Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening

Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) Sepp Holzer, Translated by Anna Sapsford-Francis, Foreword by Patrick Whitefield

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  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Co
  • Format: Paperback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 230mm x 18mm | 476g
  • Publication date: 11 April 2011
  • Publication City/Country: White River Junction
  • ISBN 10: 160358370X
  • ISBN 13: 9781603583701
  • Edition statement: English.
  • Illustrations note: colour illustrations, index
  • Sales rank: 17,251

Product description

Sepp Holzer farms steep mountainsides in Austria 1,500 meters above sea level. His farm is an intricate network of terraces, raised beds, ponds, waterways and tracks, well covered with productive fruit trees and other vegetation, with the farmhouse neatly nestling amongst them. This is in dramatic contrast to his neighbors' spruce monocultures.In this book, Holzer shares the skill and knowledge acquired over his lifetime. He covers every aspect of his farming methods, not just how to create a holistic system on the farm itself, but how to make a living from it. Holzer writes about everything from the overall concepts, down to the practical details.In Sepp Holzer's Permaculturereaders will learn: How he sets up a permaculture system The fruit varieties he has found best for permaculture growing How to construct terraces, ponds, and waterways How to build shelters for animals and how to work with them on the land How to cultivate edible mushrooms in the garden and on the farm and much more! Holzer offers a wealth of information for the gardener, smallholder or alternative farmer yet the book's greatest value is the attitudes it teaches. He reveals the thinking processes based on principles found in nature that create his productive systems. These can be applied anywhere.

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Author information

Josef ("Sepp") Holzer was born in the province of Salzburg, Austria. He is a farmer, author, and an international consultant for natural agriculture. He took over his parents' mountain farm business in 1962 and pioneered the use of ecological farming, or permaculture, techniques at high altitudes (1,100 to 1,500 meters above sea level) after being unsuccessful with regular farming methods. Called the "rebel farmer" because he persisted in these practices despite being fined and even threatened with prison for practices such as not pruning his fruit trees (unpruned fruit trees survive snow loads that will break pruned trees). He has also created some of the world's best examples of using ponds as reflectors to increase solar gain for passive solar heating of structures, and of using the microclimate created by rock outcrops to effectively change the hardiness zone for nearby plants. He has also done original work in the use of Hugelkultur and natural branch development. He is conducting permaculture ("Holzer Permaculture") seminars at his farm and worldwide, while continuing to work on his alpine farm. His farm now spans over 45 hectares of forest gardens, including 70 ponds, and is said to be the most consistent example of permaculture worldwide. He is author of several books and the subject of the film The Agricultural Rebel. He works nationally as permaculture activist in the established agricultural industry and works internationally as adviser for ecological agriculture. He is the author of Desert or Paradise: Restoring Endangered Landscapes Using Water Management, Including Lake and Pond Construction, and Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening.

Customer reviews

By Harry Wykman 22 May 2011 4

'Sepp Holzer's Permaculture' is the work of a man of unique sensitivity and imagination. Holzer has combined a lifetime of practical experience with clarity of expression and intellect to produce a book which will satisfy a practically-minded farmer or gardener as well as the student of agroecological design. With gentle strength, Holzer would make designers and practicioners of us all and entrust to us neither task unless we join him in the school of nature.

He makes us want to join him in that school. He describes the techniques of what he calls "Holzer Permaculture" with surety born of concrete success and the observation of ecological health but without the urgency of someone trying to convince us that he is right. Any urgency the work posesses becons us to join with the author in the "joy of cultivation" which comes from working together with nature.

The Krameterhof, the Holzer family's land and home, is one of the most compelling examples of the application of permaculture principles. Holzer writes that:

"With a little ingenuity it is possible to apply permaculture principles anywhere."

The Krameterhof is a fine example of the application of these principles to an alpine climate.

My principle criticism of the book (and let it be drowned in a clamour of praise) is the potential for some of the techniques described to be transferred to inappropriate contexts. Though I am sure that the author intends to describe the techniques which have worked for him รƒฦ’ฦ’ฦ’ฦ’รƒฦ’ฦ’โ€šรƒฦ’โ€šรƒโ€šร‚ยขโ‚ฌโ€ techniques which must be altered or abandoned in other climates รƒฦ’ฦ’ฦ’ฦ’รƒฦ’ฦ’โ€šรƒฦ’โ€šรƒโ€šร‚ยขโ‚ฌโ€ the tone is sometimes makes this easy to forget. The author sometimes appears to refer to "Holzer Permaculture" as a set of techniques rather than as the set of design principles which he sets out early in the book.

The techniques Holzer describes are impressive examples of what can come of long observation of natural systems and continuous and sensitive experimentation. Some of these techniques include:

terraces, paths and humus storage ditches
raised beds (like none you've likely to have heard of before)
ponds and 'waterscapes'
plant polycultures and green manuring
keeping livestock
earth building
intensive kitchen and vegetable gardens, fruit trees mushroom cultivation.

Each of these is described clearly, with reference to other parts of the system and as a part of an evolving process which begins with sensitive earthworks and broadscale soil improvement. If you recognise some of the techniques in the above list you may be misled to think that this book is not worth reading. You almost certainly do not know about them as Sepp Holzer practices them.

As I came to the close of the book, I was struck by the picture which had grown up of Holzer's imaginitive power. He begins the work with a story of his first garden experiments on a marginal piece of rocky land inhabited by snakes, too far away to irrigate by hand. Some of the things he learns from working with this piece of land are impressive even to his mother, a very experienced gardener. She says, however, that she is unable to use Sepp's methods because of what the neighbours will think รƒฦ’ฦ’ฦ’ฦ’รƒฦ’ฦ’โ€šรƒฦ’โ€šรƒโ€šร‚ยขโ‚ฌโ€ her garden will appear 'untidy'. From this time until now, Sepp Holzer has had not only the sensitivity to develop new methods, he has had the imagination and force of character to integrate them into a viable economic method of farming in the midst of long traditions of 'how things ought to be done' and in an area of Austria thought to be good only for low-value forestry.

This same imaginative power is displayed in Holzer's vision for urban spaces. He elegantly describes very small but scalable systems for small yards and balcony gardens in apartment blocks. The beautiful illustrations of these systems capture an imagination which appears to see how we together might assist nature to do what it would do given hundreds or thousands of years and just the right conditions. Here is the spirit of design รƒฦ’ฦ’ฦ’ฦ’รƒฦ’ฦ’โ€šรƒฦ’โ€šรƒโ€šร‚ยขโ‚ฌโ€ the application of intellect to the ends of people and nature.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in producing food and designing for productive and beautiful places. Holzer has not only produced a working model of the application of permaculture principles, he is himself a model of the elements of character required for working with nature and not against it. Even if, like me, you're from a vastly different climate such as south west Western Australia's mediterranean climate, you will find this book worth reading for its integrity of vision and practice. All it takes is "a little ingenuity" to apply the principles of 'Holzer Permaculture' to other places.

Review quote

"The real story of a 110+ acre commercial permaculture farm featuring 14,000 fruit trees with diverse understory plants, complete integration of rotationally grazed livestock, terraces and rainwater harvesting, and so much more. Anyone interested in taking permaculture to a larger scale in a cold climate will benefit from Sepp Holtzer's 40 years of practical experience implementing permaculture principles."--Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens