When I first purchased this one acre property in 2010, I knew I wanted to convert it into an urban farm (there was far too much land to not put it to some good, sustainable use) but as most beginners in something, I was concerned more about function and less about design. And like most beginners, I was not happy with the initial results. I had function, but the spaces were not inspired.
Fast forward 4 years and several design consults, books, and classes later, (combined with travels to 6 more countries), and I have a concise plan for our home and grounds: To take inspiration from our many travels and incorporate that into our indoor and outdoor living spaces. The idea to transform this property into a European inspired urban farm was born. Transformations take time, and this one is no different, but we are making progress.
Darcy and I had three rules when we started over on our urban farm design:
1. Whatever the element was, we both had to be agreeable to it
2. We would pay for projects as we go in order to maintain our debt free lifestyle
3. It had to provide function with fashion, in other words, there was an aesthetic we wanted to maintain so that the end result would be grounds that evoked that European charm and style we had both come to love.
It’s a slow process. Our personal urban farm has several elements in various stages of completion as we wait for materials, wait for things to grow, and look for things that meet our needs. One area we have completed is the French Pemberley pool and outdoor sitting area— A project we finished this summer that took 6 weeks and over half of our 2014 reno budget.
My first piece of advice when transforming any area of your home or property would be to have patience. Even the most talented professional designers change their minds, and it may take several years for you to get things exactly the way you want them. Also, when addressing landscaping, there are growth years that have to be waited through.
This year, we bought 18 trees; six for shade and design along the back perimeter and 12 in a newly planted fruit orchard. With these particular trees taking 4-5 years to mature, getting them in the ground this year was a top priority. Every time I walk the lanes between my newly planted orchard, I am filled with joy. Not every woman wants diamonds. This year, I just really wanted trees, and my man delivered. In a few years, I will be able to serve my family foods from these trees, make homemade jams and oils, and enjoy their shade. All worth the wait.
My second piece of advice when designing your urban farm would be don’t rush. This may sound the same as have patience, but in reality they are very different things. My backyard chicken run is testament to this. Our first coop and run were purchased quickly, put up even quicker, and had no style. Let me be very direct; that run was ugly, and I wasn’t happy with their location on our property either (I couldn’t see them from the house). Because I had rushed the implementation, my vision of how I had wanted this element to be did not line up with the reality.
This time around, I hired a real contractor, had consults, provided pictures of other coops and runs with similar designs like I wanted, and let the professionals do their thing. My coop still is not done. It isn’t painted yet, and I am still ordering and searching for those other elements that will give it that European charm I am striving for. When I find them I will know. In the meantime, I am not rushing out to get things for the sake of things. Same with my back porch, which is currently rug-less and furniture-less. When I find the right rugs and the right outdoor furniture I will know. Until then, it will remain a blank slate.
Lastly, my third piece of advice is apply minimalism. Most people think minimalism means doing without something you really want or need. It is in fact, the exact opposite. Minimalism is having nothing in your home (or yard) that you do not find to be beautiful or useful. This is a great way to keep clutter out of your urban farm design.
A property that has embraced minimalism in the design process is organized, aesthetically pleasing, and tells a direct story. One does not have to guess what the homeowner or designer were trying to achieve because every element speaks to that goal. Another bonus? When you aren’t buying 10 cheap chairs, you have the money to buy 4 really nice chairs. Minimalism is a fortuitous lesson in quality over quantity. It allows you to have the very best.
I’ve just given you three pieces of advice for designing the urban farm of your dreams. What advice would you add to this list? What advice would you give someone
starting their urban farm journey?