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Summer Relaxing
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:45:00 PM

Goldilocks had it right. Finding (or creating) a situation that's "just right"—neither too hot, nor too cold, too hard, or too soft—is the key to a relaxing summer siesta---or even just being able to kick back and enjoy a leisurely afternoon with a book and glass of iced tea. Obviously, arranging your little rest spot beneath a centuries-old oak, or, even better, on a summer porch overlooking the breaking waves of the Atlantic or Pacific would be ideal, but few of us have that luxury. So, instead, we make do and adapt to the situation at hand.

Made In The Shade

Unless baking in the sun is your goal (or your nearest metropolis happens to be Anchorage, Alaska), it's likely that providing a bit of shade is an essential part of getting comfy in the dog days of July and August. Though it's little comfort in the near term, if your yard doesn't have a good shade tree or two, this is the year to plant. Too often, homeowners repeat to themselves year after year, "I wish I'd planted that [choose your favorite tree] years ago, when we first bought this place," all the while letting more time slip by. If you've ever needed or wanted one, make it a point to plant a shade tree this year.

In the meantime, take advantage of the shade cast by your house, garage or other outbuilding if possible, situating your personal rest area on the north side of one of these structures. If your property doesn't lend itself to such a solution, consider a large, freestanding umbrella. Somehow, you want to be able to temper the heat of the day, at least a bit, in order to enjoy the fresh air and avoid retreating into an air-conditioned environment.

A good umbrella is an indispensable accessory for creating your own shady oasis and enjoying the summer weather. Most outdoor dining tables have holes in the center to accommodate an umbrella. Use a weighted stand to support a portable umbrella anywhere you want to create some relaxing shade. Hinged poles with a tilting mechanism allow you to angle the umbrella to supply more shade when the sun is lower in the sky. Choose the largest diameter umbrella that is practical for your space. You can’t have too much shade on a hot summer day!

Sitting Pretty

A shady spot with a warm breeze makes a nice start, but you've also got to have a good seat to plunk down in, or else you'll be doing more squirming than reading or napping. Everyone has a personal favorite, from the classic Adirondack chair to a padded chaise lounge.

And when it comes to summer relaxing, having lots of choices in seating is important, because there are so many places in which to position your favorite seat. In addition to loungers, rockers and dining furniture for the porch, deck and patio, there are also benches for the garden and folding and portable chairs to take along to the beach, lake, park or poolside. Outdoor seats come in a variety of tough, weather-resistant and long-lasting materials from plastic to metal to various types of wood. Folding chairs are sturdier than ever, yet remain lightweight enough to take with you in the car or even on foot. They’re more comfortable than ever, too, and include styles from ultra-comfortable Zero Gravity Recliners to foldable chairs ideal for fireworks shows, parades and sporting events.

Hardwood All-Weather Adirondack Furniture
Hardwood All-Weather Adirondack Furniture

Back In The Swing Of Things

What says “summer” like a porch swing? Whether you go for a glider or a free-swinging swing, there are as many styles to choose from as there are outdoor furniture sets. In addition to the classic slat-style swing, the ever-growing collection has expanded to include all-weather wicker, log, eucalyptus and more. Many swings have sturdy stands available in case you want to place it in a roofless location; some of these stands even have canopies to keep off the sun. A variety of cushions and pillows adds comfort and style to your selection.

You'd be hard-pressed to find more comfortable "seating" than a hammock. Suspended in a hammock is about as close as most of us will ever get to floating weightless, a very relaxing proposition indeed. Don’t let the lack of perfectly placed trees stop you from enjoying a summer hammock! Use a sturdy hammock stand to place your hammock in the perfect spot for napping and relaxing. Add a pillow or full pad with straps to spruce up an old hammock, or just to provide the ultimate hammock comfort experience.

DuraCord Rope Hammock
DuraCord Rope Hammock

Fire It Up

What about relaxing in the evening? Especially in the Rockies and across the northern tier of states, summer night temperatures can dip sufficiently to make a sweater absolutely essential. Even with a sweater, though, the nip in the air may demand more serious action. Think back to summer camp days for the solution to this "problem." Though a bonfire isn't an option in most communities, a contained fire is, and it makes a warm and welcoming focal point around which to congregate and enjoy a summer evening. Just don't forget the chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers for the 'smores.

Check your local regulations, but most places allow outdoor fires in enclosed fire pits or fireplaces. Place your fire pit in a safe area away from the house or combustible materials and leave plenty of space for gathering around a pleasant evening blaze.

Shop All Fire Pits

Outdoor Lamps

Enjoy reading on the deck? You don’t have to come indoors when it gets dark with outdoor lamps. An array of floor and table lamps beautiful enough for your formal living room (or casual enough for the family room), yet tough enough for the great outdoors let you linger over the paper or a crossword puzzle long after dusk. Heavy bases keep them from tipping over in the wind, while water-resistant shades stand up to the rain. They also make a great complementary accent next to your favorite wicker chair, glider swing or chaise lounge.

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Categories: Outdoor Living


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The Olla: A Brief History

Olla (Spanish, pronounced “oh-ya”) jars have been around since ancient times. Made of unglazed ceramic, ollas traditionally have short, narrow necks with wider bodies, and are made in a variety of shapes. They have been used for thousands of years for cooking, storage, and plant irrigation.

When used to irrigate plants, an olla is buried neck-deep in the ground near a plant’s roots, with the opening of the olla extended above the soil so that it can be filled with water periodically. The porous walls of the unglazed pottery allow the water to seep through gradually, constantly and consistently hydrating the plants without overwatering them – and without wasting precious water to evaporation or runoff.

The use of ollas for irrigation was introduced to the American Southwest by Spanish conquistadors during Colonial times, becoming very common among Native American tribes and Hispanic settlers. Though the technique gave way to more modern methods of irrigation some time ago, its superior efficiency, coupled with its simplicity, has caused it to make a comeback. Though the technique has changed little since its introduction, today’s ollas are usually capped off, making them even more water-efficient.

Perfect for home gardens, Ollas are a super-easy, eco-friendly, less time-consuming way to water annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables and plants of all kinds in dry, sandy soil, very hot or drought-prone areas, raised beds, and even pots, planters and hanging baskets. Fill the olla before you leave on a short vacation to enjoy worry-free watering – and a smaller water bill!

How it Works:

Water is pulled directly through the terra-cotta!

Read more about Ollas on our blog.

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