Preparation 501 is not the main ingredient used in a pair of button zipped Levi’s. Instead, it is one of the most important and most powerful elements of biodynamic agriculture.
Made from crushed quartz crystal that has been buried within cow horns for 6 months during the ‘light’ time of the year – between spring and autumn – it is used to increase the amount of light energy available to the plant in order to increase photosynthesis, thereby strengthening the plant and encouraging the development of fruit and seed.
In his Agriculture lectures, Steiner believed that “the Sun’s light and warmth, and all the meteorological processes connected with it are, in a way, related to the form and development of the vegetation that covers the soil.”
These light forces, as Peter Proctor explains in his book Grasp the Nettle, are represented as triangulation’s – such as can be seen in a bolt of lightning, or the flicker of flames from a bonfire – which affect the shape, appearance and form of the plants which grow upon the Earth.
For example, most native Australian plants feature very narrow, pointed characteristics in their structure and appearance – the leaves of the eucalyptus, acacias, and bottlebrush have a sharper, lighter, more triangular nature – which characterises the amount of light available to them in Australia’s sun blessed climate. Proctor talks about “the triangular form of petals in a daisy flower, or the five triangular petals of a single rose or petunia, which form like a pentagram”, and give a clear indication to the influence of light on a plant’s overall shape and form.
To increase the amount of light energy that the plant can utilise in order to strengthen and grow, Steiner recommends using quartz crystals (silicon dioxide) which have a magnifying effect on the amount of light streaming in.
Quartz belongs to the trigonal crystal system. The ideal crystal shape is a six-sided prism terminating with six-sided pyramids at each end. This triangulation of the quartz silica matches up with the triangulation of the leaves and forms a symmetrical balance with one another.
Biodynamics is all about bringing together a connected balance between separate elements that may look unconnected when viewed on their own, say, through a microscope, but when viewed on a universal, macrocosmic level can be seen as essential interconnected elements which contribute to the overall balance of the Earth, and the universe within which it sits.
It is believed that the quartz, when buried in cow horns, acts as a bridging system between the light forces of the universe with the increased microbial activity of the soil after it has been improved upon through the use of Prep 500 from previous years. Thus, bringing about a holistic interconnected exchange system between the macrocosmic energies of the universe, and the microcosmic energies of the soil.
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To make Prep 501 you need to crush the quartz crystals into a fine powder. Peter Proctor recommends using “a hammer or mortar and pestle made of iron or steel, making sure that the mortar and pestle have no rust on them”. Once the quartz is crushed into a fine powder it can be ground further between two sheets of plate glass “until the silica becomes ‘mealy’ with a consistency almost of talcum powder”.
This powder is then made into a slurry using water and placed inside a cowhorn. The horn is then left to stand over night so that the water can be absorbed by the silica and any excess water will rise to the top and can simply be drained off.
Check the lunar calender and bury the horns – perhaps in the same pit where the Prep 500 was buried – when the moon is in an ascending pattern. When the moon is ascending the distance between the earth and the moon increases day by day for approximately 13 days. When it is descending, the distance decreases.
When it becomes time to dig them up, the silica slurry will be much drier than before when it was buried. Expose the horns to sunlight to dry them out, and then store them in clean glass jars on a sun exposed windowsill. Proctor says “501 should always be connected to the light, and thus never stored in the dark”.
The 501 will need to be stirred, using the vortex method, as used for Preparation 500, either in a large drum or barrel, or using a flowform or stirring machine.
Use 1g of 501 in 13 litres of water – warm rainwater preferably – for each acre. Spray when there is a light wind as it aids the application by forming a mist as it drifts over the sprayed crop.
Application of 501 is done in much the same way as Preparation 500 – through use of a knapsack sprayer, or other form of sprayer as per the requirements and size of the property.
Applying Preparation 501 to the vineyard will increase the vines resistance to fungal disease, such as powdery mildew and other fungal attacks. Because of the enhancing light energy properties of Prep 501 it is important to spray early in the morning so as to avoid burning the leaves. In New Zealand, because of the thin ozone layer it should be applied even earlier and with greater care.
For maximum effect, Proctor recommends applying the 501 “at the beginning of the plant’s life, at the four leaf stage – in order to increase the bulk of the plant”.
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Many Australian winegrowers believe that the use of Preparation 501 is unnecessary due to the amount of sunshine their vineyards are privileged to receive throughout the year. However, any experienced practicer of biodynamics will demonstrate that those who choose to skip 501 will soon find their vineyard ecosystems out of balance – which is a direct contradiction to the over arching philosophy of biodynamics.
Ross McDonald of Macquariedale Wines sums it up neatly when he says, “you can’t be half pregnant”, while James Millton of Millton Vineyards goes further by saying, “it’s like a plate of bacon and eggs, the chicken only has a passing interest, but the pig had to be totally committed”. Millton even exposes his wines to quartz crystals right after they’ve been bottled, “to give it the final tick of it’s life energy process”.
In order to practice biodynamics effectively, you need to be totally committed.
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D// – The Wine Idealist
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For More Information on Biodynamics:
Demeter – Biodynamic certifier