Moo.

We’re thawing out a bit out here after a string of frozen days. Looks like the foreseeable future will be quite a few degrees above zero and that lifts our spirits a bit.

I’m ready for spring (and lets, be honest, that Jamaican vacation) and this baby’s ready to get outside and try out her new running skills without the cumbersome giant marshmallow snowsuit I made her wear last week when we went out feeding cows.

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But the kid doesn’t seem to mind. As long as we’re out doing stuff and seeing stuff and chatting about it, she’s happy.

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Feeding cows is a chore she likes to help with. And since the snow has melted a little and we can feed with the pickup instead of the tractor, we can go along again.

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I’ve always loved the way the cows look coming in for feed, in a black (and now some brown) line in the white snow. It’s like moving, breathing art (and hungry) to me.

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Art that says “Moo!”

Parenting on the Prairie

Good Wednesday to you all!

Just thought I’d take a little break from the frantic pace I try to achieve in my attempt to get a week’s worth of work done in the two days that Edie’s at daycare to share a couple parenting related pieces of news.

#1 Our Crazy Cat Had Kittens

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Yeah. Pixie, my husband’s pixiebob cat, turned the new carpet under the bed in the basement bedroom into a maternity ward yesterday while I was out and I came home to find her nursing four squeaky, stripey, adorable kittens.

I discovered her situation early last week when she was staring at us through the glass door on the deck. I went out to give her a scratch and, well, there was no denying the cat was knocked up.

So we let her in to watch her and make sure everything went smoothly.

And the cat was thrilled.

Turned out the little person living here didn’t share her sentiment. Because while Edie loves the kitty when she’s outside, passing her by for a point and pat on her way from the car, she isn’t so keen on another creature sitting on her mom or dad’s lap or brushing by her chair. I mean, clearly the cat should know better, it has her name embroidered on it for gawd sake.

Nope. If that cat gets anywhere near that chair Edie makes a beeline from across the room to show her who’s boss.

And on Sunday, when the cat dared climb up to share my lap with Edie, I watched my sweet innocent baby stare straight ahead to divert my attention so that I wouldn’t notice her little hand reaching over to try and pinch that cat’s paw.

So now we know my kid has a jealous bone and it’s not just reserved for humans.

And now we have four more cats to help teach her a lesson about sharing.

I’ll keep you posted. And also, let me know if you want to add a stripy kitten to your family. (Warning: they are a tiny part bobcat)

#2 I’ve Been Editing a Parenting Publication

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but since September I’ve been working as the editor of a Western North Dakota based parenting publication. It’s been a fun little project that has been unfolding pretty nicely and has been available as a free publication for readers to pick up in Western North Dakota. But we’ve recently made it available online and have a nice new website to go with it, so now you can read it too if you’d like!

www.prairieparent.com

Every issue I write a little “From the Editor” piece about what I’m learning on this new parenting journey and then my great set of writers tackle a variety of issue from staying healthy to where to get cute clothes and everything else that’s on the minds of parents out here on the prairie.

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This month’s issue is about love and there’s a really cute section called “Kids Talk” where I go out and ask kids really important questions, like what are they thankful for and how they think Santa gets to all the houses all in one night.

This month they tell me what love means to them and it’s adorable. You can read their answers here:

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If you’re interested, you can follow Prairie Parent on Facebook to get the latest updates.

But I’ll keep (most of) the kitten and Edie stories right here where they belong.

Well, it’s curling night tonight, so I better start stretching now!

Peace, love  and the glory of motherhood,

Jessie

A chance to warm up

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Well, I’ve bitched enough about the bone chilling weather lately, it’s time I’m finally able to praise this much appreciated January thaw.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to get one this time around, but I guess I can count on it again. And boy, did we need it, for the cattle and for the kids and for low North Dakota spirits everywhere.

I drove to town the other day and it was 41 degrees. It might as well have been 70. I went by the little donut shop and the two girls were outside shoveling in their t-shirts and sunglasses like they were in California. I guess I couldn’t blame them. I felt that way too.  I didn’t bother with my coat, in fact the sun shining in the window of my car made it too warm in there, so I opened up the window and listened to my tires splashing up slush on the pavement.

It’s because of January that I’ve never minded the mud.

We took advantage of the beautiful weekend and spent Saturday continuing work on my video for my song “Northern Lights.” Turns out dad doesn’t mind a third take of him walking up a steep snow bank in his snow shoes when its 35 above zero.

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And I don’t mind standing there watching him either, thankful for things like snowshoes after watching the filmmaker sink up to his waist trying to situate the camera in a snowbank.

But after today the snow has cleared off the tops of the buttes and the 10 foot drifts have shrunk down to 8 feet drifts. And the snow on the table on my deck melted enough to remind me of the three casseroles and  two pies I set out there to chill on Thanksgiving.(So that’s where that glass bowl went!)

Ahhh, I love it. Really. I wouldn’t mind January in North Dakota if she always behaved this way. And by that I mean staying above the 0 mark on the thermometer and chilling on the whole wind thing.

But knowing that’s not in her nature, so we take what we can get. On Sunday my little sister and I took turns taking Edie on sledding runs down the icy road in our yard.

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(Don’t worry, we weren’t going as fast as the screams would have you think…)

As you can imagine, she loved it.

She loves the cold actually. It’s weird. You take her outside, the cold air hits her face and she comes alive, squealing and laughing, waving her arms and legs, squishing up her face in delight.

I plop her in a snowbank and she flings snow up in the air like she’s splashing in a swimming pool, not giving a care in the world about where the cold stuff lands on her face.

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I swear, this kid was made for this place, it’s like she just sprang out of the slick clay one day and announced her arrival. She’s reminding me about the magic this place holds and I love her for it.

It’s all just an adventure.

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Tomorrow’s Friday and we have the weekend ahead of us that we intend on filling with house construction projects and outdoor chores. Edie’s getting to the age where it’s fun to take her along. I bought her a pair of little boots and today, just as I was bundling her up to take her outside to test them out, Pops poked his head through the door and we piled in the pickup to go feed the cows.

“This is what you’ve always dreamed about,” he said as we watched Edie squeal at the cattle lining up behind the bale we rolled out for him.

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Leave it to Pops to take the ordinary trials of a Thursday and turn it into a reminder of the simple things we live for.

Thanks Pops.

And thanks January sun for giving us a chance to warm up.

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Diary of a Christmas Blizzard: A comparison

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Diary of a Christmas Blizzard: A Comparison
by Jessie Veeder
1-1-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

My gramma Edie used to keep a diary of her life here at the Veeder Ranch. They weren’t particularly thorough, and most were written in tiny scrawl on pocket calendars with most every entry detailing accounts of the weather, work, cattle and who stopped by the place for a cup of coffee or to borrow something.

It makes me wonder today, as I sit staring at the chest-deep snow drift that has piled up against my glass living room doors, how she might have documented the snow-pocalypse Christmas blizzard of 2016 if she were still alive today.

I imagine it like this:

December 25, 2016. Christmas. It snowed all day today, about 16 inches with big drifts in places. Wind was strong.

The kids got home in time to beat the storm but will have to stay an extra day to dig out. The boys pushed enough snow to get the cows fed. Gene cooked a nice prime rib meal. Had a good time with the family.

As a writer I appreciate my grandmother’s diligence in keeping her journals, but while I share her sentiment for recording history, I hold quite a bit more flair for the dramatic details.

My diary looks a little more like this:

December 25, 2016. CHRISTMAS! Well, the plague might have kept me from participating in our traditional Christmas Eve pancake supper and seeing my baby in her Christmas dress try to eat the Silent Night candle at church, but it looks like I lived. Oh, and despite the howling and whipping wind, they got power back to mom and dad’s house last night before 10 p.m., making the local linemen the real heroes of the holiday.

This morning we woke up to a fun Christmas surprise! Our baby decided she can full-on walk, so we dressed her in her red tutu, chased her up and down the hallway and helped her open her presents at home before gathering up the caramel rolls, presents, diaper bag, snowsuits, boots and a partridge in a pear tree to head down the road to spend the day at Mom and Dad’s.

We were just about to walk out the door when we got a phone call. Gramma and Grampa stayed at the cabin last night and on their way out of the barnyard they made a detour for the ditch.

At that time only a few of the bazillion predicted snowflakes had fallen, but it wasn’t long before the wind started howling, the sky opened up and we were unwrapping presents, eating prime rib and playing dominoes in a regular shaken-up snow globe.

Speaking of shaking, turns out you shouldn’t bounce a baby who has consumed two pounds of blueberries, turkey, prime rib, 27 crackers and a bite of every dessert on the table.

While an epic blizzard raged outside, inside Edie brewed up and delivered a Christmas bedtime projectile vomit that’s sure to go down in infamy.

It snowed about a good foot or so by the time we loaded up to head home. Dad followed us in his pickup in case we got stuck along the way. I think he likes plowing through the drifts more than a grown man should…

December 26, 2016. Well, the weatherman wasn’t joking.

I woke up to a chest-deep snowdrift on my deck, more snow falling from the sky and a wind that was intent on making it impossible to clear the roads.

Mom called and said their heat wasn’t working, sending Dad up to the roof to clear the chimney, successfully rubbing the shine off the Christmas snow globe analogy.

The guys spent six hours in tractors trying to get my grandparents dug out of the 12-foot snowdrift that piled up on the cabin overnight.

In the meantime, my little sister and I were snowed in at the house without any leftovers. Seriously. I should have grabbed the cheese ball on my way out the door on Christmas night. What was I thinking?

We spent the afternoon eating chili and keeping the baby from crashing on the mini-4-wheeler she got from my in-laws. I haven’t seen this much snow out here in my lifetime. I see an epic sledding party in our future, guests arriving by sled and tractor…

Had a good time with family.

 

 

The last day of 2016: Just a few things.

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Welcome to the last day of 2016.

Out here it arrived in the form of high winds, blowing snow, icy roads and a no travel advisory, much like Christmas. So we did what I’ve been getting used to doing, we stayed home and did home things, like eating and playing toys, working on my book three minutes at a time, doing laundry and destroying every room in the house before cleaning it up and moving on to the next room.

Here how my daughter helps me put clothes away…

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Husband spends most of his free time in the tractor pushing snow around, which promptly just blows back in its place. On Thursday I planned on busting out of this joint to go to a movie with my niece and sister, but first Husband had to come home from work and clear the way. Seriously. So I found myself staring out the window in my coat watching for the tractor to come down the road like a little kid waiting for Santa. Because I hadn’t been out of the yard since the day after Christmas.

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But it’s been sorta nice. My niece was here for a few day visit so I had 13-year-old company and 13-month-old company and we all get along swimmingly.

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I should have spent some of this time in the black hole between Christmas and New Years to make a plan for the next year, to write it all down nice and neat, set some goals with intentions to see them through, but I didn’t. And I like goals. I like declaring them. It’s the only way I move forward with my work, make any new music or stories and  continue to justify doing what I love for a living. So there are some new career goals that have been brewing.

But this year, this 2017, I’m not sure how complicated I want to get in making personal promises to myself. I’ve spent the entire duration of 2016 in the new-to-me universe of motherhood and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the process it’s that the best thing I can do for myself is to work on being fine with what I’m doing and who I am in the here and now.

I feel like I’ve spent so much of this year wondering what it is I should be doing. Seriously. Most of my conversations have fallen into that category. Should I be working more? Should I be home more? Daycare? No Daycare? More play dates? More time with my friends? I should wake up early to write. I should wake up earlier to get on the treadmill. We need more date nights. Definitely more date nights.

Basically, I spent the year trying to figure out where and how my limited time and limited energy and limited money is best spent, a question that seemed more pressing now that I am responsible for a little one, and she grows and changes by the second.

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And it’s not that I wasn’t confident in my role as a wife and mother, it’s just that I wondered where the rest of me fit into my life now. Nobody tells you that about new motherhood. They don’t tell you that one of the biggest adjustments is finding and getting to know the new version of yourself after that baby is born.

It’s been a year and I’m not sure I’m there yet. But I’m getting closer. Like, I know that nurturing my creative energy and keeping that as the focus of my work continues to be important to me, but now it looks a little more like planning and work to find it (like, “gasp!” scheduling some alone time!)

And I know I’m a happier person when I get to spend actual quality time with my husband and daughter. And by quality time I just mean time spent being a family, feeding cows together, having supper or just playing on the living room rug, so I’m going to try to do more of that. It sounds simple, but between ranch work and work work and house building it hasn’t been. And neither has calling someone sometimes to watch her so the two of us can do some things on our own. I have to do more of that in 2017.

But I think that’s it. I think I’m not going to worry so much about the stuff in between. If I get to the treadmill, great! But I’d rather pull my daughter up the hill in her sled (if the damn  wind quits blowing) and get my huffing and puffing in that way.

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And I don’t want to say I’m going to eat less caramel rolls in 2017 because that’s just asking for disappointment.  And the new year needs more sweet things, not less.

And when I’m feeling a little scattered or lonesome, I’m going to call a friend. Because that’s what friends are for and I need to remember that, for me and for my friends as well.

Cheers to a New Year. Thanks for following along and sticking with this story of ours. And thanks for sharing yours along the way.

Here’s to collecting memories and making new ones. If you need us we’ll be out sledding with the neighbors.

Peace, champaign toasts and sippy cups,

Jessie

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Stuck in Winter

Every since the sky dumped a couple feet of snow on our ranch after Thanksgiving, bringing with it days on end of sub-zero temperatures, all we’ve done is get stuck and pull each other out.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, except yesterday I got puked on all down my shirt and into the crevasses of the recliner in the living room by baby Edie who apparently doesn’t chew her strawberry pieces, if you know what I mean.

So here’s how it’s been going so far this winter…not great really.

Not that great.

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Winter has arrived at the ranch
by Jessie Veeder
12-11-16
http://www.inforum.com

So … winter has arrived. Look out your window.

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I know you see it in the giant drift you had to dig through to get out your front door making a perfect pile for the kids to build tunnels in after school. Some of you might even have a snowman or two looking back at you.

And some of you have cleared your driveways and sidewalks down to the dry concrete already. I know because I went to the big town and saw for myself a winter phenomenon so far removed from the drifty, snow-packed, ice-crusted gravel road that is my life. I made my husband slow down so he could take a good long look.

“What, did they take a hair dryer to it or something?” he exclaimed, horrified at the site of such domestication and clearly not getting the hint.

That’s OK. He didn’t get my first hint either, the one where I tried to move the four-wheeler from our driveway up the road and to the shop where it belongs at least five times, spinning my wheels, using my best cuss words and nearly squashing the old lab in the process before declaring the hill un-climbable and returning to the un-shoveled driveway.

“You should have put it in four-wheel drive,” said my husband when he got in from finishing the job.

I thought it was in four-wheel drive.

And so that’s how we do winter here at the ranch. We (literally) rev the engine and plow through.

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But that cowboy-in-coveralls mentality didn’t quite pan out on our way to feed the cows a couple bales the other day. I had been whining to my husband, telling him that since the baby came I haven’t been able to go outside as much, that I miss going along and being useful and getting my hands dirty. I said I’m not cut out for the constant inside chores like laundry and dishes and figuring out what to make for supper.

That I’d much prefer to be doing chores outside.

So the next evening he got home before dark, I bundled up the baby and we went along in the feed pickup. It was decent weather, enough to melt the top of those big snowdrifts — the ones that make us forget where the big rocks and deep ravines hide. Not that a big rock or deep ravine has ever stopped the men on this place from hitting the gas harder in an attempt to get the job done.

But do you know what almost always stops them? Three feet of heavy wet snow strung out over a quarter of a mile on the trail.

I know because these are always the times I get to go along.

And so there we were, sunk to the floorboards with a bale on the loader, a baby in a snowsuit, a sun dipping below the horizon and a good half-mile walk to the shop for the tractor I suggested we take instead.

I know those words came out of my mouth.

“You stay here, I’ll be right back,” were the words that came out of his mouth.

Ten minutes into trying to keep the baby from licking the dirty window I started my own half-mile trek to the house, not thinking he’d actually need my help, forgetting that someone needs to be behind the wheel of the pickup when the tractor pulls you out.

I made it 100 yards from the house, trudging through knee-deep snow in my winter gear with a squealing one-year old dangling off my hip only to be loaded up and taken back to the scene of the crime.

I was charged with keeping the pickup in gear, my foot on the gas and the baby content while my husband yanked us out of the hole he dug us in, only to watch him get us stuck again and then listen as he directed me to drive it back home on our tracks while he followed.

“If you get stuck, I’ll just nudge you with the tractor,” he said.

Which he only had to do once on the steep hill coming out of the driveway where I got the four-wheeler stuck.

Because this is winter at the ranch, and there aren’t enough snowplows (or hairdryers) in the world.

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My attempt at winter.

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Oh my gosh you guys we got a lotta snow out here the past few days.

In a blink of an eye it turned from Thanksgiving to Christmas and I haven’t been out of the house since Sunday.

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I’ve been home with the baby and then, the past two days, Husband brought her in town to play at daycare and I’ve been hunkered down at my laptop trying my damnedest to finish this book project, which means I’ve been combing through the archives of the past five years of blogging, column writing and photo taking, trying to pick my favorites and make it all make sense together and generally going crazy and becoming completely sick of myself.

So before the sun set I decided to go outside to see what I could see and get this stink off of me.

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Husband said the road up and out of the house was pretty bad, but that he got after it with the tractor last night and cleared it up a bit more, so I was feeling confident I could help him finish the chore he didn’t get to last night (or last weekend before the storm hit like we should have done), which was moving the 4-wheelers into the big garage in the barn yard.

No problem.

But first I needed my hat, cloves, boots, neckerchief and coveralls, which were upstairs in the garage in a bin where, apparently, judging by the evidence of hair, the cat sleeps.

No problem. A little cat hair never hurt anything.

Now, time to start the 4-wheeler. But first, I need a shovel to brush the foot of snow off, and also, maybe dig a little trail behind it to help it get unstuck.

No problem. Started right up. Pulled right out, drove down the road along the snow trail Husband cut with his pickup this morning and I was toot-tooting right along until…ugh…what’s that smell?…stop.

Sniff my coat.

Sniff my glove.

Sniff my hand.

Sniff my coveralls.

Sniff my coveralls again…

Smells like cat piss.

The cat pissed on my coveralls.

I was wearing cat piss coveralls. A perfect outfit for failing my five attempts at making it through the snow and up the hill and out of our driveway to get to the big shop in the barnyard.

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So me and my cat piss coveralls brought it back home to get the pickup and, still trying to be helpful and avoid going back to my computer, I drove the pickup to the shop so Husband could drive it home when he figured out a way to easily get that 4-wheeler out of the yard and into the shop, finishing my half-assed attempt at getting a chore done like usual.

I don’t know how he’ll feel about his pickup being parked there, but it’s too late now. I walked home and left it for him anyway, me and my stink cloud trailing behind me, hitting some snow banks that had me crawling on my hands and knees to get out, successfully completing enough exercise to at least get me through the rest of December.

Now I’m home and my lungs are burning, my back is sweating, my cheeks are frozen, my book’s still not done and getting the stink off me failed in more than way than one.

But if I hurry I might get myself a full shower, leg shave and everything, before the baby gets home.

So that’s something.

Peace, Love and Cat Pee Pants,

Jessie

The cow feeding ritual…

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Dad retired last week from his job as Economic Development Director in McKenzie County. He’s been in that position for 24 years. He retired so he could run for County Commissioner. And he was elected. And so he’s not really retiring from his position as a community leader, actually, he’s just going to lead in other ways. And also, he’s taking another job.

So I’m not sure my parents will ever retire really, for both of them their work is so closely tied to their hearts.

I wrote this after we threw dad  little party to celebrate one chapter ending and another one beginning. So many of his friends, family and colleagues stopped by, even more wrote to wish him well.

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And it turns out he didn’t take a day to rest or relax like I was hoping when I wrote this column. He had a couple meetings to round out the week he spent packing up his office.

But he did, like he always does, take some time for the cattle, the other job he’s been in for his entire life. The one he’ll likely never retire from.

Oh, and he also always finds an excuse to knock on the door to check in on us…

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Coming Home: Feeding cows memorable in so many ways
by Jessie Veeder
11-20-16
http://www.inforum.com

Outside, up out of our driveway next to the gravel county road, a couple pyramids of hay bales are stacked up nice and neat, waiting to be unrolled on the cold hard ground for the cows that we will be feeding this winter.

It’s a ritual that goes along with keeping cows around here through the months of November (or October if winter comes early) and on into April or May or until the grass comes back. It’s just one of the winter ranching chores that goes along with keeping the water open, the tractors running, the roads and trails clear of snow and mastering the art of doing it all while wearing seventeen layers of winter clothing.

When I was growing up we had cattle every winter. And every evening after my dad came home from his work in town, often after the sun had gone down, I would bundle up in my coveralls and beanie, and sit beside him in the feed pickup as he rolled out bales for the cows.

It was one of my favorite chores for a lot of reasons. The pickup had heat, so that was one of them. I got to sit bundled up and watch the cows come in from the hills in a nice straight, black line.

When we would feed cake or grain, I got to drive the pickup while dad shoveled it out the back. He would put it in low and release the clutch and tell me to keep it out of the trees. My nose would barely reach over the steering wheel, but I felt helpful and I liked it.

And I liked the way the hay smelled when it unrolled from the back of the pickup, like it had kept some summer underneath its layers. There’s something about an everyday chore like this that is sort of comforting. Maybe it’s the knowing that you’re a necessary part of the order of things. Knowing that you’re responsible.

It’s the taking care I think.

Last week we celebrated dad’s retirement from 24 years as the county’s economic development director, a job he was passionate about, one that had him helping to problem solve in the slow times when people were moving away from this community and troubleshooting during boom times when it seemed like the entire country was moving in and looking for their place here.

It was a stressful and rewarding career, one that he’s not necessarily done with as he’s moving on to similar work, but it’s one that often kept him up at night or late in town at meetings. And so, for most of my life, he’s had that job and he’s had the ranch and the work that needed to be done to keep things running, in different ways throughout the years, sometimes late in the evening, or in the early mornings and always on the weekends.

Since moving back to the ranch almost five years ago, my husband and I have been trying to learn as much as we can from him about what it looks like and how to function as full time working people who also run cattle. I told him I had no idea how hard it must have been for my mom and dad when I was growing up and riding along with him, often feeding cows in the cold and in the dark when he made it home from work. I never knew because he never made it look like work.

My parents didn’t complain because this is the life they wanted and agreed on.

I get that, although I probably complain more.

Monday was dad’s official first day in 24 years that he didn’t wake up as the county’s economic development director. He has a month or so before he settles into his new professional role, so I was hoping he’d take a minute to relax and take a breath.

I pulled out of my driveway and up past the hay yard and down the county road, heading east for work and there was dad, in the late morning chill of November, dressed in his wool cap and Carhart coat driving his feed pickup, unrolling a hay bale, spending the first day of retirement, feeding cows.

 

 

 

 

On horseback…

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We’re in the thick of fall at the ranch, which doesn’t mean as much pumpkin spice flavor as it does wooly horses, wooly caps and scrambling to get things buttoned up and rounded up for the winter.

On Sunday gramma came over to watch Edie do the things Edie does, like try as hard as she can to stand on her own, fall down and get concussions…oh, and blow kisses, and I headed out with the guys for a ride out to the west pastures to move the cows to a different pasture and find some strays.

The weather looked sort of threatening and chilly from behind the glass windows of my house, so I bundled up in layers and squeezed into the riding jeans I haven’t worn since I was three months pregnant, and headed out into a calm and sort of rainy day.

And it was a much needed trek for me, something I used to take so much for granted before I had a little one attached to my hip. Now, if I want to go out for a ride it involves “arrangements.”

So many simple things these days involve more planning than I ever did in my pre-baby life. But it’s worth it all around. Gramma gets one on one time with the baby and I get one on one time with the things I love most.

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I traveled those hills on my sorta of slow and lazy horse, took two pees in the pasture behind bullberry bushes because I drank too much coffee,

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Here, hold my horse…

chased cooperative cattle through open gates,

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got sorta lost looking for a stray, got slapped a few times by wayward branches, got kinda wet in the rain and the deep creek running high because of all the fall moisture and came home a different woman, reminded that heaven isn’t the only thing that can be found on horseback…

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Sometimes, you wind up finding yourself again too.

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