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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: This quasi-farming family mends a fence together

Julia Ditto and her family take a break during a long afternoon of repairing their fence in Spokane Valley.  (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
Julia Ditto and her family take a break during a long afternoon of repairing their fence in Spokane Valley. (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

The cows got out again. Things like this happen from time to time when you live on a quasi-farm and don’t really have any idea what you’re doing (other occurrences: getting stuck in snow drifts; reacting as if it’s the apocalypse when you lose power for 30 minutes; and failing to realize that the pretty purple flowers growing in your front field are actually noxious weeds).

In this latest instance of farming ineptitude, I was just getting out of the shower and had started brushing my teeth when I heard frantic knocking on my bedroom door.

“Just a minute!” I shouted, determined to ignore this very common interruption to my getting-ready-for-the-day process.

“Mom!” I could barely make out 13-year-old Jane’s voice over the sound of my electric toothbrush. Jane usually knows better than to interrupt me when I have retreated to my room, so to hear her yelling on the other side of the door was my first clue that something was actually wrong. “The cows have gotten out, and they’re almost to the street!”

Now this was cause for alarm. Our cow pasture is down a hill behind our house at the end of a long gravel driveway. Any cows that had meandered all the way to the road undetected were clearly motivated and a danger to society.

I spit out my toothpaste and yelled to Jane that she needed to hop on the four-wheeler and head them off before they got to the street. Visions of a 10-car pileup while our four clueless cows meandered slowly down the road flashed through my mind. I’ve never gotten dressed faster than I did right then.

As I ran out the front door, I was relieved to see that Jane had summoned her inner cowgirl and had managed to round up all the cows, which were now ambling back down the gravel driveway.

They defiantly jumped right back over the part of the fence from which they had escaped and settled back into their pasture, eyeing Jane and me while griping with one another about how totally lame their farmers were.

Coincidentally, earlier that morning, Logan and I had been discussing the possibility of getting four or five more cows. But when he got home later that day and I told him of our misadventures, I backtracked.

“There is no way I’m consenting to getting any more cows until that entire fence line has been inspected and repaired,” I told him, flashing my “I’m-absolutely-serious” face. “Right,” he said. “I guess I’ll head to North 40.”

For those of you who are even more unfamiliar with farming than we are, North 40 is a farm-supply store that has everything that fake and real farmers alike could possibly need.

Three hours and hundreds of dollars later, Logan came home with the back of the Suburban full of supplies for getting our nonfunctioning electric fence up and running.

“Get on your coats and muck boots, everyone,” he announced the next afternoon after the kids had finished lunch. “We’re going out to fix the fence. Except Mom. Mom gets to do whatever she wants.”

Smart man. I allowed him and the kids to head down to the field while I watched from the kitchen window and popped fun-size candy bars into my mouth. Finally, the guilt got to me. I pulled on my gear and headed down to the pasture.

Logan is an excellent mastermind and did the heavy lifting while the rest of us tended to our assigned tasks. Lucy, George and Emmett shored up drooping sections of the fence while Jane and Henry alternated between fighting and unspooling electrical wire.

My job was to attach plastic yellow do-dads (I believe real farmers would call them “insulators”) to each fence post so said wire could be threaded all along the perimeter.

We worked on the fence together for four hours before darkness fell, and we were mercifully released back to the house. We were exhausted, but I smiled smugly as I saw the cows staring dumbfounded at their previous escape route.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’m going to go bankrupt at North 40.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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