Biodynamic Calendar

March 19, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

When we farmed, we began using Biodynamic methods in 2003 in addition to the organic methods to which we adhered.

In the early 1920s, some farmers in Europe were noticing negative changes in the general health of their crops, livestock and farms. Some of this decline was attributed to the new synthetic fertilizers being introduced after World War I. Some of the followers of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner asked him for help.   In a single series of lectures he presented in June 1924, he proposed a set of agricultural principals and philosophy, which were actually founded on ancient traditional farming wisdom. His followers took his suggestions, researched them, expanded them and applied them. His teachings are some of the basis of what we call ‘organic’ farming today and more specifically what is now ‘Biodynamic’ farming.

Senposai

A 42-inch wide Senposai collard plant!

 

One small aspect of Biodynamics is a calendar to guide much of our activities. We still use the Biodynamic calendar for our gardening. There are other aspects of Biodynamics, which we will discuss at a later time.

We cannot explain why planting a tomato seed on one day (a so-called “Fruit day”) produces a healthier, more productive plant than starting that seed on another day (like a “Leaf day”). But, our experience showed us it does. It sounds like magic – maybe it is. All we know is it worked for us. Our customers were very happy with our produce and flowers.

The Biodynamic calendar has nothing to do the Farmers’ Almanac, Old Farmer’s Almanac or other almanac calendars. The Biodynamic calendar is based on the astronomical zodiac and the moon and planets, not astrology. (Stella Natura is the calendar we use. The North American Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar is also available for North America.)

 

Basically, when the moon appears to pass ‘through’ constellations of the Ram (Aries), the Lion (Leo) and the Archer (Sagittarius) it is more favorable to work with plants we grow for their fruit. These are plants like tree fruits (apples, cherries, walnuts and avocados, etc.), legumes (beans, peas, etc.), cucurbits (cucumbers, melons, squash, etc.) the grains (corn, wheat, buckwheat, etc.), tomatoes, peppers and similar things. “Work with” means planting the seeds, transplanting seedlings, pruning, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting.

2-pound hakurai turnip

A 2-pound sweet, crisp Hakurai salad turnip!

As the moon passes through the Bull (Taurus), the Virgin (Virgo) and the Goat (Capricorn) it is preferable to work with plants whose ‘roots’ we want: carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, etc. Botanically, a potato is truly a stem and onions and garlic are actually leaves, but because they reside under the surface of the soil they are treated as roots.

There are similar periods for ‘leaf’ crops like lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, etc. and yet other constellations influence ‘flower’ crops like all the ornamental and cut flowers and artichokes and broccoli (but not cauliflower, according to research, which is a ‘leaf’ crop – go figure).

In a 28-day lunar cycle, there will be 3 repetitions of Root, Flower, Leaf, and Fruit periods – in that specific order. Each period is a different length because the constellations are different sizes (unlike astrology): the Lion (Leo) Fruit period is 3 full days while the Crab (Cancer) Leaf period is about 30 hours.

 

When I first was learning about Biodynamic methods, it sounded like a lot of hooey and hocus-pocus. I was trained as a scientist not a magician or metaphysician. Well, scientists experiment. So I did. As my instructor passed on from his mentor, “Try it. You don’t have to believe it for it to work.” I tried it. It works. I still don’t understand how or why, but I believe it now.

 

Of course, planting and tending your plants on the ‘wrong’ day will not condemn them to debilitation and death, but why not give them every advantage you can.

 

It is time to garden!  Keep an eye on our FaceBook page, for updates on Biodynamic gardening. There are websites available that publish Biodynamic calendars online, (here is one, another and another) just don’t forget to translate the times to your location for the transitions from one period to the next.

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Gardening, Harry, Spring. No comments.

Signs of Spring!

March 12, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

We took advantage of a perfectly beautiful day to walk up our mountain to check on the progress of Spring.

One mission of our walk was to find the first wildflower of the season. We didn’t find it… yet. But… There are lots of tiny little plants peaking out through the leaf litter of the forest floor.

The coolest things we found were in or next to water.  In the next hollow over from ours, someone long ago built a little pond fairly high on the mountainside to catch water from a nice little stream coming off the mountain. After the water settles in the pond for a while, it leaves and tumbles down the slope, joining other streams, which join other streams, which join a river. All that water eventually finds its way to the Gulf of Mexico. (We are on the western side of the Eastern Continental Divide.)

We did find two other evidences of Spring.

frog egg mass

Think a deep-throated “Charump!” Or maybe it should be a higher pitched “Ribbet!”

Right! We saw some frogs swimming and jumping in the pond. They hid from us under the leaves and mud, so we could not identify them. (You would hide, too, if you saw something 100 times bigger than you coming towards your home!) But they left a huge mass of something that tells us they are there even if we had not seen them jump and swim.

Can you tell what is in the picture?

Of course!  Frog eggs!  You can see the big embryo in each transparent egg.  In a short time, we should be able to see a tiny tadpole wiggling in each egg.  This pond will be FULL of tadpoles soon!  If we had sat down and been very still and quiet, I bet the frogs would have come up and sang for us.

The other thing we saw, while not rare, is seldom noticed and recognized:

liverwort&moss

This plant that looks like lizard skin is a ‘liverwort’ (a bryophyte).  It is a ‘lower plant’, more primitive than ferns and mosses (some of which you can see poking out between the thallus (not a leaf or stem, but a ‘body’) of the liverwort. This plant has no stem, leaves, flowers, seeds or ‘veins’. Instead of seeds it has spores.

This primitive liverwort should not be confused with the spring wildflower liverwort (Hepatica), which will bloom in about a month.

We found one more thing near this liverwort and moss.

Do you recognize these?

cocoons&moss

 

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure they are little insect cocoons. They could be insect eggs, but I don’t think so. IN either case, they have been here all winter waiting for warm weather to arrive so they can emerge.

Even though it may still be cool where you live, go out and see what ‘signs of spring’ you can find.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Amphibians, Insects, Nicolas, Spring. No comments.

Upset tummies

February 26, 2016

Contributed by Deb

Help for your stomach ~

I had a horrible stomach bug this week and as I laid in the bed clutching my belly I thought of all the times my children had stomach cramps, vomiting and nausea and how utterly helpless I felt.  Is there anything much worse than seeing our children suffer and not knowing how to help them?
I thought I’d take a moment and share a few things that relieve some of the discomfort of stomach bugs.  These tips are especially helpful for cramps and vomiting.

A Hot Salt Pack ~

This is a miraculous treatment for vomiting and stomach cramps – and it’s so very easy.  It works by sending heat into the hollow organ of the stomach which aids the cramping.

  • Heat 1/2 cup of natural sea salt in a skillet.  It takes about 5 – 7  minutes to get it very hot – but not burning. Pour the salt into an old sock.  It’s easiest to do this if you have two people – one to pour the salt and the other to hold a funnel that goes directly to the sock.  Then tie it shut.
  • If you need to, wrap the sock in another layer or two of soft fabric to prevent any burning. Make it as warm as possible.  Apply it right on the stomach – not over the whole belly.
  • Keep it on as long as needed.  Hopefully, it will bring enough relief that they’ll miraculously fall asleep.  You can reapply it (reheating the same salt) every thirty minutes.

Keep the salt in a plastic container in the medicine chest along with a sock so it’s ready every time.

Electrolyte Replacement Drink

When children (or any of us) have vomiting and/or diarrhea it’s easy to become dehydrated and lose essential minerals.  It’s very easy to make an electrolyte replacement drink at home with very common kitchen items.

  • 8 ounces of room temperature water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of honey or maple sugar (if your child is over age 2)

Combine all ingredients and have them take sips or up to 1/3 cup every half an hour or so.

Please note – many years ago, I learned from my Chinese Medical Qi Gong Teacher that it’s necessary to have all beverages be at room temperature – or just slightly warm – when one is vomiting. Cold liquids (and especially ice) actually make the stomach spasm and they worsen the condition.

Home-made Ginger Ale

Who doesn’t like ginger ale when their stomach hurts?  Ginger is an amazing aid for chills, sore throat, flus, low fevers, coughs, nausea, vomiting, cramps, gas and stomach ache ~ making it a valuable ally any time your little one is ill.  Instead of buying ginger ale at the store, make it at home.  This ginger ale has a higher volume of fresh ginger than store bought so it has more medicinal value.

One word of instruction – ginger is warming so if your child has a high fever, it is not the best choice. At that point, you would do better with a cooling herb rather than a warming one. Yes, it’s true, not every herb and food is good for everyone on every occasion. Always trust your instincts and your child’s as well. The road to good health comes from deep knowing and trust in ourselves, first and foremost.

Directions  ~

  • Bring 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger and 1 cup of water to boil.  Turn down the heat to low and simmer for no more than 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup carbonated water.
  • Stir in honey (if your child is over the age of 2) or sugar. Go lightly on the sweetener. Ginger is tasty all by itself.
  • Let cool to room temperature.
  • For illness – drink 1/4 cup every 2 – 3 hours then decrease day by day until the illness is gone. For regular drinking, because this is so medically potent, limit this homemade ginger ale to 1 to 2 cups a day.

Ginger Compress (Or in the Bath)
Ginger can also be used as a compress on sore muscles and body aches. Boil coin sized slices of ginger in a quart of water for about 20 minutes. Let cool to a temperature that is a bit warm, or about room temperature. Put a soft cloth in the water, wring it out and place it on the child wherever she is hurting.

Or if you like, pour the gingered water into a bath and let the child soak in it. It will soothe their aching bodies.

I hope these tips help you next time the ‘bug’ goes around!

Health and love to you ~

Deb

Organized under Deb, Herbs, Medicinal. No comments.

Big Snow

January 24, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

Hurray! We finally got a “big snow” up here on our mountain! (I know there are many out there that do not like snow, sorry.) In two days it snowed more than all of last winter combined! Of, course, it was not as much snow as some other parts of the country got, but still, it’s a lot.

The first bit of snow came down quiet, gentle and nearly windless, piling up on tree branches, even the small twigs. The three or four inches accumulation was so pretty.

The second, bigger storm came in on roaring winds. Because of the wind, it is hard to know how much really came down. In some places it was eight inches deep, in other places it was 24 inches deep. In many places it was up to the wolves’ bellies! Deli loves to roll in it; Grace likes to dance in it and then just lie in it; Tuls seems to be indifferent though she does, on occasion, like to run and scoop snow into her mouth.  They all have to bite the snow from between their toes when they come back into the cave.

There is so much to like about snow:

* As it falls and accumulates, it is so quiet. Few go out in it to make noise and the noise that is made just gets swallowed up in it.Snowy barn

* The crunch of fresh cold snow under foot is unlike any noise you will hear in spring, summer or fall. And much more pleasing a sound than the ‘splet’ and ‘squelsh’ as it warms up and turns to slush as you step in it.

* The snow swirling and dancing as it is driven across the ground just looks happy! It makes me happy! Where will it come to rest?

* The clean fresh surface lets us see who has passed. You can follow tracks of Mrs. Rabbit to see where she has gone. You can see what the birds like to eat with their chaotic dance under a branch that used to be full of seeds. You can know that Mr. Deer has been searching for food in the meadow.  It can tell interesting stories if you know how to read it.

 brid tracks in snowdeer tracks * After the clouds have dropped their frozen cargo and departed, the sun comes and makes every snowflake sparkle like the whole world is covered in diamond dust.

* The trees on the tops of the taller mountains have collected a glaze of ice because they stuck up into the clouds gathering water before it froze into snowflakes. They are so beautiful as they shimmer in the sun with a different sparkle than the snow.

* You can make snow angels.

* You can make snow bears… and rabbits… and people.

* You can make snow forts and castles, if you have enough.

 

Distant_Snowy_mountains

* You can see the snow covered ground under the trees on the mountains across the valley. You can see the flow and roll of the land better and that white surface under the snowless gray trees makes the mountains look like they are wearing a dark furry coat.

snow creature

* Snow creates rare funny creatures.

* You can make snow cream!

* After playing (and working) in it, you can go inside and warm up by the fire!

Snow is not so bad. I like it.

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Nicolas, Weather, Winter. No comments.

Making Flower Essences

January 21, 2016

Contributed by Deb

Sacred Forest Flower Essences ~ What, Where and How

Each flower, shrub and tree that grows holds sacred gifts for us. When we open our hearts to connect with this mysterious and pristine world, we are healed. Sometimes healing comes from merely being in nature; feeling the sun on our cheeks, listening to the birds’ serenade, feeling spring water caress our feet or absorbing a sunset. When we are in the forest, we take in a multitude of goodness ~ thousands of plants grace us, the air we breathe fills our lungs with the oxygen, aromas and energies they produce. This is our true home and when we open our hearts to this beautiful world, our spirits can rise and our troubles disappear. As we are peaceful and receptive, we heal and return to our own original essence.

Deb&Bachelors

Flower essences aid our ability to receive healing properties from the Living Soul of Nature. Each flower, every tree and every shrub holds a different gift of healing. Each one is uniquely imprinted with its signature, just as we are. The flower of the plant contains the concentrated essence of the plant. By taking the essence of the flower, your soul aligns with the particular gift it offers you.

Harry and I frequently traverse many paths by our Appalachian home and have come to know these flowers as friends.  We know where to look for them, when the plants first appear in spring, when they bloom and when they shed their seed.

We believe that harvesting the few flowers needed to make this sacred medicine is most aligned with right stewardship and relationship with Nature.  Our flower essences are effective because they are made with gentleness, devotion and respect.  We barely disturb the plants.  We ask them if they would like to be made into an offering to us humans.  We wait to sense an answer to this question.  If they agree, we pick them gently and bring them to the clear sunlight where they transfer their energy to spring water.

Next we add a small amount of brandy to the energized water, which now holds their essence to preserve the medicine they have given us.

Finally, the medicine is hand diluted to the proper potency into bottles to make their way to you, dear friend.

Each step is a prayer.  Our intentions are aligned with healing and love for you.  Yes, we make a sacred covenant with each plant we use so you will truly be nourishing yourself with a bit of heaven.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Deb, Herbs, Medicinal. No comments.

Magic in the Field

January 16, 2016

Contributed by EliaElia Graybear

Nicolas and I were out walking the field shown in the background of the picture yesterday and we found some magic.  We found these six all within about 20 feet of each other.  We found another six further on our ramble.  There are probably lots more out there!

Mantis_egg_cases

Do you know what they are?  We do and we know they are very special.

Why don’t you guess first before I tell you.  Is it part of the plant?  Is it someone’s house?  Is it healthy or a disease on the plant?  Is it a bug?  Hmmmmmm… still don’t know?

I’ll give you a hint:  In the summer, you may see what made them, but they hide very well.

Need another clue?  They are long and usually green.

Here’s another clue:  they have BIG eyes and long arms.

Okay, one more:  The six things in the picture contain lots of eggs during winter.  In spring, when it warms up, they will hatch and the babies will chew their way out.

These are praying mantis egg cases that momma praying mantises made last fall!  Here’s a picture of one of the babies on one of our collecting baskets:

praying mantis

Did you know?

We will take a couple of the egg cases and put them near our garden and the rest we will return to the field… I just wanted to show you.

Sunshine and raspberries to you!
Love,
Elia

Organized under Elia, Insects, Winter. No comments.

Happy New Year, 2016

January 1, 2016

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

Most Animals in the northern hemisphere know the Sun and Earth have started another cycle of life at the Solstice. The Animals in the southern hemisphere will restart their cycle in 6 months. Humans have picked a different marker to celebrate renewal.

To all our readers, human and otherwise, Happy New Year

In our woods, the First Breath of Spring bushes (Lonicera fragrantissima) and the Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) are in full bloom offering food to any brave bees willing to venture out to forage as the local temperatures finally begin to drop after the warm Christmas rains.

The cubs have all departed for their own caves in far-off woods. They left me a much-appreciated gift of a denim apron to help keep shavings and sawdust out of my fur. The oldest male-cub helped me (actually, he did all the cutting!) take down a neighbor’s dead maple (sugar, I think (Acer saccarum) which I will turn into bowls and other useful things (probably including heat).

Unfortunately, the apron, during its first use, did not protect my paw from a flying, lathe-ejected piece of bark.

A couple of dried Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers bound to the wound under a bandage, quickly stopped the bleeding and accelerated the healing such that while it still feels traumatized, it is nearly healed after only three days.

 

For Christmas, I gave Elia a crudely carved spatula I freed from a twisted piece of cherry firewood.  Look how beautiful the grain is!

Cherry Spatula

She also received this little bowl I discovered hiding in an old black locust fence post.

Locust tricorner

I also removed the ‘waste’ from a small piece of soft mahogany scrap from Elia’s Dad’s old workshop.

Mahogany square

Nature creates such amazing and wonderful masterpieces with trees and other plants.

I hope you’ll look around and find some miracles!

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Nicolas, Winter. No comments.

First Snow (Sort of)

December 16, 2015

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

Last week felt like we Graybears had migrated to the Bahamas… or the Bahamas had come to us! (At least, I have heard the Bahamas are warm even in winter.) Beautiful days with high temperatures in the sixties made us want to be out exploring instead of preparing the cave for the cubs’ Christmas visit.

We did take an afternoon off to celebrate our eleventh anniversary and take a walk along one of our favorite local trails. On our way home, we had to stop and enjoy one of the most spectacular and reddest sunsets we have seen in a long while. Even several humans stopped to appreciate and capture it with their cameras.

It was surely an optical illusion, but with no leaves on trees everything seemed so much more present, crisper and closer. Rock faces and other landscape features appeared in places we had passed dozens of times before without noticing. (Very uncharacteristic for a bear – we notice everything!) Vista views seemed wider and farther than in spring or summer. Even as the temperature dropped as dusk approached, it was hard to take our eyes away from the beauty.

Yesterday we could feel the temperatures drop all day long. We woke up to upper thirties and by dusk it was in the upper twenties with the first light snow of the season carried by very high winds… gusts more than thirty miles an hour. It made the cave vibrate and the trees roar! Even the wolves didn’t want to stay out in it and preferred the cave warmth. It was so nice to be inside by the fire even though the snow ended up being only a dusting that barely lasted in the shade once the sun rose.

That’s it for now. Time to wander out to find some plantain (Plantago lanceolata). I’ll chew it up and hold between my cheek and gum most of the day to draw out a minor toothache.

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Autumn, Nicolas, Weather. No comments.

Not Officially Winter

November 17, 2015

Contributed by NicolasNicolas Graybear

It’s not officially Winter yet, but it sure has a wintery feel:  temperatures hovering around freezing in the mornings; occasional frost; mountainsides devoid of colors other than browns and grays – save the few pines, spruce and firs…

There are a very few lingering goldenrod, purple aster and yarrow flowers stubbornly displaying their defiance, but most of the summer flowers have produced their seed heads resulting in lots of fluffy clumps of various shades of off-white up the mountainside. The large mounds of virgin’s bower seed heads covering the dying vines always look frosty.

Ninety-nine point nine percent of the leaves have abandoned their tenuous perches and now begin their slow decomposition on the forest floor to humus to nourish their former hosts and new growth in the Spring.

The multiflora rose hips have changed from hard dry orange to softer red and, while they will never be as tasty as some other hips, have taken a decided turn toward a Vitamin C-laden sourness and sweetness.

Even the last of the domestic and escaped apples have ripened. A couple of prized trees have fruit that rival the Gala, Fuji and HoneyCrisp in flavor, texture and sweetness. YUM! (From which Elia, or one of the cubs, occasionally makes a pie for me.)

The scraps from the woodshop are knocking the morning chill back and warming us pleasantly as I write this. The scraps won’t last long when Winter really takes hold, but I and a couple of the cubs cut and split about six cords of firewood this past Summer that will hopefully provide two or three years warmth.

Speaking of the woodshop, I seem to have been cursed with the need to look at every piece of firewood as a potential project to be sawn, planed, bored, carved, turned or otherwise magicked into a practical or aesthetic object.

Ah, well, back to the apothecary. I need to whip up something Elia suggests I take for this cough while we eagerly await the first snow. (Which we had had by this time last year and does not look at all imminent – just another bout of heavy rain.)

Happy day to you!

Nicolas

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Organized under Autumn, Nicolas. No comments.