Shut Up and Dig

But Can You Get the Cow Horns at Home Depot?

The deal with the cow horns is that you stuff them full of cow manure, bury them for six months, dig them up, stir the stuff into water according to a precise set of directions (you swirl it clockwise, and then counterclockwise, for exactly an hour), and then spray it on the crops.  This is called Preparation 500; Preparation 501 involves basically the same thing, only with horn silica instead of manure.

The Guardian posed some questions about the effectiveness of these methods recently and got answers like this one:

Dr Carlo Leifert, who is heading the European Union’s largest ever
investigation into organic farming and who grew up amid biodynamic
farmers, says that "in the wider academic community the approach of
planting by the moon cycle is seen as wacky, so nobody can really find
money from the main funding bodies to look into it. My own feeling is
that the impact that the moon possibly has is probably minute compared
to other impacts, but then again, who knows?"

This seems to be about the best answer anyone can give.  Maybe biodynamic compost is better than organic compost, but how much difference does that make?  The crystals formed when plant juice is mixed with calcium chloride and left to dry are more complex (oh lord, there really are crystals involved), but no one knows what that might mean.

Nutty or the new normal?  The farms are no doubt lovely places to be, and if the farmers want to plant by the lunar calendar, well, I guess farmers will do what farmers will do. Meanwhile, the demand for biodynamic products is out there, and Demeter continues to certify farms that engage in the practice. 

But will biodynamics ever catch on for home gardeners?  Heh.  You won’t find me burying a cow horn in the backyard, much less remembering where I buried it six months later.

Posted by on May 31, 2007 at 5:47 am, in the category Shut Up and Dig.
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14 Responses to “But Can You Get the Cow Horns at Home Depot?”

  1. firefly says:

    This is really interesting, not because of the wack-out factor, but for the question, is it new?

    Aside from the buried cow horns and the clockwise swirling, isn’t this just what farmers used to do before the petroleum-based economy made it feasible to specialize, and truck pieces of the closed loop here and there?

    In our extended family, there are people who grew up during and shortly post-Depression who think organic food is disgusting and overpriced. It must be the Age of Aquarius factor, because before the rise of synthetic fertilizers, farming practices were essentially organic already.

    It’s fascinating (and a little scary) how a difference of perception can change the value of things for us.

  2. Lisa from St. Marys says:

    As much as I want to say it’s nutty,farmers have been planting by the moon forever. And people have thought I am nutty for about 20 years with my organic vegetables, and no spray techniques, but now they are starting to pay attention, hmmmm.

  3. Martha says:

    There’s a wonderful winery in Sonoma that uses biodynamic principles — I kinda think it’s hooey, but it was the nicest place we visited, the wines are delish according to my hubby and friends, and the organic grounds were just gorgeous. They have insectaries all around the vineyards, planted with host plants to draw in beneficials, and a really great tour and educational aspect (leaving out the cow horn part).

    http://www.benziger.com/

  4. Ed Bruske says:

    None of this is going to make any sense to you if you:
    a) are bi-coastal
    b) drive a Hummer
    c) love Miracle Gro

    However, even though I am also skeptical of some of the biodynamic techniques, I also find this crowd to be “nice” and worthy of a listen. I am especially partial to a cookbook called “Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection,” which covers a number of belief systems. But more importantly, it is about getting in touch with genuine foods and the rhythms of the planet, something we could all use a little more of.

  5. Briana says:

    “You won’t find me burying a cow horn in the backyard, much less remembering where I buried it six months later.”

    This was my first thought as well. I can’t even remember where (or if) I planted the freesia bulbs.

  6. Heh! I noticed that article, too. Biodynamics as practiced there seemed much goofier than an earlier 2005 SF Chron article on Harms Vinyards and Lavender Farm and their implementation of biodynamics: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/09/NBGS2EIK291.DTL

    I think if I were ever to use a cowhorn moon system, I would be thinking of it more as a spiritual ritual than good gardening. There’s something magickal-feeling about the whole thing.

    Meanwhile, I make do with compost and Safer Soap.

  7. bright says:

    how funny it is that we bring our philosophies about nature into the mix! the farm (probably?) doesn’t care what you’re thinking about while you’re tweaking the chemicals there. but in the context of ritual you might be more consistently tweaking it than you would be if you were following a more dry, prescription style calendar. planting by the moon sounds so much more fun than checking your average frost date.

  8. Ellis Hollow says:

    If memory serves, the foundations of biodynamic farming were lined out in a series of divinely inspired lectures by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 or thereabouts. People tend to focus on the preparations and cult-like aspects of biodynamics. But Steiner’s legacy is that he was among the first to view farms as self-regulating organisms — at a time when agriculture was moving quickly in the other direction.

    Back in the day, I visited quite a few biodynamic farms in the Midwest and Northeast and got to know some biodynamic researchers. The farms were among the best run I’ve had the privilege to set foot on. I don’t know how much of that to attribute to the manure in the cow horn. But hey, worked for them.

  9. margarita says:

    I think what biodynamic farming (as well as, organic) does is brings a consciousness to the effort, regardless of how it does it. You know when you put more attention to something (good or bad), it seems to flourish.

    My grandmother was a curandera and with every poultice and tincture applied, she said a prayer. Now, it might have been the poulitce/tincture that cured the patient and/or it might have been the attention they received.

    Also, I think Native Americans might have done a bit of biodynamic-like stuff when they hunted and farmed. It’s connection.

  10. Cynthia says:

    I own the farm mentioned in the chron article,and when I first started reading your post and saw there were a few comments too, I immediately thought, “oh, oh, here we go, I’m gonna get made fun of.”

    So before I started reading in depth, I went to the area on the left of your blog that states what’s important to you (such as gardening our asses off), and I thought, “hell, that’s me, all of ‘em….so why are they gonna rip me a new one?”

    But I was very pleasantly surprised when no one scoffed too hard at the biodynamic thing. I think it comes from true gardeners who know that while yes, we may all be gardening our asses off, there is still a portion of our success that is mysterious, call it dumb luck, or perhaps even attribute it to a higher force that is inexplicable to us.

    I haven’t completely bought into every tenet contemplated by the biodynamic crowd, but I do know that the healthiest vegetable plants I’ve ever seen were grown biodynamically. That’s what led me to try it. I’m hoping it works, otherwise I’ll feel pretty foolish taking up valuable gardening time stuffing these dang cowhorns with poop.

  11. COW HORN TIPS says:

    We are into selling of all cow horns and cow horn tips process into blocks for making name seal and bottons

  12. micheal akpan uko says:

    Dear,Sir
    We have the pleasure of introducing our company as one of the frontline exporters of cattle horns. All our horn products are hand crafted from authentic cattle horns. They are guaranteed to be the finest quality horns on the market, Presently Chaelhowamic ventures employed well over 50 people in various production arm of the company and has lots of seasoned raw materials Suppliers, collecting Cattle Horns, from various Government Approved Abattoirs spread across the whole of West Africa.
    Main Products of the company are:
    Full Horns of Various sizes from 20 – 40cm, 40 – 60cm, 60 – 80cm and 80cm and
    longer.

    Paired Horns of various sizes from 20 – 80cm and longer

    Cattle Horn Tips : white,brown jaspy and black tips.
    Processed tips name seal in various sizes:
    1. 22mm by 67mm in all color
    2. 20mm by 67mm in all color
    3. 18mm by 67mm in all color
    4. 16mm by 67mm in all color
    5. 15mm by 67mm in all color
    6. 13mm by 67mm in all color

  13. micheal akpan uko says:

    Dear Sir,

    LETTER OF INTRODUCTION.
    We have the pleasure of introducing our company as one of the frontline exporters of cattle horns. All our horn products are hand crafted from authentic cattle horns. They are guaranteed to be the finest quality horns on the market, Presently Chaelhowamic ventures employed well over 50 people in various production arm of the company and has lots of seasoned raw materials Suppliers, collecting Cattle Horns, from various Government Approved Abattoirs spread across the whole of West Africa.
    Main Products of the company are:
    Full Horns of Various sizes from 20 – 40cm, 40 – 60cm, 60 – 80cm and 80cm and
    longer.

    Paired Horns of various sizes from 20 – 80cm and longer

    Cattle Horn Tips : white,brown jaspy and black tips.
    Processed tips name seal in various sizes:
    1. 22mm by 67mm in all color
    2. 20mm by 67mm in all color
    3. 18mm by 67mm in all color
    4. 16mm by 67mm in all color
    5. 15mm by 67mm in all color
    6. 13mm by 67mm in all color

    Processed tips sample are enclosed in this mail. We can supply 5000 pieces as trying order. We are very interested to engage in serious business relationship with your firm and as such, we will be glad if you can furnish us with your firm’s e-mail address and telephone number, for subsequent communication.

    Furthermore, kindly let us know your terms of importing and requirements
    Thanks for the anticipatory of your favorable response.

    Yours faithfully,
    For: CHAELHOWAMIC VENTURES
    E.MAIL: aeiho101@yahoo.com

    Michael Uko
    MANAGING DIRECTOR

  14. Christopher Attwell says:

    Altius Green is one of the leading and professional suppliers in edible and vegetable oil, WVO, Animal product like bones, horn, fur etc. We specialize in producing all types of vegetable and edible oils, agriculture goods. Oil Milling and production machines, We are a South African Own company, with over 100 workers and we have a high-tech state of the heart modern laboratories and milling plants, We have been in this field for more than 2 years. We sell all our products at a competitive price, good quality products, punctual shipment and excellent service, our goods have been exported to many countries and enjoyed a good reputation. Vegetable and edible oils are our pedestal manufacture and export items. We have very good factories and especially, we are specialized in vegetable, edible oils and waste vegetable oil (wvo). Agriculture goods are our traditional items, including pine nut kernels, walnut kernels, fresh chestnuts, fresh gingers, snow white and shine skin pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed kernels, GWS pumpkin seeds, and black , red watermelon seeds, special horns (kudu). We have engaged have strong advantages in price. We would continue to supply high quality vegetable and edible oils and excellent service to our old and new customers. It is our pleasure to be your partners in Africa for sourcing, searching the goods you need. Authenticated and Verified oil producing and trading company. We also sale rapeseed/canola oil, soybeans, wvo, svo and castor oil for biodisel production.

    Christopher Attwell
    Email: altiusgreen@gmail.com

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