GWM – Biodynamic Inspection

GWM BD Inspection

Archenland, our home, is Demeter certified so every year we are inspected to make sure we are still working along sound biodynamic lines and principles. We had our annual inspection today.

Having Richard, the inspector, round is always delightful if rigorous! We know him well but that doesn’t stop him asking poking questions and making sure we actually walk our talk – which is just how it should be. The Biodynamic Association, Demeter, is always concerned that all its members actually do practice biodynamics and do it properly. They give us a set of forms to complete which ask questions about …

  • Our land
  • What we grow
  • What outside input we do – like manure, compost, rock dust, calcium, lime etc.
  • What seeds we use – they must be at least organic and preferably biodynamic
  • What animals we keep, if any
  • What our crop rotation is
  • How wildlife friendly the garden is
  • What our pest control systems are
  • What composting we do
  • And … the most important … when we have put the preps on the garden during the past year

The fundamental part of biodynamics is putting the preparations on the land and in the compost. If you don’t do this you’re not working biodynamically. The planting calendar is secondary to using the preparations. We keep records in the diary of all the stirrings we do and which beds – particularly in the case of prep 501 – we spray. It’s very useful to us as well as necessary for the inspection.

Paul also keeps detailed records of what goes on each bed, each year, in terms of  …

  • Cow manure
  • Horse manure
  • Chicken manure – quite rare for us to be able to get
  • Pig manure – currently scarcer than hen’s teeth but I would like to use it, am hopeful to have a source for 2011
  • Homemade weed and vegetable compost
  • Bokashi compost & juice
  • Worm compost & juice
  • Basalt rock dust
  • Calcified seaweed & liquid
  • Local authority green manure
  • Leaf mould
  • Cow-pat-pit preparation
  • Liquid manure
  • Comfrey juice
  • Nettle tea feed
  • Nettle tea aphid killer
  • Horsetail tea fungus treatment

It’s a long list but it’s all good stuff!

Richard-the-Inspector likes to walk round the garden too – interesting this time as it was, as he put it, a winter wonderland out there with best part of a foot of snow covering everything. He wasn’t able to see much but did scrape off some snow and note the good condition of the soil beneath, commenting on the good use of organic matter to retain soil friability even under these harsh conditions. We can still dig leeks without breaking them!

Richard is interested to hear how we’re finding using the rock dust – we’ve been doing it for nearly four years now – and pleased that we notice how the veg beds that have had it produce stronger, healthier plants than those that haven’t. It really seems to add to the good effect of the preparations. We were talking about how there is no “magic bullet” but learning to work all things into an integrated whole makes the difference.

Mind you, the one thing we would never drop is doing the preparations, on the soil, the plants and in the compost heaps.

We’ve been doing more cow-pat-pit and Mausdorfer this past couple of years, partly because I’ve been in and out of hospital so much with the joint-replacement operations. This has meant not only has Paul had more to do in the garden but less time to do it in because of looking after me. Using these multi-preps – each of them contains all 6 of the compost preps – has helped get compost made and, by using cow-pat-pit directly on the land, has improved the beds without all the hard work of digging in compost. Richard asked if that meant we weren’t bothering with compost. Oh no, we said, we’re still making it and still find using real compost makes even more difference than just using the cow-pat-pit, but you always have to adjust your life to your circumstances and do the best you can. The two multi-preps have made it possible to do more biodynamics than we would have otherwise been able to because of me.

That’s something that Richard understands – doing the best you can.

Demeter isn’t the Spanish Inquisition! They very well understand that Life happens. Part of Richard’s job is to know when the people he’s inspecting really are doing their best and went they’re skiving. I strongly suspect that the number of skivers in BD is extremely small but I would never say we are a perfect lot without any failings!

People who decide to go for biodynamics, like most organic gardeners, do it because they feel it in their hearts not for any other reasons. We do it because it makes our hearts sing … and there is no better reason in the world for doing anything.

It was a good, thorough and rigorous inspection … we passed muster 🙂

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