Biodynamic Preparations at Summerhill Winery
It was Friday, a leaf day, the day after a new moon in early March 2019 in Kelowna BC. The moon was descending and was about half way between Apogee (away) towards Perigee (closer). We were walking water (diverting it) off the dirt roads with a stick into swales, watching for erosion. Leeks were germinating in the greenhouse as the sun warmed the earth and melted the snow and ice. Still at night we were having record breaking cold that persisted since coming on late in February. We had harvested Ice wine grapes only a few weeks ago. The grapes lingered on the vines for much longer this year. This meant less grapes but a more complex and sweet nectar.
The microcosmic and macrocosmic measures are taken in to account in Biodynamics. These phenomenological forces at play shape the present and future of all life. Conventional farms seek to separate themselves from those measures whilst the Biodynamic approach is to integrate. We seek to become more in harmony with the subliminal forces and the cosmic sense of our world, mostly just by living in it and deepening our appreciation.
There are Biodynamic preparations buried in the soil humus layer here at Summerhill. They were conceived by Rudolf Steiner and Pagan Ancestors and based on alchemical relationship of plants and animals to the cosmos. Last Autumn Walter Harvey, Niklous Forstbauer, myself and a group of farmers buried over 70 horns filled with manure form a lactating cow, bladders from Ungulates filled with Yarrow flowers, intestine filled with Chamomile, mesentery filled with Dandelion as well as cow skulls filled with White Oak bark which instead of burying we placed under moving water in the wetland for anaerobic digestion. These preparations have been transforming over these winter months and should be matured by early summer or late spring. Every year we make compost for the gardens and vineyards and inoculate those piles with six of the nine biodynamic preparations. The three other preparations are used as field sprays applied at appropriate weather period and moon cycle to increase microbiological activity, photosynthesis and prevent disease.
For the garden compost using all the food waste from the bistro and events departments here at the winery I make a static pile, layered with an eye to try to balance the volumes of Nitrogen to Carbon and air space. I collect ornamental grasses, straw, leaves, etc. as well as coffee grounds from downtown and the manure from our chickens. When the static pile builds to capacity for the space it is in, I move it with a tractor and bucket to another location and turn it with a Sittler repeatedly, to bring it up to temperature enough times for complete thermophilic digestion. Over the winter I observed it retained its heat for months and melted the snow as it fell. Last week I dug in to it with my hands and it had become rich dark humus that smells like the forest floor. Thinking of the in-breath of the Earth. Looking forward to the descending moon in the spring to spread that compost atop our beds.
For the vineyards there are much larger windrows of compost we use to spread out on the vineyards that consist mostly of pumice from wine production, ramial wood chips and horse and chicken manure brought from off-site. Bringing in manure from off-site is permitted in Demeter Standards for Vineyards because there is no crop rotation. Generally, for Demeter Certified Farms the farm is a self-contained organism and animals are integrated for manuring and crop rotation amongst other reasons, but exemptions are possible.
Biodynamic Preparations are available through the BDASBC. Please contact Gabe Cipes or Travis Forsbauer also if you are interested in using the preps and becoming Demeter Certified as a dual certification to Organic.
- Gabe Cipes