Facing springtime with trepidation

Banana trees making their annual comeback after being whacked back to nubs.

WITH LUCK, winter and its too-frequent overnight freezes is behind us, not officially, of course. That happens later this month.

As challenging as winter can be — we have no reliable heating system — the real bear is springtime, specifically the months of April and May. It gets stuffy in the house in the evenings, particularly upstairs where we wind down the day with Netflix and munch our salads in recliners like old people.

As we have no reliable heating system, we have no cooling system whatsoever. Of course, the upside to this situation is that our electric bills year-round are the peso equivalent of about ten U.S. bucks per month.

Bet you’re not feeling sorry for us now, huh?

Sometimes in the evenings of April and May it gets so stuffy upstairs that we turn off Netflix early and flee downstairs where it’s always cooler due mostly to the considerably higher ceilings, especially in the living room.

We have a fancy ceiling fan in the bedroom that we only installed about five years ago. Aside from looking elegant, it does squat. It’s only usable at the lowest speed because higher speeds make lots of racket, and that interferes with sleep.

Last year I said: I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not taking it anymore. Just before the cooling, summer rains arrived, I purchased one of those tower fans that sits on the floor. It does all manner of fancy stuff, but it’s still a fan. We’ll use that downstairs instead of the elegant ceiling fan.

That leaves the more serious problem of upstairs. A fan helps, but not much. I’m going to buy one of those “coolers,” which appears to be a fan with some sort of water system. Some you can even drop ice into them somehow.

Buy a room air-conditioner, you say? No way, José. It would murder our electricity bill. I’m assuming the cooler won’t do that, and if it does, it won’t be as bad.

I’d never heard of these coolers till last year when I noticed them in our only department store here on the mountaintop. The store is Coppel, a Mexican chain. I’m leaning toward a cooler made by Symphony. If you have any experience with coolers, I’d like to hear it.

Meanwhile, spring inches closer. The grass, in spite of some rare winter rainfalls, is turning brown and crunchy. I took the photo above this morning. The banana trees are making their annual comeback. They’ll grow high, eight to ten feet.

I used to have three batches of banana trees, but I had two removed and the area cemented. Otherwise, the bananas would have returned like the living dead. Below is a rock-and-concrete table where a batch of overbearing bananas lived for years.

This mesa is about 15 inches high. No bananas can break through that, amigo.

10 thoughts on “Facing springtime with trepidation

  1. How low is the humidity in your area in April and May? The website I was looking at said below 60% but most of the old-timers I know say 30% or below is best. Good luck with cooling off the bedroom and be sure to open a window about an inch to let the excess humidity escape.


    1. Judy: I don’t have any numbers on the humidity during those months, but due to its being bone dry here at that time — no rain at all — I’m guessing it’s pretty low. The bedroom really isn’t the problem due to its being downstairs where it’s significantly nicer than upstairs. The problem is upstairs, which is just one huge room (office, TV room, spare bedroom) with a walk-in close and bathroom. Except for winter, we leave the bedroom window completely open at night. Those coolers require an open window or door nearby, so I’ll be setting the cooler near the open door to the upstairs terraza.


  2. Do you ever let your banana trees produce before cutting them back? I have a cluster of them and when one produces it gets cut down as I have been told they only produce once per tree. Mine are always full and green.

    My bedroom and computer room are upstairs and it gets hot! Have three fans going from now until the rainy season. Maybe my new house will just be one level with lots of good circulation…


    1. Peggy: The fruit of the banana trees here are pathetic. We’re not a tropical zone, and while banana trees here will grow enthusiastically, their fruit is an embarrassment, inedible. And yes, in theory, once a tree produces a batch of bananas, it grows no more. However, I chop them off near the ground every year, the ones that produce bananas and the ones that never did it, and they almost invariably sprout up again the following year. That’s what those in the photo are doing right now.

      Get yourself a cooler!


  3. Felipe, the unit looks like a portable version of a sump pump cooler — a larger version cooled our house in SoCal in the ’60s. It uses evaporative cooling of water flowing over material to provide the heat relief you’re looking for. Works best in a low humidity climate, and works well. Cheers!

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  4. You’ll like using a cooler. We have one in Arizona (and have for years), and it cools enough that we usually start it about 10 or noon on the hottest days and shut it off after supper time. They’re much more economical than a refrigeration unit and you can get a “bleed-off” from your pump to use the excess water to water your plants, so it isn’t wasted. Otherwise the minerals build up and coat the media and everything else with mineral salts (if you have hard water). They do need cleaning once in the spring and you should drain the water in the fall before it freezes outside. (If yours is a portable unit, you may not have to do all that.) On ours, I also need to oil the bearings before using it in the spring. In southern Arizona, it’s a spring ritual to see folks on their roofs changing pads and cleaning the unit. Personally, I never liked that, so I built a support and have the unit close to the ground and blow the air through our dining room window. It’s a lot less work that way! We even use it into the “rainy” season. It just doesn’t cool as much. Just remember that cool air settles, so put the unit as high as you can for the maximum benefit. Also if you have a choice, get the unit whose pump has the highest “GPM” rating. (or, I guess, in Mexico, LPM) They’re much more efficient. We also have refrigeration, but rarely use it. Usually when we have house guests that complain about the “heat”!


    1. Señor Ladrillo: Thanks for the info. Yes, what I’m going to buy is a portable unit, so much of that effort you mention will not be necessary, thank the Goddess. When you refer to “refrigeration,” I imagine you’re referring to AC.

      I’ll be buying ours before the end of this month. More to come.


  5. I remember a time here in central Alabama when there was no air conditioning. Not in the car. Not in the house. Those big fans helped at night, but it was still mostly hot all spring and summer.

    I’m sure you remember that as well.

    A lot has changed in our lifetimes, Amigo. We were tougher back then.


    1. Ray: I remember Southern summers before you were even a faint gleam in your daddy’s eye. One odd thing is that while I clearly remember AC-less summers in my grandparents’ farm in southwest Georgia, I do not remember AC-less days in our house in Jacksonville, Florida, where I lived from age 7 to age 17. I remember living there, of course, but I don’t recall it being uncomfortably warm in summer. I don’t recall heat even being an issue. I don’t recall that we even had fans, which we did have in Georgia. Maybe the proximity to the ocean was a factor. Strange.

      I think we just accepted the weather as it was.


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