By Biodynamic Association
Snow cover on a 60-acre warm season tall grass prairie pasture on Midheaven Farm
By Dewane Morgan
I’m writing this on the first full day of spring. Even though the daylight hours are getting longer each day where I live in northcentral Minnesota, the fields and woods outside are still covered with last winter’s mantle of deep snow.
My daughter was looking out of the kitchen window today and saw a bobcat walking on top of the snow in the woods behind our house. What a contrast, as five days ago, she was still in Brooklyn, New York, wondering what would happen next.
I have accumulated a large stack of planting calendars going back to 1978, when the first Stella Natura Planting Calendars was published. Back then, it was called the Kimberton Hills Planting Calendar. Each day, I log daily weather events as well as the activities take place on the thirty fields that make up Midheaven Farm’s 440 acres. From past records, it appears there should be little or no snow on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.
I am always concerned as to how deep the frost penetrates the ground each November and December. The frost depth is determined by how much early snow cover we receive in relation to below zero temperatures. Farm records gathered over the past thirty years by the MN Department of Natural Resources show our local average temperature has risen 5 degrees for the months of November, December, and January.
Before I write about planting by the moon, a little explanation of how I got started is needed. I did not grow up on a farm, nor did I apprentice on a farm to learn basic skills. (The same holds true for using the biodynamic preparations.) The first spring on our farm, I borrowed the money from a local bank to buy an old, small, used tractor and a 2-bottom plow at a farm auction and used our pick-up truck as collateral. Then I asked a neighbor to show me how to plow a field.
My first farming seasons amounted to a sharp learning curve of nothing but failures. In the spring of the fourth year, I waited, as usual, for the ground to warm up and dry out enough to be worked. While I was out plowing a field for oats, underseeded with red clover and timothy, I had a wake-up moment—courtesy of the old Finnish dairy farmer who had rented the field on the other side of the section road. He was planting oats while I was plowing under skimpy sod cover. He stopped his tractor and waited for me at the end of my field.
“You plant too late,” he said with a heavy accent. For several years, he had watched me work hard to not raise a crop. I responded with a list of justifications for my actions, but he was a man of few words. He repeated, “You plant too late,” then turned around, returned to his tractor and grain drill, and finished seeding his field. In August, he and his sons harvested a nice crop of oats, and for the fourth year in a row, I struck out. I had no crop and was deeper in debt.
That fall, I paid close attention to every move the old farmer and his sons made on the field across the section road. I never spoke to them or asked questions, but I read an article by Hartmut von Jeetze entitled, In Defense of “Old Fashioned” Training in Biodynamics, Nos 122 & 123. That article as well as watching the timing of their fieldwork really helped me reflect upon what I had been doing. The following spring, when they planted, I planted. As the growing season progressed, my oats crop looked far better than theirs. This created a whole new set of problems for me, as I did not own a swather or a combine. I had no way to harvest my bumper crop of oats.
The elementals were looking out for me as the old Finnish farmer drove into my farmyard one August evening and announced, “My boys are going to swath your oats tomorrow. Two days later, be ready to haul the grain off the field as we combine.” When the harvest was in, I asked how much I owed them. He said, “Nothing. I just wanted to see how your yield was.” Since that harvest in 1977, I have never experienced a crop failure raising oats or barley.
I have been using a 120-gallon stirring machine and spraying Prepared 500 for 30+ years. I always use warm water (about 85 to 90 degrees F) for stirring preparations. I do all primary field work in the fall, since we have permanent snow cover from mid to late November through the end of March, so there is slight to no chance for soil erosion.
How does this early experience relate to planting by the moon phases of fire, earth, air and water? To start with, I used the orderly succession of when wild plants, perennial grasses, and trees break dormancy and begin to grow. For example, stinging nettle always starts growing before dandelions. Aspen trees always leaf out before red oaks or Northern pin oaks. These same plants and trees will come out of dormancy and start growing three weeks earlier during spring as one travels south from where I live near Park Rapids to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
My cue to start planting small grains comes from a clone of aspen trees on our farm that is always the first clone to show first spring leaf growth. I know when the moon will be full, and I start planting oats/barley on any one of the three fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, with Leo being optimum) within three to four days of the full moon and as close as possible to the leafing out of this clone of aspen trees. As a guide, I correlated this timing to when I watched the old Finnish farmer plant, and I have used this guidance every spring since raising my first successful crop of oats.
When I first start spraying hay fields, I also spray Prepared 500 on the bare ground where the oats are to be planted. Right after the oats are planted, I spray Prepared 500 on the oat fields a second time. If I see the need and want to push the horizontal growth more, I will spray Prepared 500 again when I see the sprouted rows of grain, about three inches high. This always seems to happen when the moon is again in a fire sign.
I spray BD 501 when the oats are about twelve inches tall and the moon is in a water sign (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). From the repeated sprayings of Prepared 500, the legumes in the underseeding will be growing in thick rosettes low to the ground, rather than tall, spindly-looking plants. Spraying the BD 501 will pull the legumes up toward the sun and compensate for repeated sprayings of Prepared 500 that push the plants toward horizontal growth.
I have been saving, cleaning, and using the same oat seed for almost 30 years. In the beginning, leaf and stem rust were a problem. After swathing, I and my equipment would look red from all the rust spores. After four years of using saved seed, the rust problem disappeared, although humid weather persisted. Insects have not been a problem. The oats have excellent germination and vitality.
I have permanent warm season tallgrass prairie pastures that are never plowed, once established. I hand gather the prairie grass and forb seed. Mixed with legumes, the prairie plant roots reach ten feet beneath the soil’s surface. My cropland is in a 7-year rotation: 3 to 4 years of hay, 2 to 3 years grazed as pasture, then 1 year grain, which is then chisel-plowed in the fall and planted the following spring to oats/barley with an underseeding of alfalfa, red clover, alice white clover, brome grass, orchard grass, and timothy. This 7-year rotation is suited to the area’s low rainfall and sandy loam soils. Using this rotation, the topsoil on my farm has doubled in depth.
Prescribed burn done every 6-7 years
Spraying Prepared 500 annually every spring, followed by silica in June
Cattle grazing on prairie pasture in July
Before explaining when I start spraying Prepared 500 and BD 501 on hay and pastureland, let’s consider one of the pictures R. Steiner gives us in chapter 5 of the Agriculture lectures, where he talks about making BD 506, the dandelion preparation. “Now, we still need something else, something that will draw in the silic acid from the whole cosmic surrounding. We need this silic acid in the plants, but it’s precisely with regard to the absorption of silic acid that the soil is losing its strength over time. It is happening very gradually, so we don’t notice it.”
In the spring, when dandelions are blooming, nature (elemental beings) draw silic acid out of the cosmic ethers. Our BD 506 dandelion preparation stimulates and enhances this organic process.
I start spraying Prepared 500 on hay fields and pastures in the spring when I start to see the first yellow dandelions blossoms. I have a window of about two weeks in which to complete evening chain-spike dragging and Prepared 500-spraying. I spray BD 501 in the mornings when the dandelion blossoms have turned to seed and start blowing around. Late summer/early fall, when a few dandelions bloom again, is a good time to spray BD 500 or Prepared 500 again, as the summer forces of growth start to descend into the earth.
Very few people know about or use Prepared 500 in the US. In 1982, I heard Alex Podolinsky speak to a small group of farmers in North Dakota. He discussed how large acreage farms in lower rainfall areas cannot generate or truck in enough compost to cover all the land—and explained how sheet composting in conjunction with Prepared 500 compensates for this lack of compost. He described how Australian BD farmers were getting good results using Prepared 500 in conjunction with sheet composting.
Prepared 500 is transformed cow manure taken out of a cow horn in the spring and placed into a clay storage crock that is surrounded by peat moss. The six BD compost preparations are inserted separately into the BD 500. After three months, this Prepared 500 can be used as one would stir and spray BD 500.
I am not suggesting what is expressed in this article should be followed in other geographical regions of the U.S. I am sharing how using the moon phases in conjunction with the BD spray preparations has allowed me to adapt to local climate and growing conditions on a sandy loam soil in northcentral Minnesota.
By Easter Sunday, April 12, the deep mantel of snow should be melted away. I will leave you with the following: The annual cosmic event of the resurrection of the Etheric Christ is a celestial event that takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
2020 Prepmakers Conference in East Troy, Wisconsin: Dewane Morgan, Brian Wickert, Hugh Courtney and Wali Via (left to right)
Paula & Georg Marti (not verified) said:
Thank you Dewane for this article. As your fellow Minnesotans, we have been hoping to meet you someday! We live in the New Ulm - Mankato area and have been working toward transitioning our Minnesota vineyard & winery to biodynamic practices. We are a small operation down here but, we are persistant! Thanks for your helpful thoughts and sharing your experience. It is very helpful!! We are sorry to have missed the regional gathering in East Troy. Please do it again!!
I first met Dewane back at a BD gathering back in the 80's, then again in the early 1990's when I was farming at Camphill Village Minnesota - about an hour from Dewane's farm and a group of us got together to study Steiner's Agriculture Course. I appreciate the perspective of someone who has been practicing biodynamics on a piece of land for many decades in a consistent way. Some results of the preps and other BD practices take time and persistence, so it is good to see how this has played out for Dewane.
Currently I am in Minnesota on a 1 acre suburban property with sandy loam soil several hours south of Dewane, where I have been gardening for 20 years. This year we have snow on the ground in mid-April, a week after Easter. Like Dewane I have used the preps consistently, though with less precision in relation to the planting calendar (My lame excuse is that until recently I had a full-time job that made it difficult to be in the garden at the right time). In my garden I noticed a quantum leap around year 7, when both quantity and quality of produce from the garden really took off. The moral: stick with it - don't be discouraged if you don't see a huge result at the beginning. The elemental world wants to make sure you're going to be around for awhile.
Thanks again Dewane.
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