I can’t be trusted with spring…

Summer arrived here for a minute or two this weekend.

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

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

I eat grilled brats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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

And, I, uh, well…

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I do shit like this…

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

predicaments like these…(Cue Prince Charming…)

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

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

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

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Larry on the Prairie

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

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His name is Larry.

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

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

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

But don’t tell Larry that.

Because Larry don’t care.

Larry does what he wants.

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

Yup. This is Larry.

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

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You’re welcome world. You’re welcome.

A second with Gus the cow dog.

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

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

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And every minute of his life is chaos.

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Because he never sleeps.

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

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

Gus isn’t really into snuggling.

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

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

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

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It’s pretty traumatic.

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

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

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He looks like a gremlin.

And well, he sorta is…

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

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

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

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

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

If you need us we’ll be out in it…

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Summer, I miss your face.

And now for a weather report.

It’s -2.

March is coming in like a cold and bitter lamb and it’s making me a cold and bitter woman.

Just freezing.

But even though landscape looks a lot like this these days…

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it’s hard to believe that in a few months it will turn from gray to green right in front of our eyes.

I can just smell the clover now. By June, we’ll be rolling in it.

By May we’ll be thawed out and warmed up.

By April we’ll spot our first wild flower.

But March? March suffers from mood swings. So I decided I’d have my own today.

I decided that while I’m freezing on the outside, at least my daydreams can be warm.

Summer!!!! I miss your face!!!!

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Lake Sakakawea Sunset

North Dakota Badlands

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There. Now you miss summer too.

Isn’t it nice to all be on the same page?

Sunday Column: How do you measure the value of art?

I’ve had the privilege during the last few weekends of February to be involved in a variety of celebrations focused on music.

Last weekend, for example, I was one of dozens of local musicians who stood on the stage and sang our own versions of Bob Dylan tunes as part of the first ever Dylan Fest, an effort to applaud a man of prolific talent with a broad scope of influence.

The weekend before I stood on the same stage to sing and celebrate women and the wide variety of music that lives in us.

And then I moved down the street and shared the stage with those women as we celebrated songwriting.

The day before I had been in our capitol city celebrating North Dakota musicians. And after the awards ceremony, I gathered with my band on a small stage for an after party where we found ourselves surrounded by musicians of every genre singing along, collaborating and sharing that stage together in the name of camaraderie and respect for our work and an overall passion for words and notes and dancing along for the love of it all.

I have to say, for a woman who has been performing most all of my life, I continue to be surprised by the way music can gather people together of all different ages and backgrounds and stories and experiences and hold us there, connecting us in the moment.

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It happened last weekend on a big stage and it happened for me on a smaller stage later that day where I found that I had collected a drummer and a lead guitar player from Bismarck and paired them with a bass player from Fargo and a steel guitar player from Minneapolis and we mixed it all up with a rancher from Western North Dakota and his daughter, the writer and singer who had the big idea for the whole shenanigan in the first place.

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In that restaurant in Fargo in the middle of city streets in the middle of winter there were a hundred different stories and a hundred different reasons why we all found ourselves there—a birthday party, a gathering of friends, a drink after work, a chance to hear something new—but there we were, not just in the same room, but nodding our heads and clapping our hands and sharing our stories and toasting and drinking and living in the moment together.

And man did we have fun, the six of us misfits fitting nicely together up at the front of that room singing songs I wrote that some of them had never even played before that night.

And then old familiar tunes that we could all sing along with.

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These experiences just keep getting better and more meaningful to me as an artist. And I’m not sure why except to say I have begun to realize how special they are, not only as an artist, but as the person who has sat in a crowd and found myself so moved by what someone else had to say.

Because not only did it make me feel like I wasn’t alone, but because it meant that they weren’t either.

And so I’ve been thinking lately about the value of that moment and how important it is for a community to cultivate it.

Because some of the best moments of my life have been built by music.

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Some of the hardest have been processed through the same medium.

And if there wasn’t a song to reflect it all, well, then I have always been compelled to make one for myself.

So how do we measure the worth of such a thing?

Coming Home: The value of art, music not easy to measure
by Jessie Veeder
3-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Photo by Chad Nodland

For more information on my music and
the upcoming release of my new album “Northern Lights” visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

My column appears weekly in newspapers across the state of North Dakota. If you’re interested in running my work, please contact me at jessieveeder@gmail.com 

Sunday Column: My great grandmother was Strong Man Johnson

A few weeks ago I gathered a group of women together for coffee and a visit at the pioneer museum in town. I was asked to craft a story that featured farm woman advice for city girls and, while I had a few ideas, I thought it would be wise to get the conversation flowing from  the minds and experiences of women of all generations.

So I called my friend Jan, who grew up with my dad on a ranch down the road, and she called her mother, the woman who raised her out there, and taught Jan enough about making chokecherry syrup and canning salsa that Jan could be of help to me in one of my  “canning emergencies…”

The two women joined me, my mom and another three generations of women to talk work and worry, weather and washing machines and what it was like, and what it is like,  to raise children and crops and cattle out here on the edge of the badlands.

Really, I could have stayed with them chatting all day and into the night. The history and knowledge, the fortitude and respect and connection to place was palpable. But so was the humility. They were all so humble when faced with questions about their accomplishment and hardships on a land and under a sky that could be so beautiful and so brutal all at once.

I asked them what they learned out there so far away from the conveniences of town, and what it was like without the help of today’s modern technology when there was so much on the line.

My friend’s grandmother, who homesteaded her place, and then helped her sister follow suit before falling in love with a town boy and moving him out to the farm with her, gave the end all answer:

“You just roll up your sleeves and do what has to be done. There is no other choice.”

And so this has been on my mind as I’m working to extract all the wisdom and lessons and strength in these women’s’ stories.

And I’ve been thinking of my own grandmother, and her mother, a first generation Norwegian immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island when she was only 16 and made her way west to Minnesota before marrying and moving out to their homestead in Western North Dakota when she was only 18.

She raised twelve children and lived well into her 90s.

I was a young girl when she died, but I do remember visits to her room in her nursing home, her teasing the grandkids with her cane and this photo that set on her night stand, the youngest on her husband’s lap added to the photo later to make the family complete. My grandma Edie, dad’s mother,  is the girl in the middle with the bow.

I wish I would have been old enough to ask her things. I wish I would have known her.

Now all I have is stories and other people’s memories, my dad’s particularly, of a woman who used to call herself “Strong Man Johnson” before heading out the door of the house and pretending to lift it off its foundation at the grandkids’ delight and horror.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. My Great Grandmother Gudrun, Strong Man Johnson.

Coming Home: Winters on the prairies took immense strength
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

And now, after it’s been published, I’ve received a few emails from those who knew her, one in particular from a woman who cared for her in the nursing home and remember’s Gudrun’s story of baking five loaves a bread every day.

The spirit of these women drives me. It inspires me and it reminds me that I am braver and more capable than I think I am. Because it’s in this heart that pumps this blood, the blood of strong women.

May we raise them. May we praise them. May we be them.

My grandma Edie. One of Gudrun’s five daughters

Getting Dressed. The hardest part about my job.

Good Morning. I’m writing to you from my hotel room bed, instead of my comfy chair with the cat sitting on my keyboard.

I’m on the road in the eastern part of the state for the rest of the week singing for my supper. And it just happens to be gearing up to be the coldest days we’ve had all winter.

Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 9.37.01 AMYup, that there says it “Feels Like -32″

And I can’t wear my snow suit on stage.

I swear. That’s the hardest part about the whole music thing some days. Deciding what to wear. I mean, the pressure is just too great.

And so I bring everything…and then that creates another problem that has to do with getting myself in and out of hotel rooms in an efficient manner.

I generally have a rule with my packing when I’m traveling alone that goes something like: Only pack as many bags and shit that I can carry up to my room on my own in one trip.

I’ve spent plenty of time in my life traveling from hotel room to hotel room alone so I know how annoying lugging stuff can be.

Especially when that stuff includes a giant guitar, computer, camera, purse, and bags of clothes and coats and makeup and seventeen different giant bottles of hair care products and another three or four pair of boots, which sucks because I like need all of those boots, but they take up so much damn room.

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But I can usually get it all: Three or four bags thrown over my shoulders, a purse in the crook of my arm, a pair or two of boots in my armpits, a wheelie suitcase behind me and my guitar in my left hand.

God forbid they put me on the far end of the hotel on seventh floor like they have today.

By the time I get up to my nook of the world, I’ve gone from freezing, to thawed out to sweating to panting to full blown aggravation with myself and society at the fact that we can’t just all agree on one uniform and go with it.

Would be so much easier.

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Anyway, I’m looking around my room this morning before I make an attempt to put myself together for a four hour drive to the next town and am wondering how I got this all up here…because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to give in and get one of those carts from the lobby and drag my world back downstairs and across the frozen parking lot and back into my frozen car.

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Because I don’t have enough arms for this.

And then, when I get dressed tonight, I’m going to have to call my mother or my sister to reassure me that I’m not too old to wear sequins on my boots…or my skirt.

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Because I feel like I might be too old it, but at the same time, I also feel like if a girl has a chance in her life to wear sequins, she might as well just wear it.

Right?

These are the conversations I have with myself on the open road, between singing along to my iPod, getting depressed about the disappearance of the Dixie Chicks, eating an unhealthy amount of Gardettos, and coming up with elaborate and unrealistic plans for music videos or writing projects or neighborhood sledding parties…

Anyway. Tonight Husband is meeting up with me for the North Dakota Music Awards, and so is the band and my parents, so I’ll have some people to help me carry my shit, and drink vodka with and talk me out of all of my plans….

In the meantime, don’t you just wish you were here right now? Singing on the back of a horse drawn wagon in the middle of summer on your way to eat a homemade meal behind a tree row in a field.

Me too.

But this weekend’s gonna be fun. It’ll be cold outside, but we’ll be warming it up with some great music and celebration inside. If you’re in the Bismarck, ND area tonight or Fargo, ND this weekend I hope to see you out and about!

Thursday, February 19

North Dakota Music Awards
Belle Mehus Auditorium
7 PM
(I won’t be performing, but there are many great acts. Will be a fun night!)

   with Outlaw Sippin’
Side B
Bismarck, ND

Saturday, February 21

18th Annual Celebration of Women and Their Music
6 PM
Historic Fargo Theater
Downtown Fargo
www.debjenkins.com/celebrationofwomen.html

Saturday, February 21-Post Show

18th Annual Celebration of Women and their Music
Post Show Songwriting Round
9pm-11pm
Studio 222
Fargo, ND
With: Nita Velo, Jessie Veeder, Natalie Shaw (award winner), Reina del cid  (with Tony Lindgren) & Chastity Brown

For more music updates, visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

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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Sunday Column: Being human

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Winter showed up again this weekend. It was to be expected.

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We watched the snow blow sideways across the sky and into the black trees.

I hunkered down on the loveseat next to my husband under the furry blanket and we watched “Legends of the Fall.” And then, as I do every time we watch our favorite movie, I got depressed about the plight of man. It was sort of fitting though, because it’s been on my mind for the last few weeks, the sort of struggle we face here, how even when we do our best, sometimes it isn’t good enough. Sometimes no matter how we wish and hope and pray and work, it just doesn’t work out the way we had imagined. We’ve all been there. Husband and I have been spending time talking about this lately, about people’s stories, about the news of the world and our community and how it’s hard to get facts straight these days, how it’s hard to distinguish opinions from the truth and how sometimes it’s a struggle to find any positive perspectives.

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I worry that we’re getting disconnected from reality.

I worry that we stare at our cell phones and our television screens and we live our lives through photos and commentary instead of observing and wondering and speaking for ourselves.

I worry not enough people in this great country get their hands truly dirty or understand what it really takes to put food in our mouths.

I worry that we’re not spending enough time talking to each other and too much time talking at one another.

And then I worry that we’re not listening.

I worry that we’re getting harder instead of stronger…

IMG_0210 These are things I say over lasagna at our kitchen counter with the news turned low on the television and a long winter night stretching out before us.

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And then Husband reminds me that we are animals, animals who were somehow born with the ability to love and the ability to hate…and this gift of language and reason and religion and philosophy complicates and pulls at our simple instinct to survive.

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The coyotes who howl outside my window at night and get a little too close to the house in the morning. these animals don’t know good or evil. They know danger. They know motherly instinct. They know what they need to know to survive. What a gift and what a burden it is some days to be human. To feel somehow responsible to these coyotes and to the landscape, to the cattle who feed there and to the people we know…and those we never will.

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When I was a young girl, growing up and starting to realize that life wasn’t always a frolic in the oak trees, that most days your responsibilities were going to weigh on you, and that was what it meant to grow up, I remember wishing that I was one of those cows standing out in our pasture munching on green grass and knowing nothing different. Knowing no deadlines, or dirty dishes piled up, or the dull ache of your mistakes or the pain of losing someone.
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I just wanted to be a cow. Well, maybe a cow in California where the weather never dropped below 70 degrees and sunny. Or a snapping turtle sunning himself on the rock in the beaver dam out back, the one who lived for a hundred years, and spent the winter sleeping.

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Or the house cat sitting on mom’s lap concerned with nothing but getting a scratch behind the ears.

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Because I knew it then, as I know it now. Some days the business of being human is overwhelming, and being that muley doe coming in for a drink at the dam at the end of a week-long January thaw looks about as close to peace as you’ve ever seen while living life in your human skin…

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Coming Home: Promises made as we look toward spring
by Jessie Veeder
2-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Spring in Winter.

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While the east coast braced themselves for a winter storm that was promising to be so epic they actually gave it a name, North Dakotans were out in shorts and tank tops watching the January snow turn into mud in 50+ degree weather.

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The weather this week has been so gloriously warm that it is starting to freak us all out a little bit. I mean, we’re definitely grateful, and we definitely know that a good ‘ol ND winter cold snap is coming again soon, but it’s a little eerie to have summer-like temperatures in the middle of winter. We feel like maybe we’re being tricked.

We look at each other and say, well, we’re going to pay for this later aren’t we?

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But what the hell. For once, we’re on the warm side of the weather news up here in the tundra, so you can bet we went out and made the most of it.

And by making the most of it, I mean, scraping all of the ice and snow off of our driveway and marveling at the fact that it’s no longer a skating rink/hip-breaking zone…for now anyway. And then opening up the garage doors and sweeping and rearranging and building steps and wiring…

And while Husband was doing all that, I decided to take a 4-wheeler ride up to the fields where I knew I would find the horses.

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I’m still battling the cold of the year, my theory being that all of the germs have thawed out and traveled to my lungs to torture me, so I definitely wasn’t walking anywhere…or sweeping anything…or holding any boards…or helping my dearly beloved do anything useful.

Nope. Too sick.

But not too sick to pull my beanie down over my ears and head for the hills on a motorized vehicle, the dogs and I kicking up mud as we followed the road up to the flat.

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Up here the weather is a freak, so even with the plague, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to feel some warm sunshine on my shoulders, because I know full well I might not have another chance for a while, memories of last winter’s months long sub-zero deep freeze are still pretty vivid.

And while I’m hoping for more snow before the summer rolls in, it was nice to see the golden grass and feel the warm air for a bit.

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And it was nice to see the boys, content and fat and fuzzy and full of burs up there in the fields munching and chill as they let the same sun warm their backs.

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I mean, they were so relaxed that none of them really attempted to drop-kick Gus out of their way as he sniffed and frolicked around them, getting to know these creatures he’ll be riding with this summer.

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I think maybe these horses feel like they’re on a tropical winter vacation up here in these fields…all you can eat buffet…warm weather…no work to be done for months.

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Ah, winter, if you stayed like this for a while I think we could all manage just fine.

But before you make any real commitments, why don’t you go ahead and send one more freeze to kill off this bug and a big snow to get my sledding hill ready, to fill up the creeks and dams and nourish the wildflowers and grass for spring.

Not that I don’t appreciate the break, but, you know, winter we all have a job to do up here…and you’re laid back attitude is sorta freaking us out…

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