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Designing a Wild Home

Tips for Settling Land Disputes

Megan WildIt can happen to the best of neighbors or even with an adjacent farm whose owner you’ve never met — a land dispute. You think a stand of trees is on your property. He believes it’s on his.

Land disputes can affect multiple actions. Perhaps your neighbor wants to plant on treed property you’ve thought for years was yours. He may even begin removing the trees! Neighbors may begin new construction on land they assume is theirs but actually belongs to the adjacent property.

Property disputes involve homes and yards, but don’t worry. There are many ways to settle land disputes. Most people are reasonable. In addition, there are ways to avoid or minimize the chances of a property dispute. Here are some tips for settling them.

Before a Dispute Arises

The best plan is to make sure you eliminate any circumstances that might lead to disputes later on. A few things to that may prevent future disputes include:

1. Have a Written Record of Your Property.

The easiest way to resolve a land dispute of any kind is to have a written record of your property. If it has been surveyed, the details of a surveyor’s map can be used. If has not been, the most prudent course is to have it surveyed before you buy. Determine ahead of time who should pay for it.

Have records with the boundaries and any identifying features of the boundaries clearly marked. This is especially prudent if no records exist, or if existing records are old and no longer reflect the property accurately.

2. Put Verbal Agreement in Writing.

Many boundary agreements in rural communities have traditionally been verbal — a buyer and seller’s word and a handshake. If that’s the case, the best course is to change a verbal agreement into a written one. Many older farmers and homesteaders may resist this, preferring traditional ways. But once one of the parties dies or moves, there is no proof a verbal agreement existed beyond the other party’s word.

Verbal agreements generally aren’t sufficient for a court and may not be considered in less formal methods of arbitration. An attorney can help you draw up papers that reflect existing verbal agreements.

3. Know Your Rights, Local Laws and Property Regulations.

Land disputes sometimes occur because certain rights do not belong to the purchaser of property but to someone else. Does your land have any gas, water, or mineral rights that might be owned by another party? Might there be easements that ensure another entity’s rights to your property?

Zoning is another consideration. Not all land is zoned for residential buildings, for example. Finally, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or even the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have certain rights on your property. Check zoning before any potential dispute, or before you want to make an improvement not allowed by rules or regulation.

image of farm land
Photo by Wjmummert (:wmc:File:Indy farmland.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Do If a Dispute Arises

Even when you’ve done all you can to prevent a possible dispute, disagreements can still occur. If you find yourself in the middle of one, know what to do.

1. Show Official Documents About Property Lines.

The first course of action in the event of a property dispute is to show the other party your official documents about where the property lines are. If you have a surveyor’s map or deed, that is fine. But documents that show ownership and property lines can also be found in a tax map, assessor’s map, deed description, subdivision map, or other documents. Official documentation should resolve any dispute.

2. Talk to Your Neighbor.

There are times, though, when a property dispute continues. There may be a genuine lack of clarity about where your property extends, or where it ends and your neighbor’s begins. Perhaps the documents you have are old and not reflected in newer documents issued to your neighbors. The other landowner may have an easement that gives some rights of access to your property.

If that happens, stay calm. Schedule a sit-down meeting, not an argument in the open. Present your case. Hear the neighbor’s case. See if a fair and suitable resolution can be reached.

3. Consult Outside Mediators/Attorneys.

Sometimes, talking a dispute over won’t work. Maybe work has been done before the dispute was even discussed. If that’s the case, consult an attorney. Attorneys can work as mediators in disputes so that all factors are considered in the resolution. Mediation may especially be helpful if there are multiple parties, such as the Federal government or states, in addition to the private parties.

Best Machinery Attachments for Farming

Megan WildThink of machinery attachments as "apps" for your farm equipment. Instead of crushing candy or finding Pokémon, the machinery attachments make farming easier. When a farmer can streamline their production, everyone benefits — especially the farmer who just might catch a break in a day that will always begin at sunup and end at sundown. Here are some of those must-have apps ... attachments:

Rotary Cutters

A rotary cutter is a lawn mower on steroids. It is hooked to a tractor and turns the machine into a super-charged power mower. This helps clear acres of grass in a matter of moments. This is beneficial if that land is going to be turned into a field for planting. Grass also needs to be trimmed in order to manage consumption by cows. A rotary cutter is also a good "starter" attachment for a young farmer in training, as it provides a good workout on a tractor without putting much at risk beyond the grass.

Plows

Can you imagine a tractor without some kind of plow? Many folks might think a plow is a permanent attachment for a tractor, but there are as many plows as there are plants to grow ... once the field has been plowed.

A moldboard plow is the go-to attachment for churning up soil that hasn't been planted in a while. It has large wings meant to cut deep into soil to give it the once-over. A disk plow also cuts the soil but doesn't turn it over as deeply as a moldboard plow. The disk plow works fields that are used to plant rotations. A chisel plow uses its long shanks to turn over a foot of soil with each pass. This is best used after a layer of nutrients is applied to the topsoil. The chisel blow then becomes a riding "mixer," thoroughly infusing that soil with much-needed additives.

Bale Grabs

A good portion of a farmer's day involves moving hale bays from one spot to the other. It’s important to quickly bale hay when the weather is just right, because too much (or too little) moisture can cause nutrient loss and increase leaf shatter. Whether you're unloading from a truck at the barn or picking up from the field, bale grabs reduce machine stress. That reduces expensive machine maintenance down the road and improves your final product, a true win-win.

Broadcast Seeders

Legend has it that Johnny Appleseed wandered the country spreading seeds from a bag around his neck in the hopes of getting apple trees to grow. If only Johnny had used a broadcast seeder attachment — then he would have been a lot more productive. Like plow blades there are many variations of broadcast seeders, but the basic goal is the same: Disperse seeds across a wide patch of plowed field. Most broadcast seeders can be adjusted for width, which makes them very versatile attachments.

Transplanters

A transplanter attachment will be the closest thing you can get to turn your tractor into a living video game. Transplanters are for planting seedlings. One variation of this attachment has seats for occupants to operate either a foot-pedal or hand-lever drop of the seedlings. Those seedlings are in trays that have to be constantly swapped out by the seated operator.

Front-End Loaders

Next to the plow, the front-end loader is the most popular attachment for a tractor. It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment as it can dig, move heavy objects, lift bulky items, grade soil, and transport dirt. It’s kind of like the Swiss Army knife of attachments.

Backhoes

The front-end loader's cousin would be the backhoe. The primary function of the backhoe is to dig and dig deep. The excavator bucket is smaller than than front-end loader. A backhoe can typically dig a trench down to nine feet. You can also swap out the bucket for different types of functions.

If you're just starting out farming, you might be wondering which attachment you should get first. Sooner or later, you'll probably find benefits for all of them. Before buying, you might be able to rent or lease an attachment for a farming season to see if it is a good fit. There are certainly lots to pick from — just like apps.

Tractor plowing field
Photo by Fotolia/Franco Nadalin

The Importance of Family Safety Training

Megan WildSpring and summer are important times on any family farm or homestead. They are times of planting and growing before the autumn harvest.

They are also potentially dangerous, unfortunately. Agriculture is the most dangerous employment sector in the U.S. Accidents happen frequently if people are unprepared or inattentive. They also happen more to certain age groups; children under 15 and people 65 or older have more agricultural accidents than other age groups.

It’s not just accident frequency that poses a danger, either. Many farms, homesteads, and ranches are in rural areas where access to a hospital is not quick or convenient.

Fortunately, training on proper safety techniques and practices is half the battle in keeping accidents to a minimum for your family. The other half is raising the awareness level. Everyone on a farm should be aware their surroundings are not just rural, beautiful, and fertile, but potentially dangerous because of tractors, other machinery, hydraulics, and more.

Here are four areas where training and awareness pays off:

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Source: Unsplash

Tractors

In some states, tractors cause the most accidents and fatalities on farms and homesteads. In Texas, for example, tractor accidents cause 500 to 600 deaths annually:

• Forty-two percent of accidents with tractors stem from drivers being run over.
• Thirty-six percent are caused by the tractor rolling over.
• Five percent happen because riders fall off the tractor and get run over by equipment attached to the tractor.

The nature of these accidents, however, points to the training and awareness required. The first order of business is to read the operator’s manual, including its safety precaution advice. The second is to train new workers on driving and operating. Include supervision both on the farm and on the highway until you are satisfied the driver is highly competent.

Make sure each tractor has an approved roll-over protective structure. These have an excellent ability to prevent injuries when combined with a seatbelt.

Require operators to always wear a seatbelt in a tractor. Do not disembark and walk around without turning the tractor off and disengaging the drives. Never permit an extra rider. A tractor is a one-person operation vehicle, and one person is all it needs. A rider can cause the driver to be inattentive.

Forklift Equipment

Accidents involving forklifts and other powered, industrial, lift trucks cause roughly 107 deaths and 34,000 serious injuries each year. Farmers should be aware that improper handling of a forklift can result in serious damage to their property, warehouses, and the farm’s productivity, too. Approximately 20,000 workdays are lost each year to forklift accidents.

Because forklifts are complicated, it’s a good idea to invest in training sessions for your family. Firms will often come to site-specific areas either to train all workers or train a trainer, who then trains all your workers. Equipment-specific training is also available.

Hydraulic Equipment

Hydraulic equipment must be kept in good repair. Remind everyone working on the farm that hydraulic pressure can be forceful enough to knock someone unconscious in the event of a leak or explosion.

Before spring planting, be sure to inspect all parts of any hydraulic system. Couplings, hoses, lines, and fitting should also receive a thorough going-over. Replace or repair anything in less than good condition.

Before disconnecting any hydraulic cylinders, lock transport wheels and support jacks in place. This will ensure no abrupt shocks to the equipment and thus avoid personal injury.

Equipment on the Road

Whether you will be driving your equipment on public roads depends on your farm’s layout. If you do drive outside the farm, there are special safety precautions to train people on and instill awareness about.

You are required to get a slow moving vehicle (SMV) reflector emblem if you will be driving vehicles at less than 25 miles per hour. It’s a good idea to replace these every two to three years. Although additional reflector tape is not specifically required, tape on the edges will increase your visibility and thus your safety.

Be sure to train all farm workers on proper road regulations, such as right of way and turning. You must also have lights on farm equipment driven on public roads if they will be driving at night or in inclement weather, where there may be reduced visibility.

Generally, avoiding public roads is the safest strategy. If that’s not possible, avoid rush hour or times of heavy traffic in your area. If many cars cluster behind you, pull over as long as you can do so safely. Do not attempt to pull over on a shoulder with farm equipment. It may provoke a rollover.

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Source: Unsplash

Vigilance Helps Families Stay Safe During the Harvest

Farm safety before the harvest is of paramount important to ensuring the well-being of everyone in your family. Farm work can be healthy and pleasant, but it needs to be safe as well. Be sure to train everyone and make sure they are aware of potential dangers.

Improve Your Production During Winter

Megan WildWinter is a trying time for homesteaders and farmers, especially those who are new to the lifestyle. Not only do the severe weather and cold temperatures prevent you from planting and harvesting crops, but wintery conditions could damage your home or property.

Despite the pitfalls of the off-season, motivated and proactive farmers can still keep themselves busy. It might take a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, but there are ways to maintain productivity — and even increase it — during the winter.

Urban Farming & Gardening

Indoor farms and gardens are quickly gaining in popularity due to their low cost, compact nature, accessibility and aesthetic appeal. Considering that homeowners have been growing houseplants and even limited crops indoors for years, it only makes sense that this trend would catch on amongst homesteaders.

Growing crops indoors is also a viable option for those who have limited property to work with. Would-be farmers and homesteaders trapped within the confines of city life can try their hand at the trade before making a commitment and relocating into the countryside. And those who simply can't afford to move their families are still able to enjoy the hobby of gardening.

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Source: Pixabay

Taking Care of Your Livestock

Most of us bring our cats and dogs indoors when winter weather becomes too harsh. Unfortunately, this isn't a viable option when your farm includes pigs, cows, horses and other livestock. While you certainly can't bring them inside, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure they're comfortable during this time.

Start by inspecting the indoor livestock facilities you do have. Barns and other structures should be equipped with heating and proper ventilation as well as the correct feeding equipment to maintain the health of your animals during the winter. You can also take advantage of breaks in the weather to perform any necessary upgrades or large repairs to these structures.

Investing in Modern Equipment and Technology

The winter is a great time for capitalizing on the hard work put in during the spring, summer and fall. By investing in modern equipment and technology, you can ensure your readiness once the weather clears.

It's important to know exactly what you're looking for when you're perusing the market of modern equipment. Thankfully, the additional amount of time you spend indoors when it's cold can be put to good use by researching your equipment options, contacting local dealerships, and furthering your knowledge of technology in general.

Heavy-duty backhoes and excavators will get the job done, but their added size and expense might not be necessary when a smaller vehicle will do just fine. A skid steer loader, for example, is less expensive but also has multiple applications. Not only will it save some of your hard-earned dollars, but its versatility makes it a real workhorse all around the farm or homestead.

Performing Maintenance on Your Equipment

Many farmers take advantage of the winter to clean and maintain their fleet of farm implements. Some even take the time to design and build a full-scale workshop on their property, but old pole barns, sheds and garages can be used just as effectively. In either case, this ensures your equipment is ready to go as soon as the snow melts.

There are some key areas to inspect when maintaining your farm equipment. Changing the oil and any other fluids is essential to the long-term health of the vehicle's engine, which should also be examined closely for any excess wear or damage. Taking care of these responsibilities during the winter could potentially eliminate downtime during the prime farming season.

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Source: Pixabay

Planning Logistics for the Upcoming Season

Winter is also great for planning the logistics of your upcoming season. Livestock farmers in Australia, for example, have access to a number of IT tools that help them optimize shipments, determine delivery routes and even locate cattle. All of these strategies are meant to improve the overall healthiness and efficiency of the beef industry as a whole.

You can also take this time to layout schedules and timelines for the planting and harvesting of crops. Taking care of details like this during the off-season works wonders when trying to maintain your productivity year-round.

Following Mother Nature's Lead

Just like generations past, it's important that modern farmers and homesteaders heed the suggestions and warnings of Mother Nature. What seems like dull, idle downtime can actually be turned into a worthwhile and productive opportunity for future growth.

Preparing for A Year of Low Rain

Megan WildDroughts are a worsening concern for large areas of the United States and many other places around the world. Both California and huge swaths of Australia suffered record-breaking droughts last year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this year is going to be much better.

It may be difficult to make certain plans months ahead as far as weather is concerned, but it’s still best to know what to do. In this case, if you live in an area where you’re at a high risk for drought, then it’s best to start planning now.

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Source: Unsplash

Regulate Water Supply

If you use a well, you should start to be aware of how much water you use on a daily basis. This is especially true during the winter, when you aren’t watering plants outside.

Keep track of how much water you use; then you can start to make small changes to conserve it. Take shorter showers, check for and fix any leaks, and harvest all the rainwater you can. You can store it in barrels, and if you’re using it on the plants and not for consumption, you don’t have to worry about treating it.

Harvesting and storing rainwater is actually a pretty simple but useful task. If you set it up, all you have to do is move the barrels when it rains and replace them with new ones. Then the full barrels simply wait until they’re needed, and you have a backup supply of water! To do this, simply get an appropriate barrel. You can buy them specifically for this, or you can make your own. Either way, make sure it’s clean, has a lid and a spigot, and is opaque. Not allowing light in helps reduce the risk of algae growth and keeps your water cleaner. Then, simply adjust your gutters to flow into the barrel, and remove it when it’s full.

If you want to be extra cautious, add a mosquito-egg repellant to the water, but be aware that this makes it very unsafe for human consumption!

Have a Backup Plan

When you know that you’re likely to face a hardship, despite all the planning you can do, it’s still best to have a backup plan. There are things that happen that you simply don’t have any control over. If your life and livelihood depend on getting enough water to your homestead, you don’t want to be stuck without a backup.

If you need to, have a plan to get water delivered. A water truck delivery is a cost-effective, durable, and reliable way to transport water, and a great way to get it to your homestead.

Farmer with soil
Source: Unsplash

Prepare Decent Soil

Hopefully, if you’re homesteading, your soil is already in good shape. However, you may need to make some alterations in order to prepare it for a lack of rainfall. You can do this in part by changing how you plant. Using techniques like companion planting and cover crops can help expand your soil’s ability to retain water.

Companion planting is where you plant items together that do well in close proximity. This can be for a variety of reasons — either they need different nutrients from the soil, their roots hit different depths, or they might repel bugs that are attracted to others nearby. Typically, you can plant in a way that combines these effects and allows the plants to grow to their fullest potential without any additional work from you.

Combine this with cover plants, which are usually a low-growing, shallow root plant, and you can also suppress weeds and add nutrients to the soil. Less competition from weeds helps to make sure your plants get enough water, and when the ground cover dies off, it acts as a natural fertilizer.

Preparing your soil this way can improve its ability to retain water, making the most use of the rainfall and your watering practices.

Improve Irrigation Practices

If you’re used to spraying water on your crops, you can quickly and easily improve your efficiency by changing to drip or micro irrigation. Drip irrigation does involve a bit of a purchase. You need a drip hose, which you then run through the plants. It delivers water straight to the soil as opposed to having it run off the leaves or evaporate under the sun.

It can be done with low-pressure water systems, too, so even if your well gets low, you can still get your plants watered. The most important aspect is that it delivers water directly to the roots of the plant. Low-flow irrigation is incredibly effective and allows you to save a ton of water. You can combine it with companion planting and cover crops and double the water conservation!

While global warming is an increasing concern, you can do a lot to prepare yourself for the effects. Learning how to make the most of your water is a vital skill for anyone, and it’s getting more and more effective.

6 Water Management Tips for Farming

Megan WildThere is no shame in hopping on the sustainability train when it comes to your farming. Running a farm takes time, effort, and is no easy day job. It’s a lifestyle. That’s why you want to make sure your farm is up to the best standards, especially when it comes to water management.

Water is essential to life, and without it you wouldn’t have a farm or any irrigation. Here are six ways you can better manage water on your farm:

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Source: Pexels

1. Rainwater Harvesting

It’s no surprise that farmers have great knowledge about how to harvest their crops, but do you as a farmer know how to harvest rain? Harvesting rainwater is a simple way to capture and store natural water. You can collect rainwater in various containers — such as barrels or tanks — that sit below a catchment area where the rain runs off and into the container.

Rainwater can easily be recycled and used for irrigation on your farm or as water for your animals. It can even be used to shower and bathe in your home. Not only does it have environmental benefits, like reducing the threat of flooding on your landscape, but the economic benefit of lower utility bills can also help you save each year.

2. Grade Control Systems

Farmers have to put in hard work to make sure their fields and land are elevated properly and will drain well so that the fields don’t flood. Grade control systems are automated pieces of equipment that connect to the machine farmers use for this process. These systems can help farmers improve productivity and accuracy by up to 50 percent, which is a win for the environment and for your pocketbook.

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Source: Pexels

3. Organic Farming

To ensure that crops pass a certain standard, farmers have to spray their crops with chemicals and pesticides. This type of farming is actually dangerous for water sources due to polluting the water supply. Irrigation channels water to the crops and into the soil, and this can contaminate water when pesticides are used on a farm.

Organic farming supports the environment and makes a huge impact on water conservation. If farmers can cease using pesticides, the risk of polluted waters is reduced, which means the water supply remains clean.

4. Mother Nature’s Course

Weather can certainly be a tricky thing, and you can’t always trust what the weather report says. However, there are apps farmers can use to efficiently manage their water usage. One app can even predict, down to the minute, whether it’s going to rain.

If more farmers followed the weather closely and allowed Mother Nature to naturally bring water to their farm, there would be better water conservation in the farming industry as a whole. Following things such as precipitation, soil moisture, and temperature is an important factor of running a farm efficiently without wasting water.

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Source: Pexels

5. Proper Rotation

When crops grow, they require certain amounts of nutrients and soil quality which then decrease from the soil. For the soil to retain the quality it needs, crops must be rotated. It not only keeps the soil healthy, but proper crop rotation conserves water in the process. During the rotation, farmers should be mindful to play water-absorbing plants during a rainy season and dry crops during a dry season.

Another rotation vital to water management on a farm is the rotation of grazing animals, which can benefit farming in a few ways. As animals graze, they are minimizing weeds and promoting regrowth of grass. They can also help the pasture become drought-resistant due to proper water runoff and ensure the soil doesn’t absorb too much water.

6. Buffers for Conservation

Buffers work a few ways on farms; they are small pieces of land that protect the environment from pollutants and allow farmers to control soil erosion with water. Conservation buffers are available through USDA programs that can help farmers pass regulations or requirements for their farm.

Buffers have many benefits, including the reduction of flooding and the conservation of energy. While they are great for the environment, they are also great for  animals and farmers. They provide livestock with safety from harsh weather. They also increase productivity for farmers, because they help manage the land that the farm is on. Without buffers, farmers would have to put in more energy and work into their land and water management.

Increased water efficiency on your farm will change many things. It will have a better impact on the environment and can reduce your carbon footprint. It can also allow for more flexibility with the finances on your farm. And last, but certainly not least, it will help you manage the water in better ways to maximize efficiency and productivity on your farm.

6 Popular Rustic Décor Trends This Year

Megan WildThere’s something about rustic, vintage décor inside your home that gives you that Southern-comfort feeling. People fall in love with antique styles and accents that help give their home a fresh, farm look. As trends come and go, there are a few you’re sure to see this year when it comes to farm décor:

Gallery Walls

It’s just not chic to have one or two picture frames on a wall anymore. Gallery walls are in, and they include more than just picture frames. Any unique and antique treasure you find can be incorporated on your gallery wall.

The key is to keep the theme simple and the colors similar. The wall should be filled with minimal space between each hanging. This look creates a vintage vibe, but it makes your wall look like a beautiful, large, focal point in a home.

It’s easy to add sentimental items to the wall as well. A monogram, for instance, is a great piece to include. You can also find vintage signs, printed quotes, or even black-and-white profile silhouettes to give your wall that farm feel.

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Source: Pexels

Exposed Brick Fireplace

When remodeling a house, people often think to get rid of the brick. However, exposed brick is making a comeback. People want that rustic red look, and it looks amazing when it’s around a fireplace. Staying home is the new going out, so why not sit around a brick fireplace?

It’s the perfect way to spend time with friends and family. Having a brick fireplace and a cozy-looking mantel can make anyone feel comfortable inside your home. For a trendy look, try putting a television above the mantel and pairing it with vases, books, or other vintage treasures.

Classic Storage Ottomans

Having enough seating in a home isn’t always easy, and it often takes up a lot of space. Then, if you have blankets, magazines, or craft supplies, they need a place to go. Storage ottomans pull double-duty, providing an extra place to sit as well as to put things in.

Storage ottomans also come in a wide variety, so you’re sure to find the right size and color for your space. They’re a classic way to add a modern item and a timeless look in your home.

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Source: Pexels

Reclaimed Barn Wood

The best thing about reclaimed wood is that there are so many ways you can use it to decorate. Whether it’s an entire wall of barn wood, the side panels of your kitchen island, or even around a fireplace, reclaimed wood is a simple addition.

Barn wood is the best way to reclaim actual, farm-found treasure, but you don’t have to decorate with barn wood specifically. If you can’t find affordable barn wood, pallets are the best way to go. Pallets can give you a similar look with the same rustic feel. They’re easy to reclaim, and they aren’t costly!

White-Washed Shiplap

Joanna Gaines from the well-known “Fixer Upper” television show is the queen of farmhouse décor. She is the epitome of goals when it comes to a well-designed interior — especially shiplap — and America has fallen in love with it. The popular look of shiplap is white, but you can also leave it as its natural color. On the show, shiplap is found in Texas homes, but it’s easy to recreate. You may not be able to have the authentic version, but you can definitely install shiplap look-a-like walls in your home.

Let your inner Joanna Gaines run wild, and get your shiplap on.

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Source: Pexels

Mason Jar Succulents

Mason jars are the stereotypical, easy, Southern decoration that anyone can use in their home. Another easy item would be succulents, and when it comes to farm décor, they pair with mason jars quite nicely.

You can use antique blue, green, or clear mason jars — or whichever color suits your style best. Succulents are easy to plant inside the mason jar, and they’re even easier to keep alive. The plants give your home an outdoorsy, fresh look.

Farmhouse décor is a popular look inside homes. Natural lighting can make a room look great, but the decorations that fill the room can make it look even better. Antique and vintage keepsakes have been the inspiration behind any room that has a farm feel to it. People simply can’t get enough of a rustic look for their home, and it’s easy to see why.