02 July 2007

The Clock of the World

Keeping Track

Tactics is extension in space.  Strategy is extension in time.

Gardening teaches both Tactics and Strategy to the attentive student, though the emphasis tend to be on Strategy.

Tactics: Laying out garden beds. Which hoe to use for a given weed-challenge.  The pointy shovel or the straight-edged shovel for lifting that particular pile of manure?  Spade or fork for digging that bed?

Strategy: Right now, in the middle of Winter, I have no more than another month before all considerations of next Summer's crops will be before me.  Already I weigh up whether I have enough seed of the varieties I would like to grow, and seed orders take form.  Time to buy the crop netting I will need to keep Pumpkin Fly from the Cucurbits, come mid-January.  Compost heaps are a-cooking in anticipation of the Spring Rush.  It's already late to be digging new beds to increase the area under cultivation.

I usually end-up getting it wrong somewhere along the line.  Don't we all?

I guess that everyone has their own strange and unique ways to keep track of what-to-do-when.  Of course you have to remember to actually look at the damn wall-chart/spreadsheet/book/diary.

Hedgewizard describes, in a hilarious post, the soggy and disastrous end to one such system.


I have quite a few friends who subscribe to Rudolf Steiner's ideas on cultivation, summed up, codified and dogmatised as Biodynamic Growing.  Most are not Deeply Committed Members Of The Movement, merely dabblers who apply an eclectic handful of biodynamic potions and techniques -- a pinch of some or other weird concoction kept in a cow's horn added to the compost heap while dancing clockwise at full moon; Yarrow stored in a deer-bladder pouch.  A bit challenging, that last one, since the Red Deer fail utterly to be found in South Africa.

No!  I sound like I'm dissing the biodynamic ideas, and really, I'm not!  I just have trouble believing that these homoeopathic treatments of seed, soil, water and compost can have any significant effect on the growth of plants when its simply a case of not getting enough water, nitrogen or calcium, or when the soil pH is way out of whack.  In other words, the effects of macro-nutrient deficiency or imbalance vastly overshadows whether the moon was in Scorpio or Leo when you planted the seed.  Personally I don't believe I am that good a gardener that I have those large-effect inputs well enough under control for the subtle effects of biodynamic preparations to manifest.

One of the key ideas of biodynamic gardening is Sowing By The Moon.  In broad outline, we should sow leaf crops in the First Quarter of the moon -- that period from New Moon to Half Moon during the waxing phase -- fruit crops (Tomatoes, Chillis, Squashes and so on) from the Waxing Half to just before Full Moon, and root crops from Full Moon until the Waning Half.  The last quarter of the moon is no good for planting anything, and should be kept for digging beds, weeding and mulching.  Of course this is only the very crude outline; there is much, much more subtle detail; attention to astrological effects and their interaction with the nature of various plant varieties.

Whether you buy into this stuff or not (and I make no comment or commitment either way, myself) there is one very useful idea.

The Moon

The Moon gives us the perfect clock we need.  Every Moonth, sometime in the First Quarter, I know I need to plant Lettuce.  Every Half Moon its time to sow Radishes.

No need for fancy systems.  Just going outside of an evening to take a look at the sky.

The Sky

Number One Son bought an imposing reflector telescope, so we've been having lots of fun learning to use it.  Our triumph was getting good views of Jupiter, Saturn (it's awsome!) and Venus (blindingly bright) all on one evening's perfect viewing a couple of weeks ago.  Consequently we're learning a whole lot about the constellations -- the patterns of the heavens. The Clock Of The Year.

Then, too, I would dearly love to learn more about how to read Nature's clocks. Bits of folklore like, "Plant your Potatoes when the Apple trees blossom."  Anybody have some pointer to that sort of knowledge?  I imagine that huge swathes of that sort of lore has already been lost; how do we relearn it?  Reinvent it?

Yet more ways to reconnect ourselves with the Universe.  Actually, we've never really been disconnected; only in the tiny space inside our own heads have we thought so.

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