Habanera Farm: The Beauty of Treating the Body and the Soul

It’s the type of quiet you can hear.  That’s initially what’s most striking, followed by a palpable air of comfort, something like a warm embrace.  A fall seasonal visit to this sanctuary, when most plants are ensconced in the eve of the impending winter, offers an opportunity to really witness the heart of Habanera Farm—the art of being still and truly listening—to nature and one’s self.

The 21-acre refuge is owned by Chris Himmel and Henriette den Ouden, ex-city dwellers who were looking for the type of lifestyle they now offer to their clients.  Henriette reflected on what initially brought them to the Eastern Shore from Beltsville, MD,

“One morning we woke up to an absolute stillness—there was no noise and we couldn’t figure out why.  We had never heard [or not heard] that lack of noise.  It turns out the Beltway was temporarily closed, and we realized we wanted to live somewhere we could experience that everyday.”

Habanera Farm, near the Wicomico River and Whitehaven Ferry in Tyaskin Maryland, became the new homestead.  Chris and Henriette turned the 21-acres into a working paradise providing the way of life they were looking for, and an opportunity to help others at their home base.

An Education in Wellness

Chris and Henriette both attended Tia Sophia Institute in Laurel MD, an accredited graduate school for wellness-based education.  Chris holds a Masters of Applied Healing Arts, and Henriette a degree in Herbal Medicine.

Eight wooded acres at Habanera Farm complete with a trail, function as an outdoor classroom for Chris, who specializes in Grief Recovery, and also teaches spiritual and wellness coaching based on clarity and following nature’s rhythms.  The path in the woods allows clients to experience themselves through the five seasons, which serves as a check back on their lives.  Simply walking through the experience can bring forth the needed clarity.

Clients tend to visit Chris when in the midst of transition—something is lacking, or a necessary change needs to come to fruition; Chris helps them through the process, acting as a conduit between people and their innate needs, or even purpose.  She often asks clients one simple question,

“When are you still?”

And most can’t recall a time when they are in fact, still.  Chris indicates that this is a major problem in our too-busy lifestyles, and we should take a cue from nature in order to remedy our approach to the everyday.

“You have no momentum going through life, if you don’t pause.  The fields know this, it’s the season of winter.”

The farms remaining acres are devoted to herb and vegetable gardens, with ten acres serving as a newly planted antioxidant field.  Henriette uses the herbs in custom teas and tinctures for her clients.  It’s a constant work in progress planting and moving various gardens, figuring out which herbs grow best in Eastern Shore soil.  Holy Basil for instance, used in many remedies and especially effective for Diabetic patients, is normally especially difficult to grow—it tends to thrive on the farm.

Walking through Habanera Farm’s herbal gardens with Henriette is an education in the natural approach to health.  Every herb grown on the property has at least one medicinal quality–lemon balm is especially effective in calming hyperactive children, Motherwort, known for centuries as the “mother’s herb,” can calm anxiety, ease menstrual issues, and also aids the heart.

Henriette is careful not to just cut away at the gardens at season’s end—she knows just how long to leave a stock standing, as a certain part of the plant needs to be harvested at a correct level of maturation.  Once harvested, the herbs are transported to an herb dryer in a small building near the front of the property known as the “tea house.”  This herb dryer, a thermal solar powered model that operates by heating water to power the unit, was built by a local man who normally builds similar solar systems that heat the floors in chicken houses.  It may be the only thermal solar dryer in existence.  In such a humid climate, it’s especially important to take the moisture out, or the plants will mold and be unusable for clients.  In some cases, this means an entire crop of herbs could be lost—the addition of the dryer has really been a blessing for the farm.

Herbalism, an ancient medicine that carries with it the wisdom of the ages, can be used to treat many of the common maladies and disorders of modern times. Henriette sees many clients for food related issues.  As she states, clients often seek out her services saying,

“I don’t feel well after I eat.”

Additionally, clients in the local region tend to visit most frequently for help ridding their daily regimen from various prescription drugs, Thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, and lymes disease.  Henriette also treats patients with cancer by providing herbal additions to strengthen patients’ immune systems as they undergo traditional cancer treatments.

A Joint Venture—Treating the Body and the Soul

Henriette and Chris really work as a team.  They use a body and soul approach to treat the whole person.  An example of this tandem method might be that Henriette has a client who is addicted to sugar.  While she treats what this does to the body, Chris will help the client figure out where the need for sugar stems from on a deeper level.

Sometimes, the biggest steps in moving forward, begin by focusing on the most basic human needs—like what someone eats, or how much sleep they get.

As Chris stated, “It’s hard to be enlightened when you feel awful.”

That’s really what Chris and Henriette are all about—making their clients feel better, at all levels of their existence.  They truly listen to complaints and try to find the root cause, not treat the symptoms, as is most often the case with modern medicine.  Ultimately, they teach people to be still, and listen to their bodies and their own inner voices, and Habanera Farms is the perfect setting for finding such peaceful clarity.

If You Go

Henriette and Chris also jointly teach cooking classes focusing on the various positive effects of herbs for kitchen use.

This weekend, join them for a “Healthy Hearty Soups” Class, a nutritional experience and social gathering in Habanera Farm’s 18th century farmhouse.

-Explore how to create hearty balanced soups that keep your immune system strong

-Understand the nutritional value of a wide variety of ingredients and herbs

-Get guidance on healthy choices specific for your own health concerns

Price, including lunch is $25

For personal consultations at the Tyaskin farm, or at the secondary location in Lewes, DE or to find more information, visit here.

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