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Going further – New skills for new energies

We are surrounded by forces that technology cannot yet measure. Mostly they are classified as unscientific, or as superstitions.

For example, we can’t enumerate what difference it makes to sow by the moon’s phases, to use biodynamic preparations or to dowse for soil energies. On the other hand, we can observe the effects and be informed by how plants grow.

The sun

The sun’s rays warm soil and enable growth. End of story? Maybe not.

In the 1980s I read a book, Solar Energy and Dowsing by A.P. Tabraham (currently unavailable, though addendum available to download as PDF – see bibliography below), about how farmers on the Isles of Scilly in England’s far south west had raised the temperature of their soil. They wanted earlier harvests of daffodils for sending to London, at a higher price than the later harvests would sell for.

Farmers are practical people. They discovered a method that made a noticeable difference to the warmth of their soil. It’s simple to achieve, and costs nothing to practise. This might be the reason why you may never have heard of it.

At sunrise on summer solstice, take five sticks of any wood, such as medium length bamboo or pointed hazel, and pop them in the ground around your land and house. An imaginary line between them will outline an irregular, five-sided shape.

Since writing this, I have been asked for ‘more details about placing the sticks and a diagram’. However, there are no more details because it’s as simple as I have written in the preceding paragraph. And the diagram will come from you looking at a map or overhead photo of your property.

I do this once a year at Homeacres. It takes twenty minutes, and I cannot prove it makes a difference. I am more than happy with the speed of growth all year, and the earliness of my harvests.

The moon

Farmers have observed and worked with moon forces for millennia. I like working with the energy of a waxing moon – seeds germinate faster, and plants grow fuller above ground.

Peak moon energy is two days before full moon, a great time to sow seeds of any kind, for strong growth all their lives.

Two Austrian scientists named Kolisko, a married couple, researched this over ten years of growing plants and measuring growth, in the 1920s to 30s. One concluding observation was that sowing two days before full moon gave the largest plants, although not necessarily the healthiest.

There is a drawback to working with the waxing and waning moon framework. If you miss sowing just before the full moon, 29 days need to pass before another opportunity arrives!

Another school of interpretation focuses on which constellation the moon is in. This mostly comes from biodynamic farmers and gardeners, who watch the moon very closely, including how it relates to other planets and the universe as a whole.

  • It’s important to say that you can sow and work by the moon, without practising biodynamics, see below.

Just as the sun passes through 12 constellations each year, so the moon passes through all of the same constellations each lunar month, spending about two and a half days in each. From each one it picks up one of the four main elements: Earth for roots, Air for flowers, Water for leaves, and Fire for fruits and seeds.

After nine or ten days the cycle finishes and then repeats itself. If you miss an opportunity to sow, say, carrots during an Earth moon, another comes along within ten days.

Researchers such as Maria Thun and her son Matthias, in Germany, have collected plenty of evidence to suggest that this four-rhythm cycle has a measurable effect on plant growth and harvests. To follow it, you need a current year’s book to know which constellation the moon is in on any given day.

Two days before a full moon at Homeacres
Moon experiment – sown on a root day, left, and a leaf day, right; the harvests were not conclusive


The biodynamic approach is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). His lectures in 1924 initiated a system of farming that is used worldwide. Steiner’s writings are not easy to decipher, and they encourage different understandings about how nature works.

Twice a year at Homeacres, and following one of Steiner’s recommendations, we energise and spread water. In the water is a small amount of compost made from fresh cow manure, which has been buried in a cow horn over winter. You can purchase it from the Biodynamic Association for about £8 / approx. $11 per acre.

We add the manure to a barrel part-filled with water, then stir vigorously for an hour using stout sticks. Energy increases as we make vortices in alternating directions, and finally we use paintbrushes to flick the water over the whole garden, in droplets.

We do this in November as the soil goes quiet for winter, and in March as it livens up for summer. I can’t prove it makes a difference but am sure that it does, while it feels dynamic and high energy during the process.

Stirring the horn manure preparation, before Homeacres was a garden – November 2012
The biodynamic vortex, after having been stirred and then counter-stirred – November 2019
Now spreading the energised water – April 2015

Copper/bronze tools

An Austrian forester called Viktor Schauberger (1885–1958) made extraordinary discoveries about soil and water. He found, for example, that using ploughshares coated with copper and of particular shape, results in bigger harvests, compared to the widespread practice of ploughing with steel shares.

He describes how steel tools harm soil structure, such as the water capillaries, as well as microorganisms. A result is disrupted flows of moisture and nutrients in the soil, both up and down, and from soil to plant roots.

In contrast, the farmers’ nickname for Schauberger’s copper-coated plough was the ‘Golden Plough’. However its development was halted in 1949 by shortages of copper, and also by politicians with financial interests in the sale of artificial fertiliser, which declined when farmers used the copper ploughs (Living Energies, p.257 – see bibliography below). The copper should really be called bronze because it is an alloy containing 5% tin, I believe, and this makes the copper much stronger.

Schauberger’s grandson now makes the bronze tools in Austria – see their range.

With no dig, we use metal tools very little. Trowels are useful to insert seed potatoes, remove roots of regrowing perennial weeds, and make holes for rootballs of larger plants. The blade of a copper trowel does not rust and stays smooth, causing minimal disturbance to soil particles.

Copper spades are very expensive but are the purchase of a lifetime because of how well they are crafted, to last a very long time. I really appreciate the smooth surface and sharp end, which make it easy to cut down around bramble roots, and to make a hole for tree planting with less soil disturbance, compared to when using iron tools.

My copper tools include a swivel or oscillating hoe, a spade for planting trees and levering out parsnips, a rake and a trowel

Magnetism from the universe

The work of Philip Callahan is fascinating. He had degrees in literature and ornithology, and a PhD in entomology – he was a polymath. His experiments showed how stone and clay attract and accumulate different types of magnetism. Then he showed how this affects plant growth.

He was intrigued by large and perfectly round towers of stone in Ireland. When travelling there, you come across them in what appear to be random locations. Callahan then discovered that their spatial layout aligns with the stars of the night sky at winter solstice. He figured that their construction, in approximately the 7th century AD, was a way of connecting land and soil to the universe’s magnetic forces.

He developed and experimented with scaled-down models of these towers, and found that plant growth could be increased near to these models. In 2016 I copied one of his designs to create a mini tower, using a clay drainpipe set in the ground. We then filled it with alternating layers of basalt rock and wood chip – about 10 cm / 4 in thick for each layer of small wood, and 5 cm / 2 in of small rock (we used basalt rock dust which is like a very fine gravel). I do not understand the mechanisms, but reckon it’s energising the land around.

By extension, the rockdust can be another source of magnetic attraction. It’s mainly sold as a mineral additive, but it’s probably also enabling passage of low frequency energy into the ground. My link in the preceding paragraph will take you to a supplier.

Callahan energy tower at Homeacres, with alternating layers of wood chip and rock dust inside

May you enjoy your gardening. The plants will notice your thoughts and commitment, and be comfortable around you. In return, they can support you.

Indeed, people experience a calming and beneficial effect when surrounded by the plants of a well-tended garden; I would say the microbes too. We have the chance, through action, thoughts and feelings, to set up a vortex of increasing health.

Homeacres in late September – growth is exceptional thanks to no dig, top-quality compost and the skills described in this book


  • Ancient Mysteries, Modern Visions, Philip S. Callahan – Acres USA, 1984 (this book may be unavailable)
  • Living Energies, Callum Coats – Gateway Books, 1996
  • The Moon and the Growth of Plants, L. Kolisko – Anthroposophical Agricultural Foundation, 1936 (first English edition), then Kolisko Archive Publications, 1978
  • Agriculture: A Course of Eight Lectures, Rudolf Steiner – many publishers since 1925
  • Solar Energy and Dowsing in the Isles of Scilly, A.P. Tabraham – A.P. & E.V. Tabraham, 1982 (this book may be unavailable)
  • Addendum to Solar Energy and Dowsing by Tabraham, before he died in 1991: downloadable pdf
  • The Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar, Matthias Thun – Floris Books, every year
  • Biodynamic Association UK –
  • Copper tools from
sow & propagate
Transplant - Size, time of year, Spacing, support
container growing
Prune and train plants/thin fruit
Harvest times and method
Potential problems