Small Farm Layout : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Howdy. Does anyone know of a book or website that has instructions for planning the layout of a small farm? Placement of house, barn/outbuildings, garden, pastures etc. This would be for less than 20 acres. I know there are many factors to consider, but a starting point would be helpful.Want to avoid making mistakes. Thanks

-- MontanaBob (, April 26, 2000


This is a tough one since it depends on the contours of your parcel and what buildings you need. Check your library for older agriculture books, some of them discuss the subject. The basic layout will be dependent on your land, cost of bringing in any utilities, where your septic system can go (one of the most important things) prevailing wind direction (especially in the winter) the types of buildings and the house you are planning on. The well (if you have one) needs to be above and away from the septic system. If you have a view you want to enjoy from the house, that will have to be allowed for. If you live on a gravel road and the wind usually blows across the road into your place, you might want to put a machine shed between barns, the house and the road.

If you can sketch a simple diagram of your land on graph paper, cut some pieces of paper using the same scale to represent the various buildings you plan on. Play around with it for a while, think about what chores you'll be doing over the course of a year. Consider drifting snow, and getting plowed out. Remember that you may need to get trucks pulling trailers in and around in your yard. When you've got some ideas for how you want things laid out, get some stakes and a LOT of string. Using a tape measure to make sure you've got the sizes right, roughly lay out the areas where you think you want things like the buildings, the house and the garden. See if you still like your plan. It'll take some time and work, but it will increase your chances of being happy with what you finally do. good luck, Gerbil (IA)

-- Gerbil (, April 26, 2000.

Visit some of the heritage farms that are around. Iowa has a good one called Living History Farms in West Des Moines that has 3 farm layouts. See what you don't like and what you do like about each one and make notes and drawings. Visit other people's farms as well.

I happen to visit a farm in MN that was selling angora goats and I liked their layout so I jotted it down. Still haven't used it, but if I get the chance I will.

-- beckie (, April 26, 2000.

We used The Readers Digest Back to Basic's book on our homestead. It is very usefull, and ours is comming out of its cover, it has been used that much. It starts with purchasing your land, setting up the farm, where to place the buildings, animals, trees, gardens, crafts and every homesteading thing you will ever need! Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (, April 26, 2000.

Go to a nearby architectural college which has a good library. Look up farms or agricultural buildings. There are old books, as someone above mentioned, which discuss different layouts, their advantages and disadvantages. I studied historic architecture preservation at Ball State in Muncie, IN and found such books in their library. I also like to drive in the country and look at the different layouts of the old farms. The Amish farms around here are set up very practically and prettily. I try to take pictures of what I like and keep a notebook.

-- R. (, April 26, 2000.

There was a book written in the seventies that I got from the library several years ago. It had workable layouts for 1,5,10&20acres. This was a great book full of information. Unfortunately I don't remember the title or author. I have been searching for this book for several years and have yet to run across it. Of all the homesteading books I've read, it put the rest to shame in that area. It covered the homestead as it changed through the seasons, crop and animal rotation, building placement, and numerous other details that I haven't found covered well anywhere else. Man I wish I could find that book.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, April 26, 2000.

I think the Have-More Plan has a bit on layout. (I can't find mine to check to be sure.)

-- Jean (IL) (, April 26, 2000.

Check out "The Hav-More Plan" it is for 2 acres but it will giv3 you the basics. CS. has them and T-MEN you cna't go wrong even is the info is 50 years old. A begining is a B....

-- Hendo (OR) (, April 26, 2000.

Make it easy on your self. Make sure things that need water (Animals and gardens etc.) are close to water. Make sure you can get a truck and/or trailer wher it needs to be. (To move animals, haul compost to garden etc.)Put the garden where you can see it (That way you will work in it more)place flower gardens where you can use grey water. Do Not make the openings in the barn/shop/out buildings face the hard blowing winter wind Be able to store stuff where you need it.(Don't keep your garden tools in a barn on the other side of the farm) Just use your head. This is your ground, your farm do it your way. Things that wotk for others do not always work for you. Living it Grant

-- Grant Eversoll (, April 26, 2000.

Well I have a question...

looking at what each of you have now...if you had to do it all over again, what would you have changed on your farm?

-- XRhodes (, April 27, 2000.

That's an easy one, our property is a 13 acre triangle. We built the house in the front center about 200 feet in, making a circle drive way, lots of woods for privacy. Sounds ideal, pituresque, and very little driveway to maintain. Wrong! We have all but landlocked ourselves! Between the well, septic (can't drive over them lines), shop, dairy barn, guest house for the older kids in college, my sister and her trailer, we have a dandy of a time getting to the back of our property now! I love the layout of our place, buildings are around a nice size yard, so everything is easy to get to, yet far enough away, but wish the whole compound was back and over to the side about 1000 more feet! Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (, April 27, 2000.

X, this place was here before we were born, so we've just had to make do with other people's choices. What we have is the "home place" carved out of the original farm. It is set up to get large equipment in and around. We don't need monster tractors and combines for what we have. Very slowly, we're adapting things to our needs. We're adding power and water lines. The grainery will become a shop. An old wood shed will be torn down and replaced with a bigger shop building-we do both wood working and blacksmithing and would REALLY like to get those two hobbies in their own buildings. The sheep barn is too big for our flock, so we're planning on partitioning it someday and putting all the stock in there. Then the chicken coops and big barn can all be used for storage and workshops. (What can I say, we like to tinker)

The only thing I would really change if I could is the house. It is utterly hopeless. We have no where to leave our boots and shoes except in the middle of the kitchen floor, no closets to speak of, doorways couldn't have been planned to be in worse places, that sort of thing. Someday we'll be able to rip off half the house and rebuild. But that isn't going to be soon. So we live with our winter coats hanging on the kitchen chairs, boxes and sacks and plastic bins piled every where and dream about the day we remodel. Oh, and I'd really like a nice big room to set my choo-choos up in. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (, April 27, 2000.

Gerbil, your house sounds like ours!! But we did (partially) solve the coat problem by putting a four-foot peg-rack up near the door. Coats are supposed to get hung up there, boots are supposed to go underneath, and next to it is a tall old cabinet with cubbyholes for hats, mittens, etc. It works IF people use it!! And I also (partially) solved the closet problem by hanging thick dowels on both sides of one end of the attic, so we have a place to hang clothes up. You know, the layout of the farm is very important, but the layout of the house is no less important, especially when you are raising and storing most of your own food, and generally trying to be self-sufficient. A well-laid-out house can make the work so much easier -- and a badly-laid-out house can make it so much harder that things don't get done.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, April 27, 2000.

We planned and planned this layout, and for the most part got it right. Good adjacencies for moving manure, water distribution, gardening, etc. However!! And this is a big one, if I were to do it all over again, I would seriously consider just biting the expense bullet and building ONE big barn. We have salvaged and built 2 smaller barns, a henhouse, a kennel, a bunkhouse, have an existing shed, built a huge garage, and just completed a pavillion. We have a friend who is an architect who laughs and says we have created our own skyline! It's very asthetic, and yet functional. BUT it will be a lot of maintenance, currently requires more fencing and gates, and will be a pain to paint again someday. Just a serious thought or two.

-- sheepish (, April 27, 2000.

Hey Little Bit Farm, I went to the local library and found a book with a one and a 5 acre farm layout. Plus, it sounds like it is maybe the book you are looking for. It takes you through the seasons and has sections on crafts, preserving, etc. It's called: The Guide to Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour and was published in 1976 by Hearst Corporation.

Montana Bob

-- MontanaBob (, April 27, 2000.

Go and look at your land in the morning, afternoon, and evening. And night time. Notice winds, sun and neighbors' lights. Plan your "permanent" garden after living there for a full year, because you will make some mistakes re: the winter cold and sun. Same with barns if you are lucky enough to be able to wait.

I dug a water line to an area that I continue using (up a hill a bit) because I already dug the water line...ugh! May change it and write off the energy.

Think muddy days, windy nights and winter befor putting the barn THAT far away!

Good luck.

-- Anne (, April 27, 2000.

Montana Bob, I wanted to BUY that book (out of print since forever ago) so I asked Amazon to find it for me. Guess what: a MERE $50! I will keep searching the used book stores, thank you very much. The library is even better...except you have to take the books back!

-- sheepish (, April 27, 2000.

For books by John Seymour go to Begin+Search&new_used=*¤cy=USD&mode=basic&st=sr&ac=qr

-- R. (, May 02, 2000.

"big house, little house, back house, barn" Book on farm planning/vernacular archhitecture in N.E. I believe it to be a good resource. GOOD LUCK

-- bo bostock (, January 11, 2001.

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