Sunday Column: About an impromptu sledding party

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

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

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

We gotta stick together around here.

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

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

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There were rice crispy bars, 

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Snowball fights,

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Soaking wet mittens,

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Negotiated rides back up the hill…

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

It was just like old times.

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

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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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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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Blame the cat, not the cat lady.

Now, you all know I’m an animal lover, so I don’t think I need to really go much further to explain that if I could take all the stray dogs in the world with me on a walk, then I would do it. I would do it because they need a walk, and a scratch behind the ears, and a dog needs a girl.

A girl needs a dog. 

We’ve been over this.

But a cat? I’m going to tell you right here, I’m torn on this…

As you can see, it’s been a lifelong struggle…

Because, frankly, if I’m going to be honest, and well, I’m going to be honest, I love them too. But they drive me crazy.

CRAZY!

Kittens? I can’t get enough. I. Can. Not. Get. Enough.

Fuzzy fur. Spontaneous attacks on nothing but air. The snuggling. The purring. The napping in weird places. The obsession they have with my guitar case and Christmas ribbons and random dust bunnies and streams of sunshine coming through the window.

And the fact that they generally always figure out the litter box situation quickly. I appreciate that.

I also appreciate that a kitten is too tiny and innocent to shed it’s fluffy hair all over my pants while she’s napping there and I’m doing my work. I like that about kittens. I like that they’re genuinely interested in what I’m doing during the day, and they want to be involved with it. It’s adorable and they’re small, so they don’t get in the way…much.

Speaking of small, I also like that kittens are too tiny to get up to the glass of milk I’ve left out on the kitchen counter. Same goes with the plate of bacon or the bowl of chicken noodle soup. Kittens might be able to smell it, but they’re reaction is restricted to their youth and their tiny bellies attached to tiny legs, and I like it.

Yes, I like that kittens generally stay on the ground or on my lap or on my shoulder where they belong.

And I like that they’re claws are tiny too, so whatever imaginary thing they are trying to hunt next to my couch won’t wreak too much havoc on the leather or the rug underneath.

Bottom line here? Kittens are tiny versions of cats, so they are adorable, less destructive, they sleep more, they stay off my kitchen counters and I cut them slack because they are babies.

And they are fluffy.

But the thing about kittens is that one day, and it happens pretty quickly, you wake up and discover that their legs have stretched a bit, and they have noticed it too, and so they use those legs to explore a universe in the house that is supposed to be off limits to felines.

But cats don’t give a shit about rules. That’s the thing. If you have a cat for a pet, you know this.

Ever tried to get a cat to sit on command? BWAH!

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Ever tried to teach them to come to the sound of their name? Yeah RIGHT!

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And to those people who have somehow figured out how to get their cat to use the toilet and flush afterward? All I have to say is that was probably the cats’ idea in the first place. You just happened to catch her in the act when you noticed she was in the bathroom and you were worried about her unrolling the entire spool of toilet paper.

Because cats are sorta little bitches like, with their own agenda…which is: I will love you when I chose to love you. You will pet me when I want you to pet me. I will sit on your lap when I wanna sit on your lap and I will always, no matter what, ruin your world when you are trying to wrap a present or type on your laptop or print something out of the printer. And if you decide to get a Christmas tree, I will own it. I will try to climb to the top and shame on you for thinking otherwise.

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And when you’re not around, I will jump on the counter, because, really, you likely set that perfectly seasoned chicken out for me. And if you get after me, I will humor you by acting offended and scared, but as soon as you go into the other room, I will just jump up there again.

Oh, you wanna leave town? If you leave town I will definitely be up on that counter. And also the kitchen table. And also the chandelier if I can swing it…

God forbid you leave town.

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Yeah, cats only sorta like us, but they suddenly get all hurt when we’re not around at their command, filling their bottomless food dish and being undyingly available when they decide they want a snuggle.

Do I sound harsh? Maybe. But I come from a long line of cat people.  My two sisters happen to be the biggest feline worshippers around and I doubt they could argue with any of my reasons that cats are sorta horrible really.

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And I’m only bringing it up today because I really believed my little orange baby Cheeto was never going to grow up and out of her sweet, smushy, fluff…

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but then I came out of my office to find her on the counter licking the butter straight out the uncovered dish.

Dammit.

I shouted a profanity, jumped around and flailed my arms to try to scare the devil out of her, but I’m afraid her transformation has begun.

And I’m afraid I will love her despite of it, just like I have with the two other felines who scream at me from their perch in the garage rafters every time I open the door, lest I forget their twenty-seven scoops of food and the pat on their head on my way out the door, because, I mean, mousing is hard work.

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But so is pet cat ownership.

There. I said it.

Now you can too.

A girl might need a dog and a dog might need a girl…but a cat?

A cat will make you believe she doesn’t give a shit one way or the other…

A cat will play games with your head. She’ll create in you trust issues. She will make you needy for attention.

She will grab you by the heart strings and then maneuver you like a puppet.

And that’s why they just might be superior after all, which I hate to admit… But if you don’t agree, well then, at least I’ve done my part to make my case for the Crazy Cat Lady in all of us. Because they get they’re claws into us when they’re young and innocent…so it’s not our fault…

It’s theirs.

Amen.

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Frosting

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

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

Every day it’s a little bit new.

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

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

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

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

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Peace, Love and Merry Christmas,

Jessie

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 longest season

It’s been snowing all weekend.

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Actually, it’s been snowing all week.

Yesterday, after a night out singing with the band until 4 am I was a pathetic pile of “I’m too old for this…”

and, thankfully, the weather cooperated with my lack of sleep. On and off white-out flurries outside my window coincided nicely with the opening and closing of my eye lids.

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At one point I mustered up enough energy to look at myself in the mirror and actually scared myself.

“Wow,” I said to MYSELF from our bathroom upstairs. “I’m a mess.”

To which my husband replied a little too quickly and a little too loudly from his perch at the kitchen table downstairs, “Yup.”

“Shut it,” I said said as I found my way back to the fuzzy blanket on the couch with my kitten.

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And that was about the extent of our conversations that day, up until I woke up from my late afternoon nap and wondered out loud what he was going to cook me for supper.

But he was putting together a gun or something on the kitchen counter, (classic hunting season scene) so I decided on macaroni and cheese and thought maybe tomorrow I would try life again.

So I went to bed.

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And today I woke up to more winter.

And so it begins.

But thankfully we saw it coming. We heard about that pesky Polar Vortex, but we could smell it in the air, see it in the wooly fur on the backs of the horses and the crust of ice on the stock dam in the mornings long before the weatherman came up with the clever graphics.

So I called up Pops and the two of us went on the last ride before the snow flew while Husband was out sitting in a blind working on filling his bow tag and our freezer with venison.

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And that’s what this week’s column is all about. It’s about noticing the signs of a changing world. It’s about the animals and how they move around us, the coyotes running wild outside our door, the deer in the rut, the horses carrying us into a new season, and this bald eagle that perched out in front of the windows of our house, posing just long enough so we could all see him before spreading his wings and flying away.

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IMG_9932Coming Home: Change of seasons hits inside and out
by Jessie Veeder
11-16-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s about the minutes we spend just being aware enough to exist out here and appreciate it for what it is.

Gold turning to gray. Sun going down turning a blue sky black and our breath to puffs of smoke.

Fall turning quickly into the longest season.

IMG_0165I write a weekly column for North Dakota newspapers. Look for “Coming Home” Sundays in the Fargo Forum, and weekly in the Dickinson Press, Grand Forks Herald and Bismarck Tribune. Want my column in your newspaper? Let me know and I’ll help you make it happen!

Sunday Column: Mouse catcher, cow chaser, heart breaker…

Well, it’s all about the pets these days around the ranch. Just in time for the snow to fall we have a couple more furry friends to help keep us hunkered down and warm.

I tell ya, between keeping the tiny kitten inside, alive and well fed and working to prevent the puppy from destroying my boot collection and all of the rugs in the house, it turns out Big Brown Dog, the easy one, the established member of the family, just wasn’t having the takeover.

Seemed like he needed to create a way to be noticed…

So last week he went out for a run around the ranch, checking things out, making sure there weren’t any giant sticks or random animal bones he missed dragging into the yard. He needed to get away you know. The damn puppy was driving him crazy with his crying and jumping, and nipping at his nose.

He’s too old for this.

So he took a hike to clear his mind. He needed his space. He needed to follow his nose…

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Turns out his nose led him straight into some sort of trouble, because Big Brown Dog showed up back home after dark with one of his top canines poking through his lip.

And a scrape on his foot.

And on his face.

“What the hell did you get into you poor, sweet animal?” I asked him as I kneeled down by his bed in the garage.

He just looked at me with those sad brown eyes and said nothing, because no matter how I wish they could, they can’t talk.

I called Husband out and he scratched his head, and the dog’s head, and we wondered together there looking at him what sort of adventure didn’t quite turn out as our dog had planned…

So the next morning I hoisted the stiff, sore, pathetic, sweet 110 pound dog into the back of my car (front feet first, then the back end) and we drove to the vet where they fussed over him, put him under, did a few X-rays, put the lip back in place, stitched up the hole, pumped him full of meds, prescribed enough pills to sedate an elephant, and $430 later they sent us on our way.

But not before he took the world’s longest pee outside the clinic…I mean, it was like 45 minutes…at least three patients came and went before he was done…

And then I loaded him up (front feet first and then the back end) into the car and back to the ranch where he struggled up the steps to his spot by my side of the bed and slept the bad memories away.

Poor Hondo. Always a lover…never a fighter…

8 years ago, a month after Husband and I were married, we took a trip to a farm about 70 miles from the ranch and my new Husband picked out Hondo from a litter of squirrelly, wiggly, chubby, adorable brown pups. He picked the one that seemed the most even tempered. He picked the darkest chocolate one he could find. He picked the biggest. He picked the best.

I paid $200 for that dog. He was Husband’s birthday present. He was going to be his bird dog. His hunting dog. He was the third member of our family and he’s been quite the companion, the steady link, the wagging tail when we got home.

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Hondo the puppy…awwwww

And he’s gonna be just fine. Right now he’s under the heat lamp on his bed next to the new puppy who is likely trying his damnedest to get the big guy to play with him.

I know from experience the softie will warm up to the pup, just have to let him heal up…and let the pup grow up.

And then the two of them will be off getting into their own kind of trouble out here together.

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I wrote this week’s column before Hondo went off and got himself buggered up, but he proved my point anyway. That these animals out here are part of the fabric of this place. Growing up out here as a kid, these dogs and horses and goats and cats and lizards we were charged with learning from and taking care of were what made the place magical.

But beyond their magic they served a purpose. They had a job to do.

Hondo’s job these days might be less bird-hunting and more companion, but the new members we’re growing up and introducing will have their place soon…

Mouse catcher.

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Cow chaser.

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Rain on a Dog's Nose Coming Home: Learning many lessons from animals
by Jessie Veeder
11-9-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

But for the next few days the big brown dog and I have a date in the morning for three pills stuffed in summer sausage and another in the evening before bed.

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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