Spring, wedding and other panic words…

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It’s been a busy spring around the ranch. In exactly one month, my little sister will be getting married out here.

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That’s 30 days people.

We have 30 days to get shit done.

Like finish our basement.

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HA! I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that it just ain’t gonna happen.

And that’s ok.

Because we got other things done. Like fences almost built and old sheds almost done being painted, most of the junk cleaned up…what else do you want from us really?

Because in my experience, the only thing that really gets finished in my life around here is the work done by people we’re paying.

So Pops has hired someone to build him a new barn. That’ll probably be finished in a month. So there’s that.

She should have the wedding in that.

Hell, it’ll be finished! I should live in that.

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Anyway, so that’s what’s been happening around here. A little panic and some work.

And also, it snowed on Sunday. So there was that.

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But it also rained, which was nice, resulting in some neon like grass…I mean, look at my grass!!!

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and more leaves on the trees.

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And wood ticks.

I’ve been picking them off of me like fleas. Yesterday I went for a walk and stripped down to flush at least fifteen.

(You’re welcome for the itchiness you’re going to feel now for the next twenty minutes)

And then there’s this guy.

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Turns out he’s not getting less insane the older he gets.

Nope. Just more insane.

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So I’ve been chasing him around and trying to teach him manners. He’s trying. But the energy. Theres. Just. So. Much. Energy.

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Oh, and the cows are here. They came yesterday. As my favorite Canadian songster, Corb Lund says, “Everything is better with some cows around.” I couldn’t agree more.

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So we’ll be riding and checking things…

As soon as I get the burs out of the manes of all 8 horses.

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Only God and 45 gallons of baby oil can help me now.

Because it’s spring.

If you need me, I’ll be out painting a fence, yelling at a dog, pulling off a tick, watering my lawn or brushing out horse manes.

If you need Little Sister, she’s busy making lists.

If you need Pops, he and Juno will be on his new buggy, looking for holes in the fence.

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And if you need Husband, well, I can only hope he’s in the basement, hammering or wiring something for the love of Bob Villa…

Ugh, I’m exhausted…

Sunday Column: Spring Cleaning.

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I spent my work break today pulling woodticks off of Gus.

I’ve never seen so many ticks on a dog in my life. I think there were more ticks than dog actually.

I’m horrified.

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And I’ve even taken preventative measures. Nothing can stop the little bloodsucking bastards around here.

So there’s that.

On my next break I’ll tackle brown dog…there’s more square inch of actual dog, so I’m guessing there’ll be more tick…

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‘Tis the season

And it’s also the season for spring cleaning and raking and fencing and painting and all around maintenance and clean up.

We do this a little bit every spring when the weather warms up, but there’s a sense of urgency this year because Little Sister is getting married out here in like two months.

Yeah, that little sister…tell me we haven’t all grown up…

Anyway, a big party to plan means we’re doing things like pulling weeds in front of the barn where there’s usually a bunch of hay.

No one’s ever pulled weeds out from in front of the barn ever in the history of the world, so that was fun.

Seriously. I have an entire pickup full of dried out six foot tall pigweeds waiting to be disposed of when the wind decides to give it a rest.

Oh, and I bought paint for the little tin tack rooms too. I’m going to match them to the barn. It’s going to be adorable.

Just call me Martha Frickin’ Stewart, Queen of the Barnyard.

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Sometimes all we need is a party around here to get our shit together, and picked up and thrown out. Seriously. We even cleaned the shop a little. Well, at least got rid of some of the Tupperwear bins full of childhood things none of us girls could throw away when we moved out of the house. Because one day I might want to display that old 4-H horse show trophy in my adult home.

Sheesh.

Anwyay. So that’s what’s been on my mind. Weeds and grass and woodticks and weather and weddings and putting this place together.

I have to focus on something or I’m going to have a mental breakdown about the fact that my little sister is grown up enough to get married and own a home…

Wahhh…

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Coming Home: Giving the farm the Martha Stewart Treatment
by Jessie Veeder
4-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Wanted: April Showers

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It’s been a busy couple weeks at the ranch. The weather has been warm and too dry for comfort and we’re deep into “getting the place ready for Little Sister’s wedding” mode. Which means we have projects, not just in the barnyard, but at our house too.

We’ve got two months and only so many weekends to finish the deck, finish the basement, finish the siding, finish the finishing touches and make a lawn grow where only a single pig weed once emerged.

But first, let’s take a ride on Husband’s new/used dirt bike and Pops’ precious Trail 90. You know, just to blow off some steam…

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Not that I’d ever driven that little motorcycle/scooter thing…no worries, this guy here is good with lessons….But he’s also adorable, which makes it hard for me to concentrate.

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“Just like riding a bike,” he said.

Except bikes have pedals and don’t die at the far edge of the field two miles from home when I finally figure out how to turn and suddenly become a professional and want to start working on a ramp so I can practice my jumps…

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I love you sweet man, and it looks like you’re going to have to get the tools…

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And the pickup…because me and the Trail 90 are getting a ride home…

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Ok, we can call the sod guy now. Because, after three years, won’t it be kick-ass to have a lawn?

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Yeah, that’s a lot of lawn. Like 7,300 square feet worth.

Like 10,000 tons of grass.

So we called in reinforcement and spent last weekend burning our forearms and getting in our squats in the name of landscaping.

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And I’ve spent the rest of the week obsessing over my sprinklers, where they’re pointing and how to aim them without soaking my jeans, drowning or shutting them off.

And the dogs have spent the last five days believing they’ve finally gone to doggy heaven, rolling and sun bathing and napping and dragging dead things on what they seem to think is their own personal, giant slab of carpet.

So there was that.

And we need rain. Not only for my sod, but for the rest of this part of the state that didn’t get the moisture in the winter or the April showers we expect this time of year.

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On Tuesday Husband left work, along with rest of the office, fire departments from three communities, the forest service and hundreds of volunteers to fight a fire near the lake that burned almost 5,000 acres and nearly took out one of our favorite campgrounds and marinas. He came home late covered in soot, stripped his clothes and showered that desperate smell off of him.

The fire was contained and, in the meantime, we just hold our breath for rain and for that pager to stay quiet.

And I adjust the sprinklers, wishing we could turn on the sky with a nob like that, add some tasks to the list in my head before setting it all aside to go out looking for spring.

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At the Farm and Fleet…

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One of the most worthless things on the planet are rubber boots with holes in both.

I own a pair and, well, there’s nothing worse than squishy toes when the mud is so nice and ripe for mucking around in.

Because we’re not out of the woods yet in this whole winter thing.  And that’s ok. We need the moisture, and I need a few more chances to learn my lesson about mud.

Anyway, so I need a new pair of rubber boots, which gives me a good excuse to go to the Farm and Fleet store.

I love the Farm and Fleet store. Any Farm and Fleet store there is, I don’t care. There’s just something about the racks of work gloves, the spring seeds, the paint, the plethora of barn jackets, long underwear, dog kennels, tack and brushes, fly spray, heat lamps, medicine, fencing supplies, tools, generators, extension cords, lawn furniture and toy farm animals that make me feel like anything’s possible.

I could spend hours browsing and dreaming of a perfectly organized tack room, or a summer spent in a light, long sleeved snap shirt and this cute Carhart cap right here.

In Farm and Fleet I become another woman in my head. The kind of woman who would raise chickens in a coop built with all these damn supplies and tools surrounding me!

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I’m the kind of woman who would raise and feed those chickens to collect farm fresh eggs for farm fresh omelets on any old regular weekday morning.

I am the kind of woman who could butcher one of those chickens to fill our freezer and then take it out to whip up a batch of delicious homemade noodle soup or chicken and dumplings if we happen to have unexpected company.

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In the Farm and Fleet store I am the kind of woman who wears an apron and shoes her own horses.

In the Farm and Fleet my horse becomes something better too. Better groomed. No burs. Never even saw one in his life because he exists in our perfectly weather proof stable. His hair shines like the sun because, well, Show Sheen! In the Farm and Fleet I’m the kind of woman who buys it buy the barrel.

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That and fancy tack. The kind with silver on it. Because, well, at the Farm and Fleet, only the best for my horse with the Fabio hair.

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In the Farm and Fleet store I am redecorator. A barn painter. A farmer with a garden that could feed the neighborhood.

And I can everything. Like meat and beets and corn and carrots. Because at Farm and Fleet you can buy a book that will show you how to do it.

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And when I’m done canning, I will train my dog to herd the cattle into a nice group and load them up into the stock trailer on command. Because there’s a book for that at Farm and Fleet too.

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Then I’ll buy myself a nice pair of leather gloves, because a woman needs a good pair that fits for all the fences I’ll be fixing… for all the weeds I’ll be killing…for all the dirt that needs tilling and the piglets I’ll be raising…  and the mud I’ll be slopping around in this spring…

Because a woman like me, well, she…oh yeah…she needs new rubber boots…

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Spring in Winter.

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While the east coast braced themselves for a winter storm that was promising to be so epic they actually gave it a name, North Dakotans were out in shorts and tank tops watching the January snow turn into mud in 50+ degree weather.

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The weather this week has been so gloriously warm that it is starting to freak us all out a little bit. I mean, we’re definitely grateful, and we definitely know that a good ‘ol ND winter cold snap is coming again soon, but it’s a little eerie to have summer-like temperatures in the middle of winter. We feel like maybe we’re being tricked.

We look at each other and say, well, we’re going to pay for this later aren’t we?

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But what the hell. For once, we’re on the warm side of the weather news up here in the tundra, so you can bet we went out and made the most of it.

And by making the most of it, I mean, scraping all of the ice and snow off of our driveway and marveling at the fact that it’s no longer a skating rink/hip-breaking zone…for now anyway. And then opening up the garage doors and sweeping and rearranging and building steps and wiring…

And while Husband was doing all that, I decided to take a 4-wheeler ride up to the fields where I knew I would find the horses.

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I’m still battling the cold of the year, my theory being that all of the germs have thawed out and traveled to my lungs to torture me, so I definitely wasn’t walking anywhere…or sweeping anything…or holding any boards…or helping my dearly beloved do anything useful.

Nope. Too sick.

But not too sick to pull my beanie down over my ears and head for the hills on a motorized vehicle, the dogs and I kicking up mud as we followed the road up to the flat.

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Up here the weather is a freak, so even with the plague, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to feel some warm sunshine on my shoulders, because I know full well I might not have another chance for a while, memories of last winter’s months long sub-zero deep freeze are still pretty vivid.

And while I’m hoping for more snow before the summer rolls in, it was nice to see the golden grass and feel the warm air for a bit.

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And it was nice to see the boys, content and fat and fuzzy and full of burs up there in the fields munching and chill as they let the same sun warm their backs.

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I mean, they were so relaxed that none of them really attempted to drop-kick Gus out of their way as he sniffed and frolicked around them, getting to know these creatures he’ll be riding with this summer.

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I think maybe these horses feel like they’re on a tropical winter vacation up here in these fields…all you can eat buffet…warm weather…no work to be done for months.

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Ah, winter, if you stayed like this for a while I think we could all manage just fine.

But before you make any real commitments, why don’t you go ahead and send one more freeze to kill off this bug and a big snow to get my sledding hill ready, to fill up the creeks and dams and nourish the wildflowers and grass for spring.

Not that I don’t appreciate the break, but, you know, winter we all have a job to do up here…and you’re laid back attitude is sorta freaking us out…

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Blame the cat, not the cat lady.

Now, you all know I’m an animal lover, so I don’t think I need to really go much further to explain that if I could take all the stray dogs in the world with me on a walk, then I would do it. I would do it because they need a walk, and a scratch behind the ears, and a dog needs a girl.

A girl needs a dog. 

We’ve been over this.

But a cat? I’m going to tell you right here, I’m torn on this…

As you can see, it’s been a lifelong struggle…

Because, frankly, if I’m going to be honest, and well, I’m going to be honest, I love them too. But they drive me crazy.

CRAZY!

Kittens? I can’t get enough. I. Can. Not. Get. Enough.

Fuzzy fur. Spontaneous attacks on nothing but air. The snuggling. The purring. The napping in weird places. The obsession they have with my guitar case and Christmas ribbons and random dust bunnies and streams of sunshine coming through the window.

And the fact that they generally always figure out the litter box situation quickly. I appreciate that.

I also appreciate that a kitten is too tiny and innocent to shed it’s fluffy hair all over my pants while she’s napping there and I’m doing my work. I like that about kittens. I like that they’re genuinely interested in what I’m doing during the day, and they want to be involved with it. It’s adorable and they’re small, so they don’t get in the way…much.

Speaking of small, I also like that kittens are too tiny to get up to the glass of milk I’ve left out on the kitchen counter. Same goes with the plate of bacon or the bowl of chicken noodle soup. Kittens might be able to smell it, but they’re reaction is restricted to their youth and their tiny bellies attached to tiny legs, and I like it.

Yes, I like that kittens generally stay on the ground or on my lap or on my shoulder where they belong.

And I like that they’re claws are tiny too, so whatever imaginary thing they are trying to hunt next to my couch won’t wreak too much havoc on the leather or the rug underneath.

Bottom line here? Kittens are tiny versions of cats, so they are adorable, less destructive, they sleep more, they stay off my kitchen counters and I cut them slack because they are babies.

And they are fluffy.

But the thing about kittens is that one day, and it happens pretty quickly, you wake up and discover that their legs have stretched a bit, and they have noticed it too, and so they use those legs to explore a universe in the house that is supposed to be off limits to felines.

But cats don’t give a shit about rules. That’s the thing. If you have a cat for a pet, you know this.

Ever tried to get a cat to sit on command? BWAH!

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Ever tried to teach them to come to the sound of their name? Yeah RIGHT!

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And to those people who have somehow figured out how to get their cat to use the toilet and flush afterward? All I have to say is that was probably the cats’ idea in the first place. You just happened to catch her in the act when you noticed she was in the bathroom and you were worried about her unrolling the entire spool of toilet paper.

Because cats are sorta little bitches like, with their own agenda…which is: I will love you when I chose to love you. You will pet me when I want you to pet me. I will sit on your lap when I wanna sit on your lap and I will always, no matter what, ruin your world when you are trying to wrap a present or type on your laptop or print something out of the printer. And if you decide to get a Christmas tree, I will own it. I will try to climb to the top and shame on you for thinking otherwise.

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And when you’re not around, I will jump on the counter, because, really, you likely set that perfectly seasoned chicken out for me. And if you get after me, I will humor you by acting offended and scared, but as soon as you go into the other room, I will just jump up there again.

Oh, you wanna leave town? If you leave town I will definitely be up on that counter. And also the kitchen table. And also the chandelier if I can swing it…

God forbid you leave town.

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Yeah, cats only sorta like us, but they suddenly get all hurt when we’re not around at their command, filling their bottomless food dish and being undyingly available when they decide they want a snuggle.

Do I sound harsh? Maybe. But I come from a long line of cat people.  My two sisters happen to be the biggest feline worshippers around and I doubt they could argue with any of my reasons that cats are sorta horrible really.

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And I’m only bringing it up today because I really believed my little orange baby Cheeto was never going to grow up and out of her sweet, smushy, fluff…

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but then I came out of my office to find her on the counter licking the butter straight out the uncovered dish.

Dammit.

I shouted a profanity, jumped around and flailed my arms to try to scare the devil out of her, but I’m afraid her transformation has begun.

And I’m afraid I will love her despite of it, just like I have with the two other felines who scream at me from their perch in the garage rafters every time I open the door, lest I forget their twenty-seven scoops of food and the pat on their head on my way out the door, because, I mean, mousing is hard work.

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But so is pet cat ownership.

There. I said it.

Now you can too.

A girl might need a dog and a dog might need a girl…but a cat?

A cat will make you believe she doesn’t give a shit one way or the other…

A cat will play games with your head. She’ll create in you trust issues. She will make you needy for attention.

She will grab you by the heart strings and then maneuver you like a puppet.

And that’s why they just might be superior after all, which I hate to admit… But if you don’t agree, well then, at least I’ve done my part to make my case for the Crazy Cat Lady in all of us. Because they get they’re claws into us when they’re young and innocent…so it’s not our fault…

It’s theirs.

Amen.

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We’re not in Cabo anymore…

We’re not in Cabo anymore.

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Nope.

photo 2We’re home.

Home to the great white and frickin’ frozen north.

You know what that weather report up there doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that the wind is blowing 50 MPH, making the air feel like it’s actually -30.

Which would mean when I got on the plane in Cabo on Tuesday morning and landed in Bismarck, North Dakota on Tuesday night, my body was asked to deal with a nearly 100 degree temperature difference.

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

I can’t help but feel the shock of the juxtaposition that was the result of a couple plane rides …

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

But oh, we had a nice trip. We wore vacation hats.

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We got some sun our our pasty white skin. We played beach volleyball and drank ridiculous drinks,

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we swam in the ocean,

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and rang in the new year in a blur of tequila and club music.

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And while we were doing those things, the wind was whipping in a cold front up north, as it tends to do in January.

But you know what they do in January in Cabo? They ride horses in shorts and bare feet on the beach.

Yup.

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CABO HORSES.

NOT Cabo horses.

Dammit, it’s cold here. No more vacation hats for us.

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Beach Couple

Arctic Tundra Couple

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White Sandy Shoreline  

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Just a white line

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Cabo Husband.

Freezing Husband.

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Cabo couple

Umm,  no…
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Cabo Cactus

Not a Cabo Cactus 

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30 below zero and windy sisters

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Vacation feet.  

Not on vacation anymore feet

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Warm weather pet

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A more snuggly version

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A beachy drink

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A blizzard-y drink

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A walk on the beach

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Ah, son of a beettchh…

And that’s it. No, we’re not in Cabo anymore boys and girls…

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But we’re not beach people really.

We’re pale and pasty northerners with a large collection of wool socks. And we’re home.

And no matter what the sky is doing in Mexico, or Jamaica, or Sunny California,  it’s always good to be here.

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The Christmas Tree Plan

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This is what -2 with a -100 wind chill looks like.

Don’t let the sunshine fool you.

And so the scene is set…

Ahem…

‘Twas the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and one of the last free weekends Husband and I have in December to spend traipsing around our countryside on the hunt for a tree.

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So it didn’t matter that our blood could freeze right there in our veins, or that our eyeballs could turn to ice cubes, our snot into icicles dangling from on our nostrils. It didn’t matter that our very lives were in danger of being taken by Jack Frost himself, we were gonna get my darn tree.

We were gonna put on 37 layers of clothes, load up in the new/old feed pickup,

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turn off of the gravel and onto the dirt/compacted snow/ice trail, drive really slow and discuss our options while looking out the window.

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We were going to spot a couple potential spruce bushes relatively close to one another on the side of the buttes, park the pickup, avoid a puppy-cicle and leave Gus inside, grab the saw from the back, trudge up the hill to the first option

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and mumble into our scarves with our eyes half open (you know, to avoid the whole icicle thing) about the potential of a tree that is a 10-foot tall version of Charlie Brown’s, but has possibilities really, because, well, it’s here and we might freeze to death if we stay out much longer weighing our options.

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But then we’re going to decide to risk it, spot another tree down the hill, walk over to discover it’s the same size as the one in Rockefeller Center and consider the possibility of building an addition to accommodate, because, well, there’s that whole freezing to death thing we’ll still be dealing with before I will turn my face toward the sun to discover one last option blowing in the wind among thorn bushes a quarter mile away.

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So I’ll decide we’ll never feel our legs again anyway and we might very well lose our noses to frostbite, but we might as well assess the bushy little tree, decide it’s not so bad, decide it will work just fine before Husband will stomp down the thorn bushes and start after the trunk with his battery-operated saw with a battery that lasts approximately 3 seconds at a time, you know, apparently death-defying cold applies to power tools too…

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And we are going to finally get the thing down after one big push, drag it to the the pickup a half a mile away,

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decide we might be dying, throw the tree on the flatbed, open the doors, get back inside the pickup, crank up the heat, blow our noses that will be miraculously still attached to our faces, and head back down the road toward home.

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Then we are going to get one mile from home and Husband is going to stop the pickup in the middle of the road, get out, run to the ditch and drag the tree back on the flatbed.

And when we arrive at home, we are going to put the tree in the basement to thaw out, I’m going to say goodbye to Husband who is crazy enough to put on one more layer and sit out in his hunting blind for the rest of the day, then I will pour myself a cup of coffee, consider adding whiskey, make plans for an evening decorating mission, because it will take me a good three to five hours to feel my fingers again and call it a Merry Merry Christmas.

That’s the plan.

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Fa-la-la-la-lahhh-la-la-la-laaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

A North Dakota Holiday…

We’re celebrating a North Dakota official holiday here today. The wind is whipping the cold rain around and men and women are pulling on neon orange knit caps over their  unruly hair, growing out sweet beards (well, the men anyway) stocking up on whiskey and pulling out the cards for poker tonight.

Happy Hunting Season Opener everyone!

There was a time in my life this was a reason for an excused absence from country school.

Turns out, that doesn’t carry out in the working world, but I tell you, there are plenty of North Dakotans out there today who have opted to dress head to toe in camouflage and hunker down in hurricane winds sitting just under the skyline instead of going to work today.

If you’re here today, you’ll know who they are. They are the ones with the bright orange cap sitting on the dash of their pickups, driving really slow along the county roads.

Hunting for deer.

In honor of the season I will cook up some stew this weekend, turn on the fire and maybe have some whiskey myself.

In honor of the season, I am going to resurrect this little gem here, for those women out there suddenly finding themselves lonely:

The Ten Commandments for the Hunting Widow

You’re gonna want to read this one ladies. I’m a seasoned hunting daughter who grew up to be a seasoned hunting wife, so I know a few things…

Yup, that’s me, that’s my deer, that’s my man, that’s my denim jacket and that’s my neckerchief.

There are some good tips in here. I’m telling you…

So stay safe out there. Safe and warm and for the love of GAWD Don’t. Wear. Swishy. Pants.

Hope you see Da Turdy Pointer…

Peace, Love and Venison,

Jessie

“Cow Dog,” defined

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You all know this about me, but I grew up with dogs who slept in barns and garages, on hay bales and under heat lamps. They were the first to go into the brush after a wayward, ornery bull and the first to be there to lick your face and give you a nudge when you fell of your bike and skinned your knee.

They were cow dogs. Working dogs. Partners.

They chased field mice, got in fights with raccoons, rolled in cow poop, howled with the coyotes and rode in the back of pickups.

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In various stages of my life out here we had a border collie, a blue heeler, a kelpie, an Australian shepherd and mix of a few.

This place is hard on dogs it’s wild and dangerous and full of just the kind of trouble that makes life worth living of dogs like these, so, unfortunately, some of our beloved canines, due to snake bite or bull fight, didn’t make it to old age. 

But regardless, I am almost certain they had the best lives for them out here. They were made for this place, as tough as the ground they run across.

pudge

As a kid I knew inside dogs existed, I just didn’t know anyone who had one. I knew there were dogs who wore sweaters and had their own place on couches, but, it was like how I knew a million dollars existed somewhere, it knew it was true, I’d just never seen it.

In a few weeks, Husband and I are going to bring home our first real cow dog. I am so excited I’m counting down the days.

Here he is on the bottom, left side of the pile.

I’d tell you his name, but, well, last night we had a lengthy discussion on that topic that I won’t get into, but it got pretty heated. Good thing we have a some time to get this all worked out.

Anyway, I was thinking about this little guy and how he’s going to change the make-up of this place. And how his makeup: border collie, heeler, kelpie, Australian shepherd and Catahoula, is the make-up of all of the best cow dogs a girl could ever ask for…

And how he’s the same animal as that big brown dog laying out in the garage, snoring away a rainy October day, but how they might as well be a different species.

Lab in stock tank

The biggest difference? With a cow dog in the family standing guard in the yard, a herd of cattle will find it pretty hard to stand and chew cud on my new concrete patio.

Because labs, frankly, don’t give a shit.

Lab

And I need something out here to give a shit.

I need my little cow dog.

I can’t wait!

So in honor of Throwback Thursday I found this little gem: a declaration I made when I was 8 or so that used to hang on my grandmother’s fridge, ready to tug at the heart strings of all of the ranchers stopping by for coffee with a blue heeler-cross waiting for him in the bed of his feed pickup…and, well, to put the wayward city slicker in his place…

Country dog:city dogAs you can see, I was pretty passionate…

I promise to never put you in a sweater little guy.

But you might have a place on the couch…just for a little while…