Category Archives: Homesteading

How to Keep Cool During the Blazing Months in Rural Mexico

Mexico has seven main climate regions ranging from arid deserts to tropical humidity. Some months can be extremely uncomfortable because of the heat. In our area May is tthe month where it’s nearly unbearable.

Although there are some residences that have air conditioning throughout the house, for the most part, it’s cost prohibitive. Electricity isn’t cheap by any means. So how can you stay cool on hot, sticky days in rural Mexico?

Ice, Ice Baby

Our family feels like royalty when we splurge on a bag of ice (we don’t have a fridge or freezer to make our own). We drink mostly iced water, but sometimes iced jamaica (hibiscus) or limonada just hits the spot. Not only does it cool us down considerably, but we stay well hydrated on those hot, hot days. In fact, I’m sipping a huge jamaica bien fría (very cold) as I write this article. 

Another way to enjoy the cooling refreshment of ice is in the form of popsicles! The local paletería (popsicle shop) will have a variety of scrumptious and natural popsicles flavors for you to choose from including mamey, limon, vanilla, and tamarindo. Or, you can make your own. Check out this recipe for Jamaica and lime popsicles

You may need to battle it out before you enjoy your iced drinks however. Some of your Mexican friends and family may tell you that drinking cold water will make you ill. There’s not much credence to that belief, although people who have achalasia, a condition that makes it hard to swallow, have more difficulty after drinking cold water. Those who are prone to migraines may get a headache as a result of “brain freeze” after drinking cold water as well. But if you are healthy before you have that iced drink, then you’ll be just as healthy after it.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners and Fans

Both ductless mini-split air conditioners and fans need electricity, so the trick is to use them effectively. A ductless mini-split air conditioner is a single-room cooling device mounted on the wall. Be sure to keep the door to the room closed for maximum coolness and energy efficiency. If you are trying to cool a room without a door, hang a blanket over the doorway. 

Fans come in all shapes, sizes and energy consumptions. Ceiling fans work best when they are positioned to cool people, not the room. Longer blades are more efficient than short blades at cooling. Pedestal fans are extremely adjustable. You can change the height and usually have it oscillating or stationary. 

Wall fans mount to the wall. I have one next to my bed for stuffy nights. We turn it off before we go to sleep, though. The POWER LORD wouldn’t like it if we used up our stored energy from our solar panels on a mere fan. Table fans are usually about the same size as wall fans and provide the same amount of cooling but they take up valuable surface area (where I like to pile my books). 

Growing up, we had big box fans in our windows to cool the house. I haven’t seen this type of fan in Mexico, nor are the windows designed to hold a fan in place, so that’s not an option here. For some heavy duty cooling, you can put a bucket of ice in front of the fan and get an instant air conditioner.

You may get some grief from your Mexican friend and family for using a fan at night. Apparently, cooling the head or feet can cause you to wake up chueca (with a wry neck) or so they say. My sister-in-law turns off her fan at night and moves her mattress to the floor instead of risking it. 

Smart Building Construction

If you are building your house in Mexico, keep in mind these passive cooling techniques. 

Situate your house so that most of the windows are east/west facing rather than north/south. You’ll get more sunlight and likely be able to take advantage of a cross-breeze. Tinted windows can help keep some of the blaze out while still allowing light in. Closing the windows during the day and opening them at night will flush the house, keeping it cooler during the day.

Build your domicile using thermal mass materials like brick, concrete and stone which absorb heat during the day and dissipate heat at night. Most homes in Mexico use these materials, so this is an easy one to implement. 

Laminas (corrugated steel roofing) have a low thermal mass so they reflect heat and light. This type of roof cools rapidly when the sun goes down, making it the perfect choice for a porch covering that you can enjoy in the evenings. 

Take a Shower

There’s no need to turn on the boila (hot water heater) on days like this. Jumping in the shower or splashing about in the horse trough can lower your body temperature. The shower shouldn’t be frigid though. Studies have shown that you can lower your core temperature better with a warm shower (about 33 degrees Celsius or 91 degrees Fahrenheit) rather than a shower with water lower than 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

You might get some gaff from your Mexican friends and family again here. No matter how hot it is, my husband insists that he must enfriar (cool down) before taking a shower. This process involves him stripping down to his chonis (underwear) and sitting around until he believes he’s reached the appropriate temperature before bathing. Otherwise he might get sick, he says. 

Cool Your Sheets 

There are two ways you can cool your sheets before hitting the sack. 

Take the top sheet and put it in the fridge or freezer during the day. You might want to put it in a plastic zip-lock bag so food odors are transferred along with the temperature. Then, when it’s time for beddy-bye, you can crawl under a nice fresh and cool sheet. It will warm up with your body heat during the night, but it should stay cool enough for you to drift off comfortably.

The second way is to soak your sheet in cold water, then wring it out so that it isn’t dripping wet. Wrap yourself in it at bedtime. The water will evaporate overnight, but you’ll be asleep by then. 

You might not want to mention these tricks to your Mexican friends and family. I can just hear the squawking about the hot/cold imbalance and getting sick because of it. 

Wear Cotton or Nothing at All

Cotton jammies and cotton sheets will help you sleep cooler. The higher the thread count, the better. Silk will work too since it functions as a thermoregulator, but of course, it’s more expensive than cotton. Bamboo works as a moisture wick, is hypoallergenic, biodegradable and may have antibacterial properties. It’s hard to find bamboo fabric in Mexico though. Sleeping naked is yet another option.

The fabric you choose for clothing should be cotton or a cotton blend too. Lightweight, long sleeves will keep your arms from getting burned. A big floppy hat will also reduce sun exposure and keep you cooler. 

Sleep like the Locals

Many Mexicans sleep in a hammock or on straw mats. Although it may seem strange to you, both are ideal for hot, steamy conditions. A hammock suspends your body and allows the air to flow around you. Straw mats do not retain heat, making them cooler sleeping surfaces than a mattress. 

Beat the Heat in the Kitchen

Hot days are not the days you want to be cooking up a storm in the kitchen. The heat generated in cooking will raise the temperature in the whole house. Furthermore, heavy meals take more effort to digest. That energy causes your internal core to heat up. In order to cool down, your body starts producing sweat. So eating overeating can cause you to sweat!

Meat digestion requires up to 30 percent more energy than other types of food. Since we aren’t interested in raising that internal core of ours during a heat wave, choose lighter dinner options. Fruit, like watermelon or mango, are excellent alternatives since the water in them will help keep you hydrated, too. 

Again, you might hit a wall when your Mexican friends and family tell you that you shouldn’t eat watermelon if you’ve been drinking. My husband knows someone who knew someone who died after eating watermelon after a drinking binge. Apparently this is a common belief found in many parts of Mexico. (It isn’t true by the way).

Hang Out Where It’s Cool

I know in our area, when the temperature goes up, people head to the shopping center, not to buy anything really, but just to sit on the benches and be cool. A local park, shady mesquite, or a big rock on a breezy hill are other places you can relax and chill out. 

Make Hay While the Sun Doesn’t Burn you to a Crisp

When the days are long and hot, we restructure our activities so that the outside work gets done in the early morning and early evening. Then we can retreat indoors in the blazing afternoon and maybe take a siesta if time allows. 

So there you have it! Some tips on keeping cool even when the temperature is off the charts. So tell me, how do you keep cool?

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Filed under Battling Nature, Cultural Challenges, Homesteading

Prepare-athon 2020

Today, ironically enough, is National Prepareathon Day. Based on the state of the world recently, I would say that some further preparation is in order. Of course, that’s like closing the barn door after the horse gets out, or in this case COVID-19, but perhaps there’s still time to buckle down and get’er done. 

The US government even has a calendar to help you focus on one disaster at a time in your prepping efforts. April’s event is National Financial Capability Month. Now there’s another irony. Unemployment around the world caused by the COVID-19 quarantine is at never been seen high. 

I’m not a scientist or economist so I won’t get into the debate on what our lives will look like after COVID-19, but I’m betting that quite a number of people will be making drastic changes. Caution, self-reliance, and a revival in basic survival skills like gardening will most likely surge.

Of course, there are always those guys that are protesting the inability to get a haircut right now, because that’s a priority. Shagginess is always a precursor to civilization collapse, you know. I expect their lives won’t change much in the after-world.  

Here in Mexico, the government has said that social distancing will be in effect until the end of May. States vary on enforcement and quarantine activities. Some states have closed their borders, like Michoacan. While neighboring Guanajuato is doing business as usual. Experts predict the peak contagion here from May 2 to 8, but that date seems to change regularly.

atozcover

So since we’ll be hunkering down for a spell yet, I thought I’d offer A to Z Reasons Why La Yacata is the Place to Be in Any Disaster: A Prepper’s Guide to Mexico FREE for the next few days. Although the book covers serious topics like pandemics and economic collapse, it also discusses things like zombies, because what’s an end-of-the-world scenario without zombies? (Again, I am SO thankful COVID-19 isn’t a zombie producing virus). 

disaster cover

Anyway, it’s a lighter read than my newest contribution to the prepper non-fiction genre, A Woman’s Survival Guide to Disasters in Rural Mexico: A Framework for Empowered Living Through Crisis which was written with the challenges women face in Mexico in mind. 

Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping up social distancing on the ol’ Flores ranchito. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a new book to release shortly. At the very least, I’m determined to get that 1500 piece puzzle done. 

 

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Rural Mexico Prepper’s Pantry

Although Mexico hasn’t initiated a lock down to combat the spread of COVID-19, several states have been vocal about voluntary quarantine. The state of Jalisco, for example is encouraging #5diasencasa (5 days at home) from March 20 to March 25, the period when analysts have predicted is the peak contagion window in Mexico. 

I’ve seen several posts recently on what to stock up on in the event of quarantine. Although I’m sure they meant well, none of them has taken the limited selection available in rural Mexican stores into account. I don’t mean fruit and vegetables, but non-perishable goods. If you’ve gone into a corner store lately to do your own stocking up, you’ll have seen what I mean.

So what can you do in rural Mexico to have a store of provisions that will keep for the foreseeable future, especially if you don’t have a fridge or freezer? It may call for thinking outside the box, but you can get a pantry full of goods that will last you for a while. 

You can get boxed milk that lasts several weeks. Eggs are also stored at room temperature, so there’s no problem with those. However, some fruit and vegetables won’t last long at all. So steer clear of cucumbers, tomatoes, guavas, and strawberries. Instead focus on onions, garlic, potatoes as root vegetables last longer without refrigeration. Oranges, limes, squash, and melons are also good long-term choices.

Your staples should include rice, corn, oatmeal, beans, and pasta. Beans come in all sorts of colors for variety. Pasta comes in a whole slew of different shapes to change things up. If you know how to make your own tortillas, make sure you have some cal (lime) to complete the nixtamal process. Otherwise, tostadas are a good alternative.

If you have an oven and like to bake, be sure to get enough flour and yeast for bread. Salt and sugar are other things to have in surplus. Cooking oil will eventually go rancid, so try to get some solid shortening as well. Honey, jam and cajeta make good toppings for pancakes, which are a great snack. Other snacks include peanuts, chips, popcorn, and crackers. 

Soda does last forever, but isn’t perhaps the healthiest option. Make sure to have enough garafones of water on hand for at least two weeks, based on your regular consumption. Tamarindo and jamaica are nice to make flavored water. Containers of juice, coffee and tea are other beverages to consider. 

As I mentioned, the canned goods selection at the local supermarket is really quite limited. However, I was able to pick up canned beans, mushrooms, corn, peas, soup, tuna and sardines. 

Since we are in the midst of a global pandemic, hygiene is of paramount importance. Therefore, make sure to have enough bar soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer. For regular cleansing, have an extra container of dish soap and laundry detergent. Consider picking up a pack of baby wipes and some disinfectant spray as well. As for toilet paper, one roll per family member per week should be fine if you ration it like they do at the public bathrooms in Mexico. Ladies, don’t forget to stock up on your monthly supplies too!

As for the quantity of each, well it really depends on your family’s needs and food preferences. The pandemic period won’t last for decades, but it could last several weeks. 

What would you add to a Prepper’s Pantry for rural Mexico?

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Filed under Health, Homesteading, Safety and Security