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Farm Life

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Haven

There is a constant battle waging on the home front when summer reaches its zenith. Major disagreeing takes place, and for some reason, I always lose.

It is the battle of whether the air conditioner should be turned on or not.

I must preface this with some background information. I did not grow up with central air. Growing up in our 1806 restored brick farmhouse we were lucky to have fans running.

If you wanted to cool off during the day, you flopped in a lawn chair outside in the shade with a Popsicle in hand and hoped for a breeze. At night is was windows wide open, lying atop cool cotton sheets with not much more than your imagination between skin and the night air. It was summertime, and life was good.

Sure, I can appreciate cold air conditioning on an unceasingly hot day; like today. After a half hour of raspberry picking in 85 degree heat, walking through the side door into a wall of cold air felt wonderful, but not all the time; not all summer long.

My internal thermostat must be different than most people. I’m the one in the grocery store’s dairy aisle shivering hoping for a quick exit. I’m that person who takes a hoodie into the movie theater even if it is 90 degrees outside. For me living in constant, freezing cold, manufactured air is just wrong.

My idea of summer is windows wide open, sheer cotton curtains drifting lazily with whatever air current comes along.

You are supposed to be warm in the summer. It makes you slow down. It makes you want to nap. It makes you crave ice cold lemonade.

When my ex-husband and I moved into the small saltbox of a house my parents built for us on their farm, it seemed air conditioning was going to become part of my vernacular. Dennis had major allergies; debilitating allergies, and if he was to survive the pine trees pollinating and the farmers making hay, well he needed central air.

And that was fine, but gone for me were nights of listening to crickets sing or being able to tell by the dogs’ barking if someone was trying to destroy our mailbox at the end of our 1100 foot driveway – again.

No more being brought out of a dead sleep by the lilting hooting of barred owls, or the putrid smell of skunk spray drifting in through open windows. Nope – just cool, stale, lifeless air enveloped my nights.

The boys were born in subsequent years and in their defense never knew a summer without air conditioning. And here lies the problem. The need to defend against allergies no longer applies since the divorce. I no longer need to be subjected to air conditioning. I should have a say.

It seems I don’t.

My idea of hot is not the same as my kids. Our definitions of what constitutes a comfortable air temperature differs as well. They’d prefer “you could hang meat in here” cold. I refuse to wear socks inside the house in the summer, but it seems my feet are always freezing.

Lucky for me, the solution came along compliments of my mom’s forward thinking. When my house was built, Mom thought it would be neat to put French doors off the downstairs bedroom.

Actually, my home was built with the idea one day my parents and our family would trade houses. The saltbox was smaller and had a downstairs bedroom. If one of my parents could no longer manage stairs later in life, here was a solution. The switch never came, but the French doors and the subsequent screened-in porch they open into did.

Thank goodness.

Yes, my bedroom has an escape route. When the air conditioning becomes too much, I slip out onto the porch and bask in warm breezes and birdsongs.

Entering the porch from the outside screen door.

I read here. Have private conversations on the phone here. Take naps here.

The view from the front corner of the porch

I especially love my porch after dark. I can choose to plug in the single string of white lights that outline the ceiling’s edge for minimal illumination, or just sit in the inky blackness and become part of the
night.

I am reminded of how author Scott Russell Sanders describes entering such darkness…

My eyes may be empty, but my ears quickly fill. The air sizzles with insect song. Crickets and grasshoppers warn and woo, rubbing their musical legs. They make the sound of beans rattling in a pan, tiny bells ringing on the ankles of dancers, fingers raked over the teeth of combs, waves rolling cobbles on the shore.

I’ve been missing this, but not anymore.

Compromise is good. My screened-in porch makes it possible.

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