A Simpler Life

Building a Driveway Gate

Martin ParmerThe journey to building our home on our new homestead will require many projects. One project I recently completed was building a driveway gate. I researched designs on the web and other various other places, and I came up with a plan for a double main gate across the driveway, each side having wings that angle away from the main posts towards the woods. I did a rough sketch of the concept in advance, but mostly winged it onsite.

From the basic design, I knew I wanted strong posts at the edge of the driveway to hold the gates, because, at approximately 6.5-feet each, they would be relatively heavy. So I dug in 6x6 treated posts at each side of the driveway and concreted them in. The wings on each side would be about 14 feet long, so I divided them into two, 7-foot sections. This required digging in and concreting two 4x4 posts on each side at the appropriated space and angle. I used my rough sketch to place things and measured the spacing. I used a framing square to make sure I was consistent on both sides. Here’s how they looked just after being concreted in:


For the gates themselves, I found a hardware product called “Easy Gate” that promised it wouldn’t sag, and I got the heavy-duty versions because I knew these gates would be large and heavy. I built the gates per the directions, and they have worked out fine! Here is a pic of the gates after they were installed, but before the pickets were installed:


The rails linking the posts are just 2x4x8's that I cut to fit. Now the structure was ready for the pickets. I never have built a gate before, so I really didn’t know what kinds of 1x6 lumber would be available to use for the pickets. I first priced using normal 1x6’s, but they were awfully expensive. One day while I was poking around on the net, an ad came up showing fence pickets at a big box store for less than 2 dollars apiece. So I went and looked at them, and they worked out great. They may warp a little over time, and if they do, I’ll deal with it.

Then I was able to calculate the spacing between the pickets to make them work out with the spacing I had between the posts, and I figured out how many to buy. It took about 80 of these pickets, and painting them was quite a chore. I did them in two batches, and here’s what the gate looked like after Batch 1.


During all this time, I looked for things to dress it up once it was finished, and I found some copper caps for the posts that look really nice. The caps for the 6x6’s are actually solar lights that come on at night. Also, I found a rugged latch for the lock on the front. We are going to landscape around the gates next spring to make them look nicer. We would have done that work this fall had it not been for the drought conditions in our area.

So, after much planning and work, we finished up our gate project, and we think it looks wonderful.

completed gate 

After seeing the completed project, I feel like it looks a little too commercial in style, so maybe there are some things we can do to tone it down. Perhaps painting it a nice forest green? Adding other decoration of some kind? I suppose the sky is the limit, right? I would love to hear your ideas!

Please read our other Capper's Farmer blogs, and visit our web page at parmerhomestead.com. It’s still under construction, but it has more details about our plans! Also, send us a note at parmerhomestead@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Mountain Night

Martin ParmerAs our children grew old enough to look after themselves for a few hours, my wife and I began a routine of going out on Saturday night for a date night and some “us” time. This has now been going on for over a decade. We both look forward to this time and rarely miss a week. We feel like it has made our marriage stronger and happier. But what I really want to tell you about is an additional night together we started a few years ago, and we call it our “mountain night.”

Now for the disclaimer: I have no training in — and do not claim any skills in — relationship building or repair. I offer this story because it is ours, and it is the truth. Please adopt the ideas presented here with this in mind, and adjust them to your situation as required.

The issues with relationships are complex. Experts will often tell you that the secret to having and improving a troubled relationship is communication. Communication with trust (I have been told) is the key to building a successful team. Now, I believe my wife and I got to know each other better and really communicated on all those “mountain nights” we shared together. Over the years we discussed at length many issues surrounding our families, our beliefs, our goals, our jobs, our love for each other, and our thoughts about how we should live out the rest of our lives. We were able to talk about the many things we have in common. And often, we could counsel each other through difficult times (usually brought on by our jobs). Through it all, we came to the decision that we wanted to sell our large and mostly empty house. We wanted to find some land on which to homestead. Homesteading to us means to live in a small house, grow as much of our own food as possible, and lead as simple a life as possible. Through our time together on our mountain nights, we found that we really didn’t need or want much more than that.

Our “mountain night” works as follows — your version will most likely look different as you adapt the concept to your own circumstances:

During the work week, normally on a Wednesday or Thursday night, we pack up a sandwich and some water and ride up into the mountains near our home. There are many quiet roads in these mountains; much of it is National Forest Land. If the weather is nice, we might find a remote campsite and build a small fire. During cold weather we may just sit in the car in a place with a view. That view might just be a quiet forest, but to us it is still a view. There we will enjoy a sandwich and the quiet. We’ll usually be home in a couple of hours. But in the meantime we are able to talk to one another. There’s no pressure to talk, though; on some nights we don’t say that much. We both are fine with it either way. We enjoy the fresh air, seeing some wild critters of one sort or another, and just having some time away from the fast pace of our daily lives. During our time on the mountain, I’ve often made the comment that we are “weird. Here we are, way off up here in the mountains, missing all that really great reality TV."

Anyway, we really got to know each other better. We’ve all heard the tragic stories of couples whom after decades of marriage figured out that they didn’t know each other any longer and the results that brings. We didn’t want that to happen to us. We’ll both admit that there were a few nights when we really let it all out and talked through some issues that could have become problematic later had we not got them out in the open. Mostly though, we were able to talk about things with love and gradually agree on a plan to find a few acres, build a small house, plant a small garden, and live out our later years there. How’s that for wringing out complexity from your life? We did it by spending time together and communicating. I really don’t think it’s more complicated than that.

Since then, we’ve been able to put a plan to work that has us owning a piece of land. We’ve been able to work on our land as time has allowed. We’re also working on our current house to ready it to be sold. Yes, if you’ve read my blogs, you’ll notice a common theme — work. Work is something neither of us is afraid of, and we welcome the work involved in building a homestead. There’s certainly no mystery about that.

Are you really communicating with your spouse? Could you use a “mountain night,” too?

Photo by Fotolia/vovik_mar

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