About

I call myself “The Switchel Philosopher” and I have two blogs:

Why switchel? Why two blogs?

The short answer to “why switchel?” is because I like it! Switchel is a non-alcoholic beverage from Colonial times. From Wikipedia:

Switchel debatably originated in the Caribbean, but New England also holds credit as the source of switchel, and it became a popular summer drink in the American Colonies in the late 17th century. By the 19th century, it had become a traditional drink to serve to thirsty farmers at hay harvest time.

My mother made switchel for our family when I was growing up on the farm, and we drank a lot of it in the hayfield. It’s good stuff, and there is renewed interest in switchel these days. It is now being sold commercially – see this and this for example.

My mother’s recipe for switchel was simple: 1 cup maple syrup, 1 cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon ginger, add water and ice to make a gallon. Proportions can be varied. I learned later that every farm family had its own recipe. Some recipes included molasses, lemon juice, even oatmeal. Endless variations are possible. Just like life.

The essence of switchel is sugar, vinegar, ginger and water. In Vermont where I live, the sugar is usually maple syrup, but honey is also good. The vinegar is almost always apple cider vinegar, but once I found some pomegranate vinegar that made very tasty switchel. If desired, spirits can be added (I recommend rum). I discovered that variation later in life. My mother did not allow spirits on the farm.

Maple syrup and apple cider vinegar are native to Vermont. Ginger is not. Life should be like that, too: we should appreciate things from both home and away. Oh, and the ginger tends to settle out, so you need to shake switchel before drinking it. Life is also like that. Sometimes you just need to shake it up a little.

So a longer answer to “why switchel?” is because it is like life.

The answer to “why two blogs?” is because they have different themes.

“The Switchel Philosopher” is for adventures in the world of ideas. The tag line, which is intended to serve as a muse for the blog, is:

What is a proper relationship between a free people and their government?

“The Switchel Traveler” is for adventures in the physical world, often travel adventures. The tag line is:

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

This is Hamlet’s reminder that we can never know everything. I like this line because it says to me that philosophy alone is not enough. We must also explore the world.

(Although Shakespeare meant natural philosophy, or what today we call science, the meaning is the same. Science does not know or explain everything.)

The rest of the answer to “why switchel?” is because of the yin-yang concept of Taoism (or Daoism if you prefer). Much of life has a yin-yang aspect, and switchel is like that – with the sweetness of maple syrup and the sourness of vinegar. Life, too, is both sweet and sour, happy and sad. There is yin and yang almost everywhere. Even my two blogs have a yin-yang aspect, with one about the physical world and the other about the world of ideas.

My name is George Putnam. I grew up on a dairy farm in Cambridge, Vermont. After graduating from college with a degree in agricultural engineering, and a few twists and turns that included a masters degree in business administration, I ended up as a loan officer at Farm Credit, a financial institution that lends money to farmers. Farm Credit is a nationwide system of farmers’ cooperatives – not that common in the lending world. Farm Credit was my career for 32 years, including ten years as president and CEO of Yankee Farm Credit headquartered in Williston, Vermont. I retired at the end of 2016. I still live in Cambridge, but no longer on the farm.

I started this blog in February 2017, after retiring, but I have been blogging since 2007. See My Blogging History.

In retirement I am spending time traveling in both the physical world and the world of ideas, looking for adventures to blog about. I also acquired a new job. At town meeting in Cambridge in March 2017, I was elected to the selectboard. This is an interesting part-time job that sometimes provides material for my Switchel Philosopher blog. Of course, all my blog posts are my personal views and do not represent the selectboard.