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Halley Strongwater from Loam

Posted by Leah D'Ambrosio on

As part of our conscious consumption journal, I had the pleasure to chat with Halley. She’s a clinical herbalist who lives in Santa Fe and owns Loam. She makes plant medicine products with plants that she grows or wild harvests as well as offering classes and consultations. We are both pregnant so we talk a little bit about owning a small business and being pregnant during a pandemic.

 

 

I’m always so impressed with people who can go for a hike and identify all the plants and any healing (or poisonous) properties they might have. What you do feels like a dream job to me! Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the soil health of the planet and how the products I make are related to this. I’m working towards having a few styles that are really focused on not just the yarn but the farming practices behind the yarn. I think going really deep in sourcing here is so important if we want to truly improve the health of our planet and fight global warming. This is an idea that can resonate with a lot of different industries, especially products we us on our bodies. I think the work you’re doing is so powerful and important. Can you talk a little bit about how you got into it?

 

I got into herbalism and farming pretty naturally. I grew up around permaculture gardens with my mom, who grew most of the produce we ate for my whole life in New Mexico. My mom also gave me herbs for most of my life, Oregon Grape Root, Goldenseal, medicine to support flu and colds especially, so herbalism is very familiar with me. Herbalism and farming really stuck with me throughout my 20s, and I worked on bioregional food systems in Oregon in graduate school and then also worked on permaculture farms in Portland as well for about two years. During that time, wild harvesting, especially wild mushrooms, became a huge passion of mine. When I moved back to California (I went to undergrad there), I started to learn more about wild plants. I chose to move back to New Mexico with my husband and my daughter to be closer to my family but also to reconnect with the land I grew up in. In 2019 I completed a 250 hour herbalist certification here in Santa Fe and simultaneously started Loam. 

 

 

For a long time, I’ve tried to buy clean products but when I started trying to get pregnant, I went a lot deeper into my research and concern for this. Did the thought of kids or being pregnant change your work at all or make you more dedicated to your focus on healing with plants?

 

When I gave birth to my daughter, I found that I was able to problem solve more of the small but meaningful issues we were having without our pediatrician. This is really what motivated me to look into alternatives for health and healing for my daughter that weren’t your typical avenues for things like digestion, teething, rashes—all of these incredibly common ailments that we all experience and frankly freak out about because we’re first time parents and we want our babies to be o.k.! Now that I’m pregnant again, and am a much more knowledgeable herbalist, I feel so much more secure about having a baby again. 

 

 

How have you been holding up with being pregnant during a pandemic? I’ve had so many ups and downs and now that I’m getting really close to my due date, it’s another set of challenges to plan and navigate birth and postpartum during this time. My husband and I both own small businesses so when the pandemic hit, not only was I scared for what the virus meant, but also how the economic fall out would affect our livelihood and our ability to support a small family. We’ve made it through so far but navigating this changing landscape has been an evolving series of challenges. A time that I though would be really fun and blissful quickly turned scary and stressful. A weekly prenatal yoga class has been incredibly helpful for me. How have you been coping? 

 

Honestly, we are so privileged to be in New Mexico during this pandemic. Not only has our governor been exceedingly impressive in enforcing quarantines, but we have had very few cases in Santa Fe where we live. I think the hardest thing for me is not being able to go swimming! I’m a real wimp when it comes to the heat, I love snow, winter, cold weather (fall is my preferred season) and we’ve had to really find our rivers and lakes for swimming this year. My daughter was born at home in the Mission in San Francisco, and that was not easy! I remember my last day of labor, walking up and down the stairs at our house while our neighbors blasted mariachi music and am thrilled to have a more peaceful birth experience with more space this January! I’m also an only child, so spending time alone has always been easy for me, the lack of childcare has been tough but we also made the decision to quarantine very early with my parents who are our secondary childcare, I don’t know where we would be without them.

 

 

Counter to the stress of this time, I’m also beyond excited and happy to welcome our little one soon. In some ways, it’ll be kind of nice that we will be able to have a lot of alone time in the beginning of our baby’s life. I’ve been reading ‘The First Forty Days’ and am starting to prep for that time. You’re having your second baby soon! Do you have any advice on that period of time and any self care tips or herbal products you would recommend? 

 

In postpartum, there are SO many wonderful tools we have when it comes to our own mental state and to our babies. Plant medicine is so safe in postpartum, especially when breastfeeding, many of the plants we recommend staying away from during pregnancy are 100% safe during postpartum times. I always recommend calendula lotion for diaper cream, it is so effective and gentle and we still use it for ouch cream and general rashes for our toddler. The second product I love for mamas and babies is my California Poppy Glycertie. It is a very mild nervine (provides nourishment and relaxation for our nervous systems) and can help with sleep, teething, colic, and postpartum depression for certain women who need something mellow and stabilizing. 

 

As far as self care tips, taking each day at a time, at your own pace is really so important. Don’t spend your days looking at the internet, comparing your experience to someone else’s! We all go through those first forty days in very different ways and you have to do what’s right for you. Also, its important to remember that you lose around 500 calories a day in the beginning, I always tell my clients to treat postpartum like you’re “eating for two” because your body is expending so much energy breastfeeding. 

 

 

How did you manage running a small business and having a newborn? My studio is in my house, I had plans to rent a studio and hire an assistant this spring which obviously couldn’t happen. So I’ve been trying to figure out other ways to have support through the first couple of weeks / months but I’m definitely a little nervous about it!

 

When I had my daughter I wasn’t working and hadn’t yet started loam, and honestly it was really hard! I had endless time to focus on her, and hardly any time to think about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. We lived in San Francisco at the time, a place that I did not feel connected to, and I spent our days trying to figure out what to do with all of that free time! This baby will be a lot different, I’ll be on maternity leave for a few weeks but I’ll also have to juggle my business with my TWO kids (eek!). I’m a person who likes to be busy, my husband and I always have a lot going on, but hopefully we have enough community support to not drive ourselves too crazy, especially those first few weeks when sleep is nonexistent. I think the seasonal coming and going of having a clothing company will be really helpful for you, I struggle with a constant release of products throughout the year, with no real time schedule, which may need to change next year.

 

 

Halley wears :

Rib Leggings from AW19 (returning for AW20)

Basic Tee in Vegetable Dye from AW19

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