Rudolf Steiner was a very interesting fellow. He had a knack for many things, and an intelligence that left many in awe. He also left behind a legacy.

    Biodynamic farming (although it wasn’t called that in 1924 when introduced) in the wine world has achieved more momentum then a falling potato.

    Considered to be an upgrade from organic farming. Vineyards everywhere have found that in the long run a safer (chemical free), more altruistic product (hey it’s giving) is worth the initial conversion difficulties and expenses.

    I read through his entire lectures and discussions (something I doubt most biodynamic farmers have done.) To get a better idea of what its about, and what sets it apart from other farming practices.

    After reading I decided that it was an absolute must that I share a portion of his words…

    When I was first taught Algebra I had difficulty grasping the concept of negative numbers. My teacher told me to think of the ground. If one were to dig a hole the hole would represent a negative amount of dirt. The ground level would be zero and any earth stacked next to it would be a positive number.

    With less than a paragraph of words I was able to grasp what was moments before unfathomable.

    The more fantastic an idea, the more an idea lies outside the realm of what one thinks possible, the harder it is to accept. For this reason Rudolf Steiner started his lecture with an analogy in an effort to help one understand the rest of his lecture, and perhaps expand their mental boundaries.

    “Why is it that people think they can talk of a thing from theoretic points of view, when they do not understand it? The reason is, that even within their several domains they are no longer able to go back to the real foundations. They look at a beetroot as a beetroot. No doubt it has this or that appearance; it can be cut more or less easily, it has such and such a colour, such and such constituents. All these things can no doubt be said. Yet therewithal you are still far from understanding the beetroot. Above all, you do not yet understand the living-together of the beetroot with the soil, with the field, the season of the year in which it ripens, and so forth.

    “You must be clear as to the following (I have often used this comparison for other spheres of life): You see a magnetic needle. You discern that it always points with one end approximately to the North, and with the other to the South. You think, why is it so? You look for the cause, not in the magnetic needle, but in the whole Earth, inasmuch as you assign to the one end of the Earth the magnetic North Pole, and to the other the magnetic South.

    “Anyone who looked in the magnet-needle itself for the cause of the peculiar position it takes up, would be talking nonsense. You can only understand the direction of the magnet-needle if you know how it is related to the whole Earth. Yet the same nonsense (as applied to the magnetic needle) is considered good sense by the men of to-day when applied to other things.

    “There, for example, is the beetroot growing in the earth. To take it just for what it is within its narrow limits, is nonsense if in reality its growth depends on countless conditions, not even only of the Earth as a whole, but of the cosmic environment. The men of to-day say and do many things in life and practice as though they were dealing only with narrow, limited objects, not with effects and influences from the whole Universe. The several spheres of modern life have suffered terribly from this, and the effects would be even more evident were it not for the fact that in spite of all the modern science a certain instinct still remains over from the times when men were used to work by instinct and not by scientific theory.”
    He then goes on to explain himself in further detail using what I would like to call a very fluffy way of speaking.

    From there I would like to jump ahead to a section of one of the lectures where he discusses spiritual cow poop.

    “Whatchoo talkin bout!?!”
    Oh Jonathan so childish. I am really tempted to poke fun of these lectures, but I love Biodynamic wine so I will try to keep my poop jokes to a minimum.

    “We take manure, such as we have available. We stuff it into the horn of a cow, and bury the horn a certain depth into the earth — say about 18 in. to 2 ft. 6 in., provided the soil below is not too clayey or too sandy. (We can choose a good soil for the purpose. It should not be too sandy). You see, 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. Through the fact that it is outwardly surrounded by the earth, all the radiations that tend to etherealise and astralise are poured into the inner hollow of the horn. And the manure inside the horn is inwardly quickened with these forces, which thus gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving.

    “But if you once resolve to combine your ordinary manuring with this kind of “spiritual manure,” if I may call it so, you will soon see how great a fertility can result from such measures”

    I’d heard about these practices in bits and pieces from various people, but they varied and were vague. Reading about it, straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak, (I was not inferring that Steiner was a horse or that he had a horse mouth, but we are figuratively on a farm so one could see where I might have made the subconscious connection to the phrase and then used it.) is enlightening and kinda quirky fun.

    Rudolf takes various plants that have certain soil rejuvenation properties and he enhances these properties with their preparations:

    “Take one or two hollow handfuls of this yarrow-stuff, pressed pretty strongly together, and sew it up in the bladder of a stag.

    “Pick the beautiful delicate little yellow-white heads of the flowers (camomile), and treat them as you treated the umbels of the yarrow. But now, instead of putting them in a bladder, stuff them into bovine intestines. You will not need very much. Here again, it is a charming Operation. Instead of using these intestinal tubes as they are commonly used for making sausages, make them into another kind of sausage — fill them with the stuffing which you thus prepare from the camomile flower.

    “This preparation, once more, need only be rightly exposed to the influences of Nature. Observe how we constantly remain within the living realm. In this case, living vitality connected as nearly as possible with the earthy nature must be allowed to work upon the substance. Therefore you should take these precious little sausages — for they are truly precious — and expose them to the earth throughout the winter. Bury them not too deep, in soil as rich as possible in humus. If possible, choose a spot where the snow will remain for a long time and where the sun will shine upon the snow, for you will thus contrive to let the cosmic astral influences work down into the soil where your precious little sausages are buried.”

    Steiner then goes on to dissuade people from thinking him mad.

    “I know perfectly well, all this may seem utterly mad. I only ask you to remember how many things have seemed utterly mad, which have none the less been introduced a few years later. Read the Swiss newspapers of the time when someone first suggested building mountain railways. What did they not throw at his head! Yet within a short time the mountain railways were there, and to-day no one remembers that he who devised them was a fool. Here, as in all things, it is simply a question of breaking down prejudice.”

    ..and then back to preparations..

    “This “condiment” [stinging nettle] will make the manure intelligent, nay, you will give it the faculty to make the earth itself intelligent — the earth into which the manure is worked. The soil will individualize itself in nice relationship to the particular plants which you are growing. It is like a permeation of the soil with reason and intelligence, which you can bring about by this addition of Urtica dioica.

    “Then we take a skull — the skull of any of our domestic animals will do, it makes little or no difference. We put the chopped-up oak-bark in the skull, close it up again as well as possible with bony material, and lower it into the earth, but not too deep. We cover it over with peat-moss, and then introduce some kind of channel or water-pipe so as to let as much rain-water as possible flow into the place.

    “The innocent yellow dandelion! In whatever district it grows, it is the greatest boon; for it mediates between the silicic acid finely, homoeopathically distributed in the Cosmos, and that which is needed as silicic acid throughout the given district of the Earth. Truly this dandelion is a kind of messenger of Heaven. But if we need it especially — if we want to make it effective in the manure we must use it in the right way. To this end — it will almost go without saying at this stage — we must expose the dandelion to the influences of the Earth, and in the winter season.

    “Here, too, we must gain the surrounding forces by a similar treatment as in the other cases. Gather the little yellow heads of the dandelion and let them fade a little. Press them together, sew them up in a bovine mesentery, and lay them in the earth throughout the winter.

    “In springtime you take the balls out, and you can keep them now until you need them. They are now thoroughly saturated with cosmic influences. The substance you get out of them can once again be added to the dung, and in a similar way. It will give the soil the faculty to attract just as much silicic acid from the atmosphere and from the Cosmos as the plants need, to make them really sentient to all that is at work in their environment. For they of themselves will then attract what they need.

    “Now you have one more river to cross. Before you make use,of the manure thus prepared, press out the flowers of Valerian. Dilute the extract very highly. (You can do it at any time and keep it, especially if you use warm water in dilution). Add this diluted juice of the Valerian flower to the manure in very fine proportions. There you will stimulate it to behave in the right way in relation to what we call the “phosphoric” substance.

    “With the help of these six ingredients you can produce an excellent manure — whether from liquid manure, or ordinary farmyard-manure, or compost.

    “Now in the Cosmos it is just this lunar forte which strengthens and intensifies all that is earthly. Indeed, when the Moon was united with the Earth, the Earth itself was far more living, fruiting, inherently fertile. When the Moon was still one with the Earth there was nothing so mineral as we have to-day. Even now, alter its severance, the Moon works so as to intensify the normal vitality of the Earth, which is still just enough to bring about the growth in living creatures. The Moon intensifies it, thus enhancing the growth process to the point of reproduction.

    “With the Moon’s rays the whole reflected Cosmos comes an to the Earth. All influences that pour an to the Moon are rayed back again. Thus the whole starry Heavens—though we may not be able to prove it by the customary physical methods of to-day—are in a sense rayed back on to the Earth by the Moon. It is indeed a strong and powerfully organizing cosmic force which the Moon rays down into the plant, so that the seeding process of the plant may also be assisted; so that the force of growth may be enhanced into the force of reproduction.

    From here the lecture attacks the problem of weeds, rodents and insect pests.

    “You see the weeds growing rampant in a given year. You must accept the fact. Do not be alarmed; say to yourself: Something must now be done. So now you gather a number of seeds of the weed in question. For in the seed the force of which I have just spoken has reached its final culmination. Now light a flame — a simple wood flame is best — and burn the seeds. Carefully gather all the resulting ash. You get comparatively little ash, but that does not matter. Quite literally, for the plants thus treated by letting their seeds pass through the fire and turn to ash, you will have concentrated in the ash the very opposite force to that which is developed in attracting the Moon-forces.

    “Now use the tiny amount of substance you have thus prepared from a variety of weeds, and scatter it over your fields. You need not take especial care in doing so, for these things work in a wide circumference. Already in the second year you will see, there is far less of the kind of weed you have thus treated. It no longer grows as rampantly. Moreover, many things in Nature being subject to a cycle of four years, after the fourth year you will see, if you continue sprinkling the pepper year by year, the weed will have ceased to exist an the field in question. Here, in fact, you will make fruitful the “effects of smallest entities,” which have now been scientifically proven in our Biological Institute.

    “And now, imagine that you do the following: You catch a fairly young mouse and skin it, so as to get the skin. There you have the skin of a fairly young mouse. (There are always enough mice albeit, they must be field-mice if you wish to make this experiment). But you must obtain this skin of the field-mouse at a time when Venus is in the sign of Scorpio.

    “Thus you obtain your burned mouse-skin at the time when Venus is in Scorpio. And there remain, in what is thus destroyed by the fire, the corresponding negative force as against the reproductive power of the field-mouse. Take the pepper you get in this way, and sprinkle it over your fields. In some districts it may be difficult to carry out; then you can afford to do it even more homoeopathically; you do not need a whole plateful.”

    There is quite a bit more to the lectures, but I wanted to take just a few excerpts that gave an idea of his guidelines and of his overall philosophy.

    Next week Benziger a tour through one of the best examples of Biodynamic farming, and how they took a depleted vineyard and made it thrive again.