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120 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2011
This was an easy read, not at all dry or too technical. Mr Holzer describes his farming methods and his farm, his trials and errors and the lessons he learned the hard way.
He talks about permaculture, principles that he has been applying even before the term was coined. He has some great ideas, and you only have to see the pictures of his farm to know that they really work.

What I didn't like about it was that although he tells us what he did on his farm, he doesn't give enough details on how he does them. He whets your appetite for his methods, but then doesn't tell you enough. For example, he says stuff like: "I use foxglove to improve the health of the soil, among other reasons". It only leaves me wondering, what are those reasons?
He keeps telling that he has been watching the nature for 40 years, but he doesn't give the recipes for his plant mixtures. Instead, he suggests that one should observe nature and experiment for oneself.
I bought the book precisely to learn from his experiences, instead of having to spend years observing nature myself.

But overall it is a fascinating read, especially if you want an introduction to permaculture. It is a great lesson on thinking outside the box and succeeding against all odds. You can feel his love and respect for nature and for his land.
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111 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2012
I bought this book with the hope that I would gain practical, applicable information about Sepp Holzer's methods. Instead, I got a somewhat random description of his farm and farming style, with a frustrating lack of specificity in many areas. If you are looking for a book that will explain how to implement permaculture design principles, specifics on how to manage pasture-fed pigs and other animals, or detailed guidance on plant seed mixtures and interplanting, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

I'd have been less frustrated by this book if it was the first time I encountered the ideas of Permaculture, pasture-raising animals, heirloom fruit trees and so forth, but it isn't. I've already read Fukuoka, Mollison, Holmgren, Stamets, Logsdon, and Colemen. All of these other author's books give much more concrete, useable advice, and cover their respective area in more depth and specificity that this one.

For example, the description of the book says that it covers "How to build shelters for animals and how to work with them on the land". Sounds great, and also one of the subjects I bought the book looking to deepen my knowledge of. The description of how to build the earth shelters is good, if cursory (9 pages, with pictures), but the actual working with animals part is only 17 pages long! These 17 pages (with many pictures), give an overview of his philosophy, a brief rundown of a few breeds he has used, a short description of how he works the animals and that's pretty much it. With 17 pages to cover pigs, cows, other bovines, and poultry, no great detail is possible. I learned exactly one new thing: that he mixes snails in his pig's feed to encourage them to forage for snails. This is a delightful gem of information, and a fine example of the storehouse of bits of wisdom he must have, but alas, that was it for specifics. In other sections he mentions some plants that he grows for his animals to use as winter forage, but again, he includes no details that would make this useful to me. No ratios of plant types to include in the mix, no guidelines he uses for deciding what to plant, no idea of how much he plants per animal, no clues as to when or how specifically he plants the seeds. Nothing of practical value to me given that I've already been introduced to the general concepts.

Overall, despite my frustration with the cursory treatment the book gives to the many areas it covers, I think it's a good and valuable introductory book. The book is easygoing, conversational, and approachable. If you are a beginner to organic farming/gardening/landscape design, or a budding permaculturist who has not taken a permaculture design course, I think this book would be a great way to get started. Those with more experience who are looking for in-depth information would probably be better served by other books that are more focused on one of the areas Sepp Holzer skims in this book.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2011
I have been looking for a book that would guide me in creating a garden and maybe even a farm that I can spend the least amount of time and money maintaining yet have better quality produce than the best store can provide. Sepp seems to be the best at this lazy farming approach from anything else I have found so far and appears to produce better quality produce than his competition with much less work and very little - I suppose - ongoing investment. His techniques seem too good to be true. It helps to watch Sepp Holzer's youtube videos as lot of information discussed in those is not covered in this book. For instance, Sepp installs fruit trees between the raised beds, and then uses a mix 50 ancient/heirloom seeds that he just tosses in the raised beds by hand when they are first build (no mention if he lets annuals and biennials reseed themselves or whether he does this every year ). Yes, he doesn't pre-start them early even at 1500 meters above sea level! Impressive! He says it is "alle wichtisgte" most important to have mixture of vegetables and herbs growing around his fruit trees. Just about everything he recommends is anti-conventional and not what one learns in schools, or from other "experienced" farmers or other gardening books. He recommends growing full sized hardy trees rather than the preferred easy to pick from dwarf trees because the later are more prone to problems. He also never fertilizes trees with commercial chemicals though he does provide a few recipes for making own fertilizers. In his experience trees that are fertilized become heavily dependent on the chemicals and grow disproportionately which makes them weaker. He also teaches against pruning, all of which I embrace if it is less work. His approach on having ponds to provide moisture and water for the plants around without the need for any irrigation is another priceless secret. I would love to see more information on how he maintains the animals on this farm (it seems from the book that he just builds shelters for them and they take care of themselves?), does he supplement their feedings at all? How long does each breed stay on his farm before they are sold/butchered, what specific breeds does he have, how many does he have per hectar, what specific seeds does he sow every year, which ones he sows just ones. What other combination of seeds mixtures does he use and for what purpose? Sepp, I would love to learn more! Again, impressive to find out that the pigs and cows don't defecate in their shelters rather use them for sleeping and bad weather - as these animals are free to roam in and out - this definitely beats the conventional method of cleaning up several times a day -nothing like having a clean barn without the work - now is that realistic? How would the more common breeds do if one does have the necessary land?
I live in Cleveland, Ohio area where several farms claim to be using permaculture method. I have visited every farm there is in the 60 mile radius and to my disappointment not one had any resemblance to permacutlure let alone Sepp's method. The highlight and what I walked away with by reading Sepp's book is: mix the plant species up and let the nature create the necessary balance to produce the best with the least amount of effort.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2012
The plus side of Sepp Holzer's book is that he developed his own style of permaculture by playing in nature as a child, and then mimicking those natural cycles as an adult. So you'll find lots of ideas in this book that aren't just rewordings of the same methods you've read about elsewhere.

The downside of the book is that the methods aren't very applicable to most of us. Holzer's techniques are uniquely suited to high elevation Europe (approximately equivalent to zone 5 in the US), and require the use of lots of heavy machinery and large acreages.

That said, some of his tips might just happen to fit your homestead, if you read with a critical eye. The book is definitely worth reading, though won't be stay on my bookshelf with the classics.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2013
There is nothing wrong with this book, it's simply not as useful as other introductory permaculture texts. First let me say that I am a big fan of Mr Holzer and his specific style of permaculture. Three areas of his system that I want to learn about are: aquaculture, livestock, and orchards. All of these topics are covered in the book, but there is insufficient information to put these things into practice. He gives a short summary of everything instead of a complete assessment of anything. As a reader I was left with a lot of interesting ideas but little that I felt I could go out and implement on my land. I hope that he can go more in depth in a future text. For now, I found this book disappointing.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2013
I was really disappointed by this book. If I had to describe it, I would say it is more like a biography about Holzer's life on his alternative farm, as opposed to a book on permaculture techniques. It is definitely not for the beginner, as most of the discussion is superficial, lacks details and doesn't include modifications for situations not identical to his farm. You would have to know and understand permaculture in order to take what he is doing and try to adapt it for use on your own land. There are a lot of comments about how permaculture essentially means that you mimic nature but the lack of examples is frustrating. He comments a couple of times that people always ask him how to do things and he can't answer their questions as every situation is unique, so each solution will vary. While I understand where he is coming from, I think he still could have offered guidelines. I think another thing that turns me off about this book is the narrative itself. I find that his narrative alternates between patting himself on the back for being so innovative and successful with raging at government officials that get in his way. I bought this due to interest in his raised bed system - the same information in his book was already on the internet.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Sepp Holzer's work had been of interest to me for a while and I had read his first book, 'The Rebel Farmer'. It was an interesting book, but it was scanty on his farming techniques. This book has a free flowing narrative just like his previous book. And like his previous book, the narrative is autobiographical. But this time he focuses on his time-tested farming techniques. It is full of color diagrams and pictures to supplement the narrative and makes very interesting reading. A delightful read for any permaculture enthusiast.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2011
I've read a large number of the permaculture books available, and I've thought most of them were very good. This book sets itself apart from the rest, however, in one way that I think is very important -- most of them have so much detailed information that it's easy to get lost in it and suffer from what I call "paralysis of information." There are so many little things to know that it seems like you can never just go do something because it might not be optimal. This book does not suffer from that problem. While it does have less detail than most, it has sufficient detail to get the basic ideas across, and it does so in a way that really encourages you to get out there and do something so you can really start learning from experience. The presentation here is less prescription and more exploration. Where the Designers' Manual is encyclopedic in its scope to the point where it can feel like every possible situation is covered, this one leaves more room for individual adaptation and experimentation. The detail will come, and the other books will be invaluable when you need them. However, I expect that I'll be turning to Sepp's book most often in the initial phases of getting my own property turned around.

Having said that, I'd still recommend getting another permaculture book in addition to this one, as the additional ideas and information are really helpful as well. Try Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture, or Morrow's Earth Users Guide to Permaculture; both are very good. When you're ready to really go hard core, get the Designers' Manual and prepare to spend some hard study time internalizing it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2011
This book is fantastic. I only wish he would take each chapter and sub-chapter and write a separate book about each, there is such an abundance to learn! Sepp's genious is looking at nature and translating it into human activity, so that farming, gardening, forestry,fooed-production, or animal husbandry follows a natural cycle, a natural way forward that is fecund and sustainable. It is his constant striving to create optimum diversity which is the key to his systems. And the use of ancient and heirloom varieties: ban F1's, ban GMO and ban herbicies & pesticides and you will have food-production success! Kiwi fruit in the Austrian alps - you have to pay attention!
I loved his premis for keeping animals: would you be happy if you were expected to live like your animals? If not, make the changes immediately to their enviromment and feeding. Fascinating that the ancient breeds of animals know how to feed and get about, whereas new breeds simply perish if left out in the environment: if a new breed cow slips and falls onto its back it gives up and dies - not so the ancient breeds.
A wonderful book - write in even greater depth about it all, Sepp! And buy it, it is absolutely worth it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
Sepp Holzer is far beyond most farmers in employing cost saving permaculture on his farm. He is doing things that most would think is impossible, such as growing citrus in the alps. This book explains his system and methods of natural farming that reduce both the material inputs and human labor to the bare minimum. We as humans often try to put ourselves between the crops we grow and the natural processes of the environment. Sepp observes how nature provides water, nutrients, sun and heat to plants in the wild and reshapes his land to take the best advantage of its natural resources. He changes the grading on his land to slow the flow of water and lets it settle in the soil. He uses natural forest to mulch is plats. He also sows many different vegetable seed together so they occupy different niches. His livestock live largely undisturbed in large paddocks rich with planted forage and natural shelters. Closer to his house he has Huglekulture beds which allow him to grow annual vegetables without watering. I call him the laziest of all farmers. His techniques are pure genius. I will caution however that his work is not an overnight fix. His techniques are better described as investments. It may take several years to take a traditional farm up to his level of sustainability, but once established it will yield bountiful crops for years to come.
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