Being married to a farmer means that having dirt tracked into the house is a way of life. Fortunately, I like dirt. And I like living a life that keeps me close to the soil. Rudolf Steiner described the soul-like qualities of soil, and he spoke of soil as having an “inner life”—qualities we would normally attribute to sentient beings. Biodynamic farmer and researcher Maria Thun described how soil has a rhythmic respiration process that takes place both during the day-night cycle and throughout the year. Imagine that in the wintertime, the earth has taken an in-breath, and is almost holding its breath, deeply. With summer comes a giant exhalation. In biodynamic gardening, the horn manure preparation is sprayed in the evening when the soil is breathing in, and the horn silica preparation is sprayed in the early morning when the soil is breathing out.
If you ever hold a clump of finished compost or healthy, damp soil in your hand, it is easy to experience the aliveness of soil. A moist, humus-based soil smells ancient, finished, well structured, and to me, like home. The earthy aroma causes something deep inside me to feel settled and secure.
Soil does so much more than prop up plants. It acts as a regulator of water, light, and warmth. it's a storage place for plant nutrients; and in prairie grasslands and through intense balanced rotational animal grazing, soil acts as a valuable carbon sink. Ms. Thun described the factors that allow soil (when worked on by farmers and gardeners) to take up cosmic forces from the farthest reaches of our solar system and beyond: clay (from rock), life (from the plant), and feeling (from the animal). Soil as a conductor of cosmic life forces might be a new and even outrageous thought for some, but it's a concept that biodynamic farmers have been integrating into their agricultural methods since the early 1920s. And this is the primary purpose of a biodynamic planting calendar. Rudolf Steiner stated that when cosmic life forces properly integrate their way into soils through optimum biodynamic cultivation, the food grown for people and domesticated animals is changed. It becomes more than “mere stomach fillers”; rather, when consumed, the food grown in enlivened soils helps us connect with thoughts that are coming from our highest and best selves. Whether you agree or not, consider it!
I invite you to see soil as a magical substance that is scientifically and spiritual complex. While we are being busy human beings, deciding who we shall vote for in 2016; what time we need to get the kids to their next activity; how we will manage an illness; pay the bills, cope with climate change, and all of the other common stressors of Western life, let's not forget the humble foundation of our existence. Next time you have the chance, take a big sniff of good healthy soil. I guarantee that it helps put things in perspective.