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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Sunday Column: Being human

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Winter showed up again this weekend. It was to be expected.

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We watched the snow blow sideways across the sky and into the black trees.

I hunkered down on the loveseat next to my husband under the furry blanket and we watched “Legends of the Fall.” And then, as I do every time we watch our favorite movie, I got depressed about the plight of man. It was sort of fitting though, because it’s been on my mind for the last few weeks, the sort of struggle we face here, how even when we do our best, sometimes it isn’t good enough. Sometimes no matter how we wish and hope and pray and work, it just doesn’t work out the way we had imagined. We’ve all been there. Husband and I have been spending time talking about this lately, about people’s stories, about the news of the world and our community and how it’s hard to get facts straight these days, how it’s hard to distinguish opinions from the truth and how sometimes it’s a struggle to find any positive perspectives.

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I worry that we’re getting disconnected from reality.

I worry that we stare at our cell phones and our television screens and we live our lives through photos and commentary instead of observing and wondering and speaking for ourselves.

I worry not enough people in this great country get their hands truly dirty or understand what it really takes to put food in our mouths.

I worry that we’re not spending enough time talking to each other and too much time talking at one another.

And then I worry that we’re not listening.

I worry that we’re getting harder instead of stronger…

IMG_0210 These are things I say over lasagna at our kitchen counter with the news turned low on the television and a long winter night stretching out before us.

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And then Husband reminds me that we are animals, animals who were somehow born with the ability to love and the ability to hate…and this gift of language and reason and religion and philosophy complicates and pulls at our simple instinct to survive.

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The coyotes who howl outside my window at night and get a little too close to the house in the morning. these animals don’t know good or evil. They know danger. They know motherly instinct. They know what they need to know to survive. What a gift and what a burden it is some days to be human. To feel somehow responsible to these coyotes and to the landscape, to the cattle who feed there and to the people we know…and those we never will.

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When I was a young girl, growing up and starting to realize that life wasn’t always a frolic in the oak trees, that most days your responsibilities were going to weigh on you, and that was what it meant to grow up, I remember wishing that I was one of those cows standing out in our pasture munching on green grass and knowing nothing different. Knowing no deadlines, or dirty dishes piled up, or the dull ache of your mistakes or the pain of losing someone.
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I just wanted to be a cow. Well, maybe a cow in California where the weather never dropped below 70 degrees and sunny. Or a snapping turtle sunning himself on the rock in the beaver dam out back, the one who lived for a hundred years, and spent the winter sleeping.

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Or the house cat sitting on mom’s lap concerned with nothing but getting a scratch behind the ears.

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Because I knew it then, as I know it now. Some days the business of being human is overwhelming, and being that muley doe coming in for a drink at the dam at the end of a week-long January thaw looks about as close to peace as you’ve ever seen while living life in your human skin…

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Coming Home: Promises made as we look toward spring
by Jessie Veeder
2-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: Thousands of miles away…


January is a tough month for us here in North Dakota. It’s smack in the middle of winter. It’s generally the coldest, the days are the shortest and the holidays are behind us…ahead of us? More winter.

To combat the January blues this year we decided to to break free before the New Year and ring it in somewhere warmer, somewhere that didn’t look anything like the rolling, white and brown ice colored hills and bare trees of the winter landscape at home.

So we packed up our swimming suits and our vacation hats, gathered our friends and headed to Mexico.

On a real vacation. One that wasn’t attached to some sort of work I had to do. (Which is typically the types of vacations Husband and I do).

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I told you about it a bit, I showed you the juxtaposition of it all in a slideshow of contrasting photos of bare skin and snowsuits.

But there was more to say about it I think. More to say about a chance to break free for a moment…

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It’s funny how a few days in a world so different, so far away from our own, sort of pulls you out of place, your own place, sweeps you off your feet, widens your eyes and lets down your hair.

But it wasn’t long before I started wondering what it might be like to really live there, on a place that touches the ocean. A place where cactuses stretch their arms to the sky and the wind blows sea salt and sand up on the shore, a place with sea fisherman instead of oil men.

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Who would I be here in this sand, under this sun? What would I love?

What would I do?

Coming Home: Finding yourself thousands of miles from home
Jessie Veeder
1-18-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

This week I’m back in Nashville, working on finishing up the new album. I’ll spend my days listening to instruments–dobros and guitars, fiddles and harmonies, fill up the spaces in my songs, songs about work and worry and love and landscape.

Songs about horses and home.

And I will sing and sing and sing to get every word right.

That’s the work I’ll do this week, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the buttes and the place that raised me…and I am so grateful for it.

We’re not in Cabo anymore…

We’re not in Cabo anymore.

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Nope.

photo 2We’re home.

Home to the great white and frickin’ frozen north.

You know what that weather report up there doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that the wind is blowing 50 MPH, making the air feel like it’s actually -30.

Which would mean when I got on the plane in Cabo on Tuesday morning and landed in Bismarck, North Dakota on Tuesday night, my body was asked to deal with a nearly 100 degree temperature difference.

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

I can’t help but feel the shock of the juxtaposition that was the result of a couple plane rides …

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

But oh, we had a nice trip. We wore vacation hats.

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We got some sun our our pasty white skin. We played beach volleyball and drank ridiculous drinks,

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we swam in the ocean,

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and rang in the new year in a blur of tequila and club music.

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And while we were doing those things, the wind was whipping in a cold front up north, as it tends to do in January.

But you know what they do in January in Cabo? They ride horses in shorts and bare feet on the beach.

Yup.

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CABO HORSES.

NOT Cabo horses.

Dammit, it’s cold here. No more vacation hats for us.

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Beach Couple

Arctic Tundra Couple

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White Sandy Shoreline  

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Just a white line

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Cabo Husband.

Freezing Husband.

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Cabo couple

Umm,  no…
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Cabo Cactus

Not a Cabo Cactus 

IMG_403380 degrees and sunny sisters

30 below zero and windy sisters

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Vacation feet.  

Not on vacation anymore feet

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Warm weather pet

Jessie and Dogs

A more snuggly version

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A beachy drink

coffee

A blizzard-y drink

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A walk on the beach

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Ah, son of a beettchh…

And that’s it. No, we’re not in Cabo anymore boys and girls…

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But we’re not beach people really.

We’re pale and pasty northerners with a large collection of wool socks. And we’re home.

And no matter what the sky is doing in Mexico, or Jamaica, or Sunny California,  it’s always good to be here.

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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: Winter and heavy whipping cream…

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

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

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

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

Winter. Some days you’re such a bitch.

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Oh, but we have ways of coping around here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it’s winter and I’m ssstttaarrrvvinnnggg.

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

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

And I believe the voices. Even though I do.

I do know where my next meal is coming from.

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

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

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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!

Colder.

IMG_9959It’s cold.

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

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

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

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

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

Took the dogs for a walk.

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Turned around after five minutes and went back inside.

Shit. It’s cold.

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I’m not ready for this.

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

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

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

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

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

Winter

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

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

Old shack in winter

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

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

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

It is cold. But it will get colder.

My Lord, will it get colder.

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

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

it came in with the night.

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

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

it came in with the night.

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

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

and I think it might stay.

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