Under Pots and Pans

We have a hill that overlooks our house. It’s sort of a landmark on the Veeder Ranch. I’ve written about it before. Pots and Pans. IMG_2008 Every cousin, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or friend of a friend connected to this place has likely taken the hike to the top of this hill to check out the view and see what sorts of treasures are at the top. IMG_2012 See, it’s called Pots and Pans because at some point, somewhere in the 100 year history of this place, someone decided to drag old pots and pans, sifters, ladles, bowls and plates up to the top to sit on the rocks and wait for the occasional adventurous kid to take a hike and play house up there. IMG_2006 My memories of Pots and Pans growing up are a big plan on a hot summer afternoon to take a hike with the cousins. The plan included fanny packs, juice boxes, fruit snacks, scratchy legs, and the inevitable run in with a cactus or a potty break in the grass before maybe, eventually, making it to the top. IMG_2018 Because it was actually a long ways when I look at it now. From the farmhouse by the barn to the top of the hill there is at least almost a mile of treacherous terrain. And when you have short legs it’s quite the feat. IMG_2000 But it was also quite the memory that we all share now. Who would have thought at the time when I was picking cactus from my cousin’s legs that I would have built a house right under that place? Who would have thought that I would get to watch the sun come up in the morning and the moon come up at night every day over Pots and Pans. IMG_2038 At least once a week on my walks I take a trip up there to exercise my legs and see how things are blooming at the Veeder Ranch. IMG_2024 IMG_2022 IMG_2020 IMG_2001 There’s still a pot or two up there and every time I make it to the top I think of my cousins and orange Hi-C juice boxes and what an adventure this place was to us. Unexplored and wild. IMG_2014 I still think that way sometimes when I find myself on an old trail or discover a deer horn dropped in the trees or an elk standing on the top of a hill somewhere. IMG_2034 IMG_2002 IMG_1998 And I think, when my kids are born I’ll have to trek up there with some old pans of my own to continue the tradition and the mystery so that they might take their cousins and their fanny packs up to the top someday to acquire a cactus and a memory or two… I mean, I’ve set it up perfectly for them…the walk is much shorter from here :) IMG_2013

My new album, “Northern Lights” is now available!  Watch an interview where I talk about the process and my time in Nashville.

Get a signed copy at www.jessieveedermusic.com
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Sunday Column: About an impromptu sledding party

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Last weekend we had an impromptu sledding party with the neighbor kids.

I just happened to be hanging out with my nephew building a snowman in 50 degree weather, so it was perfect timing.

Impromptu is always perfect timing for me. Especially in the winter when the days can get sort of long without a project or a visit or two from the neighbors.

We gotta stick together around here.

Stick together and then, you know, let small children push us down an icy hill into a quickly melting crick below.

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It was fun watching my friends’ kids playing on the same hill where we used to play, sliding down with their dads, squealing the same kind of screams, laughing the same kind of laughs and pushing it to the limit they way we used to, you know, trying to see how many could actually fit on a sled at once without crashing into a pile of tears and bloody noses at the bottom.

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There were rice crispy bars, 

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Snowball fights,

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Soaking wet mittens,

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Negotiated rides back up the hill…

IMG_1406And a failed attempt at a swimming pool sled…

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It was the best way to spend a winter afternoon out here in the middle of all this snowy hills.

It was just like old times.

Coming Home: Sledding quickly into the life we imagined
by Jessie Veeder
2-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: The kids and the quiet

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Yesterday Husband and I spent the last hours of daylight out here on the ranch putting up a fence to contain our yard and keep the cows out of our attempt to grow some grass for crying out loud.

We plotted and pointed, making plans for how big we wanted the space, how much we wanted to attempt to mow and contain.

It was just the two of us out there of course, but just like the other plans we’ve made for this colossal house project we embarked upon a few years ago, I couldn’t help but visualize the kids who might roll around in that grass someday, staining the knees of their jeans.

Husband, to make a point, stepped in the middle of the yard, grabbed an imaginary football and threw it across the imaginary grass.

“We want to make sure that there’s enough room here to throw a football,” he said.

I smiled and said “you’re right,” and then we were quiet for a beat or so, just long enough to let hope in before our hearts broke for the thirteen-millionth time in our lives.

We have a good life. We’re building one out here with passion and optimism for a nice little future, one that we always thought would include children.

And on a ranch, kept together solely because of and for the sake of the generations, my husband and I walk with the silent urgency of creating the next.

I will tell you there is no quiet like the quiet of hopes not yet realized.

Coming Home: Sharing home with the next generation
by Jessie Veeder
10-12-14
Forum Communications

I write a weekly column for North Dakota newspapers. Look for “Coming Home” Sundays in the Fargo Forum, and weekly in the Dickinson Press, Grand Forks Herald and Bismarck Tribune. Want my column in your newspaper? Let me know and I’ll help you make it happen!

Fart Gun

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I spent the weekend with Darth.

And he spent the weekend with his fart gun.

I thought it was an imaginary thing when he made me lean over so he could “Tell me a secret.”

“Ok,” I said. “What’s your secret?”

“Fart Gun,” he said.

Fart. Gun.

And then he laughed and laughed and said.

“Find it!”

And then I laughed and said, “Okay, yeah…go find it you crazy kid.”

Go find that weird imaginary and apparently “top secret” flatulence weapon…

And then we played Darth Vader some more…

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and pirates…

and a little superhero game I invented while finishing up the chores called “Sock Boy,” the world’s most helpful and domestic hero.

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Have a laundry situation? He’ll sort it out!

Need someone to hold your dustpan? He’s there in a jiffy!

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Big home construction project? He’ll help you prioritize!

photo-25 Making french toast? He can beat eggs with the best of them.

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Yes, it was a busy day for for a little man, and after a story or two about barnyard animals and wild things romping about, he was tuckered out, tucked in and snoring…

And when he woke the next morning you know what came toddling out with him?

A Fart Gun!

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Yes.

The Fart Gun is a real thing…

It was in his bag.

His mother packed it for him.

“Well look at that!” I declared.

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA”, said the Fart Gun and the kid.

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And that’s pretty much all the both of them said for the next two days.

Forget Darth Vader, let’s shoot this Fart Gun at my aunt while she’s working on her taxes.

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Forget the Pirate thing, let’s point it at the dog’s butt, pull the trigger and laugh hysterically.

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Forget the whole “Sock Boy” routine, it’s just me and my Fart Gun now.

Forever.

And ever.

Amen.

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“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA.”

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA.”

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA.”

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Well played big sister

Well played.

Sunday Column: The Happiest Place on Earth

Well, Christmas is coming and I’m coming down from a fabulous weekend spent performing winter songs across the state.

Turns out I’m also coming down with the Christmas plague and it’s currently compromising the voice I so desperately need to work during this holiday season.

Because asking me not to talk is like asking me not to breathe.

Anyway, that’s a story for tomorrow. Today, I want to catch you up on what I learned on another trip I took with the nieces and the in-laws to a tropical, magical land known as Disney World a few weeks back.

There were princesses and Mickey shaped ice-cream bars,

castles and spinning tea cups, roller coasters and stuffed animals, a big ‘ol tree house,

a few even bigger whales,

giant strollers running into my ankles, It’s a Small World After All and maybe not enough tequila.

And those are just some of the highlights. Because we did it all.

Since these three little princesses came into this world, this auntie has always imagined what it would be like to watch their eyes light up in the Happiest Place on Earth. Judging from the plethora of pink and purple paraphernalia and the never-ending collection of Disney DVDs I had a hunch the place might kinda be their thing.

And anyway, I have memories from a trip my family took to Disney Land in an RV, picking up relatives along the way. I was five years old and the magic of it all had yet to wear thin, and so there is still magic in the memories.

I wanted that magic for my nieces.

So we talked about it last Christmas, my mother and sister-in-law made plans and eleven months later we were all on a plane leaving the great white north for sunny Florida.

And it was fabulous and frantic and exhausting and unexpected and just great fun for lots of reasons.

Turns out though, that the best parts are never expected, and I think that’s the same in Disney as it is in life.

Coming Home:
Happiest Place on Earth doesn’t always mean Disney
by Jessie Veeder
12/15/13
Fargo Forum

Peace, Love and cough syrup.

Jessie

A princess in the garden.

Pops has always kept a garden. He grows things like peas and carrots, radishes and green beans, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and plenty of weeds. Once or twice he grew corn just tall and delicious enough for the horses to find their way from green pastures into the yard for the free buffet.

We no longer plant corn.

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I love Pops’ garden. I love it as much as the deer love his peas and the moles love his radishes. I love to watch it sprouting from my parents’ deck. I like to watch their cat hunt for mice and big bugs out there. I love breaking off rhubarb stocks, digging around for the first sign of a ripe carrot and the taste of the first fresh garden tomato on a BLT.

A few weeks ago Pops’ garden had a new tiny visitor, a little girl named Addy who flew in all the way from Texas to explore the ranch where her grandpa grew up.

Addy climbed hills and picked flowers,

looked out for Little Man,

 
chased the cat, bossed the dogs,

got a woodtick or two, and probably a few mosquito bites too.

I followed the little darling around because I didn’t want to miss a word that came out of her adorable little mouth.

“Jessie, can I borrow your ring for when my prince comes?” she asked as she made her way out of my bedroom with one of my big bling rings wobbling on her tiny pointer finger.

“Well of course you can Addy. You can have anything you want. Want my wedding ring too? Take it. Want all of my necklaces and my horse and my car and the pug? You might need those too, you know, so you’re prepared when your prince comes.”

I would have given that girl anything she wanted, but Addy didn’t want everything, she just wanted to play. So we did. I showed her around the place, showed her where the tiger lilies grew and where the dogs go for a swim. Addy wanted to swim too, so I found someone to tell her it might not be a good idea.

There was not a chance I was uttering the word “no” to this girl.


So instead I took her to the garden to teach her about growing things and how you’re supposed to step over the pea plants and not necessarily on them.

I watched as she put her hands on her knees and squatted down to get close to the leaves of the strawberry plant, where she declared and made known to the world every bug that crawled on its leaves.

I gave her a taste of rhubarb and watched her cute little face pucker up while she threw the stalk down, declaring it sour before asking for another one.

I followed her following the cat who was hot on the trail of a mouse.

I tried to convince her that pulling weeds might be fun.

She convinced me it was time to go inside.

But before dinner was on the table we were back out there again because Addy said, “Jessie come out here, I think that it’s growing! The garden is growing!”

And so she was right. It was growing. Growing by the minute like this little girl’s wonder and knowledge of the world. So I told her that it might grow faster if we watered it a bit. She grabbed the end of the hose and I headed for the spigot.

“Ready. Set. Go!” Addy yelled in my direction as I pulled the lever up and the water made its way through the hose and to the little girl’s hands squeezing the nozzle.

Addy was watering the garden.

It’s what good princesses do. They tend to the growing things and make the world a little bit greener, the sky a little bit bluer, the birds a little bit chirpier and grown women cry at the utter cuteness of it all…

It turns out, little garden princesses make rainbows too.

At least that what princess Addy did. She made a rainbow with the sun and the water.

“Look Jessie, I’m watering the rainbow!”

“No Addy, you made it! Look at that, you made a rainbow!”

And then I cried a little bit under the protection of my sunglasses so my family observing from the deck could not see that she was melting my heart into a puddle in my chest.

Turns out that making rainbows make princesses thirsty and so Addy needed a drink…




And I cried some more.

Yes, Pops has always kept a garden, but if he never plants another one, it won’t matter. All of the failed attempts at squash, overgrown asparagus and horse-chewed corn on the cob was worth it.

Because it turns out gardens are not made for horses or rabbits or moles or regular people who like home grown tomatoes. No. Gardens are made  for princesses, and finally, one came to visit ours!

Hanging with the kids


One of my favorite parts of my summer so far has been the couple times I’ve taken youth groups out to hike around in the badlands south of Boomtown. It’s gratifying for so many reasons, the first being that I, along with my partner in crime, Extension Agent Marcia, get to be the kids’ gateway to adventure, which I like to imagine makes us like super heros in hiking shoes.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic. But maybe it makes us at least kinda cool.

Anyway, in a town in the middle of an economic boom that’s making headlines across the globe, sometimes the little people get lost in the shuffle, so I’ve made it part of my mission to help when I can. Life’s been busy lately for so many of us trying to  keep up with the demands of a town stretching and growing by the minute, but if I can help these kids out of the bustling elements for just a few hours I come home feeling like I’ve done something really worth while.

Plus, it’s a really great excuse for me to drop what I’m stressing about and focus on what it’s like to be a kid who just wants to climb to the top of the buttes and ask a million questions about whether or not that cow over there is a buffalo, if ticks can jump, what’s this bug on my ear and, umm, can you help me find the iPod I dropped in the long grass?

So that’s what I did yesterday with Marcia and my friend Megan, my partner in photography crime. We took almost 30 kids between third and sixth grade on a photography expedition

 complete with a scavenger hunt and challenges and cactuses and humidity and yes, a million woodticks, that, according to Google, can not jump.

Now, I’m not great with kids, I will be the first to admit it. I treat them like tiny adults and sometimes I see their little eyes glaze over when I attempt to explain complicated things that, well, kids don’t really care about. But we get along fine. I release them into the wild and tell them to be careful of cactus.

Someone always gets into a cactus.

So off they went, covered in bug spray and that sweaty, dirty film kids get from running around outside in the humidity of summer. We took photos of our feet and photos of the sky, photos of the grass, photos of bugs, photos of our names in the dirt. We took photos of our hands and our friends jumping up in the air, photos of the road and a butterfly and dandelion puffs.

We took photos of our eyeballs, photos of the bus, photos of the buffalo that were really black cows and photos of footprint of a dog that we were certain was something wilder.

And when we were done taking photos by the picnic area, off we went to take photos on the trail, the group splitting up a bit, the boys running ahead and the girls hanging back to take on my challenge of photographing every species of wild flower they could find.

And there were dozens.

They took it seriously.

They were my kind of women.

Unfortunately for them, however, their trusty trail guide forgot her wildflower book at home and her memory is getting foggy in her old age. Needless to say I didn’t feel as wilderness womanly as I would have liked to when I had to reply to their questions with “maybe you should Google it when you get home.”

Well, it was either that or make something up, and, as we all know, I cannot tell a lie.

And, you know, their eyes. They glaze over.

Anyway, among the wildflower explorers was one girl in particular that pulled at my heartstrings and made me consider calling her mother and asking if she would let me keep her daughter. She was small and quiet, dressed in jean shorts and tennis shoes, her brown hair cut in a bob and her eyes wide with wonder, as if the task of finding every species of wildflower on the trail opened up an entirely different world to her.

She took it seriously, but not competitively. I watched her hang in the back of the line, getting down close to a sunflower to document it from all angles. I saw her touch them, examine them, study them and, I think, truly fall in love with them.

She couldn’t get enough. We’d been out in the wild hills of the badlands in the heat of the day for a few hours and this girl had her eyes to the ground. She gasped with delight at the discovery of a new species like the other girls, but she just took a little extra time.

She reminded me of me at that age and how I could have stayed out there forever. Even when the other kids were sort of melting and hungry and thinking it was time to head back, I found her wandering quietly behind the group, examining her world full of flowers.

I’ve been busy lately. I have been pushing myself and worrying about the little things. I have been racing the clock and working to fit things in.

This is what happens when you grow up.

I forgot that I never wanted to grow up in the first place.

Yesterday I was reminded that there is always time to wander.

And that’s why I  hang with the kids.

Sunday Column: New kids in town

Well, it looks like spring found us after all.

And thank goodness, because the nice weather makes us all better, happier, more motivated versions of ourselves.

At least it’s supposed to.

Although I think it may not apply to those of use who have to stay inside to tile a bathroom on the first nearly 80 degree day of the year.

But that’s ok. I’ll get my chance to enjoy when the work’s done. I’m just happy for the kids around here, especially the ones who have come to Boomtown from less blustery and more southernly states.

We promised it would warm up kids, and we keep our promises around here.

Enjoy the warm and enjoy this week’s Fargo Forum column on the new kids in town.

Coming Home: Warm welcome to new kids in our state
By Jessie Veeder
April 28, 2012
Fargo Forum

Three princesses.

When you’re an aunt to three princesses your world can turn from dull to pink with the simple opening of a car door. Suddenly the wind blowing quietly through the brown bare trees and the sound of the snow softly falling on the roof is eclipsed by tiny, high pitched voices asking tiny high pitched questions about where the horses are, why we have a giant hole dug in front of the house in the shape of a garage, can they put on their cowgirl boots, do they have to wear their mittens, where are the dogs, where is my dad, who is my dad, where is my mom, where is Little Man, can they get a drink of water, can we go ice skating, can we go sledding, can we climb that tree we climbed when we were here this summer, can we walk in the deep snow up through the trees and to the top of the hill?

Can you and Uncle C come with us?

When you’re an aunt you answer all questions. Every. Single. One. No matter how hard it is for you to sort through all the talking at once, because your world has been quiet and brown lately and it takes a while to adjust to a different pitch and all that sparkle.

And when you’re an aunt to three princesses you have a duty to really think through your answers. Because I was a princess once I’m pretty sure, and princesses don’t ask questions they don’t intend on remembering the answers to.

Same goes with promises.

So I keep those, especially the one I make when I’m half sleeping about homemade chocolate chip pancakes in the morning without thinking about the ingredients I may or may not have in the fridge.

When you’re an aunt to three princesses who lives thirty miles from town and you have made a promise about pancakes only to discover that there is no Bisquick for miles, you figure out pretty quick how Betty Crocker does it.

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When you’re an aunt you let them wear their cowgirl boots in the house and suggest they wear their mittens while you take them sledding and climbing through the trees and skidding across the frozen dam because real cowgirls wear mittens on 20 degree snowy days in March because cowgirls need all of their fingers.

And then you take them to see the horses and promise them that as soon as the weather turns they will come out with those cowgirl boots and you will take them riding. And they will believe you.

Because once you were a princess too and princesses keep promises.

When you’re an aunt and you load those three princesses up into your car to take them home only to promptly get pulled over by a very detail oriented police officer, you secretly hope the cuteness he finds when he arrives at your window will help get you out of the offense while you calmly explain that cops are nice humans who are just looking out for other humans like their aunty who forget about important laws like putting the new tags on your license plates.

Then the princesses will shrug their shoulders and say that’s ok, the same thing happened to their daddy.

When you’re an aunt you will take a similar calm and assured approach to the blizzard you suddenly find yourself in with precious cargo in tow.

You will ask them to sing “You are my sunshine” while you white knuckle it on icy, snowy roads, the windshield wipers on full blast, praying that the Good Lord helps deliver you the last twenty miles to their house where you let them eat Girl Scout Cookies while you make them supper.

And then you might eat a whole box of Thin Mints all by yourself, blaming it on the stress of driving three princesses 90 miles through a blinding blizzard, the 3,000 calories a reward for getting them there safely and without any screaming.

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When you’re an aunt to three princesses you don’t forget when it’s Saint Patricks Day, even if it means that your fingers may be permanently green from all the food coloring you put in their noodle soup and thirty seven glasses of milk they insisted on drinking before bedtime.

When you’re an aunt you don’t think about things like maybe they shouldn’t have thirty seven glasses of milk before bed because little princesses have little bladders.

But when you’re an aunt to three princesses you just say “Oh well, it’s alright” and then you ask them to put on their sparkly dresses and twirl while you watch and laugh and clap and remember what it was like to be small looking up to your big sister and chasing your little one around the coffee table…

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and you don’t ever mention to anyone the soft spot you have for the middle one, because you were a middle princess once too and you know how it is.

But you will quietly thank her for reminding you as you watch them all dream, tucked in snug under the covers of their parents’ king sized bed, little pink arms and legs sprawled out so that there is no room for you to squeeze in.

When you’re an aunt to three princesses you accept your fate, grab a pillow and make a bed for yourself on the couch, wondering how you will go back home tomorrow to all that quiet and beige, cupboards without fruit snacks, clothing without sequins, pancakes without chocolate chips, trees and hills and soon to be melting snow without children waiting to break in those cowgirl boots in the puddles…

And then you will close your eyes and dream of fairies and horses with wings, dolphins who can sing, puppies who can talk, diamond encrusted crowns, beautiful dresses and matching shoes, monkeys jumping on beds, leprechauns and all of the things princesses teach you to remember exist…

And then you might snap out of it to find that you’ve been watching three straight hours of  the Disney Channel…

It was a day like this…

It was this kind of day
a hug and kiss kind of day

a put your pole in a puddle
and fish kind of day

You ran down the big hill for fun

basked in the warm pre-spring sun

It was a big stick kind of day
a muddy crick kind of day

a ketchup and mustard
picnic kind of day

You took the hand of your best friend to hide
beneath oak trees and sky blue and wide

It was your best horse kind of day
a no-chores kind of day

 an open the windows and doors kind of day

you used your paint to you let your art spread
to your cheeks and, oops, the dog’s head

You found renewed energy
forgave your enemies
noticed the small things you’ve missed

like a spider’s spun web
brighter thoughts in your head
the way that it feels to be kissed

It was a day made for races
in wide open spaces
a good day to climb way up there

the best way to tangle your hair

Yes, it was a day just like this
short sleeves, walking sticks

the only place in this world I would wish
to spend next to you in this gift.