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that cow horn business

 
Greta Fields
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I wanted to post this thread on the cowhorn business, since it seems to be controversial. People are turned off by biodynamic gardening because they hear about the cowhorn business -- that biodynamic gardeners do this weird thing of planting cowhorns full of manure in soil.
Well, I Just read about the reasoning behind this. The soil scientists around the turn of the century discovered that certain microbes produce humus. These microbes love to multiply in manure. Furthermore, these microbes are found in the body parts of dead creatures, like cow guts. Furthermore, if you add manure to the dead body parts, you get a great germ culture of humus-producing microbes.
Horns also contain the microbes, and you can put manure inside the horns to make a fast producing culture of humus-producing microbes. The microbes migrate from the horn into the infertile soil around them, and make that soil fertile fast -- they say it produces soil that is a lot like soil with lots of earthworm castings.
Now, you can also stuff guts of dead things with manure and plant the guts, which also provide those microbe cultures. However, it is probably a lot cleaner and easier to use the cow horns.
These scientists came up with this method of making microbe implants for soil because they were requested by farmers to find a way to correct depleted soil in Europe. then, when some of Rudolf Steiner's friends came to America, they were confronted with the Dust Bowl problem. They began trying to find ways to fix bad soil in America.
You can order nice clean little packages of microbes from garden supply companies, or you can recycle parts of the dead animals on your farm. You can also bury dead relatives in the garden, like the Chinese did. And you can plant dead fish around the base of corn, like the Indians did. Planting cowhorns is not so weird afterall, you see?
 
Adam Klaus
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Great explaination Greta, thanks. A bit synchronistic as well for me, as I was cleaning out one of the barn sheds today and found a bucket of cow horns. Right on time for a winter round of BD 500.
Love that, when all aligns well. Thanks for being a part of it-
 
Greta Fields
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Yep. Sounds like synchronicity - finding lots of cowhorns laying around. It can't hurt to try it!
I have not tried BD 500 or the other preparations with the funny names. I plan to try them someday. I know I can order them from the Pfeiffer farm.
 
William James
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Actually there are far weirder stuff and far more vicious techniques when you look a little deeper into into what Steiner proposes.

I don't have the info on hand, but I could look for it if anyone wants to be really grossed-out.

The cow horn business doesn't go over really well with vegans or vegetarians, so I doubt the examples of the chinese or indians would be convincing to them.

There are other ways to create good soil that don't require a direct connection with the planet venus. Albrecht cation exchange capacity also does well, and it is based on verifiable facts about the soil.

I'm glad that you've found some reasoning for the microbe-horn-rich soil question, but I'd be interested in seeing side-by-side tests of

1) (Steiner's theory) horn with manure with procedure (moon phase, whatever).
2) horn with manure without any other procedure.
3) plastic horn shape with manure in it.
4) just manure localized
5) manure spread out.

I think that might be sufficient to see if (1) actually does any better than the others at creating good soil.

I don't doubt that people have had good results with cow dung and horns, I'm sure they have. I just would be interested in finding out why they have had good results.

William
 
John Polk
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I would imagine that a fresh cow horn would be much more biologically active than one that had been laying around in a shed for years. I have read that some of the 'myco' organisms are carnivorous - they convert animal byproducts into a form that the plants can utilize. Based on that, I can see how a soil that was void of animal inputs would have much less microbial activity, ergo deficiency in the plants - an unbalanced environment.

 
Victor Johanson
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Greta Fields wrote:...I Just read about the reasoning behind this. The soil scientists around the turn of the century discovered that certain microbes produce humus. These microbes love to multiply in manure. Furthermore, these microbes are found in the body parts of dead creatures, like cow guts. Furthermore, if you add manure to the dead body parts, you get a great germ culture of humus-producing microbes.
Horns also contain the microbes, and you can put manure inside the horns to make a fast producing culture of humus-producing microbes. The microbes migrate from the horn into the infertile soil around them, and make that soil fertile fast -- they say it produces soil that is a lot like soil with lots of earthworm castings


That may be someone's reasoning, but I believe biodynamicists assert that cow horns act as antennae for concentrating cosmic forces into the material they contain. Microbes aren't any part of the equation; it's all about balancing etheric forces, which (at least at this point) are outside the realm of the scientific establishment. I haven't read all of Steiner's lectures on agriculture, but it is my impression that his conclusions were derived through metaphysical insight, rather than from then-current science. Most people are leery of accepting anything that isn't "provable" by the scientific materialists in charge of "knowledge" today. I admit that it sounds far out, but it's unwise to casually dismiss unconventional and even bizarre theories just because they clash with modern perceptions. Perhaps there are subtle forces in play that are undetectable with our current level of technology; absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. Microbes existed long before van Leeuwenhoek witnessed them through his new invention. Believing in cosmic forces seems no less absurd than considering ourselves mechanistically, as mere walking bags of chemicals resulting from random coincidence, so one of these days maybe I'll try some of these techniques and evaluate them personally. In the meantime I'm striving to keep my mind open, even to crazy-sounding theories.
 
William James
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Victor Johanson wrote:
Believing in cosmic forces seems no less absurd than considering ourselves mechanistically, as mere walking bags of chemicals resulting from random coincidence, so one of these days maybe I'll try some of these techniques and evaluate them personally. In the meantime I'm striving to keep my mind open, even to crazy-sounding theories.


Well said. Sorry if my post seemed like Steiner-bashing. I try to keep an open mind about what I haven't personally tried, and report on what I have tried. I have not tried cow dung in horns, and I don't think I'd like to try that for personal reasons, but I would like to try other bio-dynamic stuff for sure.

William
 
Adam Klaus
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Victor Johanson wrote:absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence.... I'm striving to keep my mind open, even to crazy-sounding theories.


Brilliant thinking Victor. Much respect for your clear articulation.
 
Victor Johanson
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William James wrote:
Well said. Sorry if my post seemed like Steiner-bashing. I try to keep an open mind about what I haven't personally tried, and report on what I have tried. I have not tried cow dung in horns, and I don't think I'd like to try that for personal reasons, but I would like to try other bio-dynamic stuff for sure.
William


No worries--I'm cognizant of the weirdness that is Steiner and confess that I would have a hard time not feeling ridiculous doing some of it. Then again it wouldn't be the first time I felt ridiculous doing something that later proved to be awesome, and I'm kind of weird myself anyway, so that won't discourage me enough to rule out biodynamics absent a fair personal trial. I do get frustrated with modern materialistic scientism, which seems to have become almost a cult itself, displaying far too much hubris given the fact that only a minute fraction of universal knowledge has been uncovered so far.
 
Meghan Orbek
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I'm new to biodynamics but I will say this:
Seeing, smelling, and feeling the product that comes out of those cow horns after they've been dug up.... is pretty interesting.

I can't say I'm all geared up to start practicing biodynamics myself, but to be a gardener and experience these substances firsthand (in the biodynamics class I'm taking) is really different from reading about it and trying to wrap your brain all around it. (It also helps to have it explained by people who love to garden that way, who love the lectures, who love the preparations.)

I recommend a tactile encounter to anyone who demands scientific experiments. Sure, experiments are important- but they are not all that is needed to create understanding.

Just a thought.
 
Chris Kott
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I am personally not a fan of bashing of any sort, but I tend to regard constant, unflagging determination to ascribe natural processes to the realm of the mystical as basest evasion. I have as yet to go over Pfeiffer's work in detail, but what I've read of it seems like traditional observe-hypothesize-experiment-observe-conclude science to me. Not positive, but I think that they called that the Scientific Method, somewhere.

One of the strengths of the traditional approach is that there is nothing you can't apply it to, so long as your experiments are controlled and scientific, and so long as there is something we can measure. We can then come up with theories that, if proven over time, become accepted as Laws.

More importantly, it lets us use our knowledge in different scenarios, changing our approaches based on what we encounter so that our knowledge still applies. An unwillingness to examine what's going on in cases where biodynamics works only keeps people from adopting techniques that could be seen as common sense instead of cultist ramblings.

So bash and prepare to be bashed, I say, though, of course, in the politest and most inclusive way possible. Lets look at the little pieces and see how it all goes together.

-CK
 
William James
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Chris: Thank you for that post. It sums up nicely part of how I feel. I wrote this response but I put it on the back-burner because (probably like you) I felt the discussion tending toward biodynamics=good, science=bad.

Meghan Orbek wrote:
I recommend a tactile encounter to anyone who demands scientific experiments. Sure, experiments are important- but they are not all that is needed to create understanding.
Just a thought.


Hi Meghan,
A tactile encounter is exactly what I would be interested in when it comes to that "cow horn business". However, I don't think it's too much to ask for another tactile encounter with another similar object that is not a cow horn in the the same general location. I don't require a peer-reviewed double blind whatever from Nature magazine, just something for comparison-sake. It's more like a practical, experiential, "folk-science" that permaculture is known for. Make a supposition, test it in the field, get some feedback. I think that biodynamics would be fine with that model, unless biodynamics is "don't think, just do what Steiner did," which I don't think it is.

If someone shows me a freshly dug up horn and shows me how rich the soil around it is, in my mind there could be a million reasons that the rich soil is there. That's just what my little experience with soil has taught me. I'm open the the possibility that the "truth" is far beyond me and in fact involves celestial movements, it's just that there are ways to create rich soil that
a) work just fine for me.
b) are simple to wrap your head around. Basic physics and biology (two subjects I did horribly at, but I'm learning).

But I digress,
William
 
Alicia Gauld
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Hi. There's a world wide shortage of cow horns due to favouring of polled cattle breeds, which resulted in studies into various different objects & organs etc. that may turn the manure into BD 500. The closest they could get was a hoof...Some years back now. Maybe some one else has the reference??
Here's a start www.biodynamic.org.nz/P500_imp_hns_res_rep.pdf
 
edwin lake
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I found this thread while searching for somewhere to buy a raw cow horn. I think the cow horn business is more metaphysical and involves cosmic energy verses science as we call it. Steiner used the term "science" in a broader sense than we Americans do in our modern, closed-mindedness.
 
John Master
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Blessed to have a biodynamic farm across town that produces some of the best food I have ever found. I try to give them as much business as I can, they are true stewards of the land and some of the most genuine and wise folks I have ever met. Wishing there were more local farms who operate with their philosophy.
 
John Master
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I also thought that enzymes were a part of the science behind the horn manure preparation, something also about it having to be a cold weather process?
 
Stewart Lundy
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I personally think the horn manure works in a way similar to a dung beetle. A dung beetle takes manure and buries it. What does it live off? The juices. The process of burying manure and allowing it to dehydrate makes a pretty awesome substance. Charles Walters (founder of ACRES, USA) speaks highly of both dung beetles and Horn Manure. Here is an image worth working with:

Rudolf Steiner calls earthworms "golden creatures" and also speaks of how manure, buried, becomes "sensitized." Steiner indicates that earthworms leave behind the "perfect" amount of "ethericity" (vital growth forces). What comes to my mind is the sacred Golden Scarab of the ancient Egyptians. They knew it was a source of fertility, though it is a very sensitive creature.

There is certainly something alchemical about combining a horn (product of metabolism) and manure (another product of metabolism), but what needs to be emphasized is it is the form of the horn that has its influence. It creates a very special microclimate. On a cow, this "microclimate" of the horn contains the long nasal cavity of the cow. It reflects scents back into the cow, depositing a new layer of skin (horn) progressively. The biodynamic impulse is to create "odorless" composts. Why? Odors are nutrients escaping. By the same token, this is why having meadows and medicinal herbs near your plants is a good thing: aromatherapy not just in the garden, but for the garden! If a compost pile smells bad, it is bad. Steiner indicates -- and apologizes for the turn of phrase -- that any organism should "smell inwardly" which is to say, nutrients should stay inside and not gas off. A membrane ("skin") is necessary to make this happen. On compost, topsoil or peat can be used as a "biofilter" to make this happen. The preparations are made with specially shaped membranes to facilitate special modes of decomposition.

The shape (form) of the cow horn is a special chamber where nitrogenous gases want to escape upward, but cannot. At the same time, excessive moisture is allowed to escape downward. As the gases are not permitted to escape, what you have is a peculiar situation where gases are kept in direct contact with manure buried within good topsoil. The result is that, as successive generations of microbes develop and die, eventually something will show up that can utilize the gases contained within the horn. Azotobacteria and actinomycetes show up in great force because it is an environment that favors them.

In India vegetarian Horn Manure #500 is made by making a mould from a cow horn. Good results are claimed. Why shouldn't this work, after all? The claim is that it is the geometry of the horn, not the substance of the horn that facilitates this special transformation.

Hope that helps...
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Questions...

Orientation of horn in ground? Like a cup catching water or a roof shedding it?

Depth of burial?

Horns per acre? Spacing

Cow manure and cow horn or can unrelated manure do the same task?

Sorry for silly questions!
 
Stewart Lundy
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They're not silly questions. It makes a word of difference. The horns should be placed so that they shed water (opening faces down). Steiner used pig bladders to close the ends off. Others sometimes use high quality paramagnetic clay (like Azomite) to plug the open end. Steiner recommends that the soil not be too "clayey" or two "sandy" -- and warns again against it being too sandy. He doesn't warn against soils being too chalky (limestone) but relatively few soils are. The clay can be saved to be used as a separate spray.

My understanding is this:

"Below a pH of 6.2 to 6.5 azotobacteria and actinomycetes can not develop." - Nikolaus Remer, Organic Manure, pg 34.


Calcium is needed for legumes to make nitrogenase to break apart Nitrogen in the air. If the pH is wrong, legumes aren't fixing nitrogen. In India, as much as 50% finished biodynamic compost is mixed into the pit of horns.

Depth:

We take manure, such as we have available. We stuff it into the horn of a cow, and bury the horn a certain depth into the earth — say about 18 in. to 2 ft. 6 in., provided the soil below is not too clayey or too sandy. (We can choose a good soil for the purpose. It should not be too sandy). You see, by burying the horn with its filling of manure, we preserve in the horn the forces it was accustomed to exert within the cow itself, namely the property of raying back whatever is life-giving and astral. Through the fact that it is outwardly surrounded by the earth, all the radiations that tend to etherealise and astralise are poured into the inner hollow of the horn. And the manure inside the horn is inwardly quickened with these forces, which thus gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving.
And so, throughout the winter — in the season when the Earth is most alive — the entire content of the horn becomes inwardly alive. For the Earth is most inwardly alive in winter-time. All that is living is stored up in this manure. Thus in the content of the horn we get a highly concentrated, life-giving manuring force. Thereafter we can dig out the horn. We take out the manure it contains.
- See more at: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA327/English/BDA1958/19240612p01.html#sthash.VRfMYzL8.dpuf


Here is a question concerning the number of horns. He indicates one horn for one acre, diminishing as it increases. It is really only a couple ounces per acre. I feel like it's more a question of repeated applications than dose. It's a bit like whether you keep feeding your sourdough starter or if you feed it and forget it. Probiotics work best taken regularly, morning/evening. The Horn Manure works well in the morning/evening of the year: the spring and fall equinoxes. But it works at other times too.

Question: Should the dilution be continued arithmetically?
Answer: In this respect, no doubt, certain things will yet have to he discussed. Probably, with an increasing area you will need more water and proportionately fewer cow-horns. You will be able to manure large areas with comparatively few cow-horns. In Dornach we had twenty-five cow-horns; to begin with we had a fairly Large garden to treat. First we took one horn to half a bucketful. Then we began again, taking a whole bucketful and two cow-horns. Afterwards we had to manure a relatively larger area. We took seven cow-horns and seven bucketfuls.
- See more at: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA327/English/BDA1958/Ag1958_discuss4.html#sthash.f1IbJhxJ.dpuf


Manure type: Steiner indicates that if you have sheep, you can stuff sheep hooves with sheep manure. Pig manure is of little use. Human manure is even worse. Horse manure might be tried, but it would be wrapped in a horse-hair vessel -- impractical. Cow manure is really the best because she is the gentlest digester. Ruminant manure is one of the only sources of microbes (outside fungi) that can break down lignin into humus. And lactating pregnant cow manure from a horned cow is even better. Even better would be such a cow that was born on your farm, though Steiner indicates that a cow that has eaten from the farm for three years or so is already "at home" on the new farm. It would be worth experimenting to see how other manures transform. I would not expect pig manure to turn out well, though. It might work with sheep or goat manure, though it would have a very different quality.

I am told by some that the horns should not touch, but be separated by the compost/topsoil mix.

I've attached some images of how different these manures are. Reacting (objectively) with Silver Nitrate, cow manure forms horn-like flares. Deer manure forms manifold branching antler-like forms. Everything in an organism is connected to everything else in that organism. These pictures are compelling to me.
cow manure silver nitrate kolisko.png
[Thumbnail for cow manure silver nitrate kolisko.png]
Fresh Cow Manure
horn manure versus fresh manure.png
[Thumbnail for horn manure versus fresh manure.png]
Fresh Cow Manure versus Mature #500 Horn Manure
stag manure biodynamics kolisko.png
[Thumbnail for stag manure biodynamics kolisko.png]
Fresh Stag Manure
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Very interesting, thank you!
 
Gina Jeffries
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I just attended a farm tour Sunday where the farmer did this very thing! And he did it in one field and not another as a means of comparison. He stated there was no comparison as the treated field was scads more productive and healthy! However, his method seemed a bit different than what was stated here. He'd bury the manure filled horn all winter but in the spring, retrieve it, mix the contents with water and apply it to the fields at a rate of one tablespoon per acre.
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