The last month has seen heavy rains and some flooding across much of New Zealand. The South Island was effectively separated into two parts as rivers and lakes reached their capacity and water began to swallow up roads and bridges. Lake Wanaka had just reached town when the water started to recede.
In Central Otago, such heavy rain is unusual and water-stress is most usually a concern for farmers and winegrowers. Fortunately the soils here, a melange of schists compressed and pulverised by old glaciers, in other places gravel riverbeds and loess, drain easily.
This week (commencing Monday 9/12) saw a complete shift back to dry and hot and the first signs of flowering could be seen in the vineyard – not something you want to happen when it’s raining.
On Tuesday, with the weather having shown some mercy, I was able to participate (I was more of an active spectator, really) in the application of the biodynamic preparation 500*. Preparation 500 aids in the formation of humus and more broadly promotes good soil health – an increase in the presence of macro-organisms etc. In turn, soil structure gradually begins to improve over time, then root penetration, and so on…
Fresh manure was used for the assembly of the CPP**, or rather, two new ones. The CPP, or Cow Pat Pit, is manure mixed with ground eggshells and basalt dust and is used in the manner of a compost. The CPP receives the compost preparations 502 through to 507 and undergoes aerobic decomposition for 3-4 months.
It was a great day of learning for me and I had the additional pleasure of meeting Su Hoskin of the Biodynamic Community Otago. Su started her journey in biodynamics with Burn Cottage (established in 2002 by the Sauvage family and now one of the icons of Central Otago) and also worked with Domaine Thompson (who also make wine in Gevrey-Chambertin). Throughout the day she patiently and graciously answered a continuous barrage of questions from the team.
Of course, I’m left with as many, if not more, questions than I started with, as well as a bit of reading to do.
* This is the cow manure packed into cow horns (the picture of which adorns many books, articles and pamphlets on biodynamics) which is buried for a six month fermentation. It is diluted, using a process called dynamization and applied directly to the soils.
** The Cow Pat Pit is not one of Steiner’s preparations. However it is widely used in biodynamic agriculture to improve soil fertility.