Last week our world was covered in ice.

This week, just in time for Christmas, it has turned nice and white (and rather slippery).


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.


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.


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,


Sunday Column: The longest season

It’s been snowing all weekend.


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.


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.


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
Forum Communications

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!


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.


Turned around after five minutes and went back inside.

Shit. It’s cold.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.

Sunday Column: Living with the wild things

Well, party people, look what the weekend drug in.

Snow and rain and not a green thing in site. Thanks to everyone who’s been sharing thier spring photos on the Facebook page and email. Every pretty flower cheers me and every snow flurry makes me feel less alone in this arctic tundra!

It’s not too late to get in on the game! Whether the birds are chirping in the warm sunshine or retreating back to the southern climates, abandoning the whole migration idea all together, show us how spring is shaping up in your neck of the woods and I will post them  all on the website Monday. Our favorite photo will win a copy of my new album “Nothing’s Forever” and a print of a warmer and prettier spring day at the Veeder Ranch.

So make (and warm up) my day and post your photos on the Facebook page or send me an email at

In the meantime, read  my Fargo Forum column on the other unpredictable thing around here–wildlife.

Coming Home: Humans, beasts learn to coexist.
Jessie Veeder, Fargo Forum
April, 21, 2013

Because like snow in April, some things just need to keep thier distance.

Peace, Love and Sunday Pancakes,


And then came the sun.

This morning I woke up to another dreary, snowy, cold, white, un-springy day, a husband who couldn’t make it to work on account of a night spent puking and a pug literally hiding with his head under the covers and his ass facing the world.

I felt like doing the same thing, not puking, but, you know, just letting my ass face the world. Because, I mean, look at it…not a crocus in sight…

I was going to tell you all about it, after I took a few photos of the icicles hanging off the eaves,

the gray, dreary sky, the white flakes fluttering across bare and brown branches,

cold, leftover leaves,

big brown dog’s big brown cold nose,

and  ground just begging to warm up…

I was prepared to feel like the pug who doesn’t wake up to face the dog dish until well after the noon hour, going to absorb the sad, gray, so unspringlike day into my veins and mope a bit over peanut butter toast and coffee that just couldn’t be black enough, ignore the dishes in the sink and just say well shit, it’s snowing. It’s snowing again.

But then the sun came out.

and the gray turned to sparkle,

the bland to beautiful,

the gray to blue,

and the leftovers looked a little less lonely.

Ah, the sun.

The sun!

Look at that, the sun.

What a difference you made.

I hope you found your sun today.

Restless waiting.

This is what March looks like from the inside of my house with the door open as I watch nature do her thing.

In ten to fifteen minutes the wind will really pick up, whistling through the branches of the trees and blowing that fluffy snow in white, blinding swirls.

I will think about Husband out there on the roads that were coated in rain yesterday afternoon and likely frozen solid today and I will worry until I hear the sound of his boots clump up the steps and the creak of the door as it swings open.

Home, safe and sound in the middle of a full-blown March blizzard.

Oh, we get one or two in this month that promises spring pretty soon, but not quite yet.

Kids all across the state are celebrating the first snow day of the winter by bundling up to head outside and build forts and fling snowballs or snuggling in their jammies under a blanket with popcorn and a movie.

Teachers are taking this free day to catch up on paperwork, housework or finish that book they haven’t had time to start, dads and moms are shoveling sidewalks and driveways, college students are drinking beer or playing video games, grampas are watching the radar, ranchers with cattle under their care are worrying about calving and throwing an extra straw bale out on the snowy ground and the southerners up here for work are wondering what the hell they’ve gotten themselves into.

Me? Well, I’m in my long underwear staring out the window at the way the snow swirls and drifts and makes the walls of this house moan a bit. The snow is melting from my boots and making puddles on the warm floor in the entryway and the dogs are snoring on their spots, a result of our morning trek outside to admire the way the snow had settled on the trees overnight.

That was before the wind picked up and shook it off.

That was before Husband was home safe and sound.

That was before I ate a sandwich and wrote a song I think I might have written before and thanked the heavens from where this snow was falling that I didn’t have to be anywhere but home.

Because an hour ago I was making my way to the top of the hill to see what the overnight snow had done to yesterday’s brown landscape. The dogs reached the summit before me, their ears blowing in the wind and their eyes squinting against the snowflakes landing on their eyelashes with growing force.

I knelt down to snap a photo of a frozen, sleepy flower and headed for the shelter of the oaks.

No matter the wind and the weather those trees are a haven and a sort of quiet mystery to me. I know that’s where the horses are, somewhere in this pasture huddled together in the oak groves. I know that’s where the deer bed and the elk hide and the squirrels and grouse and maybe even the mountain lions go to wait out the weather.

To wait  for spring.

And I know I won’t see them today, the blizzard growing more severe and the dogs more obnoxious and curious as they snort and roll and climb in and out of the banks.

This time of year I get restless. This time of year I get worried that I won’t have another great idea, that my skin will never be brown again, that I won’t ever warm up.

Last night I declared these worries out loud to Husband who lay next to me in bed, relaxed and assured and breathing softly in the dark.

In the quiet calm of a Sunday night, a night working on brewing a storm that would keep us tucked in our houses the next day, I said, “What if I never write another song? What if all of my ideas are used up? What if I’m not good enough to keep up with the plans I have? What if I get sad and stay sad? I can’t be sad. I don’t have time to be sad.”

He was silent for the moment after the words I chose, the ones that went… “I wish you understood…” and then he said, “You can be sad. And you can do nothing. Sometimes you need to do nothing. And then, you need to get up, go outside and live a life that gives you something to write about.”

So I went out in the storm today, not because I don’t know what it feels like, but because I wanted to feel it again. Because I wanted to be reminded.

And I wanted to be cold and out of breath and far away from the house and the work and the worry and sheltered by nothing but the heavy branches of the oaks.

I wanted to be quiet and let nature–uncontrollable, unpredictable, fascinatingly, frustratingly, beautifully unyielding nature–do her thing while the rest of the world made snowmen and banana bread, mopped floors and read newspapers, navigated snowy roads, called friends, made plans and wrote novels.

And I, like the deer bedded down and undetectable, did nothing but wait.

Snow on the backs of horses.

This is what it looks like when you put a house cat out in the snow for the first time in its life.

Coincidently this is also the face that was staring back at her after I peeled her out of my arms like a piece of velcro with really strong legs ..and then again off my head…and then again off of my boots.

We’re in a fight, but don’t feel bad for her, the weather is warming up and I think it’s time she gets acclimated to this wild place.

Yes, tomorrow it will be March and my longing for green grass, crocuses and creek beds overflowing with melted snow will summon me to pull on my muck boots and go exploring for the slightest change in scenery.

It will be March tomorrow, and I feel the chilled surrender that January brings start to break up and separate inside of me, even as I stand under a gray sky that blends into the horizon as if it weren’t a sky at all but a continuation of the snowy landscape…below us, above us…surrounding us.

Flakes fell from that sky yesterday afternoon, big and soft and gentle they drifted down to the icy earth and summoned me from behind my windows to come outside and stick out my tongue.

When the snow falls like this, not sideways or blowing or whipping at our faces, but peaceful and steady and quiet, it’s a small gift. I feel like I’m tucked into the mountains instead of exposed and vulnerable on the prairie. I feel like, even in the final days before March, that someone has shaken the snow globe just the right amount to calm me down and get me out of my head.

When the snow falls like this I go look for the horses. I want to see what those flakes look like as they settle on their warm backs, on their soft muzzles and furry ears. I trudge to the barnyard or to the fields and wait for them to spot me, watching as they move toward that figure in a knit cap and boots to her knees, an irregular dot on a landscape they know by heart.

I know what they want as they stick their noses in my pockets, sniff at my camera and fight for the first spot in line next to me. I know they want a scratch between their ears.

I know they want a bite of grain.

They know I can get it for them.

Our horses in the winter take on a completely different persona. The extra layer of fur they grow to protect them from the weather makes them appear less regal and more approachable.


I like to take off my mitten and run my fingers through that wool, rubbing them down to the skin underneath where they keep the smell of clover and the warmth of the afternoon sun. I like to put my face up to their velvet noses and look into those eyes and wonder if they miss the green grass as much as I do.

On this snowy, gray, almost March afternoon the horses are my closest link to an inevitable summer that doesn’t seem so inevitable under this knit hat, under this colorless sky.

I lead them to the grain bin and open the door, shoveling out scoops of grain onto the frozen ground. They argue over whose pile is whose, nipping a bit and moving from spot to spot like a living carrousel. I talk to the them, “whoah boys, easy” and walk away from the herd with an extra scoop for the new bay, his head bobbing and snorting behind me.

In a month or so the ground will thaw and the fur on the back of these animals will let loose and shake off, revealing the slick and silky coat of chestnut, white, deep brown, gold and black underneath. We will brush them off, untangle their manes, check their feet and climb on their backs and those four legs will carry us over the hills and down in the draws and to the fields where we will watch for elk or deer or stray cattle as the sun sinks below the horizon.

I move my hand across the bay’s back, clearing away the snowflakes that have settled in his long hair and I rest my cheek there, breathing in the scent of hay and dust and warmer days.

He’s settled into chewing now, his head low and hovering above the pile of grain I placed before him. He’s calm and steady so I can linger there for a moment and wonder if he tastes summer in the grain the same way I smell it in his skin.

My farewell to winter is long, lingering and ceremonious.

But it has begun. At last, it has begun.

Seeing it all.

We’re finding our way to the end of January, and around these parts that’s a huge relief.  I’ve been keeping busy playing music, writing and eating carbohydrates, and after a Friday evening spent singing to a full house, I was thawing out and happy with the way life gives you gifts, like 40 degrees on a January weekend.

Funny how a little warm up can turn an attitude around. Suddenly I was in love with winter again and while Husband worked on hammering and nailing and putting up walls in our master bedroom, I worked on ways I could sneak out the door unnoticed.

Because I decided it was of utmost importance that I load up little Juno and give her a tour of her new home turf.

Because we needed to check on things, ensure the gears were grinding right, the snowbanks weren’t too deep and the view was still as beautiful.

We needed to make sure those weird clouds weren’t storm clouds above us.

We needed to introduce her to the horses.

We needed to play…

and run…

And do whatever Tucker was doing here…

That looked like fun.

See, around here, if we chose to look, we can see things like this every day.

And although winter gets long, it’s one of those seasons that changes the landscape constantly. And so I suppose I’ve made it my mission here to keep tabs on the way the horses grow beards to ward off the chill…

The way the clouds roll and shift and change directions and colors…

How the light hits the grass and makes it sparkle…

How the horses settle lethargically into a pile of grain…

and how their noses feel under our hands.

I watch it all because I don’t want to miss it.

Because I like the way a puppy kiss looks.

And the sound of snow melting under a blue sky.

And the tree rows planted all those years ago? I like that they’re scraggly but standing still under a slow to rise winter sun.

I like the idea that this all will be green again, but first it has to be blue and white and brown.

I like that I’m here for all of that changing.

And I like the feeling, that like Juno, I’m hearing it all, seeing it all, discovering it all for the first time…on a 40 degree weekend at the end of January.

To be a human in winter.

Mid January in Western North Dakota doesn’t have the best reputation. It’s indecisive. One day it’s a kind, 20 some degrees,

the next a bitter, chilling 20 below.

Then, just when you find peace with your wedgie-inducing long underwear, it decides to warm up  enough to melt the snow. “How nice!” you think to yourself as you get in your car to drive to town. “I think I could get used to this winter thing if it stayed like this…”

But you know better and you should have never taken off those long underwear, because as soon as you get far enough away from home that turning back wouldn’t make much of a difference, the wind picks up and drops the temperature enough to turn that once slushy highway into a long and lethal ice-skating rink where a constant stream of semis and oil tankers are your competition.

And you’re no Nancy Kerrigan.

Ah, shit. I admit, January and I are enemies. I try to stay positive, keep my guitar out and my snow-shoes and neck-warmer handy. I try to do some sledding or walking or make a snow angel or something…

but mostly I wind up in my sweatpants under the John Wayne blanket reading a book about someone near the ocean before I turn out the light for the night and prepare to tackle mid-winter in the morning.

White knuckle driving, the “arms-out, it’s icy out,” sidewalk shuffle, an intimate relationship with Henry, the morning weather man, phone calls to Pops and Momma and Husband and Little Sister and my friend down the road about whether or not to believe the storm report, feet shoved in slippers and then in boots and then in slippers and then under the covers, soup and coffee and tea and some sort of disgusting warmed up cold medicine because everyone’s sick around here….and a constant craving for pastries.

Yup, that’s January.

And although it comes every year, I’m always surprised how this month seems to suck the creative light right out of me and makes me question the practicality of packing up the pug and heading south.

But I’m not leaving.

Well, there’s the Vegas thing in February, but as of today, I’m planning on coming back. Because I’m here for the long haul, and the longest haul of them all just happens to be winter.

I was thinking this last night as I sat behind the wheel of my four-wheel-drive and turned up the volume on some melancholy music, singing along soulfully and feeling frigid and uninspired and hungry for carbohydrates. I put my foot lightly on the brake to navigate a snowy curve, when up ahead, about five mils from home along the side of the road I noticed a large, tall, dark figure moving slowly toward the white ditch.

I slowed down as a few hundred scenarios whipped through my mind as they do when you see something unexpected on a very familiar path…to big to be a deer…

A grizzly bear?

A tall, scary, insane hitchhiker?


An alien? Probably an alien.




I pulled a little closer until the length of my headlights revealed the figure: two massive and stunning bull elk moving with ease and confidence across the road toward an oak filled coulee on the edge of the badlands.

I stopped in the middle of the road and looked around. Not much traffic meant I could relax and bask in this mysterious moment for a beat. And apparently those elk felt the same way, not the least bit intimidated by the flare of an oil well behind them casting light on their bodies and transforming them into beautiful silhouettes.

They stood still in that warm glow on a flat, snowy patch of ground and stared at the metal contraption lit up in front of them.

An alien.

I rolled down my window to hear them breathing, to hear their hooves squeak in the crust of the snow. As they moved along the highway I lightly pressed the gas pedal and moved with them, imagining I was on my way to the oak grove on the edge of the badlands, imagining my body was held up by a set of massive, hoof-clad legs.

Imagining my coat was thick and my head was held high and I could run like that.

Imagining I was one of them.

But people were made for houses I suppose. Houses and words and questions and the wisdom and thumbs to make wool caps to protect us from the cold.

And of all the qualities a glorious North Dakota elk possesses, I don’t imagine he can be inspired.

Although perhaps he is the definition of the word standing magnificently on a snowy flat, staring into my soul.

So I’ll take it. I’ll take the ice and the fur lined boots and the hot cup of coffee because being human on a cold January evening means the ability to become breathless and warmed clear through and falling in love, over and over again with our big, wide, white, frozen, wonderful world.