THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Sep04

Sepp Holzer

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.”

On Waterscapes

“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.

On Soil

“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:

Permaculture.

Desert or Paradise.

The Rebel Farmer.

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!

Thank you!

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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