Steiner said to put six of his nine preparations in when making piles of compost, piles of compost being the way all green waste produced on the vineyard gets recycled back there.
Turning a waste stream into a cycle of fertility was one thing, said Steiner, but biodynamic compost must bring a more potent form of fertility back to the earth if soils, crops, our food and us were going not just to survive but thrive.
Steiner said to add the flowers or leaves/stems of six medicinal plants called yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, and valerian to the compost. He also said four of these six plants be “prepared” in a special way by first being sheathed in the sense organs of animals like deer and cows.
Why? Let’s take the chamomile preparation as an example.
Chamomile was once used to stop meat going rancid, and to Steiner this meant Chamomile had a real “life force”, a kiss of life force if you like. This could be useful to vines in need of a pick-me-up.
To make the biodynamic chamomile compost preparation though the chamomile flowers are stuffed in a cow intestine to make chamomile sausages. The sausages are hung in a tree to get some air and sun light and then are buried in the earth. If this sounds wacko they to remember the cow’s intestine is where huge amounts of dead matter (meadow grass) get transformed into highly fertile, life-giving manure.
Steiner said that putting something that slows down the forces of decomposition in meat (chamomile) into something (cow intestine) that engenders fertility out of dead stuff would produce something (the chamomile compost preparation) that would bring a life-giving, life enhancing force to the compost, the farm, the crops and us who eat those crops.
Steiner said that it was important when making the preparations to expose them to the four elements – burying them (earth), hanging them in trees (heat/light), soaking them in streams (water) and to do this over the four seasons.
As for the animal organs, Steiner said both wild animals and plants shared a highly attuned sense of perception to the seasons and celestial cycles, one that we humans lost with our 24 hour culture, but which we need to regain to get us out of mess we’re in.
Only the plant material, not the animal sheaths (which disintegrate during time in the air/earth/water, or are discarded) is then put into the compost pile, and only in homeopathic-like quantities, the equivalent of a small handful in each compost pile.
Steiner admitted it was a bit freaky using the animal organs (even though in the 1920s people were far less squeamish about that sort of thing than we are now) but he said if you take the animal element out of the farm soon you’ll have no farm left. Without animals there can be no cycle of fertility.
Ultimately, said Steiner, the biodynamic preparations would tune the farm, the crops and the farmer fully into the local surroundings: to the soil, to local weather conditions, and to celestial cycles.