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It's hot enough to boil water on the sidewalk

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2012 will go down in the record books as one of the hottest summers in U.S. history. From coast to coast, extreme heat and drought have ravaged the nation.

Destructive wildfires have toasted homes and livelihoods in minutes. As my fingers create these words, 30 fires are destroying ways of life in 17 western states.

This summer, outdoor thermometers have repeatedly recorded all-time record-high temperatures. As a result, envision the red-colored liquid in the bottom of the thermometer shooting skyward and plopping on the ground.

The red liquid in thermometers is often believed to be mercury. Not always true. A few mercury thermometers are still sold but mercury is actually a silver substance.

Due to mercury-related health concerns, most thermometers sold today with the red liquid inside is actually mineral spirits or ethanol alcohol colored with red die. Imagine, your outdoor thermometer could be farm powered from ethanol alcohol distilled from corn or biomass.

Back to the hot summer, the greater Phoenix, Ariz. area is called the Valley of the Sun where about 340 days per year are sunny. In early August, Phoenicians received a double dose of searing temperatures.

For seven consecutive days, daily high temperatures climbed to the 114 degree to 116 degree range; smashing or tying all-time heat records.

An old saying which non-Arizonans often repeat is “it’s a dry heat” in Arizona so it’s not so bad. As a Phoenician living in this arid, desert valley, I equate the searing temperatures to pre-heating an oven to 550 degrees and opening the door with your face inches away. That’s what it feels like.

The same week, Phoenix set a temperature record at the other end of the thermometer. The Valley scored three consecutive nights of all-time “record high lows.” The nighttime low temperature was 93 degrees for three straight nights. Letting the pooch outdoors at 5 in the morning was a pretty ugly weather experience.

I’ve never tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk in front on my Valley abode. I figured the egg would burn immediately on both sides – instant protein.

I have poured water on the driveway and literally within 30 seconds all evidence of the water was gone. The water bubbled, sizzled, mumbled a few cuss words, and then literally disappeared from the searing concrete. No evidence of dampness.

During my years living in Indiana, I rode aboard popcorn planters and combines; even planted a few crooked rows before the farmer grabbed the steering wheel. It’s been so hot and dry in the Hoosier State this summer that any popcorn worth harvesting this fall will likely self pop on the cob.

Perhaps producers should install a buttering machine and a Guinness world record-sized salt shaker next to the auger. Imagine a grain wagon rolling out of the field overflowing with ready-to-eat popcorn. The phrase ‘farm fresh’ suddenly has a whole new meaning.

No matter where you live, weather is a major part of our lives and makes for good conversation. Sometimes it’s just good to talk about something else other than depressing news – increasing government regulations, rising fuel costs, the flailing economy, and disgusting political ads on television.

My suggestion is to turn off the tube, enjoy the end-of-summer cool down, and pass the popcorn!

cblake@farmpress.com

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