The Quintessence of Bio Dynamic Gardening with Children: Healing the earth; Healing the children; Healing humanity
Through applied theory participants learned about Bio Dynamics with enlivening activities for young children, transforming BD preparations, making compost and animal homes and creating food too. Sandra Frain has a Masters in Steiner Education and a Biodynamic Gardening Certificate. Her Family Day Care motto is Living, Loving, Learning and Laughing too.
In each of the 4 one and a half hour sessions Sandra led the 22 participants on an exploration of this “Quintessence”. The lessons were sculpted around the 4 elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air, the 5th element being the mandatory facilitatiion by the alchemist – the Human Being.
Participants indulged in drinking BioDynamic lavender or lemon grass tea with honey, raw milk (unpasteurized and unhomogenized). They could draw or play music instruments and browse through the abundant literature and artifacts while the workshop was in progress.
Bio means life and Dynamic is about dynamizing that existing life. The Farmer/Gardener needs also to be an artist, scientist, healer and educator. Sandra’s mission aside from sharing her intense love for Bio Dynamics was to empower people to “just do it” and not be stymied by fear of “getting it wrong” (eg the time of spraying preparations 500 or 501). Steiner gave indications with background information for procedures but he was clear that Bio Dynamics is not a recipe book. We each need to do our own research and develop method/location/time specific preparations. The “3 King’s Prep” developed by Hugo Erbe after the 2nd World War devastation is such an example. Substituting Southern Hemisphere plants and animals for the given European ones is an engrossing challenge for many Australian BD’ers.
Focusing on the intent/purpose of the method or remedy and studying many cultures unearths similarities that hold the same symbolism/wisdom regardless of which continent or hemisphere we might be practising in. When a participant asked why we were following a European sourced healing for the continent of Australia rather than Aboriginal ways Sandra related this example. To explain a crater made by a comet the Arrente Aboriginal people of the Mac Donnell Ranges tell the story of a baby rocking on a Coolamon while women danced on the Milky Way. The baby and Coolamon drop off the Milky Way to earth. The resulting comet’s impact potentized rocks that were then used specifically by women and men for fertilizing their “secret business” plants. In anthroposophy we learn of comets coming from outside of our galaxy and bringing special substances/powers to our galaxy and leaving with a gathering of goods from our galaxy. The image of a broom sweeping the galaxy is used. The “Rock a Bye Baby” lullaby echoes similarities of the Arrente people story. Isn’t it exciting? Sandra encouraged people to find others in their community with whom they can have a sense of camaraderie and to create new groups for “working together “ purposes.
On the Monday we explored qualities of Earth. We examined worm castings and samples of compost in various stages of decomposition. Sandra told stories of the how the children in her Family Day Care have fun with the worms in the 3 worm farms (tubs) on their suburban property. They squeal while the worms wriggle friskily in their hands. What sensations of excitement to look and to hold and to care for these creatures. Feeding them, keeping them covered, in the dark, and then putting the castings into the garden. Worm castings are a perfect form of humus.
Sandra told of her Autumn/Winter Family Festival featuring the making of a Compost Pile. She began the festival with a treasure hunt for the children in which they looked for matter to identify in a matured compost that was ready for the garden. The children had delighted in naming avocado pits with emerging roots. They cracked open mango pits that were seething with compost worms. Shells of eggs and macadamia nuts and seedlings of tomato and papaya too were named. Then a look at some less decomposed matter Yuck! This stuff was not inviting to touch.
Sandra introduced the conference participants to the cow manure she had brought from a friend’s property on Mullumbimby’s Mount Chincogan. She said that whenever possible she makes the materials personal to the children. For example this manure came from a bovine family that had a dark “Big Daddy” Braman bull and 7 cows and 9 calves of brown, white and black colouring. A spade full of manure was passed around and people were encouraged to smell and to look at the visible insects crawling around in it and to imagine millions of invisible creatures too.
We built a compost heap at the Conference Centre watering layers of wet (nitrogenous) and dry (carbonaceous) matter. (1-12 ratio.) The kitchen had contributed very large buckets of vegetable matter for our project. When we finished we placed the 5 BD preparations we had studied about deep inside the pile created in the proportions of a human body. It was covered in tobacco tree leaves (using what was handy) and then sprayed with the warming qualities of the 10 minute stirred Valerian flower preparation. Sandra told the group that this is a particularly suitable activity to do in the autumn as a preparation for winter. She considers it optional for children to participate in a compost pile creation. The priority is that the children are playing around adults doing this meaningful work in a reverential way. A preschool teacher was concerned about the shape of the compost looking like a coffin. Sandra suggested that this was an opportunity for a teacher to be creative: remembering the principles of the pile being large enough that it can “cook” and breathe” as it is a live organism that has been composed by a human being and would not exist other than with human intent and endeavour.
On the Tuesday we reviewed the Earth topic and then focused on Water. A participant had visited the compost pile and found it to be hot to feel when she put her hand into the middle of it. Success! Human- blood temperature was the aim. No chemistry without water? The archetypal forms like spirals and drops expose mysteries of formative forces of which water makes visible. When we watch water moving in a stream we can see how it creates spirals (single and pairs) as it goes around a rock. When we stir in a large pot and create a vortex we see the smaller version of our weather systems as they create ”highs” or “lows” of the cyclone shape. When we remove our stirring implement (hand) and this large spiral comes to rest we can see a pinwheel. If there is debris in the water like bits of leaf or seed we can more easily see the form of a rose. The form of a rose is what the planet Venus makes in its five-year journey around the sun. Acknowledging celestial forms on earth and earthly forms in the sky! Mathematical principles are in motion.
Children transfer this image so easily. Children create forms (spirals, pinwheels and flowers) in the hand- washing bowl: “Look at the shape I made”. They are doing pure Goethean phenomenalogical science now. Making preparations for the land and healing themselves and learning of a powerful healing tool for all of humanity! Learning to love and appreciate the virtues of water not through fact delivered by words but rather by wonder and awe. The stirring of the preparations 500 or 501 is a wonderful opportunity to appeal to all types of children. It is a very good medium for studying the children also. Those children who like to be vigorous or dreamy and need boundaries or who need to delve in and expand their boundaries.
In our workshop we stirred a pot each of 500 and 501. This gave us an opportunity to compare the different properties/qualities of the horn manure (made from cow manure) and horn silica (made from quartz): two spectrums of the Dark and Light pole. What did the water feel like when we began stirring and what did it feel like after 60 minutes of being energized by our human hands? How is each preparation used for bringing nutritional and reproductive, taste and body mass qualities to our planet’s plant life? After much study before and during stirring, we sang a beautiful “Hallelujah” together and then sprinkled the homoeopathic medicine onto the conference grounds as the heavens themselves dropped their waters. (Yes it was raining.) “AHHHH” said many of the participants. Witnessing bystanders wanted to join in.
*. (Bold letters signify high octave rather than middle range.)
Originally written for a puppet show featuring river life, this is a versatile song I sing when I am pouring water in the children’s drinking cups or squeezing a sponge on a painting board. It is pentatonic.
G E D E G E D E G E D E G
“Water Droplets water droplets drip drop to the earth
A G E G A G E G A G E G A
Swirling twirling swirling twirling down from our dear sky
G E D E G E D E G E D E G
Water droplets water droplets falling from on high
A G E G A G E G A G E D E
Swirling twirling swirling twirling join our river wide
We sing this song when we make spirals as we peel apples or oranges. *
C F F F A A A C C A Bb Bb G C AG F
“Around and around and around we go where we go no body knows X2”
2 children from my FDC giggle as they sing their own version:
“Around and around and around we go where we go no MUMMY knows”
On the Wednesday participants expressed how empowered they had felt while spraying Bio Dynamic preparations all over the land. Then we got into qualities of Fire. This includes the animal kingdom and seeds as a source of oil and reproduction.
Every plant has its’ archetype in the starry heavens. Wow. In each seed lives this archetype. With warmth factors and water the seed is thrown into chaos as it connects with it’s archetype and then begins its growth in its own true form.
A song to remind us of our binding to the spiritual world is “Nelly Nasturtium”. An action I do is to have my arms out in an “AHHHH” gesture and then bring both sets of fingers to rest in the middle of my forehead.*
C F F G A C Bb Bb Bb A G F
“I’m Nelly Nasturtium I’ve got a Bright White Star
D D D BbBb BbBb C C
Right in the middle of my forehead
C Bb A G F C F C Bb A G F
So I can see far so far. So I can see far.”
Ah sweet music to my ears when I saw a blonde curly head bent down at our nasturtiums singing this song. I like to expose children who want a “fire in the mouth experience” to the taste of the sulphurous, high in Vitamin C, Nasturtium. Others consider Nasturtium in the watery realm because its leaf is rounded like a water lily leaf. What do you think? Isn’t it great to learn from each other?
“Peppers” (Ashes ) are a BD method for getting rid of both animal and plant pests. We have a bindy problem the children are ecstatic about helping to eliminate using Susan Perrow’s game which I have made a tune for.
Fingers of both hands, waving behind the top of your head makes a laughable Spikey-face Bindy man. The rest of the song lends itself to great dramatics too. When the children need a little breathing out time and a challenging opportunity they take OFF their shoes and try to get to the sandpit from the back door without getting their soft feet pricked by the bindys. Then they pop their shoes on and stomp all over the bindys with gusto. I then pull out the plants and we leave them to dry in the sun and then burn them in a wok towards Full Moon. Watching the fire is exciting and the activity of sprinkling the cool ashes over the property is a treat too. Steiner says within 3-4 years the peppers will counteract the pestilent plant or animal’s fertility. *
C C C C
“Watch where you pass
G A F F G
Your feet through the grass
C C C G G G F E D
Spikey- face Bindy man you may meet
C C C C G G G A F F G
He’s watching. He’s waiting, to catch your soft feet.
C C F C C F C C F
Ouch! Beware. Ouch! Beware. Ouch! Beware,
F F F F F F F F F C F
It’s Spikey- face Bindy man hiding somewhere.”
The highlight of our day was singing and dancing and clapping sticks as we passed around a large jar full of cream from a Mullumbimby Jersey cow with the Hindi name of “Sita”. Some people who are allergic to regular milk can actually digest milk that is consistently from one cow rather than an admixture from 1000’s of cows as may be the case when we drink conventional milk. Some participants who tasted this BD raw milk said it didn’t even taste like milk but rather like “heaven on earth”.
I learned this song and activity at the Hawthorne Valley New York school farm. I suspect it is Afro-American.
G E E G G E E G
“Come butter come, come butter come
G G E D D E G G E D
If you don’t hurry you’re gonna be late
D G E E D D E E B A G
and I’m gonna beat you to the garden gate.”
Pass the jar of cream to the next person and repeat the verse. Watch for “windows” to appear on the glass jar and then “voila” at some point the golden butter drops to the bottom of the jar and the white milk rises. Children experience it as seeing the sun appear in the jar. What a powerful symbol of the warmth forces gifted to us by the revered cow and that can only be made manifest through human will and animal sacrifice. At a BD conference in Albury Victoria, we once shook the cream till it was butter all the while substituting different themes in the song.
“Shoo Cockatoo Shoo Cockatoo If you don’t hurry you’re gonna be late and I’ll make you into pepper before it’s too late.”
On Thursday we revisited Fire, Water and Earth and got into the Air element by making sourdough bread, and making cream cheese from homemade yogurt. We also spoke of the significance for many cultures of birds as messengers to and from the spiritual world.
This Hebrew/English song we sing especially at Whitsuntide/Pentacost in April or May.* And when we are “flying” (flapping our arms) on a moving mission.
CC C BbA G FE DC
“Ani Aff Ani Aff Ani Aff
C C A D A C
Atur Knefeim Shalor
I am flying I am flying I am flying
Adorned with wings of light.”
Aerating is mandatory in a gardening life in a compost and in the kitchen too.
C G G G G F D F
“Soft sifted flour from wheat golden”
“Soft sifted flour from rye so spry”
Sandra sang as she poured a handful of flour into participants’ hands as they stood around the baking table. We celebrated air by using sourdough that had been made with yeast buds that were harvested in my Mullumbimby kitchen’s atmosphere rather than out of a dry yeast packet from an impersonal factory. For 1000’s of years millions of people have made bread all over the world. Why in 2009 do so many of us not have the confidence to bake our own bread regularly? Participants were shown a “Wet Loaf “ method and then we kneaded our own little loaves too (Dry Loaf). While the kneading is a healthy activity for adults and children, the wet loaf is a faster production. Sandra spoke of her well-used stone mill grain grinder and the benefits of consuming flour that is freshly milled.
Yogurt making was discussed and a participant shared her method of keeping heated jars of milk with a little yoghurt in a box lined with blankets and placed in a warm car.
One of our participants told a Japanese legend that embodied the wisdom of Bio Dynamics. A participant who heard the story said that it helped her to “get” that BD practices are not just about the scientific good for the growing of veges but that BD is about participating in a deep and powerful, worldly and other-worldy life process. Another participant spoke of New Zealand’s Peter Proctor who has brought tangible hope for starving people by successfully teaching BioDynamics to farmers in India.
We ended our engrossing 4 workshops by considering Christian Morgenstern’s poem as published in Rudolf Steiner’s Man and the Kingdom’s of Nature:
THE WASHING OF FEET
“I thank you, silent stones of earth,
In homage deep before you bending.
You helped the plant in me to birth.
I thank you, ground and green, in praise
And homage deep before you bending,
Whom you to creature-soul did raise
I thank you, beast and plant and stone,
In homage deep before you bending.
Through you my human crown was won.
O man, our lowly thanks give we,
In homage deep before thee bending
Because thou art, we too may be.
In thanks that bind the heavens around
-World linked to world in thanks unending-
The mighty choruses resound.”