The days of summer shorten and temperatures in Oregon are cooling. We met the recent weeks of plus one hundred degrees with courage.
Courage, two fans, and a swamp cooler. When afternoon temperatures in the loft reached 91 degrees, and the late evening thermometer still read 88, we knew it was time to go beyond just pushing hot air around.
Bruce decided we needed a swamp cooler. And like many things we do and get nowadays for the farm, the swamp cooler acquisition is another example of our preference for relics.
I didn’t grow up with a swamp cooler and knew nothing about it. I remember Bruce describing how the cooling process worked. It was such a hot day, and even drawing a breath seemed a chore. I stood listening to him under the shade of the great oak near the barn. I wore a huge blue and white floral cotton muumuu, and still, sweat dripped endlessly down my back and legs. As Bruce painted the image of air flowing across ice water with its moist, cool refreshment transforming the loft, I began to smile.
At first the machine lived up to the second part of its name–cooler. It kept the loft ten degrees below the outside temperature, and if I directed the fan toward me as I worked on the computer, it was possible to check email and do some online business. But, by 4 o’clock each day when the temperatures peaked, the machine proved the veracity of the second part of its name–swamp. By then the swamp cooler was no longer effective. Suddenly the room got so hot my only recourse was to lie torpid on the bed as though dead like a possum. If I couldn’t play this role, then I went outside and hosed myself down and lay in the hammock in the scorching shade.
I was telling a friend my problem with the swamp cooler’s ineffectiveness, and instead of sympathizing, he began laughing.
“Sher, have you been using this swamp cooler with the windows closed,” he asked?
“Yes, of course, otherwise more hot air would come into the room.”
“The problem at the end of the day is your swamp cooler fills up the small room with so much moisture, and it’s very hot outside. You create an indoor tropical rainforest. By 4:00 p.m. it’s 90 degrees inside and 100 percent humidity making your living space feel like 125 degrees,” he said.
“Oh geez. Now I get why my mother sighed when she heard we were installing a swamp cooler instead of a window box air conditioner in the loft. She knew, because she had a swamp cooler in West Virginia when she was a kid. I guess an air conditioner would have been better,” I said.
“At least it would have been dry air,” he said and smiled.
Since that conversation I began opening up the windows in the afternoon and letting the swamp cooler run along with the two fans. By nightfall the temperatures in the Columbia Basin region of Oregon usually fall at least twenty degrees. So, in the morning the fans have pulled in cool, dry air from outside.
Using a multi-level strategy we survived the prolonged streak of very hot weather. When designing the new house, we had some discussion whether we should put in an air conditioner, since we usually only need it for part of the summer. After our experiences this August, I have no regrets about having agreed to a central air-cooling system for the new house.
Author’s Note: If you have any good stories about swamp coolers, please post a comment. 🙂