Running my little farm with hugelkulture

Salzburg is bustling with people because of the music festival being held, and it is experiencing an unusual heat wave. Fortunately, I have been staying in the mountains where it is relatively cool, and I have been able to sleep comfortably both during the day and at night, but the heat has become a matter of life or death for a lot of people living and working in the city. Japanese people are used to the humidity and heat at the height of summer, and every household has air conditioners and electric fans. However, although people here have a full range of heating equipment from radiators to fireplaces, they had no need for appliances to keep themselves cool until now. Many elderly people died as the result of a heat wave that struck Europe several years ago, and that too, was because they were unprepared. Wine shop owners have been spending many sleepless nights lamenting that although their expensive wines, stored in wine cellars, may be protected from the heat, the hundreds of bottles of table wines lining the shelves inside their shops will be damaged.

The tap water in my house is supplied by underground water pumped from the mountains, and this precious water supply is shared among several of my neighbors. So, contrary to Western Japan struck by tragic floods, the amount of rainfall here is limited, and I tend to hesitate before watering my plants. But in spite of this, the raised bed of the hugelkulture farming method I am trying for the first time this year has been a huge success, resulting in bountiful harvests of leaf lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, Japanese basil, etc. The method involves putting down a layer of stones for drainage, layering branches and logs that had been left to dry for several years over the stones, and further putting down a layer of twigs and leaves on top of that, then covering it with fermented kitchen garbage from the composter and biosoil. It is watered as necessary, but the good drainage combined with fermentation by microorganisms and soil improvement by worms allow crops to grow well. Thanks to this method, my leaf vegetables have been growing well enough to allow me to enjoy harvesting them every day before meals, and I no longer need to buy them at the market or supermarket. Freshly picked, pesticide-free salad is surprisingly tender, and I have been eating it every day with all kinds of dressings made from argan oil, avocado oil, olive oil, linseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, etc., combined with white balsamic vinegar, local rock salt, miso, sweetfish sauce, and so on. As for basil, I have been harvesting it just prior to eating it to make Genovese sauce, which is tossed with ancient grain spaghetti. With sage, I have been making saltimbocca, and with coriander, I have been making kung op wun sen with Thai-style glass noodles and shrimp, and larb moo using minced meat. As for the Japanese basil, I had given up on trying to grow it because of restrictions on bring the seeds into the country, but fortunately, I was able to get hold of some seedlings here, and I have been enjoying eating it in prawn spring rolls and as a herb in hand-rolled sushi.

Here in Salzburg, people also avoid using screen doors for aesthetic reasons, so I have been forced to live with flies, bees and mosquitoes, but I have actually been finding this unexpected life of self-sufficiency quite pleasant.

Tomorrow, I plan to go into town to attend the concert, “Thus spoke Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, who left an unforgettable impression on me in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

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