How to Make a Suburban Home Feel like a Farm

Todays hectic lifestyle and high stress levels seem in direct contrast to the rural life that many of our forbears experienced. Things seem to happen at a much slower pace in rural areas. When we escape to the country for a holiday, or even a day trip, we seem to recapture something of this "rural" atmosphere; and for most people, this is a great stress release. This perhaps provide some insights into why so many urban dwellers are so keen to bring a little bit of the country to their homes and gardens in the city.

There are lots of things you can do in this respect, to develop country images, sounds and even smells in your garden.

SIGHTS
To create a rural image, you need to do three things:
1. Block out the view of any "non rural" images, such as factories, unsympathetic
   architecture, or busy roads.
2. Enhance the view of any rural sights, such as a view over farmland, or to distant
   mountains.
3. Add rural images to your garden. This could include things that we associate with farms:
   - Poultry and their yards and pens.
   - Dogs, particularly breeds that are associated with handling stock, such as kelpies,
     border collies and heelers. Don't forget though that such dogs need a lot of exercise,
     so if your yard isn't very big, then you must be prepared to walk them and play with
     them regularly.
   - Old farm implements, or equipment (eg. machinery, barrels). Be careful to consider safety,
     eg. sharp or protruding pieces, or moving parts. This is especially important if children
     use your garden. You might also use old horse or bullock drawn wagons, or timber
     jinkers if you have sufficient space, or simply an old spoked wagon wheel perhaps
     leaning against a tree or wall.
   - Rustic furniture, such as rough hewn timber furniture, or perhaps an old rocking chair
     on the verandah.
   - Rustic fencing. This could include a typical 4 or 5 strand wire fence used to separate
     paddocks, or post and rail fences. Such fences can also be used, if you get on well
     with your neighbours, in place of standard paling fences, to open up the views
     available through adjacent properties, creating an image of more space.
   - Old milk pails. These can be used on a verandah as perhaps an umbrella or walking
     stick holder, or used to hold a container of plants.
   - Old cars or bikes. These can be great for kids to play in.
   - A woodpile and chopping block
   - A produce garden growing vegetables, herbs and cut flowers, and/or fruit trees.
   - Edge your garden beds with logs, and/or weathered rocks.
   - Old horseshoes, perhaps placed over or on your front or back door, or perhaps on the
     facia board of an arbor or pergola, or over the entrance to your garage or garden shed.
   - A windvane with a rural image, such as a rooster or other farm animals.
   - A scarecrow placed strategically in your garden, perhaps in the middle of your 'vegie'
     patch.
   - A mini windmill placed amongst low growing plants in your garden. Such windmills are
     often available at nurseries or rural produce suppliers.
   - Old, large tractor tyres lying on their side to create raised garden beds, or a sand pit
     for the kids. 
   - Bales of straw. These can be placed under cover, for kids to play with (e.g. cubbies),
     or can be later used to supply bedding material, for poultry, or used to provide a
     windbreak for your vegie or herb garden. When the bales have begun to decompose
     they can be pulled apart and used as mulch on your garden beds.
   - For larger gardens you might have a pet goat or sheep to help keep grass down. They
     must be well tethered to prevent them getting loose, and into your garden beds. Goats
     in particular, will eat just about anything organic, including rope, so they must be
     tethered with a chain that is well anchored. It is also very important to provide
     protection against attack by dogs, and from humans.
   - Produce such as bunches of herbs, garlic, Indian corn, dried flowers, or drying gourds,
     pumpkin, etc. can be kept on verandahs overlooking the garden, or in your garden shed.
   - Bottles/jars of preserves, or dried produce (e.g. chick peas, beans) can be stored on
     shelves on a protected verandah, or in a garden shed.
   - Old saddlery and tack can be used as ornaments, perhaps loosely arrayed on
     cupboards or shelves, or hung from rafters or on rails on a verandah, or in a shed
     where they can be readily seen from the garden.

EXTENDING THE 'LOOK' INTO YOUR HOUSE
Some of these previously mentioned items could also be taken indoors (e.g. milk pails, bunches of herbs, a bowl full of dried gourds) to link up the garden and the house to create a fuller rural image. You might also do the following:

* Have a country style kitchen, using lots of wood, rather than the gleaming modern
  materials that are more commonly used today.
* Install a combustion cooker/heater rather than a modern cooking range.
* Have a rough finished, solid timber dining table.
* Use solid timber exterior doors, perhaps with leadlight panels.

A HINT
A drive into the country will provide you with many, many ideas. If you see something that you think might be appropriate tell the owner what you intend to use it for (eg: rural garden setting) and you might be surprised to find them only too willing to offer up further suggestions that might be hidden down in a back paddock out of view. While certainly not wanting to give these hard working people an image of untidiness, many farmers tend to drop things where they are once they've ceased to be useful.

Rural images are generally less manicured, and do lack the formality of urban and suburban areas. The informality of a rural garden should be enhanced by a little untidiness in the gardens upkeep; so don't worry if the lawn gets a little longer before it is mown, or if things don't always get tidied up.

SOUNDS
Block out city noises, and create ones associated with rural landscapes, including:
* Poultry clucking or dogs barking (remember your neighbours though).
* The sound of the old Windmill slowly rotating is a familiar rural sound that just requires
  that you don't oil the cog too regularly.
* The sound of splashing water camouflages the noise of the city
* Use sound barriers to block out city noises (some types of fencing/walls) will soundproof
  a garden better than others. A thin vegetation barrier may do little to stop sound; but a
  thick wall or a large mound may be more effective.
* Locate outdoor living areas in quieter parts of your property.
* Attract birds and bees to the garden.

 
SMELLS
The country always has a "fresh" smell about it. It is generally less polluted.
You can minimise the smells of the city by...
* Lots of vegetation increases oxygen; screens of trees & shrubs filter smells of the city.
* Mask smells with other smells such as scented plants
You can create subtle rural smells by....
* Smell of manure (subtle -not strong) added to garden beds, or compost heaps.
* Eucalyptus leaves (in Australia)
* Hay (use hay/straw as a mulch....for both water conservation, and the scent it creates.
* Fire (eg. a wood bbq (rather than gas), a brassiere (check fire regulations with the local
  brigade), a combustion heater indoors.

FEATURES TO ADD A "RURAL FLAVOUR"

GARDEN BUILDINGS
Certain types of buildings simply look more rural than others. Rusty corrugated iron sheds, open\faced machinery sheds, mud brick, timber logs, or a roof of shingles....these all create a rural feeling. If you have buildings like this, enhance them. Show them off. If you need a new building; choose a rural architectural style. If you have structures which are in direct contrast to the image you are seeking, think about screening. You can hide an unwanted sight quickly, and create a new sympathetic site with a trellis fence or panel. Alternatively, growing vines or shrubs against a wall can mask the undesired image.

RURAL FURNITURE & FEATURES
Some companies produces products designed for the "rural" garden. Look through some gardening magazines, visit a garden show or craft market, and you may find just the type of things you need. Alternatively, you may find great features for the rural style garden in antique or second hand stores; particularly in rural areas (e.g. an old butter churn perhaps).

THE AUSSIE DUNNY
The crowning glory for some aussie gardens is the humble dunny at the end of the garden path. So much a part of the Australian folklore, this strange little building is one which might be considered, not just for it's practical uses but also, in the right setting, for the aesthetic impact it might impart. You don't even have to make it work. The sight of a typical dunny can create a interesting and humorous talking point.
 
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