Economy based on nature's example

Table of contents:

Economy based on nature's example
Economy based on nature's example

Economy based on nature

Mountain farmer Sepp Holzer can look back on more than forty years of alternative farming on his 45-hectare Krameterhof in Salzburg's Lungau, the "Siberia of Austria" at altitudes of 1100 to 1400 meters. When he began to diversify and run his farm without using artificial fertilizers or chemicals in the early 1960s, the concept of a permanent and sustainable circular economy developed by the Australian ecologist Bill Mollison was still unknown.

It was only when students from the University of Vienna took a close look at Holzer's working methods that he found out that there was a name for his cultivation method: "permaculture". Holzer described his methods in detail in his biography "Der Agrar-Rebell", while his second book is a practical guide for everyone.

In the age of globalization, technology and economic growth, of monocultures, chemicals and factory farming, Holzer is concerned with pointing out the wrong paths in agriculture and offering alternatives. Farming according to the model of nature, based on natural cycles and ecosystems, can equally refer to improved soil he alth as to natural fruit growing or the creation of microclimate zones and the control and storage of water.

Permaculture is based on a beneficial interaction between humans and nature or animals. Ecological circular economy and sustainability, effectiveness and economy for the benefit of everyone involved are in the foreground. The Krameterhof itself provides prime examples for almost every aspect addressed in the book: landscaping, agriculture, fruit growing, mushroom growing and gardens. There landscape, forestry, fishing, animal husbandry, fruit growing, alpine farming, medicinal herb cultivation and even the touristic aspects form a successful symbiosis.

Holzer first describes his "courtyard landscape", its areas, soils, terraces and paths, locations and microclimates, deals with typical plants (with helpful schemes of what grows on which soils), with terrace culture, mixed crops, humus retention basins, mounds and raised beds as well as the creation of water gardens and ponds.

Soil fertility and green manure, variety and the right choice of variety should be the focus of alternative agriculture. Holzer provides lists of old varieties, suggests mixed cultures and underplanting. Free-range husbandry in paddock farming is practiced with him as well as old breeds of domestic animals are kept in a manner appropriate to their species - sometimes in burrows and earthen stalls.

Orchard landscapes have become monotonous, as they are only geared towards yield and simple management. A mixture of noble and wild fruit trees, the use of old fruit varieties (lists!) and the avoidance of spraying, fertilizing and cutting could contribute to more variety and quality. Practitioners receive detailed information on propagation and refinement, on utilization, processing and marketing.

Then, mushroom cultivation, mushroom and cultivated species are de alt with in great detail, before the fifth chapter focuses on the gardens. Holzer writes about cottage gardens, "herb country" and greenhouses, recalls his mother's medicinal herb recipes - such as leg ointments made from bones or ointments made from tree resin - and lectures on natural fertilizers and composting, mulching and manure.

A separate chapter is dedicated to city gardens, the use of permaculture on small areas, in small and city gardens, terrace and balcony gardens. It's about skilful use of space, correct irrigation, site requirements and plant communities. The hobby gardener not only receives detailed lists, but also gets to know labour-intensive processes and learns that digging, dumping and watering not only cost time and energy, but are actually unnecessary in most cases.

In a very personal writing style and peppered with dialect quotes, Holzer has succeeded in presenting an entertaining compendium for practitioners. It speaks of the need to encourage people to experiment and to call on them to treat nature responsibly. It's not non-fiction in the strict scientific sense, it's not a complete theoretical treatise on permaculture-but that's not the goal either. Rather, a strength are the plant lists and drawings, detailed and simple instructions for building raised beds, stables, ponds. And finally there are the projects initiated by Holzer in Scotland or Thailand, where he provides proof that his findings can be applied to a wide variety of climate and vegetation zones.

Popular topic