In our rush to become self-sufficient, we somewhat madly placed an order for 32 bare-rooted fruit trees, 160 raspberry canes, 36 fruit bushes and 10 rhubarb plants the day that we exchanged on our little smallholding and a couple of weeks ago, they arrived. Faced with all these bushy twig things and a finite dormant season (not to mention a weather forecast that predicted horizontal freezing rain, wind and 2 degree weather), we simply had to gird our loins and get on with it. We’ve spent a large amount of the last couple of weekends planting and I’m pleased to say that everything apart from the blueberries (to go in pots with ericaceous soil), the blackberries (to be planted along our perimeter once it’s been patched up) and the figs (to be grown in pots against the south facing walls of our barn) is finally in the ground. It was no mean feat! We decided to plant our orchard and the fruit bushes up in our top paddock and intend to fence our young trees off and to build fruit cages that will keep them all safe from the sheep we’ll have grazing there next year. I’m afraid that this task became somewhat all-consuming and we even stooped so low as to make various guests help out (lure them with food and make them pay is our new motto). The sense of satisfaction when we look at it now is enormous. All of our trees, and our bushes, are happily ensconced in their new soil bed, with a cosy layer of mulch on top of them, and I can’t help but fantasise about how it’ll all look a decade from now when the trees are grown and formed. For now, they look like twigs pointing up out of the soil. This was probably one of the most labour-intensive things we’ll ever do to our little homestead but to plant your own orchard is a very liberating feeling, and with such a wide range of trees, we should be largely self-sufficient in fruit and nuts for most of the year. A big part of this move was a total lifestyle change for us. Leaving London and buying a small homestead farm meant that we fully intended to spend large amounts of our weekends working on the land. Our little boy has embraced this new way of life already, popping on his woolly hat and mittens and riding up to the orchard in our hand-pulled wagon along with the raspberry canes and soil and then playing with the dog or helping us plant, snug and cosy in his snow boots and ski trousers. I think that as long as they’re warm and dry, children are eminently adaptable and it does them good to potter about outside a bit. The dog was less help and ended up tied to the fence in disgrace after making off with various raspberry canes (and one apricot sapling!) in the mistaken belief that her humans had kindly stockpiled enormous amounts of sticks for her to play with. But she was very useful when it came to digging holes!