Fueling for a day of Ethical Agriculture

October 22, 2022

My name is Shepherd, and hilariously enough I raise sheep and goats on 7 acres of old tobacco farm in the North Carolina piedmont. Tobacco is extremely hard on the soil, and I’m using both modern regenerative agriculture techniques and land stewardship methods invented by the original indigenous people of the east coast to revive the land here and restore this tiny slice of ecosystem to good health. I also live on this property in a mostly off-grid yurt. My electricity is supplied by a modest solar power system, and my only connection to outside systems is my cell phone, which also supplies my internet connection. I’ve made a commitment to use a minimum of petrochemicals, which includes synthetic fertilizer inputs, so I have oxen instead of a tractor and make thoughtful, targeted pasturing choices to concentrate manure and waste hay in areas where the soil needs the most help the soonest.

Because the land can’t support the animals right at the moment and infrastructure is at a minimum, I move 250lbs of hay and about 480lbs of water on a daily basis in summer, plus do general maintenance of my mobile fence system and routine care for the livestock like shearing and deworming. I’m out here on my own, so there is never a day off or even a slow day. I need to be running at 100%, seven days a week, even when the heat index is over 100 degrees fahrenheit with humidity above 70%. Even if I make the oxen do the hauling, their yoke weighs around 75lbs, and I have to lift that onto the backs of their necks and hold it in place while I finish securing it, and then load their sled and unload it at the end, and then unyoke the oxen and put the yoke away. Sometimes it seems easier to use a wheelbarrow even if it means two trips.

As you can imagine, dehydration is a serious health concern in summer conditions. An hour or two of chores means I’m sweating up to 4 liters of fluid and it’s taking electrolytes with it. Additionally, I’m on medications that make me prone to hyponatremia (low salt). As the weather warmed up this year, I complained on twitter that I couldn’t find any rehydration mixes that didn’t include artificial sweeteners. One of my followers mentioned Skratch Labs and they popped up in my mentions to offer me a sample pack. I have never looked back from that initial sample pack -- Skratch makes the best rehydration mix I’ve tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot of them in the process of trying to stay alive!). Staying well hydrated this summer has been incredibly easy. The only problem is that if the goats smell it on my breath, they will try to lick the rehydration solution off my lips. I am not above giving them tiny sips, but not right out of my mouth. My general policy is to add one scoop of Sport Hydration per 16 oz of water and drink it until it starts tasting unpleasantly salty, at which point I’ll disappoint the goats and switch to plain water for a while. If I’ve been slacking on keeping up with electrolyte intake I’ll use a packet of Hyper and a scoop of regular in 32oz of water to get back on track.

I also keep Skratch Sport Recovery mix around to use as the basis for protein shakes, since most flavored protein shake mixes also use artificial sweeteners. I generally try to consume around 170g protein a day, which can be difficult to get in me without at least one 75g shake. Also in a pinch you can toss some Sport Recovery mix in your morning coffee in lieu of sugar and milk. My natural tendency is to eat like a raccoon, by which I mean I will eat whatever is easiest to grab and eat right then without too much trouble, so I try to keep crispy rice squares on hand as the habit is most pronounced right around when my body is trying to recover from manual labor. Rather than let my blood sugar plummet and get hangry, I can snarf a crispy rice square and remain a rational adult long enough to actually make myself a good meal.

To learn more, support, and connect with Shep head to Patreon.
You can also find Shep on Twitter.

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