Rhythm & Soul (Farming to a Beat)

We use biodynamic preparations, ideas and astronomical timings with all plant related matters, both in our vineyard and market garden. This includes things like spraying out dilute quantities of manure or quartz silica that have been left underground in a cow horn. Making teas from Casuarina or Willow and spraying them out to help alleviate fungal disease pressures. We also add preparations to compost heaps and liquid manures. We spray preparations and fertilisers when the Moon is in a constellation appropriate to the plant organ we are looking to enhance or when opposite the planets Saturn or Jupiter. We appreciate the importance of state mind and the power of our intentions, so we try, whenever possible, to be fully present whilst amongst the vines, and set intentions when stirring preparations or applying fertilisers. It rather sounds like a load of nonsense. But I loooooove nonsense, it’s the only thing that makes sense, make sense. 

Biodynamics can be viewed through two lenses, depending on how deeply you find yourself embedded in the material world. If you are scientifically minded biodynamics can be viewed through the prism of quantum mechanics, the revered biodynamic practitioner Hugh Lovel coined the term, and authored a book (which I highly recommend) of the same name: “Quantum Agriculture”. For the more ‘loopy’ and esoterically minded, biodynamics can be viewed through the spiralling, inverted prism of alchemy and energetic forces that exist just beyond the realm of our everyday consciousness. Either, or, for me. Really the only difference between these two world views is the language, it is as if Western materialistic science, with its relatively recent discoveries in quantum physics, has come full circle and landed smack bang in the lap ancient mysticism, just with a bag full of fancy words, abstract concepts, and verifiable facts. Same shit, slightly different smell. 

Like Johnny Cash I’m gonna (try) ‘walk the line’ between these two opposing world views. 

Biodynamics is part of a broader worldview put forth by Rudolf Steiner over 100 years ago. Although his wording can be hard to follow, especially as I would be reading English translations of his original German, Steiner is able to beautifully ride the line between the materialistic and the mystic and describe how the two are intertwined. In a very short and overly brief summary, Steiner’s view of the world is essentially this: all we see manifesting in nature and the material world are merely the corpses or precipitates of higher energies and forms that exist far off in the cosmos. Or ‘As Above, So Below’. You, I and all other living organisms are merely corpses of a higher formative force from a distant realm, we live, die and then return to that realm. So, in dealing with issues in the living realm, limited gains can be made by altering physical parameters, you’re essentially doing cosmetic surgery on a long-deceased body. You could make it look pretty, but it’d be dead, nonetheless. However, if you address the underlying and formative forces behind physical manifestation, you’re suddenly cooking with fire. 

I’ll try and align Steiner’s worldview with the current scientific worldview, however I barely passed high school physics, and have never been to an esoteric school of mystery, so I’ll probably butcher this. An easy place to start: everything is energy. When we zoom down to the micro-ist of micro levels, particles are constantly oscillating in and out of existence. Where do the Up Quarks, Down Quarks, Charm Quarks, Strange Quarks and Higgs Boson’s go? Who the hell knows, but physicists call this realm where matter disappears into and returns from, the “Quantum Field.” This all seems very strange. Then we have the electron in an atom which is just energy moving between different states, or ‘shells’. Sub-atomic particles are not actually particles, just energy vibrating in and out of existence. All our senses perceive in the physical world is just energy vibrating at the perfect frequency for us to pick it up, and the illusion of matter arises. Or are we just vibrating at the perfect frequency to pick up all the other vibrating frequencies? It’s all about the vibes maaaaan. Suddenly Steiner’s worldview seems rather simplistic. Where Steiner’s worldview and the Quantum worldview merge is here: electromagnetic radiation is constantly being emitted from all the stars in the universe (or cosmos) and bathes our Earth in an endless stream of energetic waves. Well actually, light moves across the universe in planes that rotate perpendicular to its direction of motion. Cue mind explosion. These planes of light are merging onto the Earth from the distant Cosmos and then interact with the physical Earth (which apparently is just a dense lump of energy). The patterns and frequencies of this Cosmic energy, planes, rays, waves etc etc etc, ultimately interact with the ‘matter’ here on Earth, and all the forms we see here on Earth are just a manifestation of the interaction between the vast amounts of energy coming from the distance stars and the countless atoms that make up our Earth. I don’t actually know what the hell I just said or really know what any of that means, probably a load nonsense. 

The energy from the stars, including our Sun, are changing the nature of substance at the fundamental level. What is happening at the sub-atomic level when an atom and a ray (or plane, or wave) of electromagnetic radiation meet? An electromagnetic wave from a distant star reaches Earth, it will eventually hit a piece of matter. Essentially what happens at this level is an interaction between the energetic state of the sub-atomic particles and the energy carried across the cosmos by a wave of light. This cosmic light is changing the frequency, rate or energy state of all these sub-atomic particles. Maybe it’s pushing them in and out of this magical Quantum Field at the perfect rate to create a flavoursome grape?

What does this have to do with growing grapevines? Well in my view, plants are highly sophisticated cosmic antennae’s. Stuck in the Earth as they are, they are constantly being bathed in and interacting with all this cosmic radiation. Plants are so adept and in tune with cosmic rays that they can take the most powerful cosmic radiation known to us, Sun rays, and turn it into sugar. With a touch of magical chemistry, plants turn cosmic light into usable energy. Essentially what these weird biodynamic preparations and cosmically aligned spray dates do is fine tune the plant antennae, allowing it to become more receptive to both energy coming in from the cosmos and energy emanating outwards from the Earth. This is life pulsating to the rhythm of the cosmos. A plant is simply a manifestation of these two opposing forces. Earthly forces moving in one direction, Cosmic forces in the other, beautiful grapevine with vino giving grapes in the middle. Viola. 

In biodynamics only the planets that are visible to the naked eye are worked with, as these are considered the most influential on plant growth. We have three ‘inner’ planets which orbit between the Sun and the Earth: Mercury, Venus and the Moon (not a planet, but whatever). Then we have the ‘outer’ planets which orbit beyond the Earth: Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The Inner planets work along the Earthly plane with substances like the cations (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium etc.), humus, clay and influence the plant’s roots and shoots. The outer planets work along the Cosmic plane with the substance’s silica, phosphorus and with the flowering, fruiting and seeding processes in plants. In order to better understand the planets and their relationship to plant growth, it is best to view the solar system as an onion, with each planet creating its own layer. As cosmic light streams in towards the solar system, or to the centre of our organically grown, nutrient dense onion, it interacts with each planetary layer of this juicy onion version of the solar system. As cosmic electromagnetic radiation from distant stars hits a planetary layer, sphere or orbit, it is astralised and the tone of the cosmic light is somewhat changed. In a way, cosmic light moving inwards from the distant periphery is continually condensed as it moves through the planetary fields of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and then finally is influenced by the Moon’s sphere, before reaching the earthly plant. This is all a little mind-boggling, but nonetheless this is how the grapevine relates to the cosmos. And why using planetary rhythms is useful. 

The constellations (Aires, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer etc.) are groupings of distant stars that run 360 degrees across the night sky. The elliptical plane is divided into twelve constellations. The constellations are then grouped into four groups of three, each group related to an element (Earth, Water, Air, Fire). Each constellation imparts a certain cosmic pattern or influence onto the Earth, a sum of all the electromagnetic radiation emanating from all the stars in that constellation. For example, the constellation Leo has the energetic properties of the Fire element. The Fire element in turn influences fruit and seed development in the plant. The four elements are broad categories of processes that occur in the universe. The element Earth describes things that coagulate, precipitate or solidify… essentially all the physical things that you can pick up and hold. All very much under the influence of gravity. Earth is related to the chemical element Carbon. The Water element describes things that are in motion or fluid. Water is the universal solvent; it draws things in and combines them. Water is related to the chemical element Oxygen. 

The element Air describes things that can change, reverse or move away. Air is no longer bound by gravity and is more closely related to levity. The chemical element Nitrogen is related to Air. The element Fire is very much the element of transformation, think of an actual fire. You can both transform things through destruction or use it to cook food. The Fire element is related to the lightest chemical element of all: Hydrogen. Hydrogen with its one proton and one electron is the least physical thing out of all the physical things. In the plant the Earth element is related to root and shoot growth, Water element to leaf processes, the Air element to flowering processes and the Fire element to the fruiting and seed forming processes.

If we are able to conduct farming practices, i.e. spraying out fertilisers and biodynamic preparations or cultivating and working when the planets are in a particular orbital position, or the planets and moon are in particular constellations, we can influence how strongly both the cosmic and earthly forces interact with the plant.

An example might help. Biodynamic preparation 501 is quartz silica (or sometimes feldspar), which is finely ground, mixed with water to create a paste and then stuffed into a cow horn. That cow horn is then buried in the ground over summer. As I mentioned earlier, silica has a strong connection with the formative light forces emanating from the cosmos, and the cow horn, whilst not silica, has a crystalline proteinaceous (keratin) form that is quite like silica in its form, but not substance. A cow horn is in essence a ‘living’ silica form. Hence when we bury this horn filled with silica, we are trying to lift the silica forces into the living realm. During the grape forming and ripening period we spray 501 out monthly when the moon is in a Fire constellation (Aries, Leo, Saggitarius), ideally enhanceing fruit quality.  This line of reasoning is the basis behind all the biodynamic preps. Once lifted from the ‘lifeless’ realm, this silica is now in a living form that can influence plant growth. Spraying this preparation out over the vines enables them to more effectively turn cosmic radiation into life (in our case juicy grapes).

The rhythm of the planets and stars influences all processes on Earth, our job is to simply get a little soul and join the band. 


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Jackie & Elliott Paradoxa


First generation farmers who believe that soil health & nutrition is not only important but also very cool. Our minimalist philosophy carries from our feet on the earth, through our hearts and to our vines.

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