How to Create a Dreamy Working Homestead Farm

A California couple makes the move from urban coastal living to a country homestead in Ojai

Jim McCausland
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A Fresh Start

Who hasn’t dreamed of leaving the city behind for pastoral fields and life in the country? (Fresh air! Farm animals! Plenty of room to grow the garden of your dreams!) Which is why, in 2010, when almost five acres of former dairy pasture appeared on the market in Ojai, California, 90 minutes northwest of Los Angeles, Steve and Brooke Giannetti quickly snapped it up. Sure, their home in Santa Monica had chickens in the side yard and vegetables in the front, but there just wasn’t enough square footage for what they really wanted—a sprawling landscape with a greenhouse, a pond, and some hoofed additions to the family. “Our life was evolving to be more centered around gardening and animals,” says Brooke of the daily routine with their three children. “We were thrilled to find this property.” The landscape is pulled together with large sweeps of boxwood, Carmel creeper (Ceanothus griseus horizontalis), lavender, and rosemary. These tough shrubs blend well with a scattering of native valley oaks and more recently planted California pepper, California sycamore, and Italian cypress trees, while vining Boston ivy and wisteria soften walls and structures. Nothing feels fussy; every plant has its purpose. “We kept the palette very limited,” says Steve. “It makes things simple, plus it’s easier to maintain.”
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Will Work for Food

Less than 2 feet tall at the shoulder, Babydoll Southdown-type miniature sheep are friendly, resilient, and happy mowers. “A weed to you is breakfast to them,” says Brooke. A friend with a passion for knitting gets first dibs on the wool.
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Cultured Livestock

A gnarled valley oak frames the goat and sheep pen, which shows off Steve’s architectural chops—note the façade’s classical proportions, plus a dovecote cupola on top. In front, an enclosed garden produces fragrant, old English cutting roses from the David Austin breeding company.
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Garden Guardians

Sicilian donkeys are no more than a yard high and very sweet and interactive. “They’re also protectors,” says Steve. “There are mountain lions and coyotes in the area, and the donkeys keep everybody away.”
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A Bird in the Hand

The Giannettis gather a half dozen eggs every day from a flock of about 20 heritage and common breeds including Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Plymouth Rocks, Silkie Bantams, and White Cochins.
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Tunnel Vision

A simple steel frame gives climbing roses an opportunity to grow up and create an all-encompassing pathway. Paired with French lavender at your feet, it makes for a fragrant stroll.
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Landing Pad

Hemmed in by yellow flag iris and cattails, the pond catches the farm’s runoff and gives wild ducks a place to splash down.