About

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

Why switchel? Why two blogs? Answers below.

My name is George Putnam. I grew up on a dairy farm in Cambridge, Vermont. After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering, and a few twists and turns in my early career that included a master’s degree in business administration, I started a new career as a loan officer at Farm Credit, a financial institution that lends money to farmers. Farm Credit, a nationwide system of farmers’ cooperatives, 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.

(Yankee Farm Credit became part of Farm Credit East headquartered in Enfield, Connecticut, in 2022.)

I still live in Cambridge, Vermont, but no longer on the farm. For six years after my retirement from Farm Credit, I served on the selectboard for the Town of Cambridge. That experience gave me a new appreciation for local government and provided occasional material for this blog. I am now enjoying my second retirement.

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! One can occasionally find switchel commercially, but it’s easy to make at home. My mother’s recipe 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┬álearned later that every farm family had its own recipe. Some recipes included molasses, lemon juice, even oatmeal.

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 I also like to mix in pomegranate vinegar when I can find it. 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.

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, 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.)

A longer answer to “why switchel?” is because I am intrigued by the yin-yang concept of Taoism (or┬áDaoism if you prefer). Much in our world has a yin-yang aspect. For example, night and day, living and non-living. Switchel has a yin-yang aspect: the sweetness of maple syrup and the sourness of vinegar. Even my two blogs have a yin-yang aspect, with one about the physical world and the other about the world of ideas.

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

For another perspective on “The Switchel Philospher” (TSP) see A word from Mrs. TSP.