We have been composting for 14 years. We see our biodynamic farm as an integrated, whole, living organism. This organism is made up of many interdependent elements: fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, people, and the spirit of the land. In biodynamic farming we work to nurture and harmonize these elements, managing them in a holistic and dynamic way to support the health and vitality of the whole.
Before moving to California we lived on a farm in the Dominican Republic. We had cows that roamed on 350 acres but in the evening we would bring them in to smaller lots. We collected their manure and piled them up forming a big pile, we added our grass clippings, leaves and vegetable scraps. After around 6 months we had amazing dark compost. We noticed that our plants and vegetables grew very healthy when we applied the compost to our soil. There was also an abundance of worms in it. It was alive!
Lasagna Method of preparing compost. Biodynamic compost starter is added to the Compost. Compost preparations are made from herbs of yarrow, chamomiles, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian.
When we first moved to California our farm was very dry with little fertility. The people who lived here before us used round up. Round up is a chemical spray used for killing all the weeds but at the same time it kills all living organisms that are living in the soil. A single teaspoon (1 gram) of rich garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes. These micro organisms are vitamins which feeds the plants that we eat and that is how we get our vitamins into our own bodies. When the microbiome are killed, the plants become weak and prone to disease, they can’t grow very well and they begin to decay. Fungus, bad bacteria and invasive insects like flies and worms take over the plant. This then leads to farmers once again to using more insecticides to kill the bugs, fungicides to kill the fungus and synthetic fertilizer to make the plant grow. These products are chemicals and comprised of antibiotics which forces the plant to grow but without any nutrients (vitamins and minerals) it is sterile. So when we eat those fertilized/antibiotic plants we are also eating the chemicals/antibiotics which then damage and kill our own microbiome in our own stomach and make holes like a sieve in our GUT. We all know that antibiotics kill friendly bacteria.
The plant’s root system in the soil is about the same size as the plant above the ground. A variety of life forms live in healthy soil like fungi, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, worms, insects. Larger creatures such as moles, voles, mice and other animals visit frequently to feed on the microbes, worms and insects contributing to the overall fertility of the soil. All these life forms, great and small, form one ecosystem, diverse and balanced, where every creature plays an important part. The same picture can be seen in the human gut. A healthy gut flora has a large diversity of different life forms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, flukes worms and all sorts of other creatures living together in harmony in their own soil, which they create for themselves. your gut wall is embedded in this soil, coated and protected by it, fed and nourished by it. If the soil around the roots is not healthy, then the plant is not going to thrive. When we look at the gut wall of the human digestive system under the electron microscope, we see a very similar picture. The absorptive surface of the gut has finger-like protrusions called villi. Every villus has long, thin, stringy hairs called microvilli. These are the roots of our health, and they’re sitting in their own soil, which is our gut flora. Recent research has discovered that about 90 percent of all cells and genetic material in the human body is our gut flora. If that ‘soil’ is unhealthy, poisoned by antibiotics or other chemicals, then the roots of your health are sick. As a result your body cannot be healthy. CAMPBELL-MCBRIDE
A healthy gut is dominated by beneficial microbes. They fulfill vital functions for us reaching far beyond the gut itself. They control a large group of opportunistic and pathogenic microbes, which are capable of causing disease. Our beneficial bacteria are very vulnerable to antibiotics and chemicals; they get wiped out, which allows the pathogens to overgrow and cause trouble. From one course of antibiotic to the next, we have less and less of the beneficial group and more and more of the pathogenic. That’s when people develop disease.
The biggest challenge I have encountered with composting is that it requires quite a bit of water. California is a dry climate with intense heat which can dry the compost pile which slows down the process. We keep it moist by covering it with a large black felt composting cover. A plastic tarp could also be used. It is checked often to make sure it begins the fermenting process. Using a Biodynamic Compost starter can make the fermenting process quicker.
A soil teeming with healthy life in the shape of abundant microflora and
microfauna, will bear healthy plants, and these, when consumed by animals and man, will confer health on animals and man. But an infertile soil, that is, one lacking sufficient microbial, fungous, and other life, will pass on some form of deficiency to the plant, and such plants, in turn, will pass on some form of deficiency to animals and man.
A Danish study analyzed a cubic meter of soil and found 50,000 small earthworms, 50,000 insects and mites, and 12 million round worms. A gram of the soil contained 30,000 protozoa, 50,000 algae, 400,000 fungi, and billions of individual bacteria. To feed the world, we need to feed the soil and its millions of workers, including the earthworm.
Loading the compost which is to be applied to the vineyard
The planet’s health and our health are non-separable.
We can be linked worldwide through the spread of disease, like the Coronavirus, when we invade the homes of other species, manipulate plants and animals for commercial profits and greed, and spread monocultures.
Or we can be connected through health and wellbeing for all by protecting the diversity of ecosystems and protecting the biodiversity, integrity, and self-organization (autopoiesis) of all living beings, including humans. Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and anti-globalization author. Based in Delhi, Shiva has written more than 20 books. Shiva is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization, and a figure of the anti-globalization movement.
Each weed’s structure exposes the purpose of its existence.
Weeds that have a taproot can actually help to reduce soil compaction issues.
Grasses have thick root masses that can hold soil in place from water and wind damage.
The carbon produced by some weeds builds the organic matter of the soil, which helps with water retention, nutrient availability and soil tilth.
Weed roots also absorb and move nutrients to a more accessible location to be released when the weed completes its life cycle.
Certain weeds can indicate what soil nutrient is deficient by their nutrient uptake.
Weeds produce sugars through photosynthesis, some of which are extruded from its roots. These sugars attract and feed the microscopic organisms in the soil to add to soil health.
Certain weeds can attract insects to prevent insect damage from desired plants and provide food and habitat for wildlife.
Weeds even provide employment in the control of them.