Love and snow fall…

We woke up this Valentines Day to find a nice fresh coat of fluffy snow, a little sun and some sparkle in the air.

I was happy to see it, because for about three months it’s literally been too cold to snow.

Yes.

Too. Cold. To. Snow.

That’s a thing here.

Which means I’ve been cooped up a bit, and so has my camera. Things like cameras and fingers don’t work too well when it’s too cold to snow.

But those clouds and that sun seemed to be working this morning (I mean it was like 10 degrees above zero) so I went out in it.

A gift to myself for a day covered in love.

Love and sparkly snow on the tips of berry covered branches…

On the noses of dogs…

Ok, all over the faces of dogs…

On the tips of the grass…

On the backs of horses…

In barnyards…

and all of the things made more beautiful with a little light…

and a little frosting.

Happy Valentines Day Friends. Spread a little love today.

When winter is welcome

October is heading over the horizon and it’s bringing with it all the colors–the golds and reds and browns–of a season that doesn’t stay long enough.

And it’s leaving a trail of frost in its wake.

I see it in the mornings, sparkling and shimmering on the railing of my deck, on the cracked windshield of the pickup, on the leftover leaves and acorns on the trails,

on the stems of the grass and the crust of the dirt.

I am digging out my sweaters again. Funny how it’s only been five months since I packed them away but I can’t seem to remember where they went.

Funny how it’s only been a few weeks since the sun touched my legs and already my skin is fading into its pale winter shade.

I run my hands over the horses’ backs and notice they’re changing too, long scruffy hair growing in to protect them from the promised winter winds.

We are becoming the season it seems.

I’m sipping tea to ward of the little scratch in my throat, the little runny nose that I acquired when the cold came in.

I am North Dakota. Personified in the permanent chilled flush in my cheeks, rolling up the hoses and packing away the cutoff shorts. Swapping cowboy boots for winter boots and my straw hat for one that is knit and covers my ears.

If I were California I would never change. If I were California I would wear summer dresses all year and never be ashamed of my scaly winter skin. I would eat orange popsicles and sip iced tea and put fresh flowers in a vase on my table every week.  I would be sun kissed and golden and I wouldn’t wear socks.

Especially not wool socks.

If I were California I would be beautiful all year.

But I am North Dakota and my flowers have dried up now. And we are beginning our predictably unpredictable decent into winter.

The ice rests lightly on the water in the stock tank.

The air bites and the trees have stripped down to sleep. I am cutting potatoes for soup, boiling water and feeling weighed down but hungry the way only Northerners can feel.

If I were a beast I would hibernate.

If I had wings I would fly toward the sun.

If I were a legend I would find a way to catch the snow in my hands and send it back up.

Back up for another month.

And back down in December when winter is welcome.

The making of a dog.

Remember this little girl?

OMMMGEEEE she was so fluffaaaayyy I could diiieee!!!

Yes, that was Juno, The Littlest Cow Dog last winter when we brought her home to the ranch in Pops’ pickup. I held her the whole thirty-some miles while she drooled all over my arm and shook with fear or anticipation or nervousness or whatever it is that goes through a little puppy’s head when she’s taken away from her momma.

We had high hopes for that puppy that day. Our old cow dog, Pudge, limpy, gimpy, faithful, storm fearing, fur tangled, sweet as sugar, gramma Pudge is getting a little too arthritic to make it on long rides or up into the pickup box by herself. She has retired to sleeping on her soft pillow under the heat lamp and occasionally accompanying us to the barn or down the road to get the mail. It’s tough to admit that any day now Pudge will take her last 4-wheeler ride, but it’s clear looking into those sweet ancient eyes that it’s the truth. And without Pudge the Veeder Ranch would be left cow-dog-less.

Because, contrary to the pug’s delusions he doesn’t quite fit the bill.

And so we found Juno. Part border collie. Part blue heeler. Part angel and part acrobatic, magical boot sniffer-outer and chewer-upper. (Seriously. It doesn’t matter how you put those boots on the shelf, she’s gonna get them and she’s gonna eat them).

When Juno found herself on her new ranch she was a bundle of energy, fur and timid playfulness. Everyone fell in love.

My mom wanted her to sleep in the house.

I wanted her to sleep at my house.

And Chug the Pug wanted to move to mom and dad’s house.

pug and puppy copy

Even Pudge, who had been getting up slower and slower every day found a new swig of youthfulness that she occasionally employs to chase her new garage-mate around the yard.

Funny what a wave of youth and fluff and plain cuteness can bring to an old place.

But Juno was meant to be more than a cute companion. That’s the thing here. Cow dogs have many important responsibilities, and when you’ve got a pup on your hands who’s only interest seems to be digging holes, spilling the food dish and chewing the fingers out of your best leather gloves, a large part of you wonders what you’ve got on your hands here (besides fingerless gloves).

Yes, cow dogs have a punch list and Juno, cute as she was, wasn’t an exception. She needed to grow up to be:

Gentle with children but rough on varmints who might wander into the yard.

Sweet and obedient but brave enough to convince a 2,000 pound bull to get his ass out of the brush.

Vocal and adventurous,  but only with the cattle.

Athletic and smart and sensitive to commands.

Quick

Fierce and loyal and friendly with a work ethic and an eager to please attitude.

Instinctual. As in: know what to do even without being told…and while we’re at it..

Bur and tick repellent

Not too much to ask right? Not too much pressure from an eager to please baby who hasn’t even seen her second winter…

But here’s the thing, a good dog is an invaluable asset around here. I joke about the expectations, but if they emerge, if they are even remotely met out here on the days when it’s just  a cowboy against 100 head of cattle heading in the wrong direction, that cowboy won’t trade that dog for a mansion in the mountains.

And so we’ve been watching that pup closely, wondering how she might emerge from puppyhood. Will she be too timid? She’s a sweet little thing. Will she ever want to jump in the back of the pickup on her own? Will she come back when called? Will she be intimidated by the ornery cows? Will she come along on a ride? Will she become more than a pet?

Will she be what we hoped she would be?

Well, take a look here friends. It’s Juno.

And there she is way out there alongside of Pops and his horse, bopping and jumping and trotting through the long grass on our way to move some cows.

Take a look at how she’s grown up, that little sweetie.

Then take your coat off, take a seat and let Pops pour you a fresh cup of coffee because if you’ve stopped over you’re gonna hear it.

And it’s gonna be a while.

Because he’s proud.

Like Trail-90 proud.

Like grandkid proud.

“Can I tell you about my dog?” he’ll ask.

And before you can answer he’ll tell you how last night she would have taken that bull all the way home on her own if he would have let her.

He’ll tell you she’ll little but she got instinct.

He’ll tell you she’s sweet but she’s tough enough.

He’ll tell you how she’s so smart she comes back with one ask of one command and this morning he thinks he might have actually heard her say a word, like “hello” or “hi there” or something that sounded like a greeting, and, well, he’s not quite sure but she just might be bur repellent too…

And then he’ll tell you he’s pleased and that she just might be…could possibly be…if he doesn’t screw it all up…

 

The Best Cow Dog He’s Ever Had in His Whole Entire Life!!!!

Ever.

Don’t worry. I won’t tell Pudge.

Or the Pug.

Oh Juno, you’re doin’ good girl!

 

Layers.

There’s a moment between summer and deep autumn at the ranch that’s so good at being glorious that it actually makes us all believe we could last forever under a sky that’s bright blue and crisp and warm and just the right amount of breezy all at the same time.

We’re easily swayed to forget up here, you know, about the drama that is our seasons. I imagine it’s a coping mechanism we develop that gets the crazy stoic people here through -40 degree temperature snaps.

It’s forgetting that gets us through, but it’s remembering too. The combination is an art form.

Because at -40 degrees we remember that one-day it will be sunny and 75.

And when it’s sunny, 118 degrees and 100% humidity and there’s not a lake in sight, we remember that -40 degrees and somehow find a way to be grateful for it all.

Yes we keep taking off layers and putting them on again until we make ourselves the perfect temperature.

Funny then how we’re not really good at giving the in-between moments the credit they’re due around here. We usually grab them up and soak them in just enough to get some work done on a horse, paint the house, wash the car or get the yard cleaned up for winter.

Because we’re taught up here to use those perfect weather moments to prepare us for the not so perfect ones that are coming.

That’s why fall, though a romantic season for some, gives me a little lump in my throat that tastes a lot like dread and mild panic.

Because while the pumpkins are nice and the apple cider tastes good enough, I can’t help but think that autumn is like the nice friend who slowly walks over to your lunch table with the news that your boyfriend doesn’t want to go out with you anymore.

And my boyfriend is summer. And when he’s gone, I’m stuck with the long and drawn out void that is winter–with a little splash of Christmas, a hint of a sledding party and a couple shots of schnapps to get me through the break-up.

Hear what I’m saying?

But the change is beautiful. I can’t help but marvel at it really, no matter its underlying plot to dry up the leaves and strip them from their branches and jump start my craving for carbohydrates and heavy whipping cream in everything.

So I decided to give it the credit it was due yesterday and I took a break from the office chair intent on marveling at some leaves, collecting some acorns and walking the trails the cattle and deer had cut through the trees during the heat of summer.

I will never call this moment a season, it’s too fleeting and foreboding for that, but I will reach out and touch those golden leaves and call it a sort of magic.

The kind that only nature can perform, not only on those leaves, but on the hair on a horse’s back, the fat on the calf, the trickling creek bed, the tall dry grasses, used up flowers and a woman like me.

Yes, I’m turning too. My skin is lightening. My hunger unsuppressed. My eyelids heavy when the sun sinks below the hill much earlier than my bedtime.

My pants a little tighter with the promise of colder weather.

Ok. I’ve been reminded. Summer–a month of electric thunderstorms and endless days, sunshine that heats up my skin and makes me feel young and in love with a world that can be so colorful– is over.

And so I’m thankful for the moment in these trees to be reminded that I have a little time yet, but I best be gathering those acorns.

And pulling on my layers.

Sunday Column: Holding on is the best part…

Wedding
Last week Husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. I went to the new grocery store and picked up crab legs, opened a bottle of champagne and we sat at our kitchen table and looked out the window at the tall grass and the setting sun and remembered what it was like

To be 15 and at the movies together for the first time

To be 16 driving the backroads in his Thunderbird

To be 17 and making plans to leave this place

To be 18 and away from home together

To be 21 and uncertain about where to go from there

To be 23 and married under the oak tree at the ranch with nothing ahead of us but time and gravel roads and plans we started making when we were 15.

Wedding Tree

Today my dearly beloved is outside hammering and screwing a big deck to the side of our house so that we can spend the rest of our summers opening the sliding glass doors with a glass of wine, a plate of steaks, watermelon for cutting or corn for husking, a magazine, a guitar or a good book to accompany us while we look out over our little homestead under the big blue sky or setting sun.

My future with this man has not always been clear, but it has always held him close: in the hot summer sun wiping the sweat from his forehead as he measures and saws and plans, bundled up against the winter winds on his way to work, rolling out his mother’s noodle recipe on the kitchen counter, throwing a stick for our big brown dog, riding a good horse behind some good cows, rocking our children and next to me, no matter what, just near me.

And so I hold on. I’ve held on since we I was eleven years old sitting next to him in band class.

Coming Home: Loving the same man for more than half my life
by Jessie Veeder
8/18/13
Fargo Forum
www.inforum.com 

I hold on because it just keeps getting better.

What you get when I’m stuck in the house…

Happy Friday to you. I hope you get off work early and have plans to sip cold drink on a summery deck somewhere.

I’m spending mine under a blanket on my cozy couch dosed up on pain pills after partaking in a little surgery (nothing major…and no, not a nose job) yesterday.

Yes, full disclosure, I’m on drugs.

Word is I’ll be feeling better tomorrow. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway as I’ve been enduring daytime television programming and small attempts at sounding coherent on work calls I decided to return since I am home and not supposed to go anywhere.

And now for your lesson of the day: you shouldn’t return work calls when you’re on hyrdocodone.

You probably shouldn’t respond to emails either. Or write a blog.

Horse

But I could be worse. I could be Little Sister. She got her wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday.

She looks like a chipmunk and can’t eat Doritos.

So there’s that.

At least I can eat Doritos. If we had Doritos.

I could really go for some Doritos…

Yup, we’re a pathetic lot out here at the ranch.  But while we’ve been resting Husband and Little Sister’s man have been working on putting up the deck in time for my birthday party because, besides world peace, my one birthday wish is that I will be able to celebrate  30 by toasting to old age with tequila on the beautiful deck attached to our house.

And my husband, bless his handyman soul, is doing what he can.

I’ll keep you posted.

But for now, in honor of Friday, mandatory couch time and my drug induced loss for words, I would like to give you a little update on what’s been going on around the old homestead these days.

To sum it up, it’s August and it’s been raining, which is not common for this month. Our ranch missed the recent devastating hail storm that rolled in across the country side, wiping out large wheat fields and leaving farmers to shake their heads at the loss.  We are shaking ours at the thought.

The cows have been finding a new hole in the fence to crawl through every day because the grass is apparently greener.

The horses are sleek and are spending the warm days swishing their tails, nodding their heads and running from the flies,

the chokecherries are ripe, the plums will soon follow,

the clover is tall, the late summer wildflowers are in bloom,

the oil is still pumping,

The badlands are at their best,

LIttle Man keeps growing up,

the dogs have decided it’s their duty to protect us from the squirrels in the trees, so that’s why they never stop barking if you’re wondering…

The dragonflies are back for their fill of mosquitos. So are the bats. And we don’t mind at all.

The thunderheads roll in at night,

and the sunsets are spectacular.

There’s even been some rainbow sightings.

And we’re pretty happy around here, even when we’re not on the painkillers…

So you should come for a visit. You can stay in the cabin. That came this month too.

And God willing, in a week I’ll have a deck and I’ll pour you a cold one and we can cheers to good friends and good weather and good health.

But for a little while, I’ll be here, under this blanket, eating Doritos and watching that deck go up from the cool side of the window…

Peace, Love and pain medication,

Jessie

In July…

There’s not much I don’t like about July in North Dakota. It’s like 1,000 degrees out today, and I’m still gonna say it.

Because there’s a breeze. There’s always a breeze.

If I could hold on to this month for another I would. I would take the horseflies if it meant another thirty days of thundershowers in the evening…

Wild sunflowers in the road ditches…

Haybales lined up nice and neat in the fields…

Chasing cattle in the cool draws…

and windows open at night.

I’d take the pissed off squirrel chattering in the tree by my head if it meant I could sleep with the cool breeze tickling the curtains for another few days.

It’s kind of a funny way to wake up.

Kind of like I’m sleeping in a tree house.

Which is a pretty perfect place to be in July.

It’s summer now…


It’s summer now and the days are long, the sun moving slowly across the sky and hanging at the edge of the earth for stretched out moments, giving us a chance to put our hands on our hips and say “what a perfect night.”

It’s summer now and before dark officially falls we ride to the hill tops and then down through the cool draws where the shade and the grass and the creek bed always keep a cool spot for us.

Because it’s summer now and things are warming up. The leaves are out and so are the wildflowers, stretching and blooming and taking in the fleeting weather.

It’s summer now and the cows are home…

and so is Husband, home before the sun sets. Home to get on a horse and find Pops and ride fence lines.

It’s summer now and the dogs’ tongues hang out while they make their way to the spot of shade on the gravel where the truck is parked. They are panting. They are smiling. They just got in from a swim.

Because it’s summer now and the water where the slick-backed horses drink, twitching and swiping their tails at flies, is warm and rippling behind the oars of the water bugs, the paddle of duck’s feet, the leap of a frog and the dunk of a beaver’s escape.

It’s summer now and we keep the windows open so even when we’re inside we’re not really inside.

We can’t be inside.


Because it’s summer now and there’s work to be done. We say this as we stand leaning up against a fence post, thinking maybe if we finish the chores we could squeeze in time for fishing.

Because it’s summer and we heard they’re biting.

Yes, it’s summer and we should mow the grass before the clouds bring the thunderstorm that will wake us in the early morning hours of the next day. And it’s summer so we will lay there with the windows open listening to it roll and crack, feeling how the electricity makes our hearts thump and the air damp on our skin. Maybe we will sleep again, maybe we’ll rise to stand by the window and watch the lightening strike and wonder where this beautiful and mysterious season comes from.

And why, like the storm, it’s always just passing through.

Listening.


I went to bed last night with the windows open in the loft where we built our master bedroom. It was our first night in our room we’ve been working for months to complete and when I returned home from a night away on a singing job I found that my bed was moved upstairs,  made and waiting for us to snuggle down and reap the benefits of another step almost complete.

I don’t know how Husband got it up there without the help of my giant muscles, but he did. And I was glad.

And exhausted.

When we were making plans for this house two years ago my idea was that when it was all said and done we would feel like we were living in a tree house and with the installation of the railing a few weeks ago I felt like our vision was finally coming together.

It made me feel like all that time spent looking at Better Homes and Gardens magazines and Googling things like “rustic railings” and “vintage lighting” and “log cabins” and “how to get wood glue and green paint out of my favorite Steve Earl t-shirt” was finally paying off.

I snuggled down next to Husband up there in our bedroom and made note of  how we were a little closer to the stars and I liked it that way, up there among the oak tree tops.

This morning I woke up to Husband sneaking out to work. I rolled over to catch a few more blinks, noticing how the sky was beginning to turn pink with the touch of the first moments of sun. I thought I should get up, rise with it, drink my coffee and start on my writing project, but I slipped back to sleep for a moment while the world lit up.

And I woke again to the sound of a pissed off squirrel in the tree tops next to my head reading another critter its rights over something like trespassing on his side of oak or a stolen acorn.

At least that’s what I imagined as I woke from a dream about nothing in particular that I can remember.

I laid on my back and listened to that squirrel chatter, his obnoxious, angry squawk rising above the hundreds of bird species singing their morning song, the breeze rustling the full grown leaves and a truck kicking up dust on the pink road.

And although I couldn’t hear it, I thought about the swish of the horses’ tails in the pasture, the buzz the flies make around their ears and the soft nicker in their throats when I approach with a grain bucket.

I thought about the cattle pulling dew covered green grass from the ground, munching and chewing and bellowing low for their calves.

I thought about the croak of the frogs in the dam, the familiar sound I fall asleep to each night we let the windows open and the air in.

I thought about the plop of the turtle leaving his rock for a swim in that dam. I thought about the howl of the coyote and the sound of the dogs crying back.

I thought about my fingers squeaking across the strings of my guitar, sitting out on the chair under the small oaks, working to make a melody.

I thought about the sound of my husband’s breathing and the words he says out loud at night when the world is sleeping and so is he. I thought about what he might dream about.

And then I thought about the silence in this house as I lie listening to the world I was letting in through open windows. Silence between walls that have absorbed the noise of saw blades spinning, voices discussing dinner, crying over tiling projects and laughing at the memory of the stupid kids we used to be. It will be quiet in here today with the exception of my fingers moving over the computer keys, the coffee pot beep and the ice cubes dropping in the refrigerator. I will run the shower and get ready for a trip to sing outside in a different town this evening.

When I get home it will be late and Husband will be sleeping on the couch, the television reflecting the light of other peoples’ stories off his scruffy face. I will switch it off and walk up the steps to our bedroom to get closer to the stars and fall asleep to the sound of the frogs, thinking about the mornings to come in this house, the sounds of Christmases and birthday parties, failed dinners and dancing in the living room, conversations with friends, fights about bills and schedules and time, sobs about missing someone and laughter about having just what we need in a tree house with the windows open to the sounds of our wild world.

The evolution of a season.

It’s another rainy, windy afternoon at the ranch. It seems like once the sky decided to open up it just can’t stop. It feels like March when the sky wouldn’t stop snowing. It feels like this spring has been finicky and harsh and extreme and it has enjoyed every minute it has kept me waiting.

Waiting for the snow to stop.

Waiting for the sun to shine.

Waiting for the rain to come.

Waiting for it to stop raining.

Waiting on the sun to shine.

I know there will be a time this summer where the dust will blow again and we will pray for a bit of relief from the heat and the dry, but where I come from there is not a balance.

There is only extreme.

Extremely cold.

Extremely windy.

Wind

Extremely hot.

Extremely green.

Extremely wet.

Extremely dry.

Extremely perfectly beautiful.

Some days I feel like the weather. These days especially. The windows have been streaked with rain for a few weeks and I have been suffering from a weird sort of lingering head cold that refuses to break up and leave like the damn rain.

I’ve been working hard to ignore it, to say the rain will clear and I will feel better, but today I submitted. I stayed home under a blanket to watch it fall.

I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Head cold or no head cold, it seems I’m always so affected by the seasons and how they change, like the weather and my mood hold hands to greet the day accordingly.

Which makes me wonder how annoyingly bright-sided I’d be if I lived in the sunny, 70 degree climate of southern California.

It sounds nice right now, the sun.

But I think the constant change of seasons help me and what my husband refers to as my “restless spirit.” He says it’s hard for me to sit in one place. It’s hard for me to be comfortable in routine.

He says it’s good for me to have all this space to wander out here.

Maybe he’s right and maybe it’s hard to understand how a girl can be so rooted and so restless.

But it’s no worry to me really. I know where I belong out here, changing with the weather.

Evolving with the season.