Biodynamic gardening

Biodynamic gardening

What is the big difference between biodynamic gardening and traditional gardening? This is a question I have been asked a lot over the years?

The gardening techniques may seem similar, but what is radically different is the overriding philosophy behind it. A non-biodynamic gardener wants, on the whole, to make her/his plants look the best with whatever method is a quick and convenient way. ‘Weeds’ are controlled with pesticides and the soil is a means to grow flowers/plants, but no particular thought is given to it beyond that function. Snails, earthworms, and most insects (with the exception of bees) are not welcomed and exterminated. This will give you a nice garden but often to the detriment of the wildlife.  The yearly use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers will lead to soil erosion and the extinction of many insects/worms and other species further down the line.

  The biodynamic approach is more wholesome. It all starts with the soil and great effort is made to keep the soil in a very good condition. The additions of soil tonics, organic sprays, and earthworms play a big part. If a plant grows in the ‘wrong place’, it is not just called a weed and discarded. Instead, it is carefully hoed out and used to make compost (although it needs to be rotted down first as active seeds may otherwise contaminate the compost heap). Take for example the nettle. In the ‘biodynamic world,’ a nettle is never seen as a weed, but as a useful byproduct of nature. You may not want it growing in your favorite flowerbed and hoe it out from there. But you won’t discard it, but rather replant it to a part of the garden that is less prominent. Nettles are one of the best garden fertilizers and you will need nettles on-site to make your nettle brew fertilizer. 

  Where does the word ‘Biodynamics’ come from? The phrase ‘Biodynamics’ was created by Rudolf Steiner and is made out of the Ancient Greek words ‘bio’ (life) and dunamis (power). A biodynamic garden is managed as one single complex organism. Everything there is useful and helps to keep the ecosystem in check. In essence, Steiner described Biodynamics as an ‘ecological and sustainable approach to agriculture/gardening that increased soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides’. It follows that bees, earthworms, and other insects are not harmed but welcomed and put to good use. However, that does not mean that there is no pest control at all. Of course, there is. But it is done in a sustainable/organic way and not as a blanket extermination program. To make Biodynamic gardening more effective, people use biodynamic calendars to harness the ‘best natural times’. We made it easy here and have created symbols for the most important gardening tasks.  You can also check out the category Happy House in the LWTM lifestyle calendar (the member’s version and you will find the code in the monthly newsletter if you are a subscribed member).  Once you have seen the Happy House category, just choose the task you want to look up and it will give you the best dates.  Otherwise,  check out the date and you will find which symbols correspond with the current date.  Here is a link to the LWTM calendar.

Click here to read more about how Biodynamic Gardening works

Let’s touch on some of the gardening symbols
Composting 

biodynamic compost heap

The waste from one year is the fertile soil for the next. If you have space for at least 2 compost bins, please install them. They don’t need to be fancy, even two dug-out holes in the ground with some kind of cover would do. What matters is how to assemble the compost and when you do it. Here is an article that explains Biodynamic composting in more detail.

The symbol to look out for is.    composting and soil tonics 

 

 

Preparing the soil 

biodynamic compost

Today is ideal for turning the soil, weeding, bringing out the compost to sprinkle it around your plants, and sieving it over the lawn.
Making your compost is not that hard. All you need is a good compost bin and time (see below). It is a precious commodity to have in your garden
and it is 100% compatible with your garden’s soil conditions as it is made from its waste products. 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Repotting houseplants and planters on the patio/balcony

Your houseplants need to be repotted every or every other spring, depending on how quickly your plant grows. But once roots produce out of the pots it is time to go a size or 2 bigger. It might be a good 
idea to change your pots and spruce up your home. Leave an inch or 2 of space between the roots ball and the pot. This will give it enough space to grow into the new pot to extend the growing time. If your roots are fine, just add a bit of new compost earth to add extra nutrients, then feed and water as usual. 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Organic pest control 

We want to encourage wildlife, especially bees and earthworms. But when it comes to aphids and other destructive forms and a plant is suffering, you can help it recover with a few biodynamic rescue remedies. 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Watering and feeding your plants 

There are best days for watering, just look out for them on your calendar and you won’t forget or drown your plants. Here is a small guide on how to water correctly 

The symbol to look out for is.     

 

Pruning trees and bushes 

Cutting bushes down in season and at the right time will keep them happy and healthy for years to come. These are of course general pruning dates, for individual plants the rule of thumb is after flowering or for deciduous trees/bushes during the winter time. Revival pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs for more info. 

The symbol to look out for is.    Pruning trees and evergreens 

 

There are of course many more symbols. But here are a few to get you started on your biodynamic gardening venture. 

 

Moon Gods and Godesses part 1 – The power of the matriarch

Moon Gods and Godesses part 1 – The power of the matriarch

Here is a new LWTM series that introduces you to the world of moon gods and goddesses – not strictly biodynamic, but nevertheless fascinating. We will delve into where the legend of some of these goddesses come from, and how people worshipped them…

For the last 2,000 years, the religious and political world has largely been male-dominated. But early men worshipped many goddesses, depicted as independent, intelligent, and fierce women.

The Earth Mother goddess 

The ancient societies recognized very early on that the moon and female fertility cycles go hand in hand. It is a well-known fact that women living nearby synchronize their periods and this close link led to a raft of moon goddesses being worshipped. Throughout history, humans worshipped moon goddesses. They were seen as the guardians of the female fertility cycle. Archeologists uncovered figurines of naked, heavily pregnant women from the Nile Delta, in the Pyrenees, most European countries including the British Isles. The mother gives birth to a child and cares for it. In a time when many newborns or small children died before the age of 6, motherhood and fertility were seen as an essential part of life and to keep the human race alive.

The responsibility of men was to hunt and provide food. The women’s task were to bear children and keep them safe. Since the woman was the bearer of life, it stands to reason that women and their gods were held in high esteem. This lifestyle gave women independence and wisdom and in some ways, their knowledge and crafts gave them equal if not superior rights. Most cultures dating back to 9 to 7,000 B.C. followed a matriarchal model.

What is the matriarch? 

The term ‘matriarch’ refers to the authority, influence, and strength associated with female leadership. It stems from the Latin word ‘mater’, meaning mother. It is mainly associated with older, experienced women in leadership positions and as central decision-makers.  It all goes back to the original female icon – the Earth Mother.

She is depicted as the mother, cradling her newborn child and nourishing it with her breast milk. In her honor, people made small female figurines with round features showing a pregnant belly and breasts.  Subsequent gods like Demeter came from this ‘Earth Mother image’, responsible for feeding the nations and bringing fertility to the land in the form of plentiful harvests.

The concept of a matriarch is more inspired by wisdom and guidance within a community, rather than strength and power. Historically women seek nurturing roles that enjoy empathy, and collaboration. Of course, this is a stereotype and I am sure there were also plenty of scheming and power-hungry women in charge.

On the whole, matriarchal cultures and their female leaders are revered for their wisdom, resilience, and ability to unite and guide their communities through challenging times. They often serve as pillars of strength and sources of inspiration for future generations, shaping the values and traditions of their societies.

One of the oldest ‘matriarchal cities to be unearthed is Catalhüyük. This ancient Neolithic site located in present-day Turkey, near the town of Konya,  is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and is considered one of the earliest known human settlements.

Çatalhöyük was occupied roughly between 7500 BCE and 5700 BCE, making it one of the oldest known settlements. It predates many other ancient civilizations, including Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

The settlement is characterized by its dense, mud-brick houses built closely together, with rooftops serving as streets. The houses were accessed by ladders through holes in the roofs, suggesting that the community was primarily engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. We know a lot about their culture as many wall paintings and intricate pottery survived. What was surprising is that shrines and many figurines depicting goddesses and animals were found, but no male statues. Therefore archeologists suggest that Çatalhöyük may have been a matriarchal society, based on the prominence of female figurines and the absence of male figurines.

Archaeological evidence indicates that Çatalhöyük was a relatively egalitarian society, with little evidence of social hierarchy. Houses within the settlement appear to have been of similar size and construction, suggesting a relatively equal distribution of resources in the throws of a hunter-gatherer society settling down to become dominated by an agricultural way of life. Since 2012  Çatalhöyük is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage outstanding universal value and significance to human history.

Next time we look at the Minoan civilization and connections between the bull and the moon.

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The positive outlook

The positive outlook

meditation and self-help‘Mental Health’ has become a buzzword, especially in a post-Covid world. Taking care of your mental health and keeping a positive outlook is crucial for overall well-being and quality of life.

If you consider how many ‘daily interactions’  a person had in 1960 compared to someone living today, the difference is staggering. We are talking of a time when people had secretaries typing their letters and posting them to get a reply a few days later. Socialising was always face-to-face in familiar surroundings. No hundreds of emails you are left to deal with all by yourself, facetime, zoom meetings around the world and this is not even taking social media and all the other forms of communication into consideration.

This overload of communication is also targeted. Before everybody watched roughly the same news or had a choice of a few newspapers to get their information. Not so today. We live in a world where you may have more communication and things in common with someone in Costa Rica than at the end of your road.

With this constant overload, no wonder our mental health can be challenged.

How do you look after your mental health?
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Make time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax and recharge. This could include hobbies, spending time with loved ones, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or engaging in physical activity.
  • Look up this symbol for some ideasmeditation and self-helpMaintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, and prioritize getting enough sleep. Physical health and mental health are closely linked, so taking care of your body can have a positive impact on your mood and mental well-being. One of the big tell-tale signs of depression is the lack of self-care.
  • Stay Connected: Build and maintain supportive relationships with friends, family members, and others who you trust and feel comfortable talking to. Social connections can provide emotional support and a sense of belonging, which are important for mental health.
  • Seek Help When Needed: If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. This could involve talking to a therapist, counselor, or mental health professional, or reaching out to a trusted friend or family member. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.Practice Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction Techniques: Incorporate mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or other stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine to help manage stress and promote relaxation.Set Boundaries: Learn to say no to things that drain your energy or cause you undue stress. Setting boundaries can help you protect your mental and emotional well-being and prioritize your own needs.
  • Limit Exposure to Negative Influences: Be mindful of the media you consume and how it affects your mood and mental health. Limit exposure to news or social media that may be triggering or cause feelings of anxiety or distress. Remember you can influence your microcosmos, but not the wider macrocosmos, so why spend so much time being anxious/angry/exercised about something you do not influence?
  • Engage in Activities That Bring You Joy: Instead concentrate more on what makes you happy, and how you can improve. There your behavior and thoughts can make a big difference.  Make time for activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, whether that’s spending time outdoors, pursuing creative interests, or volunteering in your community. Being fulfilled and with positive, like-minded people will help a lot with your mental health.

 

Manifesting: 

“Manifesting” typically refers to the practice of focusing one’s thoughts, beliefs, and energy on bringing about a desired outcome or reality. It is often associated with the concept of the law of attraction, which suggests that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life.

Well, it all sounds very woo-hoo, but using techniques such as visualization, affirmations, and gratitude exercises to align their thoughts and emotions with their goals and desires has proven again and again to make a big difference. It is free and easy to do, so why dismiss it?

The idea is that by consistently maintaining a positive mindset and believing in the possibility of achieving your goals, you attract positive outcomes into your life. As they say ” seeing is believing!”

If you can ‘visualize and believe’ in something, you can trick your mind into believing it has already happened. Creating intentions and acting them out does work. Most people hold themselves back with their negative thoughts or even worse with negative thoughts put into their heads by (often well-meaning loved ones or the media).

Manifesting is the practice of shutting all other voices out and just simply seeking your voice and magnifying it.

Ultimately, it is not the manifesting that works. But putting your visions and thoughts into action. But for this, you need to know first what you want.

Meditation

This is where meditation comes in. It is a training to help you achieve a state of mental clarity, emotional calmness, and increased awareness. It encompasses a variety of techniques and traditions, but at its core, meditation involves focusing the mind and eliminating distractions to achieve a state of deep relaxation and inner peace. Breathing exercises and mindfulness (where you just focus on the present moment, shutting all other thoughts out) will help, too.

Research has shown that meditation offers a wide range of benefits for both mental and physical health. These benefits may include reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, improved focus and concentration, enhanced emotional well-being, and better sleep quality. Many people also find that regular meditation practice helps them cultivate a greater sense of inner peace, resilience, and compassion.

Meditation can be practiced by people of all ages and backgrounds, and it can be done virtually anywhere, making it accessible to almost everyone. Developing a consistent meditation practice often involves starting with short sessions and gradually increasing the duration and frequency over time. Like any skill, meditation requires practice and patience, and its benefits often become more apparent with continued commitment and dedication.

Combining meditation, targeted visualization, and manifesting should create a positive mindset. This in turn will help you get positive feedback from your friends and family. Who wants to be around someone constantly nagging and negative? This in turn reinforces your self-worth and you will treat yourself kinder and look after yourself better, like eating better food and caring for yourself.

You can see it is a positive loop all starting from a positive mindset.

 An Introduction to LWTM

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The  living soil

The living soil

 

The science of sound

 

Did you know that fungi in the soil can be influenced by sound? Scientists recently discovered that playing ‘white noise’ to depleted soil increases healthy soil production by up to 20%. The ‘white sound’ mimics the movement of earthworms and other useful insects. 

How do fungi grow?

Until recently all we knew was that fungi primarily respond to environmental factors such as moisture, light, and nutrient availability. Factors such as humidity, temperature, pH level, and substrate composition are very influential on fungal growth. While fungi can detect environmental cues, they do so through chemical and physical signals rather than auditory stimuli. But sound is not something we associate with healthy soil, that is until now.

A few years ago a Swiss sound artist called  Marcus Maeder stuck a noise sensor into the ground. At the time he was working on his dissertation and was just curious ‘What does the soil sound like?’ And there was a lot of sound to discover. The soil is alive and full of screeching, scratching, and tons of other noises. Ecologists have long known that the earth is home to gazillions of organisms. In fact, in a small cup of earth, researchers have counted up to 100 million life forms.

Understanding that underground life is important because it creates ‘the living soil’.  “Soil helps to transform the nutrient elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that feed plants – for food, for forests, or to fill the air with oxygen, so we can all breathe,” says Steven Banwart, a soil, agriculture and water researcher at the University of Leeds in the UK, who co-wrote an overview of the functions of soil in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Worms, grubs, fungi, bacteria, and other decomposers are involved in every step. (source BBC article) 

Next time you start a compost heap, think about the millions of creatures that you will harbor.

The Living Soil 

“The living soil” refers to the complex ecosystem of organisms and processes that exist within the soil. Soil is not merely a medium for plants to grow in; it’s a dynamic environment teeming with life and essential for sustaining ecosystems. The living soil is home to bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, insects, and other microorganisms.

These organisms all play critical roles in nutrient cycling, decomposition, soil structure formation, and plant health. Without them, there is no compost, simple as that.

The recent discovery that introducing extra ‘white sound’ to the soil speeds up the formation of compost could be of huge importance in the coming years. Currently, most of our healthy soil is already depleted.  Making only a small layer of high-quality topsoil takes decades. Shortening this process would be a welcome development.

Maintaining a ‘living soil’ is crucial for sustainable agriculture and functioning ecosystems.  Reducing chemical inputs, promoting crop diversity, and adding organic matter is vital if we want to continue to grow healthy crops.

The law of cosmic forces

The law of cosmic forces

Nature follows the law of cosmic forces. It is slow, predictable, and dependable. When you sow corn in spring, you get corn in autumn and not wheat or barley. 

Day follows night and night follows day. These cyclical patterns can be relied upon and calculated. We may not know its definite purpose, but we can trust it.

Watching the nightly sky 

The rotational path of the planets, and their relation to each other have been the same for millions and billions of years. 

We know that ancient astronomers as far back as 10,000 B.C. and most likely before observed the night sky regularly, tracking the positions and movements of celestial bodies over time. They noted the wandering motion of certain objects against the background of fixed stars. The term “planet” itself comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.”

At first, these observations were made with the naked eye. Later handheld devices called astrolabes recorded time and established the exact positions of celestial objects.

Armillary spheres are models of celestial spheres, featuring rings. First used by Chinese astronomers around 400 B.C. they demonstrated the positions and motions of celestial objects and enabled detailed calculations.

Different cultures tracked different celestial bodies

Stonehenge: The Druids mainly tracked the cycle of the sun, especially the solstices, and the cycle of the moon.  The Full Moon nights were important dates used for gatherings and celebrations.

Mayan Observatories:  like El Caracol in Chichen Itza tracked the movements of the planets, particularly important was Venus. This tradition was shared with the Minoans, if coincidental or not is not clear. 

Babylonian Astronomy: used clay tablets and recorded their findings in cuneiform scripts.   This enabled them to make detailed observations and keep records of tracked positions. These records could be used to predict their future movements. Babylonian astronomers observed the circle of the animals, now known as the twelve constellations and houses.

    Greek Astronomy: Ptolemy’s geocentric model, while later replaced by the heliocentric model, accurately predicted planetary positions using a complex system of epicycles. Meton recorded that 19-solar years equal 235 lunations, the backbone of the lunisolar calendar. 

    The Ancient Greeks were also the first to observe Retrograde Motions. As the name suggests, planets seem to go periodically backwards in the sky. ‘Mercury retrograde’ is now fashionable on instagram, but clearly not a new concept. All planets enter retrograde phases, some short (Mercury takes 21 days and the next retrograde phase is 13th December to 2nd January 2024). Other long (Pluto is 5.5 months.) In 2024 Pluto turns retrograde on the 2nd May, lasting until the 12th October.

    Chinese Astronomy: Chinese astronomers kept meticulous records of celestial events, including planetary movements, comets, and supernovae.  They also found methods for predicting planetary positions such as conjunctions and oppositions of planets, nowadays still in use in astrological charts.

    What we can learn from the law of cosmic forces

    The weather may be unpredictable, but the path of the universe is not! There is not one day on earth when the sun all of a sudden won’t shine (even when covered by clouds) or the gravitational pull is disabled and objects won’t fall to the ground.

    Humans have free will and with it have achieved a lot.  But with free will also comes unpredictability. We often try to reinvent the wheel, but let’s face it a wheel is perfect and does not need improving.

    If you look at the overriding law of nature – it is balance! The Waxing and the Waning Moon has the same length of time, as does the New and the Full Moon. The length of days varies during the year, but the northern hemisphere gets the same amount of long days as does the southern hemisphere.

    The planets and stars form patterns, creating stability and balance. Ultimately what humans really crave is balance and predicatbility. Therefore connecting to these ever-repeating cycles keeps us safe and guides us in what to expect.

    This is why I created the LWTM Lifestyle calendar, a way of predicting the months and year ahead!

    Working with these rhythms creates a sense of balance and stability and this can’t be over-emphasised in these unpredictable, erratic times.

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