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The Agriculture Course

Agriculture Course: Discussion after Lecture 5

Schmidt Number: S-5766

On-line since: 26th June, 2007


13th June, 1924.

Question: When you speak of the bladder of the stag, are you referring to the male animal?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Do you mean the annual or the perennial nettle?

Answer: Urtica dioica.

Question: Is it right to roof in the manure-pit in districts where there is much rain?

Answer: The manure ought to be able to stand any ordinary amount of rain. It is not good for it to get no rain-water at all. On the other hand, it should not be thoroughly washed out with rain; that, of course, would harm it. You cannot decide by hard-and-fast rules. Generally speaking, rain-water is good for manure.

Question: Should not the place where the manure is stored be walled-in and covered over to prevent the loss of the manure-juice?

Answer: In a certain sense, the manure needs rain-water. The only thing is, it might sometimes be well to keep the rain off a little by spreading granulated peat over the top. There is no purpose in keeping the rain away altogether by roofing it in. That would undoubtedly deteriorate the manure.

Question: If plant-growth is stimulated to such an extent by the manuring methods you have indicated, are cultivated plants and so-called weeds equally stimulated? Must any special methods be adopted to destroy the weeds?

Answer: In the first place the question is justified, needless to say, and I shall speak of the combatting of weeds in the next few days. What I have given you so far is favourable to plant-growth in general; you would not thereby put an end to the growth of weeds. On the other hand, it will make the plants far more secure against any parasitic pests that might occur. Here you have already the remedy against such parasitic pests as may occur in the plant kingdom. The combatting of weeds, on the other hand, does not arise out of the principles which we have hitherto discussed. The weed naturally shares in the general plant-growth. We shall yet have to speak on this subject. The whole thing is so intimately connected that it would not be well to pick out any special aspect now.

Question: What do you hold of the method of Captain Krantz? By piling it up in loose layers, and taking advantage of the spontaneous generation of warmth, the manure is also made odourless.

Answer: I have purposely refrained from speaking of what is already being done on rational lines. I wanted to give the inspirations which can come from Spiritual Science for the improvement of every such method. The one you refer to has many advantages, no doubt, but I believe it is comparatively new; it is not a very old method. And it may be this is also one of the methods which appear a dazzling success to begin with, but do not prove quite so practical in course of time. When the soil has its tradition, so to speak, everything will in a way refresh it; but when you apply the same method for a longer time, it is often as it is in medicine. When a medicament comes into the body for the first time, why, the most unbelievable medicaments are helpful the first time you take them! But then the curative effect is at an end. Here too it always takes some time before you recognise that it is not as you were first led to believe.

The one thing of importance is the spontaneous generation of warmth. The activity that must come into play for the generation of this warmth is exceedingly good for the manure; of that there can be no doubt. This activity cannot but lead to good results. Possible disadvantages might arise from the manure being piled up loosely; nor do I know if it is quite literally true, as you suggest, that it becomes quite odourless. If you do really get it odourless, it would indicate that the method is really good and beneficial. I believe it has not been tried for many years.

Question: Is it not better to pile up the manure above the earth than to sink it in a pit below the level of the ground?

Answer: In principle it is generally right to put it as high as possible. You should not, however, put it too high; you must still keep it in proper relation to the forces that are there beneath the earth. You cannot actually put it on a hillock, but you can build it up from the normal level of the ground; that will give you the most favourable height.

Question: Can the same compost methods be applied to the vine which has suffered so much in recent times?

Answer: Yes, but with modifications. I shall mention some modifications when I come to speak of fruit- and vine-growing. Generally speaking, what I have given to-day applies to the improvement of every kind of manure. I have indicated what will improve manure in general. The specific modifications of these methods for meadow- and pasture-land, cereal crops, orchards and vineyards still remain to be dealt with.

Question: Is it right to have the manure-ground paved or plastered?

Answer: From all that one can know of the whole structure of the earth and its relation to the manure, it would be utterly wrong. I cannot see why it should be paved. If your manure-ground is paved or plastered, you should hollow out a space all around so as to leave room for the interplay of the manure with the earth. Why deteriorate the manure by separating it from the earth?

Question: Has the ground beneath it any influence — whether, for instance, it he sandy or clayey? Sometimes the ground layer of the place where the manure is to be kept is covered with clay so as to make it impervious.

Answer: Undoubtedly the different kinds of earth will have their influence, according to their specific properties as kinds of earth. If there is sandy ground where you want to store the manure, it will be necessary to fill it in with a little clay. For the sand is pervious and will suck in the water. If, on the other hand, you have a very clayey soil, you should loosen it a little, and sprinkle in some sand. For a medium effect, always take a layer of sand and a layer of clay. Then you have both — the inner consistency of the earth kingdom and also the watery influences. Otherwise the water will trickle away. A mixture of the two kinds of earth will be the best. For the same reason you should not choose a ground of “Loess” to pile up your manure-heap — not if you can avoid it. “Loess,” or the like, will not be very helpful. In such a case it will be better to create in course of time an artificial ground for your manure-heap.

Question: As to the cultivation of the plants you mentioned yarrow, camomile, the stinging nettle — could they be introduced into a district by scattering the seed, if they did not happen to be growing there already? In cattle-farming we have generally assumed that yarrow and dandelion too are dangerous for cattle. We therefore wanted to exterminate these plants as far as possible — likewise the thistle. Indeed we are now engaged in doing so. I presume we should now have to sow them again along the edges of the fields, but not in the meadows and pastures?

Question by Dr. Steiner: But how should they be harmful as animal food?

Count Keyserlingk: Yarrow is said to contain poisonous substances. Dandelion is said to be not good for cattle.

Dr. Steiner: You should watch it carefully. On the open field, an animal will not eat it if it is really harmful.

Count Lerchenfeld: We in our district do the very opposite. We treat the dandelion as good fodder for milk cattle.

Dr. Steiner: These are sometimes mere prevalent opinions; nobody knows if they have ever been tested. It is possible, no doubt, that in the hay ... — it would have to be tested — I think, if it were harmful, an animal would leave the hay untouched. An animal will not eat what is not good for it.

Question: Has not yarrow largely been removed by the large doses of lime? Yarrow surely needs a moist and acid soil?

Answer: If you use wild yarrow, a very small quantity will suffice, even for a large estate. It has a peculiar, homoeopathic effect. If you had some yarrow in the garden here, it would be enough for the whole estate.

Question: I for my part have observed that the young dandelion, shortly before flowering, is very gladly eaten by all cattle. Afterwards, however, when it has begun to blossom, the cattle will no longer take it.

Answer: You must always remember the following: this, at least, is the general rule. An animal will not eat dandelion if it is harmful. An animal's feeding instinct is excellent.

You must also bear this in mind. We too, when we wish to stimulate something that depends on a living process, will almost always use what we should not use by itself. For instance, no one would eat yeast as his daily food; yet it is used in baking bread. A thing that even can act as a poison when consumed in large doses will, under other conditions, have the most beneficial effects. After all, medicines are generally poisonous.

The process — not the substance — is important. Thus I believe you can well get over your misgivings about the dandelions doing harm to your animals. So many strange ideas are prevalent. It is curious: here, on the one hand, the harmfulness of the dandelion is emphasised by Count Keyserlingk, while on the other hand, Count Lerchenfeld describes it as the best of milch-fodder. The effects cannot possibly be so different in two such neighbouring countries; one or another of the two opinions must be wrong.

Question: Perhaps it is a question of the underlying basis? My statement was founded on veterinary opinions. Ought we then purposely to plant yarrow and dandelion on our pasture and meadowland?

Answer: Quite a small surface will suffice.

Question: Does it depend on how long the preparations are kept with the manure, after taking them out of the earth?

Answer: Once they are mixed with the manure it is meaningless to ask how long they should be kept in it. But it should all have been done before the manure is spread over the fields.

Question: Should the manure-preparations be put into the earth all together, or each one separately.

Answer: That is of some importance. While the interaction is going on, the one preparation should not be allowed to disturb the other. Therefore it is well to dig them in some distance apart. If I had to do it on a small estate, I should dig them in as far as possibly from one another, so as to prevent their interfering with each other. I should look for the most distant parts around the edge of the estate. On a large estate you can choose the distances as you will.

Question: Does it matter if the earth above the preparations is overgrown, once they are buried?

Answer: The earth can do as it likes. It is quite good if it is grown over. It may even be overgrown with cultivated plants.

Question: How should the preparations be dealt with in the manure-heap?

Answer: I should advise the following procedure. Prick a hole about a foot deep, or a little deeper, in a large pile of manure, so that the manure can (lose up again around the stuff. You need not make it as deep as a metre, but the manure ought to be able to (lose up again round the preparations. For it is like this (Diagram 10): If this is the pile of manure, and you have here a little of the preparation ... it all depends on the radiations. The rays go out like this; it is not well if the stuff is too near the surface. The radiation is thrown back from the surface; it returns in a definite curve. It does not go outside, provided the manure closes up around the substance. Half a metre (about 18 inches) will suffice. If it is too near the surface, a considerable portion of the rays of force will be lost.

Question: Is it enough if you only make a very few holes, or should the preparations be distributed as widely as possible?

Answer: It is better to distribute them — not to make all the holes in one place. Otherwise the radiations may interfere with each other.

Question: Should all the preparations be put into the manure at the same time?

Answer: When you are putting the preparations in the manure heap, you can put in the one beside the other. They do not influence each other; they only influence the manure as such.

Question: Can the preparations all be put into one hole?

Answer: Theoretically, even if all the preparations were put into one hole, one might presume that they would not disturb each other; but I should not like to make this statement a priori. You can put them in fairly close together, but they might alter all interfere with each other, if you mixed them all up in a single hole.

Question: What kind of oak did you mean?

Answer: Quercus robur.

Question: Must the bark be taken from a living tree, or will a felled tree do?

Answer: As far as possible from a living tree; nay, more, from a tree in which you may presume that the “oak resin” is still pretty active.

Question: Is it the whole of the bark?

Answer: No, only the surface — the outermost layer of bark which crumbles off of its own accord when you loosen it.

Question: In burying the manure preparations, is it absolutely necessary to go no deeper than the fertile layer? Or could one bury the cow-horns even deeper?

Answer: It is better to leave them in the fertile layer. Indeed it may be presumed that in the subsoil underneath the fertile layer they would no longer provide fruitful material. You should, however, consider that the best possible condition would be provided by a layer of fertile soil as deep as you can find. Look for a place where the fertile layer is deepest — that will undoubtedly be the best. Beneath the fertile layer you will get no beneficial effect.

Question: Within the fertile layer they will always be exposed to the frost. Will that do no harm?

Answer: If exposed to the frost, they come into the very time when the earth, by virtue of the frost, is most intensely exposed to cosmic influences.

Question: How should you grind down the quartz or the silica? In a small grinding-mill, or in a mortar?

Answer: In this case the best thing will be to do it first in a mortar; and you will need an iron pestle. Grind it down in the mortar to a fine, mealy consistency. If it is quartz, having ground it down as far as possible in this way, you will even need to continue grinding it afterwards on a glass surface. It must be a very fine meal, and that is not easy to attain with quartz.

Question: Farming experience shows that a well-nourished head of cattle puts on substance which was lacking. There must therefore be a relation between the actual feeding and the absorption of nutritive substance from the atmosphere?

Answer: You need only observe what I said. In the absorption of food, the forces developed by the body are the essential thing. Thus it depends on the receiving of proper food, whether or no the animal develops sufficient forces to be able to receive and assimilate the substances from the atmosphere.

You may compare it with this: If you have a very close-fitting glove to put on, you cannot do it by sheer force. You wedge the glove out with a wooden instrument; you thus extend and stretch it. So too in this case; the forces have to be made pliant and supple. Such forces must first be there, for the creature to receive from the atmosphere what it does not get from the actual food. The food is there to stretch the organism, so to speak, thus enabling it to receive all the more from the atmosphere. This may even lead to hypertrophy if too much is taken, and you would pay for it by the shorter duration of the creature's life. There is a happy mean here, too, between the maximum and minimum.


 Figure 5
Figure 5
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Last Modified: 18-Apr-2017
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