Anja Schwartz Rothe is an herbalist, gardener, medicine maker, and writer, based in New York’s Hudson Valley. Anja is the alchemist behind Fat of the Land, a small batch herbal apothecary with a focus on cultivating connection to self, environment, and the cycles by which we live. We interviewed Anja about her daily routines and practices, approach to food, exercise, skincare, her work and much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
A nice balance of both! I need to exist inside a structured, but flexible container. A little bit of routine allows me to make the most of my time, while feeling free and inspired.
— Do your routines change with the seasons?
Definitely, it is one of the biggest factors that informs the way I live – acknowledging the seasonal shifts within and without and using that information to alter how I show up to take care of myself.
— What do your mornings look like?
I don’t like alarms, so I usually wake up naturally, somewhere between 6:30 and 8, depending on the time of year. Then I drink a bunch of water, sometimes with lemon and sometimes not. I try to get out in nature almost immediately. I live right next to a bird sanctuary on the Hudson River, so I bring a hot bevvie and do a long walk there. I always leave my phone at the house so I have a chance to really check in with myself, do some breathing, and connect before the day starts. After that, it’s breakfast and usually emails.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I usually wash my face and do some facial gua sha. It’s so relaxing and helps me unwind. Then, I have little ritual of “turning down the house”, where I close the curtains, turn off the lights, and say goodnight to everything. It sounds like a small detail, but it’s a gesture I really like, acknowledging the animacy of the home energies, thanking them, and setting it all to rest for the day. In my bedroom, I try to keep good sleep hygiene, which for me means low technology and minimal artificial lighting.
— Do you have any kind of mindfulness practice?
Honestly, I think my whole life is a mindfulness practice. Isn’t that what mindfulness is all about, practicing showing up in the mundane of the day-to-day in the fullest capacity?
— Describe your typical or favorite meal for each of these:
Breakfast – Usually some combination of eggs and ferments. In the summer, hard-boiled with smoked salmon and sauerkraut. Right now, I’m on a scallion and ginger congee kick – a simple Chinese rice porridge served with a soft boiled egg and miso. It’s so good.
Lunch – Sometimes an open-face sandwich or leftovers from the night before. Lately, I’ve been working through lunch and having an early dinner.
Snack – Fruit and chocolate. It’s apples, pears, and citrus right now.
Dinner – Currently: soup and sourdough bread with lots of ghee.
— Do you do caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I make myself a matcha latte with oat milk and a couple droppers of our brain tincture almost every day. On weekends, I might have a cup of coffee and I sometimes do a mushroom tea/dandy blend/cacao mixture as an afternoon pick me up. I really try not to have too much caffeine though, it makes me a bit of a mess and dehydrates me way too much, always trying to find that balance.
— What is your grocery shopping routine like? Are there things that always make it in your basket?
It’s pretty broken up between farmers markets, the local food shop, and the co-op in the next city over. In the summer, primarily farmers markets for that good good fruit and veg. Right now, my staples are eggs, potatoes, citrus, oatly, broccoli, and cauliflower.
— Do you have a sweet tooth?
Definitely. I like to keep my kitchen stocked with what I call hippie treats and lots of fruit. I don’t buy a lot of packaged food, which means if I want to have sweets in the house I have to prepare them myself. I love baking, and will usually make a treat at least once a week – recently, it’s been sticky apple ginger date cake and berry crisps from a stocked freezer of gleaned summer berries.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I do, but with much variability. In the past, I’ve been really into running, yoga, and rock climbing — and these things come back in waves. In the summer, I’m cycling a lot, and right now I’m getting back into my ephemeral winter gym flow. Sometimes, my exercise is just doing squats in the kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil. That’s actually my favorite kind.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
I definitely subscribe to the less is more skincare model. I wash with just warm water, am very liberal with hydrosols, and then use a serum and/or balm. I make all my own hydrosols in my garden during the summer and offer some of them in the apothecary. I’m currently really loving Dragon Balm by Apis Apotheca, a farm and skincare line run by my friend Aviva, who really knows her shit. Most days I also do a quick little gua sha facial massage afterwards – I always see instant results and it feels too good.
— Do you have any beauty tricks that you’ve found to be especially useful?
Drinking lots of water and herbal infusions. My present go-to is nettle, raspberry leaf, goji berry, and fresh ginger root.
— Do you practice any consistent routines for managing stress?
Big Calm tincture in every pocket, purse, and drawer. I lean heavily on nervines and deep breathing. Getting outside is also really important — and socializing!
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
To be honest, I haven’t gotten so much as a cold in more than ten years! I owe this mostly to a naturally strong constitution, but also a pretty large emphasis on tonic, preventative medicine and lifestyle. Cooking with medicines, like infused vinegars, dank broths, and elderberry syrup, are big, but getting enough rest is the biggest. I’m constantly doing micro check-ins throughout the day to see how I can best give myself what I need to prevent burnout, fatigue, and illness.
— How do you reconcile work-time with free-time? Do those things overlap for you or do you keep them distinctly separate?
They’re so fluid in my life. I enjoy the hell out of the work I do, and I’d probably be doing most of it even if it wasn’t my job, but I’m also pretty good at allowing myself to turn off when I’m tired and not place undue expectations on myself all the time. I find allowing myself to take frequent mini vacations is the most helpful — getting out of my environment is the only thing that really turns off my work brain, plus it brings in a fresh influx of new inspiration and perspective.
— What was your path to becoming an herbalist?
My first job in high school was at the local health food store. There were a couple older women who worked there and would walk me through the vitamin and bulk aisles, teaching me all about the different herbs and supplements. This was a sort of epiphany for me, viewing plants in this way. I then studied anthropology in university, focusing mostly on traditional sustenance and healing practices. After finishing school, I knew I needed to immerse myself in plant medicine, so I enrolled in an herbal medicine program in Appalachia.
— How do you approach foraging the ingredients for your apothecary and seasonal wellness boxes? Do you have a plan in mind for each season or is it more about going with the flow?
I definitely have a plan in mind, but I usually have to surrender it while remaining open to new inspiration. It can be a challenge to have expectations for a season, nature doesn’t really work that way, and that’s been both a constant source of inspiration for me, as well as a lesson in boundaries and respect. I could be inspired to make one thing, but if it’s not a particularly fecund year for a certain plant, I have to cede to that. Making things from intuition and by listening to the seasons and cycles is probably not the best business model, but it’s the only way I want to work with plant medicine.
— What are some offerings you’re working on currently?
I’m getting ready to re-release a little book I wrote last year, Always Coming Home: a guide to seasonal wellness, with some edits and new content. I’m also refining the 2020 Seasonal Wellness Box subscription that will soon be available.
— How were you able to grow a business with your interests and loves in mind?
It’s been a very slow chipping away for me to remain really clear on the things that matter and the things that don’t in growing my business. It turns out, remaining true to creating medicine that is intimate, small batch, and well cared for is much more important than being able to mass produce things or being on every shelf in the country. I want my values to be foremost and my business to be second.
Fun and Inspiration
— What is something you are particularly excited about at the moment?
Going full hibernation this January.
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
Put my legs up the wall, get a massage, go hiking with a friend, sweat, travel, in the summer I go swimming multiple times of day in various bodies of running water, that’s my favorite.
— We love the Catskills so much. What are some of your favorite places to visit in the area?
Montgomery Place farm stand for all your fruit and veg needs, there are so many great trails in the mountains, Colgate Lake for a swim, Talbott and Arding picnic at the Saugerties lighthouse for lunch and Lil Deb’s Oasis for dinner.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – I’m reading The Overstory by Richard Powers right now, and it is SO GOOD. A vignette of short stories written about trees and so much more.
Song/Album – Hildegard von Bingen forever.
Movie – Fantastic Fungi! Just saw and highly recommend, mushrooms will save the world.
Piece of Art – All things Andrew Wyeth.