Another hot summer’s day. Parts of the state are expecting to break all time temperature records today! While it is going to be a hot one here, we are not quite in record territory, thank goodness.
It was definitely too hot to tackle my concreting and hole digging projects today, so I took the next easiest option that was still a worthwhile and necessary task – mowing the lawn. The weather dictated that the ride-on mower was the implement of choice; it would have been crazy to think about using the push mower in the cloudless blazing sun.
This heat will surely brew some storms and showers. Last night as we ate dinner in the post sunset early evening there was a spectacular and distant thunderstorm to entertain us. It was about thirty to fifty kilometres away I reckon; too far to hear any thunder and quite a spectacle in an otherwise cloudless night sky.
I figured I would mow the lower slope of the block while it was dry. With a bit of rain that area becomes rather slippery and a bit dangerous for wheeled vehicles. Over the years neighbouring properties have donated a few ride-on mowers and even tractors to the lake after losing traction on the slope down to the water.
The contractor who used to mow the block in our absence lost control of his four-wheel-drive tractor on two occasions. Luckily he was saved by the barbed wire boundary fence (“saved” being a debatable outcome under the circumstances) on one occasion and by a large tree on another.
So, anyway, even using a ride-on mower in the blazing heat demanded sensible protection from the glare and high UV index. I put on some sunscreen, my heavy cotton long sleeved army shirt and my biggest hat.
I have a couple of Akubras hanging off the book case in my study. By the way, for non Aussies, an Akubra is a hat, and not a snake, despite what the name might seem to imply. Akubras are considered to be an iconic Australian brand. The company has been making hats from rabbit fur for a very long time and their hats are part of the uniform of those folks who work in or frequent the Australian bush.
I had not worn my biggest brimmed hat for a while and I discovered that it had shrunk a little due to that. When buying Akubras, and similar type hats, it is wise to do so from a western outfitter shop where the experienced staff can advise on the fit. It pays to select a hat that is a smidge large for you rather than a comfortable fit as new. That is because the hat will shrink a little over the years, particularly when not worn for a period of time.
After an hour or two of mowing, the tight hat had given me a slight headache. The first thing I did after making a pot of tea was to get out my hat stretcher and the leather dressing. I rubbed the dressing into the inner and outer leather hat bands and let that soak in for a while. Then I soaked the hat with water and let that soak in too. When the hat was thoroughly wet I inserted the hat stretcher and gently took up the tension.
Over the next hour I made two more slight increases to the stretching tension. It is a mistake to apply too much tension first up as you can strain or even tear the hat fabric and stitching. After that I returned the hat to my study to let it dry naturally.
Curiously, when I looked for a hat stretcher I could not get one in Australia. I eventually tracked one down off the internet. It was the Hallett drop-in hat stretcher, hand made in Tilton, Illinois in the USA. If my memory serves me right, a couple of retired gents there made these stretchers as fund-raisers for their local church. I hope they are still going strong, as that was some time ago
My broad brimmed Akubra is my new hat, being only about 15 years old. My other Akubra is nearing 25 years old and is at the fit-like-a-glove and comfortable stage of its life. The felt has thinned out a little and a few wear holes and tears are starting to appear, the worst ones of which I have patched with leather. If I look after it, that hat should be good for another ten years or so, as my other hat begins to settle-in.
A little judicious hat stretching can greatly prolong the life of a good hat and ensure it remains as comfortable to wear as possible. After about 15 years, with a bit of wear and tear a good hat seems to take on a character of its own and it is a sad day when it finally falls irretrievably apart or is lost.