biodynamics

Weeds are weeds only from our human egotistical point of view, because they grow where we do not want them. In Nature, however, they play an important and interesting role. They resist conditions which cultivated plants cannot resist, such as drought, acidity of soil, lack of humus, mineral deficiencies, as well as a one-sidedness of minerals, etc. They are witness of man’s failure to master the soil, and they grow abundantly wherever man has ‘missed the train’ - they only indicate our errors and Nature’s corrections. Weeds want to tell a story - they are nature’s means of teaching man, and their story is interesting. If we would only listen to it we could apprehend a great deal of the finer forces through which Nature helps and heals and balances, and sometimes, also has fun with us.
—  Weeds And What They Tell, by E. Pfeiffer

It’s so nice and smart and pragmatic of Seattle to stop wasting resources on landscaping in favour of productive green spaces following natural growth models. Treelala. Get away from those tulip bulbs, world. Get away from them.

Further permaculture viewing/reading/doing: Rebecca Hoskin’s BBC documentary on Permaculture, the Food Forest at Everdale, outside Toronto.

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Biodynamics

While the spiritual (‘woo’) side of biodynamic agriculture holds no appeal for me, I certainly use the more rational components of this theory in my gardening.

Above is a simple biodynamic fertiliser, made of nettle, dandelion, ground elder, and thistles in rainwater. I pull up ‘weeds’ from a section in the garden, let them steep in rainwater for three days in the sun, and then dilute the resulting mix with ten parts clean rainwater.

The result is a mixture with a rich diversity of nutrients, bacteria, and fungi. It’s great for watering trees and shrubs.

I like this method because it changes the way ‘weeds’ are perceived in my day-to-day work. I can treat them more like biomass for harvest, rather than a nuisance.

After being soaked, I can lay the remaining plant tissues out to dry, and use them as a mulch. All the things that are grown in this soil are returned to it, which prevents soil depletion.

This practice stinks to high heaven, but certainly makes some beautiful growth happen.

BIODYNAMIC LUNAR PLANTING CHART

This is a biodynamic lunar planting guide chart. Crops are broken down into Leaf, Root, Flower or Fruit crops and planted according to which zodiac sign the moon is passing through. 

Give it a try!  I’m going to start posting what to plant when, every day, to help out with everyone’s succession planting for their winter garden if you live in a temperate climate. This is also a great way to focus you and organize you as to what to plant when, instead of being bogged down by planting everything at once. Don’t blow your load- plant successively to harvest continually throughout the winter. This will also help you create and FEEL nature’s rhythm. Literally, go with the flow.

Have some fun with it, do your own experiments, and see what you think. 

Peace out, honeybuns, and rest up ‘cause tomorrows a root planting day!

XO

SPADE

Weeds are specialists. Having learned something in the battle for survival, they will survive under circumstances where our cultivated plants, softened through centuries of protection and breeding, cannot stand up against Nature’s caprices. Weeds, therefore, may be grouped according to their peculiarities. There are three major and several minor groups. The major groups are our main teachers, indicating through their mere presence and multiplication what is wrong.

The first major group comprises of weeds living on acid soil and indicating increasing acidity. To this group belong the Sorrels, Docks, Fingerleaf Weeds, Lady’s Thumb, and Horsetail on slightly acid soil.

The second major group indicates a crust formation and/or hard pan in the soil. Here belong the Field Mustard, the Horse Nettle, Penny Cress, Morning Glory, Quack Grass, the Camomiles, and Pineapple Weed.

The third major group consists of those weeds which follow human steps and cultivation, frequently spreading out with compost, manure, and wherever man “walks”. Here belong Lamb’s Quarters, Plantain, Chickweed, Buttercup, Dandelion, Nettle, Prostrate Knotweed, Prickly Lettuce, Field Speedwell, Rough Pigweed, Common Horehound, Celandine, Mallow, Carpetweed, and other similar plants, all too frequent companions of our gardens and yards.

Minor groups consist of those which show up here and there - they are not necessarily WEEDS - unless encouraged by man. They are, more-or-less, an extension of nature into the realm of man.

—  Weeds And What They Tell, by E. Pfeiffer.
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Introduction to Agroecology: Permaculture ≠ Holistic Management ≠ Biodynamic ≠ Natural Farming

Although I have placed all four of these ideologies under the same heading of agroecology, it should be duly noted that all of these ideologies expand beyond the realm of agroecological systems and into the broader human realm.

This clarified a lot of things for me; however, I would still say I was essentially practicing permaculture before I knew the word, because the ethics system corresponds with how I used and thought about land before learning of this concept. It’s a consequence of my anthropological background that I am always thinking of how social and ecological systems fit together (I was very influenced by Marvin Harris and Cultural Materialism, and I am 100% sure the intellectual history of permaculture owes quite a bit to the emergence of that school of thought).

I also realised after reading this that I should start saying I “use biodynamic soil-building methods,” and I am not affiliated in any way with any psuedo-mystical life philosophy that accompanies the biodynamics ideology.

I borrow methods from a number of different professional disciplines, aesthetics, and ideologies – my optimal land use formula is somewhere between agroforestry, germplasm banking, survival gardening, edible landscaping, and forest gardening – but normally I just describe the look and function I am going for as “Edenic.” What I live is permaculture.

(h/t to the author, 60npermaculture)

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Came across the image of biodynamic treatments via Permaculture Magazine’s Pinterest and found the origin …

Biodynamics & Wine: Or, What Poop, Crystals, and the Moon Have in Common

Will Hooker talks about using these treatments in making compost in his NC State Permaculture course (I can’t remember which lecture). The lectures are all online and worth a watch if you are interested in permaculture.

LIST OF TOPICS CHARACTERISED AS PSEUDOSCIENCE

From Wikipedia’s List of topics characterised as pseudoscience:

Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms. Biodynamics uses a calendar which has been characterised as astrological, and employs unconventional preparations and composts. For example, field mice are countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mouse skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation.

Read on.



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GETTING STARTED WITH BIODYNAMIC GARDENING

There are numerous practical ways to get this goodness going in your own garden. You can start first by setting up a Biodynamic compost heap in your backyard, given a little space and time. Adding a blend of specialized herbal preparations (yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian) help to stimulate soil microorganisms to break down biomass and create a powerful compost that is far superior to conventional bagged soil amendments. It’s quite easy- build the compost heap and add the preps. (BD Compost preps can be found online through the Josephine Porter Institute)  Then wait for a gorgeous compost teeming with microorganisms and life energy, that is better than regular homemade compost and far superior to bagged. If space and time is an issue, try amending your soil with a bagged Biodynamic compost (I recommend Malibu Compost) that is available at specialty nurseries.

While your compost heap is decomposing (you can hardly wait, I know), start checking out a lunar planting guide and getting the knack of how it works.  Use it as a general guide and do your own experiments. According to biodynamic principles, seeds are planted according to which zodiac sign the moon is passing through, and whether the crop is a leaf, root, fruiting or flowering crop. Many have found great success with this method and can truly see the difference in plant vigor and productivity.

Once seedlings are growing, they and the soil can be nourished with a Field Spray, Equisetum and as well as Silica.  These sprays encourage a plant’s immunity to diseases, and ward off fungal diseases.  The aim is to keep the ecosystem of the garden and farm balanced with itself as a whole entity. Biodiversity within the plant community increases this balance, and plants are “fertilized” by the compost the farm or garden created on the grounds, with plant and matter it has produced.  Cover crops and crop rotation are also utilized. The farm or garden is it’s own, balanced ecosystem that works in tandem with cosmic and earthly energies.

The interest in Biodynamics has increased as wineries have embraced these practices along with many other farmers, home gardeners and agriculturalists. Whether you choose to venture into the rewarding world of biodynamics, or continue with your own organic gardening, the most important thing is to get inspired and get your hands in the dirt. 

XO

SPADE

Reading the astro calendar

There are two aspects of biodynamics to be considered.

One is the importance of maintaining soil fertility. (hyperlink)

The other is the relationship between the growing environment and the cosmos; the phases of the moon, the planets and the stars. We track these cycles using Brian Keats’ Antipodean Astro Calendar as well as going outside and gazing at the sky.

We use the waxing and waning of the moon as a guide to moisture and humidity levels in the atmosphere. This knowledge is a guide to timing for preps, sprays and planting seeds.

Waxing moon activities

Sow seeds

Apply liquid manures

Check and control fungal disease and insects

Waning moon

Avoid sowing seed

Ascending and Descending moon

Every month the moon goes through an ascending phase and a descending phase; each one taking around two weeks.  You can track this by watching where the moon rises at night; in the ascending phase, it will be more northerly in position.

Ascending phase is more like spring or summer with the earth ‘breathing out’ and growth activity is above the soil with sap flowing upwards more strongly.

Interestingly we have observed in wet years, the rain will stop during the ascending moon.

This phase is good for:

Sowing seeds and nourishing plants

Harvesting above ground crops

Descending period conversely is the autumn/winter phase with activity below ground. The earth is ‘breathing in’ and drawing growth forces down to the roots. Ideal for:

Composting and planting

Harvesting below ground crops

MOON AND PLANETS IN RELATION TO STAR CONSTELLATIONS

A key to biodynamics is tracking the influences of the constellations; fire(warmth), earth, air and water. These elements change every two to three days. They influence plant growth by connecting the soil to the rhythms of the cosmos, which is further focused by the moon. This is similar to the ‘pull of the tides’.

The calendar also details which days are best for expression and growth of plants organs; flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves and roots.

At Henschke we check the calendar for these fruit/ flower and leaf/root days before wine tasting as there are definite differences in the same wine depending on the type of day.

vimeo

The biodynamics of winemaking in Napa Valley!

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