Farmhouse Backyard Update: Our Split Rail Fence Choice And Why It’s My Favorite (And Most Affordable)

Should I ever run for mayor/president I will likely run on the “More sidewalks and split rail fencing!” platform (amongst other things like no more calorie counts on menus and national “organize our life/house” holidays for parents in September and January). I don’t plan on winning any races (although the parent/org one would crush I know) which is fine because I’m busy sitting on, leaning against, and staring at my sweet little split rail fence that added instant charm to this property. But first, let’s back up. So much happened so fast when we were gone for two weeks on spring break (spoiler – Costa Rica for families is as wonderful as they say it is), and then it rained a lot and then it was like BOOM it all happened. It’s almost done! There are some major delayed updates for you and we are solving them asap. But today, we are talking split rail fencing and how much darn charm it added to our property. Sure it doesn’t really provide security, privacy, or keep people or animals at bay, but other than that it’s the best most affordable fencing out there:)

But this was a long journey to get here. First off, fencing is a real thing and we all need to get our kids in this business. As someone who was formerly in an industry where my clients would give me THE LOOK that said, “Wait, why does your *insert seemingly easy creative talent* cost so much??” I don’t want to ever cheapen or diminish someone else’s work or craft because usually, it’s due to my own ignorance. But my goodness really nice fencing can be shockingly expensive both in materials and labor. Lesson #1 learned. Lesson #2 is this: Once again, I have a real knack for designing things to be way more expensive than they often need to be. So initially we went big both in quantity and quality and the first quote we received for fencing was nearing $72k. That’s a house in North Dakota. Or two miniature highland cows (??!!!))) – more on that tomorrow. That quote (both the fence and the cows) really shocked us back into reality and made us reprioritize, scale back, and ask ourselves what we really wanted and needed. We decided that we just wanted to replace the visible chain link with something basic and cute. With that as our goal, then we didn’t need to design it fancy, use high-end wood, or hire one of the most sought-after companies in town to do it. Lesson #3: If you want cute Target curtains, you don’t need to hire Kelly Wearstler to hang them for you. There is definitely a more affordable solution. I’ve now learned this GD lesson 3 times and it’s sticking this time!!!!

Now, to be fair the original $72k quote was for SO MUCH FENCING, both perimeter and interior, as well as two motorized vehicular gates and two pedestrian gates. It was a huge scope of work and we had designed the gates really pretty, out of pretty wood with pretty black metal wire where it made sense, fancy motorized everything, etc. So of course that was going to be incredibly expensive. Once we reprioritized, we realized we wanted it to be classic, cute, and create zones to keep future livestock in their place and look appropriate for a farm. The vehicular gates were for security, privacy, and mostly so I can feel really great about letting the dogs out (and no, we didn’t do split rail for those as I take security very seriously :))

real estate photo

This wasn’t the first time we had this sticker shock and had to learn this fencing lesson. For our LA house in Los Feliz, we wanted a fence because our street could get really busy with L.A.-holes trying to speed around the usually backed-up intersection at Hyperion Blvd. I have a not-so-irrational fear of cars/kids. We had two toddlers and two cats and while we didn’t want any sort of tall visual-blocking wall we just wanted to worry less about our kids wandering onto the street if we weren’t helicoptering (which isn’t our parenting preference or method). For that property, the fence, including a large motorized driveway gate, was $18k. This felt pretty exorbitant to us, but it was LA and it was a big driveway gate that included adding electrical, etc. We had gotten multiple quotes and they were all around that price so I guess that’s just what it costs.

So as we were scratching our heads at the $72k quote we looked at the photos of the original property, how we bought it and we both had the same thought at the same time – we want that! Just the basic split rail that was already there! It’s so much less material, needs fewer posts, and doesn’t need to be painted. This. Just this.

So Brian took over the whole process, getting quotes and even dictating heights, location of gates, etc. I had zero to do with it as I was deep frying so many other fish. He found a small company with a dude he liked talking to, and over the course of the year, we piece-mealed out the work (which is much easier on the wallet, but still adds up).

The Before

The priorities were the extremely visible interior chain link fence and the driveway gates for privacy and security (which I’m not really going to go into here). Anything beyond that was taken off the table two years ago (some were recently put back on the table as you’ll see). I’m not getting too far into the driveway gates today because they are just now functioning (it took a while to trench electrical to them and they’ve had issues – maybe it’s a “you get what you pay for” situation – but the company has been super responsive to help problem solve so I feel optimistic). So today we’ll talk through interior fencing.

What you see in the photo above is the chain link that connects the barn and encloses the paddock (a fancy word for an enclosed pasture for livestock). It was lined with hawthorn trees which we saw nothing wrong with as SoCal-tree-starved folks. But then we were told from many sources that they are super invasive and when it comes to trees – straggly and kinda ugly when not in bloom. So Brian, keen to start our livestock journey far before we even lived there (haha), hired a team to get rid of the hawthorns, rip out the chain link fence that we see (only the front side), and then installed a split rail fence.

It’s hard to even understand the before/after because “the before” was the largest tennis court in the history of home tennis courts. We reduced it by more than 1/2 and at times we are still like “Geez, this is too big”. But that’s for another day. Essentially, all the fencing on the property was chain link, which is just not my favorite (it has its place for sure).

The First Split Rail Fence

This split rail (which is around 70′) came in at $2,425 installed, with an additional $350 to remove the chain link fence (it’s all blurry honestly, so I don’t know if that was included in that price or on top of that). It’s just one length of fence with one gate at $3k and took one day which isn’t cheap if you think about it, but knowing what we know about fencing, the price felt fair and doable. Split rail wood seems to be far cheaper than any nicely milled wood. I don’t know much, but from the looks of it, it’s just wood chopped into rough lengths, but not pressure treated (as far as I know). Of course, this means it likely won’t last 30 years which typically would go against my #1 consuming rule which is “buy once and for the long term,” but it’s all locally grown/sourced, totally free of anything bad, and zero processing. It’s just basic wood and should we ever need to replace it due to rotting it just goes back into the earth 🙂

Once this fence was in we loved it so much (note the hand on the heart) and with an affordable and speedy team, Brian and I were motivated to put it EVERYWHERE. It’s just so sweet/charming and bare-bones in the best of ways. This is when it was first installed so it has grayed out a lot (which we knew and love). You might be wondering how we are going to keep any future animals in the paddock and our plan is to add hogwire from the middle rail on down. We’ll likely do this ourselves (any tips are welcome in my livestock post coming up later this week).

We had always wanted a Peter Rabbit-style fence around the pool/garden area but it was nixed a year ago because of budget (before the split rail fence quotes came in). But once the pool was getting close to finished, we got another quote for the split rail from the same company and it was around $7k to enclose this area, including three gates – not nothing, but this felt reasonable to us and it was exactly what we wanted. This is also how it starts to add up…

We decided to do these lower (around 40″) whereas the pasture fence is higher to keep potential long-necked livestock in. I didn’t design or even have a second of input on the whole thing which would be terrifying but it’s so basic that it all worked out great. I love it.

The fence will get lined with climbing plants, too. And while of course, a kid can get over it or under it, since the pool cover is locked and needs a key to unlock the lock which is up high on the side of the pool house, we feel good about it (a grownup will be out there or nearby when kids are in the pool). The stacks of wood in the back are our garden boxes that I’m so excited to put together (we might miss the harvest this year but hoping to plant at least some flowers and lettuces).

Soake Pool

We shot this a couple of weeks ago and the Soake pool is done now 🙂 Update coming soon!!!! (SPOILER – IT’S ALREADY MAKING IT THE BEST SUMMER EVER EVEN THOUGH IT’S A TINY POOL. THE KIDS DON’T CARE AND I WANT TO WEEP WITH JOY).

The Gates

I thought that the gates turned out so cute and simple. Again, I had no say in the design, it’s just what they do and it was exactly what we wanted. Just goes to show you that sometimes scaling things back and doing the simplest, most basic option is the best. I can get really myopic on design elements and obsess too much about the details, but not everything has to be “a moment”. Once all the grasses and wildflowers grow in (including the creeping thyme and wild strawberry ground cover) it’s going to be exactly how we pictured it.

Mulch has now covered over all the irrigation, don’t worry. And we have yet to hook up the irrigation to the well, but hopefully, that is happening soon.

It’s already so much prettier because so much has grown in since Kaitlin shot this a couple of weeks ago.

I’m in the market for a couple of umbrellas (one that pivots and can cantilever over the pool to help shade my easy-to-burn children), picnic tables, and chaise lounges:) I also have some of Max’s Pindler/Sunbrella fabric that I might make cushions out of to add some pattern/fun on those Adirondack chairs.

The gate’s hardware is fairly intuitive and easy to use. And yes, we ended up going with pea gravel with steel edging for the garden box area – crossing fingers we don’t regret how loose pea gravel can be AND how much of a tripping hazard steel edging can be.

Adirondack Chairs

I bought those Adirondack chairs in April when we were going to have people over for Easter and I really like them. They were super affordable ($99) and they fold down for easy storage. I was unsure of the quality and tone of the wood but so far I’m really happy with them and as you can see the wood looks good. I bought them thinking they would be our extra seating around the sports court when we have people over, just great floating furniture since they are lightweight and easy to move. Since they are real wood I don’t want to leave them out all winter (which is why I bought folding ones that are easy to store). I’m not sure what type of furniture we want around the pool yet – we’ve only had it done for about a week so unsure if it’s more dining table/umbrella + chairs for me to work while the kids play or two chaise lounges or four lounge chairs in a circle. I also just spent three hours reading in a hanging cocoon chair at this forest resort I went to and now I have to have one of those so maybe two of those at the opposite end of the pool would be good? Or four Adirondack chairs made of Polywood which I hear will last years through winter. Stay tuned.

Garden Boxes

The future garden is going here 🙂 I bought these garden boxes (and so did my landscape designer so I felt great about my choices), but they are definitely more expensive than they need to be and wish I had shopped around for something cheaper. I just loved the joinery so much. Part of me wants to scramble to put them together this week and grow some veggies while we are in Arrowhead for two weeks while the other part of me just says, “Hey wanna-be-farming-lady, calm down and expand your timeline” and plant when we get back.

Dining Set | Spindle Chair (similar)

It’s coming together, folks. This is the shady spot that we eat most of our meals at right now (so we can hang out while the kids play). Dining table/benches and black metal spindle chair from Rejuvenation. While we aren’t done (and I have more to show you soon), we are just so grateful to have all of this and I want to invite the entire world over for a party. We’ve already volunteered our house for school fundraisers and I really want to have a neighborhood potluck this summer (which makes me nervous TBH in a million ways – will it be seen as sharing/welcoming or showing off/bragging? Will it induce neighborhood gossip? Or quell it? Or both??). A huge thanks to Cali from Studio Campo (most of the design), to Dan’l and his team from Northwest Native Landscapes (our landscape construction team), and if you are in Portland and want our split rail fence company email us and I’m happy to share (I want to wait til our full scope is done and we are really happy with the work to promote/recommend publicly).

There she is, just drinking an IPA in dirty overalls and Tevas. We’ve reached Peak PNW Mom. That was quick!

Come back SOOOON (possibly even tomorrow) for our lively livestock debate. For now, I hope you like our split-rail fence 🙂

*Design by Studio Campo
**Landscaping by Northwest Native Landscapes

***Unless Otherwise Noted, Pretty Progress Photos by Kaitlin Green

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