In may of 2012 Sepp Holzer came to the Flathead Reservation of Western Montana. It was a big event and people from all over came. Two weeks of water harmonizing chaos commenced as the big man did his thing.
After he left we still did earthworks for two more weeks!!! We now have a total of 5 major ponds, 3 spring fed ponds, two creeks, 5 waterfalls, and over a kilometer of Hugelkulturs!!! We even have the infamous Eukorn, the primordial corn (sepp's famous rye) and his 12 foot sunflowers!!!
The site is developing tremendously: socially and ecologically. We have built a timber framed farm house, a strawbale classroom and a Yurt to host events and workshops. We have entered into partnership with the local tribes to vitalize there food system.
We are now expanding the system to continue with the rehydration of the landscape for the sake of creating and expanding a multigenerational food forest. This campaign is being launched on indiegogo.com.
In the spring we will be hosting the first of many Earthworks workshops. Due to our partnership with the tribes we have nearly unlimited legal opportunities to do Earthworks on this property. I invite you to come and participate in the workshop and to contribute to the project on indiegogo.
We have been cataloging our experiences and learnings. Sometime this year we will be coming out with a educational book and video to share all the teachings of this landscape.
Our crowdfunding Campaign is geared toward expanding the waterways by putting a large pond high on the property and creating a crater garden amphitheater classroom fit with a floating stage that filters the water. We have so much to share, come join us!!!
Absolutely stunning landscape. I love the curvy hugel beds that extend into that pond - that must/will be a really productive area. I went to the website and looked at the garden photos - are there any more before and after photos to see the ideas that Sepp put into place? Also, what exactly are the goals of the project - who is going to be using the land? I'm curious about what kind of community you're all looking to set up.
Darin Kirschbaum wrote:are there any more before and after photos to see the ideas that Sepp put into place? Also, what exactly are the goals of the project - who is going to be using the land?
This is indeed a truly stunning landscape. It's amazing that Sepp did this mostly over the course of 11 days, and the big excavators didn't arrive till day 4 or so! I am no longer involved with the management of this project, and Sepp has not returned there since his visit in 2012. Hopefully Michael will be hopping on the forums and keeping us updated with photos along the way. I know there is a budding community forming around Sepp's creation, as for goals and land use I wouldn't want to speak for them.
I have heard they have done a couple of things that Sepp recommends not to do (planting trees on the dam, not leaving a good crown to the dam, planting trees in hugelkultur) but so far they are very pleased with the results. So at this point I think the project is very much Michael's biological artistry on top of Sepp's water landscape canvas.
Darin, Yes we have a great handful of before and after photographs. Ill attach a couple for you.
The Website is still developing, one of many fires to be attended. In terms of land use and the community being developed- I am growing food, with help from a crew, for a couple of local restaurants, pumpkins for a local brewery, and the diverse array of on site events. This year we will be providing nature based learning to groups of home schoolers, a christian missionary childrens school, and youth from the regional tribes. We are partnering with the tribes to develop the property and due to its being on a reservation the permiting for the earthworks lies in the hands of the tribes who are in support of this broad scale edible restoration, especially since we are emphasizing plants that are indigenizing to the landscape.
We have built a strawbale class room so that teachers, regional and non regional, have a venue to teach at... so in terms of who will be using it, that depends on who has something to teach... do you have something you would like to teach here:)
Zach, Sepp told us to plant fruit trees or grains on the Dam. Yes the crown was a good learning mistake, luckily we have caught and learned, hands on, the value of the mistake before it will become an issue. Sepp also told me personaly that its fine to plant fruit trees into hugels if you plan on just using them for transplants, in fact they grow more developed root systems as a result. And we have done two waterway amendments/installation since Sepp left his mark. The uppermost pond would dry out so I rebuilt it... i had it lined with clay, deepened it, added fish habitat, put in an island and more pond mounds. Its now full, it was able to fill up even in winter.
Ahh I see, planting future transplants in hugekultur, that makes good sense. It sounds like the results have been very encouraging so far.
A lot of people out there have the misconception that Sepp uses Hugelkultur just like swales, for agroforestry systems. I have been trying my best to clear that up, so as to avoid people spending years developing their hugel-swale only to have their trees up root as they begin to reach maturity. All of the agroforestry systems we saw in Austria were within systems of ponds and terraces. I found the lack of Hugelkultur at the Holzerhof to be interesting. He didn't ever discuss this, and no one asked. After the trip I learned that hugelbeds were indeed part of the original installation (I stumbled across some old photos of the site). From what I gather he used this soil to prepare the terrace that is now his main house garden. This seems to make good sense as the hugelkultur creates ideal conditions for soil generation. Ultimately nothing is ever black or white, each situation is unique.
In Austria he cautioned about roots and their interactions with dams. Having strong shallower roots is a great way to stabilize a dam. If the feeder roots make their way from the outside of the dam into the water retention, this can be a problem. Water has such a tiny head that it can follow these feeder roots all the way to the other side of the dam. Once the water has a pathway to the other side then schoooooooop, and you have a big problem. I took this as "be cautious of deep rooted trees on dams," but it seems more complex than this. If he recommended that you plant fruit trees on the dam then this must not be a concern at POG for one reason or another. Perhaps the dam is wide enough, or fruit trees have shallow enough root systems that this is not a concern. When he gave us this cautionary tale he didn't mention any particular type of tree. It was more. sharing a concern to be aware of as it sounds like he learned this lesson from nature the hard way.
I think I'm more of the learning type than the teaching. Unless I learn significantly more that is.
It must be rewarding and enabling to have such a large-scale canvas to work with. Please keep posting photos, it's so inspirational to see how much can be done to change a landscape. Would also like to know the mix of species you're working with. I'm an information leech, if you didn't notice...
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