What makes us human?

What makes us human?

       This is a question that undoubtfully all humans ask themselves at some point? I recently heard a talk about this subject and thought it was well worth exploring.  As I am currently working on the new calendar cycle and The Year Ahead,  when the famous question – what is it all about?  fleetingly raised its head. But was equally quickly succeeded by – What comes next and what are my plans for the year ahead?

It would be highly presumptuous of me to say that there is only one answer, of course, there is not. But the more I listen to experts who study primates in their natural environment and early human civilizations,  the boundaries between humans and animals are becoming ever clearer. Not that I see the human species in any way far more important or superior. The Biodynamic way of life sees all species, including plants, worms and even microbes in the soil as part of the WHOLE CYCLE and each play their unique part. But humans have qualities other species simply have not.

Over 70,000 years ago Neanderthals started to use instruments, discovered fire, and even played music. These ‘creative activities’ had not been seen before. This all got even more sophisticated around 48,000 B.C. when the  Cro-Magnons – the earliest humans- started to settle in today’s Europe and Africa.  Cave paintings and subsequently found tools show us what their civilization would have looked like and more importantly how they lived. Working with fire was by then well established, but this ‘new species’ showed creativity and the ability to plan ahead as no other species had done before.

In his book  The Pattern Seekers, Simon Baren-Cohen describes how humans became distinctly different from animals when they started to recognize patterns. And I would argue more importantly when they started to connect the dots. Animals tend to react, but humans plan ahead.

Initially, this ‘planning ahead’ was quite haphazard. But once early man discovered a predictably time-pattern in the sky, i.e. the cycle of the moon, ‘social planning’ became a lot easier. This was a big game-changer.  Once tribes knew how to operate these early time measuring tools – proper social planning was really on its way. Here you can find out more about how early humans created their first calendars. 

We know that humans were definitely collective beings right from the very start. And there is no reason to believe that this trend is slowing down. Just look at the very recent rise of social media and there is no doubt that humans thrive on collective interactions.

But then certain animal species, of course not all, also share this communal spirit.  Just look at how a pack of wolves or lions hunt together and share the prey (or fight over it!). Or how monkeys or whales come together and care for their young.

But what sets humans really apart is the communication of shared experiences. We do like events and we like to share them – live!
This has been the biggest impact of the  Coronavirus pandemic. It has taken away the ability to congregate, celebrate, and see ‘live events’ and share ‘in the flesh’-experiences? Technology has made great advances and I am sure we are all grateful for that. But ‘this common energy’ is missing. We don’t communicate just with words, there are so many unspoken cues that are impossible to pick up via a video screen.

I think once we are all vaccinated and free to mingle again,  we will treasure this ‘communal energy’ even more than we once did. Especially the senses of touch and smell, which have both been so neglected.

But until then the ‘virtual gatherings’ will prevail and I have finally taken the nudge and together with the new calendars, I have created a VIP Facebook group. At the moment this is on an ‘invitation only’ basis for some members.
But If you stumbled across Living With The Moon for the very first time, you are welcome to download our free introduction e-book by clicking the link below and maybe see you one day in our small, friendly and connected group.

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biodynamic Bee-keeping

Biodynamic beekeeping

Here is some vital information I found on the Biodynamic Association website that explains a lot about biodynamic bee-keeping

Like humans, bees are creatures of warmth and maintain a constant temperature in their hive. This warmth helps bees to create wax for their comb, maintain their colony, and keep it healthy. It is also through this warmth that the colony finds its identity, each bee and bee activity integral to the whole. No single part, not even the queen, can be seen as isolated from the whole.

Modern beekeeping – what’s wrong?

As the Natural Beekeeping Trust explains, bees were held sacred in all ancient cultures. Their survival was assured over thousands of years. In the last 150 years this has changed dramatically.

Much of modern beekeeping, like intensive farming, is geared to maximum production, and, like modern agriculture, its husbandry relies on chemical solutions to man-made problems. This invariably results in exploitation, as the essential needs of bees are disregarded.

As the Natural Beekeeping Trust also explains, the systematic exploitation of bees has seen a huge increase in disease. Bees in captivity can suffer from parasitic infections and more than 20 viruses; many of these can infect honeybees and hoverflies. International trading in queen bees has resulted in the importation of exotic diseases. Added to this, the routine suppression of bees’ natural reproduction (by swarming) in favour of artificial breeding, practised for more than a hundred years, has resulted in impoverished bee genetics.

Here is how you can help ! The best way is to start planting relevant plants that attract and keep bees. These are explained in this excellent booklet called  Bees in crisis . 

It is time for us all to do our bit to save these wonderful animals and pollinators for generations to come.

Ileen Macpherson – a pinoneer of the biodynamic movement

Ileen Macpherson – a pinoneer of the biodynamic movement

Ileen Macpherson (1898-1984) was born in August 1898 in Australia. She attended Clyde School in St. Kilda (Melbourne) and as a young adult became increasingly interested in natural ways of producing food.
This interest brought her to regular Anthroposophy meetings, based on the early biodynamic philosophy by Rudolf Steiner .  Anthroposophy is a philosophy that combines natural science (such as biology) and the intellectually comprehensible spiritual world. It is rooted in German idealism and mysticism, but its essential message is respect for nature, development of the human being in an individual manner rather than a mass-educational approach und the connection of our
 micro universe to the universe as a whole. So according to Rudolf Steiner it makes sense to watch what the universe is doing (for example Full Moon and other celestial aspects in the sky) and connect them to tasks such as planting, weeding, turning the soil and else. Seeds of this philosophy are now found in ethnical banking, the Waldorf education and alternative medicine.
One of the speakers at these early Anthroposophy meetings in Melbourne was Ernesto Genoni, an Italian citizan who arrived in Australia in May 1926. A few years later Ernesto and Mrs Anne Macky started the Anthoroposophical Society and it is through these meetings at the Anthroposophical Society that Ileen meets Ernesto.
A year later the pair have plans to start the first biodynamic farm in Australia and they call this farm Demeter Farm (named after the the Demeter society, a brand that is still around today and that upholds the quality of biodynamic farming. Its name was taken from Demeter, the Greek goddess of grain and fertility). There Ileen and Ernesto perfected crop rotation, soil enrichment and the study of healthy plants and all organisms that are connected to the farm. The Biodynamic agriculture is a cycle where every part reinforces the entity as a whole. For example grass clipping and rotten food are turned into compost and this compost again fertilises the land where cows feed on its grass. In turn the cow’s horns and manure are then used to enrich the soil which then produces healthy plants and fruit trees.
In March 1935 the Demeter Farm in Dandenong, Victoria, finally opens and produced good quality biodynamic food on 40acres of land for over two decades.  The main crop was fruit, vegetables and milk. Soon after the opening Ileen and Ernesto found a group called the Experimental Circle of Anthroposophical Farmers and Gardeners’. 
 
This group soon becomes known for all ways of alternative farming in Australia and even Alfred Meebold comes to stay over for a fortnight. But just as things are going so well, tragedy strikes. Ileen, a very active person  in her early years and busy with long days farming and milking cows, became weaker and weaker. She still carried on as usual, but her conditions deteriorates and soon her legs gave way. In 1943 she was admitted to Epworth hospital where she spent on and off the next three years.
This was a bitter blow for Ernesto. Not only did he now have to carry out all the hard work on the farm, but he also had planned to go with Illen to Europe to join the Biodynamic movement, but all these plans were now nil and void.
In the end Ernesto stayed at the farm at at Ileen’s bedside.  When she was finally released in 1946  she would be confided to a wheel chair for the rest of her life. The cause was later revealed as pernicious anaemia (a lack of vitamin B12). Nowadays this condition is easy to cure, but in the 1940ies it often led to the patient’s death or life in a wheelchair.
Although Ileen tried her best with Ernesto to keep the farm alive, in the end her failing health was getting too much for Ernesto and the farm was sold in 1955. Ernesto started painting (the picture of Ileen above was painted by him) and Ileen, although now unable to practise it, never let go of the  biodynamic ideology. After her death in 1984 the Ileen Macpherson Trust still supports Anthroposophic causes in Australia.

A new concept of farming and living 

happy-pigsBiodynamic farming and living is catching on. What was once described as a ‘dubious niche interest’ has recently developed into an almost mainstream way of living,  hobby gardening and farming? More and more people are getting concerned about the health of the food chain and try their hand on growing their own food, so there is a real trend emerging on allotments, gardens and hobby farms.

As  intensive modern farming has left the soil so depleted that there is hardly any minerals left in the soil. So when your mother once said’ Eat spinach, it is good for you as full of iron’ there is very little iron now left.

Organic food has been around for a very long time now and it is just growing food with less or no pesticides,  but the concept of biodynamic is another level up. It is concerned about the state of the soil, crop rotation, animal welfare and keeping the land in good condition so future generations are equally able to  produce good quality food.

The original pioneers of biodynamic living started off with nothing but faith and learning from trial and error. But now it is a well-established practise that really works and can and is being adapted for big business, especially in the wine industry.

 

 

Biodynamics is more than just farming, it is a philosophy, a way of life

The concept of biodynamics was devised 80 years ago by an Austrian philosopher named Rudolf Steiner. He mixed old farming practises with the moon phases and soil tonics. By nourishing the life-giving soil, the plants that grow in this healthy soil are by default  stronger and less prone to disease, they also contain more nutrients. Compost and fertilisers are made from home-made composts and animal dung. The animals are seen as part of the land and food growing procedure and not as separate income stream. So just like the moon cycle, the biodynamic growing cycle binds in the earth, the cosmos, the people and animals who live on the land all together into one living organism.

Biodynamics also dictates that animals should be reared slowly, and slaughtered humanely with minimal stress. It further advocates a rather stress-free living and going back to basics.

I believe that after an increasingly globalised world with 24/7 internet and constant pinging emails more and more people crave a bit of solitude, simplicity and real things like face to face friendship and good food. And biodynamic food is good. The proof is in the pudding as it wins food prizes every year.

But if you think this way of life is just for the airy-fairy types, think again. It is true that good quality food that is full of life and grown slowly is of course more expensive to produce, but in that way it also employs more people and customers are often happy to pay a premium. So the business model works.

At the end of the day — you are what you eat –  so eating food that is brimming with life and vitality and that helps you to keep  a healthy body surely is well worth the price!