This will not be in Better Homes and Gardens

I mowed the lawn yesterday afternoon on the first day this spring where the temperature was above 80 degrees.

Yes, you heard me people, 80+. It happens around here.

And so do sunburns on pasty skinned northern women who decide a tank top and shorts is an appropriate outfit for the type of manual labor that involves pushing over tall stocks of thick grass and weeds in the name of a well groomed lawn in the middle of a wild place–and then quickly decide that a northern woman with pasty skin that hasn’t seen the sun for six months should maybe try shaving her legs and applying sunscreen before attempting such risque outfits.

Eeek, it was a moment I decided I might be one of those people who look better from far away.

Anyway, as I primed and pulled and shoved that lawn mower around the old clothes line, up what was at one time a valiant attempt at landscaping and then, you know over the graveyard of bones and sticks and toys the dogs drug home from Timbuktu, sending at least two bones flying into husband’s pickup before shocking the blades of the mower on one of those old landscaping rocks and landing the machine directly in the center of a immaculately preserved cow plop from last fall, I had a wave of envy for people in town who can mow their lawns in fifteen minutes with no serious hazards to their vehicles or risk of being splattered with manure.

"She's got the mower again! Save yourself and your good eye!"

Yes, mowing the lawn and weed-eating was the equivalent of my summer outdoor chores when I lived in town. It was my favorite task and I was known for choosing hours of raking and mowing and weeding over three minutes of laundry folding.

But here’s the thing, working in the yards of all my homes in town I would not dared to have worn as little (with such little grooming) as I did yesterday pushing that mower across the barnyard. I mean, I at least owed that much to my neighbors.

And although yesterday I had to dodge barbed wire and mow around the tractor and dodge scoria flying at my exposed shins, I could at least do it with my white, scrawny, flailing arms and legs glowing (and then burning) in the sweet sunshine while sweat pooled on my forehead and down my back.

And I didn’t have to worry about the neighbors feeling sorry for me and  shaking their heads as they watched from their front porches.

Which got me thinking about my yard situation: Sigh. It will never be Better Homes and Gardens worthy and I will never  get Martha Stewart to accept my invitation for a visit.

Sigh again.

It’s a hard truth to swallow.

I mean the reality is that we live in a barnyard, a barnyard with a shop and equipment and, you know, a barn. And pickups and machinery don’t make the best lawn ornaments no matter how many pots of geraniums I set on them.

So yes, I realize there are things I may never be able to achieve in a lifetime of living on this ranch in the middle of the clay buttes, and picture perfect landscaping and pets with both eyes and no wood-ticks may just have to be some of them. Because country living means, undoubtedly, mowing over cow poop and a roll of wire and a tractor in your front yard.

But it also means running to your car in your skivvies at night with nothing but the dogs to take notice, a campfire out back on summer nights if you want, fresh-cut rhubarb left over from your grandmother’s garden, a song about wind and a long walk with your husband to your favorite spot to take the place of expensive marriage counseling.

Yes, country living means wood ticks crawling across your kitchen floor and wild weeds mixed in with your garden patch and an unending collection of mud and boots in your entryway at all times.

But it also means breaking for deer on drives to town with a cold diet coke and your hand out the window, horses, slick and sleek after shedding their winter coats grazing in the sun setting on your backyard, a cool spot in the shade, wildflower bouquets and sleeping with the windows open to feel the cool breeze as it moves the curtains and listen to the frogs sing in the creek below your house.

And this planted just for you (but not by you) a few steps out your door.

The grocery store is the basement deepfreeze, the movie theatre is an old DVD collection, a concert is learning a new song on your guitar, date night is sitting side by side on the deck on a clear night with a glass of wine or whiskey (depending on who’s drinking), the coffee house is a trip to the neighbor’s for coffee black in old mugs, and a relaxing evening is a trip to the river to drop in a line for catfish.

Or, you know, you could  always take that trip to town with your diet coke and stock up on groceries, have someone else cook you an appetizer and steak, sit on your friend’s manicured lawn, go to the bar to listen to the band, catch a movie in the theater and grab a latte on your way out.

But I would have to shave my legs for that, because in town people see you close up….

I think I’ll take that hamburger in the deepfreeze grilled up and served on my picnic table on the now-clipped lawn, a glass of wine, a tune on my guitar and a John Wayne movie, if not for any other reason than to avoid taking a shower.

Which reminds me, I am heading out into civilization to Medora to sing for my supper this weekend. If you’re looking for a nice getaway and someone else to cook you an amazing steak, please join me:

June 3, 2011
5:30-8:30 PM
Roughriders HotelTheodore’s Dining Room
Medora, ND

June 4, 2011
5:30-8:30 PM
Roughriders HotelTheodore’s Dining Room
Medora, ND

I guess I’ll have to take a shower after all 🙂

Hope to see you this weekend, but if I don’t enjoy your yards, country and city folk alike!

23 thoughts on “This will not be in Better Homes and Gardens

  1. Ooo your posts make me miss the ranch/farm life SOO much!! Seven more days and I can officially call it “home” again. Sunburns sound so inviting!! Along with that Rhubarb!!

  2. If people only knew what I wore when mowing (or doing any ranchwork for that matter in the summer)… I’ve had to run and take shelter before when unexpected guests come barreling down the road!!! And I totally know what you mean about debri flying – hence the reason we have not mowed yet this year. Poor mower is still down and out from last year 🙂

  3. Did ya find any ticks after that day in the sun?? Found one crawling down my neck the other night …what the???.. I wasn’t even out there…didn’t seem fair….they usually qualify as “the badge” for a day in the yard! Dang! (itched for 2 two days after that!)

  4. We used to live in the country in Bismarck and yes, I remember those runs in skivvies and running over dog poop while mowing the lawn. No one around here grows rhubarb and the stuff you buy in the store would support a tree swing. So, no pie, no sauce, no rhubarb tea. You really have the life.

  5. So much I want to say…I’ll start with rhubarb. I believe it was in Montana on a very hot day when my husband and I stopped at a little nowhere cafe and bought a rhubarb MILKSHAKE to share on the road. What a mistake not to buy us each one! It was heaven, like the last melted spoonfuls on your plate when you’ve had rhubarb pie alamode. But icy cold and so good.

    A post or so ago you showed a photo proving not all of North Dakota is flat. What incredible country, not to mention excellent photography. Thanks!

    Wish you’d be singing at the Roughrider Hotel–Theodore’s Dining Room on June 20th. We’ll be passing through Medora on our way to the Western Writers Convention in Bismark the 21 through 25.

  6. My Facebook friends are posting this blog post right now! They saw that your dad posted it on Trent Loo’s FB page. Suddenly my farm girl friends from around the country want to come visit North Dakota from reading your blog! Sweet. Fantastic recap. I don’t have any curtains at my house. I don’t need them. I love the prairie and I have two deep freezers and an extra fridge and pantry for my grocery store. Keep me posted on when you are in Medora again. We’ll road trip from east River to western ND to see you! It would be awesome.

    • Thanks so much Katie for sharing this with others. I can’t tell you how great it makes me feel that there are other farm women out there in all corners of the country who can relate to no curtains, no locks on the doors and no award winning landscaping:)
      And I would LOVE to see you in Medora, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my next shows. Thanks again for spreading the word.

  7. Ah, Jessie, you always brighten my day! Today you’ve made me and my unshaven legs feel a little better! When I donned my shorts the other day I had a little debate in my head….razor or mower, razor or mower…decided, screw it, just get the mowing done! We’re bringing home a new (to us) riding mower today. Old one died and we thought we could keep up with just our push mower (ha!). Perhaps I’ll have more time to keep both the yard and myself groomed now? 🙂

    • Haha, I love this. In a game of tug of war between grooming and going outside, the outside always wins for me too! Ah well, should have been born a mountain man I guess where stubble and unruly, wild hair is perfectly acceptable and necessary. Happy mowing on that riding mower…I love to borrow dad’s but I make husband so nervous he pretends he’s working on something outside just to supervise. What could possible go wrong? 😉

  8. Jessie,
    You are a treasure!! Grandma Edith and Grandpa Pete would be so proud and they are so living on in you!! Long may you have the words to share that remind us all of what is real and what matters!!

    • Thanks for the kind words Frances. It is quite the blessing to be living here on this landscape that Pete and Edie worked and lived among too. Sometimes when I climb to the top of the big hill we call Pots and Pans I still feel like I’m ten years old exploring at my gramma’s house…and I hope I feel that way forever.

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