The 1770 Solomon and Mary Root Minor farmhouse in Woodbury, CT is a living museum. Wide-board floors, wrought-head nails, and original King’s wood paneling above the eight-foot wide kitchen fireplace evoke a taste of colonial America. The past seems closer in an old house. It’s almost possible to overhear debates about the Stamp Act, Boston Tea Party, and Daughters of Liberty. The home’s current owners are preserving the past by weaving it with the present. The herbalist daughter/historian mother duo, who regularly hold classes beneath the kitchen ceiling’s 18th century hand-hewn log beams, share their combined knowledge with area residents in an inviting and unusual setting.
a Ehris Urban and Velya Jancz-Urban saw a need for unique holistic workshops, and have created the kind of experiences that the community is seeking. Their most recent classes include Medicinal Chocolate Truffles, Elderberry Syrup, Fire Cider, Shatavari Cocoa Cordial, and Spiced Pumpkin Rum Cider. Each workshop includes an historic and herbal overview, along with the hands-on creation of a medicinal concoction. Everyone leaves with knowledge, a creation, and new friendships.
“There’s just something about that house,” explains Southbury resident, Bev Iorio, a regular attendee. “As soon as you cross the threshold, there’s a feeling of acceptance. Everyone has a story to tell, but you can’t share just anywhere. We share at the farmhouse because it’s safe and there’s no judgment.”
Ehris Urban, an herbalist, reflexologist, Reiki master, and flower essence therapy practitioner, grew up in a family passionate about holistic medicine. She opened Grounded Holistic Wellness, LLC in March 2015. She teaches a variety of herbal workshops throughout New England. A graduate of Western Connecticut State University with a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology, Ehris enjoys beekeeping, tending her organic vegetable and herb gardens, and working in her apothecary.
Velya Jancz-Urban is a teacher, author, former Brazilian dairy farm owner, and expert on New England’s colonial women. Her entertainingly-informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife, is a result of the research completed for her novel, Acquiescence. Whooo Eats What?, her first book in a hands-on science series for children, was released in January 2016, and was inspired by her How Cool Is That?! (Hands-On Science) classes. Velya has presented at venues throughout the country and teaches a variety of historical/medicinal workshops with her daughter, Ehris.
In 2011, the Urban family experienced a series of tragic misfortunes and no longer had any hopes, dreams, goals, or money. Needing a place to heal, they discovered a foreclosed farmhouse in Woodbury that had been vacant for five years. The house’s history was not disclosed by anyone. The family made a low-ball offer to the bank, never thinking it would be accepted. Not long after moving in, an ice dam resulted in soggy kitchen ceiling sheetrock. When the family pulled down the sheetrock, they were amazed to discover a hand-hewn log beam ceiling. Velya’s research at the town hall revealed that the house had been built in 1770. Months later, when the curious homeowners “just had a feeling” there was something hidden behind their 1950s kitchen woodstove, they removed over three tons of fieldstone, cement, brick, and paneling. Uncovering a colonial beehive oven and walk-in fireplace was the beginning of the family’s healing journey.
Today, the healing process has come full-circle for the family. Ehris and Velya enjoy researching, preparing, teaching, and coming up with new ideas. During classes, workshops, and events, the old house extends its hospitality, and others experience its healing.
For more information, visit groundedholisticwellness.com and colonialgoodwife.com.