August is the month of sweltering hot days and nights. The sun beats down with no mercy, and those who live on the land search the sky for the faintest sign of rain.

When I walk to the chicken house, the land is so parched for moisture that cracks have opened up. Some are wide enough to cause a trip and fall. The grass is dried out and makes a crunching sound when walked on. Grasshoppers fly about, and the constant threat of fire hangs over all. According to the weatherman, it’s going to be another scorcher of a day with temperatures rising over 100 degrees.

On these brutally hot days, those of us who have gardens get up very early to harvest the gifts of the garden before the intense heat really hits. The rush of garden vegetables and fruits should be canned, dried or frozen now. I am so grateful for an air-conditioned kitchen for this job.  I well remember the early years of living in a trailer home with no cooling system of any kind – not even a fan – and hanging over a hot stove canning tomatoes and green beans so we had plenty to eat during the winter months.

Those who have children are extra busy with the winding down of summer activities. Families need to take a break somewhere along the line, just for themselves.

Many protest, “We can’t afford to go anywhere, money is scarce and we are too busy!”

Here are some simple, affordable ideas your family can do together.

Gather up the household members. Shut off the cellphones, I-pads, or any other electronics. Pack some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and take a walk – either around town, the park, or if you live in the country, go ‘over the hill’. Your teenagers, young adults (and younger kids perhaps) might think this is a terrible punishment, not to be ‘in the know’ minute by minute. That won’t hurt them – this is called ‘reconnecting’ with family.

One local family takes fishing poles and heads a mile or so out of town to a stock dam. Sometimes they catch fish, sometimes they don’t – but they have time together and that’s the best time of all.
Another family lives on the edge of the Badlands and takes hikes ‘over the hill’ to the creek. As they walk, they hunt for signs of fossils that are exposed by the weather. Their children have a thorough knowledge of how the Badlands once was an ocean.

Some families will take buckets and pails to the berry patches and fruit trees along the creeks and draws, gathering wild fruit to make of jams and jellies for winter use and to give in gift baskets during the holiday season.

One family who is very careful with their limited funds allows their children to play in the sprinkler once a week. They do not have a yard per say – just prairie grass around their home that doesn’t get watered like ‘town’ yards do. The kids have a blast and their father says it helps reduce the fire danger since they move the sprinkler around the house each time they use it.

Other families with limited funds and a season pass to a National Park spend several hours exploring trails, taking pictures or looking at the exhibits in the Visitor Center. I have found that once kids find something that interests them in nature, they are prone to return over and over again to gain knowledge that can’t always be found in a book or computer.

Be sure and take the time for your family, even if it’s just for two hours. School will be starting again, some as early as mid-August.

Family time is never wasted time.

Till next time

–Paula

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Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column “Pennywise”, and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected].  Please be sure to mention the “Farm And Livestock Directory” when you respond.