AURORA FARM–BIODYNAMICS IN A POWERFUL PLACE
The road is a first-gear climb, featuring several switchbacks, from the Kootenay River Valley floor to the hilltop where Aurora Farm lives. If you’d known where to look when you crossed the Goat River bridge a few miles earlier you’d have seen a remarkable solar house on the hilltop. Now, at close range, it’s not the home that catches your eye but rather the vibrant gardens Barbara Scott has been tending for nine years.
Barbara, her sons William and Nathan, and Bessie, the home place cow, are the crew that has worked to put together the first commercial Biodynamic seed initiative in North America and a sister project, Dawn of Chiron Biodynamic herb products.
Drawn by the good energies of the people, the place, and the products, I joined the Aurora Farm endeavor in September.
Aurora Farm is located in southeastern British Columbia, just across the border from the tip of the Idaho panhandle. This valley is a real banana belt, with an almost 200-day frost-free growing season, very unusual at 49 degrees North latitude. While there are some medium sized dairy operations and conventionally managed agribiz potato and hay farms in the area, there are many diversified smallholdings and small fruit orchards as well.
The Kootenay Valley, glacier-gouged and flat as a floor, lies between the Selkirk and Moyie ranges of the Canadian Rockies at 2070 feet elevation. This Aurora Farm hilltop, 260 feet higher, is a monadnock–apparently escaping glacial erosion–and the rock outcroppings here seem very ancient. Everywhere you look soil is in the making, with the rock crumbling, lichens and mosses doing their work and larger plants rooting.
Barbara worked Biodynamically from the beginning, having learned of the technique from her reading. She purchased her first preparations from Magic Mountain Farm in Quebec. A year later, returning from Vancouver, she turned off Highway 3 at Oliver, B.C., in the Okanogan Valley, to buy some apples. She was attracted by a sign offering fruit “Grown by the Biodynamic Method,” and met Sophie and Otto Rothe, who became her mentors. She knew she was on the right track when, as she says, “the taste of that first Biodyanmic apple just exploded in my mouth!” Sophie and Otto helped her make her first Biodynamic preparations.
On slopes and formerly bare moor-like areas, healthy conifers–pines, firs, tamarack–have sprouted in large numbers in the past nine years; the non-arable land seems to want to reforest itself since this ground has had Biodynamic care.
Barbara began, as so many of us do, in the exhausting routine of selling perishable vegetables, marketed to resorts, restaurants and sometimes door-to-door on the road that runs along Kootenay Lake.
“One day,” she says, “I went to the garden in early summer to harvest spinach for sale and the whole patch had bolted overnight. That got me to thinking and within a few months I was in the seed business.”
Aurora Farm vegetable, flower, and herb seeds have been sold via mail order and store displays now for nine years. Last year Barbara added an Internet webpage to the marketing and information effort (http://www.syberspace.com/aurora) and 1999 will see a new initiative added: a seed CSA. Here’s what the webpage says about that:
CSA, Community Supported (or Shared) Agriculture, is a fast-growing movement in North America as more people choose to involve themselves directly with the food they consume and the farms that supply it. The Japanese word for CSA translates “Food with the farmer’s face on it.” There are about 1,000 CSA farms and gardens operating in the U.S. and Canada to supply quality produce to member families who purchase a share of the harvest with an initial payment that frees the farmer from arbitrary and capricious market forces.
At Aurora Farm we are offering an Internet-based CSA for seeds based on similar principles: involvement of the home gardeners in the process that ends with high quality Biodynamic seeds of your choice delivered to your mailbox. Your share price supports the ongoing financial life of one of the very few Biodynamic seed initiatives in this hemisphere. It’s not only money and seeds that flow in this system, but also information and goodwill. You’ll learn more about Aurora Farm, about seed saving, about Biodynamics, from our email newsletters. You’ll have free consultation from us on gardening and seed issues–if we don’t know the answers, we’ll find out for you, or at least help you hold the questions..
In the runup to the new millennium we MUST seek new ways to cooperate, to magnify our good intentions, build community. Join us.
Herb-based tinctures and oils are a growing aspect of Aurora Farm’s business. Barbara was making St. John’s Wort oil long before the current popularity of this herb as a treatment for depression. “I knew intuitively that echinacea and St. John’s Wort were going to be important herbs for our times,” she says. “St. John’s Wort has an affinity for sunlight. The flower and leaf absorb and store solar energy. We’ve become afraid of the sun and try to block it out for fear of skin cancer, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the sun is a wonderful healer and father of all life.”
In addition to St. John’s Wort oil and echinacea tincture, Aurora Farm produces skullcap. valerian, and peppermint tinctures and arnica oil.
Now come the devas. Twelve year old Nathan talks with them regularly and their guidance has been crucial for the farm in recent years. The landscape angel Shevacalon oversees life force activity in the whole of the valley. She hangs out, according to Nathan, underground beneath a granite boulder in the middle of Aurora Farm’s main garden. Shevacalon’s advice is very specific. Not long ago we were finishing up a perimeter spraying of BD#500, the horn manure preparation, at “The Peak,” the highest point on the Aurora hilltop. We asked Nathan to contact the devas and tell them what we were doing. He sat down on a rock and calmly went into a trance for a couple of minutes. Then he turned to us and said, “The devas are happy we’re doing the spraying, but they really don’t relate to our idea of property lines…it’s all the same to them, one big landscape. They say they’ll answer questions now.”
I asked about a water source on The Peak. We’ve been hoping to develop a water source higher than the house and gardens, so gravity could supply our water in the event that electricity failure made the well pump inoperable. Dowsing had shown that water was there, but where is the best place to tap it?
Nathan reported, “They say the water here on The Peak is the best and purest on the farm. Shevacalon will show you where it is. It’s very close to the surface.”
Shortly after, we went to the spot, at the head of a steep slope of very loose shale…tricky climbing and not a place one would go without a mission in mind. No well drilling rig could make it up here. Nathan carefully moved a few pieces of shale, reached back into a crack and came up with a handful of very moist soil. We’ll develop that spring gently, according to devic guidance.
SIDEBAR [w/ photo]
WEATHER COMING IN…SUCCESS WITH SEQUENTIAL SPRAYING
“Well, Nate, here it is raining
and lots of weather coming up
the valley. Whatd’ya think…are
“What’s so special about that?
It’s what the preparations are
supposed to do…”
“I guess I should take a picture,
to show people it worked.”
“You mean there’s people who
know about Biodynamics who
don’t believe it?”
“Well, Nate, some people just
need some encouragement…
wanna be in the picture?”
It’s just 34 hours since we sprayed the last in a sequence of four Biodynamic spray preparations. After 11 weeks of almost unremitting drought here in southeastern British Columbia, last night we got enough light rain to
dampen the ground well; another shower at morning barn chores; all day I
watched the clouds come in from the south; now, later in the afternoon we had a
20-minute downpour and, as I write, a light soaking rain, with thunder rolling like
foothill-sized beachballs across the Kootenay valley.
Tuesday afternoon (September 15) I had a
consultation with HughCourtney at Josephine Porter Institute. We settled on the following sequential spray schedule to invoke soaking rains:
Tuesday evening: Spray BD#500 (horn manure) mixed with a good handful of Aurora Farm BD compost; Nate, William, Barbara (the compost maker), and I all stirred for 15 minutes and sprayed about half our arable ground in the falling dusk;
Wednesday morning: Stirred and sprayed BD#501 (horn crystal) in a fine mist over the entire garden, orchard, compost, and landscape areas.
Wednesday evening: same as Tuesday evening, on the other half of the growing
Thursday morning: Cooked, stirred, and sprayed BD#508 (equisetum) as the last spray
in the sequence.
The entire routine was underlain with prayerful, strong intent on the part of the humans involved to invoke rain…soaking rains lasting for days. We believed it would happen. We made plans to burn brush; we brought the mattress in from the deck; we used rainbarrel water in the stirring crock. From Wednesday, we accompanied the spraying with Agnihotra, the Auryvedic sunrise/sunset atmospheric clearing ritual.
Wednesday night: a few drops, enough to send the deck sleepers scurrying indoors; Thursday morning: BD#508; Thursday night: light rain much of the night; Friday morning: light rain at choretime; Friday morning and midday: clouds rolling, rain in the distance; Friday late afternoon: downpour with soaking rains following.
With gratitude to the non-humans involved,
(Editor’s Note: the sequential spraying technique is detailed in the JPI newsletter Applied Biodynamics, Issue No. 6, Winter, 1993.)