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Burying the Nettles: Beginning Biodynamics at Geer Crest Farm

June 28, 2012

By Christopher Chemsak

Stinging nettle (Wikipedia)

Five days prior to the summer solstice at Geer Crest Farm in Oregon, on a slope known by the farm family as “Nettle Hill,” about half of the population of the infamous stinging nettle plants has bland beginnings of flowers. The other half seems more reluctant to transition from their youthful spring form as, one-by-one, their lower leaves begin to fade to a yellowy pale-brown.

For biodynamic preparation 504, it was strongly recommended to us that we harvest stinging nettles in the early part of the day, between dawn and noon, when the earth’s energetics are comparable to the exhalation of breath and when the vitality of plants is most present in their aboveground parts while photosynthesis occurs. In addition, though, the issue of convenience in the context of busy farm-life was also discussed and, on this particular day, the task of harvesting stinging nettles did not occur until after dinner when time allowed for the harvesting and burying to be immediately sequential.

That being said, our participation in the process was anything but rushed. Before collecting the plants, we dug a hole which by our estimation was about 18 inches deep and 32 inches long perpendicular to the west-facing slope of Nettle Hill. It seemed right to bury the nettles close to their home in a spot along a fence separating a part of the farm along the stream bank that is intentionally kept unmanaged as a naturalized area for plants and wildlife. While digging, we kept the mood jovial, making jokes and admiring the dark brown, loose soil as the sun gradually slipped below the horizon. We pulled several medium-sized rocks from the hole, all of which we later used to make a ring around the site, finding each its right place in the circle.

With gloves and hand pruners, we harvested the plants at the base and made several small piles in the path that goes around a large oak tree as we thinned different sections of the hillside. Since we had been told to use the entire plant except for the roots, we did not pull any plants out of the ground. After some time we gathered our small piles together, brought them to the hole, and estimated that when compressed the big pile would equal the appropriate 12 inches in height.

As recommended, we stood two boards in the north and south ends of hole (each about as wide as the pile of stacked nettles) in order to simplify the matter of where to begin digging when we uncover the plants next June. At the bottom of the hole, we spread a layer of peat moss about half to one inch thick before laying down the nettles, and then covered them with a layer of about the same thickness before adding the displaced soil.

At Geer Crest Farm, we felt that that, if we were to use biodynamic preparations, it was most appropriate that they be made on the farm with plants and sheaths from the farm and immediate community. As the farm functions today, one cannot deny that there is already a true and healthy sense of “viewing the farm as an organism.” Within the 20 acres of the farm, there is a profound diversity of biological systems and communities, both wild and cultivated, which are already fairly well integrated with each other due to the approach and respect taken by the farmers.

The effort to transition to biodynamics at Geer Crest is being held with caution. For those involved, there are varying degrees of readiness and, at times, signs of healthy skepticism. The communal intention here is to grow into biodynamics, seeing how it finds its place on the farm, and to approach it with respect, but also with questions. Meanwhile, the nettles, the deep-rooted white oak trees, wild yarrow, and inevitable dandelions that were already here are being joined by timely gifts of valerian, cow horns, and a skull.

Over the last year, Christopher Chemsak has organized events in Oregon for the Biodynamic Initiative for the Next Generation (BING), a project of the Biodynamic Association.

Find out about nationwide events, opportunities, and how to get involved at

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharon Carson permalink
    June 28, 2012 1:42 pm

    Commercial chicken manure is allowed in the USDA regulations for organic fertilizers and is used on organic farms and gardens all over the US . Chickens are fed grains that are GMO as well as have herbicides and pesticides used on them . How then, can any farm that uses any fertilizers containing manure or bone feathers or blood from Industrial agriculture be considered organic … :)Sharon

  2. June 29, 2012 12:47 pm

    Dear Christopher,

    This article touches very close to home. I too live on a wonderfully diverse farm which is cautiously curious about transitioning to Biodynamics. The farm owners here have said they will support me in working with Biodynamics but only if I prepare the preparations myself from materials on the farm, just like you were speaking of. I have been thinking about how to do this and looking for supporting resources as to how to do this. This article is a definite help. I wonder if you could help me more with any other research you have done?

    Thanks so much,


    • thea maria permalink*
      June 29, 2012 3:46 pm

      Hi Ari-Paul,

      Many biodynamic practitioners get together with others in their region to make the preparations seasonally, which is a great opportunity to learn as well as build community. You could look at our list of regional groups or search our directory to find groups or individuals near you. The Josephine Porter Institute also offers workshops on making the preparations.

      One online resource on how to make the preparations is from City Food Growers in Australia. The Biodynamic Association is also working on adding more information on the preparations to our website, coming soon.

      Let us know how your efforts go!

    • Sharon Carson permalink
      June 29, 2012 5:10 pm

      last time I made nettle prep, I used a net bag to enclose the nettle as recommended by JPI . It is intended to keep the earthworms from consuming it . I recall also using a clay tile- flue liner to bury the nettle in . The prep has lasted many years here in our gardens . I am glad folks are making their own preps :)Sharon

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