How To

Healthy Hydration: A farmer (and non-water-lover) experiments

[Whispers:] I don't like water.  Not to drink, anyway.

As a health-conscious person I'm not supposed to admit that, but it's true.  I don't drink enough water.  I'm a big fan of coffee.  And as Ani Difranco sings, "the coffee's just water dressed in brown."

As a result, I've probably been going through life on the dehydrated side of things.  I'm not sure why I started thinking about this last week while I was moving the sheep to a fresh paddock.  I guess I was feeling sloggy and sleepy and since it was a hot, sunny day and I wanted a nap, maybe a cup of coffee then a nap (because that makes total sense...).  I didn't feel thirsty, just really, really blah. 

Then as I was filling the sheep water trough and the ewes lined up for a drink, it occurred to me: "When did you last drink something that wasn't coffee?"  I didn't know the answer and my inner child immediately started whining at the prospect of drinking more water.  "NOOOOOO! I don't wanna! It's YUCK! It makes my stomach slosh!"

Now that I'm a parent, I can better recognize that inner part of me that still needs some parenting of its own.  When the farmer has an invisible, inner tantrum in the middle of the field, it's probably a sign something needs to change. How was I going to get my inner kiddo to slurp down more of that dreaded liquid? 

I was thinking about all this in the middle of a sheep pasture and was therefore surrounded by grass and future hay.  Hmmm, hay.  Hay season is known for its hot, physically demanding work.  When I was a kid, my dad would make a special drink just for days we were putting up hay.  He called it “switzle” and to make it he followed a recipe from my great-grandmother, written on a tattered and yellowing index card.  It was gingery and slightly sweet with just a hint of vinegar.  I loved it.   

BINGO!  I finished watering the sheep and went home to look up recipes and experiment.  Turns out my dad’s switzle had experienced a bit of renaissance in the last few years.  I wasn’t aware switzle (aka switchel, haymakers punch) was cool, but then I’m usually late to the table when it comes to trends. Anyway, there are tons of recipes on the internet and I got a little boggled trying to find one that closely resembled the drink I remembered from childhood. 

In the end I made up my own recipe.  I got out the ingredients I remembered and just started mixing until I stumbled on a combo I liked.  Then I made two big jars of the stuff, one for drinking immediately and one for later which I stuck in the fridge. 

Almost immediately after drinking over a quart of switzle with lunch, I stopped feeling blah. I didn’t want a nap anymore.  I skipped my afternoon coffee.  I had the energy to do my chores and more for the rest of the day.  Also, thanks to the ginger, my stomach didn’t slosh like it wants to when I (reluctantly) pound straight water. And since it was tasty, I drank it happily and later went back for more.  It felt like magic.  My great-grandmother and father were on to something.

This all happened last week and I’ve been careful to keep myself hydrated since.  I’ve been switching off between switzle and water with sprigs of fresh mint.  The results have been pretty amazing.  Turns out a hydrated body is an energetic body.  And keeping hydrated is WAY better for my future kidney health. Seems simple but it took me way too long to realize my energy slumps were more due to a lack of fluids than lack of sleep or food. 

I’m sharing this in case you share my struggle when it comes to drinking enough water.  As a farmer, I love to learn more about healthy foods but how often do I think about healthy hydration?  This last week has been about experimenting with what works.  For me, getting enough fluids means I have to trick myself into drinking water that tastes a little like something.  While I’m at it, I might as well share those tricks. 

Below is the switzle recipe and you can also place sprigs of fresh mint directly into your water bottle.  That little bit of freshness just seems to help the medicine go down.  :) Both are simple, quick, inexpensive, and healthy ways to drink more fluids this summer.

“Switzle AKA Drink more water, silly!!”

2 quarts cold water

1/8 cup organic apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon organic lemon juice (optional)

1 teaspoon dried ginger (or 1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger-fresh tastes awesome if you can get it)

Sweetening to taste: Approximately 2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (if using honey, first drizzle into a small bit of warm water to mix and then add to the rest of the water in the jar after thoroughly mixed.  Otherwise the cold water makes the honey clump) or use organic stevia extract (maybe 5 to 10 drops depending on taste?- I use 5 drops).

pinch of sea salt

Mix all the ingredients by putting a lid on the jar and shaking well.  Keep in fridge and shake again before serving.

Feel free to experiment with proportions.  The above is a guide but you may like sweeter or more vinegary switzle.   You can also completely skip the sweetener if you prefer. Have fun experimenting!

 

Do you have a tried-and-true way to keep hydrated?  I’d love for you to share your tips.  Happy June and cheers!

 

 

How to Freeze Farm Fresh Eggs for Future Use

Here an egg, there an egg, EVERYWHERE an egg, egg… Old McDonald has lots of eggs! E-I-E-I-O!
How to stockpile this spring staple

It’s spring.  Eggs are everywhere at farmers markets.  It almost lets us forget that they will be much harder to find come fall.  If you love your local eggs and don’t want to be without them come September, you might consider stocking up now and freezing them.  It will be like nutritious, delicious money in the bank in a few months when all the local farms’ hens are on vacation and eggs almost disappear from markets.

Eggs are a seasonal product but our access to year-round eggs in grocery stores has let us all forget this.  Hens on a small, local farm will lay like crazy in the spring and then their production tapers off in late summer.  This is caused by the change in day-length.  As the days start to shorten, the hens’ brains tell them to put the egg business aside and get ready for winter.  To do this, the girls will lose some of their old feathers and grow new ones in a process called molting.  This takes a lot of energy and the hens’ lay very little or not at all during this time.  Egg production will remain relatively low until next spring when the ‘eggstravaganza’ starts all over again. 

True, a farm can encourage the hens to lay more through the winter by using timed lighting.  In fact, factory-farmed hens never see anything BUT artificial light and so they always think it’s spring. In part, that is how grocery stores have eggs year round.  We do use lights to some degree, but we also believe the girl’s will be healthier and happier if we allow them to molt properly and prepare their bodies for winter.  We feel this better respects the hens’ true natures and needs.  It also saves electricity!   Therefore, eggs remain a seasonal product on our farm.

I know we’re all still waiting for spring to show up but now is a good time to start thinking about fall when it comes to eggs.  Stock up while they’re plentiful and freeze them.  It’s a simple way to avoid the ‘scramble’ to eat local later in the season.  :)

To freeze whole eggs:

Remove shells (seems obvious but I found myself asking that question the first time…lol) and place desired amount of eggs into a clean bowl. Beat just until blended, pour into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of eggs and the date, and freeze.
This is the method we use most and the scrambled eggs we make from these frozen eggs are just as good as the ones made from fresh eggs.  We find 6 eggs/container to be a great size for later use.

To freeze fresh egg whites:

Break and separate the eggs, one at a time, making sure that no yolk gets in the whites. Pour the whites into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of egg whites and the date, and freeze. For faster thawing and easier measuring, first freeze each white in a standard ice cube tray. Then transfer to a freezer container.  This is more work now but makes life much easier later!

To freeze fresh egg yolks:

Egg yolks tend to thicken or gel when frozen, so you need to give yolks special treatment. If you freeze them as they are, egg yolks will eventually become so gelatinous that they will be almost impossible to use in a recipe.  I know this from experience-I could have played ping pong with my first batch of frozen yolks. 

To prevent table tennis worthy yolks, beat in either:

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt per ¼ cup egg yolks-about 4 yolks.  This is for eggs that will be used to cook breakfasts or main dishes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar or honey per ¼ cup egg yolks-about 4 yolks.  This is for yolks that will be used for baking or desserts.

 Label the container with the number of yolks, the date, and whether you’ve added salt or sweetener.  Freeze.

To freeze hard-boiled egg yolks:

You can freeze hard-boiled egg yolks to use later for toppings or garnishes. Carefully place the yolks in a single layer in a saucepan and add enough water to come at least 1 inch above the yolks. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and let the yolks stand, covered, in the hot water about 12 minutes. Remove the yolks with a slotted spoon, drain them well and package them for freezing. It’s best not to freeze hard-boiled whole eggs and hard-boiled whites because they become tough and watery when frozen.  You can instead freeze the whites as mentioned above. 

To use frozen eggs:

When you’re ready to use frozen eggs, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. Use egg yolks or whole eggs as soon as they’re thawed. Thawed egg whites will beat to better volume if you allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. It's safest to use thawed frozen eggs only in dishes that are thoroughly cooked.  For best quality, try to use frozen eggs within one year of freezing.