Over the last weekend, Tanya and I went to a small village on the boarder of Kerala in the Western Ghats (near Coorg). There is a small village there that is starting to produce a biodynamic farm producing aromatic crops for essential oils. The activities ranged from getting to the village to making compost. Here is how you make biodynamic compost.
You need a bunch of mulch: sticks (to provide air flow), dry leafy matter, green matter, cow dung, rock phosphate, lime powder, and some plant extracts.
We went to collect what we could locally, and everyone helped out, it was great to see the villagers (and westerners) all working as a team. Raking dried bamboo leaves, chopping fresh green leaves and picking sticks, everyone helped out. With the piles collected we could start the compost.
Biodynamic is a way of farming I don’t fully understand, and I think it works best in a place like India. The reason for this is the emphasis put on the cow. The cow (not the bull) is main focal point every preparation.Biodynamic procedures use ideas that we don’t use in the west, like using the moon cycle to plan when you plant and harvest, putting positive thinking in the preparation will create good results (it is like cooking with love, or in this case, farming with love). This different approach is hard for me to believe in because there is no real scientific reasoning behind it. It just works. Maybe there is a scientific explanation, maybe there isn’t. I don’t know enough to make a conclusion on it thus far, but some of the biodynamic factors do have some scientific backing.
Biodynamic Compost is made in layers, the layers go like this:
- Dry leaves
- Cow dung slurry (1:1 mix of water and cow dung)
- Rock Phosphate
- Green leaves
Repeat layers 2-6 four more times and the result is a 1meter tall lasagna of organic goodness. The compost heap is alive with activity. Many farmers are putting leaves on, spread the cow dung slurry, sprinkling the rock phosphate and lime powder, shaping the pile. The pile grows right in front of us, increasing in size. With all this work, care and organic material, it is sure to create some good compost. The reason forthe cow dung slurry to introduce some micro organisms into the compost (after all, something has to break that material down).
Once the pile is five layers high, shape the pile and add some other goodness (this part I don’t really understand). Extract of five plants (dandelion, oak bark, stinging nettle, chamomile and common yarrow) are each placed in a leaf and put randomly into the pile. After this a mix of water and valerian extract are added to the pile. These steps are used to help introduce some life and energy to the pile. The valerian flower has some cosmic connection and I don’t know why the other extracts are used.
After this the pile is cover with Mud. The mud acts like an incubator, holding the heat in and the pile will get up to +75 degrees. The pile, alive with micro-organism, will break the down the material in 3 months and the compost will be ready to be used to help the soil and the plants.
It was pretty neat to see the massive pile of compost being contstructed. It really shows what can happen if everyone works hard. I would like to come back in three months and see how the pile is doing.