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September 07, 2010


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Back on track with this post, my man (no offense, but Part 3 didn't click at all for me)! Excellent stuff and probably one of THE most elucidating wine articles I've read ALL YEAR.

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one."

-George Bernard Shaw, writer, Nobel laureate (1856-1950)


The preparations that are stuffed inside a horn, intestine, skull, etc. where exactly are they supposed to be placed in the earth?

Let's say it's a 50-acre vineyard. Is there some prescribed distance between each buried preparation that guarantees the essential ingredients are spread evenly within the site? Are they to be buried down-slope, down-wind, in the vineyard rows, etc., etc?

How does the material stuffed inside the pouches get out to the surrounding vineyard/land? Or, to ask it another way, how many of these preparation burials must take place?

Steiner doesnt give many specific instructions as to the burial place except not too deep in the earth.
The preps are buried, then recovered after some time (usually after autumn and winter) and applied to the compost pile in small amounts, roughly a handful for a big pile.
The compost is then either applied directly or sometimes as a tea of 1 to 10%. I believe that in the 2010 paper there is some evidence that compost teas are about as effective as direct application.

Thanks, Tom.

I am becoming confused over the method.

What is the burial supposedly accomplishing?

Since the preparations are wrapped and then stuffed inside something, what are they doing while under the earth and why can't that be done in a box covered with soil?

Ah, see there is where the "spiritual science" comes in.

Psuedoscience: The explanations for the fermentations generally involve burial over the winter to concentrate cosmic forces. Stag bladder was selected, for example, because deer are uniquely in tune with the cosmos due to their antlers, which seem to act as cosmic antennae (Similar reasoning for the cow horn preps).
Burial in each of the organs is said to focus the powers of each preparation. For oak bark, round shapes are best, so the skull is used, etc.

Actual science (?): If there is an effect of the "fermentation", it could be that there is some kind of microbial activity that is unique to the animal organs. Intestines, for example are loaded with microflora (cf. probiotic yogurt).

Like I said, there isn't funding (or too much interest, really) to pursue a full-scale microbiological survey of each of the preps individually.

Tales of the horn manure prep fermentation (500, more on that in the next post) not composting correctly in an earthenware pot or other vessel besides a cow horn seem to be anecdotal. I haven't seen evidence of this.

It's much more likely that the chosen plants contain bioactive molecules like plant hormones or bacterial signaling molecules which can act in very low concentrations. The burial (and animal sacrifice) are probably not necesary for the compost preparations, but no study to my knowledge has undertaken this question, or likely ever will.

Tom, could you go into a bit more detail on "animal sacrifice", does that simply mean killing the animal, or does Steiner proscribe a ritual? What happens to the rest of the cow?

Do the numbers have any special meaning, why start at 500?

As I said in my first post, biodynamic practitioners view the farm as a whole organism with the admirable goal of becoming self sufficient.
Thus, an ideal biodynamic farm would have cows already as a source of manure, etc.
Perhaps my word choice was a tad provocative, but harvesting horns, intestines, etc. does require killing the animal.  I should be clear though that there is no ritualistic animal slaughter that I know of.

Tnaks, Tom.

All I can say is: good grief!

Thanks, Tom.

All I can say is: good grief!

Very good post, Tom. This one I feel is very much on target, and paying specific attention to science and biodynamics.

With this, you may have hit an important point: composting is very important in creating healthy soils, and highly beneficial to having healthy vines. So what may be giving an edge to biodynamic growers is that they pay particularly great attention to composting.

As for the specific effects of biodynamic preparations on compost, I am puzzled by the fact that there seem to be significant differences in the way bio-d compost behaves (higher temp, higher nitrates, different microbial makeup, etc.), but that it doesn't seem to have any measurable effects on the soils or the plants. If you change ingredients, the recipe should vary somewhat, shouldn't it?

Also, what comes out of this article is that biodynamics don't produce lesser results than "ordinary" organic. So even if you don't like the mystical aspects of it, you can't argue that it hurts, can you?

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