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  • Episode 05 – Stephanie Syson – Herb Farming, Growing Biodynamic Medicine

Episode 05 – Interview with Stephanie Syson.

Featured on the Y on Earth Community Podcast – Stewardship & Sustainability Series.

Transcript

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Hi friends, I'm here with Stephanie Syson from Biodynamic Botanicals and we are just outside

a carbon-dale at Sustainable Settings and Stephanie's been nice enough to give us a quick

tour of her herb garden here and maybe you can tell us a little bit about what's going

on here.

Sure.

We grow about 30 different variety of medicinal herbs for my own product line, for other

product lines and apothecaries, so most of it gets dehydrated and is used for teas and

tinctures and saves and oils and whatever else herbalists want to craft with it.

Wonderful.

Can you walk us through and tell us a little bit about what's going right through here?

I can.

And so this is a new entrance we're just starting and we have some of the biodynamic

prep plants here that are also medicinal herbs, so these are used in biodynamic agriculture

but also for lots of different herbal purposes.

So this is Yarrow, which is native to Colorado and lots of other places, but this Latin

is Achilia Milafolium, which is said to come from the warrior Achilles, who was reported

to never go into battle without Yarrow for his soldiers.

The reason being it's a rapid blood coagulator, they also like to call it nose bleed because

it'll stop bleeding, whether it's your wound or your nose, and then we use it as well

for like an allergy tease and things like that because it helps drain congestion out of

the head.

So that's a really fun one and it's really, really drought tolerant, so this is an area

that doesn't get much water, and so a lot of our edges will be planted or are planted

with Yarrow because it likes this dry, sunny landscape.

I think I remember hearing that Yarrow that Roman soldiers would spread Yarrow all over

their bodies before going into battle to help if they got wounded basically.

Right.

Right.

It also helps prevent infection.

Okay.

So it's a good one to have in your first aid kit if you're out in the backcountry and

you get cut.

Yep.

Great.

Okay.

Beautiful.

So we've got a few other little guys that we'll see some bigger patches of those as we

go through.

So some echinacea, which people are familiar with, some lavender, lemon balm, hawthorn.

This is all angelica, so this is native as well.

And most folks will probably be familiar with it.

It's in a lot of bitters like in your cocktail, but a really beautiful root that most of

the time, the roots what we're using, interesting flavor profile and just gets incredibly tall

with these beautiful, umbaliferous flowers, which bring in beneficial insects and there's

all kinds of other uses, but for us it's a really beautiful medicinal.

And the others in the umbal family are like queen Anne's lace, I think carrot might

be.

Yep.

Everything in the carrot family.

We've got OSHA is in that category, we've got wild carrot, which is queen Anne's lace.

We've got loveage, cilantro, parsley, those are also in that family.

Really beautiful flowers that are great in our gardens to bring in the beneficial insects.

Beautiful.

Yeah.

Okay.

Um, this is kind of permaculture's darlene herb, do you know it?

Not comfrey, is it?

It is comfrey.

Ding ding.

Oh my gosh.

Yeah, so really beautiful nutrient accumulator, creates a lot of biomass and it's good for fertilizing

our garden.

We can make compost teas out of it, but it's also a rapid cell regenerator, so it's going

to help heal wounds faster.

Um, they also just caught nip bones, so people would make poltuses and put it on spraying

and strains and broken bones and things like that.

And do you use it internally as well as topic?

Um, I do a little bit, but it's not done in the trade.

It's a really, really strong, powerful herb and can be hard on the liver for folks.

So mostly it's a topical.

Mm-hmm.

Okay.

So we've got a smattering of other things in this area, and we've got hiss up.

Uh-huh.

Which is an herb that's a classic old world herb that we've used for coughs and congestion

and lung mucus, things like that.

And we've got some alacam pain around.

We've got some bird-ock, which is, you know, a weed to some folks, but also what's up for

that stump?

Um, a food and a great medicine helps to bind heavy metals in the body, um, really, really

beautiful herb.

I have to share really quick.

One of the things I love to do is get bird-ock root and then chop it up or even mince it

and include it in my soup or stew.

And you know, it's so mellow in terms of taste.

Nobody would even necessarily know it's there, but of course you're getting those medicinal

benefits.

Right.

And speaking, um, uh, the Oriental folks, China, Japan, a lot of them use bird-ock as a

food regularly.

And you saute it.

It's delicious.

Yes.

Really good.

Love that.

Love that.

You know, uh, my friend, Brigitte Mars, uh, recently told us in a class that, um, bird-ock

is this French en bua, means butter, and one of the old ways of wrapping the butter was

with the bird-ock leaves.

And, uh, I hadn't known that.

That's kind of fun to, uh, um, think about.

And they say that this is one of the possibilities of how Velcro was created, if anyone, um, ever

come in contact with the seed head, it just attaches to you and won't let go.

Um, and that is said to be how we came up with the idea of Velcro.

Is that the notion of having a bur under your saddle?

Yeah, maybe.

Haha.

Nice.

Cool.

Alright.

This is so fun.

Yeah.

This is a little bit more wild section where every herb can be, um, and live.

And so we have probably 60 to 70 varieties in here, but in small numbers.

And then as we move back, it's more of their traditional kind of row culture, and we have

about a dozen herbs that we grow more for the larger scale.

Mmm.

Okay.

So we've got some wild ones in here, um, Mugwort, Valerian.

Yes.

Um, um, this giant Turkish plantain, as you can see over here.

This guy is, uh, the Elecantane, which it all just looks green right now, but this

will get really tall and have this beautiful yellow flower on top.

Mmm.

Beautiful.

Mmm.

Beautiful.

And what is this structure?

Um, this is just the place that I come to in the morning and have my tea or the place

that I come to in the evening and have my tea and look at Mount Sofras and have fires

and, you know, kind of have some reverence for this space.

Mmm.

Beautiful.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

And you have tall people have to bow and then come in.

Yep.

Not me though.

No.

Should I be following you right now?

Okay.

Okay.

If that works with your...

Of course.

We'll see.

Hahaha.

I'm on a leash.

You are.

Hahaha.

Oops.

I didn't bow far enough.

Oh.

Yeah.

Hahaha.

Alright.

We're going to make sure we're not getting hung up here.

And we'll just kind of stay on this straight path of the evening.

Cool.

Thank you.

Do you know this one?

Uh, okay.

Don't tell me.

Don't read my phone.

I didn't see it.

I want to say it's, um, Motherwort.

You are right.

So, okay.

Beautiful.

We have a few patches of it around here.

Motherwort is a Lyonaurus cardiaca.

Okay.

It's a cardiac heart.

Yeah.

Lyonaurus lion.

Lion heart.

Okay.

So, one, it's actually just good to help heal the heart.

But it's also used as a nerving.

It's used for stress and anxiety, especially the types that, like, is, like, right here.

It, like, makes it hard to breathe in your upper heart region.

Um, it's an amazing...

Like when a parent's worrying about a child.

Potentially.

Right.

Or lots of different scenarios.

Um, yeah.

It just calms those moms down just enough.

Haha.

You want to strangle those little ones.

Um, so we also have lots of other herbs in here.

And we're really kind of walking the line between how wild we can keep it, um, because

everything here except for the grass is an herb and is useful and medicinal.

So how, um, much can we let them play together in this poly culture while still being able

to harvest a clean product and not have too much, um, labor post-harvest trying to get

the other things out of it, because we need it to be pure.

Yeah.

Um, so we've got plantain and clover, um, the next road goes into a skull cop, which is

a mint.

You see it?

Oh, yeah.

All of this.

Look at that.

Across.

How tall will that get?

About here.

Okay.

With these really beautiful, kind of light purple flowers.

And this is, um, another nerving that is really, really calming great for kids, um, and

helps to just kind of tone down any nervousness or anxiety or like we've eaten too much sugar

and we're all hyper or had too much caffeine, um, it just, it just takes it down a notch.

It's a really beautiful herb and you can take it for long periods of time.

So what would happen if we mixed some of that in our coffee in the morning?

Um, it would probably be less edgy.

Yeah.

Yeah.

It's not going to counteract the caffeine, but just takes the, the kind of jitter out of

it.

Cool.

Right.

Um, and we were talking earlier about the cat, the nettle caterpillar that's moved in.

Oh, yeah.

These are two big nettle beds and we can find one that you guys can really see.

I definitely see some right here.

Yeah.

They're like, they're really impressive.

So they calm, sorry.

Um, here's one.

You see that?

Oh, yeah.

And will that destroy the foliage or, yeah, okay, they're there to eat it.

But they only come once per season and nettle is a crop that we can get many cuttings

off of.

So I already took a cutting.

They're coming in.

They're taking their cutting and then it'll regenerate and I'll probably get three more

cuttings this season.

Um, so it's just, it's their turn and they need it too.

They won't go on anything else, um, whether you're back east or here, if you have a large

pot of nettles, you're probably going to run into these guys and they'll just end up.

This is just the beginning.

They'll be all over these crops and just, um, thousands of them.

Well, you're doing that sharing.

Yeah, it's their turn.

It's okay.

That's wonderful.

Really.

Well, I think if they, you know, we'd have to figure something else out if, um, it was

a crop that wouldn't bounce back or if they started moving on to other crops or stayed

around for too long and just kept reproducing, but that's not the situation with them.

They just come and do their work and then they'll move on and we won't see until next

year.

Beautiful.

So, you know, I think one of the things to note with that is just the incredible love

and care and the sense of stewardship that goes into having this relationship with

these insects and they're, you know, probably some of us would be inclined to want to kill

or eradicate and what you're doing is very different and absolutely lovely to be able

to experience.

And they're, they're really fascinating to watch.

They're, they're really good at their job and then we get these beautiful moths that fly

off.

So, um, it's a good relationship.

I'm okay with them being here.

That's wonderful.

And of course, nettle is really important in the biodynamic practice.

It is.

And a lot of the herbs we grow here are, are important from a biodynamic perspective,

but then also just from a nutritional and health perspective.

And nettle is one of our best herbal endohistimines.

So, again, people are using it for allergies or to help the body of some light iron and

really provide some much needed vitamins and minerals and it's delicious if you just

want to eat it.

As soon as you heat it, the thing all goes away, so you don't have to worry about that.

I've used it as a substitute for spinach, making things like lasagna and what have you.

So it's so good.

So good.

Okay.

Uh, and then we can just run through this and then, okay, thank you for showing us all

this.

Like gosh.

So we're planning on doing these, um, along these irrigation lines will be wild hedgerous.

So we've already got them perennial willow and rose and choked cherry all planted along

this.

So each irrigation row will be just all tall perennial woody shrubs and grasses and everything

that wants to just grow wild and it's going to help us create some wind breaks, some micro

climates, because this is a pasture full sun all the time for everybody, full wind and

a lot of our herbs would really appreciate a little bit of shade or a little bit, just

a little bit more to work with.

Like we said, the yaro loves it dry, so where the irrigation doesn't hit is a great place

for it.

Where we have irrigation that's crossing over a double, it's really wet and so our mints

and things like that climates.

So the more micro climates I have, the more I can play my crops into that and give everybody

what they want.

So the hedgerous will help to do that.

Beautiful.

There's catnip.

Okay.

Yeah.

And then we've got our mints.

So we've got our spear mints and then our big rows of comfrey chocolate mints, peppermint,

angelica and then the same thing is happening here.

This last year was Tulsi, but this year it'll move into the perennials with more mints and

comfrey and you can see the oats are seeded in.

The oats like oatmeal, but we use the milky seed head.

So before it's matured into a grain, it's a great for the nervous system, helps to rebuild

the myelin sheath and the brain, a really nutritive, safe long-term herb.

And the straw is also a pretty popular crop in teas for vitamins and minerals.

I've heard don't nursing mothers often use oats?

Is that something I'm remembering correctly?

I'm not familiar with that usage, but there's pretty much no one that wouldn't benefit

from using oats.

It's just a good food safe long-term building herb that helps to build us up and fortify

our body, keep us strong.

And it's great for us both red clover and oats are for the other areas out there which

are in vegetable production.

We follow the vegetables around, everyone else's cover crop is our medicinal crop.

So we get to feed the soil, we get to add the nitrogen with the clover, add the biomass

with the oats, but also pull a crop off of it as well.

That sounds to me like a win-win.

It is a win and we just rotate right around with the veggies.

That's wonderful.

So it's a good deal.

So do you have a very favorite herb would you say?

Of the moment.

I think, last year was Clary Sage was my most favorite herb and we had a three week drought

right before it flowered and the scent of it would just knock you to the ground anywhere

you were, anywhere 500 feet from them.

It was amazing.

The year before that it was Blue Vervein, it was one of my favorites this year I don't

know yet.

We'll see.

Let me say or ask a question, little play on words with YonEarth the work we're

doing with YonEarth Community, YonEarth is herbal medicine important for people?

These are plants that have adapted and evolved with us over time.

They have, there are ancestors, they have this symbiotic relationship with us and this

ability to adapt to place much quicker and longer term than we do.

And so by consuming them, not just as a, okay, I don't want to take asked for and I'll

take Willow Barkin said, really integrating these plants into our lives on a daily basis,

remembering what it's like to be wild.

These herbs, I love vegetables, the herbs get me in a different way and their genetics

are so much more wild still.

You don't get germination when you germinate a flat of Oshwaganda.

You get like three in four days and then maybe ten more pop up in a week and then maybe

three weeks later or three months later, more will germinate because they're just still

very much wild.

So there's so much diversity it sounds like you're not so much diversity.

And like we talked about with the irrigation, there's an herb for every place in our, whether

we have a north side of our house, we have a hot side that's on the south that's dry.

There's an herb that can go there.

And these are plants that other farmers plant in their gardens to bring in beneficial insects

and to keep their veggie patches healthy.

And so we don't have pest issues, we don't have disease issues, it's, they're tough.

And I like that about them.

Yeah.

Beautiful.

Well let me ask you another similar sort of question now, you're doing a lot.

This is a biodynamic growing situation and you're growing a lot of the herbs used in

the biodynamic preps here and of course soil is really central to all of that.

So let me ask you, YonEarth is soil important?

We all come from the soil, the soil is what we're standing on, it's, you know, for lack

of a better term, the earth beneath our feet, the ground beneath our feet, the life in

it creates everything else.

We eat the plants, but they eat the soil, they eat the sun.

And our relationship with it with, there's a whole world down there, when you really start

getting into soil science and the life that's down there, it's a whole nother ecosystem.

It's not dirt, it's not just something that we build our houses on, it's alive.

And that goes into everything we do here, whether into straight into my hands from the dirt

under my fingernails or into the plants or the animals, everything is better when we

care for this first.

Everything else is easy.

Beautiful.

Well Stephanie, thank you so much for giving us a little tour to experience what you're

doing out here.

It's absolutely beautiful.

And I just want to reiterate, if anybody, although there's tremendous demand and you're

selling often before harvesting for folks who would like to learn more, they can go

to biodynamicbotanacles.com.

And we're here at Sustainable Settings, SustainableSettings.org.

And thanks.

We'll just come out and volunteer and learn about all these plants, lives, and in person.

Cool.

Thank you so much.

Thank you Stephanie.

Pleasure.

Bye.

Y On Earth - Podcast Cover
Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 05 - Stephanie Syson - Herb Farming, Growing Biodynamic Medicine
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