Biodynamic Progress – BD500 Preparation

On a warm, breezy morning last fall, our vineyard team gathered at the Eco Terreno Bee Garden to contemplate the mystical power of cow manure. Granted not just any cow manure, but fresh, organic manure from mature lactating-cows and packed into 300 cow horns and buried underground. Now, while this might sound odd to some, it’s music to our ears as this is a key element of the larger Biodynamic process to create a healthier vineyard and ultimately better quality wine.

To begin, this process is known as BD500, and it is the first of the 8 major preparations outlined by Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic agricultural process developed in the 1920’s. The purpose of these preparations is to enrich the soil, air, water, and plants within the area where the horns are applied – in essence creating a healthy ecosystem. The manure is utilized to increase the uptake and balance of nitrogen and calcium in the soil. By preparing this treatment in the fall, we are working with the larger seasonal process of the light recession/energy and organic materials (leaves, plant debris, expired organisms) that are being drawn into the earth to be processed and transformed by the soil food web. The goal is to stimulate healthy soil formation with improved structure, tilth, humate formation, mineral retention, beneficial organism populations, uptake and retention of water, improved root systems and enhanced nutrient uptake by the plants above ground.

Next, the burial site was carefully chosen for its ability to concentrate these forces of soil and energy by Daphne Amory, our biodynamic consultant. Since we previously secured multiple buckets of fresh manure and approximately 300 cow horns, we were ready to go. Our goal was to fill these horns with the manure and bury them, which sounds simple, right? But in practice this was not an easy task as really fresh manure means stinky, dirty work.

As we used spoons to pack the manure into the horns, many of us had to take breaks throughout the process to reset our sense of smell. This was an ever present reminder that Biodynamic agriculture methods not only stimulates the soil and environment on the farm, but the senses and attention of the farmer.

A couple hours later, the horns were completely filled, and our hand-dug pit was fully lined with them. We gathered around the site and spoke about our intentions for this preparation, for the vineyards to work with the receding life energies of the fall and for it to be transformed into an increasingly enlivened system by spring when the preparation will be dug up, placed in a peat lined storage vessel, and used in small amounts to create a powerful compost tea to spray throughout the vineyard.

To many, including us, biodynamic farming is somewhat mysterious. As we march towards certification we are inspired to adhere to these principles and processes as they are the guiding light of our journey.