It is 05h30 and the sun is about to rise. Karen Mack and her staff at Tourgar Farm in Claridge have been up for the last hour, stirring their biodynamic preparations in readiness for sunrise. Small amounts of various preparations have been added to water, and the water has been stirred in one direction until a vortex is formed, and then the direction of stirring has been changed, creating “chaos”. This has been repeated over and over again for sixty minutes. This action creates a colloid. Everyone has noticed how the texture of the water changes during the process, becoming silky and smooth. As the sun rises, they’ll all be out on the farm, dipping brushes into the colloidal mixture and flicking it over the land.
“Most people think that biodynamics is hocus pocus,” says Karen. “They can’t imagine how 300 grams of cow pat pit compost, mixed in 50 litres of water and spread in homeopathic amounts, can make any differences at all. To my mind, however, the farm is really benefitting from these treatments.”
The biodynamic principles for agriculture were first devised by Rudolph Steiner in 1924 at the request of farmers who were becoming very concerned (even then!) about what the new methods of farming were doing to the soil. The big difference between biodynamic approaches and chemical or traditional organic approaches is that biodynamics includes the idea of forces in addition to substances. In other words, it is not just about adding things to the soil, but about adding them at the right time and in the right way. In the biodynamic view, the earth itself is a living entity that engages in a dynamic relationship with the forces of the cosmos, and the gardener must consider these forces when working with the soil, plants or animals.
“It’s all about rhythms,” comments Karen. “The movement of the moon, and its relationship to the earth and planets means that every day is different. Some days are good for planting, while other days are good for cutting flowers. I really like working within these rhythms as it makes things so easy to plan. If it is a good day to prune, then we prune. If it’s a bad day to plant, then we spread compost, or do other maintenance tasks.”
While Karen has Nguni cattle on the farm, and has planted an avocado orchard, her primary focus is on hydrangeas, which she grows for the flower markets. One has only to look at the richness of the colours of her flowers to know that these are “free-range” rather than “factory” blooms – they are patently more real and alive. In short, they are biodynamic!
Written by: Jane Harley