Avoid Heat Exhaustion on the Homestead
My husband and I admit to being weekend warriors when it comes to creating our homestead in Florida. Our normal work in summer involves sitting in front of a computer in an air-conditioned room for most of the day.
One Sunday morning, we headed out to our property, hoping to get some yard cleanup done while it wasn’t raining.
A few weeks earlier, we had contracted to have the trees cut down from around our future driveway and the footprint and immediate area of the house. Now there were 7 piles of tree remains to be handled.
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#1: Use the Right Tool for the Job
First, we bought a used chipper. We took it to a repair shop to get some needed maintenance, only to find out that it was 27 years old! Despite the company that originally manufactured it being out of business, 2 expert equipment mechanics and some new parts got it working fine.
We also rented a stump grinder, and we took the chipper and the grinder to our property. We arrived at about 11:00 a.m. on a day that would reach 94°F.
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The first hour and a half went by pretty fast. My husband manned the stump grinder and handled 4 or 5 stumps from about 1 inch to about 7 inches in diameter. That took care of the driveway.
In the meantime, I was working with the chipper. All it could do was shred the ends of anything over 1-1/2 inches. That meant that I had to lop off the branches that could fit in the chipper. Anything that was too big was laid aside to use in the dead hedge we were building.
#2: Take Frequent Breaks
We took a break to get some water and sit down. After about 10 minutes, we started to go at it again.
This time we only lasted about an hour. We took a longer break, had more to drink, and tried to get some more done. Each time we would start, the amount of work got shorter and the breaks got longer.
I felt really hot and my heart was beating faster than normal, even when I sat down in the shade. By about 3:00 p.m., we were both exhausted.
#3: Know When to Stop
At this point, it was all we could do to put everything away and get the stump grinder back into the bed of the truck. My husband was dirty and drenched with sweat, so he changed before we left. I was sweaty and thought it best to change shirts. Even though I had been wearing a long-sleeved shirt and hat while I worked, my arms and face were both red—I was definitely overheated!
We went to a restaurant and I sat in the air conditioning, sipping water with lemon as my body cooled down. It took about half an hour to start feeling better. I had a light lunch with fruit and vegetables, and then we were on the road back home.
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The Facts About Heat Exhaustion
According to the WebMD website, heat exhaustion occurs after exposure to high temperatures and is often accompanied by dehydration. Actual heat exhaustion can include symptoms of headache, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps.
Although we didn’t experience anything that severe, we would have if we had not stopped when we did. The website recommends doing exactly what we did—get out of the heat and into a cooler area to rest.
We decided that the next time we want to make a day of yard work we will do it in shorter stretches and take a long air-conditioned break in between.
In terms of hydration, we have also found that drinking coconut water and eating watermelon are good for replenishing mineral salts that are lost due to sweating.
What Do You Think?
What precautions do you take to avoid heat exhaustion while you’re working outside in the summer? Share your thoughts and best tips in the comments section below!
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published August 3, 2016. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!
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Karen the Newbie Homesteader is a novice gardener, homesteader, and permaculturist. She and her husband recently purchased four acres in central Florida to create their homestead and grow their own food. She will be sharing their adventures: successes, failures, and everything in between – here at The Grow Network.