Goat Kids and Kid Kids

img_7234

Here’s a picture of a baby goat. A kid, if you will.

img_4665

Here’s a picture of a human kid showing another kid a pen full of kids.

So many kids. It’s all really too adorable.

img_7270

But that’s pretty much the extent of what I know about goats, honestly. I had a couple to practice goat tying on when I was in high school rodeo, but mostly they just ate, grew giant and ran free with the horses in our pastures, occasionally and annoyingly following us on a roundup or two.

Oh, and also, when I was little, I once babysat (kid sat?)  my neighbor’s baby goat named Filipe. She brought it home with her from college over winter break and couldn’t take him with her on a family trip or something, so I got the job. Filipe was tiny and young, so I kept him in the house to bottle feed him. I also fashioned a diaper for him.

And he slept in a little box by my bed next to my Christmas tree.

It was a magical relationship.

Anyway, that’s about the extent of my goat experience, until a few weekends ago when our friends asked us to come and help them doctor their herd.

Brett was our high school friend who has been living in the Colorado area since college. He recently moved his adorable family back to the ranch where he grew up and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Brett is a cattleman and a good horseman. He and I competed in 4-H horse shows together and the one time I actually beat him was probably a fluke but also one of my proudest moments because, well, he was really good.

me-and-brett

Anyway, while he was gone managing one of the country’s biggest feed lots, he got into the business of raising show goats that he sells to 4-H and FFA kids across the country.

Jacobson’s Show Goats.

And turns out he’s really good at that too.

img_7282

Like a cattle man knows cattle, Brett knows his goats, their quirks, their needs, their feed regimen, the fact that llamas keep them company or the coyotes away or something I’m not sure because I can’t remember anything about this llama except her name is Creampuff…

img_7257

and what babies belong to what mommas, which is a big deal because you know, goats can have triplets, so it gets complicated.

img_7207

Anyway, we went out to help a few weekends back. Well, Husband helped. Edie and I, well, we observed.

img_7218

And what she discovered was basically it pissed her off when she caught her her dad carrying any baby that wasn’t her.

img_7262

And I learned that doctoring baby goats, tagging them and giving them shots to keep them healthy,  is a little easier than doctoring calves–mostly because they’re lighter and more portable.

img_4663

And while they might be smaller, they are definitely not quieter.

img_7240

But they are adored and well taken care of, I’ll tell you that. Because Brett has a couple little helpers who seem to know about as much about the goats as he does.

Harlee is the official goat namer, petter, feeder and snuggler…

img_7265

img_7210

img_7254

img_7280

And Evan is the goat sorter and wrangler…

img_7288

img_7249

Brett’s wife is a nurse and a good sport about the goats, so I think it’s all a nice combination.

And we had a great day with them. It was fun to see this part of their life and learn a little something new about livestock. It’s also fun to know that the future of these goats will be to help teach youth, both in the country and within the city limits, how to take care of and take pride in an animal.

I like the thought of that.

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 11.31.04 AM.png

As for Edie, despite her first impression, I can’t help but think with friends like these I can’t help but imagine a goat in our future…

img_7208img_7213img_7214img_7225img_7226img_7227img_7238img_7273

Or maybe a Creampuff…

img_7279

It might be inevitable.

img_7291

Thanks Jacobson Show Goats for letting us help!

Peace, Love and Kids, Kids, Kids!

Jessie

img_4670

Badass 4-H Nerds

Alex & Me. 4-H

I’ve had this photo on my fridge for a few weeks. I found it while going through photo albums in search of something else.

And then this gem falls out of from the pages, unattached and out of it’s place and I thought, well, what a shame that it’s been hidden all these years when it should be on display for me to see each day.

Because, well look at these nerds. Me and my little sister at the county fair, fresh off the ranch where we likely spent the night before washing my old mare, Rindy, in the backyard with Mane and Tail shampoo, a brush and a hose spraying freezing cold water.

I would have put on my shorts and boots and worked to convince Little Sister to hold Rindy’s halter rope while the horse got busy munching on as much lush green grass as she could, without a care about that tiny, fuzzy haired girl in her way.

Little Sister, enthused initially, likely started to get annoyed by the whole deal, the sun a little too hot on her already rosy cheeks, the bees getting dangerously close, so she probably abandoned ship after a couple arguments about it and then I would have been out there finishing the job, picking off the packed on dirt and yellow fly eggs horses get on their legs up in these parts and then standing back, pleased with the work I did and excited to show my horse in the big arena and decorate her up and ride her in the parade because she’s never looked so good, so shiny, her red coat glistening in the sun.

Then I’d take her down to the barnyard and give her a munch of grain, tell her I’d see her in the morning.

It would rain then, soaking the ground nice and good and I would wake up bright and early because likely I didn’t sleep a wink, so nervous about getting that purple ribbon. I would pull on the crisp dark blue Wrangler jeans that I laid out next to my brand new clean white shirt dad picked up for me at Cenex or the western store on Main Street and I would tuck it all in nice and neat and head out to the barn with Pops and Little Sister trailing behind to get my glistening horse and her fancy halter loaded up in the trailer only to find that she had gone ahead and taken advantage of the mud the rain produced, rolling in it nice and good and letting the clay form a thick crust on her back.

I’m thinking this scenerio is the reason for our serious expressions here.

But it looks like we got it worked out, because damn, we look good.

Especially that mare.

Badass we were. Badass 4-H nerds.

I frickin’ love this picture.

Alex & Me. 4-H

Hanging with the kids


One of my favorite parts of my summer so far has been the couple times I’ve taken youth groups out to hike around in the badlands south of Boomtown. It’s gratifying for so many reasons, the first being that I, along with my partner in crime, Extension Agent Marcia, get to be the kids’ gateway to adventure, which I like to imagine makes us like super heros in hiking shoes.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic. But maybe it makes us at least kinda cool.

Anyway, in a town in the middle of an economic boom that’s making headlines across the globe, sometimes the little people get lost in the shuffle, so I’ve made it part of my mission to help when I can. Life’s been busy lately for so many of us trying to  keep up with the demands of a town stretching and growing by the minute, but if I can help these kids out of the bustling elements for just a few hours I come home feeling like I’ve done something really worth while.

Plus, it’s a really great excuse for me to drop what I’m stressing about and focus on what it’s like to be a kid who just wants to climb to the top of the buttes and ask a million questions about whether or not that cow over there is a buffalo, if ticks can jump, what’s this bug on my ear and, umm, can you help me find the iPod I dropped in the long grass?

So that’s what I did yesterday with Marcia and my friend Megan, my partner in photography crime. We took almost 30 kids between third and sixth grade on a photography expedition

 complete with a scavenger hunt and challenges and cactuses and humidity and yes, a million woodticks, that, according to Google, can not jump.

Now, I’m not great with kids, I will be the first to admit it. I treat them like tiny adults and sometimes I see their little eyes glaze over when I attempt to explain complicated things that, well, kids don’t really care about. But we get along fine. I release them into the wild and tell them to be careful of cactus.

Someone always gets into a cactus.

So off they went, covered in bug spray and that sweaty, dirty film kids get from running around outside in the humidity of summer. We took photos of our feet and photos of the sky, photos of the grass, photos of bugs, photos of our names in the dirt. We took photos of our hands and our friends jumping up in the air, photos of the road and a butterfly and dandelion puffs.

We took photos of our eyeballs, photos of the bus, photos of the buffalo that were really black cows and photos of footprint of a dog that we were certain was something wilder.

And when we were done taking photos by the picnic area, off we went to take photos on the trail, the group splitting up a bit, the boys running ahead and the girls hanging back to take on my challenge of photographing every species of wild flower they could find.

And there were dozens.

They took it seriously.

They were my kind of women.

Unfortunately for them, however, their trusty trail guide forgot her wildflower book at home and her memory is getting foggy in her old age. Needless to say I didn’t feel as wilderness womanly as I would have liked to when I had to reply to their questions with “maybe you should Google it when you get home.”

Well, it was either that or make something up, and, as we all know, I cannot tell a lie.

And, you know, their eyes. They glaze over.

Anyway, among the wildflower explorers was one girl in particular that pulled at my heartstrings and made me consider calling her mother and asking if she would let me keep her daughter. She was small and quiet, dressed in jean shorts and tennis shoes, her brown hair cut in a bob and her eyes wide with wonder, as if the task of finding every species of wildflower on the trail opened up an entirely different world to her.

She took it seriously, but not competitively. I watched her hang in the back of the line, getting down close to a sunflower to document it from all angles. I saw her touch them, examine them, study them and, I think, truly fall in love with them.

She couldn’t get enough. We’d been out in the wild hills of the badlands in the heat of the day for a few hours and this girl had her eyes to the ground. She gasped with delight at the discovery of a new species like the other girls, but she just took a little extra time.

She reminded me of me at that age and how I could have stayed out there forever. Even when the other kids were sort of melting and hungry and thinking it was time to head back, I found her wandering quietly behind the group, examining her world full of flowers.

I’ve been busy lately. I have been pushing myself and worrying about the little things. I have been racing the clock and working to fit things in.

This is what happens when you grow up.

I forgot that I never wanted to grow up in the first place.

Yesterday I was reminded that there is always time to wander.

And that’s why I  hang with the kids.

Sunday Column: Wildflowers

Happy Sunday. It’s a beautiful one here at the ranch. It’s raining, the trees are turning green right before our eyes, the flowers are blooming and I have my nose to the ground, inspecting, documenting and making sure I don’t miss a single bloom.

Wildflower season is my absolute favorite time of year, an obsession that started with a 4-H project and has continued throughout my life.

This week’s column attempts to explains that fascination a bit.

Coming Home: My love of wildflowers started young
By Jessie Veeder Scofield
Fargo Forum
Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lord, when I die, bring me back as a wildflower on the North Dakota Prairie. 

4-H, the broken bean and why I may never sleep again..

It was a partially-cloudy, partially-sunny, partially-windy, partially-calm, partially-cool, partially-warm day in the North Dakota badlands and I sat at a small lunch table in the school cafeteria in the middle of a little cowboy town. I had a name tag attached to my floral shirt. It said “Judge.” I had a binder, a pencil, a stack of papers, a sweat bead beginning to form on one of my eyebrows…and fifty kids’ hope of the grand champion ribbon hanging on my “expert” opinion.

The hand of the clock moved to indicate it was 8:00 am in this cowboy town on the edge of the buttes. It was 8:00 and it was time to get serious. Because this was the moment every country, crafty, green thumbed, talented kid in the county had been getting ready for all summer.

The cafeteria began to buzz, a little more energy walking through the double doors with each passing hour. Kids in white shirts and boots that squeaked on the tile floor rushed around carrying homemade quilts, photos, plants, and bugs pinned to foam board while the the white and green clover patch hung proudly above their hearts.

The hearts they have pledged to greater loyalty.

Meanwhile, my loyal heart was breaking.

Don’t be alarmed though. That’s just what happens when I am face to face with a young man in a button up shirt and glasses who has lugged a ten pound pot filled with petunias from his family’s farm thirty miles away only to plop it down in front of me on that cafeteria table, the top of his head barely peeking over the red, leafy plants, and begin to explain the method he followed to make the plant grow so lusciously large…all the while poking at the dirt and trying to put the chunk of plastic that had fallen off of the pot on the long journey back in its proper place.

“Don’t worry,” I told him. “This is about the plant not the pot…and the plant looks great!”

He instantly relaxed and went on about how he made sure to keep an eye out for his plants because they have some dogs full of mischief at their farm, and how he used Miracle Grow soil this time, soil that absorbs water if you accidentally give the plant too much. And that is what he learned.

That and to be careful in the transport.

It was a blue ribbon plant, a blue ribbon interview, a blue ribbon kid…it was going to be a blue ribbon day.

Ahhh, this was 4-H at its finest. One of the last truly wholesome things in the world and I got to be a part of it.

Although, I’m not so sure that I was their best choice, you know, given my soft spot for children who have put their loyal hearts, clear-thinking heads, service-oriented hands, and health to work all summer on giant latch hooking projects, wildflower collections, a terrarium in an aquarium, a leather tooled pouch, and a cross for their father’s grave.

How do I chose a favorite?

How do I chose a best when I am dealing with the best–the kids who dedicate their summer to learning, to doing, to accomplishing something meaningful to showcase, to pass along and share?

What do I say to the young lady smack dab in the middle of teenage-dom who presented me with a photo of her perfectly posed red border collie and smiled with pure innocence and delight as she talked about his puppy antics, his cow-dog capabilities, his big, loving personality and why she likes to photograph him? How do I tell her that while she was explaining all of the different scenes she photographed before choosing this, her favorite, a photo of her pet that will go on her wall, she was single handedly restoring my hope for the future of her generation?

Blue ribbon. That’s what I say. Blue, blue, blue.

And how do I tell the lankly, shy fifteen-year-old that the story he was telling me about walking the ditches with his dad to capture a photo of a perfectly constructed, perfectly vibrant, perfectly lovely wild sunflower with the old camera he was given was giving me a lump in my throat? How do I tell him that, from now on, every patch of wild sunflowers I see will tempt me to look for the most symmetrical and most pristine plant out there…and it will reminded of him?

Blue. Blue. Blue ribbon for you.

And what to I say to the little girl in glasses who had been waiting in line for a half an hour to proudly show me her purple flowers in a purple flower pot? How do I tell her that yes, her flowers are lovely, but her personality and manners and respectful and lovely nature will take her far in gardening and in life? How do I tell her that she’s going to grow up and it’s going to get a little hard sometimes, but to always remember this moment and that her favorite part about gardening was getting to play in the dirt?

Blue I say. Blue ribbon!

And what about the sixteen-year-old girl who showed an amazingly artistic photo of a trip she took to the big city while also showing me a zest, love and excitement for adventure and new experiences along the way. How do I ask her to send me a postcard from Paris when she gets there,  a shout out when she’s barrel racing at the National High School Rodeo Finals, a photo from the top of Mt. Everest?

Well, I guess I tell her to take more pictures, take all the pictures she can…and she’s got herself a blue ribbon.

Oh, I am hopeless. Absolutely hopeless. And apparently with a little experience it doesn’t get better. See, I judged 4-H for the first time a few weeks ago at my home county’s fair. Pre-teen photography. I was blown away. I don’t know if it is the new digital camera technology or the eye for detail these kids have because, you know, they are a little closer to the ground and everything, but there were photos in this group that I would hang on my wall with pride, that I would submit to contests, that I would put in a calendar. I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Needless to say, there was enough blue ribbons to go around. And they were all deserving.

And I slept good that night.

Which brings me to this.

Sigh.

In the middle of the buzz and chaos yesterday a little girl with a Beezus haircut and a froggy voice stood in line for a good fifteen minutes to meet with me. She was holding a long tub filled with dirt and a few leafy plants on skinny stems that waved and bowed as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Barely big enough to wrap her arms around her pot she carefully set her project down in front of her and cleared her throat. And while she was explaining to me how she found these beans and planted them and placed them next to the window in her house to get some sunlight, I examined the beans, wiped the sweat from my eyebrow and whimpered silently to myself.

Because this girl was adorable.

Lovely.

A specimen of a 4-H kid with the white shirt, the blue pants, the clover patch, the bubbly spirit, the perfect posture…

But her beans lacked the same grand champion outfit and stature, in fact, one of her beans was broken, held up by masking tape.

But this girl, this adorable little girl loved her beans. Who was I to tell her they aren’t perfect? And did it really matter anyway? But what would it say to the other blue ribbon winners if a broken bean got a blue ribbon too? What type of standard would that set? How was I to be taken seriously as a judge ever again? I liked this gig. I loved the kids. I want to be invited back but the bean is broken!!!? Where is the manual that explains what to do in a situation like this: cute kid, perfectly dressed, perfectly passionate about gardening, and a broken bean!

What’s a softy former 4-H nerd to do, ask her when the bean broke? April? August? Did it matter? Can a taped bean plant even continue to grow? I should Google that….

The ppprrreesssuuuurrreeeee…

The ggguiiilllltttt….

Eeekkk, I crumbled.

I crumbled and wrote her a note about all of the things she did right, all of the wonderful things she was made of and all of the things she could do to improve her bean’s future…and then I gave her a red ribbon.

She smiled as I handed her the note, put her tiny arms around the bean pot and skipped over to her mother.

I melted in a big puddle on the ground and told myself it was for the best. A learning experience. She will come back next year with blue ribbon beans for sure…

but I may never sleep again.

I imagine you have never given much thought to the inside pressures of the average 4-H judge have you?

Well now you know.

And if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my medication…

Wildflowers

When I was 10 or 11 I was obsessed with wildflowers. Obsessed.

Coincidentally, I was also obsessed with 4-H.

See the 4 H’s  (head, hands, health, heart…pretty sure that’s right…funny how those logistics kinda slip the mind ) was a country girl’s lifeline to the rest of the world. It meant to me, not only PROJECTS (which I LOVED, and  devoted my entire summer to), but also that I had one glorious weekend to spend in town with my almost equally nerdy friends comparing creations, eating fair burgers and flexing our flirting skills in the stands at the rodeo.

Yes, the county fair was a big damn deal people. Because my almost equally nerdy friends were from little and big farms dotted in a 30 to 50 mile radius from where I was  headquartered, the fair provided the only time I actually got to see them the entire summer. A typical bike ride to meet half way would have surely killed us both.

Yeah, the seeing the friends thing I did not take for granted. But given my athletic ability and the fact that the outlook of a successful sporting and rodeo career seemed pretty grim even at 10 or 11, the real reason for my devotion to the sport of 4-H was its trophy potential.

Trophy Potential.

(I feel compelled to mention here that I was the kid who followed 4-H dress code to annoying perfection. White pressed collared shirt buttoned up to the very top, strategically placed four leaf clover badge over my heart, tight wrangler blue jeans and polished boots. I was the epitome of 4-H, a model member, a spokes person. I should have been on the cover of “4-H Weekly” really. And if that magazine doesn’t exist, it should. Call me and I’ll make it happen).

Over the summers I had tried my hand at various activities. Like latch-hooking.

Does anyone even do this anymore?

I spent my evenings hunched over on the living room floor hooking yarn piece after yarn piece onto a pattern of a sunflower, cow, or horse.  I would then commission the help of a third party to actually make the creation functional as well as decretive. My sunflower became a pillow, the two animals were rustic wall hangings…now that I think of it, I wonder what ever happened to those works of art? I mean, they weren’t tacky at all.

Anyway, latch-hooking was the only activity that even resembled girly that I decided to try. I refused baking and wasn’t going to kid myself in the sewing department, considering my mother had once sewn a pair of my sister’s pants together at the hem, and she was my sewing role model.

So I tried my hand at things like wood-burning, which always turned into an inspirational piece about the heartland or living your life to the fullest. I also did educational projects on gardening, beavers and beaver dams, tried my hand at drawing my favorite stuffed animal and took countless photos of my cats, dogs and horizons.

All of these projects I would present to the judges with pride. Even though I knew it was going to be tough to compete with my friend who would pick a needlepoint project off of her grandmother’s wall the night before the fair and make up a great story about how she had learned so much working alongside her dear granny. (I have always been freakishly honest, so I knew I didn’t stand a chance if I tried that shenanigan. That, and no one related to me actually knew the definition of needlepoint).  Regardless, that friend and I would usually walk out with a respectable blue or red ribbon and a couple dollars in our pockets.

But let’s get real here. I generally do not have a competitive nature, but when it came to 4-H, I was out for blood. A hundred blue ribbons meant nothing. I wanted the grand. The purple. The TROPHY!

Which leads me to my wildflower obsession. I can’t remember, but I imagine it had been a long winter, giving me the time to consider inspiring projects that would surely land me a top spot at the State Fair (the county fair on steroids). I’m not sure what exactly gave me the idea to set out on a quest to hunt, gather and identify every living wildflower in McKenzie County, but it really was genius. It really carried massive potential. And it is exactly what I did.

As soon as the last pile of snow disappeared and first spring rain hit the earth, I hit the hills with my “Wildflowers of North Dakota” guide book and a whole lot of ambition. I became a hunter, a wild woman with a hawk’s eye for a splash of new color on the landscape. I would make my parents pull the car over if I thought I saw a semblance of a species I hadn’t collected yet. I was a seeker of the rare, fragile flower. It was a big day when I came across an in tact gumbo flower or perfectly assembled tiger lily. I remember taking my best friend out with me into the woods on our bikes with gloves and scissors because I NEEDED to collect a sample of Canadian thistle, which poked the shit out of your hands when you tried to pluck it from the ground. It is funny to me now that this became such a sought after specimen, considering every rancher would strongly disagree that this should be considered a wild flower. Wild yes. Flower no. But it had color and zest and, to me, it was beautiful as far as flowers go. I NEEDED it.

I would like to tell you that at the end of the summer, I took this project into town, stood proudly in front of the judges and confidently explained what I knew about the purple prairie cone flower and the blue flax. I would like to say that I had a worthy declaration of why I chose to include the creeping jenny and the Canadian thistle into a flower project. I am sure I was brilliant. And I’m pretty sure I got a purple ribbon, which prompted me to march my butt to the State Fair and receive the same result. I am pretty sure that is what happened.

But if I were to tell you the truth, which I aim to do here, (it’s that freakishly honest thing again), I would tell you that I guess I don’t really remember that part. What I remember is the sheer wonder I felt that summer in discovering the little gems in my surroundings. It was like searching for gold or diamonds out there in the landscape. Each yellow daisy I came across, each lady slipper I pressed and put in my book, gave me such a sense of accomplishment, such a sense of pride. I was in complete awe at the fact that the rough landscape, littered with rocks, clay and cactus could produce and sustain a vivid, fragrant, magenta flower that was so fragile that it only lived a couple days. It was the juxtaposition of it all.

This could be a brutal place, I heard stories about draughts, and how my grandparents had struggled on this landscape. But I just couldn’t believe it when I literally found myself frolicking in rolling hills of crocuses and sweet peas. Little rays of sunshine pushing through the earth. I became so engrossed, that at times, I felt like one of the flowers myself.

This came to mind again to me so vividly last night. 16 years after that monumental project I found myself walking out in the June evening air with my camera, ready to take photos of the horses, or the dogs or some form of exciting wildlife. But I continued to point my camera to the ground, snapping photos of these flowers sprouting out yellow as a single stem from between a rock, growing in flocks across the peak of a hill or in a coulee, scattered like heaven’s perfect garden along the landscape. I became fascinated again.

And I was downright giddy. Because that girl I had been looking to find again–on the road, in books, at work,  in crowded bars–was finally at home with her flowers.