Tag Archives: living healthy

Composting 4 – Hot Heaps

Some like it hot 🙂 … and it certainly does produce good compost as well as killing off weeds and pests.

A hot heap needs to be at least 1m x 1m x 1m so that it has enough mass to generate the super-high temperature. Hence you need a lot of material, all at once, to get it going. If/when this happens – like spring and autumn – then use the compost preps in the way of farmers and large-scale growers.

You Need …

–          The 6 compost preps

–          An egg box

–          A small amount of wet clay soil or moist cow dung

–          Bucket and stirring stick

–          Half a bucket of rainwater

–          Watering can with a rose

–          A stick, half the height of your compost bin/heap

–          Clock

Method

It’s good to be indoors, in the garden shed, or somewhere comfortable to make up each preparation into a little ball ready to put into heap. Having a table and chair makes things easier.

  • Take the first of the compost preps – 502, Yarrow – and open it up
  • Break off a piece about the length of you first thumb joint
  • Take a piece of wet clay soil or moist cow dung and mix it with the preparation so that the two together become a well-mixed ball, or egg shape.
  • Put the ball into the top left hand corner of the egg box – as in the pattern below
  • Now, take the chamomile and repeat the process
  • Put the chamomile in the bottom left hand corner of the egg box
  • Now, take the oak bark and repeat the process
  • Put the oak bark in the top right hand corner of the egg box
  • Now, take the dandelion and repeat the process
  • Put the dandelion in the bottom right hand corner of the egg box
  • Finally repeat the process with the nettle
  • Put the nettle in the bottom central hole of the egg box.

You use this same pattern to put each of the balls of prep your bin – this way, you know which prep is which!           

Now, head for the compost bin …

  • Take the bamboo cane or stick that’s half as deep as your bin and push it into the heap, making five holes as in the pattern. NB – the pattern works just as well for round bins as square.
  • Drop each ball of prep down the relevant hole.

Now it’s time to do the valerian …

  • Put about thirty drops of valerian juice (prep 507) into the rainwater in the bucket
  • Stir it vigorously clockwise and anticlockwise, making a vortex in each direction and creating the chaos as you change direction – as for preps 500 and 501 – for twenty minutes
  • Pour the stirred valerian into the watering can (with rose!)
  • Water the valerian onto the contents of the bin

Put the lid back on and leave to cook! My Dad would have added, “Light the blue touch-paper and stand clear …” but he used to set off fireworks long before there were any safety regulations!

Your compost preps won’t blow anything up. They will start a wonderful process of making your heap into really excellent compost, and it should all be ready for you in about 3 months depending on how well you were able to chop things up. The finer the chopping the faster the compost, it’s like chewing your food helps digestion.

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
__________________________________________

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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman

Composting 3 – Cool Heaps

You know composting’s coo-ool 🙂  …

But to be serious, most books on biodynamics talk about making large heaps of compost, the hot heap method, though rarely calling it that. Hot heaps can be enormous (they’re also called windrows) several feet high and many feet long. I can see some of you paling at the thought already! These are the sort of compost heaps as you get at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley, or at one of the National Trust estates, or on a farm. Most of us don’t have the space for this sort of thing, nor do we get huge masses of bulk material all at one time as they do.

To use the compost preps the way farmers and large estates do you need at least a cubic metre of “stuff” before putting the preps in – that’s a heap 1m tall x 1m deep x 1m wide. The posh wooden compost bins you can buy at garden centres and in catalogues are often about this size. To fill one up takes a lot of compost and I hear some of you saying “Even a cubic metre will take me a year to achieve!”, it won’t actually, as we produce far more compost every day than we realise until we being to make compost. To do it all in one go, as farms and estates manage is very difficult for gardeners except at spring/autumn clear-ups, but it’s all right, there are other ways to use the preps.

Cool-Heap Working

For most gardeners compost will come “little and often” over the whole of the year, adding weeds and kitchen waste as you have it, as the kitchen caddy fills up. This is cool heap working.

The cool heap needs the preparations just as much as the hot heap but, because it’s being continuously added to, you use them in a different way, using compost starters as they’re called. These starters are made of all six compost preps mixed with cow dung and allowed to mature. They come as a clean, dry powder that you sprinkle onto your heap as you put layers of compost material in. They work well with ordinary compost plastic bins, like the ones you can get through your local council in Britain.

These starter preparations are …

  • Mausdorfer
  • Cow-Pat-Pit (also known as Barrel Prep)

Mausdorfer

Mausdorfer is available from your local biodynamic association. It was developed by Josephine Porter, a student of Ehrenfried_Pfeiffer (1899-1961). Pfeiffer began work with Rudolf Steiner in 1920. He later developed an analytical method using copper chloride crystallization that was used as a blood test for detecting cancer. As a result, he was invited to the U.S. in 1937 to work at the Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia and emigrated to the U.S. in 1940. His theory brought him an honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital in Philadelphia in 1939. He also studied chemistry and became a professor of nutrition in 1956. But he always followed biodynamics and the Josephine Porter Institute carries on the good work. It has an excellent web site and does a very good magazine “Stella Natura” for which I occasionally do an article.

Cow-Pat Pit

Cow pat Pit is available from your local biodynamic association or you can make yourself, I’ll talk about how in another blog, it’s easy if you have the space.

It’s basically a mix of cow dung (cow pats), clay and basalt. The basalt is a real booster, getting the prep to work quickly into the heap, making it brew well.

Using Mausdorfer & Cow Pat Pit
  • To use in the heap, as compost starter, take about an ounce of of either Mausdorfer or cow pat pit and sprinkle it on the top of the heap after each layer of compost material you add.
  • Using cow pat pit in the garden … stir in water for twenty minutes, then flick onto the soil and plants as you would 500. Cow pat pit is a fantastic pep-up for both soil and plants in the garden. I do this three or four times a year in my garden and am  delighted how well the plants respond.
  • I also add it to the 500 sometimes as an extra pep-up.

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman

Compost Bins

Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes … lash-ups with pallets; expensive wooden bins; bottomless plastic dustbins ex-fruit-juice concentrate barrels; local authority-supplied plastic bins; simple heaps thatched with straw or bracken. Whatever you decide to use make sure …

  • The compost is in contact with the soil so the worms and bugs can get in.
  • The bin gets sunlight for a good part of each day.
  • It has a lid or some form of covering to stop the rain leaching the goodness out into the soil.
  • The bottom is secured from rats – use strong fine mesh underneath.
  • The compost itself is chopped up as well as you can manage to give lots of surface area – see Colloids in this blog – I use the lawn-mower to run over all the compost and chop it up, it also gets some grass added in automatically which helps get it going.

An average British town garden may be able to accommodate two local authority bins – each bin usually contains about a cubic meter. The plastic compost bins provided in the UK at a good discount by your local authority are absolutely fine for working with biodynamics.

If you can fill one up really quickly when you’re having a clear-up then you can use the preps as in the Hot Heaps method – I’ve blogged on this today too. This is especially useful at the spring and autumn clear-ups or any other time you have a large collection of weeds to compost all at once, perhaps when making a new bed or clearing an old one. Any time you get so much material you can fill up a bin and leave it alone for a bit while you concentrate on the other bins for the weekly kitchen caddy and general weeding.

Specialist Composting

As well as the ordinary bins many people are now using wormeries and Bokashi. Both are excellent and can be used with the biodynamic Mausdorfer and/or cow-pat-pit preparations.

Wormery

Wormeries are very good, giving you solid compost and liquid feed for the plants in a fairly short period, a few months. They can be a bit fiddly and take some getting the hang of as the worms are as idiosyncratic as any cat or dog! Wormeries are good if you have only a small space as they deal with compost quickly and without smell or mess – once you have the knack of them.

Each time you add kitchen waste to your wormery, sprinkle a teaspoonful of Mausdorfer or cow-pat-pit onto the top of the layer.

It won’t harm the worms in any way … possibly they may come out the other side even more fit and muscular than ever! Some people say they get seriously huge worms after they’ve been chewing through the BD veg and the BD preps! Out of interest, we notice how big and healthy our worms are here, how many there are in the wormery of all generations from tiny, wee babes like a wriggling piece of cotton to enormous ones that we think came from Frank Herbert’s planet Dune. My husband says he’s going to set a thumper to call them! Regardless of sci-fi in-jokes, having worms of all sizes is a good sign that they’re healthy and breeding well.

Bokashi

Bokashi is a Japanese system of composting using “bugs” which are applied in handfuls of a special bran supplied by whoever you got your bokashi bin from – see contacts. Within the bin, it’s an anaerobic process, excluding the air, which is different from other composting systems. We’ve found it very effective and much faster than the wormery – and much easier to get the hang of. The bugs are not contrary-minded as the worms are and just seem happy to get on with their job of digesting the kitchen waste. It is more expensive in that you have to keep buying the bran for the bugs.

Again, as with the wormery, you layer in whichever starter you decide to use with the waste material you add to the bokashi.  

Bokashi is a very good way to deal with meat and fish waste. Many people worry about putting these into the heap in case they attract rats. First of all, remember that rats are omnivorous, they eat anything and everything; the ones on the farm next to where we live love the grain that falls from the straw and hay the cattle are fed, for instance. However, the bugs in the bokashi will deal with all the meat and fish, and the bones.

I’ll write about how to use bokashi in the garden in a later blog.

Using the Preparations

Whichever system you use – bins, wormeries, bokashi or all the lot – as you add each layer of compost to your bin, sprinkle on some of whichever starter you’ve chosen. They begin to work straight away, getting the compost going.

The starters will speed up the composting – provided your bin is in good condition – and give you a very good compost in four-six months, sometimes quicker if you chopped the material up well before putting it in the bin or went over it with the lawn mower.

Research Results

In 1999, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researched the compost preps. They found that using the preps “could speed up the composting process, better destroy pathogens and weed seeds in the material by maintaining high temperatures longer, and change the value of the resulting compost as a fertiliser by increasing the amount of nitrate.”

You’ll probably find you need less of the BD compost to bring the soil into good heart than you did of the usual non-BD compost.

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman

Compost Preparations

  • The compost preps are available ready made from you local or national biodynamic association.

The compost preparations are a bit different to the spray preps and, of course, you use them differently – they go into the heap rather than be sprayed onto the soil and plants. They’re about building up and enhancing the soil you grow your plants in rather than boosting the plants directly so they have some similar workings to prep 500 but far less to prep 501.

The Compost Preparations are …

  • 502 – Yarrow Achillea millefolium – does the potassium and sulphur processes of the soil; helps replenish soil grown tired through many years of cultivation. The country name is “Venus Eyebrow”, the seed looks a bit like an eyebrow, hence the country name.
  • 503 – Chamomile Chamomilla metrecaria recutita – helps the living calcium processes and helps to stabilize plant nutrients; it also dampens down excessive fermentation and invigorates plant growth.
  • 504 – Nettle Urtica dioica – helps iron and helps to stabilize nitrogen.
  • 505 – Oak bark Quercus robur – is rich in calcium. It helps to ward off plant diseases and fungal attacks.
  • 506 – Dandelion Taraxacum officianale – does the living silica processes; helps the natural relationships like the mycorhyza become fully effective. The plant’s country name is “Lion Tooth” from the French, dent de lion meaning tooth of the lion. Our word dandelion is a corruption of this.
  • 507 – Valerian Valeriana officianalis – does phosphorous, providing a warmth blanket to the compost heap. Earthworms love it. Used with Prep 500 it draws worms into the garden and helps them reproduce well.

Some work has been and still is being done to find relationships between the compost preps and the planets of our solar system. One researcher, Hugh Courtney, has made some good beginnings. Hugh was an expert at producing the preps. He said he found them to be a whole system and that they appear to represent the energies of the solar system working with the Earth. He identifies each of the preps with one of the planets as follows …

  • 500: manure – Earth
  • 501: silica – Sun
  • 502 yarrow:– Venus
  • 503: chamomile – Mercury
  • 504: nettle – Mars
  • 505: oak bark – Moon
  • 506: dandelion – Jupiter
  • 507: valerian – Saturn

Courtney also postulated that other preps will be found that have the attributes of Neptune, Uranus and Pluto – despite the latter having been relegated to “minor planet” status by current astronomers.

I’ll talk more about this later …

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman

 

Harvesting …

I harvested black & red currants today, got about 7lb of the black and 5lb of the red and from just one bush each! It’s the white currants’ turn tomorrow and they look as though there’s a goodly crop :-).

We’re fast approaching Lammas, the harvest feast of the Celtic year and the fruit garden here is giving me of its best. We’re not completely self-sufficient … we like lemons, pineapple, olive oil, flour for bread and cakes, and I eat meat … but we must be about 2/3 to 3/4 self-sufficient. I get to be a better gardener each year, it’s amazing what thoughtful practice can do :-).

As a shaman, I like to live on the produce of the place where I am as far as possible and certainlky to eat local produce as much as I can. The food grown on the land where you live contains the minerals, antibodies, vitamins, and other goodies that you need to live there. This is well known for the effect of honey on hay-fever sufferers. All local food has goodness you need to help you be well there.

Being allergic to the place you live says more about you and your own feelings of at-one-ness with that place than anything else. It’s worth pondering on that … how do you feel about where you live? Do you love it? Is it your friend? Do you care about it? All those sort of questions. If you find yourself answering “no” to them then it’s worth journeying (or whatever you call it) to find out if you should really be there.

This is normal to my life and has been for most of it, since I knew what I was doing. I like to see other places, new places, but I love to come home. When I’m driving and go out into Loegr (England) across the great bridge over the Hafren (Severn) I say farewell to my land and greet Loegr. On the homeward journey I am always so pleased to be crossing the bridge again and I feel the Hafren, and the land, welcome me back.

Being at one with the land where I live I’m not stressed by my home but supported by it. the same for the food, it really does support me. And the water as we’re fortunate to be on our own spring here. Growing my own food helps this enormously. I know what love, and trial and tribulation with the weather sometimes and the slugs etc, has gone into making it. when I go to get supper I go out into the garden asking, “Now, what have you got for me today?”. It’s always good and sometimes a delightful surprise, like the first carrot of this season was the other day … Ooooo! the scent of that carrot as I eased it out of the soil !!!

Even if you only have a tiny garden, yard, pation, balcony even, you can grow some of your own food. In fact, it’s quite amazing what you can grow in just a square yard, this article shows you how to do it. do give it a go if you can … even some basil, salad, mustard-n-cress, sprouting beans and a tomato plant can fit on window ledges :-).

Harvest is so much more than just gathering in fruit and veg … it’s about gathering in yourself too.

  • I’ll be talking more aobut Lammas on Friday – look here

writer artist gardener shaman
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Monardas & Rain

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Although the garden is absolutely gasping for rain – this is the dryest year since 1974 so far! – the monardas are looking gorgeous. So have the tiger Lilies :-).

Plants are amazing things, the want to grow and they do their damnedest to do so whatever is thrown at them. We have heavy cloud but it just seems to be a bit too high to rain, although you can see the clouds are full of it. I’m doing rain dances …

Elen Sentier

writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Coughing up bones …