By lambert strether of Corrente.
Sepp Holzer is a high-altitude permaculturalist; his farm is on a mountaintop in the Province of Salzburg, Austria:
Holzer states his path to success began when he realised he had to discard what he’d learned in agricultural college. He set out on a path of observing and emulating natural systems, rather then attempting to control (and, in the process, undermining and destroying) nature. His knowledge rebellion also put him at odds with the Austrian authorities, who fined him several times — and even threatened him with imprisonment — for ignoring regulations on what plants can and cannot be grown in specific regions.
In an interesting example of “the test of independent invention,” Holzer devised a practice of permaculture over a couple of decades before encountering the work of Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, who coined the term. In the video below, check out the aerial shot of Holzer’s farm starting at 1:09: It’s like a fantasy realm. Except it’s real.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview with Holzer:
20:00 HOLZER: “Water is life, water is important. You have to keep it in the mountain. You don’t need big streams to have water; you can channel water by very small changes in the landscape, by making basins. You don’t need to dig a lot, you just press down the earth with the dredge bucket a bit, so that you get a ditch. Imagine you have a basin here, and one on the other side of the hill. The water will run off here, and there, and I just have channel the water down to the basin, and there I make a pond. I compact it, and then I channel the water in a natural way. So I will collect the rainwater coming from the hill. On each terrace I have such a humus basin — that’s what I call them. I collect the water coming off the hill, that’s snow water, heavy rain. It’s collected in these basins, and when there’s too much, it will overflow, into the raised beds. And these raised beds have a capillary action. They take in the water and give it off again when there is too much.
The function of the water is to supply the pumpkins and all the other plants with moisture. I have made a hollow here especially to collect rainwater. It gets sucked up into the hill and is kept there for a longer time, until the next rain comes, and the pumpkins, which need a lot of water, are supplied naturally.”
REPORTER: That’s why Sepp doesn’t irrigate his plants. He prefers nature to do it for him. He doesn’t think much of irrigation.
HOLZERT: “If I irrigate, I have to fertilize, too. Irrigation washes out the soil’s nutrients.”
“Water is life, water is important.”
Fracking. What could go wrong?