Summer Pastimes

There was a little ditty my mother frequently sang when we were growing up. It always comes back to me this time of year and I find myself humming it as the hot lazy days of summer roll by.

 Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?

Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?

         Is that what you do? So do I!

 Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?

Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high?

         Is that what you do? So do I!

 Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?

Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?

        Is that what you do? So do I!

Summer has always held a distinct taste of freedom. Freedom from school and homework, celebrations of independence with fireworks, and perhaps even a few vacations for the hardworking crowds. Summer is lazy days in the sand, lawn games, picnics with watermelon, barbecues and baseball, camping in the mountains, and swinging in hammocks.

Summer has a special quality to it. I am not sure if it comes from the light that seems to stretch all day, allowing a few minutes of cool respite in the early hours of the morning or the sunset hours of evening. Or perhaps it comes from the heat that shimmers through the mid-afternoon air. It might even be from the crackling dry summer thunderstorms that drench everything around them with a quick but cool soaking. With all of that in mind, it’s a perfect time to talk about some of our favorite summer pastimes; things that help us appreciate early and the late hours, things that help us beat the heat, and the simple spontaneous things that make memories.

Garden:

While we may wilt in the hot sunshine, the natural world around us tends to thrive in it—as long as it has adequate water and love.  As a child, my mother would wake me at 6:30am during the summer, to pick green beans and raspberries before the sun made its heat burn. While I may have been a bit bitter about waking up early, these are some of the most potent summer memories for me. I loved the time I spent with my mother and grandmother picking beans, and of course eating them!

I am not a great gardener, but perhaps the forced exposure when I was young, is what makes me now enjoy it more each year. Now I like a few moments of cool quietude when I water and care for my small garden. I love having a little basket or tote (see several here) to fill with blooms, vegetables, and more. 

Water:

Growing up in a land locked state the beach babe mentality was a distant dream, but it certainly didn't stop me from spending half of the summer in a swimsuit. One of my favorite water activities during the summer is the weekly irrigation that floods the five acres of orchards and pastures that surround my home. The water is mountain cold and we love to wade, float boats, and run through the orchards as pirates. While it was a part of my childhood, I can't help but rush outside to soak my toes even now.

The other happy summer memories revolve around rope swings into rivers and family reunions at the lake. To a child, the lake felt like the ocean with its waves and tiny seashells. These beach chairs and umbrellas are just a bit of perfection. I can't wait to take them to the lake. Also, if you are looking for a great beach read, one of my favorites for children and adults is called Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren. 

 Outdoor Cooking:

One of the other things I love about summer is the types of food we eat, because food is just so good. Cooking outside keeps the heat from inside your house. Some of my favorite outdoor cooking adventures include tin foil dinners, pizza ovens, barbecues. If you want a book of recipes, this classic reprint of Betty Crocker's Outdoor Cooking.  

So if you are heading out into the wilderness--camping or hiking or even just sitting in your backyard--we highly recommend a tin foil dinner. If you have no idea what these are, here is a quick summary and my favorite way to do it. Essentially this is a meal that you cook over the hot coals of your fire. I like to start with a cabbage leaf as my base because it protects everything from burning. So place your cabbage leaf on a large sheet of tin foil, inside the cabbage leaf you put your meat (I usually put in a homemade hamburger patty uncooked). Salt your meat. Add sliced potatoes, carrots, and onions. Season your vegetables. Place another cabbage leaf on top and seal your tin foil around the food. Place your wrapped dinner, seam side down, on another sheet of tin foil and wrap again. Once you have double wrapped your dinner, nestle it directly on top of hot coals. Allow it to cook for ten minutes per side (total of 20 minutes). Carefully remove from the coals (I usually use a shovel to flip and remove my dinners from the coals. Unwrap and enjoy! If you don't want to mess with the tin foil, check out these bricknic bakers.

If you aren't much for a fire have an entire collection of wonderful items to make homemade pizzas and if you don't have a pizza oven for your back yard, you have yet to experience the joy that it brings. Don't forget your apron!

Backyard: 

Simply being outside is a nice way to spend a summer day. Growing up we had several hammocks in our back yard. There was the low hammock, for the younger kids, and the up high hammock, that was placed up among the branches and required climbing the chestnut tree to get in. I remember the first time I was able to make the ascent up the branches of the tree to get into the up high hammock. Within a few weeks, I had figured out how to climb up with a book and snack in hand too, spending hours hiding among the leaves. Recently we brought in these hammocks that reminded me of the ones that we had in our tree. If you don't have a good hammock tree, then a good blanket will do too. These handwoven ottoman blankets are just right; they are cotton, a great size, and easily washable.

The other great thing to have on hand for a summer evening is a selection of lawn games. Several years ago, I was introduced to several Scandinavian outdoor games called Kübb and Molkky. Both games are made up of simple wooden pieces that require a bit of strategy as you counter your opponents. My other two favorite yard games are croquet and boules (or bocce). These are simple and fun games that are always good for some healthy competition. 

Each of these different places and activities is a way that we have found to get the most out of the freedom of summer. These are just a few of our favorite summer pastimes and we would love to hear more about yours. For more of our favorite summer items see our Summer of Independence collection here.

July 11, 2020 — Chelsey Newbould

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