Thursday, March 27, 2008

Working On The Farm Layout

For quite a while I have been planning the farm layout in my head. I have thought about where I would put the hay shed in relation to the house and how far away would the garden be ... even how big the garden would be. But, now it is coming close to the time when I need to stop dreaming about and start nailing down some plans! We have the land (almost), so now we need to choose a building site and start laying out our buildings and future buildings. That will be the key, not only finding a spot for what we can build right away, but also thinking about how things will layout in the future.

There are two main building spots on the land that we are in the process of buying. From the very first time we saw the place we have looked at those two spots and thought that the place on ridge (sort of a ridge, I guess more of a flat spot on the Southern slope) near the woods would be the ideal place. It is down hill a little bit so we could hopefully have a bit of protection from the elements, it is near the woods so we have a neat view, and you could position the house so that you don't really see any other houses from your windows.

But, when we were out there the other day doing some measuring for the land release (for the building loan) we started to have second thoughts. At that building location the house would take up the most level part of the hill, and then we wouldn't be left with much else for other buildings. At the bottom of the hill it is rather wet and mushy in the spring and lots of snow collects there in the winter, so you wouldn't be the best idea to build down there.

I realize that I don't plan on having lots of buildings. But, we will eventually have a house, a hay shed, some sort of equipment storage, probably a brooder house, and of course the garden which will take up space. As I keep examining what we thought was the best site I have a hard time seeing the layout.

The second location is on the corner of the property where the road curves around. It is the highest point and fairly flat. The reasons that we have written in off in the past is because it is close to a neighbor and because it is up on the hill with no trees for protection.

But, it is back in the mix now because it would be the easiest place to layout a "barnyard". We have been researching fast growing trees like the austree to get up a wind, dust, privacy hedge quickly. Then follow that with some quicker growing pines and finally some hardwoods for shade. We need to go back out there and look at how a pole building (that we would live in), garden, hay shed, equipment storage, other odd buildings, and a future stick built house would all layout.

It is time for us to start doing ... instead of just thinking! That is exciting and scary at the same time!


Mellifera said...

The only thing I can remember about siting was...

"Don't put your house on the prettiest spot of land. 'Cause then you can't see it from your house, and it won't be the prettiest spot anymore anyway."

Dave_Flora said...


I'd go for putting the house on the 2nd spot for the following reasons:
1) As you mentioned, there's more area to work with, so you'll have more flexibility in planning/changing your building layout.
2) Viewed from overhead, it seems like a more natural access point for your farm. Just position your house layout to encourage views of the property and away from the neighbors.
3) You can plant trees around the house (where there aren't any now) and encourage landscape diversity. Since you're using it for living anyway, why not have it benefit the farm with (insect eating) birds?
4) Since site 1 is sheltered and closer to the woods, it would make a better place for a winter cattle shelter, which you could use "pigerator" pigs on, and you're close enough to the woods to run your pigs on the woodland for a while if you desire.
My wife and I are still 3 years away from where you are right now (we'll be moving onto my family's 240 acre farm), but we plan about it constantly! Hats off to you, Ethan, for being close to your dream!

Rich said...

Just from your description, I would choose spot #2. I assume you can see most of the property from this point, so the entire farm and its workings could be more easily seen from this point. Its usually easier to place buildings and then plant your trees, then try to position your buildings around existing trees (which then die due to construction traffic). On a practical note, if the farmstead was on the corner, you could have a drive that was oriented towards the house area, and around the corner you could have a service/tractor/working type drive that was oriented towards the farm portion of your property.

If you are going to direct market your products, don't forget to also consider the view of the farm that your potential customers will see as they turn at the intersection, turn up the road towards the high point of your property, and then turn into your drive. You want to make a memorable impression on your customers, so that they are buying a pleasant memory, or an experience of your farm, and not just a package of meat.

As an aside, most of the old homesteads I am familiar with locally were usually built on the high portions of the properties, the better to see the view and catch the breeze.

Walter Jeffries said...

The biggest thing I would suggest is don't make things permanent too soon. We purposefully have been doing a lot of temporary experimental stuff, gradually making things permanent as we figure out the details. It takes a while and experience. Theory is good but we have to adapt things to our mountain, climate and ways. I'm still figuring so much out! :)

Ethan Book said...

Good input everyone. I think I will take some time next week to kind of lay out what we have in mind. A lot of of your advice is along the lines of what we are thinking, so that is good.

Right now I think we will have two permanent structures ... a house and a hay shed (that may eventually be equipment storage). We will be placing the house in a location we like, but also one that is suitable as a farm store, because in the long term plan we will build a stick house and this will be the farm store... but, more on that later.

Keep the great ideas coming!

Jean Ann said...

Our house is at the top of a hill and I love it...and not only for asthetics. We almost always have a nice breeze, which helps reduce our energy costs in the summer. I don't have a lot of property, so my gardens are near the house. The wind helps reduce mildew and produce stronger plants.

Ethan Book said...

Jean Ann - Thanks for the comment and for checking out the blog. I hope to hear from you more!

I do think we are leaning towards a house on the hill because of some of the reasons you and others have mentioned, now we just need to make sure that everything will still work out as far as water and power go ... I think they should.

A cool breeze would help in the summer, I just hope that same cool breeze doesn't freeze us in the winter :) We will just have to plant a windbreak...

Will W said...

I built a pole barn that includes space for our home in it. The house part is 2540 sf and the garage is 2400 sf. It is on a hill and the breeze is always a factor. I used the south view and a large overhang to get heat in winter and shade in summer. Put only 2 small windows to the north. And positioned the garage around the house to the west and north. That knocks down any winter winds before they get to the house part. This has been very successful. We use Geothermal heat and lots of insulation to keep the utility bills very low for the space. I do not farm so I don't know how something like this would work with your property. I would be happy to share the design. We are in Indiana and the passive solar has worked well for three years.

Ethan Book said...

Will W - I certainly would love to hear more about your pole barn house! We have lots of questions and thoughts that we would like to bounce off of someone that has actually done it.

Please e-mail me if you can ...

annexed (at)

Of course squash that all together and replace the (at) with the @ to get my e-mail address :)

Will W said...

Ethan, did you receive the e-mail I sent from my wifes account?

Ethan Book said...

Will W - Yes I did receive the e-mail, and I though I had responded. I will send it again... maybe check your junk mail?

Anonymous said...

I have always dreamed of having my own farm, but grew up in Jersey, in the shadow of New York. Everyone I know thinks farming is either an antiquated waste of time or too much hard work for one person. I have finally stopped listening to everyone else and I'm ready to fulfill my dream. I admire you for where you have reached thus far and would like to know if you could direct me to where I could look for information on farming needs. I wish you the best of luck and hope you achieve everything you want.

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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majorakin5 said...

My husband and I are enmeshed in the same process. We bought 14 acres about a year ago and we have been trying to figure out where to put our buildings since then. I think we've finally nailed down our location--facing south (for solar gain) with the woods behind us and providing a buffer from the wind and nice views all around. The large garden will be between the house and the existing metal storage barn on the E side. We'll put the chicken coop and runs between the woods and the garden. The barn and garage will be NW of the house so as not to obstruct the view and the 4 small pastures will be W of them. I plan to start the garden this spring though we won't move onto our land until our middle child finishes high school.
We are exploring our housing options...We had an architect that specializes in passive solar/thermal mass structures (utilizing earth bricks made from the soil on site) out to the property yesterday, but he wants $200/sq ft. We don't want that kind of debt. You plan to build a pole barn house like Will W? Sounds intersting!! Tell us more!
Will W I'd like to see that plan, too!

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Yogesh said...

Hi !
I just got a 2 acre farm . An i need some help planning things in regards to wht all can be done in a 2 acre farm.

Liz said...

Hello Ethan!
Was curious to read your article as am planning on buying farm land soon and also putting up my house on the same piece of land about (5,000 to 10,000 sq.ft)...I would really appreciate advice on what to consider when looking for such land to buy and in planning a farm with animals, crops and trees.

Liz (Uganda, Africa)

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