We started this project in September 2013. Back then the place was a blank canvass - a field of alfalfa, without any trees or shrubs at all; even grasses were unable to grow under the dense, tall layer of alfalfa. The pictures below capture what the place looked like shortly after the first trees were planted.
And the video below illustrates where we are at the moment:
So in the intervening 7 and a half years we...
- dug 4 swales, and later a small pond - dug a well (now served by a photovoltaic pump)
- planted several hundred trees and shrubs (some 30 woodland species around the perimeter and in "islands" scattered around the plot; and a mix of fruit trees, hazels, and woodland species along the swales)
- built an off-grid homestead - house, outbuildings (tool sheds, wood shed, car port), chicken coops
- installed an undergroundwater cistern that collects rainwater from the roof
- created 3 vegetable gardens (each serving a slightly different role, based on zoning)
Making the trees grow has been an arduous journey, given the unwelcoming soil (heavy clay, compacted by long years of machine harvesting of the alfalfa crop) and pest pressure (voles, chafer grubs). But we've had faith, and have been happy to put in the necessary work. Last year the project finally started to look promising; this year, it looks like it's starting to deliver on that promise...
You will notice that some trees definitely don't look like they were planted almost 8 years ago. That's because:
(a) some of them weren't - they were planted at later dates, after the original plantings were killed by voles (I estimate that about 25% of the saplings planted in the first 'campaign' were killed; and subsequent plantings suffered a similar loss rate)
(b) some were indeed planted almost 8 years ago, but were at some point attacked by voles or chafer grubs - weren't killed, just had their roots damaged; I decided to keep them & nurse them back to life, and luckily they survived and are doing reasonably well; I call them the late bloomers.
At 2:29 in the video above, we only catch a brief glimpse of the larger veg garden, which doesn't do it justice. So, for the sake of completeness, below I've added a few photos of that part of the project, taken at different points in time over the last one-and-a-half years.