Thésée, Touraine (Loire)
Another important practice of biodynamie is the preparation 500, shortnamed usually as the 500, it involves manure that has spent the winter in cow horns disposed underground on the farms's land. This page by Biodynamie Services will get you the essentials of this preparation. This farming practice is even more controversial for conventionally-trained farmers (and for the general public at large raised on public-school Cartesianism), just think about it a second : filling cow horns with manure and burying them a couple feet under for a few months, just for the purpose of using the manure for a dynamized-water preparation to be sprayed on the vineyard, the fields and the vegetable garden...Not really easy to explain to the regular guy.
You may know in your own field how it's difficult to go against the mainstream narrative, we humans often behave like sheep and prefer to brush off unsettling concepts that don't fit in our agreed-upon model. I guess many farmers who were tempted to at least give these farming practices a try have been put off by the anticipated uproar in their community. Today in 2015 it's easier of course, the thing may look as weird but so many farmers and growers embraced it (some being top-tier domaines) that at least you can take virtual protection from their own time-proven experience (and wine-rating success) against the mob of critics.
If Biodynamics lacks in recognition in the mainstream farming milieu it can compensate with the generous sharing and emulation culture of its followers, this session was as much to learn the basics of making a preparation than exchanging freely one's own thoughts and experiments, be it in a private vegetable garden or in a vineyard.
this workshop took place in a beautiful day in october.
This collective preparation of the horn silica was made in Thésée sur Cher, on the other side of the Cher river from Pouillé, in a domaine which is really a living farm, in deeds and in spirit, the one of Bruno Allion (picture on left with his fork, at the side of Paul Gillet) whom I happen to have visited earlier this summer. Bruno didn't have cows for the manure though, so the strategic raw material was brought from by a farmer of the region who works organic, Emmanuel Leroux and the whole preparation was directed by Bruno Allion and Alain Chabauty, from the Chambre d'Agriculture of the Loir-et-Cher. There were a good number of vignerons in the group, I'll not name them all but you may recognize them for having been profiled on Wineterroirs. Some of them would arrive a bit later during the workshop, like Laurent Saillard, Joel Courtault and Michel Augé. Most of them take part regularly to these collective workshops, and they of course exchange a lot between them like they already do for the natural vinification issues.
It's been years that I had planned to come to one of these horn-silica sessions, this time I didn't miss it. It was a beautiful monday in october, we'll remember 2015 for its fair weather well into autumn.
Simultaneously, 4 people began digging a large square of rich earth, that's where tyhe horns full of manure will be layed and buried for the whole of autumn and winter. The removed earth is put on these tarpaulins so that it can be put back neatly after the burial.
In spring, these horns will be unearthed, the manure will be taken out and it will be used for spraying preparations : like for the 501, a little bit of this horn manure will be mixed with water, the water being dynamized like you saw on the previous story, and this dynamized water will be sprayed on the vineyard, the field or the vegetable garden. Again, that may sound crazy but this gives beautiful results. From what I understand you can add also other dry weeds along with the manure when you dynamize the water, be it nettle or another weed know for its beneficial effects on the living.
Bruno Allion chose the spot because it had a nice exposition, it was thus a warm plot with long time exposition to the sun beams. He uncovered maybe 10 horns there with silica, the horns were a bit dirty after many months in the earth but oddly the silica looked so white and immaculate, you couldn't believe it stayed there underground through all sorts of weather.