Biodynamic preparations’ day at Whole Circle Farm (3)

In this post we are going to finish presenting the preparations we are using  in biodynamic agriculture, and therefore complete a series of three post about this topic.

The barn in the back...

This day out with Johan, the manager,  proved to bring light on the subject.  From the preparation 500, we went to the preparation 507.  We are now going to deal with the 508 : the horse tail or equisetum.


It is the horsetail or equisitum preparation. This preparation is not used inside the compost. It is a tea preparation which serves as a preventive to lessen the effects when conditions conducive to fungus problems exist. Horsetail tea is extracted from the common horsetail, a plant especially rich in silica. When there is a year with a lot of rain use the horsetail tea to damp down the etheric forces into the plant. Use 1,5 ounce for 2 gallons of water per acre, (100g for 20l per hectare) and stir for 20 minutes.

Barrel compost or Cow pat pit or Maria Thun’s preparation :

The use of barrel compost compensates to some degree for lack of sufficient compost onto the farm.

Cow manure, egg shell and basalt

This preparation has been developped thanks to Maria Thun, a German lady who has been working with biodynamics her whole life. The ideal farm is to have the ideal amount of animals on the farm. Though usually you never have enough compost to put on your land every year, that’s why you put compost on the same field every three years or so. With this preparation, it enables you to spray compost on your field every year. Here the preparations are applied homeopathically. You must use fresh well formed manure from the farm.

And you mix it and you mix it...

This is the preparation we made in the afternoon. We took 5 pails of 5 gallons (20l) each filled with cow manure, 300g of egg shells and 1kg of basalt (volcanic ash). The eggs have to be raw and then dried up. Basalt has clay forming ability, ideal to get a vibrant living soil. We mix everything up for an hour and we put it in a wooden box half buried (ideally a barrel) into the ground with an open bottom. Then Johan put half of the compost into the ground, made 5 holes in a dice shape, added a tea spoon of the 502, 503, 504, 505 and 506 preparations in each holes and sprinkled some dynamised valerian on top of the layer. After that he started an other layer and did the same again. You have to wait for 4 weeks, then you come back, take the compost out, mix it and put again the preparations into the compost.

Adding the 5 preparations to the manure

Then after 4 more weeks the barrel compost is ready to use. The preparations help the breakdown of nutrients and make them avalaible to the plants.

An other way of spraying the preparations on a bigger surface with a container at the front and at the back of a tractor

We finished the day by applying the barrel compost preparation onto the market garden. We put a ¼ of a pail (1gallon or 4l) into 35 gallons (140l) of water, we stirred the preparation for 20 minutes in a stainless steel container with a willow tree stick, and thirty people went for a walk into the field to heal the land with their pail full of dynamised preparation in one hand and the whisk in the other.

Storing the preparations in a clay or glass container, in a box full of peat

And to finish with…

Should I stay or should I go ?

All clear.............. Let's go !

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 6:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Biodynamic preparations’ day at Whole Circle Farm (2)

We’ve start to talk about the first biodynamic preparations last week. Now we’ll be following up with what is called the compost preparations. The next 6 preparations are called compost preparations because they are used in the compost pile. They are used as a set to treat a 10 tons compost pile. They are medicinal herbs: yarrow, chamomille, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valeriane. They guide the compost pile to breakdown in a certain way. When we apply them to the land, it heals the land and gives it directions.

Cory making a hole to stuff one of the compost preparations into the compost pile at Saugeen River CSA


It is the yarrow preparation. Yarrow is a plant that is good to have on the hedge of your fields. It’s like friends, said Johan, it is not what they do,  it  is what they are,  which is important. It permits the plants to attract trace elements in extremely dilute quantities for their best nutritious. You use one teaspoon for 10 tons of compost, inside a small compost paddy which you insert to the compost pile half way with a stick .

The yarrow preparation is kept in a net to keep away the too curious animals over the winter

When we use the compost preparations it is like alchemy, it turns for exemple potassium into nitrogen or whatever is needed for growing. Yarrow is a plant used for liver and kindneys. Flowers are picked in June- July when they are tender flowers, then dried and hanged up the whole summer in a stag bladder. The male deer is a very alert animal in always extreme communication with its environment.

As precious as a golden nugget


It is the chamomille preparation. It stabilizes the nitrogen (N) within the compost and increases soil life so as to stimulate plant growth. Chamomille is a calming herb which helps digestion. That’s why we will stuff it in an animal part related with digestion. It will be the small intestine of a cow. We pick the small flowers, and make them dry before stuffing them up like sausages. During the burying process over the winter, the intestine is decomposing, and only the flowers remain. We use only one tea spoon for a 10 tons compost pile.

The chamomille preparation, also called 503


It is the stinging nettle preparation. It works on the nitrogen content of the compost. It stimulates soil health, providing plants with the individual nutrition components needed. We will just talk about it with Johan today. The stinging nettle is almost like an animal as when you touch it, it stings you. When it starts flowering, you cut it without the root, dry it and bury it for a whole year. Then you break it off before using it into your compost. We use a tea spoon for treating 10 tons of compost.


It is the oak bark preparation. The oak bark is made of 75% calcium, that’s why we should use an animal part related also with calcium.

The oak bark is right in the round cavity

We take shavings from an oak bark, and put it together in a container made of calcium. In this preparation we use a cow skull (we could use also a pig skull). The oak bark has the property of strenghtening blood vessels. It is stuffed in the cavity of the skull where the brain is. We can use only the skull once as we have to break it to remove the oak bark after the winter.

Ready to break off the skull to get the oak bark out

It is buried in a damp place. This preparation provides healing forces (or qualities to combat harmful diseases). Here again it is a tea spoon for 10 tons of compost.

The oak bark after a whole winter in a damp place


This is the dandelion preparation. Steiner used to call the dandilion plant « the messenger from heaven ». We pick the dandelion flower when the middle is tight.

A dandelion flower with a tight center

This preparation works on the silica of the plant. It stimulates the relation between silica and potassium so that silica can attract cosmic forces to the soil.

Digging up the mesentery

It sensitises the plant from its surrounding. It is put in the mesentery of a cow, the mesentery being a membrane underneath the skin which holds the intestine in. It is buried all over the winter. We are still using one tea spoon for 10 tons of compost.

Removing the dandelion from the mesentery


It is also called the valerian preparation. Joahn grounds up fresh valerian flowers, strain them out in a cheese clothe to get the juice out and make it fermented a bit. He then adds few drops in a gallon of water, and stir it for 20 min. Then, the preparation is sprayed over the compost pile. It stimulates the compost so that phosphorous components will be properly used by the soil.

Connor spraying some valerian on the compost pile at Saugeen River CSa

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Biodynamic preparations’ day at Whole Circle Farm (1)

The biodynamic preparation’s day at Whole Circle Farm, a farm which is also a member of the C.R.A.F.T. Ontario program (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in Ontario), was held last Saturday. Nearly all the preparations used in biodynamic farming were dug up during that day and it took us an hour and a half to drive down to this farm with Connor, from Saugeen River CSA. When we arrived there, they had already started the day. A gathering of thirty people was listening carefully what Johan, the farm manager, was talking about. It was just the beginning of the introduction of the day.

Welcome to Whole Circle Farm

The aim of biodynamics is to make the plants sensitive to their environnements. All along the day Johan kept saying that energies and life forces (not substances) are what we are working with when applying biodynamic principles on a farm.

Ready to dig !

After this little introduction, we went in the garden behind the building to dig up the first preparation: the horn manure called also preparation 500. When we burry the preparations, it is important to spot them with a post. After 6 months into the soil, we are not able to see where they are

Johan in action

anymore if not. To dig a hole 2 feet (60cms)deep can sometimes be a hassle if we miss the right position only from few inches. Johan was commenting the day. Each preparation has a different number (from 500 to 508). They are originated from Rudolf Steiner, an austrian clairvoyant who gave a series of 8 lectures to agriculturists in 1924 in Koberwitz – which is now western Poland. These lectures are gathered in the book Agriculture and give the foundation of biodynamics (from the greek bio – life and dynamics– forces).


Hundreds of cow horns, originally from Texas, were buried. The horns were stuffed with cow manure last fall and buried over the winter.

Taking the transformed manure out of the horns

Ideally, horns should be from the farm itself in order to respect as much as possible the close living organism concept that Steiner talks about in his lectures. The notion of farm individuality is something they are still working towards here at the farm. If you want to respect all what Steiner said, you’ll never get started said Johan. Horns can be used three to five times one year after an other, depending of their state. You have to take horns from cows which have been fed with hay or grass, no grains, silage or corns, because their digestive system (with four stomachs) responds to it better. The 500 enlivens the bioactivity into the soil.

Digging up the horns

To apply it, you empty the horn (1oz per acre or 100g per hectare) in a bucket filled with water (3gallons per acre or 30 l per hectare). Then you stir it for one hour. Start on the outside, and as you keep moving, you go towards the middle until you get a nice vortex.

The vortex of life

Once you have a vortex, you reverse the movement and create a chaos. Then you start in this new direction and you carry on this procedure the whole hour. You can apply the preparation with a brush or a whisk all over the farm. Or if you want to spray them you have to strain it before.

One way to apply the 500: using a whisk
Idealy a copper container would be the most appropriate. The 500 is sprayed before we plant anything. It is applied after sunset when the earth is inhaling. We are feeding the soil. When the lunar forces are stronger in wet years or weaker in dry years, the 500 helps restore the balance.


It is the silica preparation. Saturday, we will just talk about it with Johan but normally it is a preparation that you make in spring. You bury it over the summer and dig it up at fall. It is grounded quartz, made into a paste, and stuffed in a cow horn. It helps the plant takes the light and it is used mainly in cloudy and wet areas. It is used homeopathically using only one teaspoon per acre (not even 1g per hectare) put in 3 gallons (10 liters) of water, and stirred also for an hour. The radiation of the silica has been transformed into the water. Regarding the rythm of the earth – inhaling during evenings and exhaling during mornings – it is a preparation which should be made before sunrise. So, ideally, start stirring half an hour before sunrise and apply it half an hour after sunrise over your fields. Sometimes the silica can have a burning effect, this is how strong this preparation can be. In any case, don’t apply it after 10.30am.

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 7:39 pm  Comments (2)  
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Back to the future

Last Sunday, we were having dinner with Cory’s family, Tania, Georgia, Stefano, Connor and Marike. During the meal we’ve started talking about horses and the possibility for Cory to start working with a draft horses team on his farm in the near future. Already when I contacted Cory for the first time last winter, he told me his intention to move shortly towards this other way of working the land with. A totally different approach to farming indeed.

With a strong interest for horses, I was more curious about the different communities around here who are working with horses since a long time. The most known are probably the Amishs or the Menenites. They are the most knowledgeable people to meet if someone wants to know more about draft  horses, that’s for sure.

This evening , we went to see Noah’s farm only a few kilometers away from Saugeen river CSA. He is part of an Amish community. As we entered the farm, a little boy of 8 years of age welcomed us with his piercing eyes and bright smile. « Noah is in the house » said he. Arriving in the middle of the farm, we were quickly surrounded by a bunch of kids of different ages wearing blue or green working clothes. The boys had straw hats on their heads. So much life was emanating from them.

As soon as the presentation was done, we went into the barn to look at the pair of Belgian horses who was in there. We hitched them behind the trailer, went for a short ride in the field and came back to the farm. Noah is working on a 200 acres farm, of which only 100 acres are under cultivation. Everything is done with the horses: the ploughing (30 acres every fall) , cutting the hay or carrying wood. No shoes are needed if the horses are not going on asphalt roads. With 5 horses, he is able to work his land entirely. He even uses them all five at the same time to pull a disk, an implement used to loosen the soil after ploughing or a cereal crop.

One of the oldest and most powerful draft horses: the Belgian horses

By far, my curiosity towards draft horses has been fulfilled tonight. Though, I already hear people saying that to work with horses is going backwards. Well, according to Rob Hopkins, the founder of the transition town movement which started in Ireland few years ago, the peak oil point being around 2015, an alternative way to use oil would be the horse power.

In France, more and more vineyards are moving towards draft horses: less compaction of the soils than a tractor, brings the animal aspect to the field, shallower ploughing, and of course free fresh manure. World reknown domains such as La Romanée Conti in Burgundy are working with horses even if they don’t advertise about it. In Bordeaux, Château Pontet-Canet is cultvating its 200 acres of vines only with them also.

Instead of going backwards, working with horses might be being 20 years ahead of time. The consumer wanting more and more quality in his food will certainly help the spreading of this movement.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 11:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Saugeen River CSA biodynamic farm Ontario

I found a video on You Tube,  shot in 2008 about Saugeen River CSA, the farm I’m working on right now.

Check it out:

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 7:14 pm  Leave a Comment