Our Primary School celebrated the 2020 spring equinox this week with a mass planting of chamomile matricaria. A total of 239 seedlings were planted on the School grounds, by classes 1 to 6.
The equinox on September 22 marks a point of equilibrium, in which day and night are of equal length, and from which the days begin to lengthen as the sun moves towards the southern hemisphere. Spring Festivals in many cultures are symbolically celebrated with images of growth and new life (such as the northern hemisphere Easter, where the risen Christ is a majestic picture of new life being reborn from the ravages of winter).
As part of the festival activities, the students made flower garlands, enjoyed 'spring string' recitals and made sunflower compost and clay balls to take home or place on the school grounds. These will provide a bit of spring cheekiness as sunflowers begin to pop up here and there.
Another important aspect of the Spring Festival is the lifting of the horn manure (biodynamic preparation 500) which took place before the equinox. Our Class 3 farmers were willing helpers as the horns, which were stuffed with cow manure and buried in the earth over the winter, were harvested, and the horn manure was dissolved in water and sprayed over the School grounds to enrich the soil.
The chamomile planted by the students was grown from seed, at the School nursery, by our Class 3 students, as part of their studies on biodynamic agriculture, which included building a lasagna compostela compost heap to which they applied biodynamic compost preparation (Yarrow 502, Nettle 504, Oak Bark 505, Dandelion 506 and Valerian 507).
The function of this preparation in a compost heap is to do with digestion of the organic matter. “The preparations promote a good breakdown of the proteins in the compost to humid plant nutrients, and prevent the protein breaking down to ammonia which would be lost to the atmosphere," explain Peter Proctor and Gillian Cole in their biodynamic gardening book Grasp the Nettle.
We are hoping that by the beginning of Term 4, the students will be surrounded by the gesture that the chamomile plant presents in its delicate form. The vision is that this plant enters the children's learning process, while at the same time becoming a resource for free play, in the form of potions, lotions, teas and medicines. It says so much about our School that this is a natural part of early Primary play! There should also be an abundance of flowers for staff and student tea parties, and for Biodynamic Northern Rivers' 503 Chamomile preparation.
It is interesting to note, in terms of the current pandemic, that during the First World War, this species was used for the treatment of diarrhea and was also a common home remedy for digestive issues and as a steam bath for lung problems, as well as being a preservative for meat. We still use it for its wonderful calming qualities. In nature, chamomile grows in compacted clay soils that can be turned to mud, so it is a wonderful pioneer garden plant which fits the profile of the majority of the soil in the School grounds. We are hoping that we can use this generous, healing plant in the future and there is a good chance that it will adapt to our soil conditions and become a natural part of our garden. An interesting experiment!
Deep gratitude goes to biodynamic great grandmother, Uta Wight, and farmer and writer, Kaye Groves, from Biodynamic Northern Rivers, for witnessing the lifting of the horns. Also many thanks to Primary School Coordinator Cathy Jones and staff Renata Oshoa, Judy Patterson and Libby McQueen for their assistance during the festival.
Nadia de Souza Pietramale