Friday, October 31, 2008

More on the Farm Layout

Yesterday I asked for some advice and thoughts on building types. We are looking at the possibility of putting up a shed this fall and I'm having a tough time wading through the available options. So, I thought that today I would confuse the matter all the more and discuss farm layout ... in particular our farm layout and our thoughts behind what we are doing. With that in mind I put together this wonderful (just kidding) layout with the powerful tools included in Microsoft Word. First let me give you a quick run down of everything and then I share some of my thoughts.

Most things in the picture are pretty self-explanatory, but here are some specifics. The house faces the south and has a large sliding door that opens to a small storage area on the west side (there is actually a mudroom on the east side I forgot). The garden is positioned so that it can have some good morning sun and still be close to the house (the window above the sink looks out over it.) Just to the south of the "proposed fence" the land starts to slope away to the south and the carries on to the "future house?" location (we would have a walkout basement). The electric transformer is an immovable object, but there is enough room to drive around it. With the proposed spots the buildings would be open to the south.

Spot #1: This location is relatively flat and probably would require any grading before building. The upsides would be that it is close to our "future house" and that it would be a bit further from the road. The downsides are that it is a long ways from water at the moment and it would be difficult and expensive to build a drive to it at the moment. Ideally if we built there we would put a drive behind the house to get to it because we would like to leave the front of the house open for a yard. Going behind the house would me quite a bit of gravel and if we ever did build the "future house" would basically become obsolete because we would then just continue our current drive to the "future house".

Spot #2: This location has a bit of a slop to the north and slightly east. It isn't really steep at this point, but it would require some grading ... especially if we went with a carport or carport barn style structure. The slope along with the fact that it would be quite a distance from the "future house" are probably the biggest downsides to this location. The upsides would be that it wouldn't take very much rock to have a drive to it making it easier to get things in and out in mucky conditions and it is close to the water.

Spot #3: This one is kind of a compromise between the two (and it is literally between the two). While it is a bit further from water that #2 it is closer than #1. Plus, it is about as close as you can get to our electrical stuff (any idea of which would be less expensive to run, water line or power line underground?). The land here is relatively flat and wouldn't require much grading, but it might need a slight amount of leveling on the east side. The good things would be that it compacts our farm the most so we have a close walk to everything, it would take just a short drive extension, and if we did go with the "future house" it would be relatively close considering the fact we would turn our current house into some sort of storage/store/whatever.

There are a few factors that we realistically have to think about, but one big factor. The biggest thing is that "future house". That is something that would be way ... way ... way down the road. I'm talking 20 years or more most likely so at that point we might have had the time to build other buildings in different places for different reasons.

Finally, here are some of my thoughts on farm layout. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments and of course your opinion on which spot you like for a building.
  • There is something to be said about having your out buildings close to the house. The closer they are to the house the less you have to travel to do chores. Also, the proximity to an existing water hydrant is a good thing.
  • Arranging buildings with weather in mind is always import, especially on the top of the hill. We are looking at open front buildings (all three of our options) and it just makes sense to have them open to the south if you are going to have an opening.
  • We have 26 acres of pasture ground on our farm. The more we spread our buildings out, the less land we have for livestock. I want to be very intentional about our layout so that we don't waste land. Whichever location we choose for this building we will be utilizing the other area for grazing ... not for yard!


chad said...

I'm going through a similar process trying to decide where to put what on our land.

The iastate orthophoto's tool was extremely helpful for me to visualize the relationships of different spaces - not sure if the scale will work for one building, but for overall layout it's great. It's aerial photo's taken by the state of iowa and provided for free - sometimes you need to scroll back through some of the older ones to get a good looking picture of the land to work with. The best shot of my land is from 1996 for example.

link is here, even if it doesn't help it's neat (to me) to see what the land looked like as far back as the 1930's

Ethan Book said...

Chad- That is a pretty cool website. In fact I wrote a blog post about it quite awhile ago because it has my dad's farm from the 1930's and now. Big difference!!

You can check out the post here...

Rich said...

We built a new barn last summer and I finally just went out and staked (with T-posts) the different building options and locations. I staked the corners of the building, the door openings, approximate fencelines, and gate positions. Then I got in the truck and on the tractor and drove in and out of the barn doors and gate openings, fine-tuning and changing the layout as I went (anybody driving by probably thought I was nuts, but it worked)

If you need to grade the building site, make sure you do it before you start building, it is much easier before a building and fences are in the way. Even if you plan to put gravel on your drive, it is better if you fix the drainage (with ditches, etc) so that it isn't muddy before you spread the gravel, (if the drainage is fixed, you might not even need gravel).

You can use a 1-bottom or 2-bottom plow to dig trenches (~16 in. deep) to lay waterlines or electrical lines by shortening the top link as much as possible then making two passes in both directions, then just clean out the loose dirt with a shovel and lay you line.

There is a posting about plow trenching at:

Anonymous said...

When siting your building (whichever kind you decide on), I have found the following to be true in south central Iowa:
1) Prevailing winds come from the south, the west, or the north, most of the time. You may want to site your building opening to the southeast, instead of due south.
2)About those prevailing winds: if your building is southeast of your house, odors and insects are least likely to be a problem in your home.
3) If your building has gutters, you may want to French drain the areas into which your gutters flow, or you'll have mucky spots building fast.
4) Make the building opening tall enough and wide enough to drive your tallest piece of machinery into. If you can drive your tractor in, or a load of hay in, every step you save carrying or moving those bales will be appreciated with each year you age.
5) Ensure you have some form of lighting in the building (more than just daylight from the open side). The building will eventually be used to doctor a wounded or sick animal, usually after dark, on the coldest, wettest night of the year. It might be helpful to make a section of the roof from translucent panels, as well, to increase daylight visibility.
6) Build a pen in a corner of the building (even if it's just of hog panels) to be ready for that sick animal. Oh, and remember the previous comment about being able to drive your equipment into the building? If you light with electricity, running lines from a pole sited near your building, make sure your tallest equipment will not snag on those electrical lines. (Your tractor is unlikely to be that tall, but there is plenty of gear out there that is.)
7) When you can afford it, put a water hydrant in, or near, the building. Surround the hydrant with a ring of slightly shorter posts, or other barricade, as hydrant handles make great scratching posts for large livestock.
8) If considering a metal building, done by a contractor, make sure the roof is guaranteed for winds up to 80 mph. It won't help in a tornado, but we have plenty of wind storms (such as last week) with fairly high winds, on a regular basis.

Best luck with your efforts. Hope these hints help.

priya said...

even i am trying to decide where to invest what on our land..
can you suggest something?

meanwhile check out my funny blog on being a dairy farmer:

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