Horse Heaven: Elegant Meets Functional on Horse Farm Tour
By Claudia Watson
Special to The Pilot
Get an inside look at some of the most beautiful and unique equestrian properties in the Sandhills during the 2011 Horse Farm Tour, sponsored by Prancing Horse, on Sunday, Oct. 16, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sharing their farms will be Paul and Maureen Grippa, Blackrock Stables; Linda McVicker, of Marilee Farm; Brig. Gen. William R. Holmes (retired) and Camilla Vance, of The Old Goat Farm; Bruce and Donna Holcomb, of Spotted Pines Farm; John and Deborah Wilson, of Sunninghill Farm; and Will and Christine Smith, of Wishing Well Farm.
Here is a glimpse of two of the featured farms that tour visitors will see.
"When I first saw the farm about 12 years ago, it gave me the feeling that it could be an English country farmhouse, cozy and livable," says Linda McVicker, owner of Marilee Farm since 2007.
A tour around her farm demonstrates that her dream and two long years of work served her well. Her house is filled with the things she loves and is a reflection of her passions and spirit.
A distinctive arched portico is the welcoming entrance to the farm's courtyard and serves as the connection between her seven-stall barn and a new carriage house.
The barn, which was gutted and renovated, has new floors and tongue-and-groove pine walls. New stable doors were made lower for her five Welsh ponies and two miniature horses. She wanted all of the stall doors to be the same height, so she fabricated a special metal bar that inserts above the door for Harley, her 16-hand chestnut quarter horse.
The carriage house, which includes a wash stall, harness room, bathroom and laundry, also holds her colorful collection of seven driving carriages. There is also a custom carriage that she uses to visit neighbors to talk shop at cocktail hour - a horse country tradition.
A massive glass-front cabinet that McVicker found at a racing stable in New York required rebuilding the harness room around it. That cabinet now displays her best driving harness.
"That exercise was one of the first things that made my builder question my sanity," laughs McVicker.
During the tour, the main house will not be open, but visitors may look in for a satisfying eyeful of the beautiful rooms filled with a mix of formal and farmhouse pieces, ancestral antiques and fine art - many of her favorite things.
The homey guest cottage, which will be open during the tour, once sat in shambles. Now, it is a peaceful haven with a corner fireplace to warm visitors. Twin beds wrapped in matching floral quilts sit on a polished wide-plank floor dressed with a pastel braided rug.
The silo, now attached to the cottage, serves as an intimate dining room where friends gather around the oak table dining set McVicker received from her parents when she graduated from nursing school. A cheery and compact kitchen holds everything needed.
Marilee Farm will host the Horse Farm Tour's lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Straw bales from Moore Equine will decorate the property. Hungry visitors will be delighted by the fare offered for purchase by Sly Fox Pub, including bratwurst and sauerkraut, hot dogs with all the trimmings and various soups and flatbread.
In addition, delicious scones from PineScones will team up with Cold Stone Creamery's ice cream and Sweet Feed's cookies to satisfy every sweet tooth. Sodas and bottled water will be offered.
Green and Smart
Camilla Vance and her husband, Brig. Gen. William R. Holmes (ret.), owners of The Old Goat Farm, thoughtfully designed this farm to be as simple and sustainable as possible.
"I have no illusions that there are many beautiful farms around, but we are not in that category. This is a simple green farm that works for us," says Vance.
The 10-acre farm, bordered by woods and a small stream, hugs a gentle slope. They found this raw land in 2007 and created Vance's longtime vision of an efficient farm.
"This is the first and the last barn I'll ever have. We moved 15 times in the military, so this was the last move," she says while glancing at her husband of 19 years, and the farm's namesake.
With military style efficiency, they built a modular Colonial-style home with a rooftop solar panel array, a four-stall metal barn and developed methods to sustain the property's soil and water resources - all in three years.
Even in this summer's 100-degree temperatures, the metal barn was dramatically cooler due to its insulated high ceiling and the cross ventilation provided by fans and wide doors on all sides of the barn.
Her two horses, along with Cochin and guinea hens, bantam roosters and a rescued dog, often seek shelter under the insulted eaves of the roofed paddock area of the barn.
The barn also includes a large, very organized workroom, tack room, laundry, feed room and wash stall - all of which have special enhancements that reduce the farm's carbon footprint and operating costs.
Vance also uses vermicomposting, worm composting, to turn organic farm and household waste into a rich, dark, earthy-smelling soil conditioner that she uses to amend the soil around the farm.
The water resources, always a concern in the Sandhills, are carefully managed. Rooftop runoff is directed to holding ponds. The stream is lined with riprap rock to slow the rush of water and soil erosion. Native wetland vegetation and wildflowers help scrub the water before it leaves the property. Bermuda grass forms the lawn around their home and needs little water or care.
Drought tolerant perennials and ornamental grasses make up a colorful garden around the house, but now that it is established, it gets no irrigation.
Vance says she hopes others who see the steps to green farm management will be inclined to adapt them to their own needs.
"It's just a matter of looking at how processes can be more efficient, especially on a diminishing budget," she says. "This is a one-woman barn. It is easy to care for and functional."
Proceeds from the 2011 Horse Farm Tour benefit Prancing Horse, which helps children and adults in the Sandhills region with physical, mental and emotional challenges find strength and independence through the power of the horse.
Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 day of the tour at the NCSU Equine Health Center, 6045 U.S. 1, North. Children under 12 are admitted free. No pets are permitted at any time at any farm. Advance ticket locations are The Country Bookshop, Given Book Shop, Sandhills Winery, The Village Wine Shop, Lady Bedford's Tea Parlour, Moore Equine Supply & Feed, Bakehouse & Cafe.
For tickets, or more information, call (910)246-3202, or visit www.prancinghorsecenter.com, or email info@email@example.com.
Claudia Watson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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