Yesterday evening, Vice-Grips in each hand, I pulled the last electric fence wire tight around its porcelain insulator. Mosquitoes cycloned around me with a collective pitch eerily similar to my ears ringing. Sweat soaked through my leather work boots. It still feels like summer in many ways, but the late afternoon light shines more softly, and sunset comes surprisingly early.
The other sign summer has ended: I slugged down the last of my homemade eggnog before hitting the shower. Eggnog has become my new summer recovery drink.*
While reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy” to the kids last year, this passage hit me:
“In the middle of the morning, Mother blew the dinner horn. Almanzo knew what that meant. He stuck his pitchfork in the ground, and went running and skipping down across the meadows to the house. Mother met him on the back porch with the milk-pail, brimming full of cold egg-nog.
The egg-nog was made of milk and cream, with plenty of eggs and sugar. Its foamy top was feckled with spices, and pieces of ice floated in it….
The cold egg-nog slid smoothly down his throat, and it made him cool inside….
Father always maintained that a man could do more work in his twelve hours if he had a rest and all the egg-nog he could drink, morning and afternoon.”
I have to agree with Almanzo's father, a man who worked both hard and smart.
We think of eggnog as a winter drink, but it makes perfect sense for summer. Hens are light sensitive. When daylight exceeds twelve hours, the hens’ pineal gland sends a hormone through their bodies, stimulating the ovaries to lay more eggs. Our hens barely kept us in eggs during winter, but have provided a glut through summer. For foraging chickens like ours, summer eggs seem to taste better. Their feed is the same ration all year, but foraging hens eat plenty of greens, worms, and grubs throughout summer. Our hens even follow us to the garden, scratching for worms and grubs behind the tiller or a hoe. As a result, their eggs’ yolks are darker—the color of an August sunset. It’s totally subjective, but I think summer eggs have more flavor.
If I’m working hard, I need calories to keep going. Lots of them. And good ones. When I'm hot, I like fruit, juices, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt. I drink homemade yogurt smoothies by the quart for the calories and protein content. Eggnog was a natural fit. I wouldn’t take it to the field where it could warm up, but it’s a great drink when I go to the house for a break.
Now, with hens laying fewer eggs and fall approaching, I have to say farewell to eggnog —until December.
* For the record, my new summer evening adult beverage is the Gin-Gin Mule with Death’s Door Gin. I’ve learned to drink at least a pint of water and eat a small snack first if I’ve been working. Otherwise, these are so dangerously smooth, drinking a couple after heavy physical exertion may impair your ability to operate pliers. You’ve probably never needed pliers to close the chicken coop at night--
Former Marine Infantry Officer. Iraq Vet. Interested in Regenerative Agriculture at any scale.
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