Stella Natura: Planting by the Signs

Judging from the hostile reaction the last time I posted about Biodyamamics, we need some kind of woo-woo alert for this type of post. Perhaps an animated flash animation, like those mortgage ads, of Stevie Nicks dancing to Rhiannon. I’ll get the Homegrown Evolution IT department on it right away. On to the post:
Timing planting according to moon, sun and zodiacal cycles is a very old tradition. Farmers and gardeners have consulted mysterious almanacs for thousands of years to determine the best times to plant. There’s even some, mentioned in the Foxfire books, that are still around: the Farmer’s Almanac, Grier’s Almanac and T. E. Black’s annual booklet God’s Way are just a few.

But the one I’ve been enjoying for the past few months is the Stella Natura calendar, published by the Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, an intentional community for the disabled associated with Biodynamics and the ideas of Rudolf Steiner. The Stella Natura calendar lists moon phases, the sun and moon’s position in the zodiac, conjunctions, oppositions and other celestial events. It suggests certain days and times for planting root crops, flowering crops, fruit crops, and leaf crops. Much of it is based on the writings and research of Maria Thun.

Do I believe that planting by the signs effects the growth of my garden directly? I don’t know and don’t really care. What I like is the symbolic message, in the Jungian sense, that all is connected, all is one. Not such a bad thing to be reminded of in our fragmented times.
You can get the same planting information here online, but you’d miss one of the best things about the Stella Natura calendar, the monthly essays. This month’s, by Laura Riccardi, says exactly what I’ve been thinking of late,
“I do answer with practical, logical, agricultural language most of the time. There is plenty to talk about regarding soil building, diversity, insect and drought resistance, quality, microbial life, nutrient availability. I am beginning to feel justified and unembarrassed to speak about subtle life forces, to say that everything is connected, because I believe it is important to balance out the one-sided approach that has dominated our intellectual human landscape for so long. What we call materialism is not inherently wrong or negative. It is simply in extreme presence in our lives today. In other words, it’s already well represented in everything around us, including agriculture.”

I put the calendar up by the stove. When I’m cooking (often during the past few months with vegetables from our winter garden) I look at the calendar. It’s a nice prompt that it’s time to plan for the next planting of vegetables.

Would I use this system if I lived in a cold climate and had a very tight window for planting? Probably not. But here in Los Angeles, where we have a four month time span to plant most things, following the Stella Natura calendar is a good way of avoiding procrastination. The calendar also has a handy space for taking notes on plantings, another thing I’ve been bad about in the past.

I want to be clear that I’m not discounting empiricism. But since don’t have a lab at my disposal, gardening is an intuitive process whether I like it or not. And, as Riccardi suggests, we need to seek a balance. The cornerstone of alchemy is the expression “Solve et Coagula”, to dissolve and bind together. We’ve been good in the past century at the dissolving part, breaking everything up into individual components, but not so good at the binding together part.

Now, if I could just get Rhiannon out of my head . . .

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20 Comments

  1. I think it’s all really great what you’re doing, who cares what some anonymous guy out in interworld thinks. I love reading your posts and I love your book.
    YAY!!!! You guys!

  2. Yea I agree. Who cares what the one decenter thinks. If he/she had an abundant garden they would be looking for ways to improve it even more! This year I plan on paying more attention to the natural cycles because I will have to depend on my produce. Keep giving us tips!

  3. You said that you feel like this: “I am beginning to feel justified and unembarrassed to say everything is connected…

    Oh gosh, what a stupid deepity. I am now going to unsubscribe (gave you a chance the last post). Geesh, hard to find a place on the web that has not been invaded with meaningless and ridiculous woo.

    Yes, everything is connected and so friggin what? You got to make big deal out of it? You can’t just get it without embracing merde? How can you go through a single second without realizing the obvious. And who know what will help us to see and experience the incrediblness of reality–science, that is what. I am tired of people who are unable to find awe via science and have to go off the deep end with this merde.

    Bye.

  4. Thank you for this post! I have been thinking much of the same thing and have a very science based perspective is the world. I am the mother of a three year old and she continues to remind me of the connections that exist in our world…some true, some not. While it is obvious that everything is connected, to see it in practice is just as awe inspiring as looking at a DNA molecule. I have great reverence for the thousands of years of ancient wisdom that was passed down as observations of connections that science is just starting to be able to ‘prove’ – although its been there all the time. Our scientific knowledge is still young and we should be open to connections that may have used astrology as a means to document a time despite the fact that there may be a scientific rational such as soil temperature or something of that nature. Anyway, just my 2 cents.
    Thanks again

  5. I’ve heard a lot about Kimberton and it’s not very far from where I live. Again I support your interest in biodynamic farming and still don’t get why “science” minded folks seem to be so dogmatic (and loud mouthed) about their beliefs. But the real reason for my post is that I’m curious how you found Kimberton. I’m just curious because they seem low profile even locally.

  6. Actually, I’m a science guy. So I get some obvious moon related influences (e.g. tides, therefore underground waterlevels) and see how their impact is to our planet. I know that plants can be very light sensitive, so you might not want full moon over them at certain stages. When people used to live outside (basically), they must have observed this, too. Missing scientific background at those times they came up with some story why it is, like it is. Still, that doesn’t render the observations they’ve made useless. Mind you, that’s the moon, I don’t believe in the influence of the other planets, regarding plantlife.

  7. First off, when I put up this post I inadvertently left off a critical sentence of Riccardi’s essay, “I do answer with practical, logical, agricultural language most of the time. There is plenty to talk about regarding soil building, diversity, insect and drought resistance, quality, microbial life, nutrient availability.” I have since amended the post to include this sentence.

    I want to be clear that I’m not denigrating science–just saying we also need to look at the meaning of things as well. Out of 626 posts on this website, two are “woo-woo”. I actually think there should be a few more. A balance between the “Solve et Coagula” sides of the equation might just be the ticket out of our current troubles.

  8. Woo-woo ain’t doo-doo. Think about this:

    Discretion becomes meditative strength

    It’s opposite: comment, criticism

    February’s thought of the Month from the Stella Natura Calendar

    I like the calendar cos it helps manage planting schedules and time, and it gives me something to think about while I work.

    OK. Off to plant root crops.

  9. Gardener, I don’t know much about Kimberton other than that they publish the calendar and are part of an international group of intentional communities, called the Camphill Movement, that apply biodynamic concepts and include and support folks with disabilities.

    And Tara, thanks for pointing out another nice feature of the calendar–the short aphorisms.

  10. I’m interested in Steiner and have known advocates of biodynamic gardening. I recently watched a documentary on a biodynamic gardener who made some very impressive gardens in rural India. If a scientist were so inclined to study those farms I doubt they would be stopped. So the question becomes “why aren’t scientists studying them?” Unfortunately it might have something to do with funding and the relationships many scientists must form with corporate interests. So research must come from individual reports of successes and failures. I wish the more adamant foes of biodynamics who posted vehement and emotional remarks had taken a more scientific approach and sighted times when biodynamic methods had been unsuccessful and perhaps left people to starve because of crop failure, or families had lost their farms for using this method. This information would have indeed been of use to this community. To simply accuse it of woowooness falls short of any good scientific method.I do like the idea of a woo woo warning though. It reminds us to be lighthearted.

  11. wow. the white-robed technocrats are the new dogmatic crew…i can hear them out in the lobby with their petri dishes and geiger counters screaming lines from monty python about witches and ducks floating. i just have to ask, “did y’all need some books to burn too – you know, to help the fire get going good and hot?”

    in the words of r. crumb’s brother, “how perfectly g*ddamned delightful to be sure.”

  12. I have to say, as a follower, believer, and lover of BD I am thoroughly amazed at how p*ssed off these people are that I may want to sit in my garden by moonlight (or sunrise) and stir some preps or talk to my plants or build my soil or smile at the gnomes…WOW!!! And who ever said that one has to choose between organics and biodynamics- that one way must be right and the other must be wrong?? Can’t we celebrate with each other that we are both doing good for ourselves, each other, our children and our planet? Must I be shamed b/c I want to give a bit more to our land? Shame on you folks that act as proponents of stewardship and find it necessary to talk down to those practicing life, and even delving deeper! If you would actually shut your cake-hole and take a look at the writings, you would be extremely surprised to see how scientific the practices are!

  13. Oh yeah, just cam across this blog for the first time… GREAT JOB!! I love what you are doing in your home, and I love how you are opening up to all of the possibilities this diverse and magical world has to offer!!

  14. I just came across this blog, as well, and have no opinion one way or the other regarding biodynamics vs science. But I’m bewildered by the ferocity of Michelle B and the others. Especially if only 2 of 626 posts are given to issues these people find offensive. What’s the problem here? 0.3% of total posts warrants a person yelling and unsubscribing? I, for one, am glad to come across discussion on a variety of topics. Thanks for the post, Homegrown!

  15. Mark: It makes me sad to read it. It makes me feel that this website is less of a resource for me. I want to grow vegetables, and to figure out ways to grow them more reliably. Statements like “Do I believe that planting by the signs effects the growth of my garden directly? I don’t know and don’t really care” lead me to think that this website is more about promoting a certain appearance and lifestyle, rather than using experiment and evidence to determine better methods for small scale cultivation.

    I’m not unsubscribing, but I’ll be looking for a different “go-to” blog for my gardening advice. I can’t really trust someone who believes in magical water stirring rituals or take ANYTHING they say at face value.

  16. Eric: I spend a lot of time sifting through peer reviewed papers anytime this blog or any of our other writing touches on the technical aspects of gardening. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes in the past (such as recommending double digging). But I also believe that there is more to this universe than the material world. Like music, gardening has a “soul”. I also know that strict materialism can get us into a lot of trouble as can, conversely, denying the physical and getting lost in the spiritual. Matter and spirit must be balanced and connected. I respect that you and many others may not agree with me.

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