The Farm Entrance

Mule Springs Farm entrance prior to gate installation.

“Standing out, often in a treeless landscape, [ranch gates] are pragmatic and ornamental, workaday and symbolic, modest and monumental, private expressions with a public face.” –Kenneth Helphand

After Bruce completed the farm entrance and the gate was finally hung, we came driving into the property in Bruce’s vehicle.  I got out, lifted the wire latch, gently pushed, and I marveled at how easily the balanced gate swung open.  In addition, the entrance and gate were both beautiful works of handcrafted wood.

As I climbed back into the Toyota 4Runner Bruce said, “When the mules are gone, maybe we’ll leave this gate open.”  Before I could reply he said, “Well maybe not—stopping to open the gate makes me pause and take a breath.  I need that.  Otherwise I’d race in and not think about . . . the land.”  His comment took me by surprise, because I’d just read something similar from Kenneth Helphand, a Professor of Landscape Architecture, who believes traveling through a ranch entryway is “an invitation to think about [the] deeper meaning in the landscape.”

Although the sixteen- foot tall farm entryway is positively utilitarian, in that, it serves to hold the fence in place; this graceful archway could also be described as a type of boundary art, because not only does it affect the “eye,  . . . heart, [and] mind” of those who pass through, but boundary art stands for “basic truths that are no longer simple or easily understood.”   The boundary of what constitutes an American farm or ranch is no longer clear. What does it mean to run a small farm in an era of mega-production farms?  Traditionally entryways were emblazoned with the rancher’s cattle brand and name of the ranch.  Just the lack of cattle brand and ranch or farm name on our entry suggests Mule Springs may find an identity outside of cattle ranching and crop production.

Bruce’s handmade entrance invites one to enter a unique private space.  The private space is the world of Mule Springs with its revolutions spinning around plantings and land management, water issues, and building bird and animal habitat.  The “public face” of the entry symbolizes our vision, dreams, and goals.  As new uses are found for old barns, the acreage of the twenty-first century landowner may expand to include farming that also manages for pollinators, bird habitat, and native plants.

I’m glad Bruce imagines the gate closed just so it can be opened by someone who might notice the glint of golden bunchgrass bending with the prairie breeze.

*Below is a slideshow showing some of the process Bruce went through to make the entryway and gate. Family helped put the entrance together, and our builders Tim, Hymee, and Manee helped Bruce hang the gate.

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17 thoughts on “The Farm Entrance

  1. Bruce looks as though he’s enjoying this a lot! Slicing and dicing wood instead of human subjects, and out in the nice weather, too.

    1. Rod:
      I love your phrase “slicing and dicing.” Made me laugh out loud, but it is true Bruce is basically an engineer or mechanic at heart, and he enjoys using his hands for more than just bone projects.

  2. Nicely done! I love the true craftmanship it took to put this entryway and gate together! You dont find this type of pride so much anymore! Also, you write so well Sher, thankyou for helping the minds eye invision the beauty of the work and the thought process behind it. You can see that you and Bruce are truly enjoying your surroundings and what you are creating at Mule Springs!

    1. Yes Peri, he did. The process has some similarities with totem pole making. It’s called mortise and tenon jointing–really old wood craftsmanship done without nails and very, very strong. The actual process isn’t something I know a lot about, so I did not focus on the “how” so much. 🙂

  3. God make it look like you’ve used those tools before….I hope Chuck is looking at these. It looks as though you guys are putting your stamp on your place…everything so far looks so good..
    .now…for some sheep….

    1. Thanks Carol. I will email you, because I don’t have Chuck’s email, so I don’t think he is seeing these posts. 🙂

  4. Nice job. Bruce is quite the artist! Thanks for the pictures. You’ve got yourself one “Skookum” gate!

    1. Thanks Terry–Skookum so true. And, I guess Bruce is an artist, and a mechanic, fiddler, dog trainer…my goodness such a Renaissance man. LOL.

  5. I always marvel at these massive farm gates; you sometimes get them in South Africa and Namibia too, though you’re just as likely to see a small sandy track marked only with a lopsided whitewashed pole sticking out of a pile of stones, or an old tyre hanging from a wire fence, right next to a narrow gap in the fence.

    1. Reggie- a nice image of the old tire and gap in the fence with the white pole . So it sounds like the entryways that I wrote about are not iconic in SA. I have no idea, do you have huge cattle ranches like we have in the American West?

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