Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture is a fascinating read about his quest to work with nature on the mountain slopes of Austria, and it resonates with me as I endeavor to do the same here in the hills of Saskatchewan.
By simply following his life’s path, Holzer was living the permaculture lifestyle long before the term was coined. He started as a boy, observing what happened to the strawberries planted closest to rocks in a growing bed he’d created. He studied how stones absorb heat and create micro-climates that can substantially influence the growing and fruiting of plants.
Fortunately, he didn’t develop this into a large scale strawberry plantation or industrial grow-op. Instead, Holzer studied what many kinds of plants brought to a growing system, in terms of nitrogen fixing, fiber, insect influence, PH and other variables of polycultre.
He also worked with water to increase solar gain and attract insects, as well as grow fish. His work now includes over 100 acres of mountain gardens, including orchards, if you can imagine.
This is genius, contrasted with what we do in the Americas with monoculture: continually sowing grains and spraying them with herbicides while continuing to expect the bio-tech industry to solve the problems we create by taking, but not really giving back to the land.
Food abundance, quality and sustainability, according to Holzer, are found in small-scale integrative farming and gardening.
Someday I’d love to visit his place in the mountains. Although there are pictures of the Eden he is creating, actually picking the fruit and walking the terraces myself is most desirable.
What would it take to do that here? In baby steps, I have being headed in this direction with the no till method, use of mulch and crop rotations.
Holzer’s preferred tilling instrument is his pig population, which he keeps in paddocks, and allows into his growing areas to clean up windfall fruit or break up overgrown vegetation, when necessary, which both prevents disease and refreshes the soil. This past year, my chickens prepared a quack-grassed area bordering the raspberry patch for polyculture gardening.
While monoculture geniuses (industrial farming engineers) kill soil organisms, play with genes, patent seeds, create more over-used petrochemicals and chemical residue, Holzer transforms marginal and degraded soil into flourishing gardens. His natural systems technology is working to produce abundance and protect soil from erosion while building diversity.
Holzer’s living from the farm.