For farm owner Annette Thurmon, holiday decorating starts with a trip to the backyard. "Christmas decor is expensive," Annette says. "Instead of buying, I go outside and get it."


December is a relatively restful time on Azure Farm, the 5 acres one hour north of Atlanta where Annette and her husband, Jared, raise alpacas, miniature horses, chickens, ducks, geese, and their daughter, Ava, 2½. "A lot of our focus gets to be inside our home this time of year," Annette says. "And I'm excited because Ava is bigger and will be able to be a little more a part of it."

Thurmon family home exterior
Credit: Adam Albright

At the start of the season, the Thurmons tromp around the farm gathering evergreen branches destined for vases and cedar boughs and pinecones to turn into garlands. "I try to do very natural decorating with what we find," Annette says. "Whatever season, I try to bring a lot of the outdoors in instead of overly 'done' decor." But that doesn't mean she doesn't have a plan. Every year, Annette makes a shortlist of easy-to-find or -make materials, then tucks the results into the greenery, scatters them on the table, and piles them in bowls for Ava to grab and examine. This year, dried orange slices, bundles of cinnamon sticks, and velvet ribbon are her go-to's.

holiday decorated living room with fireplace and Christmas tree
Credit: Adam Albright

"My tree is very natural. It has no glass ornaments. It's really simple," Annette says. She tucked magnolia leaves from her property between the prelit branches, along with dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Velvet ribbon bows and antique bells fancy it up just a bit.

stockings hung on mantle over fireplace
Credit: Adam Albright

Mixed evergreen branches set off the golden bells and white ornaments; burlap accents throughout. "Christmas decor is expensive," Annette says. "Instead of buying, I go outside and get it." She strings up another holiday constant, her collection of antique bells, then heads outside.

white farmhouse kitchen with subway tile backsplash
Credit: Adam Albright

Annette never leaves the kitchen out of her decorating plans. "It's part of the fun for me, but we use this space every day, so it's gotta be livable," she says. To save room for cookie making and gingerbread house decorating, she focuses on small additions, literally: mini faux trees on the shelves, tiny wreaths hung in a few spots, and a bell or two.

kitchen utility cart with decor and serveware
Credit: Adam Albright

The utility cart in the kitchen is a mix of practical and pretty, hosting table linens and phone chargers hidden in an antique toolbox, plus extra orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and pinecones. Some items, like the eggs collected from the Thurmons' flock of chickens, are both.

built-in office nook with garland
Credit: Adam Albright

An old window frame the couple found in their barn crowns Annette's built-in office nook. At Christmas, the nook hosts an Advent calendar and photographs of holidays past. She prints photos of the family at previous Christmases to prompt retellings of important memories. "I want to focus on the importance of family and the reason behind the holiday," Annette says. "Hopefully our traditions bring us closer together."

garland doorway into dinning room
Credit: Adam Albright

"We planned our main room and dining room for large gatherings. I wanted the whole family to sit down at the dining table for the holidays."

Any place in the dining room that can hold greenery does. "It's kind of wild in there," Annette says of the space that hosts Christmas Eve dinner. She wove spruce into her birdcage chandeliers, hung garland and wreaths in doorways and windows, and dropped spare branches into vases on the buffet. "I do a little more because we're not in there all the time; it can have extra." Annette relies on sentimental pieces (those are Jared's grandmother's glasses), candles, and a layered place setting to elevate her salvage-wood-topped table.

kids room Christmas tree with child on rocking horse
Credit: Adam Albright

With Ava came new traditions, like a metal Christmas tree for her bedroom. "All the ornaments on it were given to her, or I collected them before she was born, or we've made them since," Annette says. A flocked garland wraps the center pole for more texture and "snow."

fluffy chicken outside greenhouse
Credit: Adam Albright

"Of course I decorate the greenhouse for the holidays!" she says. And the chicken coop, and the barn, and the other outbuildings, which all are trimmed with garland and stocked with trees big and small.

two goats posing by bench
Credit: Adam Albright

It's enchanting to Ava—and the grown-ups, too, especially while they're performing the daily work of tending their animals. "When you think about it, it's still just your normal life, but when there are twinkle lights, it does make it more special," Annette says. The space is big enough for a table, and she hopes to host a holiday party there one day. For now, it's enough to watch Ava harvest the spinach, lettuce, and herbs they grow in the wintertime.

miniature horses wearing plaid scarf
Credit: Adam Albright

Nutmeg, one of two miniature horses on the farm, poses in front of the chicken coop, which also gets Annette's signature greens. When the setting includes a miniature horse trotting around with a tartan scarf around her neck, it's magical. It doesn't get better than this, unless they can rope the animals in, too. Annette already has an idea brewing on that front. "I've thought of doing a nativity scene inside with the donkeys," she says, taking advantage of her easy-clean concrete floors. "It will be them, and a big 2½-year-old baby in the manger.

Alpakita the alpaca
Credit: Adam Albright

Alpakita arrived with her mama at Azure Farm at a month old, and now the full-grown alpaca has been joined by four others, including her offspring, Felix. The goats know a good photo op when they see one.


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