Homesteaders pave the way to live their best lives in the 405.
The greater Oklahoma City area has a way of attracting dreams. Untouched acres provide a blank slate and prime real estate for those looking to establish their own corners of the world. The vast plains, unshaped by mountains or oceans, not only allow it; they encourage it.
Farm-to-table living, fresh-air adventures and strong-knit families inspire many to buy and build here. We recently met up with a few local “homesteaders” — or people who develop large family properties with great purpose — to discuss how they made their wildest dreams come true.
Land of Enchantment
If you ever attend an event at the Baumberhof, you’ll find the rolling hills, tree-lined valleys and impressive German architecture make you feel like you’re in a faraway land — not Edmond. The picturesque setting is the result of one family’s inspired design and careful planning.
Owners Michael and Sharon Hahn purchased the property as a private getaway where their large family could make memories together, as well as an agricultural investment where they could have bees, start a farm and grow their own food. Today, however, the land provides so much more. It’s a multi-generational family workplace, where grandparents work alongside their children and grandchildren to maintain the property and manage about 50 weddings a year.
Driving the gravel roads that twist and turn throughout the family’s 450 acres, Sharon Hahn points out the most popular event sites. There’s a valley of trees whose canopy protects visitors from the harsh sun and wind. There’s a wine cellar with ample seating for food and drink. (This is where the Hahns host friends for their annual Oktoberfest.) There’s an open-air courtyard with cozy seating around a fireplace, just off the banquet room where vines grow indoors and climb the walls. (Look closely at the long glass-covered aisle in the middle of this room, and you may notice a hint of water underneath. That’s the family’s lap pool.) And then there is the iconic barn — perhaps the property’s crowning jewel — based on a 400-year-old structure the Hahns discovered in the Black Forest of Bavaria, Germany.
“Our builder flew out to Germany. He drew it, and then he recreated it here,” said Sharon Hahn, noting that Michael’s heritage traces back to Heidelberg, Germany. His frequent travels to the country inspired the Baumberhof’s enchanting architecture.
Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings have been held on the property since the Hahns began developing it about 20 years ago. Knowing they also wanted to “work the land,” they added a tree farm, orchard and gardens. They never dreamed of having weddings here until their daughter requested it for her own nuptials in 2016.
“Our oldest daughter wanted to get married at the farm, which really surprised us. To us, it was just our farm, but we spruced it up and made it extra special for her wedding,” Hahn recalled. “She had the most beautiful bohemian wedding ever. Everybody was sitting on hay bales; she was barefoot with wildflowers. She posted some pictures, and it just blew up. So many people started asking about the location, and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what the heck is going on?’”
With encouragement from their daughter’s wedding planner, the Hahns decided to open up their private property as an event venue. They added buildings and created serene outdoor spaces to accommodate this new direction, while also putting the appropriate legal paperwork in place.
The Hahns still enjoy hosting friends and family throughout the year and growing their own food on the farm. In addition, plans are well underway for them to retire here someday. But, in the meantime, during the wedding season, the family allows visitors to make the Baumberhof a special place of their own — if only for one night.
Adventure Is Calling
This month, Lindsey and Jared Snider made the leap: They put their suburban neighborhood home in Edmond on the market and moved with their two kids into a new home on 10 acres in Luther.
Since 2018, they’ve been scheming and dreaming about how they would live on this property, envisioning how their family would make memories well beyond the walls of their new 4,600-square-foot home. They added a pond to accommodate fishing and kayaking adventures, and serve as a water source for planting vegetable gardens and fruit trees. They hope to live off the land as much as possible while also giving their children plenty of room to explore and play.
“For our family, especially after COVID, we see the need for space for rest and restoration,” said Lindsey Snider. “We are big outdoors people. We believe that a big part of finding that rest and peace for your soul is found in nature — when you are able to walk away from the hustle and bustle of life and just breathe in God’s creation.”
The Sniders hope to add more residences to their property in the near future. For example, plans are underway to build a second home for grandparents, who currently reside in Colorado, to join them.
“It’s important to have grandparents near us and for our kids,” said Snider, adding that their children are encouraged to run free throughout the property. “We wanted to give our children the land to be able to just run out the front door and not be worried about, you know, watching out for cars in the neighborhood, or being concerned about individuals that we don’t know.”
As they have been developing the area, preparing for move-in day, the children have already gotten a good taste of what living on 10 acres will entail.
“Every time we go out to the property and check on it, I may not see them for 15 or 20 minutes because they’re off adventuring,” Snider said. “My little Tom Sawyers, they’re creating that space in their own little world … climbing trees. With Oklahoma, we have plenty of red dirt, and we have plenty of red clay. So, you can find them creating little pinch pots out of the dirt and water in the mud.”
Wide open spaces have been calling to the Snider family, and they anticipate good things to come from their move to the countryside.
“There’s plenty of opportunities waiting right outside your door, if you’re willing to just take a moment and breathe,” she said. “Set aside your phones and listen to the creation around us. It’s pretty cool.”
Only Good Neighbors
A smattering of Segways, parked just off the porch, signals dinnertime at Abuela’s. DeBray and Shawna Ayala smile at the scene, knowing their children would rather be dining with their extended family than with anyone else.
At first glance, the Ayala family’s property in Edmond looks like a gated neighborhood, with its “Carlitos Way” signage and enticing landscaping at the entrance, but it’s not. It’s a private cul-de-sac lined by three family homes, where residents enjoy living within a tight-knit community only they could create.
The varied terrain and ideal location — just a five-minute drive from the kids’ school — enticed the Ayalas to purchase the property in 2016. Since the family was “always together anyway,” says DeBray Ayala, sharing land and building houses next to each other came naturally. His brother lives in one house with his wife and two children, while his mother lives in the other. Another sibling is also making plans to build here.
“It’s very, very simple. You’ve got your family next to you if — for whatever reason — they need you or you need them. And it all just goes back to how we enjoy each other’s company,” he said. “I love seeing my niece and nephew out here playing on the field, or my brother out in his driveway, or my mom standing on her porch waving at us as we leave or come into the property.”
The Ayalas laugh about the early days, when they began to trim trees, clean out brush and make way for development.
“When we bought the land six years ago, we also bought a tractor because, you know, it needed to be maintained. When I would tell people that, they’d laugh because the thought of me on a tractor was pretty comical,” Ayala said. “What we have come to find out is that really, every day, you could do something different if you choose. There’s a lot of work.”
Today the 18-acre property includes several places to play with family and friends. There is a basketball gym, turf field, batting cage, entertainment room and dance studio along with two pools located behind the two brothers’ homes. Activity abounds, and it isn’t uncommon to spot a soccer practice, basketball tournament or poolside party happening here on any given day.
In developing the homesites, the grandparents’ place was first to reach completion. They moved in and, soon after, watched as Shawna and DeBray Ayala’s house started to go up just behind them. However, unfortunately, DeBray’s father Carlos passed away less than a year after he moved in. His deep love for family and endearing mannerisms had earned him the nickname “Carlitos Way.” It seemed fitting to name the family property after him, commemorating the place where the Ayalas remain close in proximity and heart.