Southwest Summer Survival

As Summer Solstice nears, I wish to remind everyone that summer can be brutal in the Southwest. We want you to be safe out there while you are foraging your mesquite pods, or barrel cactus fruits, or palo verde beans – or any of the other great Southwest foods we have shared. More links on our Forage page.

Biggest Area to Protect

What is the largest organ of your body? Your skin!

No you do not need to dip yourself in sunblock anytime you plan to step outside. You need to allow your body to absorb some natural vitamin D as well. Just be smart and limit your exposure, especially at the hottest part of the day.

sunblock on savor the southwest

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is no joke. Yes there are three types, supposedly with various degrees of seriousness. But any type of skin cancer, left untreated, can be deadly.

Skin is a complex tissue with a number of different layers, not to mention special types in different areas. Skin cells will keep growing on dividing and growing until the day you die. And this is the issue.

Researchers are learning that the more often cells divide, the more likely they are to develop cancer. They also now know that a single dose of sunburn is far more damaging to your long term skin skin health than a slowly acquired tan that develops over the summer months.

wear a bandanna on savor the southwest
Hat, bandanna, long sleeves.

Passive Solar Blocking

We all know that summer sun is fierce. Don’t be obsessive or paranoid, be sensible. Things like sunscreen, sunblock, UV-lip protector, are just fine, but so are simple physical barriers like sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat, a white long-sleeve cotton shirt, and best of all, a bandanna.


Remember those Western movies? John Wayne and Clint Eastwood always had their bandannas. The bandanna is a very handy article. It can be worn to protect the neck from sunburn. Dampened and tied loosely around your neck, it helps cool the blood flowing into your brain. You can always untie it and wipe the sweat off your brow. Wear it pirate style to keep hair out of your eyes. Dusty raking job? Wear your bandanna bandit style to protect your lungs. You can use it as a handkerchief when the job is done. (And then wash it!)

wear a hat that covers your ears on savor the southwest
My friend loves to wear his hat this way. It does not protect the tops of his ears, nor his nose.

Protect These Body Parts


Protecting the back of your neck is very important. Chronic overexposure to sunlight is the cause of 95 percent of all skin cancers. Skin cancer can grow anywhere on the body, but the areas that have softer skin and/or greater exposure are the most common sites for skin cancer growth. You may see a growth developing on your face, but when is the last time you looked at the back of your neck?


Along with protection for the back of your neck, protect the softer skin of your face, especially your lips and nose.


Here’s a place you might not think about. Your ears – that delicate skin on the tops of your ears. A baseball cap is not ideal sun protection. A good, wide brimmed hat is important.

When it comes to sites for skin cancer, neck, skin around the nose, and the tops of ears are all the common sites for skin cancers.

water bottles to stay hydrated on savor the southwest

Protect Your Inside – Hydrate

Southwest living can be enjoyable. Working in the garden, foraging, working the livestock, all can be a joy or a drudge – but whatever you do – don’t get carried away and try to do it all. And remember to drink just plain water – early and often.

They don’t teach it this way any more, but I learned this from a WWII vet who served in the Pacific theater.

The three stages of excessive heat exposure.

Stage 1. Heat Tired
Stage 2. Heat Exhaustion
Stage 3. Heat Stroke

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke are covered very well on medical sites like this one.

I want to call your attention to Stage 1.  Heat tired.  This is the part of excessive heat exposure that the medical sites don’t cover.

water bottles to stay hydrated on savor the southwest

Heat Tired

If you get tired while working, or hiking, stop and rest. Avoid becoming tired and cranky.  Irritability is the first sign that you are on your way down that slippery slope to official heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Be sure you drink something – preferably water and not something sugary or caffinated – to replenish your skin and body cells.  Drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. Those brain cells are feeling cranky for a reason!  If possible, switch to a different task for awhile when you resume work.

seats in the shade on savor the southwest
If you can, switch to a job in the shade.

Fatigue puts you at greater risk for accident and injury. If you are tired, you are less likely to pay proper attention to what you are doing, and we have slithery friends (or is that fiends) to remind you to not put feet or hands where your eyes have not been.

It is important to take an occasional rest break during your work, even if you don’t think you need it. By they time you get grumpy, or worse – dizzy, with heart palpitations, or muscle cramps – then you are in full blown Heat Exhaustion and now you MUST rest, and possibly lose the rest of the weeks work with a trip to the emergency room.

Remember that you don’t have to do all the hours work at one single time. Be safe out there!

Father Kino’s Wore Long Black Robe in the Southwest

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $22!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

Note – the price may increase in July 2024 when the US Post Office increases it’s prices.

Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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