When Logan and I were trying to figure out where to build our home seven years ago, we fell in love with a particular plot of land that had a lot of things going for it, along with a few things that were less than desirable. So, we made a list of pros and cons to help us decide whether to buy it.
Prominent among the cons was the fact that the property sat directly across from a working cattle ranch. “Do we want to look out our front windows and see a bunch of outbuildings?” we wondered. “Will our property constantly smell like manure?”
In the end, the pros far outweighed even the stinkiest of cons, so we decided to proceed. But the ink had barely dried on our contract when we received an ominous letter in the mail from the county. I read it, and then immediately burst into tears.
The cattle ranch was being parceled off into five-acre lots, the letter told us. Within a few years, homes would be going in, and then a road, turning our previously quiet country lane into more of a thoroughfare. Logan and I couldn’t believe it. Our country living dreams seemed to be crumbling before we had even gotten started.
But, as things do, the development of the ranch went slowly. We finished building our home and lived in it for three years before things started moving with the neighborhood development. In those three years, the thing we had been most apprehensive about – living directly across from the cattle ranch – had become something we cherished the most about living out here.
It was so peaceful and satisfying to see the cows roaming the field as the sun went down. When it was calving season, we loved watching the little calves frolic with each other, never straying too far from their mommas.
And the smell turned out to be hardly an issue at all. On the rare occasions that the aroma of manure wafted up to our front porch, we would just shrug our shoulders and say, “It sure smells cow-y today!”
And then things started to change. First, we saw test holes being dug at various places in the ranch. Then the cows were moved to a farther pasture. Fences were taken down, home foundations went in, and before we knew it, eight houses dotted our beloved field.
Part of me can’t help but be excited. A couple of our friends built their dream homes on parcels they purchased on the ranch. And it’s always fun to get to know new neighbors and have someone to rely on when you run out of eggs or your dog runs away or you get stuck in the snow.
But watching this development unfold has opened my eyes a little. When we were building our home, I didn’t consider what the established neighbors in the area might think about it – how it might alter the view they had loved for decades or change the dynamic of the quiet country life they were used to.
It wasn’t until we’d been living in our home for a couple years and I was talking to the adult son of our closest neighbor that I started to understand. He mentioned that when he was a kid, he always used to go sledding down the hill where our house now stands.
The thought had never entered my mind before that people had loved and explored and used our land long before it became ours. It was part of their community, part of their valley. It now technically belonged to us, but it had been a part of their lives much longer than it had been a part of ours.
That’s how I feel about the ranch. When I look out my front windows now, I see tractors tearing up old road and laying down a huge swath of asphalt right down the middle of what used to be a cow pasture.
I know things change and that we changed the landscape ourselves when we built our home in this beautiful valley. But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch it happen. Part of me will always mourn the paving of our paradise.
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 email@example.com.
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