We can finally say that all of the garlic has found it’s home in our freshly cultivated soil. With a light dose of lime, bone meal, compost, and wood ash from the fire place in the areas directly under the highly acidic pine tree, the last of the cloves have entered the soil just as the first in the ground have started to sprout. After a sunny Sunday dedicated to finishing the task and patching up blank spots in our cover cropped acres, we can now start planning for a late onion planting and the division of our new field into zones dedicated to a proper plant rotation. Our goal as growers is to make the environment surrounding our plants as natural as possible. This way of thinking steers us away from the utilization of bagged fertilizers and concentrates. Just as we do not want to spray any chemical or plant derivative for any reason, we’d like to try and use as little unnatural amendments as possible. This makes our soil fertility rely on proper composting of local manures and the all important cover crop.
We’ve decided to divide our acres into five zones. These zones will cycle through the different seasons allowing all companion plants to live harmoniously together and move together to help manage pests and soil health. Wherever there is a bare patch of growing space not in use, we hope to have cover crop coming up to ensure that no part of our farm is lacking in life and nourishment. We will be making all of our own compost from animals who eat grasses, hays, and other natural forage in our region. In a Biodynamic frame of mind, we feel it is important for the manure we compost to come from animals who have fed on vegetation in our area. This ensures that the vegetation digested and turned into nutrients are grown in and decomposed in a similar atmospheric and soil climate. While we do not create enough manure with our animals to make compost for our entire growing space, they will be contributing their gifts to the 10 ton load we will receive in the coming weeks. The compost will be divided into groups and turned and added to with the pile set aside for the spring planting getting the most attention.
Along with turning the compost pile, adding alfalfa for the nitrogen and protein that catalyze the heat, and our own garden and kitchen scraps undesirable to our chickens and goats, we will be using the Biodynamic preparations 500 – 508 on our pile and in our fields. Biodynamic preparations are generally elemental combinations from natural herbs and nutrients, highly diluted in water, made holistically and applied to compost, plants, and earth in sprays. Each preparation is made in a different way in relation to the physical, spiritual, and cosmic influences of our planet and universe. Preparations 500, 501, and 508 are sprays used directly in the field.
BD prep 500 is applied directly to soil and helps soil activity produce a healthy humus by facilitating the relationship of carbon, calcium, and silica to oxygen and nitrogen. This preparation is said to be the nervous system of the soil environment just as these elemental relationships are said to sculpt the nervous system, intelligence, and consciousness of human beings. BD prep 501 works as a direct compliment to 500 and can be applied as a foliage spray or directly into the soil. It is not beneficial to spray 501 without previously spraying 500. BD prep 501 is said to enhance the taste, overall disease and pest resistance, and nutritional value of crops. It is also said to help stimulate fruit and seed formation. BD Prep 508 can be sprayed on compost or directly onto the foliage of plants. This preparation is used to control the watery growth of plants that makes plants more susceptible to diseases. When plants grow too lush, such as can commonly be seen in tomatoes, they are more likely to catch illness especially in damp conditions. 508 is made by boiling the herb horsetail in water or allowing to steep in the sun (as a sun tea) and collecting the extract to be diluted as needed in clean rain water.
The BD Compost preps 502-507 all have individual attributes that help enhance the proliferation of soil life and bacteria useful in accelerating the breakdown of organic matter. BD prep 502 purifies the soil, BD prep 503 digests and assimilates nutrients, BD prep 504 energizes the soil, BD prep 505 utilizing calcium creates strong soil and strong plants, BD prep 506 eliminates obstructions that make nutrients difficult for plants to absorb, and BD prep 507 serves as the warmth within the soil and can be used as a foliar spray to protect against late frosts. All of these preparations have strict guidelines for application depending on weather, time of year, and amount to be applied.
While many see Biodynamics as an overly spiritual, somewhat fantastical way to view life on Earth, it is very evident to the two of us that there is nothing silly or outrageous about viewing the entirety of life on Earth and the forces beyond as constantly influencing one another. The world we live in can be broken down into single elements and everything is made up of these pieces and parts. Their relationship to us and how we work is similar to the way they act in other organisms, in soils and rocks, and in the atmosphere. It comes as no surprise to us that the spiritual world and science are not completely separate but two explanations and experiences of the same phenomenon.
“All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature.” – Rudolf Steiner
Something about the softness of a cloudy day stirred up with the spontaneous fires and sparks of changing leaves always steers my dreaming towards childhood memories and family gatherings. Maybe it is the chill of the weather that brings us together over food and libations, sharing our mysteries and retelling the oldies but goodies. I anxiously await a table full of handcrafted creations, shared and passed by many hands before it is plopped down in front of me, steaming and smelling of traditions kept.
As my emotions orbit the upcoming holiday festivities of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the farm continues to get ready for the cool down. Our crops in Douglasville are starting to slow as our cover crop in Buckhead is starting to grow. Rows have been skillfully tilled and shoveled into perfectly straight lines by Elliot and garlic will soon make its home in the soft, fluffy soil. The beds will be mulched with hay and (fingers crossed) there will be garlic to harvest following winter as the world begins to warm. The animals are all putting on their winter coats and fences are being mended to welcome their arrival onto our new land. The blissful act of chopping wood accompanied by the meticulous building of fires in our fireplace have taken the edge off the slowly cooling weather. Clouds of blackbirds have been dancing for us over the open fields mimicking the bee swarms of the summer. Their cackling and conversations fill the air as they land in the treeline of our home. Our homestead continuously smells of hardy meals of greens and roots devoured quickly in hopes of staying warm through the night.
Much of my time during this activity lull is spent spinning the pounds of wool collected from this year’s fleece harvest. There is nothing more meditative to me than sitting on the back porch in the golden hue of fall with wool running through my fingers. Elliot and I have a lot of planning to do with both our plants and animals in the spring. We will be elbows deep in more wool, goat’s milk, lambs and kids, chickens, vegetables, and hopefully two piglets for the chest freezer. We are currently crafting a plan to can all the vegetables we will need for next winter throughout next year’s growing season. We are still working through the kinks of our CSA as members are beginning to show interest in signing up. There is still more advertising to do and more families to add to the list of families we hope to provide wonderful food for. So much to do, such a short window of opportunity, and all I can do is hurry up and wait!
These cool weather days spent indoors are often accompanied by smothering ponderings both positive and negative. Lately I have been so lost in thoughts that it feels like the “real” world is spinning by without me. There is always so much to consider when trying to process the endless list of problems human beings face on this planet and within our own society. Often, these thoughts lead me in a very hopeless direction as the negatives collect and churn into a bad attitude. In all of this hopelessness, I have found sanctuary in the spirit of children. One will recognize quickly after spending time with a child that evil, hatred, greed, and intolerance are not embedded into the DNA of human beings born. All attributes of humanity are learned and just as easily learned are the guiding forces of compassion, a love for the natural world, and the desire to love and nurture other human beings. This desire to only do good is easily complicated by the demands of a modern world and I would encourage all to embrace the child like desire to love and do good work throughout our day to day.
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” – Rachel Carson