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!