We are determined to DIY (or DIO!)

We’re facing a massive project here with our smallholding. We’d eventually like to be self-sufficient in most fruit and vegetables and meat, as well as cut flowers and so at the moment we’ve got a lot of big “one-off” tasks. Planting the orchard with our 32 trees was obviously one of them, and creating a safely chicken-wired paddock so that our starter flock of hens could go completely free range was another. And this got us thinking about what else we could do ourselves.

Tree felling, no. Chopping said trees into firewood, yes!

Our move from London was a complete lifestyle change. I already gardened in our little urban patch, and we were always very outdoorsy, but we wanted space for our little boy to run around in and we wanted a slower pace of life where we could hobby farm and be  self sufficient in various things. When we moved in, I did the usual London thing and got people in to quote for all sorts of jobs that needed doing around the place, from fencing to pond creation, but when we added them all up the total was staggering. So we faced a choice: wait a couple of years and “get it done”, or decide that as we like being outside anyway, a spot of DIY might mean we can start most projects in this our first year. Thus it was that we spent multiple weekends in a row planting dozens of fruit trees, bushes and canes, and thus it was that we discovered that wielding a heavy duty stapler is actually incredibly satisfying when one is chicken-proofing a whole paddock for them to free range around. And so we think we can do quite a bit more here for ourselves. Where possible, if the cost is just materials and time (rather than actual skill – we’ll keep the tree surgeon I think!), we’re going to have a jolly good crack at it. I’d rather something imperfect that allows us to start our self-sufficient life now, than nothing at all. We’re rapidly running out of dormant season here in Hampshire, but we hope to get a bit more done about the place before things start to grow, and even then there will be plenty to do. I’d far rather work on our smallholding than go to a gym, and I think it’s a fun family project that we can all get involved in. I recently wrote about my aims for the smallholding in 2018, but this list is slightly different, it’s all about things I think we ought to try to do ourselves. So without further ado, I think we’ll try the following ourselves for starters this year:

  • Plant hedging around some of the boundaries in the back garden and paddocks
  • Plant up the flower and border beds in the front gardens (including the hedging)
  • Dig vegetable beds out of the grass in one paddock
  • Build a pig enclosure in the orchard with stock fencing
  • Move our hens to one of the livestock paddocks
  • Pot up the remaining acid-loving fruit bushes (blueberries and cranberries)
  • Train the fig trees onto the barn walls
  • Clean out and renovate the composting enclosure
  • Clean out and restore the barn
  • Get the poly tunnel up and working
  • Protect the young fruit trees from sheep with stock fencing
  • Build DIY fruit cages for the fruit bushes and canes
  • Plant up our various empty outdoor planters

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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