Thursday, July 29, 2021

Starlight Lane Farm: Doubled

I expect this will be the last blog update for some time, and I'm going to make it count! 

Starlight Lane Farm has doubled in size. 

This spring, Dave and I made a last-minute decision to purchase an additional three lots. Real estate in our area has been absolutely INSANE since the pandemic. This area has never seen a boom quite like this. It's alarming and exciting and I will be interested to see how things pan out in the coming years. We certainly do not have the infrastructure to support a population boom, but I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get better internet at a minimum because these city people hate the lack of connection and love to raise hell about it... I digress. 

At any rate, the decision to purchase these lots changed a lot of things for the horses and myself. The biggest of which is that they no longer need to be dry lotted the majority of the time with carefully scheduled pasture rotations. Now, they get to return to a lifestyle of 24/7 turnout. They've got around 6½ acres of pasture to enjoy whenever they want now, and I have a one acre pasture now dedicated as riding space. 

Prepping the land and getting the fence built in for the new property went smoother than the first go around due to my simply knowing more, but the process was every bit as delayed and hiccupy as it was in 2019. Big plus of this go-round is that I did learn to independently operate quite a bit of equipment! Three different tractors, a mower, a brush hog, and a hydraulic post driver. I could have learned a skid steer + auger but opted out of that one because I'd had enough by that point!

Due to our closing date getting pushed 4-5 weeks later than we originally planned, my car accident, and Dave's ER visit, the majority of fence building ended up happening the weekend of July 4 and the following week. 

I could wax and wane poetically about the whole thing, but I think I'll opt to use photos to tell the story - per my usual.

Brush hogging the new acreage.
This was the most stress relieving day. The tractor was waiting on me when I got back from the hospital with Dave. I pretty much came home, changed clothes, and went straight out to hog. It was everything I needed and more after such a stressful 3 days.
It was an incredibly hot day. I had all the sun protection on, plus my cooling towel that helped me survive the OD 100. 
After a few hours, Dave came out with a pitcher of ice water for me and told me he'd take a turn while I cooled off and hydrated.
He helped me get the single shrub out of the pasture. Bye bye autumn olive!
After removing the autumn olive, I got back on the tractor for another hour. Dave came out to relieve me once more and finished the job while I took a quick shower and then sat on the porch sipping a beverage watching while he finished. It was SO RELAXING. And so well deserved after the number of days that preceded it. 
The ponies even came over to keep me company while I sipped on my drink and watched Dave finish prepping the new pasture. Pretty much everything you see in the distance is their new pasture. The house (barely visible in top left) is along one property line and the pasture otherwise follows the tree line. 
Ta da! All mowed and prepped and ready for line posts to be installed. (You can see the corner posts and braces already installed if you look closely.)
Tractor sitting and beer sipping after a long day. I can't wait to have my own tractor one day. 

Originally, the plan was to drive the posts with a hydraulic post driver on the back of a tractor. 
Kate came over and we tried our best to get after it. But the driver was sticking and so persnickety. We couldn't get it to drive a post more than about 8 inches. I know without a doubt there were no rocks bigger than a baseball so it wasn't an issue with the ground. (The topsoil up here is disgustingly beautiful. Hot damn.)
Well. Then Kate and I noticed this. Uh. Yeah. There's the problem! And there's no way what we did (the very little we did) caused this. SIGH. And so the decision was made that I would hand dig holes. Not ideal, but possible. There were only 24 line posts to install, so it wasn't too terrifying a prospect. 

I ended up digging six by myself this evening and then my back and body demanded a break. Austen, Mark, and Jenny were due to arrive the next day for the weekend and it was decided that we'd tackle it as a team. If I could dig six 22" deep holes on my own in 2 hours, we could probably make great progress as a small team. 
 The first step to digging posts is to enjoy a proper dog pile. My brother demonstrates.
The second step is to have your brother help your farmer friend butcher some animals and then coax him into bringing his auger and skid steer back up to my mountain top to auger line posts and expedite the day's process. (But not with that auger. That's for trees. We'd use a smaller one.)
Will ready to check the hole depth on the first hole of the day.
And so, with our small army of dogs and people, we set out to get the posts in the ground. We even took my 6 back out (ugh, that was a little painful to watch my hard work be exchanged for machinery lol) and redid them with the auger. 

I walked the perimeter of the pasture with the skid steer following, marked where I wanted the holes to be for each post, and then moved on. The team of dogs and people came behind and plumbed each post, refilled the hole, and tamped it. 
So many humans for this job. It was a riot. We had fillers and tampers and plumb-keepers and beer holders. 
Dave offering white claw as Austen keeps the post plumb while others tamp.
In all, there ended up being 13 people and 10 dogs on site. We had a crew of 7 doing the posts and a crew of 6 spectating and heckling. It truly takes a village sometimes!
I am so beyond grateful for this community. 
Looking out to the far corner of the pasture. 
Where we all ended up standing around after tamping the final post! Also worth noting how bundled up most folks are. On the 4th of July weekend it was quite chilly here. We had nights in the 40s and days in the upper 60s, low 70s. It was everything a Canaan Valley summer day should be and I loved it.
Once the weekend was over and guests had returned home, I spent several very early mornings (pre-sunrise and a little bit after sunrise) and evenings around sunset/dusk running lines for the fence. (This is sunrise.)
Fortunately, one fenceline (of three) is pre-existing and just needed a line of hot wire run across the top to discourage the horses (and my neighbors) from doing silly things. 
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It was a beautiful way to start and end my days. (This is sunset.)

Once I opened the pasture up (of which I did take video but my horses are very unexciting about things like this and merely walked in, cantered four or five strides, then dropped their heads and got to grazing), I closed off the pasture closest to the house to become a permanent riding area. It's hard to see in this image, but I measured out a small dressage court and marked it. 
I eventually plan to setup my jump standards out here, but first opted to set trot and canter poles. Best to build back slowly to our jumping habits!
I also left a sizeable bridle path around the pasture for riding. I'm really pleased with this decision.

Additionally, you can see along this line how crappy the vegetation is. It was really thick golden rod through here and will take some time and seeding to bring it back as grass. With a little patience and work though, it'll be looking great in no time!
Another rising sun over the new pasture as seen from my upstairs loft window. Where the previous fenceline appears to be is now absent of wire so the horses can pass through as they choose. The posts remain so that I can opt to temp fence/tape it off if need in future and because they'd be more work than I care to exert to remove.
A mowed dressage court ripe and ready for riding!
And one more shot of the mowed dressage court at sunset last week. 

When I purchased my two lots and built the barn in 2019, having this additional acreage wasn't on my radar. In fact, I never foresaw it even being an option. I'm honestly still a bit shocked by how everything has worked out. This mountain top is my personal paradise. The horses are so happy, I'm so happy, and my hermit of a husband is so happy to be able to keep people and homes from blocking the views he loves so much. It seems like quite the fortunate stroke of serendipity to be where we are. My gratitude for this farm knows no bounds - and likely never will. I send my thanks to the Universe multiple times a day for this piece of paradise.

As I mentioned at the start of my June Highlights reel, I'm going to (likely) be taking a break from this blog. Temporarily, permanently, I don't know. Once again, if you'd like to follow along a little more real-time with my adventures, please follow me on Instagram @estout18


  1. Congrats on the extra acreage! What an amazing opportunity for you guys. Every time I see your pics, I'm awed by how beautiful it is there. Excellent work getting the fencing in and bush hogging! Nothing beats a freshly mowed field with solid fence. :-) I dream of my own small tractor too - maybe someday!

  2. Congrats on the farm addition! I love watching the good / bad / ugly of your farm life and will be following along on IG as well

  3. Congratulations on the added acreage. Ed and I are watching the property next door on hopes it will come on the market.

  4. How lovely! Congrats on the added acreage <3 It looks absolutely beautiful, and I'm so happy for you guys! And I bet your horses are just absolutely loving the added acreage. I hope to see you still blogging, but will absolutely continue following you on your Insta!

  5. Skidsteers are SO MUCH FUN to drive. Definitely jump on that opportunity the next time you get it -- SERIOUSLY SO FUN. I'm in awe of the work you did. Way to go.

  6. So happy for your horses. Having plenty of land, but not too much, is the key. For us 6 acres and 2 animals is perfect, because we can still make hay in the middle of the pasture. Which is being done right now, while we're enjoying a wonderfully cool American vacation on the California coast. 65F!!!!! No bucking hay for us this year, we're on vacation.