Most helpful critical review
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A good intro to permaculture thinking, but frustratingly lacking in detail
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.