Today’s post is for people like me who really want to nerd out on “design processes,” specifically in the landscape design realm. We are just so lucky that we are working with Cali (Studio Campo), a reader who reached out when I posted about needing to hire someone. She was just starting her firm, Studio Campo, after years working at larger firms. Now, a year and a half later, she is slammed with awesome projects. However, at the time she was looking for a big, fun project to showcase her creativity/talent for a residential property. Her family has a winery near Newberg (Shout out to Left Coast!) and aesthetically and vibe-wise we were an instant match (you’ll see why today). For those of you scratching your head because you thought we were partnering up with Yardzen, you are right – it’s both (and that’s not it). Basically, Yardzen reached out really early on to partner on the design and execution of the farm, wanting to show people how they can do a variety of styles (we’ve LOVED working with them). They would design (not execute) for social/pr/photography trade. Great! But the property is large and we loved Cali too (who we met at the same time) so we divided up the areas so that Yardzen just does that south side (which you’ve seen the progress of) and Studio Campo designs the rest (and weighed in on the kitchen patio, being local), while both projects are being executed by a third company, our landscape contractor (who is also a designer). So does this mean we have three different design teams for the landscape? Yes. Is it complicated or a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation? I mean, not really because we love all of them for different reasons (but sure, it could have been more streamlined). We chose to do it this way because Cali (designer) doesn’t have a crew to execute (and she lives half-time in Colorado and was pregnant with her first baby during Covid so we knew that traveling back and forth would diminish once the baby was born). So we asked around and found an awesome landscape contractor (Dan’l, who I’ll link up when we get closer to finishing the project) who came highly recommended to us and is filled with a whole different set of experiences and expertise. But Dan’l was too busy at the time (a year and a half ago) to design the project, so we figured we’d work on the design with Cali and when Dan’l’s team could do it (after most of the exterior of the house was complete) his team would execute. Cali would oversee the design, Dan’l (contractor) would execute both Yardzen’s plan for the south of the house (kitchen patio) and Cali’s plan for the rest of the house as well as bring in his wealth of design experience. Cali would send through presentations, like the one you are about to see, that are SO WONDERFUL that even if there is overlap and even if we are paying more in design fees to both companies to execute, we feel really lucky to have so many pros involved. So what you are seeing today is from Studio Campo (Cali) not Yardzen or Dan’l’s company. *And yes, we feel incredibly grateful to have this help and be in the position to hire experts on this.
So when we first hired Cali (who offered a discount in exchange for PR, social media, and photography), she spent a couple of hours walking the property and a week later sent this through. This was before we even lived in Portland but about 1/2 way through the renovation.
Site #1: South Meadow
I know it’s a lot to read, but we LOVED the education and it made us feel like we were in great hands. This area (what she calls the south meadow) I think might be more accurately named the West meadow and is likely where we’d have goats/alpacas and chickens. We aren’t tackling it yet at all (besides we needed to put in that split rail fence and get rid of some invasive hawthorns and Holly first).
She collected all these different species from the farm and took that pretty photo. I’m honestly not sure if this is a normal part of the landscape design process, but it’s just so thoughtful.
Site #2: North Meadow & Entry Road
I’m such a sucker for this stuff. This property is so sentimental to us, obviously, as our home so to see someone think and care so much about it in what felt to be such a personal way made me incredibly happy.
Site #3: House Periphery & Sports Court
The Animals 🙂
While we are holding off on livestock for a bit (spring? summer?), we still really want some livestock (and when Cali did this presentation it was when Brian really wanted a rag-tag gang of the below). A “gentleman’s farm” or a “ranchette”. Basically (and it’s embarrassing to write this), it’s more of the idea of a farm rather than us actually pretending to be a farm. Do I have fantasies of working with a local restaurant and low-income non-profits to provide vegetables? You bet. Might we even partner with an Oregon winery to grow grapes for them in the lower pasture that is totally unused? Maybe. But with animals you “just” have to keep them alive, feed them, etc. I’m happy to report that right now our slower lifestyle would work to do this (we think).
We have shifted away from the miniature donkeys, BTW. We visited an Alpaca farm a year ago and found our “alpaca dude” who proposed that we adopt two alpacas – one lady who is pregnant and one non-pregnant (genders don’t mix I guess). When we were like, “oh we don’t know how to birth an alpaca” he assured us that he would come to us and teach us and our kids how to do it. I know this all sounds so nuts but yes, that does sound pretty darn awesome. Growing up we had goats for blackberry control and a sheep that I absolutely hated (because she would knock me down every day) and we had to take care of them. We still badly want chickens but a lot of people in our neighborhood who have them have a rat problem so when we go to build the coop I’ll definitely ask y’all how to avoid a massive rat infestation:) Anyway, you get it – we want a petting zoo because we are lucky enough to get to have one, and we and the kids will have to pick up poop in the pouring rain six months of the year to keep us all from being too spoiled (Fun Fact: Alpaca poop is worth a lot of money as fertilizer and weed farmers will pay handsomely for it).
The Initial Plans
So much of this has changed but it’s fun to see where we started.
I want to jump in real quick and say that I think we might be really annoying clients – I love literally all of the plans that she sent through – some more manicured and formal, others totally loose and wild. We’ve gone back and forth so much because in the winter it can look pretty gross if it’s not taken care of, but Brian and I both love a more “natural” wildflower look – which really only looks good in the summer. It’s so hard to decide when everything is so beautiful in her plans! We also keep using words like “natural” and “organic” but then have decided to put in a plunge pool which isn’t exactly farm-like.
Yes to all of that. I think ultimately we just want it to look like a natural, sweet farm that is grown in and it’s not going to look like that for 5 years (maybe less since it’s Oregon). But we also have and love our sports court and want a plunge pool. We want meandering grass growing into shrubs, no clean edging and yet we want it “low maintenance”, to have it look good year-round and be easy to maintain – which is all contradictory. We are learning a lot (about landscaping and ourselves) and again are just so grateful for all the experts who are helping:) We “knew” what we were getting into, and yet you never really know what you are getting yourself into and maybe that’s best. I have a theory that if we all knew what the true cost of our finished renovation would be before we start that most of us would be like, “oh, hell no” and back out. But once it’s done, added up and paid over time, the pain/budget spread out, accumulating over a year or two you are so grateful that you did it and maybe even secretly happy that you didn’t know what you were truly in for…
Hi! If that really is tree-of-heaven (I can’t quite be assured from the photo), you might want to look into the spotted lanternfly, a very troublesome bug that loves tree-of-heaven, and think about removing those invasive trees. Bowen Yang played a spotted lanternfly on SNL a few weeks ago. He was funny. The SLF much less so.
Agree- though seems like they are aware, since the photo has a star beside the name, to note it as invasive/noxious. Also sounds like they are working to remove invasives, which I love to see!
It’s from the site survey of existing plant material. “So when we first hired Cali (who offered a discount in exchange for PR, social media, and photography), she spent a couple of hours walking the property and a week later sent this through. This was before we even lived in Portland but about 1/2 way through the renovation.”
Luckily the Spotted Lantern Fly hasn’t made it out to the west coast, and is currently limited to the northeast/mid atlantic region.
I’m dealing with a tree of heaven infestation on our property (New England) and I actually think this may be sumac, not TOH! Tree of heaven doesn’t have serrated edges, and a little notch at the bottom. Sumac are native here, not sure about west coast though. I’d check it out, Emily – TOH will also smell like peanut butter if you crush a leaf.
*and has a little notch
They also have a gland on the underside of the leaf!
8 think it’s a Ruse Tree.
Beautiful plans – I’d struggle to choose too! One bit of unsolicited advice – baby alpacas can sometimes die (they can be quite frail) and it would be so heartbreaking for you! I’d stick to grown up ones.
I don’t know anything about alpacas. But if the baby is a male, would you be able to keep it? With most farm animals, people cull (or neuter and later cull) the males bc they tend to be aggressive.
Think through your plan for dealing with roosters as well. Even if your neighborhood allows roosters, most people don’t want multiple roosters. Are you going to eat them? Are you ok with other people eating them?
It seems like Emily grew up with animals so this may not be new to her. But, having family who raise livestock and have young children, I do think it’s important to prepare your children for the possibility of livestock death. And think through things like whether you’re comfortable eating your livestock. Chickens don’t lay eggs for their entire lives, so a lot of people get chickens for the eggs but then struggle with what to do when they stop laying.
They eat your leftovers?
Thanks for sharing the plans! I’m really looking forward to following along. I’m from a different climate (Ontario) but I don’t think meadows look bad in fall/ winter. Piet Oudolf designs naturalistic gardens for year-round interest with lots of interesting seed heads and grasses, and many of the species are native to North America (also lots of upkeep for his- I think a low maintenance meadow would still look lovely). He’s Dutch, so I would imagine the climate is not that dissimilar from the PNW (?). I LOVE that you are aware of what is invasive and working to remove them. It’s so important ecologically. I have a native plant garden (the whole back yard of my little yard – essentially a courtyard garden) and I’m not over the thrill of seeing so much life from the plants, insects, and birds. Robins nest in my yard each spring, I saw a woodpecker a couple weeks ago, and flocks of birds are now enjoying the bugs, and seeds from my flowers, as they migrate. There is so much beauty in watching plants grow, and bloom, and go to seed, and change colour with the seasons, and come back each year.
Seconding the recommendation to look at Piet Oudolf’s work! His garden designs are naturalistic while being very intentional and well-designed. Yulia at Y Garden is great to follow on Insta and YouTube (east coast landscape designer who uses a lot of native plants in her work), and she just posted a bunch of photos of her recent visit to the NY Botanic Garden which has a large area designed by Oudolf. Oudolf’s work really changed the way I think about landscaping and you could find some great inspiration there.
Yes! There is a movie about his work which I believe is called The 5th Season. Magical!!
Came here to say this. I LOVE my native plants garden in the fall and I am a huge Oudolf fan. This looks is completely in vogue in NYC with native dessicating gardens abounding – see Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the High Line or course, the native plants garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden… The seed heads are gorgeous along with the mix of fall color and pops of late season wildflower color. I wish I could give native recommendations for the west coast but I am an east coast gardener!
Where there are chickens, there are rats! Kind of… I’ve found their populations reduce when food is contained at night. Right now, we have just six chickens and a small coop for sleeping so food stays outside in their run. When we had 40+ chickens, their coop was a shed and we were able to keep food in there which meant at night the food was closed up inside. We definitely saw fewer (if any!) rats with that set up. You could also look into a feeder with a solar paneled door that closes when it gets dark. Right now we have rat traps (which I hate) but I’m looking into deterrents like flashing lights… I’d encourage you to bump chickens up to the top of your list, they are incredibly easy and if you raise them from babies (and give them treats every time you see them), they will be your best friends!! Mine follow me around the garden like puppies. So sweet.
As a neighbor to someone who had chickens, I will tell you the amount of rats they brought to the neighborhood definitely made me feel less neighborly towards them. They had a number of urban farm animals and then their yard had fleas. Then our yard had fleas, even though we don’t have any pets. It was a bummer.
Very fair point. I’m sorry you dealt with this, Remington.
Also….rats means no veggies that fruit (tomatoes, though technically a fruit), will make it to your table/fork!
If you get Guinea Fowl, they protect the chickens from predators and alert ypu tp issues, like a dog, sort of. Or, get geese. Nothing much messes with geese.
The flies and smell are real unless you are verrrrry conscientious about cleaning coops, pens, etc.
Guinea Fowl are so FOWL! They get on everything and poop. They are incredibly noisy all the time. And they are super dumb. 10/10 don’t reccomend Guinea Fowl. I know tons of people who have had them and they all got rid of them or the GF all died in the first year due to poor life choices.
Sadly, there are still rats no matter what. I had chickens with a buried wire coop and a treadle feeder system. No matter what there will be bits of food scattered around on the ground as the chickens go through it – they’re messy!
Chickens seem like a ton of fun but it’s important to be clear-eyed of the disease issues, poop maintenance, and attracting rats and mice (and their fleas and ticks). Plus here in Portland, you’re also going to be dealing with raccoon packs trying to break in, plus possums. City chickens (and yes, Emily’s place is in the city) are a lot more prone to rodent and raccoon issues by far (and all the diseases they carry).
We have six chickens and a fairly large coop and run. We keep the feed in a galvanized trash can outside the run, the run itself is dug in and hardware cloth, and we use a Rugged Ranch enclosed feeder. This has kept the rodents to near zero, except the unfortunate one who got into the coop and was apparently pecked to death! It’s possible to do for sure.
This is very interesting to me. I’ve had chickens (up to 80ish) for the past 15 years and have zero rat issues. I live on an actual farm with horses, goats, chickens, dogs and cats (and we used to have a donkey may he RIP) and we have never had a rat issue. I surmise that our dogs and cats keep them away.
I agree that chickens are SO easy and fun!
Are fox an issue in the PNW like they are here in Maine? They are a menace with keeping chickens here.
In the Seattle area, raccoons, coyotes, raptors, and neighborhood dogs are the big problems — I haven’t heard about foxes here, though they do go after chickens in northern California. A raccoon-proof coop, good fencing (at least 4 feet high and dog proof), and some cover (such as trees and bushes) have all been important for my chickens.
If you have chickens, you will have rats. I lived in PDX, and now PDX adjacent, for years and all my neighbors had a variety of chickens, coups, feeders, etc. And they all, without exception, quickly had rat problems.
Your place is lovely, btw, and thanks for all the updates. +1 to the alpacas
You’re going to LOVE having a soup and salad garden!
Commenting to suggest that you include some herbs in your patio pots. We’ve got a similar setup to yours (veggie garden farther from the house in ideal spot for sun and growth), and it’s so, so nice to be able to pop out the back door and grab a handful of thyme or basil from our little herb garden while cooking dinner.
I love the idea of garden rooms and defining various spaces. If you worry about meadow or more natural areas at some times of the year, install fencing to separate that area. The fence should be appropriate for the purpose and wooden, then it all works together. I think it works well when the area closet to the house area is fenced off. It certainly gives a farm vibe.
I have learned that it’s one thing to grow up helping care for animals as a kid and quite another to be the grown up in charge of said animals, and overseeing the kids helping take care of them. The “load” it requires to keep animals fed and thriving is much more than you would expect, as something buzzing in the back of your mind that never goes away. Feeding vetting, finding caretakers you can trust when you want to leave even for a short period of time. It all piles on. It’s a romantic notion but a slog in reality. Not that there aren’t joys and benefits, and important lessons to be learned and experienced. You get all of those benefits too, but there is a cost you may not want to pay. Just make sure you have an exit plan so if you try it and it doesn’t work for your life, you have a pathway out.
I’m glad you wrote this, seriously.
As someone who had 4 sheep on a 5 acre hobby farm in the Portland area, I’m SO glad you said this too. It’s constant – managing grazing and the risk of bloat in the spring-summer and making sure there’s available water when it freezes, supplementing graze with hay in the winter, keeping them safe from coyotes, routine vet care, mud causes hoof rot and now you have a severely limping animal, finding a lifeless and unresponsive animal in the morning, finding and paying for qualified care when you are going out of town, etc etc etc. It is such joy and also a TON of work. I developed health issues and we sold our place and I was SO lucky to find an amazing home for our girls but it was awful considering the options had we not.
Thank you so much for writing this. I run a farm sanctuary in WA, and half of our animals come from people who are “over it”. Alpacas can live to 22! Please please Emily visit one of the amazing farm sanctuaries in your area! You can learn best practices for care and also adopt a rescue animal! Adopt, don’t shop 😉
This is a fabulous idea!
100% I had chickens for years here in Portland, and while I had a treadle feeding system (with a large hopper) and a nipple watering system (with a large amount of water)—it was always a significant issue when we went out of town in the summer or the winter. Spring and fall were ok, but when there were heat waves? Even though their coop and run were in full shade, you must be on high alert for heat exhaustion or heat stroke during heat waves and deal with a sick chicken immediately. In the winter, we also have snow or ice storms here or days and nights when it’s below freezing. Chickens do pretty well in cold weather (as long as they’re out of the wind) but guess what? Their water freezes. When it dips below freezing at night you need to be there immediately in the morning providing water to the chickens. And if it’s below freezing during the day? You’re going to need to ensure that they have water all day. – sometimes that means you’re bringing them water multiple times a day. Ah, there are warmers for the water! Yes, and that’s also an electrical hazard around… Read more »
And they die. And sometimes (oftentimes) you have to help them die. I think having farm animals is a wonderful way to learn life lessons (birth, life and death), but you have to be ready for it. We have lost a horse, donkey, goat, cat, chicken and a dog this year. Farm life is not the kind of idyllic that people often think it is. If you go in with eyes wide open, it is incredibly rewarding. But it’s hard.
You echo what I came here to say Tara (and many others here). Sigh… sometimes the idea of something does not live up to the reality of it. Perhaps volunteering at a farm-rescue organization would be helpful in making such a big decision (and maybe more rewarding)? I grew up on a farm where we took in unwanted farm animals. It’s a LOT. I am an animal lover and advocate for them. Would like to see hobby-farm people think through the implications for the animals who end up in re-homing situations.
I’m so sorry you lost so many of your animal friends this year. <hugs>
Thank you for saying this! I was immediately concerned when she said animals “just” need to be kept alive – not only is that a ton of work in and of itself, but it’s not true; they need to have happy and enriched lives, suited to their natural needs and tendencies! That takes knowledge, work, and empathy. And yes, going on vacation becomes a MUCH bigger task when you have livestock, even “just” chickens.
So interesting. I love gardening and like to think I know a lot of plants but apart from the English ivy (also a pest in Australia) and the daisy, I don’t know any of these! So, so different to plants grown in Australia. It’s kind of amazed me that none is familiar.
The animal thing sounds like a lot of work. I don’t quite get the appeal. But it’s not my house, so I don’t have to.
Really look forward to seeing the final planting. The ideas are really beautiful. I’m a hundred per cent in favour of natives, and I think there’s a place to mix natives and exotics that adapt well to their environment but are not prone to escaping and becoming weeds.
We have Ruse (Heaven Tree), Blackberry and a few of the other noxious weeds here in Oz, too.
Emily, your property is profoundly beautiful. I’d be so intimidated to tackle so many zones/sites seemingly at once, but your design and hard/landscaping teams seem like they’ve got this. It must be so exciting to picture these areas five years on. I can’t wait for the reveals to come! As a gardening obsessive, I loved this post. One small suggestion would be that a soup/salad garden will get more use the closer to the kitchen entrance it is: plus you can send the kids out to pick fresh goodies and run back in! All the best.
This is AWESOME!!!! Thanks for sharing Emily. I am currently working to redesign my yard, plus a wooded area beside, and this is exactly what I need! Can you also include how plants are laid in the design, like how far apart, how to group (how many to group together), etc? You may already doing this, but it would be a great help if not. I’m especially interested in the perennial beds.
Ok, I love this presentation of making a labeled flat lay for clients with the plants– such a great idea! I’m totally stealing it, too. Thanks, Studio Campo! I third whoever said to check out the work of Piet Oudolf– he likes to choose plants that “die pretty” so interesting seedheads & plant structure keep winters interesting. I think you can also get away with more naturalistic or “messy” planting as long as you have a strong frame for it– year round structure in the form of fences, walkways, evergreen shrubs, trees with interesting winter structure or berries, etc. I’ve learned to really love seeing a garden evolve throughout the year versus a static evergreen design that looks the same in January as July, and you’ll have more birds and butterflies too. Some other books I think you might like– anything by Doug Tallamy, who is great at explaining how to garden with an ecological and aesthetic focus, and Thomas Rainer & Claudia West’s book, “Planting In A Post-Wild World,” which focuses on how to reproduce a functioning ecosystem through garden design in a changing climate. Definitely start with the Tallamy since he writes for laypeople– Rainer and West’s book… Read more »
If you’d rather watch something than read, Doug Tallamy often gives talks to conservation and gardening groups, which you can find on YouTube. His presentation is excellent.
Not entirely related, but he also appears in the documentary Uninvited, which is about invasive species. It was paid for my NY State, so it has an east coast focus, but it’s really well done. My Texas-based parents who are mostly into the “pretty” part of gardening were captivated.
Oooooh! The nuts n bolts of it all! I’m geeking out!!! 😜
I think we call that Heaven plant a Ruse Tree here…stinky, noxious weed. I think it might be from the subcontinent originally (?). Took me @ 5 years to get rid of it. They come up from suckers = nightmare.
I lpve Cali’s input! That’s how I think. Meadows, batural, local native species. In fact I went to a meeting tonight, for a group aiming to increase the neighbourhood canopy cover to reduce heat ftom climate change. Comm9n values = fast kinship feelings.
Rats n chickens (Aussies call chickens “Chooks”) are a thing! A tricky thing that needs a solution prior to starting,
Alpacas alllllllll the way Hendo! 🤣🤣 I love ’em!
Cannot. Wait. To. See. More!!! 🌱🌳🌱
I hope it includes a grey water system, rainwater tanks and solar pumps!🤞🤞
Thank you so much for this post, Emily!
I ‘m new to gardening and have many landscaping challenges. While remodeling/redecorating websites are plentiful, there seem to be few sites addressing the areas that lie immediately outside our homes (or at least I haven’t been good at finding them — any suggestions welcome.) It is a rare and precious treat to be allowed into the processes of landscape professionals and I greatly look forward to upcoming posts detailing the planning and work involved. For me, the great thing about your site is that you go into depth on the topics you cover; most sites just scratch the pretty surfaces.
I have found this to be true as well. I have started following some garden designers on Instagram, but I haven’t found much information on designing outdoor spaces.
The best resources I’ve found so far are Bunny Williams’ book on garden design (out of print, so sometimes it’s weirdly expensive, but be patient, and it will pop up again). The other one I can’t remember… I’ll go look it up and come back.
If you are interested in horticulture, there’s a lot more information online. One of my favorite sources is Margaret Roach. She has a blog at awaytogarden.com with a variety of tips plus seasonal chore lists. She also has been writing a column in The NY Times about current gardening issues (invasive plants and bugs, replacing lawns, etc.).
Here are links to the books I mentioned:
Bunny Williams On Garden Style https://a.co/d/hkIWKVc
Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Garden Design https://a.co/d/95dMy8K
I keep ordering books out of desperation, and these are by far the best I’ve found so far.
Thank you for your suggestions, Amber.
Margaret Roach’s articles in the NYT are really good and I’ll look for the books you mentioned. I’m also delving into gardening books and magazines in our local library.
There does seem to be a growing interest in gardening (sparked by Covid?) and a subsequent increase in horticultural resources, online and in print.
But information about the actual landscape design process is harder to come by. . .
If there are any landscape architects/designers out there reading this, I hope you will be inspired to share some of your strategies and techniques with the rest of us; I think you will be gratified by the enthusiastic responses! (And/or… maybe Em would consider adding a landscape component to her website?)
I love garden design books! I found these ones interesting: Gardening from Scratch by Ann Lovejoy; Elements of Garden Design by Joe Eck; A Pattern Garden by Valerie Easton; Organic Garden Design School by Ann Lovejoy; Grow More Food by Colin McCrate & Brad Halm (for vegetables); Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom (for gardening with chickens). Hope they help you too! (And yes, Margaret Roach is amazing!!)
Great! More titles to search out. Thanks, Kelly
One little book I can recommend: Small Garden Handbook by Andrew Wilson, published by the Royal Horticultural Society. (Out-of- print but available second hand or maybe at the local library.) It summarizes and organizes basic LA design considerations and is filled with many nice example photographs.
Also, I’m going through lots of issues of Horticulture and Garden Design magazines that can be found at many larger public libraries.
I’ll check it out! Thanks!
And here’s a link to the Your House, Your Garden book: https://archive.org/details/yourhouseyourgar0000hayw/page/n197/mode/2up
Here’s a link to an older version of the Bunny Williams book: https://archive.org/details/ongardenstyle0000will/page/n1/mode/2up
I wonder if some of this is because the time frame is so much longer for outside work. Although people likely do a hardscaping project in a season, developing a garden landscape takes many years. It just doesn’t lend itself to blogging as easily.
Yes, I hadn’t thought of that. Very good point.
Tiny detail but in Concept #1 I am unable to find the dog run. There doesn’t appear to be a “10” on the map.
Same – thought it was me.
It seems from your early posts that one of the reasons you fell in love with this property was the wildness of it. So, it makes sense to keep that spirit (and not be swayed into over-designing, given all the input you’re receiving from multiple contractors).
With the animals, just keep in mind that your kids are young. Right now, they may be eager and latch on to your enthusiasm. But, they likely don’t understand the hard work involved. Also, as they become pre-teens, they may have other interests and all these chores may fall on you. While you think you’ll be in this home (and interested in this lifestyle) long term, it seems best to hold off until you’re positive this is the right commitment for you and your family. Re-homing a petting zoo seems…hard? Not trying to be a downer, but you mention in a lot of your posts that you’re motivated by what’s fun (and this can turn unfun). Sorry if you’re already aware and totally thought this through (it does seem that you experienced some of this growing up).
I love seeing how this plan is coming together! Thanks for sharing this stage.
Re: chickens and rats: we built our backyard coop using the Garden Coop plans (I think they’re a Portland company?) It has a rat-proof (and raccoon-proof) enclosed run as well as the henhouse. We feed the chickens inside the run only, so no food is available to rats. (In Seattle, Tilth Alliance’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour is a great chance to talk to chicken keepers about how their coops are working out and what they’d change.)
If your kids are excited about chickens, I hear A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens by Melissa Caughey (nonfiction) is great! Although it’s fiction, kids write to me from around the country to tell me about how they take care of their chickens and what they learned from my Unusual Chickens series (about a girl taking care of chickens who have superpowers — so, real chicken care, with, uh…extra challenges!) And if you’re excited about chickens, I love Portland-area Tove Danovich’s @bestlittlehenhouse Instagram, and can’t wait for her Under the Henfluence book to come out! Have fun with your chicken planning!
Kelly, your books look so fun! Wish I had some Young Readers in my life to give them to. https://curiosityjones.net/
Aw, thanks! Like chickens, writing is a lot of work — but I find both so rewarding! 🙂
What a lot of great suggestions and resources Kelly, thank you!
Rats (Norway rats are an invasive species) are a problem in PNW cities no matter what you have, wild bird feeders, compost, chickens, and other livestock are all a draw. They are present even without those obvious draws because they thrive in human environments, so you likely already have them at the Farm and may only now start seeing them with the onset of wet, cold weather. I have a couple of sweet, friendly outdoor garden cats (Petunia & Daisy) who have done a fairly good job at catching rats drawn to my compost pile and dropped seeds from my wild bird feeders, though sadly they have also caught birds. 🙁
Caring for animals is both rewarding and a real time commitment – I love doing it, but time wise as a single person, I have too many other animals (I also have indoor cats and foster others) and things to care for. Maybe someday! 🙂
You have wild bird feeders and outdoor cats at the same time? That doesn’t seem fair to the birds.
Hi Tai, I’m sorry, I didn’t fully and correctly write out all the details. I once I realized the potential conflict 2 years ago, I began only feeding the birds suet mixed with seed in the winter over my patio so I can daily clean up dropped pieces. I stopped with the year round seed feeder when I found I couldn’t keep up with removing the scattered seed that is much messier than suet with seed. Because the Steller’s Jay’s raid the dried cat food I have out for stray/feral cats and my garden cats (whose mother’s were feral, I was able to socialize them as older kittens with a couple of their siblings who now have other homes) I have a metal basket high up (very safe) which holds dried cat food for them. And I give the jays peanuts in the winter too, they come round when they see me or I call (I make a clicking sound) them to let them know I have peanuts. I have done this for years. That being said, this past Summer has been the only time I have ever found any dead birds, 3 none were jays, they were 2 sparrows… Read more »
Looks like a terrific and clear headed plan; gardens and landscape take time to establish and grow into themselves – it’s so important to recognize that they will not look lush and abundant in year one (and if they looked lush and abundant in year one, that means they’re over planted and the following years will be plants getting choked out and it being over grown).
Can you explain in real terms for this property what it means under “challenges – entry road public right of way”?
I found this definition: “A public right of way is a public right to travel unhindered over a piece of land, even if that land is privately owned.” Does that mean the driveway can be used by the public as way through your property?
As someone who works in conservation, THANK YOU for your commitment to native plants. They are so much better for the environment, habitat, biodiversity – all of that good stuff I know you care about. So many people *want* to do the right thing but just aren’t aware, and big box stores selling whatever is pretty don’t help. Native plants can be just as beautiful as non-native and will be so much easier to maintain in the long run.
Also, we had chickens, and I made the mistake of naming them. When Fred was killed, then Velma, Daphne, and quickly followed by the three Golden Girls, a little piece of my heart broke. And we didn’t have rats – we had snakes (black, but STILL) that ate the eggs sometimes and I guess killed all the rats. By the time our chickens were murdered (neighbor dogs, we think) we figured the three months of eggs were the most expensive we had ever eaten. hahaha
Whoa, thanks for keeping it real, Molly!
What beautiful plans from Studio Campo and I love the flat lays to label the different plants!
The notations/summery presentations on the different areas is lovely and so many great ideas, the gardens are going to be lovely!
I’m a landscape architect from the SF Bay Area and think you have really found yourself a gem with Cali! I can tell that she is an excellent listener and she definitely has a pulse on the general vibe that you are after. I love her loose graphic style, the collection of imagery to establish the mood and character, and her plant ID presentation is a super creative way to reflect your desired laid back style. I think moving slow on the landscape is a great idea. Live there for a year and see how you use the space.
Chickens and goats are very easy to care for! Do it!!
Having had chickens, goats, and sheep (not alpacas but my friend had llamas which–close enough), I can say goats are the way to go. They’re fun, they’re super low-maintenance, they work for you! Way less stress with goats than the other animals, and you’ve mentioned your anxiety a lot lately. Don’t pile on! Even if you do get some kind of animal, don’t rush into it. Do the research, prep, give it time to see what it’s like living in the house with the kids in school etc so you can see how much time you really have to devote to them. No shame in just having lovely meadows for local wildlife and long walks, without using the farm as a real “farm.”
came here to say this. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Peru around alpacas and llamas, and they are often Seriously Not Nice. The adjective “ornery” barely begins to describe it. They spit, they stink, they bite, they kick… I know some can be cuddly and sociable with humans, but even those can change when they reach alpaca-puberty. Just YUCK. And I’m an animal lover!
The big giant thing I see missing from all of this, if you do plan to have animals, is fencing! Goats are crafty little things and can find/climb their way out of places you’d never imagine. That cute 2 rail fence won’t keep anything in, except possibly an elderly horse. If you are serious about animals I would advise incorporating it into the plan NOW and enlisting the help of a fencing professional in your area because the pretty ones are expensive and require planning.
Goats—— I have pictures of some of the goats my Dad had when we were growing up. My Dad loved animals but his fencing skills were not the best. Goats devoured my mother’s grape arbor. They ate the rose bushes.
We have pictures of them lounging on the picnic table.
Also sitting on the door step to our house like they owned the house. You name it…..they got into it. So I agree…..good fencing is sooooooo very important.
This is so cool to get all the details and I love the images. So excited to follow along. Thank you!!
These plans are so exciting! Probably my favorite part of your property!!
Because you have such a big property couldn’t a cat (fixed of course) take care of the rats along with the other suggestions?
Goats are adorable!! But I agree you will have to have a good, big enclosure for them! They eat everything! And it doesn’t take long!
I think managed properly and with the right mindset and starting off with maybe one type of animal at a time, you will be so happy! I wish I could have a hooved animal where we live. We can have a small number of chickens and I have lots of friends who have them with success.
A cat that’s outside ar rat activity time (night) will kill the native birds.
Love to see the focus on invasive species removal and planting native plants – less maintenance and good for birds and animals. Backyard Habitat has a certification process that might be a useful follow up – help with identification too. BTW, are you thinking of future out door gatherings like say weddings? Hard to imagine but life comes at you fast. Good luck! (PS. animals will attract coyotes which are plentiful in SW PDX)
Please don’t get any more animals. As I recall you had issues with your dogs and poop at the mountain house and you have had trouble keeping landscape things alive in the past. Just live there, try having a small herg garden for a few years. If you have farm animals, you can’t go away! EVER, without having someone there to care for them ALL DAY EVERY DAY!! Someone has to feed them and deal with them EVERY DAY FOREVER. Doesn’t seem like your thing.
Thank you for saying this. It’s a huge decision.
Love all this from Cali, especially concept number one. Looks like you are in such safe hands with her on board! You’ve already had lots of words of caution about the animal plan and I agree. This animal plan doesn’t seem to fit with your desire for a simpler life here. All these animals will need so much time and headspace to be properly nurtured and even then I’m not quite getting the point of them in this instance that you describe. As an alternative, would you consider leaning into the joy of gardening for wildlife? It looks like Cali’s plans will really allow for this and will really encourage biodiversity. The absolute joy of seeing your garden become a haven for wildlife is incredible. I have an urban garden (in Europe) that is much much smaller than yours and the increase in bird life, pollinators, butterflies, hedgehogs is just unbelievable since I’ve owned it and started gardening (and leaving wild sections) this way. You have so much more space and could have such a great impact in your neighbourhood! Instead of looking after domesticated animals, your kids could get to know all the wildlife they share their home with.… Read more »
Just what I was going to comment Ellie. I have an acre and 2/3rds of it is left wild. We spent the first few years on our property clearing invasives and then focused on planting for color and interest through all seasons. Twelve years in and our gardens are mature and so full of life. Gardening never lets up of course. We spend may hours outside during peak growing season, hire help for the big jobs -mulching in the autumn leaves etc. Even the “wild” sections require some maintenance with visits from arborists, tree removal if they become dangerous etc. It is work that balances with so much satisfaction and beauty and to us is well worth it!
I would love to see your garden Rae.
It sounds so vibrant, offering ongoing opportunities for discovery. What pleasures for the kids (and adults) who live near it!
I love your comment. Think of the joy for the kids when hummingbirds come to a garden that’s been designed for them.
I love this comment, too. What a beautiful idea!
Animals are a ton of work. You really need to know what you are getting yourself in before starting. An option, if you want animals on your land, is to foster. In my town in Australia, there is an animal recue center and there isn’t enough land at their facility, so they place some of he animals ( farm type) in volunteering locals’s yards. It’s a great arrangement because you get to enjoy the animals, but ultimately they are the responsability of the center who come for weekly visits, buy the food and all medical expenses.
If you get this far read today’s Thursday, 27th) Gardenista column about re-wilding half of your backyard. Love Oudolf but he’s still about the design and also doesn’t stick to natives.
For naturalistic planting planning that can simply be mowed down at the end of the season and debris left in place, check out Northwind Perennial farm and look up Roy Diblik. He has a book on the process of this very low maintenance method of planning your plantings to maximize wildlife, natives, and ease of upkeep once planted. Very interesting guy, he has lots of YouTube videos too.
Em, this is WONDERFUL. I skipped down at the mention of poop as a crop as I can confirm it is a daily chore to collect (and a little less fun to do in the rain -though that is partly due to my insufficient rain gear). Not only that, but the daily dose of brain happy Love Chemicals! my 21 Giant Flemish Rabbits (ages 6 weeks to 3 years) explode into my brain with every nudge, lick and fast-about bunny dash is R I D I C U L O U S (I was at the grocery store and missed them SO MUCH i wanted to leave my cart mid-aisle and go home -though as I was there to supplement their veggies from my yard this would have been absurdly defeatist so I finished my shopping ; ) and right up Emily Henderson’s magical entry road : )
ps. did i mention how tired i was..? my solo caretaking time is coming to an end but ohmygoodness I am so tired and worried my exhaustion is affecting their level of care…
I spent quite a bit of time with alpacas while I was researching them for an article (here if you want to read it). The breeder I interviewed is an international expert on alpacas and llamas. He told me they have a “schooling instinct” like fish and are miserable when taken out of their herd. Two alpacas would be two lonely, anxious alpacas. Chickens are similar; they need to be in a flock. The animals you’ve mentioned are all social animals and having just one or two of each, while it sounds charming, is unfair to the animal. They are hardwired to live in groups of their own kind, just as we are. Horses and burros can be fine with each other, but alpacas are not tame in the same way and don’t really care about human companionship; they only want to be with other alpacas.
Love this post! I follow Useless Farm on Instagram…and might be instructive for you dear Emily! https://uselessfarm.com/pages/meet-the-farm
There is a guy on instagram called nativehabitatproject by Kyle Lybarger who I have learned so much from regarding native habitat restoration, conservation, and invasive species etc. Worth a follow for those who want to educate themselves on habitat restoration or want to consult with him. I’ve learned so much for when I get my own property on day.
Also great documentary about how important it is to maintain the soil/and about farming call “Kiss the Ground” for those interested it’s on Netflix.
I live in the SW Portland suburb of Garden Home, and have five chickens on our half acre. The chickens live in a coop that measures 16′ x 10′ — and it’s 8′ high. We went big in part because we wanted the chickens to have ample room in foul weather, and also for ease of cleaning, and also in case a further homeowner here wants to convert the coop into a shed or summerhouse. Surrounding the coop is an area fenced in that’s basically 30′ x 30′ that is their run. I planted a dwarf apple tree, half a dozen lavender, and numerous herbs that they eat all summer. Chicken wire sunk 2′ into the ground surrounds the coop. Could rats invade? Perhaps — but we feed the girls only inside, and we check the area regularly for intruders. During spring, I train hops up the south side of the structure to provide more shade. We have multiple drinking and feeding stations both in the “living room” and roost, so the girls can eat whenever they wish.
In reading all comments I find this all so fascinating & informative. I’m from PNW originally & was just visiting friends with acreage they have 20+ chickens and no rats they say in keeping food covered and they have added call ducks. Which alert the chickens to predators and have other good qualities. Just a thought. Look forward to the next phase.
I just thought I would share my experience with goats.
My daughter attends a school with livestock, a llama, Alpaca, two sheep and a goat. We were one of the families that took care of the animals on the weekend for a couple of years. We loved the llama and the goat but the others didn’t want any interaction with us. All of our school animals are rescues so this may have had something to do with it. The llama could be surly at times but once he bonded with you he was so sweet. Also watching him protect the other animals was heart warming. The goat we LOVED she was so sweet just like a golden retriever dog.
When she died we adopted two baby goats and it was awful. They were way to rambunctious and the children were scared of them. They weren’t mean their energy was just overwhelming. We could barely handle them and it was precarious to have children around them. It didn’t get much better as they got a few years older either I would definitely get an older goat.