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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: Five easy steps to becoming a farmer

First step to becoming farmer? Get some land, and if you don’t want people to see you mess up, get a lot of land. That’s the opinion of SR columnist Julia Ditto of Greenacres. (File / SR)
First step to becoming farmer? Get some land, and if you don’t want people to see you mess up, get a lot of land. That’s the opinion of SR columnist Julia Ditto of Greenacres. (File / SR)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Editor’s note: Today we introduce Julia Ditto and her column the Full Suburban to the pages of the Today section. Ditto will write a monthly column on her life and adventures raising her family in the Spokane Valley.

My husband and I moved our family from the South Hill “out to the country” in Greenacres two and a half years ago. The driving force behind this move was to provide space for our six kids to roam and run free, like Laura Ingalls in the opening credits of “Little House on the Prairie.” We were also interested in doing other farm stuff, like raising animals, planting a garden and meandering through verdant fields while gentle breezes waft delicious smells of apple pie down from the kitchen.

Our unique version of country living includes 17 acres of beautiful land with a commute to the freeway of no more than seven minutes. We’re what you might call “gentleman/woman farmers,” meaning that we have no idea what we’re doing. But even novices can learn a thing or two, and it is this knowledge I would now like to impart through my handy guide, “How to Become a Farmer in Five Easy Steps”:

1. Get some land. If you don’t want anyone to notice that you really don’t know what you’re doing, get a lot so no one can see you. Once you have the land, feel free to wander the property line, wondering if you should put up a fence or something.

2. Purchase some animals. Goats. Or cows. Or chickens or kitties or pigs or whatever. You need animals if you’re going to make this farm thing look legitimate. We have a 20-pound dog who barks at birds and will wag her tail at you to death if you trespass. Our two kitties always make sure to leave me a decapitated mouse head right by the steps leading into our house. And the cows are docile, stinky and pretty easy to please, not unlike a bunch of 13-year-old boys in a basement with pizza and an Xbox.

3. Make friends with at least one person who is an actual farmer. We have three of these. One harvests wheat, another raises buffalo and one knows the names and characteristics of every plant known to man. They advise us on all sorts of things, from how to weld together broken tractor parts to ways to tell if a cow is about to give birth (hint: she “gets a little sloppy in the back”). One even climbed a 14-foot ladder to help us get a helium balloon unwound from our ceiling fan once. That is true friendship right there, and also makes us look very pathetic.

4. Buy lots of things that have 4-wheel drive. This step alone will do wonders for making you feel like an actual farmer. After years of driving a Toyota Camry, my husband recently got a beat-up Ford F250, and it seems to be the final piece in his manliness puzzle. Chores that used to lay dormant for months are now being knocked out in a day, and he’ll even bring our dog and a kid or two along for the ride. THIS NEVER USED TO HAPPEN. But put that man in that truck, and he will haul literally anything, anytime. Anyone have a fridge they need moved?

5. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is a steep learning curve associated with managing a farm, and not everything is going to go smoothly all of the time. Even two years in, I’m still asking questions like, “What is that random cat doing here?” and “Can someone please shovel my driveway for me?” Questions are a normal and necessary part of farming!

This list is of course nowhere near exhaustive. There are things to consider like buying the right kind of muck boots (bright red if you can find them); choosing a good spot to dig your well (spin around 10 times, point and write a check for $30,000); and managing the wildlife that will inevitably invade your property (allow your miniature dog to bark incessantly at them from the living room window). But this should give you a good start. Happy farming!

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals. Her view of family life is firmly rooted in the Spokane Valley. You can reach her at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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