perennial roots banner image biodynamic farm

We are seeking an honest and self-motivated individual with at least two seasons growing vegetables on an organic (preferably biodynamic) farm. Knowledge and experience with livestock is a major plus. We are not looking for someone to just follow orders. We are seeking an active co-laborer and co-participant in all our farm’s processes.

This position is YEAR ROUND and we are offering $8-12/hr depending on experience. 20-30hrs/week. Sundays off. Minimum TWO YEAR commitment.

We also provide the OPTION to rent an on-site room with an OPTION for a vegetable, meat, and egg share. In addition, we are offering an OPTION for additional income by manning extra farmer’s markets too.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us directly at: [email protected] or call us at: 757-709-8761

Agriculture

Hey folks, the spring edition AND the very first ever publication of Edible Delmarva has arrived!


We are so happy that this fabulous magazine now exists here on the Delmarva peninsula and we are thrilled to have contributed something to the first edition. Natalie enjoyed writing about our farm and sharing a piece of our heart and soul through these words and pictures. Happy reading!

Read it online here.

Biodynamics

pico taqueria chincoteague virginia delmarva eastern shore tacos

We’re partnering with Pico Taqueria in Chincoteague, Virginia for a 4 course pop-up dinner benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County‘s Downing Project.  We are donating our pastured pork to the event. It’s a great cause and good meat prepared by the best people. We hope to see you there.

habitat for humanity wicomico

Find more about the event here.

Events

Managers and owners, Stewart Lundy and Natalie McGill seek a hard-working, honest, and self-motivated individual, who is not only smart, tough, open, resourceful and detail-oriented, but also has the skills and experience to match these qualities. The ideal assistant farm manager will have an inexhaustible work ethic, unfailing honesty, consistent communication skills and an unshakeable devotion to always doing more than is required. We need a co-laborer and co-participant in the farm process — someone who gets real value out of good hard work on a biodynamic farm. What we are looking for is someone who loves their work for work’s sake, no matter how hard or unpleasant any given task may be. If this sounds like you, we look forward to hearing from you!

POSITION FILLED.

 

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The denser the organism, the denser its food. We require doses of minerals to the degree that we have dense, physical bodies. The finer and more ethereal an organism is, the less it needs of these elements. For example: Copper in high concentration kills microbial life. Hospitals that use bronze doorknobs have a much lower contamination rate than those with other types of doorknobs. The reason is that in high concentrations, copper kills.

But it is not that the Copper itself is poisonous! Copper is precious. Everything needs Copper — but in the correct dose. As the organism grows smaller, it needs exponentially less of the same element.

Paracelsus said:

“Alle Dinge sind Gift und nichts ist ohne Gift; allein die Dosis macht, dass ein Ding kein Gift ist.”

A translation of the statement above is: “All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.”

If you give too much Copper to a soil, you kill fungi — a purpose for which it is regularly employed. If you use too much of any element, you kill. On the other hand, if you use little enough the very thing that operated as a lethal poison operates as a medicine. Fungi need copper and a small enough dose of a poison stimulates life.

Sharon Carson grinding the Three Kings Preparation on New Year's Eve 2014

Sharon Carson grinding the Three Kings Preparation on New Year’s Eve 2014

The Three Kings Preparation, developed by Hugo Erbe, is only meant to be used after all of the other biodynamic preparations have been made and applied on your farm. This sets the right processes in motion: beneficial decomposition, beneficial composition. What comprises the Three Kings Preparation is: colloidal Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

The ceremonial significance of these elements should be familiar to many as the gifts brought by the Magi to the Christ child. These are burial gifts. Frankincense and Myrrh are used to embalm — to prevent microbes from breaking down the body. They are used in high enough concentration that they prevent life. Another example of this principle is honey: sugar is the fundamental food for microbes, but in super-concentration, it is poison to microbial life.

Frankincense and Myrrh are ground together with colloidal Gold, rain water and vegetable glycerin. The high concentration of embalming spices to water does not permit life. The Three Kings Preparation will last indefinitely, until diluted; once diluted, it needs to be used. In the same way, honey lasts indefinitely — until diluted. As soon any significant amount of water is added, honey starts to ferment. If memory serves, archeologists discovered (and sampled) honey from a tomb in Egypt: it was still sweet after millenia!

Bonfire to welcome the new year before grinding the Three Kings Preparation for one full hour.

Bonfire to welcome the new year before grinding the Three Kings Preparation for one full hour.

Frankincense and Myrrh are poison. They are resins, like amber, designed to preserve and prevent decay in plants. Humans have turned this plant property to their own ends. The Three Kings Preparation takes a poison and dilutes it into a medicine. As Paracelsus said: “All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.”

In tiny, virtually homeopathic doses, poisons are medicines; substances meant to preserve against life processes now serve to stimulate life! We apply the Three Kings Preparation in the evening, when the ground is cooling down and approaching the “dew point.”

Unlike all of the other preparations, the Three Kings Preparation is spread out of the farm along the border of the property, onto the adjacent properties. This gesture is both a beckoning to “Elemental Beings” and a stimulant to microbial life. The application on the border of the land serves to mark that as the skin of the farm organism. Everything living has a skin: an inside and an outside.

Human beings think in human terms. As Owen Barfield pointed out, even the most technical and abstract term is a cleverly disguised anthropomorphism. It is no mark against us to think in human terms — it is only a mark when we fail to think in fully human terms. How we think of the world is inseparable for how we think of ourselves. If we have an inhuman and abstract way of dealing with the world, it is an equally abstract and inhuman way of dealing with ourselves. At our worst and most dishonest, we denature our environment; at our best and most honest, we humanize it.

The question isn’t whether we think anthropomorphically but rather whether we do so authentically and without deceit. We are most humane when we think most poetically.

From the densest poisons, to the finest medicines, we offer a “literal” physical stimulant around the border of the farm; and we offer a “metaphorical” spiritual feeding for the elemental world.

Agriculture Biodynamics

The biodynamic preparations are composted medicinal herbs. If these plants can stimulate animal health, how much more plant health and yet more microbial life? Hugh Courtney of Earth Legacy Agriculture, LLC urges people — really against his own financial interests — to make their own preparations. He does so because he is far more interested in what the preparations do than in money. But why? Can’t you just buy the preparations? Of course you can. But if you make your own, they are Indigenous Microorganisms (IMOs) which are uniquely suited to your land. You can import organisms, carefully prepared by others, but the ideal is for the farm to produce its own fertility.

A healthy body does not need medicine. All a healthy body needs is healthy food. But a sick body needs medicine. In the same way, a healthy Earth does not need medicine. But our Earth is sick. Our Earth needs medicine. The biodynamic preparations are medicines for healing the Earth. Organic food might help prevent you from getting sick, but it is not enough to heal a seriously diseased body. Organic practices are simply not enough to heal the Earth.

There are some people who might question the need for medicine. There are others who deny that the Earth is sick. But the soundness of biodynamic medicine will resonate with many of us, and the facts will validate their insight.

“Even someone who knows nothing as yet about directed compost fermentation must needs admit that certain well-known and well-described bacteria and yeasts play an important role in other fields of fermentation, in cheese, in milk (yogurt and Acidophilus), in wine, and in bread. Modern techniques in these fields do not permit accidental inoculation to take place but introduce quite specific cultures in order to achieve their specific ends. American wines of a Bordeaux, or Rhine, or Burgundy, or Riesling type are only possible because certain specific cultures have been used. Bread made from dough inoculated quite by chance with wild yeast would be quite unpalatable. It is the typical baker’s yeast which makes the dough rise and results in edible bread. To deny, therefore, to the composting process, that such specific microorganisms could be found and used which direct its proper fermentation is a retrogressive and not a progressive concept – inasmuch as experience has already shown that it works, wherever and whenever adequate knowledge and skills are applied.” Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, Bio-Dynamic Gardening and Farming, pg. 106.

Most of our soils, even what appear to be productive soils, are deteriorating. A new form of agriculture must arise to meet the new challenges facing Humanity. The biodynamic preparations are financially affordable, applied as herbal teas to your soils. Most of our soils are sick. None of them are as good as they could be. At this point in human development, the Earth’s soils are tired and need to be stimulated by gentle herbal medicines.

For the first years, it makes sense to me to purchase the biodynamic preparations from a reliable source. In my case, I buy them from Hugh Courtney at Earth Legacy Agriculture, LLC. They are not “indigenous” to my farm, but they are fermented here in Virginia. I have been using the biodynamic preparations for two seasons now, and this fall we buried our first BD500 “Horn Manure” using organic and 100% grass-fed cow manure from a lactating cow. We have our friends to thank for the manure.

The buried manure is “sensitized” and develops a unique relationship with the quality of your own soil. What develops there are Indigenous Microorganisms (IMOs), and ones ideally suited to forming stable humus.

There might be some benefit to importing the medicinal “inoculants” until the soil has begun to heal and can better produce its own preparations. On the other hand, perhaps the forces necessary to heal your soil are already there.

As Rudolf Steiner says, “A thoroughly healthy farm should be able to produce within itself all that it needs.” Since few farms today are “thoroughly healthy” they should look to healthy farms with composted medicinal herbs (“preparations”) to assist their return to health.

Steiner said: “The benefits of the bio-dynamic compost preparations should be made available as quickly as possible to the largest possible areas of the entire earth, for the earth’s healing.”

To me, it seems like we are on the verge of a catastrophic future where soils are dying. If we continue on this trajectory, we may enter a new Dust Bowl, as Ken Burns suggests in his recent documentary. If this does happen, where will the biological life come from to heal the ruined Earth? It will arise from organic and biodynamic farms and radiate outward as knowledge radiated out from monasteries after the Dark Age. There is nothing more important we can be doing now. The most important place to be is not with like minds, but surrounded by the very soils that need to be healed. Even with pesticides drifting onto your land, the preparations cultured on your farm will learn to metabolize these poisons. How else will deadened soils be rejuvenated?

From organic and biodynamic farms will radiate new life, whether or not we change the trajectory our food system has set for itself. We are creating the future for Humanity. Our project is cosmic in scope and is not limited by whether or not we avert the impending storm. We can hope that Humanity changes its ways so the good work of recolonizing neighboring soils can begin all the sooner. If Humanity doesn’t manage to change its ways and avert its catastrophe, our work is already in place, ready to repair what is broken.

Agriculture Biodynamics

Our organic free rank pork featured at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Farm to Fork Celebration here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Our organic free rank pork featured at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Farm to Fork Celebration here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Natalie and I started Perennial Roots back in 2010. The idea was to feed ourselves and out of the surplus, to make a business of it. That’s a lot of work for two people. I can only work while I’m awake. Fortunately, Nature works around the clock. Her champions are weeds. They unlock nutrients in the soil, break apart hardpan, prevent erosion, sequester carbon, and host beneficial insects. Weeds are the guardians of the soil. And we insult them by calling them weeds.

At Perennial Roots, we combine critical thinking with poetic feeling. On the one hand, we analyze our soils for deficiencies and try to remineralize responsibly. On the other hand, we try to sense creatively the living processes on the farm that are even more substantial than the transient forms they take in a given soil test. We let weeds arise because we know that they are temporary, and they are here to do a job. Next season, we will not have the same weeds because there is a new task for the soil to accomplish.

We rotate animals regularly over our fields and sow cover crops behind them. Sheep, geese, and pigs live together harmoniously. The sheep eat the tops of the plants, the geese take the lower parts, and the pigs turn the topsoil gently. This combination balances each in spirit, and there is no bad odor. As a unit, these convert overgrown weeds into stable carbon for the soil.

Here on the sandy soils of the Shore, we often have humidity, warmth, and light, but not enough carbon. Sandy soils are airy soils. And in airy soils, carbon likes to evaporate. Cover crops are essential to any operation that wants to protect its precious carbon.

It is the first task of a farmer to enliven the soil, and in the right way. You need living matter to build carbon. Only life begets life. The main concern of biodynamics is to cultivate healthy life processes, which isn’t easy. A farmer must have clear senses to do this. If it smells wrong, it probably is wrong.

Stewart Lundy speaks.

Stewart Lundy speaks.

Odors are compounds escaping. This is at the heart of nutrient leaching and must be prevented. When you sense the aroma a flower, that is a deliberate moment where Nature has deemed to release compounds to attract pollinators. That is a healthy release. A farm should have little odor but of flowers, forests, and fields. The farm should smell like a meadow.

Every organism has a skin to protect itself and maintain its integrity. But a “resource” is not alive and needs no skin. We cannot think merely in terms of dead resources. With a little imagination, we know the soil has a life of its own. Best management practices make the most sense when we remember that the soil is a alive. We wouldn’t leave a friend without a coat, much less without a skin. Cover crops give a living membrane to the soil, and that soil is the living skin of the Chesapeake Bay organism.

Most of the plantings at Perennial Roots are, as our name suggests, not annuals. We are interested in plants that will maintain the skin of the soil and keep maintaining it for years to come. Permanent plantings of fruiting trees and shrubs are at the heart of our efforts. Each of these are established to increase humus formation and to minimize leaching.

As a biodynamic farm, the ideal is to provide at least 80% of our animal feed from the farm itself. Certified organic feed, grown locally on the Shore, keeps our animals satisfied as we transition towards self-sufficiency. When the animals live off the land and the farmers live off the same land, the farm develops a new feeling of wholeness. The farm is no longer an inert resource, but a living entity that includes everything in it. My feeling is that this union may take as much as seven years to come about. But once the farm passes through its childhood, the farmer embodies that unique spirit. Winemakers call this terroir, which is the spirit of a place.

When the farmer and his terroir are one, virtually every molecule in his body has been forged out of the very fabric of the farm. At this point, the farm is really beginning to be a living organism. Even if you don’t garden or farm yourself, you can participate in this by aiming for 80% locally grown foods in your diet. It’s a lot of work, just like the farming is a lot of work, but it’s real.

If we want to embody a place, we first have to eat from that place. We need to eat so consistently from that one place that after seven years, every compound in our bodies was born here. We begin to feel with the place, because its skin becomes our skin. When we can imagine like that, we are closer to living like that. And only by living like that can we protect and nurture the living organism that is the Chesapeake Bay.

Agriculture Biodynamics

Water runs downhill, and all tributaries reach the sea. No matter how careful we are, erosion occurs and runoff flows into the ocean. Because our fertility flows downstream, it is our task to bring fertility upstream. From the ocean we must retrieve our fertility.

Towards this end, I employ Sea-Crop®, a distilled concentrate of marine minerals, with a 95% reduction of salt; the producer claims it contains 89 elements, and in our mineral-poor soils, this is an excellent supplement to the other sprays we use. We add a little Sea-Crop many of our sprays as a regular foliar spray.

Note: For those concerned with radiation from Pacific waters, please read this. At least for me, it helps put things in perspective.

We also supplement our animals with few drops of these sea minerals to encourage healthy development.

As part of our fertility program, we use microbial sprays to reduce ammonia emissions from our poultry manure and save that Nitrogen for farm. We also use kelp meal, fish emulsion, and crab shells. These are not the cheapest forms, but they seem to be some of the most sustainable options. If you know of more, please tell me! My research is ongoing.

I think our so-called “dead zones” should be mined for fertility. Since they are already devoid of oxygen because of eutrophication, no sea life needs to be harmed and the nutrients from cities can be returned to the farms.

Agriculture

When preparing water for our animals, I boil water and use a small pinch of herbs. Though not prescribed for this use, I employ Gunter Hauk’s Bee Tea comprised of 15 biodynamic herbs. It smells pleasant and floral. It is not necessary to use this. If you have German chamomile, Stinging Nettles, and other medicinal herbs — use what you have.

Some people add minerals to the water for their animals. I do not because I add so much else, plus they have free range on grasses, legumes, and medicinal herbs. Herbs, like weeds, accumulate metals and minerals much more readily than other plants.

Note: ducklings need a source of niacin. Stinging Nettles, a common biodynamic herb, is a source of niacin.

We supplement all of our animals with raw organic apple cider vinegar. I have noticed that this prevents water from going “stale” for much longer. This stuff is quite potent. I dilute it in the herbal tea and dissolve a small amount of our honey in it. The honey moves the scent from an astringent vinegar to a more pleasing cider smell. Wildflower honey is sucrose and glucose, plus a wide array of proteins (pollen) from local plants helps our animals grow up with the widest range of immune benefits possible. I myself take local honey as an allergy remedy! Honey must be local. And honey must be diverse. If you feed your animals honey from a monoculture, it does them no good. As Abbé Émile Warré said in his Beekeeping For All, only mixed-source honey has any medicinal qualities.

Only droplets of Sea-Crop® are used for young birds according to its instructions:

SEA-CROP® may be used as a mineral supplement for animal nutrition. The product can be added to drinking water or food. The very low daily dosage rate is 0.02 to 0.05 milliliters per kilogram of body weight. This is approximately 1/5 to 1/2 teaspoon per 100lbs. http://www.sea-crop.com/application.html

Your recipe will vary depending on the size and health of your animals. There is no magical formula, but these are what I’ve found to be good ingredients:

  • Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Local Honey
  • Herbal Tea
  • Sea-Crop®

Our animals do not get sick often, but I think I have noticed fewer illnesses. My animals appear more vigorous, but a genuinely scientific study would require another lifetime. A contributing factor could be that I am improving in my management of my animals, and that we switched this fall to Countryside Organics as our feed source — one that includes probiotics, yeast, and trace elements; it is also produced within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Agriculture Biodynamics

Earlier, I wrote about how BD500 works like a “probiotic” for the soil. I can understand some skepticism regarding that claim, but now I am going to talk about real probiotics in the sense most people are used to.

Many of you are familiar with Lactobacillus acidophilus, regularly found as a probiotic supplement in pill form or in cultured dairy products. This is more readily accepted than probiotics for the soil. But plants do not have organs the way mammals do: the soil is the stomach of plants.

The good farmer doesn’t just cultivate what he can see, the good farmer cultivates the secret garden below his feet. Lactobacillus can live in aerobic conditions or anaerobic conditions. Since it is a harmless bacterium, but can live in stagnant conditions, it is an ideal partner to the biological farmer. Lactobacillus permeates the soil, even water-logged soils, and begins to bubble. Many pathogens are anaerobic, so soaking the soil with EM·1® helps “crowd out” those pathogens. Colonizing soils with beneficial bacteria helps “crowd out” harmful bacteria.

Lactobacillus

Lactobacillus

Towards this end, cousins of L. acidophilus are employed when we use EM·1® Microbial Inoculant. This contains water, molasses, and several varieties of bacteria. This culture can be “activated” in a few simple steps.

How does BD500 play into this? BD500 is a special compost tea that has undergone a gentle fermentation. The result is a microbe- and enzyme-rich spray that feeds the food chain from the bottom up. If you do not put much stock in biodynamic agriculture, I would commend a good compost tea to you. I have some results with BD500, but Bountea might be of interest to those who are not interested in BD500. For those on a tight budget, as most of us are, consider using a weed tea.

I also use MycoGrow™, one of Paul Stamets’ superior products. This has a wide range of endophytic and ectophytic fungi along with numerous varieties of beneficial bacteria. I like to soak roots in MycoGrow™ to encourage colonization.

Mycorrhizal Fungi

Mycorrhizal Fungi

The bacteria in both MycoGrow™ and EM·1® form polysaccharides that help protect plants droughts and thus from infestation and make accessible nutrients to leaves that otherwise would not be available. Mycorrhizae are fungi that form a special symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants, with some exceptions such as brassicas. Mycorrhizal fungi, by “infecting” the roots in plants, help prevent infections by rival fungi — the same with colony-forming bacteria.

Note: if you are planting blueberries, usual mycorrhizal fungi will not work. You must find ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. The only source I have found is called Rhodovit® and it is made in the Czech Republic. The dealer I found in the USA is here.

There is a not an uncommon practice of applying molasses to fields in order to encourage beneficial bacteria to populate the surfaces of the plants. EM·1® is 96% water, 3% molasses. The active ingredients include Lactobacillus that digests the molasses readily. With only a small original amount, enough is quickly made to spray your entire property.

For example, if the soil gets wet, the symbiotic fungi will grow vigorously instead of harmful fungi that might cause the tree to rot. Mycorrhizal fungi extend the reach of roots greatly, accessing nutrients otherwise “locked” away to trees and plants. In exchange, the plants excrete waste substances of use to the fungi.

While it is fine to use a diluted fish emulsion spray without thorough mixing, I think it is beneficial to use a simple aquarium pump to oxygenate the mixture at room temperature or above. If there is foam, that is a good indication of aerobic life. Populating your mixture with aerobic bacteria I think is a worthwhile addition to your spraying program. Of all organisms in the soil, bacteria have the highest protein content. Many pathogens are anaerobic — living without oxygen — so the simple introduction of oxygen to your mixture will greatly improve its use and decrease the risk of infections. The conventional biodynamic method of incorporating oxygen and bacteria is by stirring for extended periods of time. Not everyone will feel like they have the time for this activity. But even if stirring a mixture manually for sixty minutes is the best, I will go out on a limb to say that using a regular aquarium pump and leaving it for a full hour will do your mixture no harm. I think it does benefit my plants. Your fertilizers should incorporate microbes. If they do not, something alive will show up — and it might not be what you want.

Agriculture Biodynamics