Three Letters Re: On Surviving Hot Climates and Relocation

This is in response to Deep South Charlie’s comments about the heat in the South. I live in the Deep South, and yes, it is hot, but there are ways to cope. It’s been over 100° F. every day for over a month now, and there has been no rain until recently. But I am not going anywhere. This is my home, and I love it. I believe that the benefits of living in the South far outweigh the drawbacks.

First off, there are ways to deal with the heat. People have done it for thousands of years. In the absence of air-conditioning, your body will adjust to the heat. It’s the in-and-out-of-the-cold that messes with your body’s temperature. Drinking lots of water is essential and it also help to use watered down lemon juice as an energy drink. It is very important to stay in shape and exercise a lot. Working in the heat helps with that. I have found that doing some basic Yoga exercises also help, though being a Christian, I just call them exercises, since I believe that God created those exercises for me to use to stay healthy. It carries oxygen to my joints and muscles, which increases my energy and endurance. And, when working in the heat, you learn to know when to stop. The old timers used to use the hot afternoons to either take a nap or a swim in the creek. The Mexicans call it a Siesta. It is helpful to keep your head covered in the heat, to keep the sun from beating down on you. I use an old fashioned light-weight cotton bonnet. My husband uses a baseball cap, but a lot of guys use a cowboy hat. I wear long-sleeved light-weight cotton shirts and skirts.

Down here, we endure the heat, but are petrified of the cold (really!). When it gets down to 40° F., nobody goes outside. Thankfully, winter is only about a month long. Up North, the summers are milder, but the winters are brutal. We have enough wood fall naturally from trees (branches, etc), to keep us warm in our short winter, if we were heating with wood, which we will if need be. Up North, I guess that the majority of the population isn’t prepared for hard times or natural disasters. Down here, since we live in a perpetually economically depressed area and in a hurricane zone, most people live prepared. We don’t worry about it, since it’s how we live. Us country folk know how to deal with it. We depend on each other and work together. Our family wasn’t “preppers” when Katrina came through, but we hooked up the generator, opened some jars of food and went right on like usual. Here, the lights go out every couple of days, so our oil lamps stay handy.
Crops sometimes don’t make it. That’s why, when I am saving my seed, I save much more than I would ever need for the next 2 or more years. I never know when a crop won’t make it. Of course, here, we have three growing seasons: two long summer seasons and one cold season (for greens and strawberries). Whatever area you are living in, you have to learn what will grow there. Corn has to be started early here, and if it doesn’t make it, you have to wait until next year. But beans, peas, okra, tomatoes, and peppers, will all grow whenever. If one crop dies, you replant with some of your spare seeds. Always plan for some crop to fail, because they will. Always preserve way more than you need for at least 2 years. I have found that mulching is extremely beneficial for small crops, like okra, peppers and tomatoes. It prevents erosion and evaporation; it also provides a home for beneficial bugs like ground spiders. It is always helpful to grow vegetables and fruits that do well in your area. My okra, for example, is loving this heat.

Since most people in this area plant a massive garden, there is always extra food to give away. It is very important to share whatever excess you have. People will share with you, so it’s really good to throw back into the pot. People start to notice if someone is a hoarder that doesn’t share anything, but takes from the pot.
It is also a good idea to plant some bushes and trees and vines that are a more permanent food growing source. Our apple and pear trees are producing tons of fruit, and our blueberry bushes are usually loaded. Grapes love the hot, dry weather, since they hate having “wet feet”.

It also helps to be very observant of what naturally grows in your area. Observe the animals, and how they cope with the heat. Observe the bugs, how they interact, and how nature keeps in balance the good bugs and the bad. Observe the weeds. Learn which weeds are edible, and how to use them. The basic purpose of weeds is provide a ground cover to prevent the sun from leeching out the nutrients in the soil.  Here in the South, we are abundantly blessed with bugs and weeds. Some year, weeds may be the only thing we can grow, so we may need them. At least here, I have observed that the natural plants often have the nutrients we need to endure the weather conditions. Example: We have a weed here called a “Mock Orange”. It grows prolifically (one of the weeds we are “abundantly blessed with”). It has big long spurs that will poke out your eye if you aren’t careful. These mock oranges are edible, and I will use them if I need to. For now, we try to not let them spread, since they are such a nuisance.

I can’t tell you about how to live up North. I have never done it and do not want to try. I can’t imagine how you Yankees ever get it all done in such a short growing season. I love being able to take all summer to get my garden planted if need be. If it doesn’t get planted one day, I’ll work on it the next. There’s plenty of time.
So anyway, Mr. Charlie, I love living in the South. I love the things I can grow. It just takes some patience, but the heat is teaching me that. – Anita R.


As an old Boy Scout I appreciate you admonishment to be prepared.  Too many folks forget that they are terribly independent on others and fail to care for their own needs. I like the gents comments on the penny wall as it would also make a great thermal mass.    

FYI, our current temp is 103 degrees F with about 5% humidity.  Its 1450 local time.  Bare ground is about 140 F.  

Anyway, there was an article posted about acclimatizing to southern heat, which is more oppressing than anything in the deserts or dryer parts of the US. To lessen the heat issue in the dryer US a technique to consider is “ night radiant cooling .”   It is generally explained at the Cedar Mountain Solar site and at Wikipedia. The concept may be useful to folks designing retreats or homes.  The folks responsible for this site have actually done practical research on the topic.  

Perhaps the aforementioned links may help some folks.   Thanks for the blog!   J. in Carlsbad, NM


Greetings and Thanks, Mr. Rawles,
Reading Deep South Charlie ‘s letter brought back memories of the stifling heat that Hurricane Katrina Survivors experienced after the storm passed. In our area the electricity went out several minutes into the storm, and remained down for 2 weeks. This was actually a short time compared to what people were saying was going to happen. Rumors had it that we would not have electricity for several months. My husband and I live in an old, farm house in a rural part of Mississippi that has plenty of windows, but they are not all screened, nor do all of them open. Before the storm, I had purchased some sliding window screens that adjust to fit different size window widths, and in the Spring and Fall, I would use them in the windows to open up the house. I love the feel of a cool breeze, especially at night. These turned out to be very handy to have after the storm. Although, there wasn’t much of a breeze, it was better than having the windows shut. After the storm passed, it left behind a strange vacuum – no birds, no breeze. But the stifling, humid, heat remained constant. My brother (who had evacuated from Louisiana) and I had to make do.

I had a screen door on the front of the house, but no screen door for the back, as it is an odd size door, and would have to be custom made (expensive). Luckily, I had some mosquito netting that I was able to  drape over a dowel, securing with safety pins, and hung over the door. Other folks in the area were smart enough to have generators, and were able to run fans, and small air conditioners. In order to sleep at night, I would fill sandwich size plastic bags, and my “hot”water bottle with ice, and place them next to me in order to get cool enough to sleep. This “luxury” was only possible because the military dispensed bags of ice each day at different locations throughout the storm’s path. My brother and I would leave every morning, after basic chores were done, (and there were many extra) to go and get a bag or 2 of ice. We would come straight home with it and repack the ice chest that I had in my bath tub. Each time I drained the ice chest, I kept the water, because we had no electricity to run our water pump, and at that time, city water was not available.  Before the storm, I had filled (3) 50 gallon plastic barrels (and several other plastic tubs) with water. I had placed the barrels all near a shed in our pasture, thinking that they would be easy to get to there. Well, luck would have it that a huge pecan tree fell on top of the barrels, smashing one and making the other two impossible to reach. So, the water I had stored was of no use. Fortunately, I had an extra barrel and a kind neighbor with a generator who allowed me to fill it twice, and that’s how I was able to water my three horses.  Anyway, because of the ice that the military provided, and the kindness of my neighbor, we were able to survive. Looking back, I guess I should have filled more barrels, and not have stored them all in the same spot, which brings to mind our dilemma…

After Hurricane Katrina (in 2005), there were predictions that we could expect hurricanes of this magnitude for the next 10 years due to El Niña. Determined not to go through any more hurricanes that Winter, we purchased 50 acres in Colorado between Canon City and Westcliffe. We chose this particular property because it had a lot of usable land, with many areas of grassy meadows for our horses to graze. It was also fairly remote, but not so remote that we couldn’t be part of a community, or be trapped indefinitely with no way out, should heavy snows come. There is an old, hand – hewn log cabin there that might be able to be restored to a livable condition. Electricity is also at the property, which is a plus. To make a long story short, in the end, we chickened out of moving there because of the costs to build a small house, and barn for our horses. We also didn’t have four wheel drive vehicles which are required for the terrain. Even though we changed our minds about moving, we kept the property. We eventually decided to make it our summer retreat.

In 2008, we had a water well drilled, and it turned out to be a financial hardship for us. The first well caved in, and a second well was drilled nearby that required an all steel casing, which ended up costing twice as much as the original quoted price. We had to take out a second mortgage on our home to cover the extra costs. We recently found out that this may have been a scam that a particular drilling company (now going bankrupt) was practicing. We will never know, and at this point, we can only hope that we have a good well.

Also, in 2008, after the economy tanked, and I found SurvivalBlog, my husband (begrudgingly, at first) and I began making some changes in preparation for hard times. I have put in various fruit trees and berry bushes, and recently some raised beds. We compost all of our kitchen scraps, old hay, and horse manure. We have some long term food storage items (beans, rice, red and white winter wheat), and  many canned goods. I am building a gardening and survival library, and have purchased several good gardening tools. We also bought a Mossberg shotgun and a Ruger .22 handgun (although I don’t know much about shooting them). Financially, we are paying off some credit card debt, and we purchased some junk silver for bartering. Compared with many, we are just getting started with prepping.

In any case, we live with an uneasy feeling that maybe we should not stay here in southern Mississippi. As Deep South Charlie described, the heat and humidity in this area may just be unbearable without air conditioning (should the grid go down). Mississippi was not on your list of chosen states to pick for retreats (although Louisiana was, and I have often wondered about that). Besides the brutal heat and humidity, we also have the yearly anxiety of the hurricane season, and who knows what the end results of the gulf oil spill will be. I also don’t know what to think about moving to our property in Eastern Colorado, as it is not included in the Redoubt states (but almost was). My husband and I are in our 50s. My husband’s mother, who lives in a small cottage next door to us is in her 80s. Would it be wise to move and start over, or just stay put? Should we decide to move to one of the Redoubt states, could we even sell our property here, or the one in Colorado, or is it just a bit too late?

Thanks so much for providing such a wealth of knowledge, and your great willingness to share. – S. in Mississippi

JWR Replies: I believe that our economy is in a “slow slide”, and that we will experience several years of continued economic deterioration before it becomes impossible to relocate. In the depths of the coming Depression, prices will be galloping and the big cities will become incredibly inimical environments. My advice is to kneel down for some concerted prayer. If you then feel convicted to move to one of the American Redoubt states, then don’t hesitate. Find a church home, find work, and MOVE! There may not be a “next summer” window of opportunity.