The practice of growing food and raising livestock is a calling that urges us to become stronger and hardier. The variables present in natural systems can be overwhelming, and it is only those who are willing to face hard truths and adapt that can truly turn it into a lifestyle.
From the outside, the natural world looks extremely chaotic and unpredictable, and to a certain degree, it is. Even the best laid plans can be nullified by unseasonable weather, accidents, disease and a deluge of other unforeseen obstacles and losses. It takes a willful person to persist through these challenges and adapt in ways that lead to success.
The overall effect of this persistence pays off in countless rewards of spiritual and physical importance. To tune oneself to the natural rhythms of this planet with dedication and discipline is to gain insight into how this seeming chaos provides for order and how ambient rhythms guide all life through a cyclical journey here on Earth.
One of the most important tools a grower can use to become more successful is observation. We must learn about the ecology of the land, in the soil, on and in the plants, in the water and in the air, all while also being able to take these individual pieces and fit them into a broad awareness of the greater natural system as a whole.
When we are able to understand the needs of the plants and animals we hope to raise, and the needs of the landscape we are working, we are capable of setting up systems that work on nature’s engine.
Different ecotypes harmonize with different organisms, and it is our job as stewards to decipher what areas of the farm are best for certain purposes. Once our understanding of the property is balanced and backed up with experience working within the system, we can look to the cosmos for extra support.
Planting by the moon is an ancient practice utilized by countless cultures throughout the ages to help support the health and production of crops. These methods are still used today by biodynamic growers and others who have learned their trades from those who have come before. This is as much an old-timey method as it is a new age one and offers countless benefits to those who are capable of keeping up with the rhythms of this orbiting sphere. To partake in these practices, first one must understand how this seemingly shy and luminous object affects life on Earth.
At all times our planet is involved in an incredible dance with near and far planets, all making their trips around the sun. Each planet and star in the solar system, including and especially our sun, plays a role in shaping the natural phenomenon happening on Earth.
Each planet, whether it be Mars or Venus, funnels into our sphere of reality an archetypal rhythm that molds the physical world around us. Like a kaleidoscope, the forces of these heavenly bodies are channeled to us through their alignments, and these orbits, oppositions and conjunctions generate the resonances that encourage life to unfold on Earth. From these archetypes we get growth, reproduction, decay, color, turgor pressure, detoxification and even the development of certain bodily organs and cell division.
These planets provide the essence of the creation before it is created, the subtle energy from which physical mass can be built. The closer the planet, the more immediate and stabilizing the force. For those far off planets like Saturn, the slow roll of influence is most easily monitored in organisms who stand the test of time like great blue whales and the trees in old growth forests.
The moon has many ties to life on Earth and imparts these gifts mostly through its relationship to water. We often hear astrologers and energy practitioners say that the moon impacts our mental health and emotional states, our physical bodies and the phases of disease.
The quick route the moon takes through its cycle, just 29.5 days across the skies, brings to the human realm ever changing conditions that help to release stagnations and encourage physical and spiritual wellness. The moon phases themselves hold certain space for our hearts and minds as the moon bends from the darkness at new moon, waxes to full and wanes and recedes once again into an introspective, condensing crescent.
This constant cycle is not only encouraging us to fully recognize and manage our emotional needs and desires as beings on Earth, it also carries these effects deep into the cell structure of every plant and animal and even well below the surface of the soil.
The ocean gives us the most visual indication of the moon’s relationship to water. The gravitational force of the moon’s elliptical orbit around the Earth, and the rotation of the Earth in place pulls the water up into a mound that generates “low tide.” This is visibly seen as a current is formed, pulling water offshore and revealing sand bars and small pools of salt water trapped in rocks and seaweed. This tug is then released as the gravitational force recedes and water rushes back to the beach and creates what is called “high tide.” This same event is occuring every day within the plants and animals of our natural world, and these cyclic effects are additionally influenced by the phases of the moon.
When the moon moves from new to waxing, water is being pulled more persistently from the soil and below into the realms of living beings. As the moon continues to grow in size toward full, the water content in produce, in our human bodies, within the living systems at work inside our livestock, and in our waterways and fields becomes denser, and the living communities and transport systems become more lubricated. This allows for an increase in the overall metabolism, growth rate and absorption potentials of plants and animals.
Due to this natural pull, seeds germinate best when sown a few days ahead of the full moon when these forces are reaching toward peak. Sap flow in plants is at its strongest and the world becomes a very lush and illuminated place.
Elders have handed down the traditional knowledge that harvesting storage crops or castrating livestock during these times can lead to issues of vegetables rotting in the root cellar and incisions tending toward excessive bleed out.
The full moon is also an interesting time for the spiritual and mental realms as the sun and moon oppose each other on opposite sides of Earth in opposite signs. This can exaggerate intense emotions that are already full from the build up of so much water into our daily life. As the moon begins to wane, this pressure is released and so too are the pressures of waters that have gathered within plants and animals.
These waters recede from the living planes atop the soil, and we see the growth and fertility of the natural world return to a normal, less highlighted phase of expression. As these watery conditions leave the crops and livestock, it becomes an ideal time to harvest storage crops, make compost and even go in for surgery.
It is not only the phases of the moon that impact plant and animal life. The location of the moon as it moves through the zodiac also imparts subtle energy that guides growth in our crops and livestock. Moonlight captures the essence of the zodiac that it is inhabiting, and this glow touches Earth and encourages plant development in a particular way. As the moon travels through Air, Water, Earth and Fire signs, it creates windows of opportunities for seeding plants that rely heaviest on one inclination over another. We generally see the most beneficial effects when we follow this format:
- When the moon is in a Water sign (Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces) we sow our leaf crops.
- When the moon is in an Earth sign (Taurus, Capricorn, or Virgo) we sow our root crops.
- When the moon is in an Air sign (Libra, Aquarius, or Gemini) we sow our flower crops.
- When the moon is in a Fire sign (Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius) we sow our fruiting crops.
When we seed a root crop such as a radish when the moon is in Taurus, the subtle energies that are being imparted from the zodiac by the altered light of the moon encourage the proper development of the root.
When we sow flowering crops when the moon is reflecting the energies of an air sign, the plant spends more of its resources and time developing flowers over other aspects of the plant that are not necessarily as important for our use.
Some crops don’t easily fit into these niches, like broccoli would be sown on a flower day and cauliflower and kohlrabi on a leaf day, but generally when attuning to these rhythms the plants are provided an added boost from the cosmos during development. It is an additional benefit when one is able to interact with and maintain the crops during these ideal zodiac alignments, as this further harmonizes the growth of the crop to this energy.
One last consideration to make when trying to utilize the moon’s accentuation of crop and livestock life processes is the location of the moon in relationship to other cosmic bodies. Sometimes the moon is involved in conjunctions, oppositions, eclipses, orbital paths, nodes and aspects with other orbiting planets that create unfavorable conditions for plant development.
When the moon is moving from one zodiac sign to another, it can leave the plants almost on their own without the formative forces of a sign to guide their growth.
Sowing when the moon is perigee, or closest to the Earth, can enhance fungal diseases on crops and lead to crop loss and failure. When the moon is apogee, or farthest from the Earth on its elliptical, it creates an environment that can almost be water lacking.
Fortunately there are many biodynamic growing calendars on the market that have come up with simple formulas that can guide the grower through these evolving fields of energy and allow practices to be adapted to these trackable lunations.
Syncing the farm up to the lunar rhythm has been practiced throughout the ages, and there is endless literature and study into the positive effects it can have on crop and livestock production.
Beyond the obvious benefits of having healthier, larger crops and reduced disease and loss, attuning our practices to the great theater in the solar system provides us with a direct link to the formative forces of our universe. It gives us the best vantage point as we co-create within our realms and continues to gift insight beyond the physical veil.
Whether we totally understand the purpose of these timings or not is not critical. Our engagement in this higher order is tying us together with the infinite fabric that generates our physical reality and often will shed light into the unseen realms — adding to our intuitive ability to care for natural systems on Earth.
By Darby Weaver. This article appeared in the January 2019 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazine.
Darby Weaver has spent the last decade growing biodynamic produce in the Southeast and teaching holistic and ecological methods to learners of all ages and backgrounds through articles, agriculture intensives, workshops and lectures. She recently moved to the Northeast with her husband to begin a new venture on 20 acres in Wolcott, Vermont.
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