Sunday Column: What dreams really look like

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We branded our new cattle this weekend with the family’s brand.

It was a momentous occasion for my husband and I, owning a portion of this small herd of bred cattle fulfilled a dream for us.

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My instinct and general nature made me want to be in the middle of it all, but I have a baby to feed.

So we rolled up to the action, met up with gramma and took some notes.

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I gotta keep track of these ladies. Need to know who’s who and what’s what.

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And it was a great afternoon really. Watching the boys in the family work together, sitting and chatting in the pickup with my mom holding my baby.

Bossing my little sister around.

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It was everything we dreamed it would be really.

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Funny how some dreams look like mud and slush and smell like burnt hair and feel like achy muscles and long days and work and work and work…

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Coming Home: The most fulfilling dreams require work and worry
by Jessie Veeder
2-7-16
Forum Communications
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Let’s talk about dreams. Not the kind you find yourself lost in while you sleep, but the kind that you aspire to achieve. The kind that may have ignited in you when you were just a kid watching the world play out before you and discovering that perhaps there was a place for you in it. A place where you might exceed expectations by developing an idea or exercising a talent or just putting yourself in the right place so that you might live a life completely true to yourself.

Other dreams are personal and close to the chest, like becoming a mother or honing a talent so that you might be recognized as being the best someday — the best football player, the best photographer, the best-selling author.

I’d guess most of us have a mix of those lofty dreams and the ones that feel more attainable, so that if that football scholarship doesn’t come through, you have other things to live for.

I think that’s what separates us from the animals, the ability to be more than a living, breathing, eating, sleeping and reproducing human. The ability to maneuver our fate a bit.

When my husband was a kid, he used to dream about being a mountain man. He wanted to ride out into the woods somewhere and live off of the land, trapping and hunting and fishing and growing a long, impressive beard far away from civilization and anyone wielding a razor telling him what to do.

I imagine in another time, when mountain men were more of a thing, he would have made a good one, considering his appetite for wild game, his frugal instincts and his overall scrappiness.

I had similar aspirations, only mine looked a little more like a Disney movie, where I would train a wild wolf pup to be my companion and we would spend our days frolicking in waterfalls and making wreaths out of wildflowers.

Anyway, perhaps that’s why we worked out in the long run, my husband and I. If we can’t agree on paint colors or carpet swatches, at least we can agree that that paint color and carpet swatch should go in a house out on the ranch. And I’ve learned that sometimes, deciding where you want to be together is a good solid foundation for a marriage, literally and figuratively.

Because living out here, raising a family where I grew up, is one of those close-to-the-chest dreams.

Last weekend my husband pulled up to the barn with a trailer full of cattle, the start of our own little herd we’ve been dreaming about since we unloaded our hand-me-down furniture in this familiar place.

I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him walk through the small herd with my dad, counting and making plans for calving, corrals, fencing and water.

And it occurred to me then that a dream was coming true, in the shape of thousands of pounds of flesh and bone and a whole pile of work and commitment, sacrifice and responsibility that we both could not wait to tackle.

That’s the thing about dreams that they don’t tell you when they tell you that you can be anything. They don’t tell you that most dreams worth anything look more like work and worry and muscle put in than anything shiny that comes as a result.

And they don’t tell you that perhaps the work is the best part anyway.

That the part where you become something is much sweeter than the part where you get something.

I’m not sure if I’ve always known this. Maybe I have. But somewhere among the thankless task of new motherhood and the moment those cattle set hoof on our place, I was reminded that some dreams are less glamorous than they are fulfilling.

And maybe that’s the point of all that dreaming anyway.

It’s Friday. Here are some puppy pictures.

It’s Friday. To get you through, here’s a shot of the puppies in their box five seconds before they all dispersed into a wiggly, frantic swarm of fluff anticipating their supper.

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They’re getting so big, and there are so many of them that we moved them into the big barn last weekend, which meant we put them all in a box for their first little road trip.

A pile of puppies in a box is probably the most adorable thing in the world.

It’s a good thing these pups are at mom and dad’s or Edie and I wouldn’t get anything done all day except cuddling.

I mean, that’s sorta all I do at home these days anyway…

IMG_8057But ugh. The fluff.

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In a few weeks all of these babies will go to their forever homes and Dolly and Pops’ pup will stay here with us.

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The timing of having a newborn and a newborn puppy sounds just about right for keeping the crazy and chaos at the normal level around here. I’d hate to be bored you know.

Here’s the best and most recent photo (out of dozens) of the two of them. The level of wiggle and squeaks are uncountable. Maybe I should try video next time to get the full effect.

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And the way these two girls are growing, you can bet the both of them are eating well.

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No, the ranch isn’t as quiet as it has been in past winters. To add to the excitement and work load, last weekend Pops and Husband went to pick up a small herd of cattle to add to the place.

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My husband and I have dreamed of owning our own cattle someday and last weekend that dream came true.

Funny how some dreams come on four legs, bearing promises of a whole lotta blood, sweat and tears.

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These cows will have their babies in early spring when the weather is a bit warmer. Until then we’ll feed them up and watch them close and make plans for the next season, which will look like a whole lot of fence fixing and corral maneuvering and some good excuses to get on a horse and take a ride.

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I can’t wait.

And to gear me up for the season change, it looks like this weekend the weather’s going to be nice and warm, a nice break in the winter to remind us that the cold isn’t forever.

Not that I’ve minded the weather so much this winter, you know, being my job title has been changed to Jessie Veeder, writer/singer/mother/rancher/professional snuggler…

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and baby feeder and putter-to-sleeper….

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Happy weekend everyone. We only watch the Super Bowl for the snacks, but we hope your team wins!

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Unpredictable January

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The end of January is here and I think I can speak for most North Dakotans when I say, “Whew.”

It’s a tough month up north, full of unpredictable and freezing weather, long evenings and short days and lots of reasons to eat soup and heavy carbs, no matter what you said in your New Years Resolution about eating better.

We’re not meant to eat lettuce in the deep freeze of January. It’s not natural.

We’re meant to hibernate and hunker down. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

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I’ve spent more days consecutively in the house this January than ever before in my life. Except maybe when I was a newborn myself.

I’m so used to running around, playing music late at night, heading to meetings or wandering outside on a whim that this hiding out has been a big adjustment.

Never mind that I’m hanging out with a brand new tiny little person we made.

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Yes, when you live out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter, the whole getting out of the house thing takes way more effort. There’s no such thing as a quick trip anywhere, except maybe to the changing table.

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So I leave the grocery shopping to my husband, which I’ve found to be one of the major perks of hanging home with a newborn.

That and hanging in my stretchy pants all day.

What’s not so fun? Daytime television and trying to work with a baby who doesn’t nap much or for very long.

But she smiles a lot when she’s awake, so it’s worth it.

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And when we do get out of the house, we go visit the other babies on the ranch.

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Or, on the weekends, I leave Edie to rock with her daddy and I take a wander, get some fresh air in my lungs, swing my arms without a baby in them and walk the big dogs.

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Last week Edie had her two month appointment and with each of her little milestones I’m reminded that time ticks so quickly.

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Last winter I was in Nashville.

Next winter I will be chasing a one year old around in the snow.

 

Turns out the ever predictable January has proven that, in some ways, she’s not so predictable after all.

And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

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Sunday Column: ‘Tis the season

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It’s been a great, but long week here for this big bellied momma out here at the ranch. Hunting season, coupled with the fact that my doctors said I could birth this child any minute, has set this place off in a new sort of buzz.

Each year about this time my dad’s brother flies in from Texas, bringing with him a son-in-law or two to show them around this place. We look forward to having him here all year and spend the time around the supper table talking, eating venison stew and coaxing stories out of the brothers and our neighbor up the road about the shenanigans they used to get into as wild boys growing up out here.

As my belly grows by the second (like literally, I think it grows by the second) I couldn’t help but notice how our family has grown. Last night mom and dad hosted a fish fry supper for thirteen as my uncle brought with him both of his son-in-laws and his nephew to join my brother-in-law over, big sister, little sister and her new husband and the rest of the ranch gathered in the house to eat and wonder when the heck I might pop.

I looks like pretty dang soon.

Belly B&W

 

Husband spent a good portion of the afternoon loading up his pickup with our baby-go gear and trying to figure out how the hell to get the carseat in…and then out…of the backseat.

I heard him talking on the phone to his mom saying something like “There’s a manual fifty-seven pages long about how to install the damn thing, but not one word on how to get the thing out.”
And who knew we would have to sit together and read the directions and diagram on the diaper genie. But that’s what we’ve been doing. That and taking calls from relatives and friends on my condition, wondering if we should just go to the big town already (we have a three hour drive) and wait it out there and put everyone at ease for the love of GAWD!
I don’t know.
All I know is I should probably pack the camouflage onesie Husband asked about, because he just informed me he plans on wearing camo on the way home from the hospital and he would like it if he and the baby matched…
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Priorities I tell you.
Priorities.
Anyway, here’s the column from last weekend I forgot to post in my struggle to stay upright in the final countdown.
Peace, Love and Baby Gear,
Jessie and the bump
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Coming Home: Hunting holiday season means time
spent with loved ones
by Jessie Veeder
11-15-15
Forum Communications
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‘Tis the season.

Yes, we’re already one week into celebrating a North Dakota official holiday. The chill is settling in the air, and men and women are pulling on neon orange knit caps over their unruly hair, growing sweet beards (well, the men anyway), stocking up on whiskey and pulling out the cards for poker night.

Yes, the official deer rifle season opening day arrived, reminding me that this once was a valid reason for an excused absence from country school.

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

Meanwhile, the ranch has done its annual transition from horse and cattle operation to hunting camp. Every refrigerator on the place is stocked with Budweiser. Every cupboard is supplied with whiskey. The camouflage hats are tossed on chairs, boots piled in entryways, rifles polished and sighted in, and the calendar filled with scheduled visits from family members who make walking these hills with their sons, sons-in-law, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, wives, husbands or brothers a tradition year after year.

Because out here on this ranch, hunting season is less about the big kill and more about the time spent taking a break to appreciate this wild place with the people you most like to be around.

It’s always been that way.

Because contrary to the magazine and movie portrayal of ranch life, it’s not all riding your best horse into the sunset night after night. There are beautiful moments, yes, but they usually occur after you’ve acquired a fair amount of poop on your boots and slung a good string of cuss words into the air after racing that sun home from a job in town to catch the cows in the fields or a fence broken down.

Keeping a place like this up and running is 17 full-time jobs it seems, something that I didn’t realize growing up sitting next to my dad in the feed pickup rolling out a bale of hay for a line of black cows well after dark on a winter night.

Coming home from one full-time job to start another was likely not a rancher’s dream, but keeping the place up and running was worth every after-dark hour. I understand it a bit more now that we’re charged with the same task moving this place into its next 100 years.

I understand it now, helping my husband and dad make new plans for the corrals over supper served past dark or pushing back a trip to the lake in the summer because the cows got out or hay needs to be put up.

But then there is hunting season. The calves are shipped out, the cows are settled in, the weather is in between hot and bitter, and there’s a window, an oasis of time, to spend harvesting the land in a different way, to sit in silence on a side hill with one mission: To be still. To look. To listen. To be a part of the natural order of this landscape.

And all that time you’ve spent riding through the trees after a bull that won’t stay in, all the cows trailed along fence lines and trips to check water in the dams have you familiar with where the bucks bed down at night or where they rub the velvet off of their horns.

So you carve out the time to sit in the rising sun, watching the day break next to someone handpicked to share the experience with you.

Some of the best days of my life have been sitting in the glow of the sunset next to my dad, my husband or my uncle looking closely, blending in and holding still in a moment.

And if the opportunity presents itself to take an animal, it’s just more fodder for the memories, and more meat in our freezer for the long winter. But at the end of the day, for us, it’s about being together in a familiar place, in our own special sort of holiday.

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Remembering the Veterans who built this place.

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Today, on Veteran’s Day, I want to pause to remember the two strong Veterans who founded the Veeder Ranch so we can call it home today.

Edgar Andrew Veeder, born October 5, 1894, in Stearnes County Minnesota was the first child born to Benjamin Wemple and Antoinette Marie (Volc) Veeder.

In 1907, Eddie moved to McKenzie County where he lived with his parents in the Croff community. He lived and worked at home until he was twenty-one.

In 1915, he homesteaded the Veeder Ranch in Bear Den Township before being drafted into the the Army, serving in the 77th Infantry-Machine Gun Company at Camp Custer Michigan.

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After he was discharged at Camp Dodge, Iowa in 1919, Eddie returned to farm and ranch in Bear Den Township.

Eddie married Cornelia Belle Harrison on September 4, 1917. In 1925, Eddie bought his brother, Hank Veeder’s homestead, also located in Bear Den Township and continued expanding his holdings by purchasing additional homesteads in the area. In 1928, he bought a threshing machine and for the next fifteen years he did custom threshing in addition to running cattle and raising crops on the place. Through all the years that he lived in the community, Eddie always took an active part in the building and maintenance of the area. He was a member of the township board for many years and was responsible for keeping township roads and bridges open and in good repair.

Eddie and Cornelia, who died of heart failure in 1932 at the age of thirty-six, had five children, the youngest, my grandfather, Eugene (Pete) Veeder.

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After the death of his wife, Eddie, with the help of his sisters, maintained the home until all of the children were grown. It must have been difficult, especially during the Depression, to provide for his family, but he was always cheerful. He enjoyed his children and grandchildren until his death in 1961.

After their father’s passing, Pete and his brother Lorraine each bought half of the family ranch land. Pete was inducted into the Army February 16, 1945, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, took his basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, and was then stationed for a time in Korea. He was the recipient of the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Army of Occupation Medal (Japan). He was discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington on December 19, 1946. Pete then returned to farm with his father and brothers.

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Pete married Edith Linseth on August 24, 1951 and the two of them raised crops, cattle and three children, Kerry, Wade and my father, Eugene (Gene) on the original homestead.

Today the Veeder Ranch remains in the family, operated by Gene and Beth. My husband Chad and I have built a home here, making us the fourth generation to live and work on the Veeder Homestead. 

Remembering these two great men’s lives and service to their country and grateful for the legacy and land they worked hard to keep.

Veeder Barn

Sunday Column: Haunted

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Another Halloween has come and gone and, although I this year didn’t find me traipsing around to parties dressed as my favorite farm animal, it did get me thinking, for some reason, about the origin of this all.

The art of the spook.

Mysterious things left behind.

And the definition of haunting.

Because out here we’re surrounded by a history that has left behind artifacts for us to contemplate, old abandoned farm houses, out buildings or shacks that many midwesterners have standing on their properties, out in fields or cow pastures, little snippets of stories of who used to live there hanging in the air as dinner table discussion or campfire ghost stories, leaving us to wonder who was here before.

So this week I dug back in my memory to reflect on an old homestead that used to sit up behind the house where I grew up…and all of the things we leave behind….

Screen shot 2015-11-02 at 12.49.51 PMComing Home: Items left behind in abandoned houses create
ghost stories for us country kids
by Jessie Veeder
11-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a gloomy day, the rain is falling, the sky is gray and the trees are stripped from black branches. It’s Halloween season and all of the sudden I’m reminded of the old house that used to sit up in a grove of trees behind the yard where I grew up.

It’s not so uncommon around here for a family to purchase land from neighbors or inherit an old family homestead, so there aren’t many farmsteads around these parts that didn’t come with an old structure lingering on the property, providing ranch kids with plenty of bedtime ghost story material.

And so it went with the old house that stood tucked back on the other side of the barbed wire fence, against a slope of a hill, surrounded by oak trees and the remnants of Mrs. B’s famous garden. Her hearty lilac bushes, her grove of apple trees, her wild asparagus and rhubarb still thrived in the clearing she made in those trees all those mysterious years ago before the family up and left, leaving that garden untended, the root cellar full and a house seemingly frozen in time.

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“What happened to them?” I would contemplate with my cousins, one of our favorite subjects as our eyes grew heavy, tucked in bunk beds and sleeping bags scattered on the floor, together growing up, together trying to figure out what the passing of time really means and how a story could be left so undone.

Gramma took some old dresses, vintage black smocks with pearl buttons and lace collars, from the small bedroom closet of the old house. We would pull them over our heads to perform pretend wedding ceremonies or attend fancy parties like we saw on our mothers’ soap operas, the fabric smelling like mothballs, dust and old forgotten things.

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But no matter what character you were that day, you couldn’t help but think about who the real woman in those dresses once was.

And who would leave them behind?

So, as it goes with kids, our curiosity outweighed our fear and we went on a mission to collect samples of this family’s life that still existed between those walls.

And while I remember kitchen utensils hanging neatly on hooks, canned beets and potatoes lined up on shelves, the table and chairs sitting in the sunlight against the window, waiting for a neighbor to stop over for coffee, I also remember bedrooms scattered with old newspapers and magazines, the dates revealing the last years of occupancy, the fashion of the season, stories of drought and cattle prices sprawled out among diary entries and old letters, a glimpse into a world that existed long before us kids sifting through the rubble in tennis shoes with neon laces.

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And then I remember the dentures. Or maybe I just remember the story my oldest cousin told about the dentures. It doesn’t matter now who was actually there to witness it, it evolved to belong to everyone. An expedition to the old house, a creak of a cupboard door, a jar full of teeth that nobody noticed before.

“The place is haunted.” That was the consensus, especially when, at the next visit, the unwelcome house guests were greeted at the door by a flurry of bats (or, more likely, a bat or two). Yes, the spirits of that mysterious couple came back to the place. How else could you explain the thriving asparagus plants? The teeth?!

And so that was our story of the old house, a mysteriously fantastic pillar of our childhood adventures and a structure that had to eventually be burned down due to its disintegrating floor joists and general unsafe environment.

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I stood in my snowsuit and beanie and watched the flames engulf the graying wood and shoot up over the tops of the black oak trees and wondered how it all eventually came down to this … a life turned into old forgotten things, turned into ashes, turned into stories.

Maybe that’s the scariest tale of them all.

But each fall the apples in the old woman’s orchard ripen, each spring her lilacs bloom and each year their names come to our lips because of what they left behind, making me wonder if we were right about the haunting thing after all.

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Sunday Column: Raising a new generation in a familiar place

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This is a photo of my best friend (the tiny little blonde thing) and me sitting on her dad’s lap when we were just babies.

This was likely taken in my parents’ little trailer where they first lived on the ranch when they got married.

I think we still have that rocking chair.

I spent my entire childhood with that little blonde girl who lived up the hill along the highway on the place where her dad was raised. We had plenty of adventures and we were lucky to have each other out here growing up in the middle of nowhere. I guarantee having her in my life went a long ways in the ‘happy childhood memories’ department.

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We used to plan on how we would grow up, have some adventures and move back to our ranches and be neighbors forever.

Who would have thought that the best laid plans of ten year old girls would wind up coming together twenty years later.

It’s a story that doesn’t get told much out here in Western North Dakota where the focus is on Boomtown and oil and all the trouble and sacrifice and nervousness it creates.

There is that. Some of that.

And then there is the fact that I would never be here, on my family’s 100 year old ranch, living down the road from my childhood best friend who was out helping our dads work cattle last Friday just like the old days, one or two of her four kids in tow, if it wasn’t for an economy that could support us building houses and making lives and carrying on traditions out here on our family farms.

When I graduated from high school in 2001, the porch lights along the gravel roads that connected us to town, were going out one by one.

Now they are turning on by the dozens, fourth and fifth generations getting a chance to be involved in the family business, or, like many of our friends, taking advantage of the opportunity to return home to a place they were raised and raise their own children.

Take this picture for example. This is a photo of my husband and some of his closest friends at our senior prom fourteen years ago (gasp!).

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At a time when our hometown and home state were dealing with outmigration and we were told to get out of here, go get an education, move to Minneapolis or Chicago and start a life, make something of yourself, it’s interesting to note that of the six young men in this photo, all six of them have moved back to western North Dakota to raise their families.

Three of them are back on family ranches and one of them is in a beautiful house outside of our hometown raising three boys.

These guys, for all the wild shit they survived in their teenage years, grew up to own successful businesses, build houses and hold and be promoted in professional jobs. One of them is even a teacher and a coach. And between them all they are raising (or will be raising, if you count our little one coming along) fourteen kids out here in Western North Dakota…a place that seemed to once be on the verge of extinction.

Now, when I look around at events happening in town, basketball games, figure skating shows, dances on Main Street, I see about a hundred more stories of hometown kids coming back to make a life in a familiar place that is growing and busting at the seams.

A place they help make better by volunteering to coach 2nd grade football or, like my best friend up the road, help run the gymnastics program. Because their memories of this place motivate them to make sure they’re making good memories for their own children.

A few weekends ago I went up to have supper at my best friend’s beautiful house up the road. She invited some of our other friends to join us, and they all brought their kids and we ate meatballs and gravy and it occurred to me how unique of a situation we’ve found ourselves in…knowing each other’s history, loving each other from the time of fanny packs and biker shorts, and getting the opportunity to raise our own children together.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. Generations having the opportunity to build lives out here.

Who would have thought?

Coming Home: Newfound hope means we’re raising kids with our old classmates
by Jessie Veeder
10-25-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

On top of the hill across from the golf course, my hometown is busy building a brand-new, beautiful high school.

Plans have been in the works for a few years as our student population continues to grow, forcing classes to be held in portable rooms even after a recent elementary school renovation. 

Even during these times of lower oil prices.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. The kindergarten class this year registered well into a hundred students, and in a matter of six or so years, we have not only exploded in population from 1,200 residents to closer to 10,000, but we’ve turned from an aging community into a young one.

Last weekend, my best friend — the neighbor girl who used to meet at the top of the hill so we could ride our bikes along the centerline of the highway — called us to come over for supper. A few years ago she and her husband, my classmate, built a beautiful house on her family’s ranch, fulfilling the plans we made when we were kids jumping from hay bale to hay bale to “grow up, get jobs and be neighbors forever.”

So I grabbed a bottle of wine (because someone should be drinking this wine) and headed up the hill to her house where she’s raising four kids, the youngest a son who will be only six months older than our baby on the way.

Lord help us all if this baby is a boy, too.

Anyway, that night we gathered for meatballs and gravy to catch up with a house full of friends. I looked around the kitchen, listened to the guys talk sports and bounce new babies and realized that every single one of those five grown men grew up together. And there were more of them, quite a few more of them, who couldn’t make it to the party.

And while it’s not a surprise (more than half of the classmates who attended our 10-year high school reunion had either moved back home or were making plans to move), it was fun to take a look around and think about the next chapter in our lives as friends in a town they told us no one could come home to.

But look how wrong we can be about predicting the future. One of my husband’s best friends — the one who lived right down the block and was in on more than a few paint ball and principal office shenanigans with him — held his newborn son at the table. That friend was my locker buddy, and his dad was locker buddies with my dad, and it just occurred to me that the baby boy he was bouncing could very likely be locker buddies with our baby, too.

(Would it be more or less trouble if our baby is a girl?)

And there are quite a few stories like this in my hometown these days, not just among our small class of 40 or so, but among other classes here as well. Best friends from childhood raising families alongside one another, taking turns driving kids to football or gymnastics, meeting up to barbecue, to sit and visit with a sort of ease and familiarity that comes with knowing one another when we wore our pants too baggy and drove too fast.

Who would have known? When I left home almost 15 years ago, the porch lights on the farmhouses were going out one by one. This landscape was so much darker without any real hope of new and younger hands to flip the switch back on.

And nothing was going to make it any different except a change in the makeup of this place that would make it so we wouldn’t have to struggle the way our parents did.

Around the supper table that evening there wasn’t a person raised here who didn’t respect and love it in their own way. But just because we’re connected by the land doesn’t necessarily mean that we would naturally remain connected to one another.

Except in this case it is enough, to find this place worthy of returning to and planting new seeds, a new generation raised in a familiar, changing and unpredictable place.

Sunday Column: The good ‘ol fashioned coffee break…

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In this time of texting, messaging, emailing, Instagramming, Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Parascoping and all of the other digital ways I haven’t learned about yet that allow us to communicate with the entire world with a click of a button, sometimes it just really nice to have a friend that will drive 30 miles out of her way (with soup) for a good ‘ol fashioned visit.
Because of all of the things we might invent to bring us closer, nothing compares to the original–sitting close and hearing each other laugh out loud.

Coming Home: Impromptu visits still important in modern, hectic life

by Jessie Veeder
10-12-15


Forum Communication

www.inforum.com

Last week, a friend drove from town with her young son and a pot of soup to our house in the middle of nowhere on a mission to have a lunch date.

It was a regular Monday afternoon, and I was working from home. When I work from home, I don’t get things like “lunch dates.”

Because I can’t just pop out to my favorite sandwich place to meet a friend.

No.

Out here, my lunch date is watching the cows walk by the yard on their way to the dam to water as I sit down in front of my computer with a summer sausage sandwich I threw together in haste.

So needless to say, it was nice to have company, a cheerful face with a red-headed toddler in tow to liven up this empty midday house a bit.

It was a simple gesture, one that had us chatting about mommyhood and our growing town, the nice fall weather and the story about how my husband and I got the pickup stuck smack in the middle of a muddy road the night before and had to be pulled out. Because it’s been raining, and this is still a wild and inconveniently unpredictable place sometimes, despite and because of oil industry action.

And this wild place doesn’t typically lend itself to town friends making the long trip out just for a quick visit and a bowl of soup. Usually it’s the other way around, and then when we get to town, we make sure to stop at the bank, get some groceries, grab a piece for the broken water tank at Tractor Supply and generally try to fit in what we can before heading back home.

But my friend’s visit got me thinking about lunch dates and coffee breaks and how we’re spending our suppertime and our downtime. If you look at it all together, those little in-between moments, the pauses in the work and the regular routine, add up to some of the really good (and dare I say best) parts of our lives.

What are we doing with those little moments? Who are we spending them with?

Now, I remember a lot of things about growing up out here — the freedom to roam about and play in the hills, riding horses and chasing cows, big birthday parties and family gatherings — but what holds unexpectedly warm memories for me are the coffee visits.

As a kid, of course, I wasn’t there for the coffee. I would tag along with my parents up the hill to the neighbors’ for a chance to play with my friends on their tire swing before coming in for a glass of Kool-Aid and catching pieces of conversation and laughter coming from the adults sitting around the counter.

From them we learned about humor and gossip and what it sounds like to offer up help, concern and well-intended advice. We learned how to weave a story and get to the punch line, we learned what trust looked like, and we learned that you should keep cookies or bars around, especially on the weekends, in case someone stops by.

And in all of those lessons learned over Kool-Aid and coffee, I can’t help but wonder now, in this fast-paced world I’ve found myself in, did I hold on tight enough to the lesson of simple time spent together? Messy house or clean. Work done or work looming. Who cares if you’re caught in your ugly cleaning sweatpants on a Saturday morning?

I feel like in the hectic schedule we’ve made for ourselves, riddled with deadlines and ranch work and housework, I might have slowly lost the art and importance of the impromptu visit.

With a baby on the way, somehow my friend’s visit, with her toddler and his backpack full of toy cars in tow, reminded me of the importance of doors open, coffee on and simply swinging by, no matter how far down that highway a neighbor is.

Because this busy life we’ve created isn’t just about tasks and goals, but about feeding our souls with a homemade cookie and a little conversation to remind us we’re in it together.

So keep the coffee on, friends, we’re coming over.

road 2

In between seasons

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“You should have seen it out in the east pasture,” Husband told me when he got in from searching for stray bulls last week. “It was so colorful, like God dropped a bag of Skittles from the sky.”

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It was an adorable statement coming from the scruffy, sorta smelly man sitting next to me.

And I was immediately jealous.

Although I can see it from outside my windows and on my slow strolls on the trails there’s nothing like experiencing fall on the back of a horse.

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So Monday I did the next best thing and convinced Husband to take a little 4-wheeler drive with me to our favorite pasture so I could take photos from the tops of the hills and feel like I got my fix of it.

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He never says no to ideas like this. It means that he doesn’t have to be cooped up in the basement putting up walls and wiring and things like that. It means that he can spend a little more time behind those binoculars looking for elk or deer or coyotes or mountain lions or whatever a man hopes to find on the other side of the glass.

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I never hope to find a mountain lion.

That’s one difference between the two of us I guess.

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Now a 4-wheeler these days isn’t my preferred mode of transportation. Every bump and wiggle sort of bounces me and this baby I’m cooking the wrong way, although she doesn’t seem to mind, because when we’re moving is the only time she’s sitting still.

And that’s terrifying and reassuring all at the same time.

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But all that bumping around sends me popping a squat behind a bullberry bush at least once before I make it back to our front door.

If I need help initiating labor, I tell you, I know every stubble field and bumpy trail we can ride across to move it along. Let’ s hope that it doesn’t come to that.

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But oh, it was worth it to take the trip back there. Everything is so gold it’s almost unreal. I kept checking my camera to make sure it was on the right setting, as if my eyes were lying to me.

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But they weren’t. It’s just plain beautiful out here in this prolonged fall we’ve been given. Usually by now we might have already had a dusting of snow or a couple pretty chilly days, but not this year. This year my garden’s still growing, the sun is still shining a nice and comfortable 70+ degrees and the flies are still somehow finding their annoying way in to this house through some mysterious crack somewhere so they can die on the tallest and hardest to clean window ledge in the entire place.

Ah, it’s country living at its finest. IMG_6299

When the sun started to cast long shadows and darken the valleys we headed toward home in the rapidly dropping temperature. That’s the thing about fall, it goes from 39 degrees, to 70 and back to 39 in a short 12 hour period. I was starting to wish for my mittens when Husband stopped his 4-wheeler by the place we cut our first Christmas tree as a married couple.

And got the pickup stuck to the floorboards in the snow.

And rocked and pushed and spun so much that our poor new puppy Hondo got sick and shit all over the pickup.

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“Remember this spot?” he asked.

“I sure do,” I said.

“There’s a tree right there,” he said as he pointed to a 20 foot cedar, big enough to bring to Times Square.

“There will be no Charley Brown, spindly Christmas tree this year. Not for this kid’s first Christmas,” he said.

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I shook my head and we bounced along our merry way, in between seasons, in the weather and in our lives.

In the calm before the storm, the warm before the cool down,

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The wait before everything changes…

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Watch my “Work (Girl)” Music Video
off my new Nashville album “Northern Lights” 

Sunday Column: Husband’s Homemade Garden Tomato Soup

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The weather’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing and the tomato crop is ripening. Fall is in the air and that means sweaters and boots and soups for supper.

It’s perfect timing for the last few months of this pregnancy. I might as well load up on cream based broth and hearty ingredients accompanied by thick slices of bread or cheese sandwiches while it’s perfectly acceptable for my waistline to be thickening and my wardrobe consists of plenty of stretchy pants.

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So we’ve kicked soup season off right around here by visiting the garden and revisiting the homemade tomato soup recipe Husband concocted during the first fall  back home.

After a few years I think this September soup is a tradition now. I’ve shared the step by step, photographic journey documented in the tiny kitchen of the old ranch house on my blog every year, but this year I thought it was time I put it in the papers so the whole state would get a chance to do something really great with their tomato crop.

And last night we made it again, just shifting the ingredients a bit (celery salt instead of celery seed and skipping the dill weed because I couldn’t find it in the mess of my spice cabinet) and it turned out just lovely, just like it does every year. Little Sister was over to help me with a project, we called up mom and Pops and Husband started making up some sort of spectacular ham and cheese sandwich with like four different cheeses and we had ourselves a little Sunday feast.

And now I’m going to have to have him make those sandwiches again so I can follow him around and write that shit down, because well, we all need more versions of the grilled cheese in our lives…

So cheers to growing babies, waistlines and tomatoes. I hope you give yourself a chance to stir up this soup and sit down and enjoy it with the people (and a sandwich) you love.

Coming Home: Husband’s kitchen skills and
heavy cream make most of tomato crop
by Jessie Veeder

9-27-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

There are many things I like about our new season — more cool days, changing colors and cozy sweaters, and less bugs, lawn mowing and sweat.

Also, recently, fall means cool air coming in from the open windows at night and more reasons to steal my husband’s big flannels from his closet on my way out the door to take photographs before the sun sets on this quickly changing season.

Yes, these longer nights have their benefits. Like, my husband and I will be seeing a little more of each other across the supper table these days because supper time isn’t being ignored while we’re out in the barnyard or in the pasture somewhere squeezing every minute of sunlight from the day.

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And more time at the supper table means more time spent in the kitchen with the man I married who happens to be really good at cooking things like homemade noodles and casseroles and German heritage dishes and other things that require a large dollop of butter and an even bigger swig of heavy whipping cream — a requirement, I guess, if we want to pad up our rear ends in preparation for a long cold winter.

And it’s no coincidence that soup season comes rolling at the same time the tomato crop starts turning red, which only means that the man has been forced to come up with a delicious way to celebrate them.

And when I say forced, I mean “gently” persuaded by a growing pile of ripening tomatoes on the kitchen counter and a pregnant wife declaring that she’s starving over here.

So to honor it all, the changing season, my tomato crop, unwavering appetite, affinity for heavy whipping cream and my husband’s kitchen skills, I would like to share a recipe he concocted during our first autumn spent back at the ranch.

After finding me in the kitchen stomping, whining and nearly losing an eye to a jalapeño pepper after my first attempt at the age-old-tradition of salsa making, only to clean it all up, put my hands on my hips, reach for my goggles and declare that I was now going to attempt tomato soup — 8 p.m. — I think he felt the need to run interference.

And so I ditched the goggles, picked up a pen and followed him around the kitchen as he whipped up a little piece of heaven right there on the very same table where I was nearly murdered by that jalapeño pepper.

And I’m so glad that I did, because the thing with my husband’s cooking is that it’s all in his head, like a story or a song. If it’s not written down, the melody might change a bit or the plot might thicken sooner the next time around.

But I captured it in its original perfection and now we make it a tradition year after year.

‘Tis the season! May your tomatoes never be stranded again. Enjoy!

Cowboy’s Garden Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup (about 3 medium carrots) diced
  • ¼ of a large purple onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 12-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream (room temperature)

Directions

In a large soup pot add the diced tomatoes, carrots, onion and garlic to ¼ cup water and simmer on low for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the tomatoes start to gently boil. Stir in the tomato sauce, butter, seasonings and bouillon cubes and simmer the soup on low, allowing the onions and carrots to cook, about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, slowly stir in the heavy whipping cream and say “M’m! M’m! Good!” while Campbell sobs silently to himself.

Heat (don’t boil) for a few minutes, serve it up and have yourself a happy and well-fed fall.