The Farmhouse Landscape Design Process – Stage 1 (The “Property Assessment”)

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

Concept #1:

So much of this has changed but it’s fun to see where we started.

Concept #2:

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…

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