At Sandhill, I keep searching for my path. I yearn to create my own way of interacting with spirit – but the models I know about are from traditional societies, they are not from my culture. People in my circle here are in tune with there being spirit/energies in agriculture – often expressed as: please have good thoughts and vibes when working in the garden and no tobacco smoking around our food. We put positive energy into growing our food, preserving it, cooking & eating it. We hold hands in a circle before dinner to appreciate/celebrate the energy that went into the food that we are about to eat.
I work mostly with field crops – using a tractor and equipment – on a very small scale; we grow our own grains, beans, and some crops to sell – eg sorghum. I take to heart the old adage: “the best fertilizer is the footprint of the farmer” which I take to mean being in touch with the soil and plants. It is easy to relate to putting good energy into growing crops – but what about nature spirits taking care of plants? I believe they are there – but how to communicate?
My searching leads me to an Acres conference, where non physical energies in farming are generally acknowledged – but how do they work? How to augment/increase the positive energy? I recall one presenter at the conference describing his experience of communicating via non physical channels – it inspires me to try something similar. While planting that year’s sorghum crop, I concentrate really hard on sending my positive vibes into the seeds as they go into the ground. When I finish the field, I realize that the mechanism on one of the two row planter was plugged – no seeds were actually planted in that row. I ended up replanting most of the field; the lesson I take from this is that good vibes (no matter how strong) do not replace common sense and keeping machinery functioning properly.
I want be more active – to welcome and celebrate spirits in my farming practices. I try the biodynamic (BD) model: it appears close to embodying my ideals – and it comes complete with a practice. There is making the preparations, stirring them, and then applying them. I like the symbolism: each of the preparations (preps) consists of a vegetative matter (eg, dandelion flowers, oak bark, etc) inside an animal sheath (male deer bladder, cow horn, etc), which is then incubated (in shamanic terms – it is charged with energy/power). There is ritual: making the preps and stirring them in water – first in one direction until a deep vortex forms, then reversing directions, creating chaos until a new vortex forms – for a full hour. Then I spread it on the ground, on plants, or on a compost pile – depending on the individual prep.
Does it work? Some BD practitioners do experiments that indicate positive (even fantastic) results. I am not scientifically inclined: I make the preps and apply them – but I do not see dramatic results. To me, it’s like asking: does prayer work? It depends on your belief system. I do note that when I do the BD preps, I feel good – like I am doing something positive and raising the spiritual energy on the farm. And yet I have this nagging doubt – is this a personal head trip? Am I doing this for the earth & the spirits? Or for me? Does it matter?
Part of what I like about BD is the transformation of something physical to non physical: the matter (prep) is infused with energy/power (like a shaman charging an amulet). A quarter cup of prep is stirred in 3 gallons of water for an hour and is enough to treat an acre: this small amount of matter cannot possibly make a physical difference in the soil. Further, I like the BD way of looking at the farm as a living organism (similar to Gaia). It fosters a reverent attitude – that we are stewards of the earth.
However, my BD practice is still erratic: I rarely make any of the preps myself anymore – I buy them; I do some stirring and apply them every year – but not to all the crops. Is it laziness or not quite the right fit?
On a tangential note, in the early 1980s I start going to a regional mens gathering. I resonate with the spirituality I experience in the radical faerie culture here. In general, it is related to pagan/wiccan traditions, but then they adapt it to our current culture. We create our own rituals – our own experiences shape the way we relate to the divine, the mystical, and the spirit world. While this does not pertain to agriculture, it is my ideal model – to create my own symbols and ritual that express how I experience and communicate with the spirit(s) in agriculture.