Sunday Column: Big, beautiful tries…

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(Photo by Phil Breker)

I am a woman with a lot of ideas.

Like, we should build a big barn and host events.

I should plant a giant corn maze and 1,000 pumpkins and we can turn one of our pastures into a pumpkin patch in the fall.

We should pop out the kitchen wall and give us some more room for cooking.

I should pick ten buckets of wild plums and make jelly for everyone from Christmas presents.

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We should have a giant summer music festival at the ranch.

We should get some pigs to raise up so I can have bacon for dinner every night…

Yes. Big ideas. Because if you’re gonna go, go all out…isn’t that what they say?

Now, none of the above ideas have gone past conversations around the dinner table or on long car rides. I continue to nag and hint about the pig thing to my husband, but so far there’s been no convincing him, and really, that’s about as far as any of it has gone.

But there have been some ideas that I have followed through with, particularly the one that has lead to my career out here on the ranch. The one where I write and sing and build my business from a spot of passion, but even as I move through my everyday, I am constantly wondering, thinking, contemplating on how I can grow and do more.

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And I am so fascinated by those who have those big, unconventional ideas and boldly take the leap and see what they might do with them.

As a traveling musician I have had the opportunity to be a part of some big and lovely ideas. Just this summer alone I have sang on a big amphitheater in the middle of the rugged badlands that was once only a blueprint,

been a part of a weekly community party in the street that gets bigger every week, shared a stage with local talent celebrating the music of women, recorded an album with a man in Nashville who went out on his own to produce music the way he wanted and have been a part of a special event in a big, beautiful lodge in the middle of a prairie in eastern North Dakota, a place I get to go back to this weekend to perform at a festival they’re hosting.

(Tewauken Music Festival, September 5th @ 2:30)
Coteau Des Prairies
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Coteau Des Prairies 9And so Coteau Des Prairie Lodge was the inspiration for my column this week, because, well, great, brave and creative people doing great, brave and creative things is what makes life worth writing about…

Coming Home: Dare to try those risky, beautiful ideas
by Jessie Veeder
8-29-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last week I loaded up my car and headed way, way east to a big, beautiful, log lodge sitting on a hill surrounded by cattle pastures and a patchwork of fields.

I’d been hired to play music during a special event where guests enjoyed an eight-course meal paired with cocktails mixed with alcohol made at a brand new North Dakota distillery and demonstrations from a local mixologist on how to make them.

The whole thing was cool. I got to sit behind my guitar overlooking dozens of people laughing, drinking and enjoying the beauty of the North Dakota prairie as it streamed in from the big windows, an architectural idea perfectly planned to make you see and appreciate this special spot.

And between my sets they brought me samplings of food, which meant I got to sing, visit and eat.

Not a bad gig for a pregnant lady, I tell you.

But the most awe-inspiring thing was not the event itself, but how an idea like a giant lodge out in the middle of a beautiful nowhere sprung from a family who loved a piece of land and thought they could give others a chance to love it, too.

And that a risky idea like that could morph into the really wonderful reality that is the family-owned and operated Coteau des Prairies Lodge is one of those dreams I get to experience as part of my job as a musician willing to travel.

Like making vodka and selling it in downtown Fargo. I met the guy who made that dream his reality that night, too.

Last week families all across the country dropped their kids off at college with advice to study hard and find their way. And traveling with them from the comforts of their childhood bedrooms to the uncharted territory of campus or a new job is a young person’s idea of what their grown-up life should look like.

As I sit here behind this computer screen typing out stories or behind the guitar singing them to ears I can only hope are listening, in the back of my mind sits that little voice that occasionally peeps up to ask if finding myself a real job, you know, with an office, insurance and a consistent paycheck in this chaotic world might be a better option.

There have been a thousand days I think she’s right.

But then I hear the other voice that hollers a little louder and I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, not because it’s the easiest choice, but because she sounds like she has some good ideas that could work, and may be be more fun.

Like the young teacher in my hometown who spends his summers taking people fishing on Lake Sakakawea, giving them a chance to experience the way a walleye on the line makes a heart thump.

That’s a cool idea. And there are a million of them, big and small, coming to fruition out there every day.

Like the food blogger I know who turned a big truck into a place to sell gourmet waffles on the weekend and who once invited me to a beautiful meal she catered for dozens of people in between a tree row and a field.

Or the entrepreneur in Montana who opened up a store that sells work pants for women and hosts a music festival that draws thousands of people to a cow pasture on the edge of a town with a population of only 950.

Or my mom, who late in her professional life took a risk and bought herself a clothing store because it was where she could see herself and her ideas thriving.

And it’s all a risk. I’ve lived long enough to know that. If I could tell those college freshmen anything it would be that not even the most thought out, stable career is a guarantee. We’ve learned that lesson out here, too.

Yes, sometimes ideas are best left as ideas, but sometimes they come to fruition in beautiful, terrifying and surprising ways if you dare try.

And I never would have thought that one of the best perks of my weird job is having the privilege of witnessing some dang beautiful tries.

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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.

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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. 

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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: On love and rotten egg bakes…

Love is in the air this August. Husband and I will celebrate our 9th anniversary likely with brats on the grill and a drive to check the cows (because we’re romantic like that) and at the end of the month, his little brother will say “I do” to his new bride.

This weekend I attended her bridal shower, assured her that I will be able to zip up my bridesmaid’s dress and then picked up an ice cream cone for the drive home.

Because after the cake, I guess I was still hungry…

And delusional.

But being in the middle of this summer filled with vows and love celebration and right on the cusp of my life with my husband changing forever, I’ve been thinking about what it really means to make a life together.

I think every wedding brings this up for me. Because we start it all out with a party, and, well, somewhere between the champaign toast and death do us part comes the really good stuff, the really juicy stuff, the really tough stuff, and sweet stuff,

and funny stuff and gross stuff and stuff you’d rather not mention.

After nine years now I think I can confidently say that love and respect is the only common denominator that runs through our wedded veins day after day. The rest? Well the rest is a crap shoot.

And so in honor of the month I thought I might resurrect and rehash an old post for the newspaper column, the one where my husband lovingly left me a surprise three week old egg bake in the cooler in the heat of the summer…and I contemplated packing up and moving to a fort in the trees.

Because love and marriage is a weird, messy, lovely, frustrating journey…one I’m glad to be on with a man who is strong, handy, playful and forgetful with the best of intentions…one who makes mistakes and tolerates mine.

Coming Home: Love endures, even when it’s hard to like each other
by Jessie Veeder
8-9-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It all starts with the best intentions. Most housekeeping tasks around here do. Unfortunately, they generally also end with me questioning the meaning of life, love and why I don’t just live by myself in a fort by the creek like I planned when I was 10 years old.

No.

Because sometimes your husband leaves an uncooked egg bake from a camping trip he took three weeks ago floating in a cooler filled with beer and warm, mushy, cloudy, curdled water, and you get the privilege of being the first to get a whiff.

Nothing says love like pulling on your muck boots, turning on the hose and testing how long you can hold your breath.

I love my husband every day. I just don’t like him every minute.

I know for a fact that he feels the same way about me.

I’m telling this story now because in a few days we’ll celebrate our nine-year wedding anniversary. And as my belly grows and our future together teeters on the edge of uncharted territory, I can’t help but reflect on the life we’re having between those “I do’s” and the whole “death parting us” thing.

So far it looks like a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions, forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

But that’s what you get when you’re in it together. You get a witness and a built-in dinner date who sometimes is really late to dinner.

You get a man who takes off his work boots and stinks up the entire house, but you also get a man who will drive around the countryside for hours every day looking for your missing dog, not because he particularly likes him but because you do. And that quiet gesture makes up tenfold for the stinky socks. And the late-to-dinner thing.

But forget the even score because from what I’ve learned, there is no even score. I work late and ruin his fishing plans. He takes out the garbage and I forget to get groceries until we’re both eating saltines and wondering when the new Chinese food restaurant will start delivering to the ranch. I unload the dishwasher, he never remembers where I put the spatulas. I am thankful I married a man who uses a spatula.

No, the chores are never equal because life might be a balancing act, but it sure as heck isn’t balanced (except when it comes to dog puke on the floor. In that instance, I keep score).

That’s why we’ve got each other.

Because life is so annoying sometimes, but I tell you what’s also annoying, that pickle jar that I can never open myself or the flat tire he’s out there fixing on the side of the road in the middle of a blizzard, proving that regardless of our shortcomings, life is easier with him around.

I hope he can say the same for me.

And then I think we’d both say that love doesn’t mean you will ever agree on the arrangement of the furniture, but love went a long way in laughing it off when he backed into my car and forgot to tell me, leaving me wondering when I had a car accident I couldn’t remember.

And initially, love sent him running when he heard me scream in the other room, but there came a time when he started to wait for a follow-up noise because love has made the man mistake a stray spider for a bloody mangled limb too many times.

And, just for the record, sometimes love is not patient. Sometimes it needs to get to town and I’m trying on my third dress of the evening.

And sometimes love is not as kind as it should be. Because love is human.

And no human is perfect. Not individually and surely not together.

Because humans leave egg bakes in coolers in basements for three weeks.

Like summer.

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A good rain cloud has settled in over the landscape this morning, giving everything a nice cool down and a much needed drink.

The frogs and tomatoes in my garden will be happy for it. My sprinkler and I have been playing the part of the rain cloud for the past couple weeks, so we’re all happy to see the real thing show up.

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I can’t believe we’re in approaching the middle of August, the month the kids go back to school. The month that turns the green grass and the wheat gold,  the month that reminds us that summer is almost over.

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I’m getting the hint, like I do every summer that seems to stretch out ahead of me like an endless dream of sun soaking, berry picking, garden growing, lake swimming heaven, until I blink and find myself in August.

So every chance I get these days, I take the dogs and my belly and we go out poking around.

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Because I want to absorb this green into my skin. I want to remember the scratch of the grass on my bare legs and the smell of hay being cut in the fields when winter comes to wrap us in a cold blanket.

In the past years of course I would do much more of this on the back of my horse, but this year I have stayed on foot, not wanting to risk a fall. The circumstances too precious.

So I’ve spent this summer on my own to feet.

And next summer two new chubby feet will join the team.

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Last night I had a dream that I was finally holding this baby.

I keep having dreams that she’s here.

Or he’s here.

And in these dreams she grows up fast, from birth to talking and walking in the course of a day and I wonder where that tiny baby went.

I think, “don’t they stay little for longer?”

And then I wake up and find myself in my bed, my belly still full with a tiny, moving, growing human that I dreamed of but haven’t met yet, a new life stretching out in front of me like an endless dream.

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A new life stretching out in front of me…like summer.

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Sunday Column: On weather and roots

Badlands Sunset

The sky out here is volatile. Perfectly pleasant one minute, and violent the next, those of us who grew up here in the north country have a sort of “expect the unexpected” instinct born in us when it comes to the changing weather.

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But it doesn’t mean we don’t get caught off guard. Just because we know that at any moment the clouds could build, one on another on another, and send the air swirling above our heads bending branches or sending hailstones flying, doesn’t mean we’re always ready for it.
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But that’s the thing about this sky. As soon as you come to trust that another calm 80 degree day will pile up on another 80 degree calm day,

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you head to the lake with your dad’s pontoon and friends from out of state to show them another side of the prairie, and just like that you’re caught out in the middle of the big water trying to out-boat a wall of hail and rain while a tornado warning buzzes on your smart phone and your little sister’s heart proceeds to lodge directly in her throat.

And suddenly I remember why I am a prairie person and not a boat person.

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Because if I were on a horse in that storm, I’d give him his head, close my eyes and he’d run us both home.

On a boat? Well… on a boat on the big lake with friends working to get to know this foreign place we call North Dakota  I felt so completely out of my element.

I wanted to show them the world that I knew and what we do out here when it’s hot. How we find ourselves a beach and set up shop. How we dig in the sand or the mud, pick rocks and sip drinks and thank God for the lake in the heat of the day.

And then the sky turned black and chased us down and everything I knew about what we do on a hot day blew away in the waves with the wind…

But when it was all said and done and we were back safely to shore, wind swept and nervously laughing, I think maybe I caught a glimpse of what it might be feel like to be, like the new friends who braved the adventure with us, on unfamiliar ground…

Coming Home: Wishing for solid ground in an unfamiliar place
by Jessie Veeder
8-2-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The dark blue clouds sparked with lightning on the horizon in front of us, and the deep rumble of the thunder seemed to shoot up from the ground below our horses’ feet to settle and roar smack in the middle of my 10-year-old heart.

It was one of those calm and sticky summer evenings, the perfect combination of humidity, heat and timing just right for brewing a storm out of thin air. And so there we were out chasing cattle, my little sister on her white pony, my dad and me, miles from the safety of the barnyard, staring up at the sky growing darker by the second.

It was my first lesson in remaining calm in an uncontrollable situation that escalated quickly, the types of situations that, out here, are generally always caused by the sky or an animal.

Because there’s nothing nature does better than teach us lessons about our own human vulnerability.

Against an angry thousand-pound bull or a cloud full of hail stones, we are nothing but skin and bones, muscle and a built-in instinct to survive that we humans don’t exercise very often.

But out here, the animals do.

“These horses know how to get home,” Dad said to us, his silhouette darkening against a flashing horizon. “I know you can’t see the ground, but they can feel it. Just let their heads go and they will get you home.”

And there was our lesson in trust—in our dad, in our animal and in the inborn instinct that is survival.

Last night, the sky was brewing up storms across the state. The air was thick outside our house and the weatherman on TV predicted the unpredictable. There will be wind. There will be rain. There will be storms tonight.

The phones and Internet conversations began buzzing in a Boomtown filled with people new to the prairie. Where do we go? What do we do? When will it hit?

I’m a woman born and grown on the sweeping open prairies under a sky that will softly kiss the hilltops with light one minute, only to turn around to swallow up the land in a fury of wind and rain the next. I know this. I’ve seen its volatility and in some ways I’ve blamed its constant impulsiveness on my own. How could the drama of such sweetness and rage not get under my skin?

But these days, home on these familiar plains, I’m a minority. For the thousands of new residents who have come north from the rocky soil of a mountain range, the sandy beaches of the coast, or the dry heat of the desert, the roll of the thunder coming up from the horizon to rest in your gut is not a familiar feeling. And it can be terrifying to know that under this big open sky in the middle of America, anything can happen.

Even those of us whose roots are long planted here are still at risk of being taken off guard.

And so I’m thinking of my first lesson in the danger of our sky today, because last weekend, while taking new friends out on the boat on the big lake in the heat of the day I looked up at that horizon and watched white clouds turn to black, lightning flash, heard the thunder crack and felt the waves grow bigger underneath us as my husband put the throttle down to escape the white wall of hailstones and rain that were chasing us toward the shore on the other side of the lake.

I turned to my friend, a former Utah resident who has spent the past nine months discovering and learning about her new home on the prairie. I wanted to reassure her, but as I looked up at the darkening sky I felt my usual confidence in my home dissipate and my vulnerability swell on that water.

I wished desperately for solid ground and a trusted horse that would know his footing and bring us all home.

And for the first time, I think I began to understand what it might feel like to dig new roots in this fickle and mysterious place.

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From Lost to Found: A Pug Story

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Search “Chug the Pug” on this blog and you will find countless entries on this little black bean of a dog that came into our lives to help us through a rough patch, and then continued on his merry way,

peeing in my husband’s shoes, losing an eye to a porcupine, snuggling up with the kittens,

chasing bulls out of the yard, showing up the bird dogs with his pheasant retrieval skills, snoring, snorting, howling and just all around creating hilarious chaos and merriment wherever he went.

He was a character in our lives out here at the ranch, one I loved to torture by dressing him up in a Santa suit and making him pose for countless photos.

A lap dog by breeding, Chug the Pug hated to miss out on an opportunity for adventure, proving time and time again that there are no limits, just mind-set.

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Chug the Pug, my search partner


My new readers may not have heard about our chubby little one-eyed pet because about a year and a half ago Chug decided to make his rounds to the nearest rigs and oil sites around our ranch to meet his neighbors, get his belly scratched and feast on table scraps and the occasional steak while he waited for us to come and find him.

It was a problem for us, all the kindness he was shown on these rigs, because it meant more wandering for an animal who could previously be trusted to stay within the safe limits of the farm yard.

And it meant that one day, when we went to retrieve him, he was nowhere to be found.

After a couple months of my husband taking daily trips up and down the highway, passing our name around to oil field workers who move in and off site by the days and hours, and checking with neighbors, I finally decided that Chug the Pug had likely hitched a ride with a lonely trucker and was sitting shot gun with a bandana around his head an his tongue hanging out the window, off to find a bigger adventure.

I liked that story better than any alternative. It helped me come to terms with the fact that I’d never see him again. 

And that’s the way that it was… that was the story I’d tell…

Until a couple weeks ago when I found out the rest of the story….

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Coming Home: Lost dog finds his way to the right home
by Jessie Veeder
7-26-15
Forum Communications

I sat behind the desk at my office and picked up the ringing phone. Young and determined, we were in our third year of marriage, had just moved back to our home state, just lost our first pregnancy and were chin deep in renovating our first home in an attempt to get our grown-up story on track. 

For two years our lives were covered in sawdust, paint and power tools. We worked during the day and in the evening we re-seeded the lawn, built a new staircase, laid carpet and lost two more pregnancies along the way.

You need to take out a wall? Get your hammer and break it down.

You want a baby? There wasn’t a doctor in the state at the time that could give us the blueprint for that.

When I picked up the phone that day, I heard my husband say, “I just saw a poster. There are pug puppies for sale. Little black ones,” he said. “I’m going to call.”

So he called. And two weeks later he brought home a little black smush of a puppy with a pink tongue and curly, wiggly tail.

Because we needed a distraction. Something else to love.

Fast-forward through six years filled with home renovations, new jobs, three more lost pregnancies, and a move out to the ranch, and that little pug became the star of our lives and the stories on my blog, his cow-chasing, raccoon-wrangling, porcupine-fighting adventures winning over the hearts of my readers across the country.

Until a year and a half ago when he decided to explore a rig over the hill from our house and didn’t come home. When my husband’s nightly searches didn’t yield any answers, I came to terms with the fact that I would never see Chug the pug again.

Until last week when I looked down at my phone and found a message from a stranger staring back at me.

“I think we have your dog Chug. Our friend found him on a rig and brought him home. It selfishly breaks my heart to message you but I just read your blog and I knew I had to … you can call me …”

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I dialed the number.

“He just loves cats,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

“And he loves to go out on the boat and swim … We bought him a life jacket … The neighbors adore him. He sleeps in our bed with us … he’s well loved …”

And then the line went quiet. Two strangers, 60 miles apart, connected by an animal, each with her own bond, not knowing where to go from here.

So we made plans to meet up the next day. I would be through Dickinson on my way home from my 20-week ultrasound, halfway through a pregnancy we never thought we’d know with the chance to see the dog that helped us through the worst of things.

I anxiously knocked on the door and was greeted by a woman about my age, a tiny little yorkie and a one-eyed, barrel-chested black pug with a little extra squish around the middle.

I reached down to scratch his chin and pull on his soft ears, and he looked up at me, as well-loved as a dog could be.

I looked at the woman with her clasped hands and nervous smile. She invited me in, introduced me to her friends who had gathered for moral support or to be witness to this uncommon story, and we all started gushing about this small world, missed opportunities and how my online documentation of Chug led her friend to help find me.

And then there was that silence again.

She spoke.

“I contacted you because if it was my dog I would want to know what happened to him. This is a tough situation, but …. we can’t have children, and these dogs are like our kids.”

I looked at Chug rolling around with the yorkie on the floor, then down at my growing belly and back at the woman whose struggle for a family was all too familiar and fresh in my mind.

“Maybe he came into your life for a reason,” I said.

Judging by the sighs in the room and the tears in my eyes, I think we all agreed.

And so the decision was made. I said my goodbyes and pointed my car toward a life we could only dream of when we first called that little dog ours.

A girl needs a dog

What we never thought we’d know…

So yesterday, we saw our baby…BabyOr a little fuzzy silhouette of it anyway, a snapshot of what I’ve been working so hard on growing the last few months of my life. 

There is the hand that I swear pushes on my bladder every five minutes…

And there’s the foot I can feel poking and fluttering on all sides of my belly button at all hours of the day.

Baby Foot

I’m surprised we could get any pictures at all considering this kid never holds still.

Trouble already.

I can’t believe this is happening.

This picture, this sonogram, looks like every other sonogram I’ve every seen really. It’s a little smudge of a baby the size of a mango, but this time the little smudge of a baby the size of a mango is ours.

It was a date I’ve been looking forward to since we decided to put a family together all those years ago. I imagined what it would be like to make plans to head to the Doctor’s office together where I would lay on the table in a dark room with Husband at my side, staring at the screen where our little one would be the star of the show.

I wondered what it would feel like. I wondered what I would think. I wondered if I would cry or just hold my breath.  I wondered if Husband would hold my hand or just put them in his pockets the way he does when he’s concentrating on something. I wondered how he would act. I wondered what he would say…

I found out yesterday.

He said “Oh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

And so that’s how that went.

And it was wonderful.

We were normal people with a normal pregnancy doing normal things that normal couples get to do when they have a baby on the way.

And then they printed off a reel of photos of little white smudges of feet and ears, a belly and bended knees a whole world and life forming under my skin and we listened to the heart beat and Husband put the number in his memory and we walked on air out of there to sit at a table at a restaurant and order anything we wanted, to sit as long as we wanted, to say whatever we wanted about this moment as we lived it…

Because we never thought we’d really live it…no matter how our friends and family willed it to be or reassured us it would all come together…that they’d been praying.

How do you ever know.

I didn’t.

And if I would have known how it might all turn out in that moment I’d been wondering about, it wouldn’t have mattered as much when we finally lived it.

And it mattered so much. That day, yesterday, with my Husband clutching the reel of our first baby’s photos, practically skipping out into that hot, humid air blazing on his pickup in the parking lot in a town that took us a three hour car ride to reach, was simply one of the most ordinary, extraordinary moments of my life, one I never thought I could give him… give us.

And there we were, eating lunch in the summer sun together talking about strollers and cribs and how much tiny camouflage he plans on purchasing in the next few months.

There we were, two planning on three. Just like that, like we’ve never had our hearts broken time after time. Like we never had a moment of thinking otherwise. Like there was never a doubt we’d ever arrive here.

What can I say about this except that sometimes when you hold out hope, hope gives in.

Some would call that faith.

I don’t know what I call it except maybe a gift, just like every other life that exists here. After all of our trouble and worry and struggle, how it happens at all is a true and utter miracle.

We spent the rest of the afternoon milling around furniture stores, trying out couches and opening drawers on bedroom sets. Husband picked up some jeans and I tried on dresses. We bought a first aid kid and bathroom supplies and wandered through the baby aisle confusing ourselves.

I had a feeling that if I would have asked for the moon that day, my Husband would have set out building a ladder tall enough to let him wrap his arms around it and bring it down.

But I don’t need the moon…no.

Just a scoop or two of ice cream for the way home at the end of a day we never thought we’d know…

Sunday Column: Rolling out the Welcome Wagon

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This is the view around here these days.

I can still see my toes, but the opportunity is growing smaller by the minute.

It’s a strange thing to know that my shrinking pants mean a growing baby. And this week I’ve officially met the halfway point of this baby-growing process.

And while the baby’s been growing,  me and the belly have been hitting the road pretty hard, playing music and promoting the new album, celebrating weddings and 4th of July, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, making dinner plans, sitting in the sun and trying to catch a nap here and there.

With so much time spent behind my guitar, I’m thinking this baby is going to come out with a set of lungs prepared for an amplified world.

Jessie Ft. Lincoln

And I have a hunch it’s really gonna like bacon.

Because that’s been on the main menu around here these days…

In less than five months now, it will no longer be me and my belly going about our business, but me and Husband working to show this baby our world.

I am not prepared.  But I think I’ll tackle it the way I’ve tackled all of life’s unexpected promises–with a flexible plan, a willingness to take it day by day and a few moments of panic here and there for good measure.

So that’s what this week’s column is about…that flexible plan and how I am certain life is just going to be more fun…

Coming Home: Family traditions will be more fun with little one
by Jessie Veeder
7-12-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’ve been thinking lately about traditions. I suppose it’s expected, because in less than five months we’ll welcome a tiny new member to our family and spend our time showing her (I’m just going to go with “her” for now) around this place, introducing her to the people who love her and teaching her about the things that make up our everyday lives.

As my waistline continues to grow and the little movements in my belly start becoming more present and familiar, it’s beginning to occur to me that the countdown is on. We’ve been waiting seven years for this, and now we need to get it together.

And I’m not just talking about adding to my sparse collection of baby gear (I currently have three onesies, a dresser I picked up at a flea market and a free pacifier they gave me when I broke down and bought my first pair of maternity jeans), but we have less than five months to roll out the Welcome Wagon.

I mean, we all know I love a good party, and I just can’t help but thinking about all the things that will be so much more fun with this kid around.

Like, for example, when she arrives it will be just in time for Christmas. Finally. A baby for Christmas after seven years of saying to one another, “Well, maybe next year we’ll have some little presents under this tree …”

If all goes as planned, this is the year, which reminds me, I need to start looking for a tiny Santa hat.

Because before she can even see 20 inches in front of her face, she’ll be sitting at her first Christmas Eve Pancake Supper (likely wearing that tiny Santa hat), and I just can’t really imagine it, no matter all the people warning me that my life will never be the same.

Well. No. Of course it won’t.

God willing, of course it won’t.

Last weekend, we celebrated the Fourth of July the same way we have every year since I was a kid myself by heading to my grandparents’ lake cabin in Minnesota. We met up with my aunts, uncles and cousins and ate summer sausage sandwiches, tried our hand at catching sunnies, built a campfire and watched the fireworks go off all around us.

As I was yelling “No running on the dock!” for the 47th time to my nephew and little cousins, it occurred to me that in a few years that will be my kid running on the dock.

And so I felt the need to warn my family that, based on my husband’s history and genetics, it’s very likely that this baby bump will turn into a child attempting to jump head first off the end of the dock fully clothed and without proper swimming lessons on her way to test out the neighbor’s water trampoline, invitation or no invitation.

Because I’m realistic about the way behavior traits and personalities pass on, and I am fully prepared to blame my husband for all wild and unruly conduct.

And then I looked over at my cousins, who I watched grow up on the shore of Lake Melissa, and realized that next summer the two youngest, the twins, will be making plans to head off to college.

I remember when we all found out they were going to be born and at the lake cabin my family cheered and hugged as small waves licked the rocks outside the picture window and my uncle tried not to faint at the new news.

Seventeen Fourth of Julys later and here we are, basking in the ease of a tradition, regulating squirt gun fights, reminiscing on years past, anticipating a growing family together and telling me to be careful on the rocks.

This year my car was filled with a guitar, gear and merchandise after a show I caught with the band on my way across the state.

Next year we’ll have to clear out some room for a car seat, a stroller and a tiny little swimsuit.

Which reminds me, I need to start shopping for a car seat, a stroller and a tiny little swimsuit, because, well, it’s time to start loading up that Welcome Wagon.

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A speech for a season of celebration…

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We’re a week or so out of the ranch wedding weekend extravaganza and while the two newlyweds are off in Jamaica honeymooning, the rest of us are here, basking in the North Dakota’s official summer heat.

Last weekend was my hometown’s annual reunion celebration called “Homefest” and Husband and I spent last Friday on Main Street catching up with old friends and Saturday I got a chance to sing to the crowd of longtime residents, new residents and people visiting home again.

The party never stops around here in the summer when we try to cram 12 months of fun into the few summer weekends we get up here.

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And so it goes with those brides and grooms planning to get married. They generally want to do so in the summer so they don’t freeze to death on their way to the church or lose their guests in an unexpected blizzard.

So to honor the wedding and party season, I wanted to share with you the little speech I prepared for my little sister’s wedding. It’s about love and the time we share between the celebrations…

Cheers to love. Cheers to summer.

And cheers to finding the best ways to celebrate it all.

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Now, imagine me, my hormones and my emerging baby bump trying desperately not to lose it and burst into tears in front of our friends and family…
Today we celebrate love. That’s what weddings are about. The joining of two people because they met somewhere, and they clicked, so they went on a date to a movie or for drinks and they hit it off, so they went on another date and another one and then maybe she caught a cold and had to break plans and stay home and he showed up with orange juice, Champaign and chicken noodle soup—and no one had ever done anything like that for her before so she tried to find ways to keep him around, meet his parents, bring him to her family ranch, get him on a horse or two and convince him to start a new life in a wild place.

And maybe along the way there were disagreements, an old Ford Explorer might have blown up, plans might have been made and broken, wine spilled, …a cat might have been hit by a car…(and lived…don’t worry, it lived)…

But in between those weird and unexpected moments that life throws us, in the quiet times known only by the two of them, there were stolen kisses, reassurances when they were unsure, a hug stolen while she put the dishes in the sink, because at that moment he just loved her so much he had to touch her, inside jokes shared over yard work and eating lasagna on the couch together watching HGTV….

He might have bought her diamond earrings and surprised her by leaving a giant picture of a giraffe he painted in her apartment.

She might pick him up a new shirt she knows he’ll like on a shopping trip or drive a good 20 miles out of town to bring him leftovers or Taco Johns for lunch when he’s working weekends….and those are all nice things…

Really nice things.

The things you do when you have finished falling in love with each other and just are.

In. Love.

But it’s not just the love thing these exploding cars, giraffe paintings, unruly cats and stolen hugs equal out to.

No. When you get to this point, the “let’s get married” point, it is about more than just love.

I know this because a wise man once asked me to marry him by asking me to be his family.

I thought about that today as my little sister stood up in front of the people who love them and a man who brought her chicken noodle soup when he didn’t know her very well yet, but knew he wanted to take make her feel better…

With this ring, you two are family.

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But even better,

With this ring, we’re all family.

And what a wonderful thing that is! Two young and adorable people fall in love over drinks, a late night delivery of chicken noodle soup and a road trip gone ary and a few years later we find ourselves traveling from all corners of the country to gather in front of a barn that has stood for almost 100 years on a place that has existed in one family for an entire century…all because a 100 years ago two people fell in love and made plans to work together for as long as the future gave them…

The same wise man that gave me my ring once said “Love is living every day to make the other person happy.”

It’s a nice concept and not one that I can always say we remember to implement…but in love not every day is easy…and in love, not every day are we at our best.

But I bet our great grandparents and grandparents and parents will agree that love found them raising babies and careers and finding things to cook for supper together, but it’s not just love and only love that has kept them fighting and stealing kisses in the kitchen and eating lasagna on the couch watching HGTV together…

And so I’m so glad love made Alex my little sister…

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and now love has made Travis my brother…and love has made us all, under this big tent in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything…

Family.