August 2019

Fermented Horsetail Tea (BD508) Equisetum arvense

by Hugh Courtney, 2019 Celstial Planting Calendar

Take one unit of shredded horsetail herb. One unit is less than 1.5 ounces by weight or 8 to 10 ounces by volume depending on how finely it is shredded. 

In one gallon of water, bring the shredded horsetail to a boil and simmer for one full hour. Use a stainless steel or porcelain pot, not an aluminum one. Allow the tea to cool and transfer both the liquid and the cooked herb to a crock or other storage container.  Cover with a loose fitting lid.

Store this mixture in a cool place, for example, a root cellar or a basement, and allow it to ferment for 10 to 14 days. A characteristic smell will develop. Then strain the herb particles out, transfer the tea into a glass jug, and store it in the cool, dark place until it is to be used. 

This fermented tea can be stored for six or more months without losing its effectiveness. If desired, the strained horsetail material can be used to make the next batch thereby helping to speed up the fermentation process. 

Hugh Courtney - Writer, Mentor, Teacher, Researcher 

In addition to contributing articles, Hugh Courtney has taken on the advisory role of forecasting favourable and unfavorable times for this calendar. He has devoted more than 40 years to perfecting the art of making biodynamic preparations. Taking a cue from his own mentor, Josephine Porter, who declared, “These preparations are no secret, I will teach anyone who wants to learn how to make them,” he has mentored hundreds of people on the finer points of making quality preparations. 

Ever concerned about keeping this special art form alive into the future, in 2009, Hugh founded Earth Legacy Agriculture, LLC to provide quality preparations for discerning practitioners.

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How to Make a Biodynamic Tree Paste

by Hugh J. Courtney, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

Tree paste is an excellent way to fertilize a tree and help it deal with disease.  It can be applied any time of the year but one preferred time is late in the fall or in late winter.  Here is a simplified version with proportions calculated to make enough paste to apply to several trees. 

Suggested equipment and materials

• Power drill with ½ inch mixing chuck
• 5 or 6 gallon (19 or 23 litre) bucket
• 5 pounds (2.25 kilograms) Bentonite clay
• 2 to 2.5 gallons (7.5 to 9.5 litres) water (see below)
• ½ gallon (2 litres) fermented Equisetum tea (BD508)
• 2 units ELA (Earth Legacy Agriculture) Field Activator

Preparing the water

Water from a well should be exposed to the sun and starlight for at least 24 hours prior to use. If the water is chlorinated, 48 hours of exposure is recommended. Fresh, not stagnant, pond water is acceptable. Recently collected rainwater is preferred but be aware of its acidic properties. The ideal container for exposing water to sunlight is a copper kettle or a ceramic crock.  A stainless steel container can also be used.  A plastic bucket is a last resort, but never use an aluminum container.

Tree Paste Instructions

Place two gallons of de-chlorintated water in a five- or six-gallon plastic bucket. Slowly add the clay while stirring contents using the power drill mixer. Mix the water thoroughly with the clay (20 minutes). Hand mixing requires several hours.  When half of the clay has been added, slowly add the ELA Field Activator and the fermented Equisetum tea and continue to stir.

Add the remaining clay until the mixture is thick and pastelike. Let it sit for a few hours. Stir again slightly to see if additional water is needed. If the material is to be applied in a spray form, dilute to the desired consistency suitable for your spray equipment—possibly twice as much water as originally called for. Three units each of Biodynamic Compound (BC) Preparation and Horn Manure (BD500) may be substituted for the two units of the Field Activator. 

Prior to applying tree paste, remove as much loose bark as possible using a wire brush, putty knife or other scraping tool. Use an extra-large brush to apply the paste to the tree trunk and larger lower limbs.  Heavy duty rubber gloves may also be used.

Binding agents sometimes used

• Castor oil: ¼ cup or less, also used as a healing agent
• Linseed oil: ¼ cup or less 

Some recipes add Horn Silica (BD501) preparation, powdered stinging nettle, liquid seaweed, whey, diatomaceous earth, lime, as well as other helpful ingredients. For further reading on tree care and how to apply tree paste, see Ehrenfried Pfeiffer’s "The Biodynamic Treatment of Fruit Trees, Berries and Shrubs".

Hugh Courtney - Writer, Mentor, Teacher, Researcher 

In addition to contributing articles, Hugh Courtney has taken on the advisory role of forecasting favourable and unfavorable times for this calendar. He has devoted more than 40 years to perfecting the art of making biodynamic preparations. Taking a cue from his own mentor, Josephine Porter, who declared, “These preparations are no secret, I will teach anyone who wants to learn how to make them,” he has mentored hundreds of people on the finer points of making quality preparations. 

Ever concerned about keeping this special art form alive into the future, in 2009, Hugh founded Earth Legacy Agriculture, LLC to provide quality preparations for discerning practitioners.

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How Jet Streams Affect Weather

by Rosemary Tayler, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

Jet streams are narrow areas of very fast moving westerly (flowing from west to east) winds in the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere.  They can be thousands of kilometers long and over a hundred kilometers wide, but they are only a few kilometers deep.  These upper atmosphere ribbons of wind have a tendency to push weather systems around the world.  In the Northern Hemisphere, jet streams occur where a warmer air mass to the south meets a colder air mass to the north.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the reverse—warmer air in the north meets colder air in the south.  

These boundaries between air masses with significant differences in temperature are the pathways where the jet streams form.  In the fall and winter, the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere moves further south, allowing the colder air to reach more southerly latitudes. In the spring and summer, it retreats, allowing the heat from the tropics to move further north. 

Jet streams are due to two influences: the heating of Earth’s atmosphere by the Sun and the rotation of Earth on its axis.  When two air masses of different temperatures meet, a difference in air pressure results at this transition zone.  But because of the Earth’s rotation, the wind does not flow immediately from hot to cold; instead the wind is deflected and flows along the boundary of the two air masses.  Because the Earth rotates counterclockwise, the northern hemisphere winds move from west to east.

The strongest jet stream is the polar jet stream, which is 7 to 12 kilometers (4.3 to 7.5 miles) above the ground.  The northern hemisphere polar jet flows over the middle to northern latitudes of North America, Europe and Asia and the oceans between these land masses.  The sub-tropical jet stream occurs at a slightly higher altitude and it is weaker than the polar jet stream. Canada is often influenced by the polar jet stream.  While the winds up there move at a speed of 100 to 160 kilometers per hour (km/h) (62 to 100 miles per hour), they can move as fast as 400 km/h (250 m/h) when there is a large temperature difference between the warm and cold air masses. 

Land masses, particularly mountains, tend to slow down the flow of the jet stream.  This slowing process creates a tendency for the air stream to move in a zigzig or meandering pattern.  The meanders move more slowly than the rest of the air mass and this results an a slowing down of the weather systems at the Earth’s surface.  

Low pressure systems are formed by rising warm air coming into close contact with large masses of adjacent cold air.  During the fall and winter seasons, the sun moves lower in the sky and the land becomes cooler than adjacent bodies of water.  As water retains its heat much longer than the land, areas such as those around Hudson’s Bay and the Great Lakes tend to develop low pressure systems. These low pressure systems are perpetuated by jet streams because they depend on a temperature gradient.  As the temperature gradient decreases, the strength of the jet stream decreases and the growth of the low pressure system inhibited. 

Both the polar and sub-tropical jet streams are also affected by temperature shifts in the Pacific Ocean known as El Niño and La Niña. During the wintertime of an El Niño phase, the jet stream along the Pacific Coast of North America moves farther south and brings more storms and colder weather to California and the southwestern American states, while the American interior becomes dryer and milder.  In Canada, east of the Rocky Mountains, El Niño produces above average winter temperatures.  

During La Niña cycles, the United States can experience dryer winter conditions, both along the west coast and in the southeastern states.  In Canada, the jet stream retreats further north towards British Columbia in the winter, resulting in more precipitation in that province as well as in Ontario and Quebec, while the Prairie provinces may experience cooler than normal temperatures.

Next time you see the jet stream ribbon flowing across a weather map, remember to look for the colder and warmer regions of the atmosphere above and below that boundary. 

For more information about La Niña and El Niño cycles, the reader is referred to the article on this topic in the 2017 Celestial Planting Calendar. 

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Rare Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto Stellium 

by Gary P. Caton, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

For almost the entire year of 2020, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto will be within approximately ten degrees of one another. Visually, this is about the size of one's fist, extended at arm’s length and held up to the sky. In my perusal of historical records, this particular alignment is the closest these three planets have come to together in modern history. They very rarely conjoin and have not come this close in this particular part of the sky since the year 1285, when for the first time the famed Silk Roads of the Mongolian Empire allowed cultural exchange between Europe and China. Marvelous accounts of these early adventures were written by such intrepid travelers as Marco Polo and Rabban Sawma.

Jupiter arrives in the constellation Sagittarius late in 2019 (November 26), however, for this whole year, Saturn and Pluto are together in this constellation, setting the stage for this rare stellium, that is, a cluster of three planets.  Basically this means we start to feel the energy gathering in 2019 and then it reaches a crescendo in 2020. The energy which is gathering is essentially Yang or outward moving energy. 

We can see this same basic approach reflected in early biodynamic thinking in several different ways. For example, in lecture one of the Agriculture Course, Rudolf Steiner tells us that “Mars, Jupiter and Saturn…opens the plant-being to the wide spaces of the Universe and awakens the senses of the plant-being in such a way as to receive from all quarters of the Universe the forces which are molded by these distant planets.”  Steiner was clearly invoking an upward/outward movement when speaking about the planets further from Earth. Similarly, he said that Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are activated by warmth (Fire).   Maria Thun tells us that “when the planets pass in front of zodiac constellations of the same element, their effect is intensified.”  This combination of Saturn and Pluto in Sagittarius is likely to be especially intense, given that both planets are associated with the Fire ether, and Sagittarius is a member of the Fire trigon.

In many ways, the combination of Saturn and Pluto is powerful enough to warrant their own separate historical investigation. The last time Saturn and Pluto came together in front of the constellation of Sagittarius was in 1518. This era saw two major cultural events unfolding. First, Martin Luther published his 95 theses, which became widely circulated via the new technology of the printing press and sparked the Protestant Reformation, which greatly diversified Christianity as it spread to the New World.  Later, Charles V of Spain began selling “asiento” or licenses for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which internationalized the slave trade and brought it into practice on a massive scale. 

The next meeting of Saturn and Pluto in front of a Fire constellation was in 1616-17, when they came together in Aries. This era saw advancements in exploration, including having the first Europeans travel the farthest north, sail around Cape Horn and reach Australia. Tremendous cultural exchange occurred as well; John Smith published his description of the New World and the Native American Pocahontas visited London, England.

The most recent time this pair came together in front of a Fire constellation was in 1713 in the constellation of Leo. This was a time of crisis for the royalty of Europe, with the house of Hapsburg coming to an end, resulting in two wars. The War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was ending at the same time as the seeds for the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) were being sown. Overall, the balance of power in Europe was shifting from France to Britain. 

How can the wisdom gained from understanding these historical trends be applied to our work as biodynamic farmers? First, we can acknowledge the tremendous suffering wrought by the conscious and unconscious enforcement of cultural values onto people and into places where they do not truly belong. For example, the introduction of invasive species serves as a cautionary tale to the far-reaching energies we will be working with over the next several years.  At the same time, healthy systems must have semi-permeable boundaries and be able to accept, adapt and integrate new energies and information.  A balance between too much and too fast, as well as too little and too late must be struck.

We already know that the Fire trigon, comprising Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, is associated with and useful in the cultivation of grains, beans, fruits, trees and presumably nuts (at least those that grow on trees). So, investment in planting and/or harvesting these crops is favored during this time. Since these alignments are extremely long-term cycles, more long-term investments in timber, fruit orchards, vineyards and berry crops are beneficial. 

Furthermore, since the historical trends show marked increase in long-distance cultural exchanges under these far-reaching planets, it would seem that import/export and/or blending of local/exotic forms of these products would also be favored. The example of the hybridization of the American chestnut with blight resistant species is especially symbolic of these energies.

It would also seem appropriate to spread the knowledge and practice of biodynamic farming into new areas and markets, as well as bring more diverse cultural ideas and techniques into the biodynamic milieu itself. 

Gary P. Caton - Astronomer, Writer, Forecaster

Growing up in a rural setting outside Leesburg, Virginia, Gary developed passions for gardening and farming early in life and has lived on working farms.

In 1993 Gary was initiated into the planetary mysteries by seeing alignments in a dream. His deep love of nature fuels his enthusiasm for stargazing and astrophotography. Gary claims it has been a true joy combining his lifelong passion for learning with the tasks of completing the calculations and contributing to the forecasts for this calendar. Based on more than two decades of experience, he incorporates several new elements into this text, including consideration of the sextile aspect and a look at the deeper mysteries of the retrograde loops of Venus and Mars.

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