Updated: Apr 21, 2021
'Cow horns, oil on board, David St Maur Sheil, April 2020'
Sharing a memory from when I was back in Sussex!
Not owning my own cows I went up onto the South Downs in the autumn with a small trowel and bagged a perfect cow manure - the cows have been grazing the Downs all summer and getting fat on the lush grass along the river valley.
Getting home I carefully packed as much of the manure as I could into my three cow horns (bought from the Biodynamic Society) and they will hopefully last me a good few years. The cow-horns make nature's perfect container - strong yet natural with a moon shaped curve, they will safely contain the manure while allowing the energies within the winter soil to pass through them. The cow-manure is the most perfect manure as the cow, with it's four stomachs - one more than any other domestic animal - has digested the grass to the fullest extent, and it is abundant with beneficial micro-organisms.
During the winter the Earth may seem dormant above ground, but it's energies are very active deep down within the soil, and ready to rise up again with the new growth of plants in spring. The cow-horns are therefore buried within a deep hole in a quiet corner of the garden and dug up again in the spring, as the soil warms up again.
Following the directions of Rudolph Steiner, the manure is then carefully picked out from the horns and a small amount can be carefully broken up and stirred into water that has been warmed by the sun (or possibly gently heated) and vigourously stirred so that the beneficial bacterias multiply in the mix of water and oxygen. The stirring, with the hand or a stout stick, produces a spinning vortex with a column right down to the bottom of the bucket, and then one reverses and goes strongly back the other way, collapsing the vortex in a chaos of foam and bubbles, and forming it again in the other direction. And so on and on, for a full hour so that the water is fully oxygenised and the bacterias have had their opportunity to multiply. Staring at the vortex as I stir reminds me of the elemental vortex from which all life arose at the beginning of time, and the vortex is one of my favourite subjects to paint.
Then immediately, and it is best towards the end of the day so that the sun does not evaporate the prep, flick droplets of the prep all over the garden, compost heaps, seedlings and fruit tree roots. Last year I used some leaves from my asparagus plant for flicking the prep! And voila! the garden has been given a wonderful tonic - millions upon millions of beneficial microbes (the little tiny farm workers) have been spread across the soil and can settle in, start their little microbe families and bring abundant life and health to the garden. Thank you to the Ox!
I found this previously unpublished oil of my cow-horns I made last spring, and I felt now was a good time to share it!
Happy Lunar New Year everyone.