Homemade surprises.

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I spent a good two weeks away from this place. After our vacation with friends spent skiing down mountains in Colorado, I hopped a plane and met my mom in Minneapolis where we shopped at market for clothes and shoes and other fun things for her store.

It was a good hiatus from life that was sort of stressing me out, but it was sure nice to get home to the ranch to see how spring was shaping up.

Turns out it wasn’t really. Just snowing and cold. March went out like a lion, because, if you remember correctly, it came in like a lamb, so that’s what we get.

It took me a few days to get caught up on life around here, and then Easter rolled in and well, there it was, Tuesday afternoon and I had yet to take a look around the place.

Because it’s crocus season.

So after my work was done enough for the afternoon, I took a little walk out to see if I could find any that survived the melty snow.

But before I could even get outside our yard, I ran into these beauties…

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Yup, the elk came for a visit, down across the bottom of Pots and Pans, heading toward the dam right outside our door before they caught wind of me and this beast…

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And while I know the elk live around here, because I see there tracks on my walks, catch the places where they bed down at night or linger on a stray hay bale in the fields, it’s still quite something to see them right in your yard.

I took a breath and held it and watched as they ran away up over the hill, hoping that I didn’t ruin their plans for a drink. Hoping that they might come back later.

Then I took another few steps toward the little hilltops where my sister and I found the first crocuses last year. Searching the ground as I walked, moments later I looked up to find the rest of the herd following suit, another pleasant and quick surprise.

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These animals on this landscape are so imposing. In the mountains they look smaller, dwarfed by the magnificence of the peaks, but here on the rolling hills they are the kings, the largest wild animal you’ll find roaming free. And they take my breath away each time.

I wished there was someone next to me to witness it. And then I was glad it was just me.

I had been missing this place. Life and tasks and deadlines were getting in my way. I stepped outside to see what I could see and nature delivered.

But even after such an unexpected show, I was still thrilled as I always am in early April to see these pretty purple flowers again, reaching through barely thawed ground to promise me summer…

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Before getting rolled over by the gremlin of the farmyard…

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Oh well, to live out here you gotta be hardy. If anything, the crocus teaches us that…

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I’ve traveled all over the place, but home, at the beginning of spring, is still my favorite place full of the best sort of discoveries…

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A Winter Walk…

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It has been a true winter wonderland around here lately. Lots of fog and warm temperatures have coated everything in frost.

And then it rained. And froze immediately on the ground, so now this place looks like Ice World on the Super Mario Brothers III game and the animals and me took a slippery stroll through it all, because who could stay inside on days like these?

Not me. And you shouldn’t either.

So welcome to your Wednesday Walk…

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Frosting

Last week our world was covered in ice.
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This week, just in time for Christmas, it has turned nice and white (and rather slippery).

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The beautiful thing about this place and its erratic weather is that every day it looks a little bit different out there.

Every day it’s a little bit new.

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So I like to explore it. And when the new pup is involved in my little quest, it’s even more fun.

He’s just a ball of energy jumping around, licking the snow, biting the heads off of weeds and bouncing his way around, discovering his world.

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So take a break from what is hopefully your last working day before Christmas, sit back and watch my home transform from icy brown to white.

Because who doesn’t love a little frosting, especially on the holidays.

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Peace, Love and Merry Christmas,

Jessie

How it goes with trees

IMG_7603 There’s miles and miles of trees out here behind our houses. Just trees, yes, but trees in these parts are hard to come by.

This season is about all run out as we find ourselves at the end of October. The leaves are brown, the wind has taken most of them, swirled them around, tossed them up and let them fall.

But yesterday there were a few stragglers, a few trees that held out to stand out above the crowd. So I went out looking for them.

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IMG_7665I knew it would happen. That’s the thing about this place. The trees, they are the reason it looks different here every day. 
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IMG_7680So except for that sky, it will be brown now, until it turns white.

And it will be white until it turns brown again.

Then it will be brown until it turns green.

Green until gold…and so on and so on because that’s how it goes with trees…

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Sunday Column: Texting on horseback

Yesterday I went out riding with Pops and Little Sister. We rode up to the fields to put some cows back in their place. It was a gloomy day, but sort of perfect for riding, just a little bit chilly, a little bit breezy, exactly what to expect for autumn in North Dakota.

I loved the view of the Blue Buttes and the two black cows and their calves along the road and two of my favorite people on my favorite horses in front of me. I wanted to tell you all about it. Show you the view from up here.

So I took a photo on the phone I had zipped up in my pocket, pressed a little icon, hit share, and, snap, just like that, it was out there for everyone to see.

I didn’t even have to stop my horse.

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I was grew up out here when bag cell phones were the smartest communication technology we could own. The idea of taking a photo on a cell phone that fit in my pocket while chasing cows in the middle of a field was unfathomable.

I mean, we didn’t even start getting cell service out here in these hills until last year!

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So it’s a weird juxtaposition, this technology in the wild places. I mean, think of how many walks home from the broken down tractor or feed pickup my dad could have saved if he could just call home to mom for a ride?

We wouldn’t have to re-live that time when mom drove right past him coming in out of the trees after his three mile walk from the west pasture at every Thanksgiving dinner.

The woman is a focused driver.

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Anyway, I guess I’m young enough to keep up and take advantage of this ever-changing phenomenon, but old enough to remember playing Oregon Trail on the computer at school on the first Macintosh computer ever invented.

In fact, I have this memory I rehash every time I call up Pandora on my smart phone or try to settle an argument about that one actor who plays that one guy in that one movie while Husband and I are on a road trip: The time he told me, on one of our long drives back to the ranch from college across the state, “Jessie, one day we’ll be able to drive down this highway and surf the internet.”

To which I replied: “Never! I can’t even imagine!”

It turns out he was right.

photo-66And it turns out you can do it on horseback too.

“Is that poison ivy?” You might wonder while you’re fixing fence…and the answers will be right there in the pocket of your snap shirt.

Wanna scare the shit out of your mouse-a-phobic aunt? You can instantly torture her with what you found in the tack room with one click of a button…

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“Are these boots as adorable as I think they are?” You might ask yourself while shopping 100 miles away from your fashion forward mother…and so you’ll just take a photo and send it along to her for an instant “Yes! Buy HAVE to buy them!”

So this is what I’ve been thinking about lately and what this week’s column is about…about how I’m thankful for technology, how it connects me to you, how it helps us tell our stories, how it helps me pay the bills…literally, and figuratively…

But what I’m not sure I expressed accurately in the 700 words I’m allowed is this:

I was born before anyone had a home computer.

We didn’t get internet in our house until I was well into Junior High.

I did research with Encycopedias.

And then, when we got the internet, with a modem.

When I was growing up we had maybe 20 channels. I’m not even sure. Maybe 10. I didn’t pay that much attention.

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I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 18 years old and headed to college. And it was for making calls home.

I remember what it was like to be disconnected, except I didn’t know that I was ever disconnected.

And I’m thankful for that too.

Thankful that I am old enough to know that we survived without it, so that, when I drop my phone in the toilet at a gas station, I don’t lose my mind or my life.

I just lose my phone.

And it’s sort of nice.

Now, if they could just invent bur repellent my life would be complete…

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Coming Home: Alone, yet always in contact
by Jessie Veeder
9-28-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Hey, while we’re at it, you should follow me on Instagram!
instagram.com/jessieveeder

Boomtown Video (FB)

A full life, a full freezer…

Heeeyyyyaaaa!!! It’s FRRIIIDDDAAYYY!

IMG_5109It’s been an exciting week at the ranch, beginning with this:

IMG_5538No, that’s not Ted Nugent, that there is my handsome, bearded husband with the bull elk he called in and shot with his bow in our favorite pasture.

Drawing an elk tag in North Dakota is a once in a lifetime experience, and being able to successfully harvest one in your own backyard with a bow and arrow is really a rare event.

To say I am proud is not quite enough. What I am is so completely thrilled for this guy, because in the past few months I have watched him immerse himself in a passion he has pushed aside for work and family and building us a house out here. And while all of those things are the responsible choices  people like him make, to see him take a breath and just be the man he is is just, well, better and more important than that fencing-the-yard-in-so-we-can-have-grass project…

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Because he’s been scouting the animals for months, watching bulls like this chase each other around the hills, vying for the attention of the cows, getting themselves all worked up and crazy and quite the sight to see.

IMG_5458He’s sat and watched patiently. He has gathered the right equipment and practiced shooting his bow every night.

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He knows what it means to take the life of a majestic beast that we admire so much off of our place. He understands the responsibility of it and he takes it seriously. And he took his shot quietly and alone and then called in reinforcements to get this animal home to be properly butchered, removing the hide to be tanned for leather, the horns for mounting on our wall and the meat to fill our deep freeze and our bellies for many months to come.

So that’s what we’ve been doing this week, ending our days by cutting and wrapping meat and answering phone calls from our excited sportsman friends and relatives looking for Husband to re-hash the story from the big hunt…because that’s part of it, the sharing of stories…

Oh, but we did take a break to take a drive to meet the newest member of our family who was born a week or so ago.

Be still my heart, I cannot wait to get this smooshy little creature home! And apparently I couldn’t shut up about it so Husband loaded me up in the pickup and took me for a drive to have a snuggle with him.

Four more weeks and counting. Hondo, get ready…you’re gonna love him I’m sure.

With all these distractions it goes without saying that there is enough dirt on my floor to plant carrots and laundry piled up in places where underwear shouldn’t be. Right now I am procrastinating working on making a dent in the dust an dirty shirts and then I’ll sit down and work on new music, getting ready to record a new album, sorting through songs like sorting through socks, matching up melodies and stories and rhymes.

There’s so much to do and the weather is hot, tricking us all into thinking that summer might linger like this good week we’ve had out here in our little piece of paradise.

Here’s to a beautiful weekend, full freezers and full bellies!

Peace, puppies and elk steak,

Jessie

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Wild, restless things…

It has been the kind of autumn weather sent from somewhere good. 65 degrees and sunny. No wind. The leaves are changing quietly and, if it weren’t for the magical mosquitos that somehow made it through a few overnight freezes, the animals would be as content as they can be.

I can hardly stand staying inside. I can’t. I sit at my desk and work and then get up and take out the garbage. I wander to see if maybe there are things that need picking up out there. I pet the cats just a little longer. Throw the stick for the dog. I just got in from checking the mailbox. And how the leaves are changing. And procrastinating life behind my desk.

Yesterday I called Husband and tried to make a plan to hit the hills when he got home. He thought that would be a good idea. He thought maybe he should be home at a decent hour. It was like 4:00 when I called him.

Three and a half long hours later he arrived…just enough time for me to walk down to the barnyard. Zig zag back to the house again, taking pictures of everything along the way. Taste a few of the biggest plums. Pet the cat. Pet the dog. Mosy back in the house to think about supper and decide I will decide later. Then out on the deck to lay face down in the sun and read a book while I wait and maybe, uh, I don’t know….fall asleep face down until the sensation of a missing limb wakes me up…

My armmmm…..myyy arrmmm fell asslleeepp…

Anyway, finally I heard the clunk, clunk of his boots on the steps and I grabbed my cap and camera and stood like a nerd without a life by the counter and proceeded to make approximately 23 suggestions on what we could do right at that moment, before the sun went down…

Take a walk, shoot at a target, check the game cams, take a 4-wheeler ride, catch the horses really quick if that’s even possible, take a drive, take a run, do pretty much anything but work, climb Pots and Pans and wait for the sunset and let me take photos of him …pick more plums…or chokecherries…or what’s left of the flowers…

In the end taking a ride on the 4-wheeler to the east pasture to check on the game cams won out and I was out the door on the back of that machine before the man could even find his hat.

I will tell you, I would always rather be on a horse, but there is nothing like sitting close to a man with your arms around his waist, under the quickly setting sun, moving through the coulees, talking and watching and just being out and about.

“Isn’t this quite the day?” I would say.

“Sure is,” he would reply as we rolled along, slowly, before stopping so I could take a photo and he could put his binoculars up to his face to see what he could see there on the skyline.

Turns out that the wild things were just as restless as I was that evening and we were in their witching hour, surrounded.

Husband killed the engine of the machine and I followed him on foot, up to the top of the hill where he would quietly hand me the binoculars so I could see up close what I was watching from afar…

A big muley buck making his way out of the trees to the north, and a white tail waiting on the other side. And then, in the corner of our pasture, a herd of elk milled around, the cows bunched up while the lead bull worked himself up trying to fend off his young competitors.

“You hear them bugling?” he asked and handed me the binoculars.

“Yeah,” I whispered, taking a look and handing them back.

And then he would turn back and watch the bucks, making a comment on their size and behavior before handing me the binoculars again.

And that’s what we did then, until the sun dropped below the horizon and we could no longer make out the animals as anything but shadows. We watched the other creatures end the day while we ended ours and it was nice.

Then we turned around and marched back toward our wheels, and I listened as he made plans for his hunt this fall and we didn’t even notice those damn mosquitos.

Yes, we’ve had the kind of autumn days that are made of all things good. And just as the leaves change, so our lives change quietly, from season to season. But I’d like to suppose, no matter how that time ticks, you will always find the two of us out there, when the weather’s good, together, with the other wild, restless things…

 

 

Sunday Column: Good days in a season change

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Ever had one of those perfect days? Where the sun is not too hot, and the clouds come at the right time and all of the things you want to do you do because somehow that voice in your head that is usually there nagging you about vacuuming and paying bills is just silent, quieted down enough for you to just live in the moment?

That seemed to be Sunday at the ranch. After a late Friday night and a busy Saturday of running around town filming a music video (yeah, I can’t wait to show you!)…

I woke up Sunday with plans on my sisters coming out to the ranch and then we would take it from there…hopefully on a horses’ back and then to the plum patch to fill our buckets.

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Husband said something about bow hunting as we squished together with our morning coffee on the big chair with the caramel rolls I decided to make.

 

Then Little Sister showed up and so did the sun and we went down to the barn to catch the horses, listening for Pops’ 4-wheeler coming down the road to join us.

And the three of us, Pops, Little Sister and I rode, through the east pasture and up to the fields to check out the plum crop before heading to the other house to meet up with Big Sister and Little Man to see if he wanted to take a ride too.

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And from there we ate lunch and made plans to pick plums from the patch we found up by the grain bins just loaded with branches of fruit. The plums this year are like nothing we’ve seen.

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So they met us up there, my friend and her two daughters, her dad and her gramma. They came driving up the trail and backed that pickup right up into the brush patch so the little ones could reach and we talked and swatted bugs and filled our buckets to the top in no time.

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Back at the house Husbands’ buddy pulled into the yard and they were shooting at targets, practicing their aim with the bow, warming up for the hunt that evening, dressing up in camouflage.

I came home with buckets of plums. They were off into the trees.

A rain storm blew through, leaving behind a rainbow and then a bright beautiful sunset. I played guitar and sang on that big chair as it passed.

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Then I pulled on my muck boots to walk under that sky because there’s nothing like the air after a summer rain.

This was back in the last day of August, the last day of the summer months and it was a good one.

One of the best.

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This week in my column I talk about seasons, in weather and in this life. I turned 31 last week. My high school friends have kids who are in first or second grade. I am not feeling as restless as I am planted here.

Coming Home: Life measured by seasons–even if we’re not ready for change
by Jessie Veeder
8-31-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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On bighorn sheep and humans…

Oh my gosh you guys, look at this. 
It’s a baby bighorn sheep. He’s trying to get down to his momma.

And then look here, here’s the herd of nannies and babies I spotted a few weeks ago on a little drive through the badlands on my home turf.

The bighorns are badlands residents that I don’t get to see too often. In fact, this sighting was only my second in all the years I’ve lived and roamed around here.

So I was pretty excited to find a whole clan of mommas hanging out on a cliff in the badlands, posing for me.

These badlands that we live on the edge of are full of surprises, changing every day, every few minutes even, with the shift of light and weather.

Change is a big topic out here in these boomtowns exploding with growth above the shale formation where we’re busy extracting millions of barrels of oil.

Somedays are harder than others to get around, to make plans to accept that there are things that simply will never be the same. And this is both for the worse and for the better and that can be a hard thing to explain to people wanting to hear that it’s all black and white.

If I’ve learned anything from living back at the ranch it is that this world is full of blending colors…

Somedays I don’t feel like talking about it. Somedays I do.

But that day I was taking a drive outside of town, scoping out a spot for an oil truck  photoshoot.

A shiny oil truck in the middle of the badlands.

Not my usual subject and sort of a funny juxtaposition of industry and beauty…

I was kicking up dust on a gravel road, me and about a dozen other pickups, along the Little Missouri River, when I got a glimpse of this little family…

And so I slowed down and watched them eating on the yellow clover, twitching their tails at the bugs and content and unconcerned with the world outside the fence moving and changing so quickly around them.

I stepped out of my car to get a closer look. A trucker stopped with his camera.

And then a car. And another pickup.

Working people behind out of state license plates taking a marvel, taking a second to admire these mommas.

The guests came and went but I stayed for a bit longer, like a visitor at a zoo, studying their behavior, admiring how they move so easily up and down the cliffs. How they were made for this place.

I think I was made for this place. Most days I do. I was made to defend it and scuff my boots on it. I was made to witness it in all of its changes.

In its struggles.

In its best moments.

I was made to tell its story if I can. To ask questions and make sure I take notice of things that are just so spectacular. Things that we might miss if we drive too fast.

Sometimes I think we’re all driving too fast.

Maybe in another life I’ll be something like a  bighorn sheep momma, with just a few simple tasks, eating and moving and keeping us all alive….

Then again, maybe that’s all we’re really trying to do here…as humans…