Circle or Square CPP at Pyramid Valley

Harvest Article – Winter 2015

Claudia Weersing of Pyramid Valley Vineyards explores the effect of shape

As children, we all played with blocks. Some of us had the joy of blocks with numerous shapes – circles, triangles, squares and stars – and you would learn to find a matching cut-out shape for the block to fit into on another piece of wood.

The circle was for most of us the easiest, and it is still to this day the one that children reach for first.

In the autumn of 2001, I made my first cow pat pit, or CPP, at Pyramid Valley Vineyards. Using the visual image from Maria Thun’s book Gardening for Life, I found a wine barrel which would be perfect for my preparation-making. I removed the barrel’s base so that the bottom would be open to the earth, and made the top third of the barrel into a lid. I collected manure from our cows, sun-dried egg shells from my chooks, some rock dust and of course the compost preparations 502-507.

My aim was to create a biological and dynamic fertiliser which I could apply with my preparation 500 cow horn application in the spring. Did I believe it would work? Not at all. But it did, and this is when I starting asking questions about what I should do and try, and why I should feel, look and smell for signs of life within our soils and the environment.

2001 isn’t that long ago, or maybe life is just too short. So, after 15 years of biodynamics at Pyramid Valley Vineyards, what am I asking now? I’m thinking about vessels! What is the importance of vessel shape and what is my connection to them?

In 2008, I moved from using a barrel for our CPP to using the walled brick square I came across in Peter Proctor’s book, Grasp the Nettle. A joy to build, I was excited about the new vessel I had created as my pit.

Both barrel and brick pits created the effect desired, and in inspection after inspection, we seem to have achieved the biological inoculant needed.

Today everything to me is rhythm, harmony, balance and movement. I believe most of this came from wine fermentation and listening to ferments with Mike Weersing in the winery.

Does fermentation become more dynamic in a circular vessel than in a square? I do believe so. If you can imagine a vortex in a drum or barrel vs. in a square, you will notice that the vortex is well-formed in the barrel, and difficult not only to create but to keep stirring in a square vessel. No, we don’t create a vortex in our fermentations; but we do mix our circular tanks to create harmony within the fermentation, and circular vessels are much easier to work with.

I’ll get to the point now. It’s 2015 and I’m trialling vessels for preparation CPP. The vessels are one square brick-walled box with open bottom, and one barrel, side by side, made on the same day with the same manure mix used in both. I’m looking for any differences in the two to see if there is a natural rhythm within this type of compost making. Just in making these CPPs, adding manure to the barrel felt much more natural, and stirring these two containers I would think that the barrel will be more broken down in time. I could be wrong, but that’s not what this is about; it’s about finding the best tool for the optimal effect. To create and to continue the stimulation of thought with connection to the cosmos is why I will never stop trying to find the correct piece to fit in the correct vessel.