By ROB W. ANDERSON
As the longer days entice people to gather in backyards or other outdoor locations to enjoy a grilled meal or other activities, it’s important be prepared for unwelcomed conditions and guests.
Scorching summer temperatures can zap the energy out of everybody involved in the activity, and knowing when to schedule an event is key.
SouthernLiving.com recommends avoiding midday events, as the sun will heat up what may appear to be a cool shade area.
Gathering for a morning brunch or early-evening mixer on the lawn is suggested. Patio misters can help reduce heat effects and provide temporary relief when swimming pools or access to lakes or rivers is not available.
Cherokee County Extension Service Family Consumer Science Educator Heather Winn noted it’s also important to pay special attention to food details and conditions when preparing a meal, especially if the food needs to be transported to a location away from the kitchen refrigerator.
“Cold foods should be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Foods can be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer. Put drinks in cooler and perishable items in another,” she said. “And keep the ice chest closed as much as possible. The danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees. Never let your picnic food or any other food remain in the danger zone for more than two hours. Or one hour, if the outdoor temperatures are above 90 degrees.”
Winn said to avoid cross contamination with meat products.
“Keep raw meats securely wrapped so juices don’t contaminate other foods in the cooler,” she said. “Clean the produce and rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler.”
Keeping the lawn mowed and treated with tick repellent while being prepared for flying intruders like mosquitoes can help guests avoid swatting contests and itchy ankles. Items like bug spray or citronella candles will help curb unwanted pests, said Tahlequah Lumber employee Brandon Messner.
“We also have mosquito foggers, and we have tiki torches that you put the citronella stuff in,” he said. “And we’ve got the little candles and lanterns you can set up.”
Use of cintronella candles or torches provide a two-fold effect, offering illuminated conditions for events without access to outdoor electrical lighting, but more importantly protection from mosquitoes and other bugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that prime mosquito-biting hours usually take place from dusk to dawn. Ticks, the CDC notes, are out all day and all night.
It’s also important to pick a safe area to use a grill, said Winn.
“Position the grill in a well-ventilated, flat, level surface away from the house, shrubs and deck railing. Grills need to be cleaned before use. Preheat the grill, and clean it with a wire brush before placing food on the grill,” she said. “Keep the charcoal in a cool, dry place and handle it with care. Never add lighter fluid directly to hot coals, since flames can travel up the fluid stream.”
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