In our first article of this series on Biodynamic preparations, I briefly introduced BD500, the powerful soil activator which is used to bring the above ground energies to the soil at the onset of Autumn. BD500 specifically stimulates calcium and nitrogen relationships to foster abundant, balanced life in the soil.
What exactly is BD500?
Far from being a ‘mysterious’ code name, BD500 is simply modern shorthand name for the Biodynamic (BD) preparation that Rudolph Steiner introduced as Horn Manure. The preparation involves packing cow manure (preferably from a lactating cow) into cow horns, identified by birthing rings; which are buried in Autumn on a Root day with a descending moon, and then lifted in Spring, also on a Root day.
Sounds somewhat weird and wonderful, doesn’t it?
However, I have found that once the careful reasoning behind the Biodynamic preparations is heard, rather than find it odd, most people develop an understanding of how Biodynamic agriculture works. My intention here is to provide you with the careful reasoning that lies behind BD500, and all the other Biodynamic preparations.
So, let’s start to demystify BD500.
Why Cow Horns?
Rather than use the horns of a goat or a kudu, Steiner specified the use of cow horns. The reason for this is that BD500 specifically works to bring cosmic energies to ground as the earth deeply ‘inhales’ in Autumn. If you look at a cow, it is certainly an earthy animal. It is solidly grounded in its stance and gait, and feeds with its head low to the ground. The cow’s very being expresses its strong bond with the earth.
There is a reason too, to use the horns of cows, not bulls. When it comes to the earth, we obviously want to optimise on female, mothering and fertile energies – hence the preference for also using cow horns bearing birthing rings. Another point of interest is that the horn of a cow has a far greater blood flow through it, than that of a bull. It is estimated that 80% of the blood flow of a cow goes through its horns, despite there being no servicing there of any vital organ. The cow horn is therefore specifically imbued with a richness of life-giving blood.
Why the manure of a lactating cow?
The cow has the most advanced digestive system – specifically designed to digest pasture, it consists of four stomachs and ensures that the pasture has been through an extensive digestion process. We particularly use the manure of a lactating cow because of the additional insights in the system and, of course, the mothering influence.
The quality of manure is important – ideally it should be from cows on your farm that are fed with a wide spectrum and diverse pasture. There should be no use of any chemicals or antibiotics in the herd.
Why do we bury BD500 in autumn?
Biodynamic agriculture has a keen focus on tuning into the natural rhythms of the earth, and the cosmos. Just as night and day can be seen as the earth breathing in and breathing out with each turn of the earth; so there is a seasonal cycle in tune with the earth’s yearly journey around the sun. Once a year then, the planet takes a deep breath in – in Autumn as everything goes to ground and slowly into Winter dormancy. Spring is the time of the seasonal exhalation, often seen and described by us as a ‘burst of life’.
As we want BD500 to bring energies down to the ground to activate life in the soil, we bury it in April to early May in the Southern Hemisphere. We do this on a Root day when there is also a descending moon exerting the greatest pull down on the earth into the soil. The fresh manure from a lactating cow is packed into the horns. We dig a pit about 30 to 40 centimetres deep in an area on the farm where the soil is fertile, well-aerated and well-drained. We bury the horns with the tip upwards in soil that is enriched with Biodynamic compost. We try to avoid earthworms, which will digest the preparation; and the roots of trees that may grow into it. The pit is covered over with soil, leaving the preparation to develop over Autumn and Winter. As Spring nears, we will uncover a sample and check the progress of the preparation. It transforms from a green, pungent manure to a browner, darker humus-like colour. The smell becomes sweet and earthy. The ideal consistency is like clay, it mustn’t be brittle or sandy. Once BD500 is ready it is lifted on a Root day in Spring. It should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place in a container made from natural materials such as wood surrounded by a thick layer of peat. The cow horns can be re-used.
When we are ready to use BD500, we add a small dose to water and ‘dynamise’ the solution by means of a specific way of stirring that simulates the power of a vortex. It can be sprayed on the soil, applied by hand or used in the field broadcaster. BD500 is applied in Autumn and Spring when the focus is on stimulating and sustaining the communities of micro-life in the soil. It is also used in Biodynamic compost-making throughout the year.
With regular applications, BD500 will assist with:
- The formation of stable humus
- Increased populations of soil bacteria and fungi
- Increased earthworm populations
- Improved soil structure
- Improved absorption and retention of water
- Enhanced root development
In the next article, I will share my insights and experience of making and using BD501 – Horn Silica. In the series, we will go on to BD502 to BD508, dynamising , application timbering and the dosage of each preparation. Connect with us on Facebook to be notified about when we post the next article. Alternatively, you can follow the blog on this page and get every new post delivered to your Inbox.
(You’ll find more about the Root, Leaf, Flower and Fruit days in our article on about how the Biodynamic Planting calendar impacts on also wine-tasting.)