THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Sepp Holzer (who wrote this book Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture) is an Austrian farmer, who until recently farmed the Kramertehof – 45 hectares of land 1500m above sea level. He is known as a guru of Permaculture. Although it seems the methods he follows are similar in philosophy to those of permaculture – to live lightly on the land, to garden with instead of in opposition to nature – he has very much developed his own interpretation of how to grow food, keep livestock and earn a living off his land.
Here is Sepp Holzer on video – though it is in German, which we don’t speak – but it may be something you can spend time enjoying, and is definitely worth watching just for the scenery on the farm…
We have recently been reading his book Permaculture for the third time. We still pick up new ideas on each read, but also feel more and more confused. The book is supposed to be a practical guide on how to garden the Sepp Holzer way, but we find it often does more to stir the imagination than provide solid practical advice. Perhaps we need to see the farm itself to gain a better understanding of how it works in practise – although as of 2013 the Kramertehof now belongs to Sepp’s son, and Sepp is now gardening 23 acres in the driest region of Austria at a farm called the Holzerhof.
Reading a book that confuses you but also keeps you coming back to it is an exhilarating experience – you know there is something there to understand, but it is causing you discomfort (which you must learn to enjoy) and a lot of energy trying to discover what it is you are missing. This post is really just a gathering up of Sepp related material, rather than a critique, as we don’t feel we ‘get it’ enough to start throwing around opinions…
Another video then of Sepp, in English…
And this is a large website full of articles written by a guy who spent time with Sepp discussing permaculture techniques… this is what he wrote about meeting Sepp, “it was bizarre to meet him and shake his hand! And his hands are freaky huge! My hands are freaky huge, but I’m a giant. His hands are bigger than mine.”
This made us laugh a lot!
This is Sepp Holzer himself, from his book Permaculture…
On Helpers in the Garden
“Nature is perfect. Therefore, I must think about what effects my system has on nature… if I have too many aphids on my fruit trees, that means there are not enough natural predators (among these are ladybirds, earwigs, hoverflies, lacewings, various spiders, beetles and birds) and frequently there is not enough shelter or suitable habitat for them. If… the ground is richly structured with stones, branches and leaves, the number of creatures which prey on aphids will increase. It is not necessary to take additional measures.”
“Water is life, so it is of great importance to deal with this resource carefully… in a permaculture landscape every resouce and advantage is made use of exactly where it is. This is why I often consider drainage to be a bad idea. Where water is found is where it should be made use of. If I want to make money out of wetlands I do not drain them, instead I cultivate plants like orchids or a variety of aquatic and marsh plants that prefer damp or wet conditions… by doing things this way and paying attention to the natural conditions of the land I have always had excellent results.”
On Keeping Livestock
“In a time when the focus is always on high performance and this unhealthy drive for profit has affected the breeding and keeping of livestock, it is especially important to preserve diversity, which represents a significant cultural heritage. Old domestic breeds are not only significantly hardier, they are also more intelligent and adaptable than their over-bred and degenerate cousins.”
You can support Old Breeds in the UK by giving £34 to become a member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. We are thrilled to help them this way.
“A healthy soil that is rich in micro-organisms is a fertile soil. This is a fact that a farmer should never forget, because it is the main requirement for succesful farming.”
Last of all then Sepp Holzer has written 3 books, including the one we have quoted from above. They are:
We hope this gives you a useful introduction to Sepp Holzer and his work. And do contact us if you have a better understanding of his books than we do – we would love to open this discussion up to more people with experience!
Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.
Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …
Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …