Read two chapters from Walter's book
Below are two chapters about the biodynamic preparations from Walter’s book, A Farmer’s Love, published by the Anthroposophical Press. Mainly the book includes highlights from his journey through life, but it also includes five chapters on Biodynamic farming, two of which are below.
Chapter Sixteen – The Biodynamic Preparations
For many people, biodynamic preparations are incomprehensible. When I first encountered them, I did not question whether they worked, though I have now studied them in depth. I simply accepted them as remedies that strengthen the life forces of the land. Maybe I felt so comfortable because I had gone to a Waldorf school for a few years and had such a good experience there. Or perhaps it was because I was already familiar with Steiner’s ideas. Now I feel that they allow me to co-create with the spiritual world. Whatever the case, I want very much to explain their potency to others so that the farms and gardens of others will thrive.
First, are the compost preparations, which are made from plants and whose energies are enhanced by placing them in animal sheaths and then burying them. All this may sound a bit foreign, but their effectiveness has been validated so well over the years that many consider their effectiveness a proven fact.
Next, I will describe the plants and animal sheaths of the preparations and what we do with them.
The flowers of the yarrow plant are stuffed into a stag’s bladder, which is then hung in the summer Sun and buried for the winter.
Chamomile flowers are made into sausages from the intestines of the cow and buried in the ground for the winter.
Stinging nettle is compacted into a bunch and placed in the ground for a whole year, starting in the fall.
Oak bark is ground to a fine consistency and placed in the brain cavity of a cow skull and then set in a wet place such as a stream for the winter.
Dandelion flowers are stuffed into the mesentery (abdominal cavity lining) of a cow and placed in the ground for the winter.
Valerian flowers are pressed for their juice which can then be stored in a bottle.
These preparations, except the valerian juice, are placed in the compost pile in separate holes after the pile is completed. I like to put the stinging nettle in the middle, the oak bark and chamomile opposite each other at one end and the yarrow and dandelion opposite each other at the other end. Only a teaspoon of each preparation is needed in each hole. The valerian juice is diluted, stirred, and sprinkled on the pile with a watering can.
There are two other preparations that are used as sprays for the fields. One is made from cow manure, which is put into cow horns and buried for the winter. The other is made from quartz crystals that are ground very fine and then put into a cow horn and laid in the ground for the summer. When used, both of these preparations are diluted with water, stirred for one hour, and then sprayed, one on the ground and one on the plants.
Over the years, my relationship to the preparations has deepened, but it is not a very intellectual connection. My conviction regarding their efficacy grows through experience.
One can purchase these preparations, but tend to be expensive, so there are regional groups that make them. Michaelmas, which falls around the autumn equinox, is the time to make most of the preparations. In East Troy, Wisconsin, Dick and Ruth Zinniker host a gathering each year to make them. They have the oldest working biodynamic farm in the US, started in the forties and now run by the third generation. They have a lovely old stanchion barn that is set up to make the preparations. Ruth gathers and prepares all the ingredients beforehand and everything is ready to go. Usually about thirty people turn up to help, and it becomes a special fall festival.
I needed about 400 cow horns for my farm, so I would bring my own horns and cow manure. About twenty of us at a time could sit on straw bales and fill horns with spoons. Conversation was good, since many of the people knew one another, though met only once a year, so it was a time to catch up.
In another part of the barn, the flowers and sheaths would be waiting to be worked on. When making the preparations, they do not seem strange or esoteric. The experience is closer to alchemy, working with plant and animal energies that are then given over to the earth to be strengthened and transformed. It all seems quite normal and real . . . futuristic, rather than old fashioned. After burying the preparations, there would be a potluck dinner, a bonfire, and music, deeply enjoyed by all.
To make sense of the preparations, I have made my own relationship to them. I am not much of a chemist, so looking at them from that point of view has not been my focus, although this is certainly possible. Studying the planets and the energies that radiate from them has given me a door through which to relate to them. Many of these ideas come from study material that Bernard Lievegoed gave to farmers in 1951 and, of course, Rudolf Steiner’s 1924 Agriculture Course. I have accepted certain statements and built on them. I will try to describe these, though more as images than scientifically.
Again, when working with the preparations, a completely new mind-set is needed. Conventional agrarian science holds the view that for every pound of nutrients you take from the soil, you have to find a way to replace it. In biodynamics, one holds the alchemical view that transmutation of the substance can take place, and that potentizing a substance produces an enhanced effect from the energy released.
Potentizing involves taking one part of an extract, diluting it with nine parts water and shaking it for one minute. You then take one part of this solution, add nine parts of water and shake it for one minute. This would be called “D2 potency.” In homeopathy, the same medicine can have varying effects depending on the potency. Eugene Kolisko, a pioneer of homeopathic research, performed experiments showing that the number of times a substance is potentized has an effect, even as much as D60 potency. Although conventional scientific tests can no longer detect the original substance, the energy, or blueprint, of that substance is still present in its effect.
Transmutation of substances, when one mineral turns into another, does take place in the living realm, in plants and animals. When the soil is alive and working well, substances can transmute. For instance, the mineral potash or the mineral lime can transform into nitrogen.
As mentioned, behind matter stands spirit, but for spirit to manifest materially it needs something to anchor it. The preparations work as that anchor. They work medicinally so that the plant can attract the substances that it needs for growth and can balance the etheric and astral in the right way to make the plant healthy.
Chapter Seventeen – The Horn Manure and Horn Silica Preparations
As a farmer, horn manure and horn silica preparations are the two preparations that I have worked with most. They are relatively easy to make and most years I could cover the whole farm two or three times with my spray rig.
The Horn Manure
As described earlier, the horn manure preparation is made by stuffing cow manure into a cow horn and burying it for the winter. When you dig up the horns in the spring, the manure is completely transformed and has lost its manure smell and consistency. Four hundred horns take up a lot of space, so I would use the bucket of my skid loader to dig a hole about two feet deep, eight feet long and six feet wide. Into this I would layer my horns, with earth between each layer.
When the horns are dug up in the spring, the preparation can be stored in clay pots that are then placed in a special box lined with peat moss. The peat moss stops the energy, or forces, from dissipating into the surroundings. When using the preparation, one needs about a handful per acre, or less when spraying a large area. The preparation is then stirred into the water for one hour.
Stirring is important, because it transfers the imprint, or information, of the preparation into the water. Stirring by hand, say in a five-gallon bucket, requires a nice straight stick about eighteen inches long, which is used to create a vortex in the water through vigorous stirring. Once you have created a funnel vortex in the water that nearly touches the bottom of the bucket, you stir it in the opposite direction. Initially, this creates chaos, but continue stirring until a new vortex is achieved. Stir back and forth for an hour, and then one can spray the desired area with a whiskbroom or backpack sprayer.
I had more than 500 acres to cover, so I used a specially made stirring machine with an electric motor, which stirred about ninety gallons at a time. I would then transfer this to a spray machine that was attached to my tractor, with which I could cover about thirty acres. Usually we could do two loads in an afternoon. Much of my land was either in hay or in pasture, and I would try to spray these fields in the spring and fall and, whenever possible, after making hay. The cultivated ground, where we were going to plant annual crops, such as corn and grain, would be sprayed before planting.
About this preparation, Steiner says,
By burying the horn with its filling of manure, we preserve in the horn the forces it was accustomed to exert within the cow itself, namely the property of raying back whatever is life giving and astral. . . . Thus, in the content of the horn, we get a highly concentrated, life-giving manuring force.
The cow is a ruminant with four stomachs that can hold more than fifty gallons of digestive juices. The plants that she consumes are permeated with life forces, to which she adds her own sentient forces, making the manure a very lively substance. When you look at a cow, you can see that she is a very inward, dreamy being. She reflects the whole cosmos in her digestion, and that energy is retained by the manure. All living beings have energies that flow in and out and keep them connected to their environment. The horns and hoofs, which are made from layers of skin, radiate all the cow’s forces of digestion back into her stomach. Thus, when you watch a cow eating or chewing her cud, you experience this total absorption that she has in her digestion. Even after you take the horns from a dead cow, they retain their function of radiating the cosmic forces into the manure stuffed into the horns. When you use this preparation on the bare ground before planting or on hay fields and pasture, you stimulate the forces of germination, root development, and growth.
The Horn silica Preparation
This preparation also uses the cow horn, but instead of using the manure we use silica from quartz crystal. The crystals are finely ground, water is added to make a paste and then the paste stuffed into a horn. The horns are then placed in the ground for the summer and dug up in late fall.
A silica preparation is sprayed early in the morning, preferably soon after sunrise. This made it difficult for us to use this preparation, since we started milking at five o’clock in the moring. Usually, this meant giving up my mornings to sleep in, but it wasn’t all bad. I could set everything up the evening before, such as filling the stirring tank with water. Then at five in the morning, I’d flip the switch to the stirring machine while I enjoyed a hour of tea and watching the Sun come up.
Spraying is a relatively simple operation, so driving through the fields and watching the world wake up was enjoyable work. The silica spray complements the horn manure preparation. In the human being, silica is found in the skin and other sensory organs such as the eyes. It is a carrier of the light and formative forces; it helps to make the plant sensitive to the forces that bring quality and form. Whereas the horn manure helps with reproduction and growth, the horn silica preparation enables the plant to attract the forces that make for good nutrition and high quality.
How Does a Plant Feel in a Biodynamic Soil?
Fertile soil that has been treated with the biodynamic preparations is imbued with life. It is sentient and has a desire to become plant-like. A plant is so close to the earth that there is not a great distinction between the root and the surrounding soil. The seed anchors the spiritual archetype within it. When it is placed into the soil and encounters moisture and the soil’s potential to become plant, the plant can than grow in a healthy way. The forces of growth and reproduction are available to it, as well as the forces that produce good nutrition and excellent qualities of fragrance, color, and good taste. When the biodynamic compost is spread on the soil, the soil is enlivened and the planetary forces are more available to the plant. The plant’s archetype progresses through the planets, starting from the periphery, down to the earth, where it is anchored by the seed. In this way the plant experiences this whole journey.
If the physical world is a reflection of the spiritual world, then this spiritual world needs a way to manifest, to fill the idea with matter. The plant, in fact all living beings, manifest physically with the help of the planets. I like to think of the archetypes held in the regions of constellations tumbling down to earth through the planets. Through the biodynamic preparations, we can strengthen this process as each preparation is related to a planet.
Valerian is the gateway through which Saturn can bring to Earth the blueprint of the archetype of the species. It is the valerian preparation that imbues the soil with the longing to manifest the archetype of the plant.
The dandelion preparation is connected to Jupiter. Jupiter fills out with matter the archetype or idea of the plant. It allows the plant to become sensitive and attracts to itself, out of the surrounding environment, what it needs for its growth. This preparation strengthens the nutritive quality as can be experienced in good taste and aroma.
The stinging nettle preparation is connected to Mars. This preparation further encourages growth into space and the forming of substance, again for good nutrition. It does this by making the soil sensitive, so that it makes available to the plant what it truly needs.
The yarrow preparation is connected to Venus. This preparation enlivens the soil so that the plant can absorb the incarnating forces coming from Saturn, Jupiter and Mars into physical substance. It does this by making the life or etheric body of the plant sensitive, so that it can accept the imprint from the planetary formative forces.
The chamomile preparation is connected to Mercury. This preparation brings everything into fluid movement so that the spiritual can adapt to the physical world. It also strengthens the life or etheric body of the plant so that it does not get overpowered by the spiritual.
Oak bark preparation is connected to the Moon. The Moon influences growth and reproduction. If these forces become too strong then disease can occur. This preparation helps with the further stabilizing and balancing of the etheric and astral bodies so that the plant can be healthy.
The two field sprays, the horn manure and horn silica preparations, help the plant to be balanced between growth and reproduction (coming from the Moon) and good nutritive quality (coming from the Sun). Modern farming has accentuated quantity over quality. It is important that we, as farmers, provide a balance of energies, both of quantity and quality, so that the plant does not have rampant growth at the expense of nutritive value.
Rudolf Steiner gave us a way to work with nature’s life forces through the preparations. With these we can heal the Earth and grow healthy food that will nourish us both physically and spiritually. Modern agrarian science is not aware of these energies and has no way to work with them. We have the capacity to consciously enter this realm of life forces but we need to open our spiritual eyes. There is a divide between the physical and spiritual worlds but I believe that for many the bridge between the two is becoming easier to cross. I hope that my story and my work with the land will serve to encourage others to follow their own spiritual path.