Some people have big diamond ring envy or fast red car envy.
Me, I love a good fence.
Fencing is practical, of course, but I appreciate how a beautiful fence also adds architectural structure and definition, "good bones," to the lines of a property. Martha Stewart fell so in love with a fence in Ontario, Canada, that she had the whole shebang transported back to Maine to fence her property at Skylands.
It seems incredibly unfair to drive past a property and see acres of 4-board horse fence that is falling into disrepair because no one cares about it anymore.
I think, as I drive along, boy, now if I had that fence, I'd take care of it...
Jennings says I have fence envy.
I also have fence fantasies....
Sunny rolling fields dotted with horses that someone else takes care of, grazing on emerald green grass that never goes dormant, surrounded by miles and miles and miles of four-board fence that never needs painting or repair....as far as the eye can see....
disappearing on the horizon in a mysterious mist...
|A "Stakes-and-Riders" Fence|
Or something like that.
Sometimes for variety I throw in Mr. Darcy striding gallantly over the hill through the aforementioned mist to help me do barn chores. Or... something like that.
I don't get hung up on how it can be sunny and misty at the same time.
Anyway, I'm an equal-opportunity fence envy-er.
split rail or straight board.
They build a snazzy straight board fence in Pennsylvania Amish country without nails.
I'm always impressed by cedar cross-board, for its beauty and for the sheer wanton, glamorous, excess of it.
Jump-throughs, or "coops," are nifty contraptions often seen between farm fields in Virginia. A coop is too wide for livestock to step over, but allows a rider to jump from field to field without having to dismount or open a gate.
There are drystone walls in Virginia which date to Colonial times, and are still maintained and used.
Before the invention of mortars, all stonemasonry was dry-stacked construction. Roger at Sisson Landscapes has written a really fascinating article (both scholarly and poetic) about stone walls, with some fantastic pictures of various types of walls here.
|From Sisson Landscapes|
This drystone wall has a "Hog hole" or, "Sheep creep," designed to let young or smaller animals pass through, while containing larger livestock. Holes and passages like this also minimized burrowing animals going under the wall and weakening the structure.
The qualifications for my fence lust are thus: It must be, as the old saying goes, "Horse high, pig tight and bull strong."
|Martha Stewart's pasture fence|
Whether it contains a herd of buffalo or nothing but air, a fence should be in good repair and functional,
I am not a fan of decorative fences. Those poor souls stranded all alone in the center of a garden bed, or border fences that begin at some random place near the driveway and then peter-out half-heartedly several feet away, as if the builder had grown bored or run out of lumber.
A fence that cannot actually fence anything in or out is an architectural affectation, like window shutters that can't shutter.
A hundred years ago, had a land owner spent precious time and money building and maintaining a non-functional fence, his neighbors would have thought he had gone 'round the bend.
A practical good sense that persists in the country even today.
It is expensive and always has been,
It can be daunting to build fencing that will not break the budget, but Jennings suggests thinking about whether you actually need to keep something in or out, or whether screening and privacy are your objectives.
If the latter is the case, a more attractive option than the typical suburban stockade fence,
is trellised vines, espaliered trees, or hedged shrubs.
Hedge plants such as barberry, pyracantha and holly have prickly personalities that might even serve to discourage an intruder.
Lilac and Confederate Jasmine create a casual, great-smelling hedge.
We also love how hedges define garden rooms, help dampen noise, clean the air, and provide a beautiful backdrop for fountains and mirrors.
If you would like to read more, here are a few of Jennings' favorite resources:
|Click to view|
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. Jennings and I love all of P.Allen Smith's books, especially this one, P. Allen Smith's Garden Home, in which he describes the principles of garden design, such as, a sense of enclosure, framing the view, color, pattern, texture and rhythm, and shows a home gardener how to apply those ideas to create a garden that provides more space for living well. If you don't have it yet, it is a great resource.
In The Garden is a new favorite by Suzanne Gannon and photographer Stacy Bass. I liked it so much that I gave it to Jennings for Christmas this year. It is another great resource for an experienced gardener, or those just getting started. Each chapter tells, with great writing and gorgeous photographs, how someone brought their garden vision to life.
We think that country life is more a state of mind, than a state of, well... State.
Whether your home is the city, by the sea, in the mountains or Farm town, USA, country life is about how you approach living your day, how you feel about your home, and how you care for yourself and your neighbors.
Virginia Country Life from A-Z is a series inspired by our homes in Virginia. It's about some things and people we love, and some ideas for making your life a little more country- wherever you are.
Next post... G is for...
Images: 1. 2. Entrance to Blackberry Farm, Tennessee 3. Donamire Farm, KY 4. Ramm Horse Fence 126.96.36.199.9.10. Ramm Horse Fence 11.12.13 Pride and Prejudice 14. Pinterest via David Fuller, photography by David Fuller 188.8.131.52. via gardendesign.com184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.27. Hoveton Hall Gardens, via Plumsiena.com 18.104.22.168.Michael Ryan Design 32.33.34.