This packet of brown stuff has arrived in the mail - what do I do now?
The first step is often the hardest - ordering it.
Well done, you're off to a good start.
Gather materials - a bucket, and some rain water
Biodynamic gardeners are all different, and everyone has their own method of stirring.
I'll describe what I do - the lazy method and also the way I teach it when I'm trying to show others better habits.
For my small gardens I like using a 10 litre bucket, and if I'm stirring in a group then I like each person to have their own bucket.
For larger properties I have a larger barrel, I think it's about 60 litres, and I half fill this, so I can stir about 30 litres at once.
I love stirring in a metal bucket, but lots of people stir in plastic buckets, so don't let the quality of bucket hold you up.
Sometimes I don't have access to rain water, in which case I'll use tap water. In these instances it's best to let the tap water sit for a couple of days so that the chlorine gases off.
A lot of people warm up their water - ideally using a fire, so it's natural heat. I have a portable camp stove with a gas flame that I use, or I sometimes use my dedicated 'gardening' pot and warm the water in the kitchen.
If the weather is on the cool side, then it's lovely stirring warm water, but if it's early autumn or late spring, then I'm quite happy stirring without heating the water.
NOTE: when you heat the water, you want to be careful to warm it up to about body temperature, but don't let it go hotter and then cool down to the right temperature. The structure of the water changes as it heats up, and the BD500 is a gentle, sensitive process. It's like you need to treat the water carefully right from the moment you begin to prepare for the stirring.
How much water, how much BD500?
This is where I'm a bit lazy...
The packet of BD500 you get from the Biodynamic Association of NZ is one portion, enough to do about an acre (4-6 suburban gardens)
In my little garden at Raspberry Lane, I tend to use a 1/4 packet with half a bucket of water. At the Soil Farm in Tuakau I would use a whole packet in 30 litres of water.
If I'm stirring with friends, then I tend to use a whole packet of BD500 and divide it up amongst everyone - up to 6 people.
I've seen one portion stretched further, but I personally don't enjoy stirring a really diluted batch quite as much.
Once you start stirring, if you get a really good vortex, then the water will rise up the side of the bucket. I've found from experience that starting with the bucket HALF full is a good way to avoid slopping the mixture everywhere.
Here's a short video showing how to make the vortex. I enjoy getting the water moving so quickly that I can see the bottom of the bucket.
Notice how once the water is moving harmoniously I let it go for a few seconds, and then change the direction?
This is really important.
We are creating order, and then chaos. Order then chaos. Or you could think of it as creating order out of chaos again and again.
When we change the direction, it brings more oxygen into the mixture, and then as we form the vortex, it's like the water builds a memory of how to make that vortex. Gradually, any little lumps of BD500 mixture are suspended in the water - it doesn't fully dissolve, which is part of the reason for stirring the mixture so long.
Do I REALLY have to stir for 60 minutes?
The purists say yes, 60 minutes is essential.
I'm often tempted to stop after 45-50 minutes. There's a moment when the liquid takes on the texture of melted chocolate, and the surface gets all silken. To me this feels like the point when if you really have to stop early, then you've altered the structure of the liquid enough to have some effect.
But the best idea is probably to set a timer for 60 minutes, pretend it's an hour long yoga or meditation class, and settle in for the whole duration. It's a good time to ponder your plans for the garden, and put the best intentions into that bucket.
I used to get told off for talking while stirring... I still talk too much, but am getting better at steering the conversation towards uplifting topics like what people hope to do with their garden, what they love about their space, and what they are grateful for. If the garden absorbed everything you said and felt, then you would possibly avoid discussing politics, right?
Once the hour of stirring is complete, what do I do next?
This next step is the fun bit - you get to spread the liquid all over your property.
Some people swear by tree branches, and prepare these especially for their 500 stir, then compost them afterwards. Others have a small brush they use - the shape of the bristles seems to be optimal for capturing the largest volume of liquid, and is ergonomically perfect for waving it in such a way that the droplets fall in a beautiful arc.
I have my own lazy method - I like using my hand, and sort of pushing small amounts of liquid out the side of the bucket in a way that they fall like big raindrops on the garden. I think I developed this style with my tiny gardens, where I wanted a little more control over where the droplets fall.
You can see from the video below how this works (I'm using the CPP cow pat pit preparation here for the sake of demonstrating)
Do I spread it ALL over the property, or just the edible garden?
I like imagining this is an energetic cleanse, and I actually apply the biodynamic preparations to concrete driveways, walkways, paving stones and rocks.
It's probably a good idea to give the vegetable garden and fruit trees a more generous dose.
Some people recommend working methodically - to start with the perimeter of your section, and apply the mixture in a sort of decreasing spiral form.
I'm not much of a purist, and think if you've gone to the effort of stirring for an hour, then you can judge where that liquid is best applied, and how.
I like using it as a chance to sort of talk to each part of the garden, wish it well, and express gratitude.
I reckon you'll find your own style.
If you're in New Zealand and you want to get some BD500 to use in your garden, then I recommend joining the Biodynamic Association and ordering your own. Otherwise you can find a local group and stir with them.