By TRÄGGAE

By TRÄGGAE

Biodynamic Gardening

the Atmosphere of the Week

 

Pests in the garden and loads of Bd 500

What do you do when you find pests, small yellow/greenish caterpillars all over your 300 peach trees? They have eaten on the leaves to get fat and now made there little cocoon by gluing the leaves together.

Well as an organic farmer you don´t spray pesticides, so instead you try to find the best natural enemy you can find. I have a lot of ladybugs that eat the really small pest but not enough birds to eat the caterpillars.....my solution was to bring all the kids there.

Imagine 40 small kids, 7-8 years old, everyone equipped with a small red or pink bucket and in the other end of the garden a small fire. They moved all over the orchard picking the cocooned leaves from the branches and piling them up in their tiny buckets. I had to feed the fire with more and more dry leaves and sticks to be able to get rid of their rich harvest.

 

Today class 3 came on a unplanned visit because their music teacher was not here. I stirred Bd 500 for the fifth time in a week. But today I had the support of 14 strong and playful kids from class 1. They lined up and wanted to help me. 3 at the time were helping me with the stirring and the rest were weeding around the composts.

 

Weeding for them is rather picking flowers, chit chatting, running around, looking at the spirals in the bucket with preparation water and eventually pulling out some plants with the roots.

The good thing is that all the running around actually keeps the weeds down.

After this lovely stirring were I was the meditative center and the kids offered laughs and playfulness to the preparation we divided class 3 in 3 groups and we tried to do our best spreading the water in the small veggie garden, on the big field and in the orchard. Some buckets became empty quickly, simple turned upside down in the field, some lost all their water during the walk to the orchard because the one managing the bucket were thinking about everything else than the bucket. And some spread more preparation on their friends than on the field. I hope they will grow well.

I wished I could speak Chinese because they didn´t listen to me at all.

I had to grab them and place them, one by one, on a row with a few meters to the next one on their side to make them cross the field.

1 big bucket of preparation was finished in less than 15 minutes and I have to plan for a bigger barrel.

Kung Fu, Music and Gardening

I had a lovely day today. Class 4 came to join the work in the garden and they alternated 3 groups between Music, Kung Fu and Gardening. Nice mix I must say.

 

With me they painted tress with Tree Paste. But we shifted from the big to the medium trees. The bark is less rough and easy to work with and I made the paste more fluid to ease the effort of sticking the cowdung-clay mix to the stem of the trees.

 

The first group worked amazingly engaged and hard. The next group were a little bit more scattered. The last group were tired and lazy and could hardy finish one tree in a group of three kids. They had played guitar for 40 minutes, done Kung Fu kicks for another 40 and now they had to get dirty and paint trees with my smelly sticky mix. Luckily the paste finished and they could rush of.

I was still amazed that alltogether we had finished 40 trees!!! Not a bad result of one day in the orchard.

 

Compost pits and Painted trees

Today I had 40 kids in the garden.

I worked by the computer in the morning and got the message just before the class that I had an extra class of 25 kids because the Eurythmi teacher was sick.

I rushed off to the garden and we started stirring Bd500 to prepare for Tree Paste. Since it always takes time for the kids to move from the school to the garden we had time to finish the stirring and the mixing of the paste. Half of the group were brushing the small Peach trees and the rest were painting.

They got cow-dung-clay all over hands, shirts, hair and shoes and they complained wildly trying to dry it of on their friends, me, the tree and on the grass. We tried to calm them down and eventually they painted really well and finished 4 big trees.

The other group, class 1, were cutting grass in smaller pieces for the composts. Only 1 boy got cut by another boy and had to go to hospital and get 5 stitches. Not a bad day.

I didn´t have time to take any photos of the kids working because I was running up and down all the time.

 

 

Composts

After a few days of planning and hard work I managed to have a meeting a get all my ideas presented to the teachers of the school. They Liked It. So we kept on working and I started to build up their compost place. After seeing their land during the first days I decided that the Composts should be situated in the heart of the garden. The view from the gate gives gives you an image that the old Apricot trees are planted in an Alley reaching the middle of the garden. And there, in the shade of a few big trees the composts will be placed. 

A serie of composts covered in dry grass and hay. The typical romantic image of a Bd farm.

They will have compost for weeds, one for household waste, one for cowdung and some CPP pits. There will be a Stirring Tree were the barrel and the stick for the stirring of preparations is placed. And a shed will be built to house the CPP pits and some buckets of ashes, rock dust and lime. I will be beautiful

 

We have also started up a medicinal part of the garden, transplanting some nettles, chrysanthemum and other useful herbs and flowers. They are still buying plants from outside and we have already got some pest on the tomatoes that we need to fight. So the nettles and we got from Phoenix Farm will be very useful.

In the first meeting I wished for about 1500-2000 kg of cow dung to make compost for next year. After a few days it arrived. I thought we should plant potatoes this first year on the big field. To fight the weeds, to use less dung and to have an easy crop to see the quality of the soil. And suddenly 200 kg of potatoes were there.

I wished for seeds for flowers and herbs. Some of them originally comes from China, Chrysanthemum, Giant Hyssop, Calendula, Tagetes etc. And we founf out that they are very expensive here. Sold only per gram and with prices double or triple compared to Sweden. Weird. But i guess there is still not a big movement of organic farming here that uses plants like this in big quantities so they are only sold for home gardens. I hope we will see a change soon. Organic farming is becoming bigger and bigger with shops, farmers markets and more producers. But compared to the conventional production it is still small.

 

The Orchard and The Tree Paste

The garden is about 1,6 ha big with half of the surface inhabited by old and young fruittrees. Apricots and Peach. There will be a 300 sqm vegetable garden were the kids plan, plant and work and a field of about 2500 sqm were there will grow Potatoes, Corn, Pumpkins, Peanuts etc.

The rest is open areas were we are planning a Greenhouse, a Shelter for animals, a Playground, a Running court and, of course, The Compost Place.

This is a young Peach that was in full blossom when we arrived. They have about 300 trees that are 3 years old. They might give fruits this year.

I am putting up a plan for them to manage the trees in a biodynamic way.

This is an area of 10-15 years old Apricot trees. They divide the garden and creates a bit of a forrest feeling in the middle of the flat and open land. I am now cleaning up the under vegetation and are looking forward to bring in a few sheeps to graze and clean up even more. There are full of small, green, hairy apricots that the children loves to pick and munch on. They taste rather good, but definitely still very immature. Luckily the kids are short and they can only pick fruits from the lower branches so some will be left for the harvest.

Together we started the project ot putting Bd Tree Paste on the trees. I wanted to give the trees a proper boost, the kids a nice activity and to introduce this way of taking care of the trees to the teachers. So we started of by brushing the trees. Considering that we have about 450 trees and only 100 kids they would have to to 4 trees each. A ecvation that will not hold. The first day I had 20 kids from grade 3. Divided in three groups they went into action. 6 kids with brushed ran of into the garden brushing a little here a little there, a little on each other and in the end they ended up, all together, in a good climbing tree, celaning every branch up to the height of 3 metres meticulously. Amazing work. We did about 25 trees in 1,5 hour (I guess I did about 10 of them).

We found a lot of eggs of different insects that were hidden in the cracks of the bark and camoflaged in the best way. Sorry for them we cleaned them all off.

 

Kids in the Garden

Coming from production of vegetables and education of adults the step into the realm of children is really different. The main aim of this garden is to give the young citykids of Beijing a good experience. Which is reasons good enough. But from my point of view were you try your best to give the plants the best opportunities ever, to have 25 kids in the garden running and jumping all over, planting fragile Parsley plants without hardly any rootsystem and then having the guard of the place giving them water by a hose without a  nozzle, on a distance of a few metres, so that thethick beam of water basically smashes the plants and makes the surface of the clay soil compact and properly silted . I am waiting for a moment to try to give some basic education to the staff, the guards and the teachers. I will get all the Biodynamic Preparations this week after a visit to Phoenix Farm and then we will dive into Composts, Stirring and Spreading Preps in the gardens.

But compared to Swedish kids the Chinese shows an enormous dedication to share the work in the garden. i guess they are all excited to have the opportunity to be outside and in lush and protected area and to have lessons in the green, gardening, music, drawing, kung fu etc.

But after each class I see a need of Saving the Plants that they just planted. So in the end the guard, who is the caretaker of the garden, does a really good job loosening the surface of the soil after the impact of tens of small feet, hands, buttocks and other body parts that connect to the earth.

So far they ave planted Tomatoes, climbing Beans, Sunflowers, Cucumber, Chili, Parsley, Mint, Salads, and some, to me, unknown species.

Biodynamic Adventure in China

The Vegetable garden at the Steiner School prepared for planting.

The week before we arrived they did this design, the teachers and the kids together.

We landed here in the end of April, the 28th. And got slowly established at the school. It was all empty. We had a week for ourselves. All the kids were on holiday and all the teachers left for a big Waldorf/gathering in Korea.

Through Thomas Lüthi i got the connection to the school already in december 2012 and II was invited by Kathy Hu to come and help them start up their garden in a biodynamic way.

The just moved to this new compound last autumn from a smaller place situated closer to Beijing. Now we are outside the 6th ringroad and it is contryside with villages. Not very idyllically  and the nature is a bit ruff here, obviously Beijing is situated on the rim of a desert. Dry climate, Not a lush nature. Dry soil of sand and clay. But with the school compound belongs 1,6 ha of land.

Half of it consists of fruittrees, an orchard of Peach and Apricots. When we arrived they were in full bloom. Pink, pink, pink... They opened up the soil for a filed of 2000 sqm and they have the small plot of about 350 sqm were the kids now are planting and sowing seeds with enourmous engagement.

 

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