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Loving the outdoors

On the Hemmer farm, gorgeous gardens and abundant animals coexist in a family setting.
John and Jane Hemmer (left) enjoy hosting friends and family for visits by the pool on hot summer evenings.
Who doesn't enjoy a pool on a hot day? Brandon Wilson takes a dip.
The lawns are designed by Jane. Hardy red hibiscus, Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, and verbena are shown.

Loving the outdoors

Forget diamonds and pearls. When John Hemmer wanted to give his wife, Jane, an anniversary gift, he presented her with a small herd of Belted Galloway cattle. "I had seen these cows and thought they were the most exquisite animals," remembers Jane.

The Hemmers sell some "Beltie" young stock, but the heritage breed is just fun to have around, says Jane. "They are so docile -- just sweethearts -- and we love looking at them," she says.

It's all fun

Almost everything on this 400-acre property in Hall County, Georgia, about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta, is fun to look at and enjoy - from the gardens, to the pool and ponds, to the various animals. The farm has been in Jane's family since the early 1800s. Jane and John acquired the property in the late 1970s. When they were about to break ground for their house, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced plans for an interstate extension to cut through one edge of the property. Rather than watching as 22 acres of timber were destroyed, the couple enlisted a local sawmill to transform the trees into lumber for their home.

Jane's brother, an architect, designed the home to complement the farm's woodlands and gently rolling pastures and to accommodate as many as 150 dinner guests. "We love to entertain," says Jane, who is a former state senator and is active in many civic organizations.

Outdoor playground

The home is surrounded by a beautifully manicured lawn. There is an heirloom garden in the front yard where Jane, a Master Gardener, has transplanted perennials from family members' gardens, including a butterfly bush from John's mother and hyacinths from her mother.

There are also plenty of outdoor living spaces as well, including a crystal blue, in-ground pool and several cozy outdoor dining areas. Further out from the house, near one of the farm's two ponds, there is a fire pit and picnic grounds where many summer gatherings are held.

The north fork of the Oconee River runs through the middle of the farm. "Our children and their school friends loved to wade in it when they were young. They could spend all day searching out crayfish and salamanders from hiding places under rocks," says Jane.

A nearby abandoned gold mine also provides entertainment. "On hot summer evenings, we've been known to take lawn chairs down and sift for gold in the river, but we haven't found any nuggets yet," reports Jane.

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