Sunday Column: Getting it done in the Wild West…

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Oh my, we had such an amazing weekend here at the ranch. I can’t believe I’m even (barely) awake today as we all come down from the high of friends and family and celebrating it all.

And I intend on telling you all about it, about the beautiful day, the beautiful couple, the food, the adorable ring bearer and flower girl…

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and of course, the dancing,  but first I’m  going to share the column I wrote last week in the hectic whiz and whirl of planning and cleaning and trying to get work done with no internet and no phone in the middle of the wild west.

If I sound a little stressed and frustrated I blame it on the nice cocktail of time crunch, deadlines, road construction, horseflies, heat and hormones…

But don’t worry, we’ve all calmed down a bit now…

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Coming Home: Busy road, slow internet, both inconveniences in the Bakken
by Jessie Veeder
6-21-15
http://www.inforum.com

Pink Road

I pulled my car over on the top of the hill at the approach next to the gate where there’s usually a white pickup with a company logo idling and a man inside checking his phone or writing in a notebook. Usually, I see them there and shake my head in annoyance, wishing they would find another place to park, as if the county road going through the ranch belongs to us only.

Because it seemed like it used to anyway.

But now these once quiet roads have turned into a sort of autobahn, not just for transporting oil, water or random equipment strapped to flatbed trailers, but also the men and women who have places to go.

And while they’re going, they have work to get done.

Because the men behind the wheel on these roads don’t take many breaks, unless it’s to pull over for a phone call or to enter numbers on a laptop plugged into the console of their pickups, a regular mobile office right there on that approach on top of the hill next to the gate.

This is the reality of the weekday workday, not in town but out at the ranch these days. And while the wheels on the portable offices kick up dust on the road above my house, I sit in my back bedroom-turned-office and write about it, report on it, and make phone calls to tell its story.

And then, just as I hit send on one of those timely and important emails, the Internet cuts out.

I don’t panic. This happens a lot. Because no matter how fast we say it has changed out here, things like reliable high-speed Internet 30 miles from town are still a mystical dream of the future.

I’ll just communicate the old-fashioned way and pick up the phone.

But there’s no phone.

And so it’s a Thursday afternoon, I have a deadline, and two of my three links to the civilized world have been taken away.

My third link? Driving an hour in 30 miles of road construction to an office I can access in town, because we’re in the middle of progress, dang it, and progress means a little suffering along the way … and a little ingenuity and resourcefulness.

I thought of those guys in their pickups on that approach on top of the hill next to the gate and I grabbed my laptop, cellphone and notebook, pulled in to where I got a good cellphone signal, tapped into my hotspot and spent a good hour or two getting work done in my own mobile office.

Fast-forward to the weekend when my husband and I attempted to haul a little tractor from the ranch to Williston, N.D., and found ourselves along the highway with a flat tire on the old trailer and an even older spare that didn’t fit. Six phone calls later we landed a contact with a new tire business open past 2 p.m. on Saturdays, drove back to that trailer along the highway, and got it done.

And in between it all I’m arguing with the post office about a pair of my husband’s very important and needs-to-be-here-like-yesterday khaki wedding pants that got lost in the mail. Because it’s a long and winding road to the Wild West. Especially when you’re a pair of khakis coming from New York.

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Sometimes the Wild West just isn’t on my side.

Yes, some things would be undoubtedly easier if we just put this house on wheels and moved it to the suburbs of Minneapolis, where people don’t get flat tires, always have reliable Internet and don’t have to sit in their cars next to cow pastures to get a cellphone signal.

But, oh, the sweet clover smells good these days, even alongside a busy highway changing a flat.

Even without Internet.

Because this is not Minneapolis, even though these roads are no longer ours alone.

But if we stay on course, they will undoubtedly be smoother, the Internet will be faster, and the mobile lives kicking up dust above the house will get a little easier every day.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be on a hill somewhere trying to get some work done.

Calf on Road

A horrifying story

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Ok, so it’s beautiful outside right now, green and warm and it’s fixing to thunderstorm the way we’ve been waiting for, and I should show you a bunch of pretty pictures of it and lament about my favorite season and all that…but it just isn’t in the cards today.

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Because today I have to tell you a horrifying tale that involves my mother and a glass of wine.

Better get under your blanket, because you’re going to want to pull it over your head in a minute here.

So my family spent all day Memorial Day weekend working outside. Pops, Husband and my Father in Law were building fences, I was pressure washing everything I could pressure wash because I love shit like that, and my momma was planting flowers at her house.

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Well, I don’t think I have to mention it again, but when you’re out and about in the grass on a warm spring day you’re bound to get a tick or thirty-seven.

So that’s why when we came in for lunch, we did the regular neck slap, hair scratch, take-a-look-at-my-back-do-you-see-anything check and then went on with our sandwiches and back to our business.

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Well, later on that evening, after the whole house was hosed down, enough fence was repaired and mom’s flowers were in pots where they belonged, Husband and I showered up and snuggled down in our house and mom and Pops changed out of their work gear and settled in their comfy chairs to watch a movie.

Pops probably had a little whiskey and Mom poured herself a glass of red wine. She leaned back at her favorite spot on the couch, grabbed the remote and her glass of wine and took a good, long, well deserved sip, pausing for a moment after the swallow to remove what she thought was a little piece of cork stuck to her tongue.

But people. It wasn’t a cork.

No it was not.

It was a tick.

My mom had a tick in her wine and it went into her mouth.

O.M.G.

I mean, just recently Husband saw one crawling across my face and kindly mentioned it before it hit my mouth, which was disgusting enough…but not as disgusting as what happened to my mom.

She takes the cake for the most horrifying tick story on the ranch so far.

Imagine that. The woman on the ranch who goes outside the least wins the title.

Good one mom.

Good one.

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: WOODTICKS!

This isn’t a new horror story for you my dear readers, but, well, WOODTICKS!

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I found one crawling up my bathroom wall this morning.

Last week, when I was in the doctor’s office, I reached up to find one on my head.

The blossoms are blossoming, the grass is getting green, the trees are budding and the little bastards are marching out in full force.

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And because all I seem to do lately is pick them off of my pant legs and off my husband’s pants legs, and off my dogs and, apparently, off my walls, I had to write about all the horrifying and encounters I’ve had with them in this week’s column.

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Coming Home: Wood ticks the price for wild paradise
by Jessie Veeder
5-3-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Upon publishing, it was brought to my attention that I shouldn’t take such pests lightly as they carry diseases and some people have been affected by said diseases in terrible ways. My heart goes out to anyone who has suffered from lymes disease or any other debilitating symptoms that ticks and mosquitos can cause. I know this is a possibility and we work to prevent these encounters as much as possible out here at the ranch. Please, use bug spray, always check you and your kids, know the proper way to remove them should they become embedded, and protect your pets with the appropriate medication.

I don’t want anyone getting sick. I just want all the ticks in the world to die because as far as I can tell in my abundant research, they don’t do anything any good.

But if you can’t beat the scary and creepy things in life, I find it’s ok to laugh in its face…so that’s my tactic. Laughing at the things I can’t control and then flushing the little bastards down the toilet…

Peace, love and springtime woes,

Jessie

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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

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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I can’t be trusted with spring…

Summer arrived here for a minute or two this weekend.

And when summer arrives, I can’t be trusted.

I drink more alcohol because it tastes better on the deck.

I eat grilled brats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I blow off chores and work to get on the back of a horse.

And, I, uh, well…

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I do shit like this…

Because I lose my mind out here when the weather thaws the ground. There are so many fun things to do and not enough time to do them, so I tool around the place looking for projects that inevitably turn into predicaments…

predicaments like these…(Cue Prince Charming…)

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No worries though. Despite my idea that I should drive, followed by my insistence that I was trying to avoid the mud, and the thought that maybe, after a few minutes of rocking back and forth and flinging mud into the atmosphere, my mouth, face, hair and everything in between, we should, you know, go get the pickup and a rope, Husband and I saved the machine from its muddy, messy grave…by man power (and woman thumb on the throttle) alone.

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Here’s hoping that you had a similarly successful, summery weekend of your own.

Coming Home: Muddy March a sign of bright days ahead
by Jessie Veeder
3-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Larry on the Prairie

My brother-in-law and his family have a bulldog.

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His name is Larry.

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And despite the fact that he is ginormous and looks like a fat 95 year old man, Larry is just a puppy.

And sometimes, when my brother-in-law and his family go away for the weekend, Larry comes to visit.

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Larry really has no business being on the ranch. He’s physique is much better suited from couch lounging, nap taking and watching life happen from the house-side of a window.

But don’t tell Larry that.

Because Larry don’t care.

Larry does what he wants.

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(I know this, because when I try to get him to do what he doesn’t want to do, he locks up his legs and makes like a 100 pound bolder, literally refusing to move. Larry knows that he’s heavy as hell. Larry’s not as dumb as he looks.)

Yup. This is Larry.

And I call this photographic series of glamours shots, “Larry on the Prairie.”

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You’re welcome world. You’re welcome.

A second with Gus the cow dog.

And now for a split second with Gus…IMG_0923 IMG_0927 IMG_0929 IMG_0930 IMG_0931 IMG_0932 IMG_0933 IMG_0934 IMG_0936

Gus, the cow dog is energy embodied. Every minute is the best day of his life.

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And every minute of his life is chaos.

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Because he never sleeps.

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I swear it. I think I saw him sleep once when he was a tiny baby sitting on my husband’s lap, and that was after several minutes of the man lovingly forcing the pooch to snuggle with him.

And once he might have caught a good thirty seconds on the floor of my office because I provided him with such a nice blanket not even a terror tornado like him could refuse the pull of slumber.

Gus isn’t really into snuggling.

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He’s more into face licking, lap standing, and jumping three feet in the air upon your arrival. It doesn’t matter if you saw him two seconds ago. Every greeting from Gus is filled with the enthusiasm of a best friend you haven’t seen for years.

Come over at any given moment and you might find him tormenting the cats, ripping up the bed in his kennel, eating the cord to the heat lamp, attacking the broom when I’m trying to sweep, barking at the sky, eating cow poop and horse poop and cat poop and chewing on Brown Dog’s fat neck, then jumping up and over his back relentlessly, barking and taunting the poor old dog until he finally snaps …and then you will hear Gus The Tough wail the wail of a thousand deaths.

Because Gus has one other feeling besides happy. And that’s his hurt feeling.

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It’s pretty traumatic.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with him. I mean, I could teach him anything if I could only keep up with him. He’s smart as a whip. He comes back in a split second on a quick whistle. He sits when asked, and I’ll take it, even though he trembles and shakes the entire time as if the energy in him is bouncing around in that body poking and prodding and begging to be released.

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And when he makes his ears stand up like this, well, be still my heart. It’s frickin’ cute as hell and I can’t take it.

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He looks like a gremlin.

And well, he sorta is…

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Who knew this tiny little grunting fur ball that fit in the palm of my husband’s hand would turn into such a specimen…

And he’s only been alive for like six months.

Oh Gus, it’s fun to watch you grow. And I can’t wait to see how many woodticks/burs/mud/cowpoop you collect when summer comes.

Until then, let me reminisce you back to when you were small and innocent, when you peed puddles on the floor and weren’t such a threat to my cats… seriously, you need to go easy on those cats…IMG_4390 IMG_1573 IMG_1591 IMG_9881 IMG_0044 IMG_0027 IMG_9964 IMG_9958 dogs

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Gus, Gus, Gus…such an adorable bundle of energy and trouble brewing…

If you need us we’ll be out in it…

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Throwback Thursday (or the horrifying path known as Memory Lane)

I don’t always participate in Throwback Thursday, but when I do, I make sure the photo is epically embarrassing, and drags at least one of my siblings/cousins/parents/best friends down the horrifying path known as Memory Lane with me. 

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No, that’s not Christopher Robin. That is my little sister.

And no. That is not Madonna. Madonna might wear matching socks over her stirrup pants and a scrunchy on the top of her head, but I doubt she would button the top button on her turquoise silk shirt.

That’s big points for modesty right there.

Big points for modesty and sisterhood and fluffy bangs and the first day of country school back in the day where my idea of fun was catching frogs in the crick below the house and sliding down cactus filled gumbo hills in the pouring rain.

But not before I changed out of my school clothes, for the love of spandex.

No, not a minute before.

Happy Thursday. May your memories be as sweet as they are mortifying.

(Sorry Big Sister, I didn’t think it would be fair to leave you out of this one…)