In the house ceiling fans spin in lazy circles and move the air from the back bedroom to the kitchen. The blinds are drawn and the house is cool and calm. No TV, computer, cell phone or radio, just the silence that only a hot summer afternoon can bring.
By: Malinda
On: 07/12/2010 13:04:51
Thank you for your beautiful pictures and sharing your summer journey with us readers! I admire how you are trying to change the way you view and cope the summer heat and look instead for scattered blessings on your path.
I am finding the mornings to be such a beautiful and peaceful time when the summer day is forcasted to be hot.
I can be found in my garden or porch with my little black cat, Pepper, listening to the sweet birdsong and thanking my Lord.
This time girds me for what the day may hold and the strength mentally and physically to embrace it.
By: Kris
On: 07/12/2010 14:37:58
I wanted to welcome you when you first started your blog, but it seemed everyone else was. I'm from New England too, and some of that way out west stuff daunts me. I really don't know what I'm looking at or reading about. Of course southern CT, must seem rather flat compared to the White Mountains, but those hills were important to me. Now I live in northwest Indiana, which is hilly compared to the Chicago area. So keep sharing the north east with us.
By: carolj
On: 07/12/2010 15:02:22
In Georgia (and all of the South) its the heat and humidity that really take the starch out of you. On days when I'm feeling limp, I take cool showers and allow myself to be still for a few minutes, usually under the fan. I am more and more grateful for air conditioning and often wonder how I survived my childhood in Florida without it.

As women, don't we so often forget to rest? Somehow we have this guilt thing going about resting. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea claims that women are the only workers who are reluctant to take vacation, yet we so desperately need at least a day to ourselves.

Thanks for relieving my guilt.



By: Brenda
On: 07/12/2010 16:45:17
What pretty pictures you have included in your post. The ice tea sounds perfect for cooling off. I have planted a few different mints in a raised bed but they are not going crazy like I thought they would. But this is a reminder to at least go pinch some off soon and add to some cold drinks! It has been record breaking hot here in Michigan also. I normally love it but it has been a few too many days in a row.
By: KimberlyD
On: 07/12/2010 17:01:53
Ok, keep that hammock emptied for me...I would lay there with a good book and a glass of mint tea and wet bandana around my kneck and be just fine...than go take a dip in the river....Its been hot here in Mich too, we got a few days break but its going to heat back up again here.
By: Noreen
On: 07/13/2010 13:10:18
Such lovely ruminations on a very hot summer! Just going with it is so much better than not. If I am not in a pool-my favorite thing to do-I fill my bathtub with tepid water then drizzle ice cold water from the tap. So comforting and refreshing! We will miss this sultry weather when when winter comes around again.
By: Joan Chunko
On: 07/15/2010 17:58:49
It's been very hot here also in the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania. This hot spell has found me spending a lot of time with a pair of Eastern Bluebirds; they have a family in one of our nesting boxes at the edge of the woods by our house. The male has been especially busy pecking and flopping at several of the windows on our house. I've put up ribbons, hung shirts on hangers above the doors and windows and finally had to cover the windows with newspapers to get him to calm down! I've been afraid he might hurt himself, but now he seems to be calming down a bit. Can't wait to see the little ones come out of the box! I also spend a lot of time watching and talking with all the does and their fawns. A glass of iced tea always goes great with all this action!
By: Em
On: 07/15/2010 19:30:19
I'm in hot and humid NC!
My front porch is north-facing by design, misting water sprinklers make for a hot day fresh air treat, and giving in to a long midday nap in cool sheets in the AC works for me.
And keep away from the hot kitchen. . . eat quick, fresh and cool instead!
By: Debbie
On: 07/20/2010 09:11:13
Whew doggies! It's been hot here along the Shouth Shore ( Cape Cod ) My Summer Garden is as wilted as I am at this point and I have to agree that the only blessing I can see in this high heat is that one must slow down. You just can't help it!

What have we done to relax and beat the heat?

1) At home in our cozy Cape Cod house we finally (after 9 years) bit the bullet and purchased some small room airconditioners so we could all sleep well. It's no fun to be HOT and CRANKY too!

2)We don't have the luxury of a nice old farm house porch blanketing us in shade on a hot afternoon, but our little house came with a sizeable deck just right for an Elegant Screened in Gazebo. Our local Benny's had them on sale last week. After a few hours devoted to the set- up we had instant shade and a new out door room for the whole family!
We've been enjoying relaxed dinners outside and my husband and I played cards by candlelight last night until bedtime!

3) When we can't beat the heat at home we head to our home sweet cottage by the sea nearby where Mother nature can do her sweet medicine on our hot selves! Each wave carries the stress and the heat of the day out to sea... Once again we are renewed!

Beach Blessings to you!

Deb~ A "beachy" farmgirl at heart...

ps. I am going to have to try the ice water foot bath! Sounds lovely, and maybe I'll toss in a few lavender seeds to boot!
By: nonnameme
On: 07/24/2010 09:53:01
Hi Cathi,
Love your pictures,too. They do make you slow down! To keep cool I only have to remember a time when we went kayaking...ended up going down a river (not in my plan). Well, I ended up upside down, against a bolder, almost drowning, and when I righted myself I was totally soaked! Fortunately I remembered not to lose my paddle (as instructed the one time we went white water rafting).An hour later we came to our "pull in " spot and shivering,since it was only 56*, we saw some young kayakers had built a fire for their camp. I was very lucky, as they were so kind as to allow me to sit with them, while my OH went to get our truck, a mile down the road, and dry off, warm up and have great company while doing so! I was so cold for that hour getting to the camp, that now I try just to tolerate the warmth -even on those hottest days!
And I learned my make sure my OH knows what he is doing planning our water excursions!
Time for that nice glass of tea.....have a great weekend!
By: car salesman
On: 12/01/2010 11:29:51
Really love all the posts you offer! I am so looking forward to seeing more like them..

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir