By Eli Raczynski
The first and most important part of any endeavor involving plants is to cultivate a sense of the right timing. As the air chills and plants begin to change into their dormant forms, we look to their roots and seeds not only for the promise of new life come spring, but also for the unique nourishment they offer us right now. If we want to find the most ideal time within this season to partake of these gifts, we can consult the moon.
This week (November 7th – 14th), the moon is waning and will eventually disappear completely – what's called a new moon. On the 14th, since the sun is in the sign of Scorpio, so too will be the moon. See, the light that shines at night is merely the sun reflecting on the moon’s surface, so when the moon is new, it is sitting right on top of the sun.
Traditionally, in most cultures the world over, people have understood that it is smarter to work with nature than against it. This, by no coincidence, is also a guiding principle of permaculture design. Not everyone, however, considers the moon when they first think of nature, even if they know it creates ocean tides. My question for the doubtful: why should our bodies, the bodies of plants or even the soil - all majority water - be impacted any less by the moon than the vast seas?
Though it is possible to spend many lifetimes studying the intricacies of how celestial bodies effect life on Earth, all anyone really needs to begin working with the moon is the power of careful observation. Any study of cycles inherently takes time and is relative to the location where you find yourself. Therefore, it is best to learn slowly, from many sources, over the course of your entire life. So, if all these ideas are new to you, congratulations, you’ll never know boredom again!
I was first introduced to the practice of planting, harvesting, and tending by the moon when presented with a biodynamic calendar last year. Biodynamics is a comprehensive agricultural method / lifestyle based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Today, I only wish to share one simple biodynamic practice as it relates to harvesting roots: digging them up in the early morning darkness of a day when the moon is waning. See, light and heat from the sun and moon draw a plant’s nutrient-dense fluids (the source of their medicinal properties) upwards and into their stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds. Therefore, when it is coldest and darkest, roots are most robust. So, if you find yourself brave and awake enough some spooky morning this week to venture out with a headlamp and shovel, read on for detailed root harvesting (and subsequent seed scattering) instructions!
Note: I took the pictures below in the afternoon, on a day when the moon was waxing – not ideal. This, however, just goes to show that sometimes (especially when you’re in school and forced to work on the schedule of “the man” instead of the moon), you just got to do things when you have the time. Don’t let the sun, moon, stars, or anyone stop you from getting outside whenever you’re free! No practice is perfect, that’s why it’s called practice.
Step 1: Find the Right Plants