Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stirring preps

In the fall of 2008, several hardy souls walked out to the pastures with old soup spoons and a dozen cow horns.  The sun was shining and the air was crisp.  We marched along with eyes down looking for the perfect cow pie.  "Here's one!" I cried.  Everyone gathered round, each with a horn in one hand, spoon in the other.

In about a half hour, all twelve horns were packed full of manure and carried back to the appointed spot near the barn.  We dug a nice, deep hole, and the horns were packed in the bottom in a circle, then covered with the sandy soil.  My dog Tashi immediately started to dig them up, so we found some chicken wire, laid it over the newly turned earth and held it down with several large rocks.  Tashi made a half-hearted effort to move the wire and then directed her attention to easier ways to make mischief. 

The horns lay in the ground through the fierce winter and the first warming rays of spring sun.  Finally in mid-May, we dug up the horns and found that most of the manure had composted to a friable black dirt.  We carefully measured out this dirt, one fourth cup at a time, into buckets that had each been filled with about three gallons of well water.  We stirred the water and horn manure, creating a series of clockwise and counterclockwise vortices, for one full hour. 

What on earth is this all about?  Witchcraft?  Insanity?  A Halloween prank?  No, we were making BD-500, the most widely used of the eight biodynamic preps.  Rudolph Steiner was the father of biodynamic organic farming.  Lectures he made to a farming conference in Austria in 1924 are the basis of this organic movement.  Farmers had gathered because of concern with deteriorating land, land which no longer grew good food.  In those lectures, Dr. Steiner laid out what he felt was needed to save the soil.  The premise of BD-500 is that by stirring a fourth cup of horn manure (the stuff we were making) into about three gallons of water for an hour, cosmic energy, and most especially energy from the other planets, is drawn into the water.  At the end of the stirring time, the manure is of no consequence.  It is the water that is now permeated with this energy derived from the manure and the cosmos.  When sprinkled over one acre of ground, the enhanced water brings new life and energy to the soil.

Biodynamics is often referred to as homeopathy for the soil.  That is a pretty good description.  We start with a fourth cup of this horn manure, stir it into the water, and then use it to fertilize one acre of land!  That is pretty incredible.  Does it work?  I am pretty sure it does.  I've been doing it here on my farm for about seven years now.  There were no worms when I bought this place.  After the icy chill of liquid nitrogen (anhydrous ammonia) being applied here for so many years, which was needed to grow corn and beans on this sand pile of a farm, the worms were silent.  The first year, I saw only one or two in my garden.  Each year the worm population has grown.  Now I can say that there is not a shovelful of dirt turned that doesn't contain at least one worm.  They are such great little workhorses, converting this sandy soil to rich humus, each worm depositing about 12 grams of it each day.  It all adds up.  In some parts of my garden, the soil has gone from sifting through my fingers like the sand in an hourglass to holding together when a handful is squeezed in my palm.  My gardens have gone from pitiful to good to pretty great.  I credit BD-500 for most of that improvement.

Another accolade comes from a surprising source.  We did the preps on the two pastures our cows used when they were on Steve's farm.  Steve told me on a recent visit, "You remember that stuff you guys walked around sprinkling on those two pastures?  One of them was a pretty terrible pasture, the other one was only fair.  They are both great pastures now."  That is a pretty good commendation from someone who thought we were all crazy when we were doing it.

Spreading the BD-500 prep takes place spring and fall.  Some of the horns were not quite ready last spring, so those went back into the ground to compost until today, when we dug them up and repeated our task, stirring to create vortex / chaos / vortex, over and over again, for one full hour, until we had extracted the energy from the manure and mixed it with the cosmic forces that our stirring invited.  Then off to the paddocks, women, men and children, buckets in one hand and pine boughs in the other, tossing this priceless liquid onto the sandy soil.

Tonight there are 15 chicken, 3 calves and one cat.  More about Tashi the dog later.

No comments:

Post a Comment