By Sally Voris, White Rose Farm
This year, I realized that making biodynamic preparation BD 500 develops intimacy the way good storytelling does. Storytellers sense edges, boundaries, and themes; they attend to the rigors of timing, flow, and nuance, connecting story and audience and conveying multiple levels of meaning. In his lectures on agriculture in 1924, Rudolf Steiner stressed the importance of developing intimacy with nature. “Humanity has two choices—either start once again to learn from the whole of nature.” he said, “or to allow both nature and human life to degenerate and die off.”
Steiner stressed that farmers play a pivotal role in restoring the Earth. He encouraged us to imagine our farms as living organisms, to develop our sensitivity to manure, and to make a number of preparations. To make BD 500, he recommended we bury cow horns stuffed with manure in the fall, dig them up in the spring, and spray the resulting preparation on the land in summer. Use manure from a mature lactating cow; use cow horns from the local area; dig the hole between 2 ½ and 5 feet deep in soil that is neither too clayey nor too sandy, he advised.
This process has flow, complexity, and a cast of characters including the sun, the earth, the stars, the grass, the cow, the manure, and the farmer. The farmer orchestrates the arc of a story that flows from outer to inner, from cosmic to intimate, and out again. Imagine this story:
At sunrise, earth's energy streams out to meet the sun. Together, they create atmosphere, literally the breath sphere in which life thrives. Plants grow and capture sunlight within their leaves. Cows choose which leaves to eat and digest them. What emerges in the manure contains living essence of the plants and the cow. We farmers stuff manure in horns in the fall, dig holes, and bury them. They contain the manure with attracts Earth's energies in winter, when the interior of the earth is most alive. In spring, we dig up the horns. What was manure now has become “an extremely concentrated, enlivening and fertilizing force.” We stir a small amount of the BD 500 in a bucket of warm water for an hour and transfer that force and our own energies into the water. Then we spray the solution onto the fields.
I can buy the preparation, but I prefer to make it myself. This year, the rain stopped and the sky cleared on December 21. I realized I could still make BD 500 just before winter arrived: it was not ideal, but we had had record rainfall and sudden shifts in weather all season. Better to go ahead, I decided. A friend had suggested that I choose a new spot to dig a hole where the land drains better. Even in the new spot, water began seeping into the bottom of the hole at 18 inches. There I buried the six horns stuffed with manure from my pregnant heifer. Will the preparation cure using her manure, though she is not yet a mature lactating cow, if the horns are not buried so deep, if it was so close to solstice?
I can't know. What I can know is that I engaged in a process that enlivened me and may enliven my farm. The plant transforms sunlight into leaves: the cow chooses leaves and digests them; the manure contains energy from both plant and cow, the horn radiates energy to the manure, which is buried in a hole in winter when the energy of the Earth is most alive. Each step moves inward in a complex and intimate way. When I stir the prep in water and then spray it on my garden come spring, I will bring that inner sensitivity to the land and its environment.
A potato grown in such soil will drink in that intimacy. When we eat such a potato, our bellies respond to what is held in the belly of the Earth, whether it has an “organic” or “non-GMO” label. We are enlivened and sensitized. The food shares the story of the flow of life force through nature. I give thanks to Steiner for this process and I relish my chance to tell this story on my own farm. Now I share my telling with you. May it feed you too!