Documenting The Building Of A Preparation Stirring Area

I am documenting my project for my second year as a biodynamic trainee at Ruskin Mill. To view my project proposal go here or to view my project research go here.

4th November 2021

I started to remove the old structure where my preparation stirring area will be. The metal box is a compost heater, that kills weeds, and seeds that are left in the compost, to make ideal potting soil. It was built 20 years ago by a past biodynamic trainee.

The box was filled to the brim with water, I siphoned the water out, then I was able to move it away. We then removed the brambles and goldenrod from the area.

Behind the metal box, I found a marble sculpture. I guess it has been there for many years. I hope to incorporate this within the project,

10th November 2021

Today, I cleared most of the vegetation from the site, which was split across four long-term weed composts, and the brambles were taken to behind the fish farm to be burned.

I cleared the bricks that made the old fire pit and collected the sand in a pile. I am looking to re-use some of the materials I collect into the new project.

I then started to dig into the bank with a mattock. I had help from volunteers, students, and support staff throughout the day, which helped me to clear several wheelbarrow loads of clay-rich soil from the bank.

I then marked out roughly how far into the bank I will be digging.

I have decided to use the existing fire pit as the place for the CCP, I will need to line it with birch.

I also came across an electrical cable that passes through the site. This creates an obstacle. As electrical currents could interfere with the stirrings of the preparations. I am considering the practicalities of using copper tiles and other materials as an insulator.

18th November 2021

I have decided to work on my project on Wednesday afternoons, and Friday mornings. This will give me 6 and a half hours a week to work on my project. It also means that the same students are able to help me with my project consistently if they would like to.

I spoke to a member of the maintenance team about the electrical wire that runs through the site. He told me to cover the wire in an electrical warning tape and to create a trench for the wire, before covering it with pea gravel. I’m also going to put down some old Mipex on top, to suppress weeds, before covering the whole ground in gravel. I will apply further electrical warning tape, on the top of the Mipex to indicate where the wire travels below.

From the photographs, you can see that I have reached the clay in the bank. I still have a lot of soil to excavate, and I need to decide if I should go further into the bank.

26th November 2021

I did not make any further progress on the site this week. It was mostly due to bad weather, I found other tasks to do during heavy rain spells. The clay becomes much heavier and stickier during wet weather.

Earlier in the week I discussed my project with Berni, we spoke about the best way to undergo research for my project, and how to order materials that I may need.

Later in the week, by chance, I was given a book on preparations that I haven’t seen in print before. It is Booklet 2, The Biodynamic Spray And Compost Preparations, Directions For Use. The book goes into great detail about the creating preparation stirring areas, including constructing a CPP, stirring vessel, and stirring broom. It will be very helpful for my research.

9th December 2021

I made some good progress today, as I want to be in a position to put down a floor in January.

I measured out the area to give the eclipse a more consistent shape. Then I spent hours wheelbarrowing soil and clay away from the site. My aim was to excavate down 2 inches below the top of the path, so the pebbles will be flush to the top of the path.

I also managed to move the electrical wire, so it doesn’t stay underneath where the stirring barrow will be going.

I made a small trench and cover the cable with stones to keep it secure.

From clearing more soil, the area feels much bigger. I am now considering adding a bench at a later stage along the back wall, and also pondering upon a structure that I could grow plants onto to provide shade in summer, also the preparations and stirring stick could hang from this structure.

7th January 2022

I put some electrical cable warning tape above the electrical cable and added some sand and pebbles to keep the cable in place.

I covered the floor with some old mypex membrane. I used the leftover warning tape to mark the cable from the top.

At this point, I was contemplating purchasing an EMF protecting sheet to prevent the electric cable from disturbing forces involved with the biodynamic preparations. From researching, I discovered that the pebbles would be enough of a barrier to stop the EMF. Also, I managed to move the cable away from under the proposed location of the stirring barrel.

Once I marked the electrical cable, I could move onto the next step.

I moved the oak barrel onto the site. 

With the help of students and staff, we began to bring over some pebbles, leftover from a previous project in the valley. 

We spread them over the mypex.

The site has completely transformed over the week. There are still many adjustments to be made, such as:

  • Levelling the barrel with a spirit level (after filling the barrel with water to stop it from drying and cracking, I noticed that the water wasn’t level)
  • Cement in the black fire bricks, level to the existing bricks
  • Cleaning around the old fire pit
  • Adding some more pebbles to cover any exposed mypex
  • Levelling out the pebbles
  • Remove unused mypex and other unwanted materials
  • Clean the area, including the paving slabs

I will start constructing the stone wall at the beginning of Spring when the weather is more favourable. In the meantime, I will collect limestone with flat edges.

Before Springtime I have time to design and build a stirring frame for the barrel.

I have decided to make the frame from metal. I will speak to the forge tutor for some ideas of how this could be done.

I also need to dig out more clay from the fire pit and add a layer of birch to the bottom and sides. Also, I need to find something to cover the hole.

I am also planning to create storage in the bank for the biodynamic preparations. This will have to be done before the stone wall.

I am now using Thursday afternoons to work on my project.

I haven’t spent any money on my project. So far I have been fortunate to find all of the materials that I need in the valley.

13th January 2022

This afternoon I cleared away the rubble, and vegetation to the right-hand side of the stirring area. Once it was cleared, I felt like it would be a great place to plant some of the plants used in the compost preparations.

I then covered the area with mypex to stop weeds from coming through. I will add compost and woodchip at a later date.

I will extend the proposed stone wall to include the flower bed.

I spoke to a member of staff who was passing through, and he suggested that I put a drainage pipe behind the drystone wall, to ease erosion damage over time.

20th January 2022

This afternoon I discussed my project with my project mentor. We discussed all of the elements of the preparation stirring area, I have decided to use birch for the cowpat pit. I also have some further ideas on creating a frame to hold the besom.

I started to create space for the preparation containers. The clay was holding very well, so I when half a meter into the bank. I then hammered in a plank of wood, supported by vertical pieces underneath. This provided stability so I could excavate further.

I balanced a large rock on some bricks, to see what it would look like. When I build the wall I will include it as a lintel/keystone above the doors of the storage cupboard.

Below, I have calculated how many stones I will need to order.

I estimate that I need to cover 9.1 square metres, 10 metres to be safe. 
10 square metres requires 5000kg of stone (single wall, 2 metres per tonne) 

2nd February 2022

In the valley we have created a new path which is above the stirring area, we have also tidied the surrounding area, and even installed a bench that overlooks the stirring area. This has completely changed the appearance of the stirring area.

Today, we had Candlemas celebrations on the project site. We stuck broken pieces of slate into the clay bank to hold candles. Students and staff read out poems and reflected on the occasion.

10th February 2022

This week I was able to work on the CPP, and the preparation storage area. I found two bags of cement in the shed, so I decided to work with a student to replace missing, and broken bricks from the CPP hole.

After attaching the bricks, I used the rest of the cement to cover all of the bricks to bring some continuity. I am thinking of painting the cement at a later point.

I also made a divider out of bricks, so there will be two areas for the CPP. Each section will be lined with brick slats. Also in the background is the beginning of the cupboard for the storage area.

Inside, I have used a mix of oak, stones, and cement to reinforce the area to prevent the clay from crumbling. The frame will have cupboard doors that can be locked. It will need to sand fully and paint.

I still plan on using the large stone (in previous photos) to go above the door, hanging over the top of the wooden frame. The frame will be set into the dry stone wall.

In this photo, you can see how different the area looks. On the left is a cherry tree that was hidden by the golden rod, I now hope that its branches may provide shade one day for the stirring area. We have also planted some more cherry trees across the bank.

I have been working on the project for over four months. I expect the CCP area and the storage area to be completed by the end of February, and the stone wall building to commence in early spring.

Once the stone wall is completed, then I will be able to bring soil and compost to the preparation flower bed and decide how to position and cultivate them.

The structure to hold the besom will be the last part of this project. I am aiming to finish this project by the summer. It would be great to have the first preparation stirrings in Autumn.

23rd March 2022

As the weather has started to improve I have continued working on the stirring area. The appearance has changed, the bank is filled with wild garlic, and the new bench and pathway can be seen.

After further reading on cow pat pits, I realised that I have made a big error using cement, as this would prevent microbes from travelling through the earth into the preparation. So, I have chipped away at the concrete that was below the brick line, to reveal the clay of the earth.

I have also decided to use hazel to line the CPP, as there is a coppice in the valley. To make the wooden logs stay in place, I have used clay from the fish farm, that is used for pond repairs.

Each log is hammered in and sealed with clay at the bottom, and top. I also prefer the clay finish, so I will be covering all of the cement with clay except the top layer.

The top layer, I would like to paint with pink/salmon silica quartz paint. My friend has painted a wall in an anthroposophical church with silica paint that she made. I would like to try this.

I am also waiting to order stones, to start building the wall.

1st June 2022

During half-term I spend a day working on the preparation stirring area. I started by pulling back the mipex and gravel, where the foundation of the dry stone wall will be.

I also added some more branches of hazel into the CCP. Then I collected some clay from the fish farm, and with the help of the Biodynamic Trainee Patri, I mixed it with sand, and cow manure to make a paste, that should be resistant to cracking once it dry’s. We then spread it across the Cow Pat Pit area.

In the afternoon I continued with the project by adding compost to the compost preps cultivation area. Then I dug a hole, added dry cement and sand, and finally incorporated the marble statue that I uncovered in the first few days of the project.

Now I am awaiting the stone to begin building the wall.

20th February 2023

I am still waiting for limestone to be ordered so I can build the drystone wall. This has taken far too long, I am now hoping that I will be able to find my own supplier and follow the order process.

We have used the preparation stirring area for three stirrings, 1 x Three Kings Preparation, and 2 x 500 Cow Manure Stirrings. One of which was for a staff training day, lots of staff from different areas of the college got involved in the stirring and it was an enjoyable afternoon.

In preparation for the staff training day, I built a structure from Hazel to hold a besom.

Today, I had some free time, so I attached some planks to the plant table, to hide all of the wood that is being stored underneath. This is to make the area look nice and prepare the area for the stone wall. Hopefully, this project will be complete by summertime.

9th April 2023

I am still waiting for the stones to begin building the stonewall. The easter half-term would have been an ideal time to construct it, but I will have to wait longer. However, I’m glad to say that we have been using the area for another preparation stirring.

I also spoke with my colleague Tim Rahmsdorf about the importance of having a dedicated stirring area, which forms part of my research.

Recent Posts