Using Herbs Beyond the Kitchen

Episode 8
Sustainability Book Chat

Using Herbs Beyond the Kitchen

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If you want to learn more about using herbs beyond the kitchen, The Artisan Herbalist is a must read and a must see. It’s filled will beautiful photos that clearly exemplify the identifying characteristics of each herb.

In this podcast, we are talking to author Bevin Cohen about how he got interested in herbs, as well as how he chose the specific herbs that he included in this book. He explains the differences between infusions, decoctions, tinctures, and infused oils, and when you would use each one.

Then he tells us about his favorite herb, and I talk about a big mistake I once made with an herbal tea. In addition to talking about growing herbs, Bevin also talks about finding herbs in the wild and common mistakes that beginners make.

Bevin Cohen’s other books:

From Our Seeds and Their Keepers: A Collection of Stories

From Our Seeds and Their Keepers

The Complete Guide to Seed & Nut Oils

The Complete Guide to Seed and Nut Oils book cover

Saving Our Seeds

Saving Our Seeds book cover

These are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something after clicking on a link, Thrifty Homesteader will make a small percentage while you still pay exactly the same amount as you otherwise would. 

Learn more about Bevin Cohen online:

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Transcript – Using Herbs Beyond the Kitchen

Deborah Niemann 0:04
Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever size your living space, you can do more than you think to lead a greener lifestyle. In the “Sustainability Book Chat,” we are talking to authors and experts about all the different ways that achieving sustainability is within your reach.

Deborah Niemann 0:28
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode. Today is going to be a lot of fun, as we are joined by Bevin Cohen, the owner of Small House Farm, and the author of Saving Our Seeds and The Artisan Herbalist. Welcome to the show, Bevin!

Bevin Cohen 0:46
Deborah, thank you so much for having me.

Deborah Niemann 0:49
This is gonna be really interesting today. One of the things I think is really fun to ask people who are interested in herbs is to just find out how you got interested in them. Was this something that you were always aware of growing up or anything, or something you got interested in as an adult?

Bevin Cohen 1:06
Well, you know, I grew up with my grandmother; we lived in a small apartment on the edge of town. And I was blessed to have, outside my backdoor, hundreds of acres of woods. We were pretty much where the city met the country, and we would spend so much time out in the woods, exploring the trails, and picking plants, and just having a fun time finding wildflowers and that sort of thing. You know, so, I’ve always kind of had a fascination with plants. When I was in my early teens, I joined some tai chi classes. And, you know, I used to do tai chi out in the woods and harvest berries and such. And I came to realize that, even in this small section of the woods that was kind of my home, there was such diversity of plants available to me, so many different things for food or for medicine, or part of the ecosystem that, you know, the birds and other animals were interested in. And I thought, “Wow, if there’s so much here, how much is there in the world? There must be so much to see and explore.” And, it really just started this fascination with the diversity of plants that are available to us. And, you know, it’s become a lifelong study. And my grandma and I, in this apartment, we didn’t have a lot of places to grow our own food or herbs or anything like that. We had a little balcony, and I’d grow a couple herbs here; I grew a lot of radishes that grew fast, you know. And it wasn’t really until I was an adult that I even got involved in growing my own herbs. Up until that point, I simply just forged from the wild everything that Mother Nature made available to me. So, it’s been a lifetime of a journey to get to where I’m at now. But, I’ve been exploring the wonders of plants for… Well, I don’t want to age myself, but we can say: far more than two decades. Let’s say that.

Deborah Niemann 2:37
Okay. One of the things, also, that I think is super interesting to learn is how exactly you narrowed it down. Like, it’s a very thorough book. There’s a lot of herbs in here. But you know, like you said, there’s tons of different ones in the world. So, why did you pick the ones that you did pick to include in this book?

Bevin Cohen 3:00
You know, it wasn’t easy, Deborah. I wanted to just include all of the plants, if I could, you know—boy, what a book that would have been. So, we really had to narrow it down. So, the two criteria that all of the herbs had to meet to be included into the book was, one, I wanted to talk about plants that were going to be accessible to readers no matter where they live. I didn’t want it to be hyper-localized to my region; I wanted this to be a book that could be valuable to folks everywhere that they may live, for things that they could grow, or as well as that they can forage. So, that was the first box we had to check when we were choosing the herbs. But the second was, I wanted to include herbs that I had lots of experience with, herbs that I’ve worked with for years and years, ones that I know intimately. So, we had to find where—in the Venn diagram—where that overlap was between herbs that I know very well myself but were easily accessible to people no matter where they live.

Deborah Niemann 3:49
Awesome! That sounds like a really great criteria. So, in the beginning of the book, you explain all the different ways that people can use herbs. And early in the book, you talk about teas, and then that is split into infusions and decoctions. And I—most people, I think, unless you’re, like, really into this—you just think, “Well, tea is tea.” What’s the difference between an infusion and a decoction?

Bevin Cohen 4:14
Sure, and that’s a great question. You know, they’re very similar in their techniques. They’re both water infusions, right? We’re going to use hot water to extract the water-soluble constituents from the plant materials. But, with an infusion, it’s more similar to how we brew our tea, right? It’s a fast process; we’re going to steep our herbs for 3 to 5 minutes, just like you would when you brew a cup of tea. You’re gonna pour the hot water over the herbs, and within minutes, you’re going to be able to see the color change in the water, you’re going to be able to smell the aroma of the herbs, you know that that extraction is working. Well, with the decoction, that’s when we’re working with herbs, we’re gonna say things like bark, seeds, roots; they’re a little more tough, have a thicker cellular wall, right? And we need to kind of break that down. It’s gonna take a little more time to extract the chemicals from the plants. So, we’re actually going to boil the plant material in the water for, you know, 20 to 30 minutes sometimes and really get it to release as volatile oils. So, they’re pretty much the same thing, but infusion is much quicker, whereas the decoction is going to take a little bit more time to make.

Deborah Niemann 5:09
Okay. And then, you go on to talk about tinctures. So, can you explain what a tincture is?

Bevin Cohen 5:15
Now, a tincture is an alcohol extraction. Whereas with the tea we’re using hot water to extract the chemicals from the plant material, with a tincture we’re using alcohol—typically 100-proof alcohol. I like to use vodka myself. But that’s no hard and fast rule. And we talk about that in the book. We’re using alcohol is an extract. Think of say, vanilla extract that you would get from the grocery store. That’s essentially a tincture. We’re using the alcohol now to extract alcohol-soluble chemical constituents from the plant material. So, they’re significantly more potent than a cup of tea. Whereas with a cup of tea, we might drink you know, 2 to 3 cups of tea, 6 to 8 ounces each time, throughout the course of the day, tinctures are very, very potent medicinals. So, we’re going to use much smaller doses; we’re going to measure it out by the drop, quarter-teaspoon, dropperful. Much smaller quantities than we would with brewing a tea or something like that.

Deborah Niemann 6:03
Okay. And while we’re at it, let’s just go ahead and talk about what an infused oil is.

Bevin Cohen 6:09
Now, just like these other methods, we’re extracting chemicals from the plant material—the volatile oils from the plants—but we’re going to use fat in this case, right? And you can use animal or plant fat, and in the book, we focus mostly on plant fats. These are the oils like olive oil, or grapeseed oil, coconut oil, we use a lot of sunflower oil, and we’re using these fats in these oils to pull the goodness out of the plants. And that gives us our infused oil.

Deborah Niemann 6:33
Okay. And so, in most cases, like, your teas and your tinctures are going to be ingested. But are oils always use topically?

Bevin Cohen 6:44
Well, no. Think about, you can infuse oils with herbs and use them even to make salad dressings and that sort of thing.

Deborah Niemann 6:49
Oh, yeah!

Bevin Cohen 6:49
Right? You get to infuse these flavors into the oils, right? I like to do that with rosemary and that sort of thing, and make a vinaigrette. So, certainly there’s ingestible options for oils, but you are right, the most commonly, our infused oils are going to be used topically, either as they are or crafted into, you know, salves and lotions and that sort of thing.

Deborah Niemann 7:07
Okay. I never thought of a salad dressing as an infused oil, but that’s totally what it is. I was thinking about my failed attempt to make a body rub with cayenne peppers. Like, I tried that, and it wasn’t really very strong. Does that just mean I didn’t use enough cayenne?

Bevin Cohen 7:27
Well, it could be. Now, there’s a couple of variables here that could have been the cause of your issue. It could have been, one, not enough cayenne; your ratio of herb to oil may not have been proper. Or, maybe your extraction time was off. For an infused oil, we want to let these oils sit for 4 to 6 weeks to really pull out the goodness from these plants. You know, some folks, that’s a mistake that we’ll see, maybe not using enough herbs or maybe not taking enough time to let the oils do their work. So, it could have been either one of those.

Deborah Niemann 7:55
Yeah, I waited and waited and waited. I kept checking. So, I think it probably ultimately was just not enough cayenne, which is kind of sad, because I had tons of cayenne. So it should have… I should have just used more, then. So, why would somebody use an infused oil rather than a tincture or a tea?

Bevin Cohen 8:20
Well, like we mentioned, you know, the infused oils lend themselves well to topical application. So, that would certainly be a reason for that. But, if we want to be able to craft things like a salve or a balm or a lotion, we need these infused oils; they’re going to be the main ingredients in the products that we make. So, they’re excellent for topical stuff. You can use tinctures topically in some situations, most certainly. But if we’re, say, wanting to make something moisturizing for our skin, we definitely don’t want to use an alcohol-based product for that. Right? So, the infused oil would certainly be the vehicle of choice for the product that we want to make.

Deborah Niemann 8:51
Okay. I know one of the reasons that I tried that is because I spend a lot of money buying fancy rubs for sore muscles. And even essential oils are very expensive, and I don’t want to get into distilling. And so, that seemed like, “Oh, this is a cheap alternative.” Like, “I’ve got all this cayenne in my garden. I’ve got olive oil. I’m just gonna throw those together.” So, how do infused oils relate—or how similar or dissimilar are they—to essential oils?

Bevin Cohen 9:21
Well, you know, and that’s a common confusion I think that people have is kind of thinking that these two things are similar, and they are quite different. You know, essential oils, as you mentioned, are typically distilled, right? Steam-distilled. And they take very large amounts of plant material to make a very small amount of essential oil. Whereas with herb-infused oils, it does take some plant material, but not nearly as much, and they’re not going to be nearly as potent, whereas an essential oil is typically not safe to ingest because of how strong and potent it is. Herb-infused oils, on the other hand, are—like we talked about with our salad dressings and stuff. So, there’s definitely some confusion between those two, but they’re very, very different things. And we really didn’t get into essential oils much in The Artisan Herbalist, because I wanted people to have access to all of the ingredients that they need right at home without having to distill essential oils or go buy essential oils or anything. I wanted them to be able to make their medicines and their cosmetic products with things that were easily available to everyone.

Deborah Niemann 10:17
Okay. Now, the second part of your book is really, like, an encyclopedia of herbs. And there are dozens of them. And so, we can’t talk about all of them. But I thought it would be fun to ask you to tell us a little bit about a few of your favorites.

Bevin Cohen 10:35
That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child. That’s a very, very difficult question. You know, because so many herbs we use for so many different things, and they’re so beneficial. And part of what I try to get into with the book that I… The message that I try to convey is the importance of developing relationships with the herbs that we work with, right? We call them “herbal allies” throughout the book, because they’re not commodities. They’re not just simply ingredients, you know? These are herbs that we work with in a synergistic relationship, right? And that relationship is so important. And over the years, I’ve developed a lot of relationships with these plants, so choosing a favorite is difficult.

Bevin Cohen 11:06
But, that being said—and none of the herbs can hear me right now. So, I can say that wintergreen is probably my most favorite of all the herbs, just on a sentimental fact. When I was a young boy—the story that I told at the beginning, you know, the young boy out in the woods doing tai chi—wintergreen berries were the first berries that I ever picked. It was my first experience understanding the bounty of Mother Nature that was available to me, right? Harvesting these wintergreen berries and enjoying them as a snack. Later on in life, as I got a little bit older, those woods that I grew up in were torn down. They were developed into housing, but they kept a small piece of those woods and turned it into a park, which they called Huron Park. And in my early 20s, when I met who was later going to become my wife, Heather, when we first started dating, I used to take her to Huron Park. And we used to hike through these trails, and I tried to show off by identifying plants and that sort of thing—you know, really wowing the ladies. That’s what ladies are into. And we’d harvest wintergreen berries together and eat these berries. Well, now we can fast-forward this many years later, Heather and I are married. We’ve got a family. We live at Small House Farm, which is across the street from 1,100 acres of woods—a forest known as Huron Forest. It’s the same name as the park. And now I’m out here with my children harvesting wintergreen berries. It was one of the first plants that they learned to harvest, you know? So, throughout this whole journey, wintergreen has been an herb that has been with me, and that’s pretty special.

Bevin Cohen 12:29
But not only is it just a sentimental story, but wintergreen is an incredibly powerful plant, right? It’s got salicylic acid in the leaves, which is very similar to what they use to make aspirin. So, we actually use it topically; we make a salve out of it, which is wonderful for sore muscles, tired muscles, joint pain, and that sort of thing. It’s a very powerful herbal ally that we work with. It makes a delicious tea that we can brew. I always like to say, “It’s one of the most patriotic of beverages,” actually. You know, during the Colonial War, after the Boston Tea Party, and we didn’t want to drink the tea that was coming in overseas, folks around here started actually brewing wintergreen tea, and that became the beverage of choice. And that’s kind of cool, too. That’s a fun little bit of history. So the wintergreen, it comes with those stories, it comes with that personal history, it comes with a multitude of medicinal uses. So, if I had to pick one, I think that that would be my favorite.

Deborah Niemann 13:19
Awesome! Is there a particular herb that, you know, like, if somebody just has a very small yard and they could only plant two or three, what is one that you would say, “Oh, you got to plant this one”?

Bevin Cohen 13:31
“You got to plant mint family plants.” That’s what I always say. Not just peppermint, but things like oregano, and sage, lavender, lemon balm—those are all excellent choices. Because you can get a lot of plant in a small amount of area, for growing area. They’re almost impossible to kill, right? So pretty much anybody can grow these things. They’re so prolific that once you get them established, you’re going to have them for the rest of your life.

Deborah Niemann 13:56
Yeah, I love that. Many, many years ago, I was at a garden center; it was kind of end of season. And you know, like, everything’s on sale, like 75-80% off. And there was this really sad, sad, tiny little pot of chocolate mint. And I bought it, and brought it home, and planted it. And now, you know, like, I don’t know how many years it’s been, but holy cow, it just totally took off. And I know when I’ve told people, like, how much I love to grow mint, they’re like, “Oh, it’s invasive.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that means I can’t kill it.”

Bevin Cohen 14:32
That’s right. That’s right! It’s foolproof, you know?

Deborah Niemann 14:36

Bevin Cohen 14:36
I’ve got mint—and oregano, too. Oregano’s the same way. It grows out into my yard. I absolutely love it. When you mow… We rarely mow here in Small House, but when we do, it’s kind of a treat. You get to smell the oregano and the mint as you cut it down. It’s a foolproof plant. Absolutely. I recommend it to everybody, because like you said, you can get just a small, little, sad one that doesn’t look like it’s gonna go anywhere, and within a couple of years, you got more mint than you know what you’re gonna do with. It’s awesome!

Deborah Niemann 14:40
Yeah, exactly. And I had the same experience with lemon balm. You know, same thing, like, buy this sad little plant that looks like it’s like on its last leg, it’s gonna die tomorrow, and it just completely filled up a space. And then that… Like, spearmint and lemon balm, like, that’s one of my favorite iced teas to drink in the summertime. It tastes like gum, bubble gum, you know—

Bevin Cohen 15:21
It’s so refreshing!

Deborah Niemann 15:23

Bevin Cohen 15:24
Yeah, oh, absolutely. You know, and I think it’s nice for beginner gardeners, too, to get a plant like that, because it really helps boost your confidence. Gardening can be challenging, you know, and it’s easy to feel defeated if things don’t go well, or your plants die and you don’t get a good harvest. It’s really easy to be down on yourself. But plants like that, you know, it really helps boost your confidence and say, “Hey, I can do this!” You know, and then maybe you can branch out and try some more challenging plants. But boy, there’s so many options in the mint family, and they’re all a great place to get started.

Deborah Niemann 15:51
Yeah. Now I know, a number of years ago, I was having a lot of health problems. It was just like one thing after another after another, and I was in the doctor’s office constantly. And I read somewhere that licorice tea was good for you; it was, like, an adaptogenic. It was gonna be really good for you, “just be careful because it can raise your blood pressure.” Which, I thought, “Pfft. My blood pressure never gets above 100. Like, I don’t have to worry about that.” So I was drinking, like, 2 or 3 cups a day. And I was, like, in some doctor’s office, like, every other day, literally. And I watched my blood pressure climb. Until one day, they’re handing me the prehypertension handout, because—

Bevin Cohen 16:35
Oh, no.

Deborah Niemann 16:35
—you know, I went from 98 over 66 to, like, 120 over 85 or something. And I’m looking at this going, “Are you kidding me?” And like, “Okay, I guess that warning on the box of tea about your blood pressure was right.” And so I quit drinking 2 or 3 cups a day. And, blood pressure went right back down again. So, I’m definitely not going to grow licorice root, because growing any kind of a root just sounds like a big pain to me. So, other than that one, like, is there any other herbs that people need to be careful with?

Bevin Cohen 17:11
This is such a great point that you bring up, Deborah. I’m glad that you brought this up. You know, folks tend to fall into this way of thinking that herbs, just because they’re little plants or, you know, they’re natural, you know, that they’re just perfectly safe, and we can do whatever we want with them. And that’s certainly not the case, right? Plants are very, very powerful—as you’ve personally experienced, you know? It’s easy to make a mistake in some situations with some plants. So, taking the time to understand the plants that we’re working with is crucial to our health and safety, right? And we think about pharmaceuticals, and we’re used to how very potent they are, and you get these immediate reactions from taking them. And we may not think that plants can do these sorts of things. But sometimes they can, you know? So, it is important to look into those things. In The Artisan Herbalist, we made a point—there’s a very specific choice in the herb. So I guess this could have been the third criteria of the herbs when we chose them for the book, is these are plants that are always considered safe, right? If there’s any warnings about these plants, it’s included right in the listings, just if there’s any cautions, or if you need to talk to a medical professional, if you’re on certain prescriptions, or whatever, we make sure we include that information in there. Because plants are powerful, right? And we need to be aware of that and respect that. Because if we respect them, then they’ll respect us, I guess.

Deborah Niemann 18:22
Yeah, that’s a really good point. Now, you talked about going out into the woods and looking at—finding—the wintergreen with your Grandma. What kind of advice would you have for somebody if they are thinking of going out into the woods and looking for herbs? Like, they could take your book. It was so funny, as I was looking at your book, I’m like, “Whoa, I’ve got that growing in my yard. And I got that growing, and that growing!” So, other than that, do you have any tips for being safe when you’re out looking for wild herbs?

Bevin Cohen 18:51
Sure. Proper identification is key. If it’s an herb that you’re not familiar with, get familiar with it before you harvest it. There’s no point in picking things if you don’t even know for sure what they are or how you’re going to use them. And I see that in Facebook groups and things. I’m in some foraging groups and some herbalism groups, and I see it far more often than I should see this, where people harvest a bunch of plants and then bring it and take pictures of it and post it on Facebook and say, “Okay, everybody, what’s this plant that I harvested, and what can I do with it?” It’s so irresponsible and it’s frightening to think that people are doing that, because not only are there plants that may not be safe for you to be harvesting and adjusting and using or touching—whatever it may be. But also, there’s plenty of plants that are endangered, that should not be over-harvested, right? So, understanding the importance of identifying these plants well before we get into position to even pick them… We don’t want to pick them and make medicine with them if we don’t know exactly what they are. So, identification is key.

Bevin Cohen 19:47
With The Artistisan Herbalist, we really tried to describe where you’re going to find these plants growing, some of the physical characteristics. With the photography, we really tried to lay out plants almost as if it’s, like, a botanical drawing in the photo. So, you can really see the different parts of the plants to help with ID. And again, we tried to work with plants that were going to be generally safe or not easily confused with a harmful plant, right? So, we want to make sure we’re steering you down the right path to begin with.

Deborah Niemann 20:23
Yeah. I love the photos in the book; you really did such an excellent job. I know, sometimes I’ll see something and think, “Oh, I wonder if that’s such-and-such.” And I’m trying to find pictures online, and it just doesn’t seem like they did a very good job taking pictures. And, like, I… As I was flipping through your book, I know, one of the things I saw was mullein, and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh! I hear people talking about that all the time. I didn’t realize that that’s what it was.” And, like, it grows all over my farm.

Bevin Cohen 20:41
Right? Yeah. And you know, and it’s so funny that we learn about these things and how abundant they are, and when you’re not familiar with it, you don’t even really realize it’s there. But once you learn about it, all of a sudden you’re spotting it everywhere, right? “There it is!” You know? The photography, that was my wife. My wife Heather actually took the photos for the book. She did a fantastic job. You know, I laid in a couple of ideas, like, “I’d like to see this style,” you know, “I want to be able to—folks to be able to—use these photos to identify these plants.” And then I was pretty hands off with it. You know, she did just such a great job with those photos, and it really adds such a nice visual appeal to the book, too.

Deborah Niemann 21:15
Yeah, they’re really wonderful. I have so many books on my shelves here. I have nine bookcases; I have thousands of books, a lot of them about gardening and herbs and stuff. And it’s some of the best photos that I’ve seen. I mean, like I said, I didn’t know I had mullein out here before, until I saw the picture in your book. And then I’m just like, “Whoa, I gotta learn more about using this since I have so much.”

Bevin Cohen 21:36
Oh, that’s awesome.

Deborah Niemann 21:38
So, your book includes lots of recipes for salves and balms and lotions and butters—and I guess this kind of goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning. Like, how do you know when to use which one? Like, what’s better for different things, like a salve or a balm or a lotion?

Bevin Cohen 21:58
Well, you know, so we tried to get into that in the book, too, to help kind of explain the different vehicles, if you will. So, we talked about just the basics of making the salve, what creates a salve, the ratio of beeswax to oil, how that differentiates from a lotion, right? And why you may choose to use these different things. And a lot of it comes down to personal preference, convenience of the packaging, that sort of thing, you know? Lotions tend to have water in them; they’re not going to be quite as shelf-stable as a salve might be. Salves are very portable; you can take them in your first aid kit or take them camping with you. And we get into that to help people make those choices on their own. And then, towards the end of the book, we have specific recipes using herbs for different benefits, right? And I wanted that to just be a launchpad, if you will. A place to help people get started. Some specific examples so they can take the techniques that they learned, the plants that they’ve learned about, and now combine those things to create a product to see how that works for them. But really, I just want that to be a launchpad—an inspirational stepping stone to get them to moving on to crafting their own things. Herbalism is all about personal preferences, right? We all have different needs. We all have different wants. We all have access to slightly different plants, right? So, finding that blend that’s going to work best for you is critical to success, right? So we really tried to lay out the book in a way that helps you understand the tools, and then prepare you with the knowledge and the confidence to then take those tools and kind of run with it, if you will.

Deborah Niemann 23:22
Awesome! So, one of the questions that I like to ask everyone is: What are some of the really common mistakes that you see that beginners make when they first get into growing herbs or using herbs?

Bevin Cohen 23:38
Well, one of the ones we kind of already talked about is harvesting herbs that they haven’t properly identified yet. That’s a common mistake, I suppose. Or, harvesting too much. You know, sometimes we get a little overzealous when we’re harvesting our plants. It’s fun. It’s fun to get out there, and harvest these plants, and bring them home, and dry them, and you can smell them, and it’s fun. You garble them, put them in jars with labels, that’s… It’s a whole experience all on its own. But, if we don’t understand quite what we’re using the herbs for, or what our needs are, how many herbs we’re going to use throughout the year, we don’t want to over-harvest and take too much if it’s not going to be used, right? You know, dried herbs are really only good for about a year. We only want to keep them in storage for about a year. And if we’re not using up all of the herbs that we’ve harvested throughout the year, we’re harvesting too much, right? We’re taking too much and not giving enough back.

Bevin Cohen 24:21
Another common mistake that I see beginning herbalists make is just wanting to do it all right away. Moving too fast. “I want to know everything. I want to do at all. I just want to be a master,” and no one’s ever a master. We’re always a student. Always. I’ve been studying herbs for more than 20 years, and I still consider myself, “I’m a student.” There’s always new things for me to learn. There’s always new experiences for me to have. I’ve never mastered anything. And I think that, through my experience, I’ve gotten to understand that about myself. Somebody that’s new to herbs, they’re going to get frustrated if they don’t master every technique right away. But nobody’s gonna do that. Take your time. Enjoy the experience with baby steps—small, small steps. Get a journal, get a notebook. I emphasize this a lot throughout the book; I think it’s so important to take notes and to write down every experience that we have, even the smallest things. Choose one herb, work with that herb, learn about it. Sketch it out. Draw it. Sample it. Taste it. Make tea with it. Write down all of your impressions with it. It may seem silly at the beginning, but years later, when you look back at these notes that you’ve taken, so much knowledge and so much value can be found in there. It’s such an important step to take. Just move slow. Take it easy, just like Mother Nature does.

Deborah Niemann 25:34
Yeah, that is such good advice for, like, really anything that you want to master. I know, my cheesemaking journey would have been so much straighter if I had been taking notes on every single batch of cheese I made from the beginning. Instead, I just, like, repeated the same mistakes over and over again.

Bevin Cohen 25:55
Right. For sure.

Deborah Niemann 25:56
So, that is awesome advice.

Bevin Cohen 25:59
Well, and there, I think that’s part of the beauty of The Artistisan Herbalist, is I’ve distilled not only all of my experiences, but also all of my mistakes.

Deborah Niemann 26:06
This has been so much fun and so informative! If people want to connect with you online, where can they find you?

Bevin Cohen 26:12
Well, the hub for all things Small House Farm is at our website, They can learn so much about what we’re doing at our farm, learn about our herbal products, check out the books, all sorts of groovy stuff. They can also follow us on social media. Our Instagram is @SmallHouseFarm, as well as Facebook—it’s the same thing. Or, they can check out our YouTube if they’re more of a visual learner. They can see all sorts of the adventures happening here at Small House on the YouTube. We’ve got foraging, maple syrup making, gardening, all sorts of wild things that are happening, and you can find that: Small House Farm. That’s the place to find us on the internet.

Deborah Niemann 26:45
That sounds like a lot of fun. Thank you so much for joining us today!

Bevin Cohen 26:49
Deborah, thank you so much for having me! This has been a great time.

Deborah Niemann 26:52
And that’s it for today’s episode. You can find show notes at, as well as a transcript. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. You can also find Thrifty Homesteader on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. See you next week on “Sustainability Book Chat.”

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Making Teas, Tinctures, and Oils

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