The Christmas Tree Plan

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This is what -2 with a -100 wind chill looks like.

Don’t let the sunshine fool you.

And so the scene is set…

Ahem…

‘Twas the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and one of the last free weekends Husband and I have in December to spend traipsing around our countryside on the hunt for a tree.

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So it didn’t matter that our blood could freeze right there in our veins, or that our eyeballs could turn to ice cubes, our snot into icicles dangling from on our nostrils. It didn’t matter that our very lives were in danger of being taken by Jack Frost himself, we were gonna get my darn tree.

We were gonna put on 37 layers of clothes, load up in the new/old feed pickup,

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turn off of the gravel and onto the dirt/compacted snow/ice trail, drive really slow and discuss our options while looking out the window.

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We were going to spot a couple potential spruce bushes relatively close to one another on the side of the buttes, park the pickup, avoid a puppy-cicle and leave Gus inside, grab the saw from the back, trudge up the hill to the first option

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and mumble into our scarves with our eyes half open (you know, to avoid the whole icicle thing) about the potential of a tree that is a 10-foot tall version of Charlie Brown’s, but has possibilities really, because, well, it’s here and we might freeze to death if we stay out much longer weighing our options.

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But then we’re going to decide to risk it, spot another tree down the hill, walk over to discover it’s the same size as the one in Rockefeller Center and consider the possibility of building an addition to accommodate, because, well, there’s that whole freezing to death thing we’ll still be dealing with before I will turn my face toward the sun to discover one last option blowing in the wind among thorn bushes a quarter mile away.

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So I’ll decide we’ll never feel our legs again anyway and we might very well lose our noses to frostbite, but we might as well assess the bushy little tree, decide it’s not so bad, decide it will work just fine before Husband will stomp down the thorn bushes and start after the trunk with his battery-operated saw with a battery that lasts approximately 3 seconds at a time, you know, apparently death-defying cold applies to power tools too…

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And we are going to finally get the thing down after one big push, drag it to the the pickup a half a mile away,

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decide we might be dying, throw the tree on the flatbed, open the doors, get back inside the pickup, crank up the heat, blow our noses that will be miraculously still attached to our faces, and head back down the road toward home.

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Then we are going to get one mile from home and Husband is going to stop the pickup in the middle of the road, get out, run to the ditch and drag the tree back on the flatbed.

And when we arrive at home, we are going to put the tree in the basement to thaw out, I’m going to say goodbye to Husband who is crazy enough to put on one more layer and sit out in his hunting blind for the rest of the day, then I will pour myself a cup of coffee, consider adding whiskey, make plans for an evening decorating mission, because it will take me a good three to five hours to feel my fingers again and call it a Merry Merry Christmas.

That’s the plan.

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Fa-la-la-la-lahhh-la-la-la-laaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Sunday Column: The hunt

Deer on horizonWhen I was growing up, Pops would take us hunting out in these hills surrounding the house and the barnyard. He grew up out here, scouting and sneaking and watching the animals and how they move through the valley. He’s never lost his fascination and appreciation for the way they can survive and thrive out here, even in the middle of the harshest winters.

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He studies them, their patterns, how the big buck spends his days bedded down in the bull berries, where the group of does and fawns water in the morning. He taught us how to tell the difference between a whitetail and a mule deer.

He made sure to note the direction of the wind and why it mattered.

He geared us up with blaze orange and we went sneaking over the hill, crawling on our bellies.

He packed jerky in his pockets. Coffee in a thermos in the pickup.

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When the time was right, he taught us to shoot. When we were old enough we took hunter’s safety through our shop courses in school and we went out and took our own animal. He mounted the horns for us. He was proud.

Pops remembers every deer taken on this place. Where we were. Who was with him. How cold it was.

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He keeps a book of photos from the hunts, dating back to when he was a young man, hunting with his uncles, with his dad, with his young kids and now with grown daughters and the man I married.

Deer Hunting

When my uncle was here a few weeks back, I went out with Husband on a bow hunt in the east pasture before the snow fell. We all paired off, two hunters in each corner of the place. I followed along and couldn’t help but think of all the stories swapped around the kitchen table the evening before. The memories attached to all of these trails, all of these hilltops, all of the breath held in the wind out here is not so much about the animal taken, although it’s never taken for granted, but more about the time spent together in the quiet of  a place so special to us.

Here’s one of my favorite memories…

Coming Home: Cold winter memories warm the heart
by Jessie Veeder
11-30-14
Fargo Forum/Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: Winter and heavy whipping cream…

IMG_9739Out here, in this season, snow comes and goes quickly. We froze our butts off early last week, only to be welcomed by a thaw at the end of it, followed by 30 mph winds that blew the snow sideways on Sunday.

Coincidently this is also the day we chose to clean out the shop and our basement, sending me winging boxes of unusable crap into the garbage pit only to have it all fly back into my face…like three of four times…before I decided to approach the whole chore from the opposite direction. You know, wind at my back…always the right choice.

A choice made after almost the entire contents in the back of the pickup blew out across the prairie on my way to the dump, sending me flailing after it.

A choice made after the old pickup without a parking brake nearly rolled into said garbage pit while my back was turned, you know, flinging things.

Winter. Some days you’re such a bitch.

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Oh, but we have ways of coping around here.

Because when the season of snow-pelting-you-so-hard-in-the-eyeballs-they-threaten-to- freeze-shut is upon us, we strip off our forty-seven layers and head to the kitchen to whip up something warm, preferably with noodles and heavy whipping cream.

Yes, if we have to have winter, at least we have heavy whipping cream to get us through.

IMG_9779So that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s about the recipes Husband and I concoct in our little kitchen to pass the time on long winter nights.

Coming Home: Bring on the heavy cream, butter and winter weather
by Jessie Veeder
11-23-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_2906And I realize that the holiday season is just starting, and we have a trip to Cabo in the works to help ring in the new year, so really, I should just take it easy and have a salad for gawd sake, but for some reason the thought of squeezing my pasty white squishy body in a bathing suit in a month or so is not scary enough to keep me from a second helping of Husband’s famous cream noodles.

Yes. You read it up there. Homemade noodles fried and smothered in cream.

There’s that. And then there’s the two giant pots of knoephla soup mom and I cooked up for the crew of hunters/family this weekend. And yes, it was me who convinced her to add another pot.

Because you can’t have enough creamy soup. You can’t have too much! You can always save it and have it for lunch every day until Christmas!

Want to see how it’s done? I show ya here:
Cowboy Cooks Knoephla

And don’t even get me started on the traditional holiday cheese ball I’ll be concocting on Thursday…

Or the fact that all I want for breakfast for the rest of my life is a caramel roll followed by a donut washed down with seven cups of coffee.

Because it’s winter and I’m ssstttaarrrvvinnnggg.

It’s winter and my primal instincts are kicking in.

“Stock up, stock up, stock up…” they whisper. “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from.”

And I believe the voices. Even though I do.

I do know where my next meal is coming from.

It’s coming from my refrigerator and from the imagination of the man with deep German immigrant roots who can make anything with enough butter, flour, cream, potatoes and a side of pork.

Ugh, I’m so hungry. I can’t wait until 6:00.

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A Girl Needs a Dog: Music Video Submissions

One of my favorite parts about making and performing music is meeting the people who have found they can relate to the songs I write. I’ve been performing out and about in support of my last album “Nothing’s Forever” since it’s release in 2012.

Since then I’ve hosted CD release parties, been hired as the opening act for big names, have been the main event myself, joined up with another band of great musicians, sat around campfires and house parties, performed at bars, major events, and festivals surrounded by so much intimidating talent it made my heart beat out of my chest and,

of course, met hundreds of wonderful people along the way who take the time to tell me that they can relate…

To the songs about rural living. To the cowboys in the music. To leaving the light on for the people they love. To the weather so cold it freezes your bones. To the loneliness for a familiar place. To being so happy you have to sing it louder.

To their story told in Boomtown.

And then, my favorite, your response to A Girl Needs a Dog.

What was a fun, catchy song that almost didn’t make it on the album surprisingly turned into an anthem for the women out there listening and singing along, thinking about all the times that dog of hers was the only one who got it.

The only one who understood when there were no words.

Me and the dog in the grassThe one who comes with her to clear her head on a walk through the trees. An every day companion.

PudgeThe most loyal. The most sincere. One of her favorite things about this life, even when he poops on her rug or chews her favorite pair of boots or tears through the kitchen screen door in a thunderstorm.

IMG_8585 With each show, after talking to the crowd and watching you sing along,  I understood more and more that this song needed to be written. It was a story that hadn’t really been told yet. A simple one, but apparently, an experience many of us share.

A girl needs a dog in times like these
Some hope and a plan
Clarity
A girl needs a bike or her own car keys
A girl needs a dog
A girl needs a dog

You showed me photos of your pets, sent me emails with stories about how the two of you found each other. There were labs and shitzus, mutts, poodles, an array of cow dogs, dozens of pugs and even one missing an eye like my lost but not forgotten Chug the Pug.

ChugYou told me about your daughter and how she begged for a puppy. You sent the song on to your nieces and granddaughters. Your sister who brings her Chihuahua everywhere.

What a thing to come together in the name of a song about a dog.

Dog in the stock tank But as much as this song is about our furry companions, it was written as an anthem to a girl finding her independence and being comfortable and strong in it. And sometimes, when you’re unsure about it all, that dog helps hold us up a little.

That’s what I think anyway.

Turns out, that’s what you think too.

Anyway, in a few weeks I’m heading to Nashville to record another album. Since the release of “Nothing’s Forever”, I’ve been writing and re-writing and putting new songs together, songs that will mark a different time here in this place that I love, a place that’s changing every day, but still so much a piece of me.

There will be stories in these songs about loss and hope, love and home and work and the rain pouring down on a hot summer day.

But before I move on to the next project, I want to finish this one. I need to make “A Girl Needs a Dog” come to life.

IMG_8905 So here’s the plan. I need your help. I want to see you with your pooch in action and I want to feature you in a video for the song. You know your dog is the best, so why not show her off?!

So here’s the task my loyal listeners with loyal canine companions. Send a video clip (video is preferred) or photo of you and your dog (or your sister and her dog, or your wife and her dog, or your daughter and her dog…you get the point) working, playing, getting into trouble or just hanging out to jessieveeder@gmail.com and I will feature them in a music video for “A Girl Needs a Dog.” 

To thank you for your help in this effort, the first fifteen women who shares her video/photo will receive a free “A Girl Needs a Dog” t-shirt featuring a sketch of the beautiful one-eyed pug. Simply include your address and size in the email (M, L, XL, 2XL)

The rest of you will receive a free track of the song as a thanks for sharing, and of course, world wide fame for you and your beloved pooch in the video.

Thank you for helping to make this song come to life and for celebrating and taking such good care of all of those awesome dogs out there.

I’m sure they’re so happy to be taking care of you too.

I can’t wait to see you all on the big screen.

Peace and puppy love,

Jessie, Hondo and Gus

Jessie and Dogs

Colder.

IMG_9959It’s cold.

10 degrees and it looks like that’s where it’s gonna stay. All day. The rest of the week.

I wanna snuggle up in a big ‘ol pile with this kitten and all my blankets.

IMG_9944It’s funny how fast the seasons shift around here. I’ve lived here long enough to expect it, but just a few days ago it was sunny and mild and the hilltops were gold and we were walking around saying, “What a beautiful fall we’ve been having!” “Aren’t we lucky!”

IMG_1218And then, overnight…

IMG_0155Below zero temperatures. Icy roads, people trying to remember where they put their favorite scarf. Hat. Mittens.

IMG_0160I hauled the giant tub of winter gear upstairs to sort through. Ordered a new pair of snow boots.  

Took the dogs for a walk.

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Turned around after five minutes and went back inside.

Shit. It’s cold.

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I’m not ready for this.

The dam is froze up. Ranchers are breaking ice and feeding hay.

IMG_9961I am making plans for soup for dinner every night for the next six months.

I even went to craft club and attempted to make mittens out of an old sweater.

I hadn’t used a sewing machine since I nearly failed Home Ec. in the 8th grade. This time it didn’t go much better.

I required assistance. A lot of assistance. And the mittens, well, one is done. Sorta. I might need to call Martha Stewart…and pour a drink…

Winter

But these are the things people out here do in the winter. They have hobbies. Or create new ones that will help them pass the time in the dark and cold that settles in here around 5 pm and lingers until the morning. And some might pour a little bourbon in a glass, you know, to thaw out a bit…

If the cold and the white on the plains were as inspiring to as many people as the waves in the ocean hitting the shore, or the tall pines of the mountains reaching toward the sky, we would have thousands of poets and painters here telling the story of a frozen world.

Old shack in winter

But the cold settling in on the plains is a beauty recognized by the characters out here who  can’t help but marvel at extremes. They appreciate what cold does to the body and the soul, makes it slow down, recharge, toughen up and soften up at the same time.

We take pride in the taking care of things, the animals, the driveway, one another.

We laugh at things like frozen eyeballs, snot-sicles and relocated southerners who think 20 degrees is as cold as it gets.

It is cold. But it will get colder.

My Lord, will it get colder.

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It Came In With The Night
Go find your mittens
so your fingers don’t freeze
slip on your big boots
pull your socks to your knees

Dig out your best scarf
wrap it round yourself tight
the snow has arrived here

it came in with the night.

I’ll put the roast in the oven
and heat the milk on the stove
they’ll be right here waiting
when you come in from the cold

Knocking ice from the branches
and stringing Christmas tree lights
yes the snow has arrived dear

it came in with the night.

So squeeze on your knit cap
over wild wooly hair
watch your breath float and drift
in the crisp morning air

Break the ice for the cattle
put the saddles away
yes the snow has arrived here

and I think it might stay.

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A North Dakota Holiday…

We’re celebrating a North Dakota official holiday here today. The wind is whipping the cold rain around and men and women are pulling on neon orange knit caps over their  unruly hair, growing out sweet beards (well, the men anyway) stocking up on whiskey and pulling out the cards for poker tonight.

Happy Hunting Season Opener everyone!

There was a time in my life this was a reason for an excused absence from country school.

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

If you’re here today, you’ll know who they are. They are the ones with the bright orange cap sitting on the dash of their pickups, driving really slow along the county roads.

Hunting for deer.

In honor of the season I will cook up some stew this weekend, turn on the fire and maybe have some whiskey myself.

In honor of the season, I am going to resurrect this little gem here, for those women out there suddenly finding themselves lonely:

The Ten Commandments for the Hunting Widow

You’re gonna want to read this one ladies. I’m a seasoned hunting daughter who grew up to be a seasoned hunting wife, so I know a few things…

Yup, that’s me, that’s my deer, that’s my man, that’s my denim jacket and that’s my neckerchief.

There are some good tips in here. I’m telling you…

So stay safe out there. Safe and warm and for the love of GAWD Don’t. Wear. Swishy. Pants.

Hope you see Da Turdy Pointer…

Peace, Love and Venison,

Jessie

Jessie Veeder-“Boomtown”-Official Music Video

And now for the video!

The premier of the music video for my song “Boomtown” happens today! I hope it give your a glimpse into the some of the stories hanging around Boomtown. I am so happy and excited to have this out in the world.

Thanks to Nolan with Quantum Productions and to those willing to share their stories with us that day.

Please pass it along!

Sunday Column: Other people’s stories…

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This is my life here, crammed into this little room I’m calling my office for now. This is where I work to tell stories.

This is where I edit photos of the neighbors and strangers who have hired me to take their portraits.

This is where I write music, and these last few days, this is where I’ve been recording it to send on to the studio in preparation for another album.

Yup. Here I am, surrounded by cords and screens, cameras and props, notebooks and piles of paperwork, a puppy in the corner terrorizing the random hiking shoes I dropped off in here and a cat climbing up the leg of the sweatpants I haven’t changed out of yet today..

This has been my story these days. Writing things down, capturing moments in this room.

Tomorrow I will release a music video to the song “Boomtown,” a ballad, an ode, I wrote to the people coming and going and working to make lives here in the place where I grew up. I hope you click on over and check it out on www.youtube.com/jessieveedermusic. 

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Tomorrow is also election day, voting day, as you know.  There are some big and controversial measures on my state’s ballot this go ’round.

Some are pretty personal to me.

And so I’ve been thinking about our stories more than ever these last few months. I’ve been thinking about how powerful and sometimes terrifying it can be to tell them.

And then I’ve been thinking about how incredibly important it is to talk, to talk to talk this all out so that we might understand each other. Because these days I feel so much gets lost in translation, in the argument, in the polarization that has become politics.

So that’s what Boomtown’s about, little snapshots of other people’s lives, a reminder that we’re all flawed and worried and desperate, so damn hopeful sometimes and really, not that much different…

So I suppose it’s fitting that I release it on election day, a little reminder, a little snapshot of our tiny corner of America, a look into the eyes of people out there just doing their best…

Coming Home: Seeking stories behind the snapshots of life
by Jessie Veeder
11-2-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

AmericanDream

See you tomorrow in Boomtown!

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.

IMG_7604IMG_7608 IMG_7610 IMG_7612 IMG_7615 IMG_7619 IMG_7621 IMG_7624 IMG_7628 IMG_7634 IMG_7639 IMG_7642 IMG_7645 IMG_7647 IMG_7649 IMG_7654 IMG_7656It’s funny how the colors seem brighter when we know they’re fleeting. In these same spaces today, with the wind and the gray skies, most of these leaves I admired yesterday have now hit the ground.

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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. 
IMG_7675 IMG_7677The trees and that sky.
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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Season Change. Sunrise.

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“I wonder how many sunrise and sunset photos I’ve taken since we moved back to the ranch?” I asked my husband as I threw on my robe this morning and rushed downstairs for my camera.

The first thing I do when I open my eyes in the morning is to turn around and look out the window at the horizon, hoping for a show, hoping for a nice day or rain or snow or whatever it is I want from the sky, as if the sky ever cared about our personal wishes.

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“Thousands,” Husband replied as he poured a cup of coffee.

“I wonder if any of them look the same,” I asked out loud, knowing the answer. Knowing that sunrises and sunsets are like snowflakes.

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It’s the time of year when everything is starting to lose its color. Most of the leaves on the trees have dried up and turned brown, the other half, the oaks, for some reason this year are hanging on to a dull green, dropping their acorns and refusing to turn.

I can relate…

For the next seven months, a glowing sunrise and a pink sunset will be a welcome pop of color on a barren white landscape and I will find myself pulling on my big boots and rushing out to the tops of hills to stand under it, willing the color, the warmth, to absorb into my skin and warm me up.

Yes, it’s that time of year where we panic a bit, rushing to get the things done that we promised ourselves we would tackle in July, but then there was that concert and then the lake and then the party on the deck with the margaritas…

Now we have fences to build, garages to clean, boats and campers that didn’t really get used as much as intended to pack up and winterize. Soon the calves will be weaned and the horses will put on their long, scruffy coats.

Which reminds me, I have to find my hats and gloves. Dig out my sweaters.

Because the snow could come any day now. The sky could cloud up, the wind could blow just right, and then it will be too late for things like grilling burgers drilling holes into the ground for fence posts. Because the ground will be frozen solid, shut down and dormant with the frogs and the flies and snakes and the squirmy things that only come out with the sun.

Some days I feel that way. Like I should hole up under the earth like a frog, find a spot in a tree somewhere like those frantic squirrels hoarding all those acorns and squawking in the trees outside my window in the morning when I wake up to look at the sky and will the sun to shine….