Skip to content

“Here for the Biodynamics”: Spring Dandelion and Preparation Day at Zinniker Farm

May 22, 2013

As spring warms the soil and the grass gets greener, the golden splashes that appear across pastures and lawns tell us it’s time to begin the yearly cycle of making the biodynamic preparations. Each spring at the Zinniker Farm, the oldest biodynamic farm in the United States, community members come together to pick dandelions, dig up the biodynamic preparations that were buried in the fall, and share a meal. The event is also a field day for the Upper Midwest CRAFT, and every year more young and beginning farmers join in the activities.

Pasture at Zinniker Farm

Pasture at Zinniker Farm

This year, the scheduled date of May 11 was just about right — the dandelions had just begun to bloom. For the biodynamic dandelion preparation, the ideal stage of development for the flowers is the “button” or “bulls-eye” stage, where the flower has opened, but some of the petals (which, botanically speaking, are actually florets) are still held tightly together in the center.

A dandelion in the "button" stage

A dandelion in the “button” stage

Despite this good seasonal timing, when we arrived at the Zinniker Farm at 9am on Saturday morning, the sky was thick with clouds and the sun-sensitive dandelions were all tightly closed. Since it’s hard to see how developed the flowers are if they are not open, the conditions were not ideal for picking. So instead of picking first, as is the custom, we began by digging the preparations, in hopes that the sun would come out as we dug.

Digging the chamomile preparation

Digging the chamomile preparation

First was the chamomile preparation, buried in a small, long-established pit at the edge of a field where snow tends to drift. For the preparation, the chamomile blossoms are stuffed into cow intestines, so they resemble sausages — and after 7 months underground, the shape is still recognizable.

chamomile in the hole

The chamomile “sausages” are surrounded by a layer of peat moss

removing_chamomile

Petra Zinniker removes the chamomile preparation from its hole

chamomile

Chamomile preparation

Next was the dandelion preparation, buried several yards to the east of the chamomile at the edge of a pine grove. The dandelions are wrapped in pieces of a cow’s mesentery, a large membrane that surrounds the internal organs, making fist-sized pillows tied with string.

Unearthing the dandelion

Unearthing the dandelion

The dandelion preparation

The dandelion preparation

The yarrow preparation was also buried along the edge of the pine grove, a little ways further east. Last June, a small group of us helped to stuff the yarrow blossoms into stag bladders, sewing them closed when no more flowers would fit. Then we made a string carrier for each bladder, hung them inside a wire mesh cage (to protect from birds), and Petra put the cage on the south side of one of the barns. The bladders were then buried at the same time as the other preparations, in late September.

Smelling the yarrow preparation

Smelling the yarrow preparation

The strings around the bladders were still intact -- which is unusual. Petra guessed it was because of the dry conditions.

The strings around the bladders were still intact — which is unusual — likely because of the dry conditions

The yarrow preparation, inside the bladder

The yarrow preparation

We began the day with only a handful of people, but as we moved to each new hole, a few more joined us. By the time we got to the fourth stop, around 20 people were ready to help uncover the horn manure. The horns are buried in Ruth Zinniker’s garden, next to the Biodynamic Association‘s office (first photo).

Preparing to dig the horns

Preparing to dig the horns

Opening the horn pit

Opening the horn pit

About 100 horns were buried in several layers -- many hands helped to uncover them and pull them out

Pulling out horns

Horn manure

Horn manure

The collected horns

The collected horns

The final preparation we collected was the oak bark, which is stuffed into cow skulls and buried in a stream in the woods across the road from the farmstead. After removing the skulls from the stream, participants took turns splitting them open so that the oak bark could be gathered from inside the cavity.

Gathering in the woods

Gathering in the woods

Collecting skulls from the stream

Removing skulls from the stream

Skulls in the wheelbarrow

Skulls ready to be opened

Petra demonstrates how to split the skull

Petra demonstrates how to split the skull

Collecting the oak bark from the skulls

Collecting the oak bark from the skulls

Returning to the main farmstead, the sky had still not cleared, but we decided to go ahead with picking anyway, doing the best we could. Picking was a little slow-going at first, as it was hard to even see where the dandelions were among the grass when they were all closed. But soon enough the sun did peek through, and almost instantly the dandelions opened wide.

Heading out to pick dandelions

Heading out to pick dandelions

Picking dandelions

Picking dandelions

Catching up with friends while picking

Catching up with friends while picking

Dandelions

Our harvest

By noon we had traversed a large pasture, filled our buckets, and were ready to return to the house for a potluck lunch. As we ate, Petra Zinniker remarked that the crowd was not as big as in days gone by, when many families would arrive for the feast, lured especially by Ruth Zinniker’s famous fresh-baked rolls. But, she said, back then it was only a few people who came for the preparations, and everyone else just saw it as a party with good food. These days, the group is smaller, but “they’re here for the biodynamics,” Petra said. “And that’s a good thing, moving into the future.”

 


TheaMariaCarlson_200pxThea Maria Carlson is the Education Program Coordinator for the Biodynamic Association. She is a farmer, organizer, educator, and artist with roots in California and the Midwest, where she currently lives.

Advertisements
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Thea Maria Carlson permalink*
    May 22, 2013 8:23 am

    Reblogged this on soil and senses and commented:

    i’ve spent the past two saturdays outside in wisconsin, first picking dandelions and digging up biodynamic preparations, then learning all about farm-scale hot fermentation biodynamic composting. i shared my photos from the first event on the biodynamics blog today.

  2. June 12, 2013 11:55 am

    Nice article! It’s so cool to see all the photos of the unearthed preparations. Wish I could have been there to help pick dandelions!

  3. June 13, 2013 3:20 am

    I am Vincent from Kenya. Am looking for the place I can have experience of biodynamic agriculture, caring of the disadvantaged in the community and anthroposophy am from Kenya. I trained at Emerson college in UK.

    • Thea Maria Carlson permalink*
      June 19, 2013 12:22 pm

      Hi Vincent,
      Our North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program provides opportunities to work and learn on biodynamic farms in the United States and Canada. Please visit https://www.biodynamics.com/nabdap for more information.
      Thea

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: