It’s Friday. Here are some puppy pictures.

It’s Friday. To get you through, here’s a shot of the puppies in their box five seconds before they all dispersed into a wiggly, frantic swarm of fluff anticipating their supper.

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They’re getting so big, and there are so many of them that we moved them into the big barn last weekend, which meant we put them all in a box for their first little road trip.

A pile of puppies in a box is probably the most adorable thing in the world.

It’s a good thing these pups are at mom and dad’s or Edie and I wouldn’t get anything done all day except cuddling.

I mean, that’s sorta all I do at home these days anyway…

IMG_8057But ugh. The fluff.

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In a few weeks all of these babies will go to their forever homes and Dolly and Pops’ pup will stay here with us.

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The timing of having a newborn and a newborn puppy sounds just about right for keeping the crazy and chaos at the normal level around here. I’d hate to be bored you know.

Here’s the best and most recent photo (out of dozens) of the two of them. The level of wiggle and squeaks are uncountable. Maybe I should try video next time to get the full effect.

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And the way these two girls are growing, you can bet the both of them are eating well.

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No, the ranch isn’t as quiet as it has been in past winters. To add to the excitement and work load, last weekend Pops and Husband went to pick up a small herd of cattle to add to the place.

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My husband and I have dreamed of owning our own cattle someday and last weekend that dream came true.

Funny how some dreams come on four legs, bearing promises of a whole lotta blood, sweat and tears.

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These cows will have their babies in early spring when the weather is a bit warmer. Until then we’ll feed them up and watch them close and make plans for the next season, which will look like a whole lot of fence fixing and corral maneuvering and some good excuses to get on a horse and take a ride.

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I can’t wait.

And to gear me up for the season change, it looks like this weekend the weather’s going to be nice and warm, a nice break in the winter to remind us that the cold isn’t forever.

Not that I’ve minded the weather so much this winter, you know, being my job title has been changed to Jessie Veeder, writer/singer/mother/rancher/professional snuggler…

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and baby feeder and putter-to-sleeper….

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Happy weekend everyone. We only watch the Super Bowl for the snacks, but we hope your team wins!

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Puppy Boom

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Well, it seems to be a baby boom at the Veeder Ranch, and I tell you, I can’t get enough.

On December 29th, just in time for the weather to get good and cold, dad’s dog Juno gave birth to a big ‘ol batch of puppies.

I got a text from dad early that morning telling me that there were “4 pups so far.” Later that morning, when mom stopped over to snuggle our baby, she said she thought there were five. But it was hard to tell, because she had them in the dog igloo and it was dark in there.

Five pups was my guess. That’s what I thought she would have and that was a nice manageable number.

I called my little sister to report the news and then headed over to mom and dad’s when Husband got home to take a look for myself.

We pulled into the yard just as Pops was pulling in from work and Juno ran up to welcome her favorite human, giving him the opportunity to shine a flashlight in the igloo to see what she made.

“They’re so loud in there,” he said.

And then he found out why.

“Holy Cow!” he hollered.

“What?!!” I asked nervously “What’s in there? Are they ok?”

“There’s a whole pile of them!”

And indeed there was….

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A little more than five I guess. I tried to get a good count on them while they were wiggling and squirming all over each other.

I thought I counted nine.

I was confident. But I counted again.

Yup. Nine.

Nine’s a lot. That’s a lot of pups there.

The mat they were laying on was a little damp. These pups were brand new, so I decided to get a couple towels to put underneath them and help absorb some of the moisture.

So we took the pups out one by one.

And we all counted out loud, Pops, Husband, my niece and I.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!!!”

“9,” I declared. “Perfect!”

“Oh, we’re not done yet,” said Pops.

“WHAT?!”

“10, 11!”

E.LE.VEN.

Eleven.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!

That’s a lot of pups.

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“Good idea we had here huh dad?” I said to him.

Because it was our idea, to breed our Gus with his Juno the best cow dog ever.

Because cute + cute = so damn cute…

But also, because they will be really good dogs.

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Baby Gus 

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Baby Juno

After Pudge died this fall we thought we needed to get another young pup to start learning the ropes.

And we thought maybe someone in the neighborhood might be interested in a good cow pup too.

But eleven? ELEVEN?! What were we going to do with eleven puppies?

Well, first things first I had to pick one out for Edie.

The Litter

Which wasn’t an easy task, except I liked the brown border collie. She was the only one like that in the batch. And I haven’t seen many brown border collies in my life.

So she was my favorite.

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It seems like Edie liked her too..

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But this one is also my favorite because she’s so little and she has brown eyebrows that match her brown feet and I just can’t take that sweet face I want to smush her and put her in my pocket…

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And this one is my favorite too because of his speckled little feet and speckled nose and he seems like he’s going to be really smart and I just can’t take it I want to scoop him up and put him in my cereal bowl.

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And this one breaks my heart because, well look at him! Those ears! That look! He’s so beefy and rolly-polly. He’s also my favorite. I really like him. I like his white face. I can’t even take it, I want to wrap him up in a blanket and snuggle and watch re-runs of Seinfeld together. He seems like he’d like Seinfeld. He seems like he has a good sense of humor that way.

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And be still my heart. This one is my favorite. Look at her! Look at the brown on her. She looks like she’s going to be SO FLUFFY I COULD DIE!!!! Look at her feet, with the little speckles on her toes. And I just can’t take it I want to buy a pink purse and put her in there and walk around the mall with her peeking out, smiling while everyone declares “What an adorable pup!” and I would say “I know right?!”

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And this one is my favorite because of his brown legs and white face. He looks smart. And snuggly. And I just can’t take it I want to tuck him in bed and read him bedtime stories.

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And this one is Husband’s favorite, but I think he’s also my favorite because he looks like his dad Gus and Gus is my favorite. I like that he’s solely black and white and he has a cool big black spot on his side and he’s going to be beautiful. And I just can’t take it I want to teach him the best tricks and enter him in one of those frisbee catching contests that you see on TV. We would win, because, well, just look at him.

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And this one. This one’s my favorite because he’s going to be fluffy and I love him and I just can’t take it I want to comb his hair and put a bandana around his neck and name him Scout.

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And this one is my favorite because of his white legs and spotted nose and I just can’t take it I want him riding shotgun in the pickup with me anytime we go somewhere so he can stick his head out the window and really get his ears flapping.

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And we’ve established why this one is my favorite…But it looks like she’s going to have curly brown hair so I think we’ll be able to relate…

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And this one. Look at this guy! He’s going to be smart I can just tell. He’s got the look of a perfect ranch dog and he’s my favorite because he reminds me of the old dog we had growing up named P.V. and she was the best. I just can’t stand it I want to bring him inside and let him lay on the rug in front of the fireplace.

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And this one is my favorite because he’s classic and he knows it. He looks like he could be in a movie where he herds up lost sheep that got out on the highway and headed to town so he grabbed his brother and saved the sheep and the day. And I just can’t stand it I want to give him an extra bowl of milk because he looks like he’s going to do such a good job someday.

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Oh Lord. It’s been hard on me. All this cuteness. It’s giving me cavities.

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But it turns out it hasn’t been hard to find these babies homes. No. One little social media advertisement and they were homed in a matter of hours to some really wonderful families who will probably not put their puppy in a pink purse and cart it around the mall, but might let them ride shotgun in the pickup. Or sleep on the rug in front of the fireplace. Or, most importantly, give them a life where they can do what they were meant to do…chase cows and roll in poop and drag bones from gawd-knows-where all over the yard.

And be unconditionally loyal.

And fluffy.

So fluffy. Just like their mom.

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And so annoyingly smart, just their dad.

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Because that’s what’s running through their blood.

And I can’t take it.

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Now, does anyone have any name suggestions for our new little girl? I would ask Edie, but I don’t think she’s old enough to make these sort of decisions.

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Ugh, life must being going good when too cute becomes a problem…

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This seems like a good time to share my music video “A Girl Needs a Dog” again, featuring baby Gus and the photos you all submitted of you loving on your favorite dog. Enjoy!

If you need me I’ll be snuggling something.

Peace, Love and Puppy Breath,

Jessie

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Remembering the Veterans who built this place.

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Today, on Veteran’s Day, I want to pause to remember the two strong Veterans who founded the Veeder Ranch so we can call it home today.

Edgar Andrew Veeder, born October 5, 1894, in Stearnes County Minnesota was the first child born to Benjamin Wemple and Antoinette Marie (Volc) Veeder.

In 1907, Eddie moved to McKenzie County where he lived with his parents in the Croff community. He lived and worked at home until he was twenty-one.

In 1915, he homesteaded the Veeder Ranch in Bear Den Township before being drafted into the the Army, serving in the 77th Infantry-Machine Gun Company at Camp Custer Michigan.

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After he was discharged at Camp Dodge, Iowa in 1919, Eddie returned to farm and ranch in Bear Den Township.

Eddie married Cornelia Belle Harrison on September 4, 1917. In 1925, Eddie bought his brother, Hank Veeder’s homestead, also located in Bear Den Township and continued expanding his holdings by purchasing additional homesteads in the area. In 1928, he bought a threshing machine and for the next fifteen years he did custom threshing in addition to running cattle and raising crops on the place. Through all the years that he lived in the community, Eddie always took an active part in the building and maintenance of the area. He was a member of the township board for many years and was responsible for keeping township roads and bridges open and in good repair.

Eddie and Cornelia, who died of heart failure in 1932 at the age of thirty-six, had five children, the youngest, my grandfather, Eugene (Pete) Veeder.

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After the death of his wife, Eddie, with the help of his sisters, maintained the home until all of the children were grown. It must have been difficult, especially during the Depression, to provide for his family, but he was always cheerful. He enjoyed his children and grandchildren until his death in 1961.

After their father’s passing, Pete and his brother Lorraine each bought half of the family ranch land. Pete was inducted into the Army February 16, 1945, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, took his basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, and was then stationed for a time in Korea. He was the recipient of the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Army of Occupation Medal (Japan). He was discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington on December 19, 1946. Pete then returned to farm with his father and brothers.

Grampa Pete

Pete married Edith Linseth on August 24, 1951 and the two of them raised crops, cattle and three children, Kerry, Wade and my father, Eugene (Gene) on the original homestead.

Today the Veeder Ranch remains in the family, operated by Gene and Beth. My husband Chad and I have built a home here, making us the fourth generation to live and work on the Veeder Homestead. 

Remembering these two great men’s lives and service to their country and grateful for the legacy and land they worked hard to keep.

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Sunday Column: Dreaming of horses…

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Coming Home: Dreaming of horses, the best gift a ranch kid can get
11-9-15
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

A funny thing happens when you’re in the home stretch of your first-ever pregnancy. Between all of the unpleasant symptoms we’ve all heard about — the heartburn, the aches and pains, the insomnia — you suddenly find yourself with an overwhelming need to purchase a festive Christmas baby hat because the most important thing in the world is being prepared for this new baby’s first Christmas photo under the tree.

It’s all you can think about, never mind that you don’t yet have the car seat properly installed or a single diaper stocked up. If you have this hat, you will be ready.

But three days later when that handmade Rudolf hat with the red button nose arrives in your mailbox, you’ve completely forgotten that 5 a.m. panic order altogether. Because you’ve already moved on to the next obsession.

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And lately, for me, three weeks away from my due date, I’ve decided I should really be thinking seriously about this kid’s first horse.

It’s not logical, I know, not in the sequence of things anyway. I mean, I have a good few years to find the right animal, one I can trust to take care of my firstborn as he sits tall in the saddle beside us, chasing cows or checking fence, honing his skills and his way around this place.

But to have a horse of your own as a kid is a unique and life-shaping privilege, one not granted to every child, and one I want to give to mine. Because I remember how I was one of the lucky ones. I inherited an old red mare from my grandma. Her name was Rindy, and she was short and squat with just the right amount of attitude and a rough trot.

I would ride her bareback in the summer, learning about balance and patience as I searched the tree lines for raspberries, leading her to big rocks or side-hills to help me swing my short legs up on her back if I happened to climb down or fall off.

 

I broke my arm tumbling off Rindy.

I broke my foot jumping off her in a youth rodeo.

I won “best groomed” at a sleepaway horse camp because she couldn’t find a mud hole to roll in like she did at the ranch each time I groomed her the night before a 4-H show.

I put red, white and blue yarn in her mane and rode her in the county fair parade.

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I rode double, or triple, with my best friends on her back, trotting through clover fields, seeing how fast we could go before we all tumbled off, leaving her grazing a few yards away as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

And in the fall I would saddle her up, pulling the cinch as tight as I could around her round back, and she would puff out her belly to trick me into thinking that’s as tight as it would go only to let the air out once I climbed on, her way of controlling her comfort level, I suppose.

Oh, that horse was something. But that’s the thing, anyone who had a horse of their own as a kid will tell you stories like these about an animal that helped raise them in an environment that has the potential to be intimidating for a kid.

But a horse out here gives a kid some power. I felt like I was worth something on Rindy’s back, like I could help move a cow through a gate or learn where the fence lines run. I had a partner, a big companion that gave me new abilities. I was stronger and bigger up there. I was capable.

Who wouldn’t want to give that gift to a child if they could?

And so I have that Christmas hat in the drawer, we’ve set up the crib, I’m washing onesies and putting away diapers, and late at night, when the world is dark, my husband’s chest rising in sleep next to me, I lie with my eyes open in our bed, a hand on my swollen belly, waiting on this baby and dreaming of horses.

Maternity Haze

“Work (Girl)” Official Music Video Release

The first video off of my Nashville Album “Northern Lights” is one of my favorite songs on the album.

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It’s an anthem to working women, written while I was shoveling scoria in the driveway, determined to get a job done while thinking, with the rhythm of the shovel, about the women who raised me and what life must have been like out here at a time without running water, Amazon.com or a deep freeze.

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A woman’s work, across all parts of the country, is a complicated balance of finding the best way to provide time and resources to her family, flexing her muscles in all corners of her world, whether in the office, the kitchen, the boardroom, on the back of a horse or behind a book during her children’s bedtime.

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There are plenty of songs written for the working man, the backbone of America, but I felt women needed an anthem. Because their backs are in the game too. So I made one.

During my live shows I invite the little girls to come up on stage to dance and show me their muscles. Their enthusiasm and eagerness to show their spirit inspires me.

I hope this song and video inspires you too.

A special thanks to all the real working Western North Dakota women featured in the video. And to the Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County for providing access to the old photos that represent our working women heritage.

 “Work” is available on
iTunes
CD Baby
Amazon.com 
www.jessieveedermusic.com

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Sunday Column: A new season…

Screen shot 2015-09-21 at 12.02.21 PMYesterday was cow gathering day on the ranch. I helped pull burs from the horses’ manes and sprayed flies and waved as my sister, husband and dad loaded up the trailer and headed for the hills.
It’s roundup season and I’m in my stretchy pants working on the finishing touches of growing this baby (and online shopping and eating everything I can touch).
It’s been a beautiful fall with temperatures in the mid 70s and the colors changing nice and slow. And while the best way to experience it is on the back of the horse, I’m happy staying on foot, wandering the hills and looking forward to the day we can get this baby up on his own horse.
So that’s what this week’s column is about. A little reflection on roundup season and spitting wild plums at my little sister as we followed behind our dad. She used to have a white pony named Jerry who would, every once in a while, decide he needed a break and spontaneously lay down and try to roll her and the saddle off his back.
He was a shit.
But so was she sometimes…so they were a good pair.

Ah, I love this time of year.

If you need me I’ll be out taking pictures…

And if you have a reliable pony to sell, well, we’re in the market…

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Coming Home: Ever-changing seasons make me feel alive
by Jessie Veeder
9-20-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

This season change is so predictably unpredictable, sneaking up on us slowly in the middle of a hot summer day and leaving with a strong gust of wind.

This year it seems to be settling in despite the heat. The trees that were first to display their leaves are the first to change their colors this September. I’m reminded it’s nearing roundup season, and I have a flashback of spitting plums at my little sister on her pony, Jerry, as we ride side by side toward the reservation.

I’m bundled up in my wool cap and my dad’s old leather chaps braving the cool morning and a long ride through coulees, up hills, along fence lines and under a sky that warmed the earth a little more with each passing hour.

I would strip off my cap first, then went my gloves and coat, piled on a rock or next to a fence post for easy retrieval when the work was done.

Moving cattle, even then, never felt like work to me. Perhaps because I was never the one responsible for anything but following directions and watching the gate — a task with the perfect amount of adventure, freedom and accountability.

It was during that long wait from when the crew gathered all the cattle in the pasture and moved them toward my post that I would make up my best songs or find the perfect feather for my hat.

And while this year my growing belly and precious cargo have kept me from the back of a horse, my adult role working cattle hasn’t changed much.

I’m the eternal watcher, the girl who makes sure the cattle don’t turn back or find their way into the brush or through the wrong gate, left to my own devices while the guys head for the hills.

And even if it all goes awry, even if the cows head for the thick trees or go running the wrong way past the gate and down a hill and the plan morphs depending on the attitude of a herd of bovines, around here I’ve always found it a pleasantly hectic adventure.

And I’m feeling compelled to live it in my head today, knowing it’s a ritual I’ll miss this season, pulling on our boots to sit on the backs of horses swatting at the sticky flies with their tails on a calm and sunny morning that promises to turn into a hot afternoon.

Each month the pastures change — a new fence wire breaks, the creek floods and flows then dries up, the ground erodes and the cows cut new trails, reminding me that the landscape is a moving, breathing creature.

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And I’m the most alive when I’m out here. I follow behind the guys making plans for the day and look around to notice the way the light bounces off of cowboy hats and trees slowly turning golden.

I find my direction while my husband cuts a path through the trees and Pops lopes up to the hilltop to scan the countryside.

I move a small herd toward the gate and wake a bull from the tall grass at the edge of the pasture.

Pops comes up off the hill to join me, the cattle he’s found moving briskly in front of him. We meet up, finding my husband waiting at the gate with the rest of the herd.

And that’s how it goes, the three of us pushing the cows along: Pops at the back of the trail counting and taking mental notes, my husband on the hillside making sure they turn the right way, and me watching the brush.

The sun warms our backs and sweat beads on our foreheads as we head toward home, talking about lunch and the fencing that needs to get done that day.

And the deer population.

And a pony for my nephew.

And the weather and the changing leaves and all of the things that need discussing when you’re on the back of a horse, on the edge of a season, on a piece of earth that’s constantly changing, even though, year after year, out here, I always feel the same.

And the weather and the changing leaves and all of the things that need discussing when you’re on the back of a horse, on the edge of a season, on a piece of earth that’s constantly changing, even though, year after year, out here, I always feel the same.

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A cucumber crisis and a recipe for garden soup

photo (1)We’ve been through this before, but I have to tell you again. I have a cucumber situation.

And I owe you all a thank you for sending me along some great cucumber recipes to try to use up some of these veggies that multiply by ten every time the sun goes down and comes up again.

Seriously.

My other vegetables are coming along nicely, like at a regular and controllable pace. Need a carrot or two? Perfect, just head to the garden.

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Want fresh green beans? It seems just the right amount are waiting for me.

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But the cucumbers are out of control. I only have three plants and the fruit they are creating has now taken up the refrigerator in the garage and the one in the house.

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No room for milk or ketchup. Nope. Just cukes.

Last night Husband and I enjoyed a cucumber and bacon sandwich with a side of noodle, bacon and cucumber salad.

It was delicious.

I think I’ll have it for my mid-afternoon snack.

Last week I tried to get rid of some by offering to make a big batch of cucumber salad for my brother-in-law’s rehearsal dinner, but my other brother-in-law beat me to the punch. Apparently he has a cucumber issue himself.

Tomorrow I have plans to drop off a bundle to both my sisters in town and then maybe I’ll sell them on Ebay or something. Or bring them to the nursing home. I don’t know.

I will tell you that earlier in the season I did make one of your recommended recipes. I am not one to have many ingredients around, because, well, you know I’m 30 miles from town, why the hell would I plan ahead, so I picked one with the least amount of ingredients and fuss and proceeded to feel like Martha Stewart regardless.

Shelia recommended this one:

Soak cukes in salt water overnight (after you have peeled and sliced about three of them). 
Mix drained cukes with about half a cup of sour cream
A teaspoon of vinegar and 
A small onion, sliced. 

Mix well, cool and eat. 

So that’s what I did. And then I put it in a Tupperwear to take with us on a little anniversary picnic to the lake a few weeks back.

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So Shelia, congratulations, you made my life with these cukes a little more manageable and so you are the winner of the Jessie Veeder Music package (I’ll send ya my new Nashville album “Northern Lights” and a couple other fun things). Watch for an email from me soon.

But there were so many great recipes shared with me. I’m especially hankering to try Barb’s Sliced Refrigerator Pickles, because, well, the only thing that sounds better to me than bacon right now is pickles. And cukes are just pickles in training, so I’ll let ya know how that goes :)

In the meantime, I wanted to share a family recipe with you as a thank you. Mom made it for me as a birthday meal, and I’ve had it a few times when I was a little girl living close to my great grandmother in Grand Forks. Great Grandma had a big garden out back that my dad used to help her care for and grow. He spent a lot of time in there as I recall, probably missing the dirt and the growing things helped him feel closer to his agricultural roots while he was stuck between the sidewalks.

Anyway, this recipe runs in my great grandma’s family, on my mom’s side, and it is a perfect way to celebrate all the vegetables that we harvest at the end of the summer.

Aunt Maebelle’s Garden Soup

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These photos won’t do it justice because I had to use the camera on my phone, but I’ll tell you I love it because it uses lots of butter, but you don’t feel so bad about it because, you know, you’re also getting a healthy dose of fresh vegetables too.

The only thing that would make it better would be to add bacon, but that’s just me.

Here’s how you get it to come together:

  • Get out your 8 qt. or 12 qt. stainless steel soup kettle (Maebelle was very specific)
  • Dice 3 LARGE sweet onions (the “heart” of this soup)
  • Melt a 1/2 stick of butter in the soup kettle and add onion and saute slowly until they are soft (but not browned). It will take a while
  • Add 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed and 6 large carrots, peeled and cubed to the onion an cover all with 3 cups of water. Cook gently. Stir.
  • When the carrots and potatoes are partially cooked, add 1 pound of yellow klax beans (summer only) and 1 pound green beans (fresh or frozen). Beans should be cut up in 1/2 inch pieces. (See what I’m saying about the specifics?)
  • Add lots of fresh chopped flat leafed parsley and lots of fresh dill (or dry dill weed)
  • Season with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper (to taste) (Going against Maebelle here, but if you have a favorite seasoning salt you can go with that too)
  • When the above has cooked, add a can of cream style corn and stir
  • (Now here’s my favorite part) Add 1/2 stick butter and let sit (not cooking) for 1 hour or so. (This seems weird, but it’s the rules)
  • Bring heat up and add 16 oz package of frozen petite peas
  • Add 1 1/2 quarts of whole milk (she was known to slip a little half and half in also)
  • Adjust to your own taste. Try not to add more than 3 cups water. Maybe more milk (or I say, some heavy cream)

photo 1 (5)Now, when I flipped the recipe card over I discovered that Maebelle often made “bullet” dumplings to add to this soup. I have never had this soup with dumplings, but I’m gonna try it. But for now, I think I’ve given you enough to simmer here.

My only regret is that it doesn’t call for cucumbers. But if your carrot and bean crop is healthy and your fridge if full of butter, you’re halfway there.

Happy gardening friends. I’ll call you all when my tomatoes finally turn red. I have a feeling this will be another vegetable outbreak in need of taming…

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Sunday Column: Goodbye old friend

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We’re quickly coming to the end of another season out here on the ranch.  School has officially started and my friends are posting “first day of school” photos of their kids, some sending their first borns off to kindergarden for the first time.

I’ve been spending time picking peas and beans, cucumbers, carrots and every red tomato I can find out of my garden, fascinated always by how time can transform dirt into food, just like that.

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Fascinated by how time has made it harder for me to bend over and pick those beans every day, made those little flutters in my belly turn to jabs and hiccups…and then, soon, an actual tiny human that breathes this air.

Life and time are twin sisters it seems, conceived at the same moment and moving through the world together hand in hand. And just as time creates and grows life in one breath, it quiets it and takes it away in another.

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And so it goes here on the ranch, the circle of life we’re made so aware of every day among the growing and withering things, reminding us that to everything there is a season.

Last week our faithful ranch dog, Pudge, gave us the gift of living until old age took her away in her sleep.

My husband came home to tell me the news, then went out to the big oak tree where we were married and dug a deep hole in the hard, dry, gumbo packed earth and buried our old friend.

“One day you will hear the sound of time rustling as it slips through your fingers like sand.” Sergei Lukyanenko

Yesterday I was just a kid shaking dirt off the carrots in the garden.

Tomorrow I turn 32.

Today I count the kicks in my belly, make plans to assemble the new crib in the box and miss that old dog…

Coming Home: Goodnight, Pudge, the sweet, tough cattle dog
by Jessie Veeder
8-23-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Lately the coyotes have been howling outside our open windows, slicing the black silence with chilling wails. Inside the garage, our domesticated dogs rise from their beds, lift up their heads and howl back to them, long and dramatic cries, an unnerving message sent between the wild and the tame.

Last weekend, while I was out on the highway heading for home after a late show, my husband opened the windows to the house to let in the night air, turned on the porch light and laid his body out on top of the covers of our bed.

Somewhere between his dozing and me cutting through the dark miles, down the road at my parents’ place the oldest cow dog on the ranch took her last breath, and quietly, one of the most familiar lights on our ranch went out.

We knew it was coming. Pudge, an Australian shepherd with thick, wooly fur, one blue eye and one brown eye, came to us on a hand-me-down after her owners moved to town. Pops, who had lost his previous cattle dog to a snakebite, needed a new animal to help him get cattle out of the brush and to accompany him on rides.

We think she was 4 years old when she came to us. Lately, the topic of her age had come up often. I was in college, or on my way there. Could it be that she was 15? Fifteen and no longer possessing the strength to go for long rides with Pops, but holding on to the spirit of her job by making the walk with him to and from the barn.

That was the last walk they took together it seems.

And now we’ll no longer find her snuggled up in the her spot under the heat lamp in the garage in the winter, in the pickup box in the summer or trying desperately to make her way through the window screen and under the covers of my little sister’s bed during a thunderstorm.

Pudge hated thunderstorms. That might have been the dog’s only flaw.

Because it turns out she was just the right combination of sweet, smart and tough enough to be one of the few cattle dogs on this 100-year-old ranch to get the chance to die of old age.

This place can be hard on the strongest, most cared-for animals who live a life more in tune with their primal instincts than the couch-dwelling suburban pet.

Pudge tried out that life with me once. I took her back to live with me for a little while in college when life was overwhelming me. I’d take her for bundled-up walks on sidewalks and she would sit in the sunshine by the door and watch the cars roll by, comfortable knowing she had a purpose in helping me find my big girl legs again before I brought her back to her ranch where she belonged.

Pudge

Before my husband came home to tell me she was gone, I was pulling carrots in my garden and singing to myself, “To everything turn, turn, turn … there is a season, turn, turn, turn … and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

If you can’t see that manifest itself out here, if it doesn’t become known to you as morning turns to night and summer turns to fall and the hair under your husband’s hat turns silver, you’re not paying attention or you don’t want to know.

It all happens so slowly and then so quickly, as if all at once the time has passed and then it’s up.

I listened to those coyotes howl last night and thought about Pudge, who would sit out at night under those stars, just on the edge of the light that flooded into the yard from the garage. When it was time for the people to lay down and pull the covers up, Pops would call to her to come in and she would pretend not to hear him, preferring a cool bed of grass under that sky to her fluffy bed.

And if Pops gave in and left her out there, she would wake him with her barks and wails to that dark sky for hours on end.

Sweet turned wild in the night.

Goodnight, old friend.

Goodnight. 

pudge

In the garden: A recipe hunt.

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When I first moved back to the ranch five summers ago (five summers ago?) I made a list of the goals I wanted to accomplish in my new life here.

One of the first on the list, (among writing and recording an album and learning to make chokecherry jelly) was to plant a garden.

A house project, a business project, a baby project, a hundred ranch projects and five summers later I finally got around to it…but not until late June…you know, after the lawn was planted, the CD was released and the big wedding was complete.

I didn’t have much hope for the seeds being so late in the game, but the knowledge I gained from helping Pops plant his gardens year after year reassured me that some heat and water could get things moving along nicely.

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And boy have we had heat this summer.

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So I provided the water and the watchful eye and pretty soon, when I wasn’t looking, things started sprouting and reaching their limbs toward the sun.

Now, in the garden of my dreams I was going to plant potatoes, onions, strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, pumpkins, gourds, peppers, peas, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, corn, sunflowers, watermelon, cucumbers for making pickles and cucumbers for slicing, spinach, beans and a partridge in a pear tree.

But because Husband didn’t have the time or the dirt required to dig up sixteen acres in front of our house and I’m pretty sure I planted my garden at 9 pm on a Thursday before I had to take off across the state for shows, I stuck to the seed packets I picked up at Farm and Fleet and called it good–dad’s leftover tomato plants, radishes, carrots, beans, peas, spinach and cucumbers.

I figured if all went well I’d start to see some vegetable action come August, and so here we are. I’ve already sent my harvest of radishes down the road to Pops, because I can grow ‘em but I don’t eat ‘em, but the rest had yet to yield, despite all the watering I catch Gus doing behind my back, if you know what I mean…

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Anyway, earlier this week I noticed a few little beans starting to poke out, some tomatoes that I’m impatiently waiting to see get their red on, and the tops of the carrots that show promise for what’s happening down below the ground. I even thought I saw some tiny little cucumbers starting to grow where the frogs hang out under the canopy of big leaves. The pea plants still looked a little sad, which was what I expected, having failed to give them the head start they deserved.

So I took a break from my big computer screen to step out into the mid-afternoon 100-degree heat and poked around among the frogs and hoppers and was pleasantly surprised by my findings…

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Overnight the beans started stretching from blossoms to veggies,

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the tomato plants seemed to have made a hundred more green tomatoes,

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the carrot tops grew a couple inches and, well, I’ll be dammed if there wasn’t peas big enough to eat.

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But the best part? The giant cucumbers that grew overnight, ripe and ready for slicing for our anniversary dinner tonight.

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And just like that I was reminded why people love to garden. Because it’s magic. It really is. One tiny seed, a little sun, water and patience, and one day you wake up to a harvest.

I loaded up those cucs and headed inside, feeling a little like a garden fairy or a wizard or some powerful creature like that.

Now I just need to harness the energy of the Internet and you my dear friends to help me figure out what to do with all of these vegetables!

So I’ll ask you this:
Share your favorite garden (or cucumber) inspired recipe with me and I will enter you all in for a chance to win my new album “Northern Lights” and a T-shirt and Work Girl sticker to go with it.

Northern Lights Album Cover Sticker

Just email me at jessieveeder@gmail.com, head on over to my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/veederranch or leave the recipe in the comment section here. 

Some of my favorites I’ll con my cooking cowboy into trying out in the kitchen and posting on the blog.

Because my garden’s inspired me and now I believe I can do anything.

Which could end up in eventual disaster, but today I’m just going with it.

Peace, love and cucumber salad,

Jessie the Garden Goddess.

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Sunday Column: How ranch people become lake people

Lake Sakakawea Sunset

It’s been hot out there lately. I just pulled my first harvest from the ground in my garden and it got me thinking about the long, hot weekends spent on the ranch when I was a kid.

Back before we had a boat just a couple lawn chairs and a cooler full of pop and juice boxes to lug to the shores of Lake Sakakawea, on days like this my sisters and I would come up with a plan to get a chance to swim in that big lake that was so close to the house (well like 20 mile or so) we could smell them catching fish out there.

At least that ‘s what we’d tell dad in our subtle suggestion that maybe baling hay could wait for the day.

Maybe it was time to hit the lake.

A few weeks ago I met a young girl who said she reads my column in the paper every Sunday. I thanked her for being such a loyal follower and asked her what she would like to read more about.

“Oh, I like the stories about your childhood,” she said.

And so, inspired by her and a recent trip to the lake where we loaded up the coolers, sunflower seeds, summer sausage sandwiches, nephew, sisters, gramma and grampa and headed to the big water on the new pontoon only to hit the water just in time for rain, I decided to write about the simpler days, enjoying the short lived summer on the “beaches” of that big body of water…

Coming Home: When the day’s just right, ranch people become lake people
by Jessie Veeder
7-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

It’s hard for ranch people to be lake people.

Between trying to keep the cows in the fences, the hay baled and the lawn mowed, there’s not much time left to spend an afternoon with a fishing pole in one hand, a beer in the other and your feet up on the dash of a fancy boat.

But when you live so close to the biggest lake in the state that you swear you can see it from that hill out east if the sky is clear and you tilt your head just right, it’s pretty hard not to work a few lake days into the schedule.

When I was growing up, a chance at a lake day meant the conditions had to line up just right to make my dreams of jumping off a flat rock on the shore into the cold, deep, murky water of Lake Sakakawea.

First, it had to be Saturday or Sunday, and both my parents needed to be home with plans on doing something that was utterly miserable to accomplish in the blazing 90-degree heat.

Which means that, secondly, it had to be either the month of July or August, and said blazing 90-degree heat had to magically fall on a Saturday or Sunday.

Now, we all know how rare it is that those two circumstances converge, but when they did, we girls needed to be on it. We needed to wake up with the scent of the lake in our nostrils, ready to feel things out and set the plan in motion.

Maybe Dad would come in from working on a broken-down baler, all sweaty and fed up in the already hot midmorning sun. Maybe Mom was in her shorts pulling weeds from the walkway, stopping every so often to put her hands on her hips and shield her eyes.

Maybe the bugs were a little bad out there because the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t quite noon, and so I took the opportunity to walk out and pull a few weeds myself, sure to mention what a great day it would be for a little swim in the lake.

And then maybe we caught Dad in the house splashing water on his face at the kitchen sink so I said something about how I heard that the fish were biting up at McKenzie Bay while my little sister was out digging worms in the garden, and pretty soon the seed was planted. Mom started whipping up summer sausage sandwiches, Dad started hunting for the old tackle box on the garage shelf where he left it the previous July, and my sisters and I packed up our favorite beach towels, pulled on our swimsuits, loaded the lawn chairs in the back of the old pickup, grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds and milled around in the driveway waiting impatiently in the hot sun, but not saying a word as our parents made the slow migration toward the vehicle.

Now, back in the youth of our family, there was no budget for things like boats or Jet Skis, so we didn’t have to fuss with that. No. Our biggest concern was avoiding the potholes on the worn highway, leaving the windows open so we could spit seeds and cool down, and, when that big lake appeared before us in the windshield like an oasis nestled in the hot cliffs of the Badlands, it was our mission to find an acceptable “beach” on those rocky, weedy and muddy shores.

Lake Sakakawea

And for us, “beach” meant that the legs of Mom’s lawn chair didn’t sink in to her butt when she sat down, the poky Canadian thistle didn’t reach all the way to shore and that there was at least an acceptable amount of sand and/or flat rocks where we could throw out our beach towels, make our picnic, stick a fishing pole in the ground, eat our sandwiches and watch the fancy boats and Jet Skis drive by before finding a place to wash the heat, work and worry of the summer off in the waves of a lake that belonged to us for the few sweet, relaxing, fly-bitten hours that we, too, transformed into lake people.

Lake Sakakawea