ALCHEMY IN THE GARDEN
Solstice Farm Owner/Operator Bradley Capron
The garden has always been a source of inspiration and base material for preparing Alchemical substances, but the techniques of Alchemy are not so commonly used in cultivating the garden itself. Most folks would agree that regardless of what you might be making, the quality of the material you start with, always plays a role in the quality of the finished product. Alchemy strives to elevate and enervate plants and minerals to create medicines, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t attempt to do the same with our base materials. After all, plants are living beings, and the more life force we cultivate in them, the more they can offer for human transformation. In a sense, it pays serious dividends in our medicines, if we invest in biological capital.
There are many techniques the gardener can use to build physical and energetic capacity in our fields. Alchemic techniques are paralleled in the garden with processes like culturing native microflora(Fermentation), extracting minerals for soil building (Digestion and Fixation), and making homeopathic remedies (Calcination). Similar to Alchemy, minding the stars has always been of critical importance to farmers and gardeners, and I recommend the practice as essential for optimum success. Direct connections between Alchemy and gardening are not straight out of tradition, but do share many similar techniques and perspectives. I have collected in the following, some of the most relevant agricultural concepts to Alchemy and Spagyrics, as well as directions for various garden preparations.
To start, I begin with the soil. It seems a logical enough place, and forms the dense material from which plant spirits can ‘distill’ their form. The soil must first have ample life forces at work in order to grow a plant with ample life forces. Taken to its most literal and critical example, the microflora of the soil best represent that life force. Minerals and nutrients are mostly static, and it is the bacterial and
fungal components that transform and transport a good deal of those nutrients. There are a number of great companies that sell inoculants. However, in the spirit of Alchemy, we can create our own! Local native flora are generally the most effective for any system.
The best system I have found comes out of native Korean and greater Asian farming techniques, called Natural Farming with Indigenous MicroOrganisms(IMO)(ref1). The key technique is fermentation, and careful regulation of the fire/heat of the ferment is held in common with Alchemy. We are fermenting bulk materials like rice bran, plant tips, etc., and transforming those nutrients into large quantities of bacterial and fungal life. These micro-organisms are the key component to any sustainable agriculture. No amount of fertilizer will grow plants without the soil biota to activate those nutrients. Properly cultivating the right type of bacteria and fungus in large amounts is complex and time consuming, similar to Alchemy as well.
To start, fermented plant juice(FPJ) is the most widely used and simple input from this system. The best material is any fast growing vigorous plants (weeds like mugwort, comfrey, purslane, etc. have lots of minerals and stimulants), or tomato/cucumber prunings. Pick growing tips before dawn when growth hormones are most concentrated. Finely chop with equal weight brown sugar or molasses and pack in a crock topped off with a layer of sugar. Pack to brim and place a weight on top (I use a bag filled with water) to force air out. After 1 day, remove weight, cover with breathable fabric and let digest for 1 week. Decant finished liquid, and store in refrigerator. Add 1⁄4 part quantity of vodka to preserve. Use in 1/500 ratio in sprays/irrigation.
The grander formula for top notch soil biota is as follows, and incorporates the FPJ. First, cook 3 cups of rice and place in a cedar, or non-treated wood box about 1’x1’ square x4” tall. Seal box with breathable fabric, and place in deeply shaded, mycorrhizae-rich spot with 65 F minimum temp. Lightly cover with leaves, and then cover with small tarp to keep rain out. Avoid condensation. After 1 week, the rice should be full of native mycorrhizae, dryish and firm(IMO1).
Take this rice, and mix with equal weight brown sugar or molasses, knead well, and place in crock covered with a cloth, and store in a dark place. In one week, this will have fermented slightly and have a mild sweet smell(IMO2). Take 3 tablespoons of this ferment mix, and combine with 2 oz. of FPJ, in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Mix this water evenly into about 60 pounds of quality carbonaceous material such as rice bran or wheat mill run (available at feed stores). This mixture should not drip, but hold together when squeezed, and crumble easily. Place the inoculated material under a roof or other cover, directly on the ground 8-12 inches deep. Cover with a cloth and turn twice a day. It should be white with fresh mycorrhizae, and cool when finished(IMO3).
The last step to this process is to collect mycorrhizae rich soil(silky white fungal strands found under leaves, trees, compost, etc.), or other fertile soil, from at least 3-4 sites nearby your garden. Store in a dark location. Now, mix the new IMO3 with equal parts of the local soil, and add more FPJ until moisture content holds things together when squeezed, but easily crumbles. Let this mix ‘cook’ like the last batch under a roof on the ground. Turn regularly, and it will be cool when finished. This is IMO4 and can be used in potting soils, garden beds, or compost. Keep in mind direct sunlight will kill IMO’s, so store in the dark.
The other critical component to the soil is the mineral and nutritive capacity it has. This article is not meant to be a basic gardening how-to, and soils can differ vastly, so first off let it be said that adequate baseline fertility must be created first. This is done through fertilizers, compost, sand, clay, and minerals. Assuming you have good soil with the above qualities, let me elaborate on some techniques that can take gardening a few steps further. The first technique is related to trace minerals, and their application. It originates from Chris Emmons book on ORMUS(ref2).
Trace minerals in plants are critical for all developmental stages, and are often under-supplied in gardens. A simple fix is kelp meal, green sand, or something similar. The Alchemic solution, you might say, which is also highly energized, is a sea salt extraction using lye that can be called ORMUS. To make, you start with a high quality sea or mineral salt. Dead Sea and Himalayan have both been effective for me. Some ocean salts have not worked at all. I believe this is due to the energetic capacity of said salt, and coarse salts as well as mined salts seem to hold more capacity, perhaps due to less processing and exposure.
2 to 3 cups of salt is combined with just enough water to dissolve it, and brought to a simmer. This water is then added to a 5 gallon HDPE plastic bucket with about 3-4 gallons of water. Dilluted lye is very slowly added to the water, while it is stirred. LYE IS CAUSTIC! So use protection. This is done until the water reaches a Ph of no more than 10.78. Adding the lye slowly, and stirring, prevents ‘hot spots’ from occurring. The Ph does not rise proportional to the lye, so keep a close eye and don’t get overzealous. At times it takes a lot of lye to raise the Ph, and then all of a sudden, just the smallest amount will cause Ph to shoot up. During this process, white flakes will precipitate out of the water. This is the ORMUS, or energized trace minerals.
Allow to settle, then decant the water. Add water and decant twice more, then add an equal part of water as there is ORMUS for storage. It is perishable, but can be stored in a foil wrapped HDPE plastic container in a cellar or fridge for 6 months. This can then be added at 1 tablespoon to the gallon
for foliar sprays, or 2 oz. directly in irrigation per acre. Best applied in wet weather, once or twice a year.
Another mineral preparation that uses similar techniques to lab alchemy is an extract of shells and bones. I prefer eggshells, but sea shells work too. First we must freeze concentrate vinegar (regular white vinegar is fine) 3 times. Take a 1 gallon jug, freeze, turn over a bowl, and the concentrated vinegar quickly thaws leaving an ice plug. Save the concentrate, and repeat this process twice more. Once we have a concentrated acetic acid vinegar, we pour this over any collection of shells and bones, the more crushed and ground, the better (an initial roasting of bones in particular helps with grinding).
Shaken daily, this is allowed to digest for a week or so. Make sure the container used has a permeable seal because there will be lots of off-gassing (remember the old baking soda and vinegar volcano experiment you probably did as a child?). Next, filter the concentrate through cheesecloth, etc., and evaporate. There should be loads of water soluble calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate. This can be added to foliar sprays and irrigation at 1-2 tablespoons per gallon. Calcium forms the most critical soil mineral element and affects all growth processes.
ETHERICS AND ASTROLOGY
One other important soil mineral connection is that of paramagnetic force. In nature, this is found in granite, volcanic, or basaltic rock, as well as atmospheric oxygen. These substances emit very low-frequency radio waves that are taken up into the atmosphere, which is in itself a weak magnetic field. You might say that soils rich in these substances have a great deal of energetic and electro- magnetic potential. When this potential is tapped, paramagnetic soils will act as amplifiers for directed etheric forces. This will translate down to the physical as increased ionic and an-ionic activity, nutrient exchange, microflora vitality, and pest/disease/climatic resistance. When paramagnetic substance is used with etheric broadcasters (this can be takyon/torroidal field antennae, tone/frequency generators, altars, constructive music, or just taking a reflective walk through the crops), physical and energetic vitality in the garden will be increased.
What about insect pests? There is a spagyric-type remedy that comes from the Biodynamic gardening community. They have a unique way of processing insects into homeopathic remedies using calcination. We take at least 50 plus (I’ve used thousands) of whatever the offending insect is, and roast them to a fine ash(calcination). This ash is then added to a cup or so of very pure water. Shake it up, then add this water to 9 cups more very pure water. This is 2x. Take one cup from the 10, and add it to another 9 cups of water. This is 3x. This should be repeated until you have a 8x strength. You can save some of the 2x for future preparations. The 8x can then be added full strength to sprayers or irrigation. A dilute amount will still be effective.
Another key biodynamic technique is the use of 6 key plants, as well as specially prepared silica and manure. I have been using spagyric tinctures of these plants in my sprays. The plants are Nettle, Yarrow, Chamomile, Dandelion, Valerian, and Oak bark(the calcium prep can substitute for Oak bark). I feel that these have helped my plant’s disease resistance, particularly the Valerian, which is used to counteract rainy, ‘moony’, conditions here in Oregon. Nettle I use regularly as well, for its nutritional profile, mineral content, and ability to stimulate plant sap when used fresh. I also feel that a vegetal alkahest quartz preparation would also greatly benefit plant silica/structural needs, and I have one in the works.
Lastly, one of the most important things one can do is observe proper timing. Because plants do not have as much of an individualistic consciousness as people, they are more tied to celestial rhythms. So, the more we can use astrology, the better quality plant we will get. My favorite system comes from the Biodynamic community, more specifically Maria Thun(ref3). The Biodynamic calendar is a sidereal moon calendar. Each of the 4 elements represents a different part of the plant to work with, i.e. Earth- root, Water-leaf, Air-flower, Fire-fruit/seed. When the moon enters a zodiac sign, the element of the sign dictates what type, or part of a plant we harvest and cultivate. This calendar is unique in that it uses the inclination and declination of the moon (moon rising/falling in sky in relation to axis of earth) to determine transplanting times. Also it accounts for any occultations (any planet being blocked by
another, or the moon/sun, i.e. conjunct or opposed another via the perspective of earth), as well as other unique astrological weather.
A simpler astrological system is to use moon phases. New moon/1st quarter for planting, 2nd quarter for leaf/seed/fruit and planting, Full moon/3rd quarter for seed/fruit/root and harvest, 4th quarter for roots and tilling. The planetary days of the week can also be used, although this requires some research into planetary rulership of plants. Here is my general rule of thumb: Mercury – annual grasses and ‘simple’ plants, Venus-annual flowers and more ‘complex’ plants, Mars-perennial and biennial herbs/flowers/shrubs, Jupiter – larger perennial shrubs, deciduous trees, Saturn – evergreen trees. Look to functions for Solar and Lunar herbs, and since these two bodies represent a more fundamental yin/yang type axis, most plants can be placed under one or the other safely, I feel.
For myself, Alchemy comes most alive in the garden. Watching the transformation of the seasons and the life cycles of plants is inspiration for me in my lab. My garden shows me in tangible form the connectivity of life, as well as its cyclic and evolutionary nature. I have found that my studies in Alchemy are easily applied to the garden, and this growth process continues to illuminate me, and creates ever more robust ecosystems. This makes better medicine, more internal growth, and the process renews itself. I feed the garden, it feeds me! So don’t forget to get out of the lab and into the sun….