Switzel Days

Oh perfect hay weather, we dance in the fields for you!!!!

Yes, yes, yes, today we will put up the rest of the hay!  The other day we put 414 bales up and the loft is looking pretty darn good!  It took our family of 5 no time to unload 3 wagons full that our neighbor Keith cut from our big field.  Keith has a full time job and so bringing in all the hay from the various fields he cuts is no small task.  When you are playing with old machinery and weather, working 8 or more hours at a day job, well you just pray you can hit it right to get the hay cut, tedded, baled and put up between storms!

This afternoon I will be taking my son, Jody, to the airport where he will fly to Las Vegas for ICAST, a week-long Sportsfishing tradeshow where he has been asked to represent StickJackets with a fellow Virginia Tech colleague from the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team.  I am excited for this adventure for him, but admittedly sad that he will miss out on the haying-fun!!!  I’m sure he is cool with it, though!  When I get home, there is likely to be 3 or 4 more wagons of hay to unload and so we will rally the troops to once again give those lovely, fat bales a ride on the hay elevator where Sarah Jane and Charlotte get a fabulous aerobic workout moving and stacking.  Jim and I work together on the ground unloading the wagons – I like when he does the high work because being an extra foot taller than me is just the advantage that makes the job easier.  I scramble on the ground to collect the bales and place them just so on the elevator.  Altogether it is hot and itchy work, but so satisfying when the job is done!

As a teenager, I used to help on our farm in Massachusetts and my aunt would make a drink to refresh known as “Switzel.”  You can also call it “Switchel“,”swizzle”, “ginger-water” or “haymaker’s punch” – and it is a beverage made of water mixed with vinegar and honey, then seasoned with ginger.

I thought that it might’ve been a recipe from the Swedish family that owned a lot of farmland nearby, but in my later years learned that Switzel is believed to have originated in the Caribbean, where molasses was often used for a sweetener. By the late 1600s, it had become a popular drink in the American colonies and by the 1800s it had become a traditional drink to serve to thirsty farmers at hay harvest time, hence the nickname haymaker’s punch.

By any name, it is a unique and refreshing drink that any haying party should not be without….even if I am the only one that will drink it!  My own family would rather a pitcher of lemonade or a frosty beer, but for me, its not haying in the summer without a sip of Switzel!

Here is a recipe I have used -if you want to feel like a farmer, have a big glassful after you’ve cut the fields or put up hay!  My minds’ eye has me swilling Switzel with hayseed clinging to my clothes, scratchy bits on my arms, shoes or boots full of chaf!

8 cups water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and then refrigerate until icy!

Here we can enjoy a beautiful Myers Road Sunset through the empty hay wagon -time to put our feet up!


3 responses to “Switzel Days

  1. Wow! It sounds like such an old fashioned type of activity. You will never be one to say “those were the days” because you are really living with traditional work with your family and neighbors. So cool Tammy, even though the work is hot and muggy at times. I will try the switzel sometime soon, though I admit I am not doing any work on a farm or even in a garden these days. Apartment living does not provide the opportunity for it, though some NYC neighborhoods do have community gardens, I don’t live in a place that does. Hm…..a future project to start one?

    I have my 3 pumpkin seeds growing at a friends. I could not figure out any way to do them myself. Since I am in Pittsburgh for the better part of 6 weeks, I have received some photos from them. Two popped out, and the third was right behind.

    Enjoy the day! Your blog is material for a book. “Life on a Family Farm in the 21st Century” Or, “Family Farming Today With Tammy”! Or, I promise to stop after this, “Tammy’s Tidbets; A Life In Farming”. A Wing and a Prayer Farm, subtitle! Keep writing. With your values, candor, and wonderful family it is all very interesting.


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  3. My husband talked about taking “switzel” to his father when he was on the farm where his father was employed. I’m really sorry now that I never asked his mother about how she made it. I’m glad that we are seeing its revival with many favorite recipes to try. Thanks,, Millie

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