Wanted: April Showers

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It’s been a busy couple weeks at the ranch. The weather has been warm and too dry for comfort and we’re deep into “getting the place ready for Little Sister’s wedding” mode. Which means we have projects, not just in the barnyard, but at our house too.

We’ve got two months and only so many weekends to finish the deck, finish the basement, finish the siding, finish the finishing touches and make a lawn grow where only a single pig weed once emerged.

But first, let’s take a ride on Husband’s new/used dirt bike and Pops’ precious Trail 90. You know, just to blow off some steam…

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Not that I’d ever driven that little motorcycle/scooter thing…no worries, this guy here is good with lessons….But he’s also adorable, which makes it hard for me to concentrate.

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“Just like riding a bike,” he said.

Except bikes have pedals and don’t die at the far edge of the field two miles from home when I finally figure out how to turn and suddenly become a professional and want to start working on a ramp so I can practice my jumps…

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I love you sweet man, and it looks like you’re going to have to get the tools…

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And the pickup…because me and the Trail 90 are getting a ride home…

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Ok, we can call the sod guy now. Because, after three years, won’t it be kick-ass to have a lawn?

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Yeah, that’s a lot of lawn. Like 7,300 square feet worth.

Like 10,000 tons of grass.

So we called in reinforcement and spent last weekend burning our forearms and getting in our squats in the name of landscaping.

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And I’ve spent the rest of the week obsessing over my sprinklers, where they’re pointing and how to aim them without soaking my jeans, drowning or shutting them off.

And the dogs have spent the last five days believing they’ve finally gone to doggy heaven, rolling and sun bathing and napping and dragging dead things on what they seem to think is their own personal, giant slab of carpet.

So there was that.

And we need rain. Not only for my sod, but for the rest of this part of the state that didn’t get the moisture in the winter or the April showers we expect this time of year.

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On Tuesday Husband left work, along with rest of the office, fire departments from three communities, the forest service and hundreds of volunteers to fight a fire near the lake that burned almost 5,000 acres and nearly took out one of our favorite campgrounds and marinas. He came home late covered in soot, stripped his clothes and showered that desperate smell off of him.

The fire was contained and, in the meantime, we just hold our breath for rain and for that pager to stay quiet.

And I adjust the sprinklers, wishing we could turn on the sky with a nob like that, add some tasks to the list in my head before setting it all aside to go out looking for spring.

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Homemade surprises.

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I spent a good two weeks away from this place. After our vacation with friends spent skiing down mountains in Colorado, I hopped a plane and met my mom in Minneapolis where we shopped at market for clothes and shoes and other fun things for her store.

It was a good hiatus from life that was sort of stressing me out, but it was sure nice to get home to the ranch to see how spring was shaping up.

Turns out it wasn’t really. Just snowing and cold. March went out like a lion, because, if you remember correctly, it came in like a lamb, so that’s what we get.

It took me a few days to get caught up on life around here, and then Easter rolled in and well, there it was, Tuesday afternoon and I had yet to take a look around the place.

Because it’s crocus season.

So after my work was done enough for the afternoon, I took a little walk out to see if I could find any that survived the melty snow.

But before I could even get outside our yard, I ran into these beauties…

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Yup, the elk came for a visit, down across the bottom of Pots and Pans, heading toward the dam right outside our door before they caught wind of me and this beast…

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And while I know the elk live around here, because I see there tracks on my walks, catch the places where they bed down at night or linger on a stray hay bale in the fields, it’s still quite something to see them right in your yard.

I took a breath and held it and watched as they ran away up over the hill, hoping that I didn’t ruin their plans for a drink. Hoping that they might come back later.

Then I took another few steps toward the little hilltops where my sister and I found the first crocuses last year. Searching the ground as I walked, moments later I looked up to find the rest of the herd following suit, another pleasant and quick surprise.

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These animals on this landscape are so imposing. In the mountains they look smaller, dwarfed by the magnificence of the peaks, but here on the rolling hills they are the kings, the largest wild animal you’ll find roaming free. And they take my breath away each time.

I wished there was someone next to me to witness it. And then I was glad it was just me.

I had been missing this place. Life and tasks and deadlines were getting in my way. I stepped outside to see what I could see and nature delivered.

But even after such an unexpected show, I was still thrilled as I always am in early April to see these pretty purple flowers again, reaching through barely thawed ground to promise me summer…

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Before getting rolled over by the gremlin of the farmyard…

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Oh well, to live out here you gotta be hardy. If anything, the crocus teaches us that…

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I’ve traveled all over the place, but home, at the beginning of spring, is still my favorite place full of the best sort of discoveries…

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At the Farm and Fleet…

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One of the most worthless things on the planet are rubber boots with holes in both.

I own a pair and, well, there’s nothing worse than squishy toes when the mud is so nice and ripe for mucking around in.

Because we’re not out of the woods yet in this whole winter thing.  And that’s ok. We need the moisture, and I need a few more chances to learn my lesson about mud.

Anyway, so I need a new pair of rubber boots, which gives me a good excuse to go to the Farm and Fleet store.

I love the Farm and Fleet store. Any Farm and Fleet store there is, I don’t care. There’s just something about the racks of work gloves, the spring seeds, the paint, the plethora of barn jackets, long underwear, dog kennels, tack and brushes, fly spray, heat lamps, medicine, fencing supplies, tools, generators, extension cords, lawn furniture and toy farm animals that make me feel like anything’s possible.

I could spend hours browsing and dreaming of a perfectly organized tack room, or a summer spent in a light, long sleeved snap shirt and this cute Carhart cap right here.

In Farm and Fleet I become another woman in my head. The kind of woman who would raise chickens in a coop built with all these damn supplies and tools surrounding me!

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I’m the kind of woman who would raise and feed those chickens to collect farm fresh eggs for farm fresh omelets on any old regular weekday morning.

I am the kind of woman who could butcher one of those chickens to fill our freezer and then take it out to whip up a batch of delicious homemade noodle soup or chicken and dumplings if we happen to have unexpected company.

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In the Farm and Fleet store I am the kind of woman who wears an apron and shoes her own horses.

In the Farm and Fleet my horse becomes something better too. Better groomed. No burs. Never even saw one in his life because he exists in our perfectly weather proof stable. His hair shines like the sun because, well, Show Sheen! In the Farm and Fleet I’m the kind of woman who buys it buy the barrel.

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That and fancy tack. The kind with silver on it. Because, well, at the Farm and Fleet, only the best for my horse with the Fabio hair.

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In the Farm and Fleet store I am redecorator. A barn painter. A farmer with a garden that could feed the neighborhood.

And I can everything. Like meat and beets and corn and carrots. Because at Farm and Fleet you can buy a book that will show you how to do it.

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And when I’m done canning, I will train my dog to herd the cattle into a nice group and load them up into the stock trailer on command. Because there’s a book for that at Farm and Fleet too.

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Then I’ll buy myself a nice pair of leather gloves, because a woman needs a good pair that fits for all the fences I’ll be fixing… for all the weeds I’ll be killing…for all the dirt that needs tilling and the piglets I’ll be raising…  and the mud I’ll be slopping around in this spring…

Because a woman like me, well, she…oh yeah…she needs new rubber boots…

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I can’t be trusted with spring…

Summer arrived here for a minute or two this weekend.

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

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

I eat grilled brats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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

And, I, uh, well…

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I do shit like this…

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

predicaments like these…(Cue Prince Charming…)

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

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

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

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The way it should be

This week the cows came home, and so did 70+ degree weather.

When there are cows around in 70+ degree weather it’s next to impossible for people like us to stay inside, or do anything other than find the horses and ride around.

Of course there are things to be done, fences to be fixed, etc. etc. and that’s why we ride. Because on the back of a horse at least you can look like you’re working.

And when the cows are home and it’s 70+ degrees things that might have annoyed you, like opening one gate to let the horses in only to watch them run wide open out the open gate on the other side of the corral, make you cuss for only like five to ten minutes while you rush to wrangle the animals off the green grass on the other side of the fence and back to the barn.

Even the bird that shit on your head and the wood tick(s) stuck behind your ear are taken as a small price to pay for the arrival of summer

Because the wild berries are blossoming and it smells like heaven. 

This is my ride.

The man beside me is telling me things that make me laugh and he’s handsome and he’s getting all the gates and I get to go home with him tonight.  

The calves are adorable.

And the cows are home and it’s 70+ degrees and weekend’s here and life is the way it should be back at the ranch.

The greening up…

 When it decides to green up around here, it sure does a good job.

This time of year is my favorite. I love it so much I don’t mind the ticks.

(Like, I mean, lots of ticks.

Like, I had so many I had to strip off my clothes and put them outside. Like, I won’t tell you how many because you would never sleep again and also, I had one stuck on my butt and that was one of those conversations you don’t really want to have with your husband, but, well, let’s forget I ever mentioned it.

And while we’re at it let’s also forget that I found a tick in my bed last night…)

Annnyywaaayyy… ticks or no ticks, there’s something to be said about being the first one out there to find a patch of sweet peas.

There’s something so new and refreshing about it all, the green grass poking up out of the ground before the weeds and brush take over.

The fresh air before all the bugs wake up.

The smell of rain coming in.

The damp dirt and the birds and all of the sounds and smells of things coming back to life.

I feel like I’m coming back to life.

So I make it a point to go out in it. In the middle of the long, cold winters those are the promises we make to ourselves: If it ever gets above freezing we will not complain about the weather.

We live here and we endure this because this is what we’re promised. We’re promised the greening up. And the process couldn’t possibly be as beautiful, as spiritual and soul reviving if we didn’t fully understand what cold feels like.

Yes. We know cold.

And endless white.

And to know the white is to truly know the green.

And all the life that comes with it…

Sunday Column: Adventures in boots…

Our stories make us. To sit around the kitchen table, or to stop and chat up a friend on the street, to lean against our shovels, taking a break from work. To grab a beer on a patio somewhere and lean back into our memories with our good friends, or the friends we are making. To tell about the time you got bucked off so hard you couldn’t feel your right arm for days, the one that turns into a memory from your new friend or old friend about her favorite horse that used to eat her hat, stories that lead into other stories, stories that show us parts of one another, they mean something, they say something about the fabric woven in us.

Stories are how we come to know one another. Stories are how we share pieces of our lives with pieces of the rest of the world.

But I have to tell you that when I asked you to share the stories of your favorite boots with me here on the blog, I didn’t expect to be so moved. Each memory or commentary is touching or funny or perfectly heartfelt in it’s own way and I feel like I have the best group of loyal, well-dressed friends out there.

I’m so glad I asked for your stories

So thank you for sharing!

And if you haven’t commented with your own boot story yet (or Facebooked at Facebook.com/veederranch or Tweeted/Instgrammed a photo with #rockybootstories) there’s still time to enter for your chance to win a FREE PAIR OF BOOTS!  I will post the winner on Wednesday!

And now to celebrate spring and our stories and all the kinds of trouble we can get into way out in the country with our best friends in our favorite pair of boots, I present to you a story about childhood, breaking rules and paying the price.

P.S. This is a story about wood ticks and I apologize in advance for that creepy, skin-crawly feeling that will likely result after reading it…

Coming Home: Bending the rules ends in surprise infestation
by Jessie Veeder
5-11-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Keep those stories coming friends! And here’s to many more adventures in those boots!

Spring, up close.

I left the house yesterday looking for signs of spring. The wind and sun had dried up that last late April snow storm pretty well and I wanted to see what was emerging under that warmer sky.

It took some looking, but I’ve learned out here that while the big picture can be quite beautiful,

sometimes it’s the smallest things that are the most intriguing. Like a bud on a tree and how it knows it’s time to emerge from once bare branches, in perfect form. 
Or how grass seems to turn from brown to green overnight.

How something so soft can emerge from brown thorns.

Or how a bright color can thrill me here at the beginning of spring, before I’ve grown accustomed to the vivid landscape that comes with summer. 

Or how this blue, clear sky was pouring down ice only 24 hours before.

And that we all made it through, softer and alive…

like the crocuses on the hilltops, because it’s what crocuses do.

Sunday Column: When the outside comes in…

Well, it snowed.

So there’s that.

I sorta knew this was coming. We watch the weather like hawks around here, so on Friday when it was a calm, almost 70 degrees I called in the troops and we saddled up and headed east to get the kinks out of the horses’ backs, stretch our legs and get our saddle butts back.

It was a glorious few hours spent out under that spring sky, visiting pastures we haven’t seen in a while, counting crocuses and ducks and blades of green grass.

I even saw a couple turtles sunning themselves on a log in the stock dam.

I bet those turtles are pretty pissed right about now.

I bet those ducks are booking their flight back south.

I bet that muskrat that found his way into our garage last week is glad the cat put him out of his misery.

This week in my newspaper column I wrote a piece about all of the creatures that have come to life in this warm weather.

I was one of them. I had emerged. I traded my muck boots for cowboy boots. I put on a short sleeved shirt for crying out loud!

Things were looking up.

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I should have known better. Only in North Dakota would the end of April mean ice pellets slamming up against your window at midnight, turning a perfectly peaceful promise of spring into a snow day.

At least I didn’t go so far as to pack away my winter gear. I have a feeling a few creatures will be knocking on my door today, looking to borrow a sweater…

Coming Home: When the great outdoors venture inside
by Jessie Veeder
4-28-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: On the little yellow boat…

April did us a favor and, after bringing us a little spring storm, it warmed up nicely this weekend. 50 degrees uncovered all sorts of treasures for us, mostly mud and things stuck in mud…like dog poop, leftover construction materials and the Christmas tree that made it out the door, but not quite to the garbage pit.

We set out then in that spring air to do some tidying. When the weather warms up I get crazy. I want to do everything that I haven’t been able to do (because of the seven months of snow and subzero temperatures) all in one day.

I want to till up the garden spot. I want to plant grass seeds. I want to finish the garage. I want to ride all eight horses. I want to buy baby chicks from Tractor Supply. I want to roll up my pants and wade in the creek. I want to fix the barn. I want to start our landscaping project. I want to work on my tan. I want to go swimming. I want to make margaritas and grill burgers and have a deck party.

I want to buy a boat…

I think brown dog has the same idea…

Yes, a few days of warm weather will get the plans rolling. And the smell of the thaw, the sound of the water, the blue sky and sun and things uncovered by melting snow had me poking around the place, in search of projects, things I could accomplish.

And in my search I stumbled upon one of the ranch’s most unique relics. Sitting next to the shop covered loosely by a blue tarp and snow turned to ice water is Husband’s yellow boat, the one he brought with us to the ranch when we were first married. The one he built with his dad during the long winter nights when we were all just trying to make it out of high school alive.

The one he took me out in, to go fishing down in Bear Den, a little unknown nook of Lake Sakakawea a few miles from the ranch. The tiny hand-made boat where we sat back to back and trolled the shore, with nothing but sun-seeds, a couple beers and worms in our cooler.

And when the sun started sinking down below those buttes that surrounded the lake, it was that boat that got us stuck. Stuck in mud up to the floorboards of Husband’s little Dodge.

And there we sat. The little pickup connected to the little boat, stuck in the bottom of a badlands canyon, a new husband scratching his head and a wife in flip-flops clawing her way up the steep, cactus ridden banks that held them on a prayer that maybe her cell phone might find enough signal to call Pops to come and rescue them.

Pops, who had no idea where they went in the first place.

Pops, who wasn’t home, but got the message an hour or so later..

“Dad…*scratch scratch*…stuck….*static static*….Bear Den…*crackle crackle*…”

When I think spring I think of that fishing trip with my husband. When I think of that fishing trip, I think of that boat. When I think of that boat I think about mud and dads and how they have so many ways of saving us…

So I wrote this.

Coming Home: Little yellow boat never meant for fishing
(I’m having trouble with my hyperlinks,
please click URL below to read the column)
http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/431239/
by Jessie Veeder
4-6-14
http://www.inforum.com

Happy thaw out. May this season bring mud and good memories….