Monday, August 9, 2010

Gardening and Humidity----it ain't always pretty

This post contains images which may offend sensitive viewers.
Please use viewer discretion. 
Carl and I, weeding and sweating, 'enjoying' the day!
Sunday morning arrived and brought along with it high humidity.  I knew when I couldn't see out of the house windows due to the condensation on the outside that we were in for a very damp day.  Ah, but this is the week of the TV crew's arrival ( Thursday) and the weeds are swaying gently to and fro in the gardens, so I have to work out there whether I like it or not.  The answer is NOT.

Carl and Ann finished building the new/old tufa wall yesterday afternoon.  It looks so different in it's new home.  I know I promised to write about the wall, and I will, but see, this humidity came up and led me down memory lane again and, well, I will get to it, one of these the meantime here's an update on our weeding and tidying progress for the film crew:
Ann and Joel in kayaks, pulling off dead waterlily leaves.  Carl pumping down the water a bit and  raking algae.  Everyone swatting mosquitoes.
You know you have a good friend (and wonderful son!)  when they volunteer for this kind of work....we did say we 'might' go kayaking, just didn't say where!
I apologized to Ann for getting her into this; her response was, "No, I'm having fun!"  I ask you, does it look like she's having fun??? 
We all worked outside until 7:30PM.  Carl and I were given a gift certificate to a local restaurant back in April and after putting in a miserable day of sweating and swatting, we decided to use it.  First we had to clean up 'a bit'.
Through a lens foggily-----what is it?? 
Note the knee pads, a very essential fashion statement for the serious gardener--what?  You still can't see very well?
Ok, is this better?  No?  You're right, I prefer the haze, too, but here you can clearly see my ever-present Felco pruner, filthy gardening gloves and lopsided kneepads.  WHAT am I wearing on my head??? No, not a feather boa---it's a scarf to soak up sweat.  I ran out of my other ones.
Don't mean to turn my back on you, but look, there's my trusty trowel in my back pocket.  See, this is where the Viewer Discretion warning comes in.  Avert your eyes!!!

We all went in the house and breathed a huge sigh of relief and cool air......and here I go with a bit of history again:

Though it was a lot of work rearranging all the landscaping, we are really glad we put the geothermal furnace in last September, especially because of the super-efficient air conditioning.  Ah, but it wasn't always this way. For years we had no air conditioning at all and a much-younger twenty-something Carl was fond of saying, "Why do we need AC?  This is Wisconsin.  Even if it does get hot, it doesn't last that long.  What's a coupla weeks?"  

True, dear husband, true, it doesn't last that long, but it feels like forever when you're sweating just tossing and turning trying to sleep at night and wake up feeling like a damp dishrag.

When Joel was born in 1986, we had a very hot summer too, but Carl was not about to go and buy an air conditioner.  We were down to one income and air conditioning was a luxury.  What he did try, however, was another MacGyver experiment:  he had an old truck radiator lying around (doesn't everyone?) and decided to try circulating the cold ground water from our ever-flowing sump pump pit in the basement through the radiator with a fountain pump and then somehow hooked up the radiator contraption to our oil furnace's blower fans and ductwork, thereby attempting to cool the house. 'Attempting' being the operative word.  It didn't work.

I had to give Carl credit though, how many normal people would think of the idea?  (Ok, the operative word here is 'normal'.)   We spent a lot of time in the basement where it was cooler or dashing into the grocery store just to beat the heat. I also remember spending an inordinate amount of time cleaning the refrigerator.  

When David was born in 1990, we were now thirty-something years old and though Carl still insisted I was being hypersensitive to a little warm weather and balmy humidity, he broke down and bought an oscillating fan.  We all huddled in front of the fan as it whirred its heart out, blowing the hot air around.  As the years went by, we invested in several more fans of larger proportions, placing them in strategic locations to circulate the hot air.  The fans became more numerous as the boys grew up and  moved from the downstairs 'nursery closet' to their upstairs bedrooms where the heat rose and remained, making for sauna-esque conditions.  

Finally, in the mid 1990's, Carl was now nearing forty-something and I whined until I got my way; we bought a window air conditioner.  He was so very reluctant to do this, but he grudgingly went along with me to the big box store.  The dining room window in our small house was the only one  that would work for the air conditioner's placement, and Carl had to rig up a brace to hold it in and some tape on the window to thwart the mosquitoes, it was heavy and cumbersome, hard to store in the off-season, but oh, it was nice! 

So now we had a window AC unit and a series of fans to circulate the air that rivals anything I've seen before or since.  We had epic fannage going on.  One in front of the air conditioner to blow the air into the living room, one perched on the upstairs steps to blow the air upstairs to the boy's rooms, one in the hallway to blow the air to the kitchen and one in the kitchen to blow the air back to the dining room.  With all of them (and the air conditioner) running wide open, it sounded like a bunch of barn fans running, and in case you have never experienced barn fans, the third operative word of this post would be:  LOUD.  As in very.

I will say the window AC unit was very effective; it didn't cost tooooo much to run though we used it sparingly.  Almost too sparingly. The biggest problem would be to get Carl to put the thing in the window in the summertime.  He just didn't want to give in to Mother Nature.  "It's not that hot yet, we can wait awhile."  

So, we'd wait and wait and then, when late-July rolled around with unbearable temps, he would finally say it was time, but then would grouse, "Well, there's only a few weeks of summer left anyway, it really wasn't necessary to go through all this bother for such a short time."  Carl was always proud of his heat-endurance capability.  Once Joel and Dave got old enough, they would start to put the unit in by themselves, which always brought a grumpy Carl to assist, but hey, we had it in earlier that way.

Upon entering the house after working outside on a hot day, Carl's favorite 'funny' saying when we ran the window AC unit was a mildly chastising, "It's like a meat locker in here!  Do you think you have the air on cold enough??"

(Ok, not a terrifically humorous saying--just a smidgen of sarcasm-- imagine hearing it every time he walked in the house....SIGH)

Fast forward to 2009.  Our oil furnace was now 31 years old and for some long years had been displaying some awesome Hollywood/ special effects/ horror movie-like tendencies, some of which included shaking the dishes in the cupboard when it started up or refusing to start up at all-- to the last straw, smoking us out.   Frantic by this time, I bought a carbon monoxide detector, but it never went off, confirming Carl's confidence in the clunker--'See, it's just a downdraft, nothing to worry about."

The furnace and the battles Carl & I fought together and against the decrepit unit could (and might) be the topic of several more posts, but suffice it to say I got my way again and we had a geothermal furnace put in.  This sort of thing is not for everyone--If you are interested, refer to my post of Wednesday, April 28, 2010 entitled 'Geothermal' for pictures of that adventure and what it does to your landscaping.   (It was WORTH it though.)
  Geothermal heat pumps also double as air conditioners in the summer, using the same ductwork our oil furnace used.  They are very efficient, too, and quiet, as in whisper.

And now who do you think likes to crank the thermostat down?  That's right.......Carl.

Now, Carl at age fifty-something, is the King of Cool.  I am sitting here writing this post wearing a polar fleece jacket with an afghan over my may be 90 outside, but it is COOL in here, let me tell you!   Even the dogs need help-------

Teddy, sporting his new coat
Pudding, wearing her new floral ensemble
My thanks to Ann, for finding these cute coats at a rummage sale!  No, the dogs don't wear them in the house, but I could.

Carl likes to keep the thermostat at 69 (if I'd let him) and complains every time he walks in the door and I have it set to 71, "Why do you turn this thing down?  It should be colder in here!".

Like a meat locker, dear??



Gatsbys Gardens said...

I am not sure which I like better your garden or your stories. They are both captivating. How may people can write an absorbing story about a air conditioner.

I had a neighbor years ago who was some big wig with Com Ed and he had a theremal unit put in. At that time, we did not know what he was talking about. All we cared about was that we got a whole new transformer in back of our house, huge, and we had very few outages after that,\.


Alison said...

Ah, what a great family you have, willing to come and help you pull weeds to prepare for your interview. You look lovely in your sweaty ensemble. I have to wear a sweatband too, I have a large collection of them (left over from the days of leg warmers, remember those?). I hope they never wear out, cause I'm not sure if they sell them anymore. I sweat when I garden even when it's only 45 degrees out. I used to have similar battles with my husband over the ac when we lived in Massachusetts. He would wait till it was really hot to put the ac unit in, and then complain that it was too hot to be doing this type of work. Now that I'm in the PNW, I doubt I will ever need geothermal.

BTW, has Carl ever seen the Red Green Show? I could see Red trying to make an ac unit out of a truck radiator.

Karen said...

Hi Eileen, Thank you, and yes, I do go on at length about the oddest things; sometimes I don't realize it until after I've posted, but my mind is a rather odd place.

Alison, Oh, yes, I remember leg warmers! What is it with men and AC? They must think it's sissy or something. I'm glad your climate doesn't require one anymore.

And yes, we used to watch the Red Green show all the time; now all Carl needs is a nephew named Harold to help him and we'd be all set.

Zoey said...

What a trooper Ann is to help out and even think it was fun! It takes a family to keep such a gorgeous garden.

I sure could relate to the AC story. My husband is exactly the same about bringing out the window unit. This year I got him to do it in June--way earlier than usual. We have used it almost daily since.

My next mission is central air!

Autumn Belle said...

Doing up the pond is a lot of hard work. Lucky to have kind and caring helpers. Your hubby is indeed Mr MacGyver. You have a beautiful garden too.