Each person has their own unique composition and particular nutritional needs. Connecting to ourselves and to nature can help us find a way to health, said Johanna Boudreau of Zia Energetics in Chimayó.
For 15 years, she and husband Jesse Boudreau have been exploring ways to create well-being through farming, foraging, eating healthy food and harvesting medicinal herbs. They are pioneering a holistic approach to eating and living that takes into account not only what we eat, but also how we enjoy and experience our food in a conscious way. They study with the School of Evolutionary Herbalism in Oregon and share its philosophy locally. "It is an herbalism that evolves with us and encourages us to evolve in a positive way. It takes into account all the dynamics of our surroundings and acknowledges that it is all connected," said Johanna Boudreau.
The Boudreaus are sharing their explorations and knowledge with others in the form of retreats, workshops, herbal products and a new book called "Second Harvest: helpful weeds, permaculture, and natural living." The book looks at ways to integrate natural living into all parts of our lives and focuses on foraging, permaculture and nutrition.
Wild medicine and fermentation
Coming up Nov. 18 - 19, Zia Energetics is offering a retreat with traveling herbalist Dan de Lion of Return to Nature. Working primarily in the northeast part of the country, de Lion offers classes to help people reconnect to the healing power of nature. As part of his Foragemobile Tour, he is traveling across the country to give classes and partner with local herbalists.
"We are excited to have him here. He will bring a different approach and the dynamics of us teaching together can impart a whole new level of learning for our students. This will be a hands-on experiential retreat. We will be foraging for the herbs and plants that are available right now," Boudreau said. In addition to foraging for the plants that are in season, the workshop will provide instruction on tincturing and fermenting food.
The process of fermentation has the power to add layers of nutritional value to the foods we eat. Examples of fermented food are kimchee, mead, yogurt and sauerkraut. "The ancients knew that fermentation turns food into something more medicinal and nutritious than it was before," Boudreau said. "The plant is transformed. It is another way to maintain health and vitality, not just picking and growing our own herbs, but also preparing them in the most nutritional way possible."
Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut, for example, makes it more digestible and its nutrition is greatly increased, she said.
Connection to the land
Boudreau grew up in Chimayó, a descendant of the Ortega and Trujillo families. Her ancestor Gabriel Ortega is credited with bringing weaving to Chimayó 400 years ago. She grew up learning about the medicinal plants in the area. She makes cota tea from the golden flowers of the local plant. It is a good tea for digestion and circulation and a longstanding remedio or remedy of the area, she says. Cota is also used to dye wool. "My cousin uses it to make beautiful orange and yellow dyes for weaving," said Boudreau. She and her husband bought 1.5 acres from her uncle and they along with their three sons have worked to develop a farm here that nurtures the land, while it produces food and herbs to feed the family and share with others.
Water is captured from the roof and in swales on the land to water the garden. Grey water from the house is used for some of the plants. Even with the cold weather coming on, mint thrives in a warm spot in the grey water garden. Water from the acequia follows a snake-like path through the garden allowing the water to be slowed and captured. All these methods help add additional water that can be stored by the soil creating an underground water lens (a body of fresh water below ground).
In a cold frame and greenhouse, cold weather plants like garlic and kale continue to grow. A beehive and chicken coup are part of the garden. A nettle plant has provided flowers and seeds this year. Boudreau explained it is a power plant because it helps treat the root cause of issues like arthritis and allergies. A variety of plants in the garden help recharge its nitrogen content, including a locust tree, false indigo legumes and vetch. A fruit tree was planted for each of her sons - peach, apple, and cherry. Oyster mushrooms grow on fallen logs, in conditions much like they would be found in the wild.
Boudreau explained that at the farm, they follow a permaculture philosophy that says that plants grow best when they mimic patterns that already exist in nature, rather than being manipulated in an artificial way. It is a holistic approach to gardening.
Her husband, Jesse Boudreau, grew up in nearby Los Alamos and learned about plants while foraging with his step-father. He completed a six month intensive permaculture training and was a permaculture landscape designer before starting the farm. Among the services offered by Zia Energetics is design of permaculture food forests.
Connecting to self and better nutrition
For people who want to improve their nutrition, Johanna Boudreau said that the first step is to look within ourselves in order to pay attention to the correspondences between what is happening on the outside and what is happening on the inside. She gives the example of a friend who experiences fear and anxiety in high, dry climates, but not at lower more humid altitudes. He discovered that he was having a hard time absorbing water, no matter how much he drank. "If the cells are dehydrated, it makes sense that the body would feel anxious," said Boudreau. In order to address the problem, it is necessary to pay attention to messages from the body and find foods and herbs that add moisture to the system.
It is important to be aware of hydration, not just in fluids that we drink, but also the fats and oils that we consume and use on our bodies. She points out that many commercial skin products have glycerin in them, which actually robs our bodies of moisture. She recommends coconut oil or salves with herbs like calendula. Oils pressed from seeds or even butter are locally available solutions for dry skin.
She points out that it is easier for people to add healthy things to their diets, rather than taking them away when making changes. One source of increased health can be adding natural spring water to your diet. "Harvest at the source," she recommended. In addition to harvesting spring water, they use a Berkey water filter to make the water at their farm as pure as possible.
Other foods that can be added include a blended green smoothie made with herbs and Kombucha tea that adds probiotics to the system. Boudreau points out that most degenerative diseases start in the gut. As the season shifts to cold weather, herbal remedies that include adaptogenic herbs - those that helps our genetics adapt to surrounding stresses like viruses or severe weather can strengthen the immune system. Herbs such as astragalus and local mushrooms are good choices.
Even paying attention to what kind of clothing we wear can add to overall health. Chemicals in synthetic materials like polyester can be absorbed into the skin disrupting hormone balance.
While some people thrive on a diet of raw food, others may find that it is not a good match with their system and needs. As we hone our intuition, we can sometimes tell even before eat something if it will be nourishing for us. Boudreau explained that a little girl who is eating a Snickers bar with great joy, may get more life force energy than the raw food vegan who eats without enthusiasm.
As we draw near to Thanksgiving, Boudreau reflected on the blessings in her life and offers the following wish: "Live life in deep gratitude, no matter how hard it is. We are alive and breathing and that is magic. It is reason enough to be grateful. Remember your uniqueness and your worth. All of our problems come from our disconnection with nature. Reconnecting with nature and remembering we are part of nature helps us re-wild and re-connect with our innate sense of gratitude and our own natural rhythms."