Mr. Holzer farms at at his family farm "Kramerterhof", which is in the "Arctic" region of Austria. He is at 1500 meters (4500 feet) above sea level and grows everything from corn to kiwi, nuts, hops, cranberries, garden veggies and every kind of grain imaginable. Along with his vast permaculture gardens he has a mass of 70 ponds, canals and waterways which create microclimates, water his agricultural interests and serve as breeding grounds for fish, snakes and frogs. Not only does Kramerterhof support agricultural endeavors of every kind, it is also home to hardy, heritage breed animals. Yaks, cows, horses, pigs, sheep and fowl of every kind call the Kramerterhof home and, in fact, do a majority of the fertilization and working of the soil.
Permaculture sounds wonderful, right? But to tell you the truth, I really had no idea what permaculture was. It turns out that it is essentially organic gardening/livestock management on steroids. The basic principles of permaculture are:
- All of the elements within a system interact with each other.
- Multifunctionality - every element fulfils multiple functions and every function is performed by multiple elements.
- Uses energy practically and efficiently - works with renewable energy.
- Uses natural resources.
- Intensive systems in a small area.
- Utilizes and shapes natural processes and cycles.
- Supports and uses edge effects (creating highly productive small-scale structures).
- Diversity instead of monoculture.
Although we are not able to immediately put into practice the myriad concepts in Holzer's book, we are making changes already. Before adding soil to our garden beds we laid down ample "biomass" in the form of bark and branches. We are planning more raised beds, but in a configuration encouraged by Holzer - something very different than what we currently have and, in my opinion, highly innovative. We are looking at our little prairie with new eyes and a renewed vision.
Not able to stop at one Holzer book, I ordered his first book, "The Rebel Farmer". The more I read, the harder it was to put down. Holzer's opinions and theories are so like our own. Not only does he want to farm the way he chooses, he believes that the government ought to just mind its own business. It is his firmly held opinion we have become too dependent. As Holzer puts it, "What is regrettable is that others impose their will on farmers. Farmers have to let theorists tell them how they should be farming their own land. This dependence on public servants is a problem, since young farmers are brought up already to knock on the door of a public authority with their hat in their hand and to do what they are told to do". Even in the heart of this Austrian farmer, freedom runs deep.
As far as I can tell, Sepp Holzer is the ultimate survivalist. He grows or raises everything he and his family need to survive. He relies on his water systems to provide power to his farm, his sheep to provide wool and his pigs to provide bacon. He raises his own fish, his own fruit and his own firewood. And he does these things with as little governmental interaction as possible.
If you are striving to become more self-sufficient, Holzer's books are the books for you. If you want your animals and your gardens work for you instead of you working for them, Holzer's books are the books for you. If you like to do things in a manner that is "not so widely recognized", Holzer's books are the books for you.
Check them out and let me know what you think. I, personally, can't wait to get started!
Until next time....