It was a sunny November morning on the farm – garnished with a crisp breeze at a refreshing 40 degrees. Or what I like to call perfect work weather.
Thanksgiving Eve was here, so the team met up at Burnt Hill. Fresh and ready for work were Lisa, Ashli, Casey & me, as well as Joey Fox, Jack Wells, and Ian Mansfield. We got started at 8:00 with coffee and another of our little strategic talks – swirled around biodynamics. What is it? Why is it important?
I wrote about it at length in a recent piece, Fostering a Relationship with the Land.
We talked about the biodynamic field spray we’d be applying – and also about timing, our tight-knit community, and all our collective energies. Ian spoke up at one point and said, “This is like a farm christening.” And he was exactly right!
There is something sacred about our human relationship with the land.
Coffee down, we all went to gather tools needed. Since our plan was to spread the field spray by hand, we collected branches from a nearby cedar tree – the perfect tool to dip in our bucket and broadcast mix to the ground. From there we filled our buckets with the activated mix, piled in the pickup truck and caravanned to the top of Burnt Hill.
Once atop we all stood in a circle – facing outwards, back-to-back – and each claimed the slice of land in front of them as their “zone.” Like a big pie. We each went out a step at a time, casting our elixir to the ground. Everyone had their own technique – Lisa, Casey, Joey and I were charged with covering the western side of the hill with the wind in our face. Lisa and I walked all the way to the bottom of the hill and worked our way back up, wind behind us. Casey and Joey opted to work into the wind, but zigzagging so as to not get covered with the compost mist. Which is a really good move. Jack, Ian, and Ashli were all working to the east with the wind to their back and simply marched forward. It took seven of us about an hour to cover the hillside.
Ashli’s video highlights:
At the end, we went back down to the house to debrief. We talked about what we had done and what the experience was like for each of us. Jack was trying to find the right mix of order and chaos. Ashli noticed how each of us had our own unique approach and felt like our personalities came through while we worked. Lisa shared how she started off focused on covering the ground in her “zone” perfectly, but at some point along the way realized there was more to it than that. For me, I loved the communal aspect. All of us out there working and learning together, caring for the land, and having fun.
I believe humans are uniquely capable of bringing a vision for developing a farm. And with that knowledge comes a sobering responsibility: It’s a farmer’s job to carry out their vision in a thoughtful and loving way. Not only is this the best way to create a healthy farm organism, it’s also key to personal sustainability. And to the best of my knowledge, that’s what biodynamics is really all about. And that’s why we are implementing biodynamics at Burnt Hill.
Farming is inherently an exploitative process. This is why we’re consciously “giving” to the land before we “take.” Our work through time will be based on rhythms and a conscious cultivation of the soil. Observations from time spent on the farm will inform how and where we plant and design this new vineyard and farm.
So here we are at the very start. Now is the time to prepare the farm for success. We will plant our vineyard only when the soil is ready. This Burnt Hill hillside – with all its elements in harmony – has the capacity to yield wines unlike anywhere else on earth. In due time we'll taste and see!