Friday 3 April 2015

Excerpt: Gardening with the Moon and Stars

The Easter weekend is that time of year when many of us want to get out into our gardens and start planting flowers, herbs, fruit and veg. Many pagans also like their gardening practices to be as in tune with nature as possible. Here is an excerpt from a book by Elen Sentier called Gardening with the Moon and Starsthat aims to help you do just that.

What is Biodynamics?
Biodynamics is using a set of eight preparations (the BD preps) made from vegetable/herbal, animal and mineral compounds to enhance the soil and the plants.

Biodynamics is also about working in harmony with Nature rather than trying to force nature to conform to some human idea. It’s about learning more of how she works – after all she’s been at it a lot longer than there’ve been humans around.

Scientists estimate that humans branched off from their common ancestor with chimpanzees about 5–7 million years ago. Several species and subspecies of Homo evolved and are now extinct. Archaic Homo sapiens evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago – a mere spit in terms of the age of the Earth which has been determined to be 4.54 billion years. So Mother Earth has lived eleven thousand, three hundred and fifty times as long as there have been humans on the planet … a mindboggling thought! You realise she must know her job of weaving the strands of Life together rather better than we do.

Agriculture – manipulating the Earth to get our food – is at most 10,000 years old. China and Japan are thought to be the earliest known agriculturalists, nineteen thousand years old, but even this is nothing to the 4.5 billion years the Earth has existed.

Its beginnings took place in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East about 10,000 years ago and spread outwards from there into Europe. The diverse climate and major climatic changes in the region encouraged the evolution of many annual plants which produce more edible seeds than
perennial plants – understandably, as they need to reproduce themselves every year. These region’s edible plants were available for early experiments in cultivation. Most importantly, the Fertile Crescent possessed the wild progenitors of the eight Neolithic founder crops important in early agriculture – the wild progenitors to emmer wheat, einkorn, barley, flax, chick pea, pea, lentil, bitter vetch. As well, four of the five most important species of domesticated animals – cows, goats, sheep, and pigs – lived there. The fifth species, the horse, lived nearby. As a result, the Fertile Crescent is famous for sites related to the origins of agriculture. The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements which date to around 9,000 BCE. We humans, and our farming, have been around for hardly a mere spit in time, it is well worth learning from our very experienced Mother.

Gardening with the Moon and Stars– Biodynamics (BD) – is about learning to work with the Earth’s cycles. I’ve found this fascinating even if I don’t understand why the cycles work. But then, I don’t know why lots of things happen, like electricity, gravity and the weather. I know how to turn the light-switch on, I can read weather charts, I can appreciate gravity but I don’t know why these things happen. Nor, I suspect does anyone else. They know how to make them happen, how to make electricity, how to read the signs for the weather. They have ideas and theories (a posh word for a guess) but their proofs are largely experiential and run on the lines of nobody’s proved them wrong yet. That’s quite OK, I can live with that. My gardening methods are much the same.

Elen Sentier writes and teaches British native shamanism. Her father and uncle taught her gardening when she was a child. Later she trained at Pershore College in Warwickshire and, later, built three award-winning biodynamic show gardens at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (2004-6). Her garden in Herefordshire has been Demeter certified since she moved there in 2000 and, before that, she worked her little London garden biodynamically too. Gardening with the Moon and Starsis published by Earth Books in May.

Twitter: @elensentier

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