Vineyards and Wine

Why we chose to plant our pastures this past week.


Farming BioDynamically is about farming in harmony with nature. In particular the energies that enable fertility and fecundity.

We have just planted 20 hectares which takes our total hectares under irrigation to 126. The pastures are for our global warming reversing cattle and Eggmobile dwelling chickens to graze. We plant 18 varieties of grasses and legumes (plants that bring atmospheric Nitrogen into the ground, not lentils). I can email you the list if you are interested.

In the photo below, taken yesterday, Murehwa is driving the tractor (a Lamborghini…truly) pulling the Piket minimum tillage planter.

We chose to plant during the week that ended today the 13th of April for three reasons.

First, full moon is 10 hours away which means that the moon has been waxing. i.e. getting fuller. This exerts a force on the earth that is good for germination. (A waning moon is good for transplanting as the forces are going down, into the earth if you wish). Every surfer knows that at full moon there is what they call spring tide and the waves are bigger. The moon is exerting a force on the earth. An example of “the invisible behind the visible” Goethe referred to so long ago. A plant is 97% water and so ignoring the effect of the moon on plants is wilfull ignorance.

Second, the moon is ascending through the planets. This is also an upward force which is good for germination.

Third, if you are lucky enough with your timing full moon will be at perigee which is when it is closest to the earth and is exerting the greatest force upon the earth.

We planted 32 hectares in December 2013 when the same forces were at play and we had excellent germination. The best of the 6 times we have planted pastures.

Now we need to water twice a day until full germination, hope the guinea fowl don’t eat too many of the seeds and then in 8 weeks start the grazing cycle.


Above are the sprayers giving water this evening at Slangpark (snake park) with some of the Eggmobiles cresting the hill.

For those of you interested in more about BioDynamic agriculture click on the green (twice) Recovering the lost art of agriculture – biodynamics for a recent article by the movement’s most erudite protagonist, Nicolas Joly. The last sentence is what is known as a punch line.



13 April 2014

Shelterbelts. Part of our pasture management system.

Hello dear Reader

If you look closely at the above photo, taken in October 2013, you can see a bumble bee in the middle of the picture enjoying the nectar of the keurboom (virgilia oroboidies). This tree was planted in our first shelterbelt alongside our first pastures two and a half years ago.

A shelterbelt is strip surrounding our pastures (started off 5m wide and is now 15m wide). It is where we plant indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs and is one area where the cattle will never graze. The methodology and results of our grazing is explained here. There are many reasons why we have given up precious pasture for these shelterbelts.

1. The trees and shrubs form a windbreak. Our desiccating summer wind needs to be broken.

2. The shelterbelt area becomes a seed bank as the grasses and legumes that grow there are not mown by the cattle and chickens every 6 weeks and can accordingly complete their life cycle.

3. it becomes a home for the birds and the bees (as per above photo). These animals do an important role in cleaning up the pasture of bugs as well as fertilising and pollinating.

4. Most importantly, for me at least, the shelterbelts bring microbial balance onto the farm. I am referring to soil microbes here. Don’t forget that in a handful of healthy soil there are more microbes than there are humans on earth. A tree dominant area is fungally dominant whereas a grassland area is bacterially dominant.

5. The shelterbelts add tremendously to the beauty of our already beautiful farm. As you will see from the photos below there are always plants in flower as we have planted a great variety of indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs.

6. We have a few, long beefwood (casuarina) windbreaks and we need to replace these with indigenous trees and shrubs.

7. The trees and shrubs in the shelterbelts sequester Carbon. Our beef operation generates Carbon credits. Click on the green to read about it. Although our shelterbelts are not calculated in our Carbon project, through the growth process of these trees, Carbon is being stored in the soil.


Below is a selection of photos from the shelterbelts that criss cross our farm.

We really like the succulents as they dont need much water or attention and when they flower the colours are superb.

In case the purple was not bright enough here is the succulent in all it’s glory.

Before I continue you need to meet the team who grow the plants, plant them into the shelterbelts and then look after them.

Spier have the most amazing indigenous nursery where over 2 million plants have been propagated over the last 5 years. Most of these plants have been reintroduced into the veld on Spier and another Stellenbosch farm. The green fingered wizard who manages this operation is Wilton Sikhosana. Seen below on the right showing Jabulani and Mike (with their backs turned) which plants can go out into the shelterbelts.

The team that manages the planting (this winter alone they planted out 4,000 plants) and then maintains them is headed by Jabulani. Looking serious next to him are Dumisani, Machingura, Norman and Terence.

Jabulani takes himself so seriously he cannot even manage a smile.

In reference to some of the points made above, the picture below consists of the following. In the background is the start of a long Beefwood windbreak. In the foreground is Rhodes Katambora grass that is going to seed and the purple flowering plant on the left and right is the September Bush (polygala myrtifolia).

The grass going to seed on the left is Smutsfinger and on the right Tall Fescue. Helderberg mountain in the background.

We cannot allow the purple plant to be the only one to be admired so we planted this pink succulent too.

In the background a Beefwood windbreak that will be removed once the shelterbelts are more established. On the left a honeysuckle’s last flowers and on the right Smutsfinger grass.

Below is one of the newly planted shelterbelts. It is the now standard 15 meter wide variety and Jabulani’s team planted it this past July. Crimson clover is fixing nitrogen. The trees are so small they have to be staked.

One of the advantages of having such diversity is that there is always a plant in flower. In early winter the aloe arborescens comes out to dazzle.


Coulter Bush (hymenolepis parviflora) in the foreground. Eggmobiles behind and Helderberg on the horizon. November 2013.

Finally we are a Wine Farm and we apply the shelterbelt principles there too. Here is the shelterbelt that runs through the Merlot vineyard.




Two opposing views of work in the wine cellar. Sulphur and it’s alternatives. Recovering the lost art of agriculture.

Dear Reader

This past weekend we had the great privilege of having Nicolas Joly visit Spier as part of the Secret Festival.

His 4 hour lecture on Saturday was fascinating and stimulating.

Here are three articles he left with us.

Thanks for reading them. You need to click through twice to see the article.


Clarifications on Work in the Cellar

Recovering the lost art of agriculture – biodynamics

Sulphur and it’s alternatives


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