Moving cattle: A Script

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Coming Home: Sister on the ranch is friend for me, un-hired help for dad
by Jessie Veeder
8-21-16
http://www.inforum.com

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my favorite parts about living back at the ranch is that my sisters have decided to re-plant roots in our hometown. Having a sister nearby as an adult is like having a best friend who doesn’t care if your floor is swept and will call you out on your questionable attitude without worrying about offending you.

Anyway, when it comes to ranch life and work, I’ve rarely seen my petite almost-5-feet tall big sister without heels on almost as many times as I’ve seen her on the back of a horse, so you can guess which sister and I get in the most ranch-related shenanigans.

And how much help the two of us have been for our dad throughout the years.

Jessie and Little Sister

So this is a confession: My little sister and I can be pretty worthless when we get together. And contrary to our parents’ prayers and our husbands’ hopes, it hasn’t gotten any better as we’ve, ahem, matured.

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Nothing exemplifies our incapabilities more than when we so generously volunteer to help our father move cows in the early morning and then linger in the house just long enough over a cup of coffee, a piece of toast, Little Sister’s missing boot and the hairdo I can’t fit under my hat so that Dad can get out the door, up the road and into the barnyard to catch our horses and assume the position of waiting patiently while he listens to our jabbering as we finally make it up on those horses.

The man is patient. He’s had to be out here in the wild buttes of Western North Dakota surrounded by girls. Sometimes I wonder if his life on the ranch as a father would have been a little easier if he would have had a boy tossed in the mix.

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But he’s never once complained, and you gotta love him for it. He’s just grateful for the help, even when his help is riding a half a mile behind him talking over how weird it would be if we rode cows instead of horses as he works to keep the herd from brush patches in the morning that’s turned hot in the time he waited for us to join him.

Because we really are a lot of help, with one of us swatting and screaming at anything that resembles a bee and the other tripping over anything that resembles the ground.

To really paint you a picture, I would like to present to you an actual roundup script.

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Pops: Just stay there, I’ll head up over the hill to look for more cows then we’ll move them nice and easy.

Jessie: I think we missed one. Should I go and get it?

Little Sister: Should I come with you? I should probably come with you … eeeek! A bee, eeeeeeeek!

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Pops (racing through the brush and up a hill): Just stay there!!! Stay there! I’ve got it!

Jessie: Oooh, raspberries.

An undocumented amount of time passes.

An undocumented amount of raspberries are eaten.

Little Sister: Maybe we should go find Dad.

Daughters catch up with father who is behind 25 head of cows. The women are trailing four cattle and currently heading toward the wrong gate on the wrong side of the creek.

Jessie (hollering across the pasture): We’ve got these here… thought we were going to the other gate.

Pops (hollering from behind the cattle he’s just moved through a half-mile brush patch on his own): Actually you’re going to have to turn them or leave them because they’ll never make it across the creek.

Little Sister: Whaatt did he saaayy?!! Should I leave them???

Jessie: DAAAADDD, SHOULD SHE LEAVE THEM?

Pops: Yess, ssheeee sshhoullld leeaave them!!

Jessie: HEEE SAAAYSS LEEAAVE THEM!

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“Slap,” a branch hits Jessie across the face.

Little Sister stops to double over from hysterical laughter.

Father rides up over the hill alone to finish collecting the cattle before all parties return to the barn where father thanks daughters for their help.

(Yeah, really.)

End scene.

Don’t tell my husband about my hopes for another girl …

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The space between now and the future

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Coming Home: 10 years just a ‘blip on the timeline of forever’
by Jessie Veeder
8-14-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

We measure our lives by years. We mark them as they pass and wrap them up neat in a package to commemorate. We move on and look back

I sat down this morning to write something trivial, like “Ten reasons you shouldn’t wear shorts on the ranch,” because last week the calf tongue up and down my bare leg reminded me. And then the leaky garbage bag reminded me again. And then a frog in my garden took a flying leap and landed splat and slimy on the back of my thigh, and I thought surely it was a sign that I needed to make a public service announcement on the importance of long pants around the barnyard … but then I looked at the calendar, and I was reminded of something a little more important.

(And really, that’s all I had about the shorts thing … some weeks, the idea pool’s a little shallow).

Yes, the gears shifted a bit when I realized that on Aug. 12, I’ve been a wife for 10 years.

For 10 years, I’ve had a man living in my house, leaving his tools on the kitchen table and unclogging the hairball from the drain.

For 10 years, I’ve been mismatching that lovely man’s socks and confusing everybody and the IRS by using two last names.

And I feel like I should be more sentimental about it all. Ten years is a nice, even number. A milestone. Something to celebrate.

But then, 10 years is only a fraction of the time my husband has kept some of the T-shirts in his drawers … This isn’t getting romantic very quickly, is it?

Well, no one’s ever accused us of being overly starry-eyed. For the first few years of our marriage, I thought our anniversary was Aug. 19, so that’s how much I pay attention to things like this.

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But truthfully, I don’t really measure the success of our relationship by the calendar. Lord knows I’ve known this boy who became my husband for long enough to mark our friendship and love as a victory, but time is only part of the equation.

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I think the way we spend that time is what we like to lament about when we hit these big milestones together. Like, dear husband, remember when we loaded up your dad’s 1970s pickup camper on the back of his old Ford and headed across the great state of Montana to camp in Yellowstone together? And remember that it was 104 degrees? And the pickup didn’t have air-conditioning? Remember the cooler of ice we kept in the back seat and the way the grasshoppers felt slamming into the hot, bare skin of our arms resting on the open windowsill? Remember how, when we finally made it to our campsite and unloaded our supplies, the sky opened up and it started pouring? And you just laughed and cooked our hot dogs on the tiny stove in that tiny old camper?

I loved you so much for the way you could just do things like that, so effortlessly. You can’t be shaken. And that was the start of it all, really. That calm you possess has carried me through a life we try to spend making the minutes count toward a bigger picture we’ve been promising each other will emerge someday.

Although sometimes it’s been hard to see it. And I know that 10 years is just a blip on the timeline of the forever we’ve promised each other. Ten years together as part of this family has shown us that you’re not promised the plans you’ve made and you’re not promised forever. Or tomorrow.

And while the top 10 reasons not to wear shorts in the barnyard fell flat, the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of marriage would make a nice and neatly packaged little piece. But I’ve had 10 years to craft those words, and I’ve learned plenty along the way — about myself and about the man who lies beside me every night — and the only thing I can say for certain is that I want him around because he’s good to me.

And I try to be the same for him.

And that’s all I want in the space between now and the future.

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Unfinished Projects

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Coming Home: Not alone living amid the unfinished projects
by Jessie Veeder
8-7-16
http://www.inforum.com

If I were more of a linguist, I would have the term for it. But you know what I’m talking about. It’s that crack in the Sheetrock in the living room, right in the corner above the TV that really peeved you off when you first noticed it.

Why didn’t we get that fixed months ago?

OK. So I’m a woman who has been living in a house under construction for most of my married life. Because I wed a man who has just the right amount of knowhow and crazy to take on complete house remodeling projects and then, when that didn’t kill us, a near complete build from scratch.

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Right now, as I type, I’m sitting on a deck that, for two and a half years, has been partially completed. It’s really nice and will probably be even nicer when he finally gets around to building us a staircase so we can get down to the lawn without going through the house.

I’m looking forward to that even if it means I’ll feel less like Rapunzel, sort of trapped up here, looking down on my little lawn kingdom complete with an incomplete retaining wall and barbed wire temporarily stretched across where those nice garden gates will hang someday.

Someone needs to get married out here again or something so we can get the rock siding finished, for crying out loud.

Yes, I’ve learned to be patient. Because what choice do I have? I don’t have a clue how to build a staircase and I’m not crazy enough to attempt it under the “if you want something done you gotta do it yourself” motto. Carpentry was never one of those skills I really cared to acquire. I’ve acquired enough skills I didn’t want, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, I know I’m not the only one who suffers this way. I mean, I have a few friends who live behind manicured lawns along city streets who spend their weekends checking off lists at the Home Depot and even they have a missing tile somewhere. Right?

Right???

Anyway, while I’m becoming alarmingly immune to unfinished projects, I was reminded that I’m not alone by none other than my own flesh and blood last weekend when I enjoyed a few family suppers on my parents’ deck, gathering together because my uncle was home from Texas for a few days. My parents have a backyard that has a sweet view up a beautiful, tree-filled coulee. Their deck is right off their dining room and kitchen, making it easy to enjoy meals outdoors on summer nights.

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If it wasn’t for that dang screen door.

Seriously, that screen door. I swear. It’s been years, YEARS, of needing to have the right touch to get it to slide open, of guests struggling with a plate of food in one hand and a desperate look of awkward panic on their faces as they attempt to find that right maneuver before being rescued and let outside by my dad, who eventually always just sort of kicks it off its tracks and says something like, “I swear I just fixed that.” Mom makes this aggressive sigh of resignation before we can all sit down and relax until, heaven forbid, someone forgot there was noodle salad inside.

And I only mention this because it makes me feel better.

About all our unfinished trim. And the crack in the Sheetrock.

And this island of a deck.

If I were a linguist, I’d have a word for it.

If I were a carpenter … well … I’d probably have more unfinished projects.

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Building good days.

Coming Home: Building good days a gift in this unpredictable life
by Jessie Veeder
7-24-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

Bad days.

Horse frustration

Good days.

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Out here on the ranch, for some reason, I like to define them.

And there are about a million criteria for the qualifications of both, which, I guess, is a good thing and a bad thing, respectively.

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Except for the time I got my finger smashed between a metal bar and a post by a 2,000-pound bull. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad day, I mean, things were going pretty good up until the emergency room visit that resulted in a cast on my middle finger that sent me out of the hospital flipping off the world.

But it could have been worse.

It could always be worse.

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Funny, we say that a lot around here.

Get bucked off your horse and land in a cactus patch? Well, at least it wasn’t your head smashed on that big rock over there.

Couldn’t get the swather running after six hours of tinkering in the field under the hot sun? Well, at least you didn’t have to be in a conference room meeting all day.

Get your four-wheeler stuck up to its belly in the creek again because you tend to think you’re magic when you’re on that thing (Dad)? Perfect. Now I have some material.

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When I think about it now, maybe that’s why I found my way back here. Because of the optimism that was somehow always generated even after the day had gone completely haywire. It’s a trait that could only occur in people who truly love what they’re doing. Who wouldn’t be drawn back to that?

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Through the years, we’ve had plenty of opportunity for bad days, for long walks home after the pickup quit, for lessons learned about polyester shirts and welding torches, for doctoring a herd of cattle with pinkeye well after the sun went down, saying to one another, “Well, at least the nail you stepped on didn’t go all the way through your big toe,” or “Would have been so much harder without all your help.”

But now that I think about it, it’s sort of telling that we continue to say, “Well, it could be worse,” and skip over the entire concept that in times of tractor breakdowns, man-chasing momma cows and an incident with an exploding motor that almost started the entire barnyard on fire, it could always be better, too.

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But just yesterday as I strapped the baby to my chest and took off hiking across the home pasture with my niece chatting happily beside me on a quest to fill my cap with enough wild raspberries to make some sort of dessert, I couldn’t help but label that moment “one that could not be better.”

Even with the flies and the thorns.

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We woke up that Sunday morning to a smiling baby and a hankering for blueberry muffins. So we made them. Because, what luck! Blueberries were on sale and I had some in the fridge. So we cooked them up, along with eggs and bacon, and had ourselves a regular, fancy brunch.

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And that evening, after stripping the baby down and watching her play and splash in the baby pool on the deck while the sun shone gold on the hilltops outside, after feeding her bananas as she sat in her robe and tiny socks, we tucked her sleepily into bed and ate a supper of grilled brats and beans together around the table outside. My husband put his feet up after a day of fixing equipment, and my niece and I saddled up the two lazy horses in the barnyard and took off together, walking slowly across those hills dotted with wildflowers and berries and we just kept saying, “Well, it’s so beautiful out here isn’t it?”

So peaceful.

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It just couldn’t be better.

And while I know there are plenty of ways to define the bad days, the days that are out of your control, I couldn’t help but think in that moment how wonderful it is to know that you can build your own good ones.

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How to make wild raspberry dessert

How to make wild raspberry dessert

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Step 1:
Wake up in the morning to a happy husband, a well-rested niece and a smiling baby. Snuggle the baby. Play and roll around with her on the floor. Put her in her high chair so she can feed herself blueberry puffs. Hear your husband say, “Man, it would be nice to have a blueberry muffin right now.” Remember you have blueberries in the fridge.

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Step 2:
Locate a blueberry muffin recipe with the help of your niece. Preheat the oven and read the directions while your niece mixes up the ingredients. Think that maybe bacon and eggs would go good with fresh blueberry muffins. Because you always have bacon in the house.

Step 3:
Proceed with the bacon cooking while blueberry muffins bake.

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Step 4:
Crack and fry some perfectly over easy eggs. Find a double yolker. Declare it good luck.

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Step 5:
Pour some orange juice, put the baby in her high chair, make a plate and gather around the table. Declare that Martha Stewart has nothing on you.

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Step 7:
Hear Pops say something about all the raspberries out in the pasture. Decide that they can’t all go to the birds.

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Step 6:
Put the dishes in the sink pull on your jeans and boots. Strap the baby to your chest, douse skin in bug spray and sunscreen and head out the door with your niece and the dogs. Declare it a beautiful morning. Declare that it’s sort of hot though.

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Step 7:
Peel your eyes for raspberries. Locate raspberries in the thorny brush below where the juneberries, bullberries and chokecherries grow. Watch the dogs disappear in and out of the brush patches chasing phantom rabbits and birds and taking a break from the heat. Find it funny.

(Chicken dinner for you if you can spot Dolly down there…)

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Step 8:
Send the niece in to the deep brush to get the fat berries.

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Check your back pocket for the baggie you brought along. Realize you dropped it somewhere. Take off your hat. Decide that will do.

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Step 9:
Pick a berry. Eat a berry. Put a berry in the hat. Swat a fly. Pull a thorn. Pick a berry. Eat a Berry. Put a berry in the hat.

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Step 10:
Repeat Step 9 like a hundred or so times.

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Step 11:
Check to make sure the baby strapped to your chest isn’t eating the berries too. Pick up the toy she dropped in the thick brush for the third time.

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Step 12:
Wipe the sweat. Pick a thorn out of the niece’s hand. Eat a berry. Check your stash. Wonder if that’s enough to make anything. Declare it officially hot out now. Eat a berry. Climb the hill to the teepee rings to catch some breeze.

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Step 13:
Realize the baby dropped the toy again and now it’s out in the wild pasture to be found 100 years from now, along with all Pops’ missing gloves and tools.

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Step 14:
Head back to the house, noticing the beautiful wildflowers along the way.

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Step 15:
Strip off your clothes and check for ticks. Strip off the baby’s clothes and check for ticks. Put her on the floor to play.

Step 16:
Rinse the berries.

Step 17:
Eat a few more

Step 18:
Look up some recipes online for raspberry dessert, trying for the perfect concoction that doesn’t interfere with the integrity of the raspberry.

Step 19:
Eat a couple more raspberries.

Step 20:
Deny every suggested recipe found…

Step 20:
Decide that there is no dessert you can make that tastes as good as a wild raspberry itself.

Step 21:
Eat more raspberries

Step 22:
Have lunch. Put the baby down for a nap. Putz around the house. Wait for Husband to get home..

Step 23:
Give the baby a bath. Put her in her robe. Decide she looks like an adorable old man. Feed her something yummy. Rock her to sleep.

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Step 24:
Grill brats. Eat on the deck.

Step 25:
Leave the dishes for the husband.

Step 26:
Go Riding

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Step 27:
Declare it a beautiful night.

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Step 28:
Listen to your niece tell you stories and wonder where the time went and when she grew up so quickly.

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Step 29:
Head back to the barn. Let the horses out. Walk to the house. Strip down. Check for ticks.

Step 26:
Eat some raspberries.

Step 27:
Declare it a good day.

Step 28:
Sleep tight. Good night.

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The fabric of a family.

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Coming Home: Lake traditions become more precious with plus-one
by Jessie Veeder
7-17-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I spent last week in vacation mode, which to some might bring to mind palm trees and tropical drinks by the pool, but to me it meant packing up for a weekend of tradition.

And the husband and baby, of course, with a bottle and a plastic baggie full of toys for the six-hour drive.

And along the way a stop at the store to get the things we don’t currently own, but need. Like deodorant and blue nail polish and tonic water for our vodka drinks. And a baby lifejacket.

Because we were heading to my grandparents’ lake cabin in Minnesota just like we have done every year for the Fourth of July since the beginning of time, except this time, of course, we had a small and chubby plus-one, who apparently comes with a lot of baggage.

Like a one-ton, long box, pickup full.

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Seriously.

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But to carry out the holiday properly in my family, there are things you need to carry with you. Like at least one patriotic outfit to wear while sitting on the dock sipping bloody marys, waving an American flag at the pontoons decked out for the Fourth of July, tooling by the shore in the boat parade.

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Oh, the lengths we go to hold on to our traditions.

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That’s what I was thinking at 2 a.m. as I bounced the baby back and forth in the small backroom of the cabin, the one where my parents likely sat up with my little sister summer after summer, sweating, swatting mosquitoes and willing her to sleep while my other sister and I snuggled under thin blankets in tiny beds in the screened-in porch.

In a few hours my little family would emerge from that room and shuffle to the kitchen, say good morning to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, grab a couple doughnut holes to go with the coffee we sip on the deck together and catch up while the family of ducks swims on the calm lake.

I can predict it all, the summer sausage sandwiches, the pontoon rides around the lake to look at the houses, the trip to the flea market where Dad stocks up on homemade jelly and Mom finds the best old furniture, the campfires and the fireworks lighting up the dark lake. All of those expected moments are more important to me than ever before now that I have a baby to raise.

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Because our rituals might remain the same year after year, but they can’t stop time from chipping away at us.

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I watched Grampa flip his famous pancakes on the stove in the little kitchen while Gramma fussed over us all crammed around the table, the same sort of breakfasts we’ve shared since I was 7 years old and suddenly, 25 years later, it all seemed a little less predictable and so much more precious.

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So I suppose it’s more than a vacation—this tradition has become the fabric of what it means to be a part of this family.

I walked out into the shallow lake with my baby as the hot sun beat down on Minnesota. In front of me I watched my grandmother, 80-some years old in her floral swimsuit dip her body in the water and swim out past the sailboat just as I have watched her do for years and years. Baby Edie kicked and splashed and I willed her to see it.

I wished she would remember this.

I hoped for forever right there in that clear lake with the blue house behind us and the future pressing cool and heavy on our hot skin.

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The case of the mystery peas…

 

Last night Husband came home from mom and dad’s with an armful of mail and a ziplock baggie on the counter full of fresh garden peas.

I was standing in the kitchen feeding the baby and he plopped that ziplock down on the counter next to me.

“Your dad thought you might want these,” he said. “They’re from his garden.”

I held the spoon full of smushed plums in a hover position in front of my wiggling baby and with my other hand I examined that bag of peas in disbelief and envy.

“He does NOT have peas yet!” I declared to my husband who had moved on with his life, and pulled the hover spoon from my hand and into the baby’s mouth.

“No wayyyy!!!” I declared again.

“Yup,” said the man I married.

In my head I visualized the plants I examined in his garden just week before. In my head I thought there was no way they could have flowered and grown a plethora of vegetables while I was away on a camping trip for the love of Martha Stewart.

But my head was foggy. I was tired. Turns out the baby doesn’t sleep much on camping trips.

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And neither does her mom.

The dad?

The dad could sleep on the back of a cheetah chasing after a gazelle in the jungle. Wait, do cheetahs even live in the jungle?

Probably  not.

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I don’t even know things anymore. Earlier that morning I sneezed and immediately said “Pew.” Instead of “excuse me.” And then, realizing my error, I corrected it by saying “Thank you.” In front of all the family. They are very likely concerned. But what the hell? This baby took all of my brains.

Anyway, back to the peas. I left them sitting on the counter without further discussion while I went about making supper, cleaning up the baby, throwing a load of camping blankets in the washing machine and generally biding my time before the child went down for the night so I could too.

But I couldn’t get past the peas. He couldn’t possibly have peas already. Didn’t they just sprout a few weeks ago? Mine are barely visible leaves in a sea of black dirt out front. And while he planted them on Memorial Weekend like he was supposed to, and used a pile of sheep manure, and watered and weeded and basically pulled out his A+ horticulturalist game, there is no way that little vegetable plot could be that far along and that far ahead of mine…

Unless…

Husband came out from putting the baby down and sat in his chair. I plopped down the ottoman and stared blankly out the window while I mulled over my conclusion before turning Husband and declaring…

“I’m pretty sure dad transplanted his garden from a greenhouse. I mean, think about it. One day his garden is dirt and the next he has full fledged plants. I never saw the in-between! That has to be it. Those pea plants were started already when he put them in the ground. It makes sense. Makes total sense!!”

“Those peas were from the Farmer’s Market.”

“Wait. What?”

“Your dad. He got them from the Farmer’s Market.”

“Wait. What Farmers Market?”

“The one in Minnesota. He thought it would be funny to give them to you and tell you they were his. I didn’t know how long to let it go. He thought it would be funny to mess with you. And it was.”

Well that explains it.

If you need me I’ll be out in my garden…

Because this. This is what I’m dealing with.

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The perspective from a distance

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We’re spending the week in vacation mode.

Vacation mode meaning heading east to the lake in Minnesota to spend time with family at my grandparent’s lake cabin, per tradition.

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And then coming home to cut some hay and meet some deadlines before heading back out the big lake tomorrow to spend time on the pontoon or roasting s’mores with the other side of the family.

When we’re at the lake in Minnesota we do this thing where we load up the crew on the pontoon, drinks and snacks and towels and caps and everything else we could have forgotten, and we drive that boat around the shore, slowly, so we can take a look at the beautiful houses that have been built in place of the small cabins that once stood there back when my grandparents first bought their place.

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We comment on the lawns and the landscaping, the docks and the red shutters. We like the cedar siding on that one, and the cottage feeling of the other. We wonder where the NFL football player’s house is. We wonder how much the inflatable trampoline costs. We like that patio set and the adorable kids playing catch in the front yard.

We wonder who lives there. And secretly, I think we all wonder, what that would be like.

It sounds sort of strange, a literal boatload of family tooling by people’s houses on the lake. But we’re not the only ones who do it. It’s like a parade of homes, only we’re the parade.

We wave.

They wave back.

We’re at a safe distance that way. We can imagine and talk and wonder while we make our rounds and come up, always sooner than expected, as the sun starts to sink, on the blue house with the sailboat in the water out front, the familiar trees where the hammock used to swing, grandma’s flowers, the American flags stuck in the grass by the rocky shore, and feel the warm flood of familiarity fill us up with the good memories we’ve had there year after year together.

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It happens to me every time we leave on that pontoon, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking and laughing with my aunts and uncles, sisters, parents, grandparents, looking briefly into other people’s lives, wondering, wishing perhaps that we could afford that big boat or that beautiful deck, contemplating who we would be there before pulling slowly into the dock on that one house out of a hundred that we know so well.

The one that holds so much.

The best one on the lake for people like us.

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Coming Home: Searching for perspective on life from a distance
by Jessie Veeder
7-3-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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When I lived between the sidewalks of town, one of my favorite things to do was go out for a walk in the evening as the sun was going down on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what time of year—the crisp, still air of winter or the thick heat of the summer—I liked to follow the path of the sidewalks that stretched past the neat rows of houses, the warm glow of the kitchen lights shining brighter than the setting sun outside, projecting a slice of each family’s life out onto the street.

For a few short years of my young life, when times were tough and my parents had to move to eastern North Dakota for work, I was one of those sidewalk kids, riding my bike a few houses down the block to the neighbor girl’s house so we could pretend we were riding horses in her front yard.

But mostly I was a kid who played in the coulees in the evenings after school, one who got to ride horses in real life, who never learned to rollerblade for severe lack of pavement, whose new neighbor girl was a mile away up the hill and who pushed a lawnmower over cocklebur plants and Canadian thistle that couldn’t be tamed no matter how my mother willed it.

Those were my memories.

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So it was surprising to me how much console I found in walking those neighborhood streets in my adult years spent away from the ranch.

I was thinking about this last night as I walked out in the pasture as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the grassy pastures and the sky behind me dark green and navy blue. I climbed the hill where the two teepee rings still sit and I looked back at our house, noticing how it somehow looks nestled and perched at the same time in that small opening of oak trees.

The lights were glowing small squares of gold to the outside, while inside the baby slept in her crib, holding the satin edges of her blanket, breathing in and out behind drawn curtains.

I couldn’t see her, of course, but I knew she was there, just as I knew my husband was in the new easy chair, reclined with his arms above his head and his stocking feet kicked back, a small glass of whiskey beside him.

This has always been my favorite way to look at our house. From this distance it seems like it doesn’t contain my life at all, but a life of another woman entirely, and I’m just a passerby who can make up her story.

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Because I can’t see the things undone from here—the fence that needs stain, the pile of unsorted laundry, the conversations we need to have about selling the car or cleaning the garage or juggling the bills.

From this distance I can imagine our life instead of live it, and it’s a strange but wonderful thing.

And I think that’s what I was doing all those years walking those sidewalks in my 20s, trying to imagine my life and how I was going to get to whatever came next.

I would put myself in those houses with the manicured lawns, the dad on the grill out back, the kids jumping on the trampoline. I could put myself in the kitchen that opened up to the deck and invite my neighbors over for burgers.

I could fall in love with the little boy fishing in the gutter of the street, I could name him and his siblings and make up what kind of mother I might be to him.

Because I wasn’t prepared for any of it, even when I found myself living in it, in a real job, renovating a real house, working on my own manicured lawn along those sidewalks. So I walked. For perspective.

And I still do.

Because everything’s a little easier, a little more perfect, at a safe distance.

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Garden Wars…

I’m having gardener’s remorse.

Up until now I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s a thing.

My big fat mouth got me in trouble last year when I went around waving my giant carrots and perfect, beautiful green beans around like I was Queen of the Prairie and I opened up a can of worms that’s too full now to close.

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Yup, you probably remember it from last year. I dared say “My garden’s better than your garden” to Pops and now he’s throwing down the gauntlet.

And it’s not looking good for me.

In fact, at this point, I think I’ll be lucky to get a radish, seeing how, after ten trips to the garden (and ten back inside to soothe a fussy baby) I finally got the thing in a few weeks ago and now, no matter how I squint, I am pretty certain my peas are not coming up.

And neither is the spinach.

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But even if they did decide to make an appearance, it would have only been to face the magic cow who somehow got by the dogs and the fence to take a little stroll through the beans and a stomp on the cucumbers, the only vegetation in the entire plot that showed promise, besides the thistle.

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Meanwhile, down the road, Pops, who’s typically a pretty laid back horticulturalist, went to a special store and bought sheep poop for crying out loud!

I saw it in bags on his driveway in April and I knew shit was about to get real, in more ways than one you know…

And, before he had to endure last year’s episode of coming over to ask for tomatoes because his had contracted some unsightly spots, Pops would have shared this useful little gardening tip with me.

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But not now. Nope. Because I guess I was a little too cocky about my endless supply of cucumbers and those spotless tomatoes, and, well, he’s just not having it.

Not this year.

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This year he bought sheep poop.

And I’m not positive, but I think he let that cow in my yard…

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Coming Home: Reaping what I sowed with garden boasting
6-26-16
by Jessie Veeder
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

Lord, it’s good to be humble.

It’s a lesson I’ve implemented in my daily life since discovering, at a young age, just as soon as I think things are moving along swimmingly is about the exact time I fall on my face.

Unless it comes to mini golf. Or bowling. Or board games … you know, all the things that matter most in life.

Yeah, give me a tiny golf club and I’ll ride it around the mini-golf course, galloping and whooping at my (lucky) hole-in-one. My team guesses my spot-on impression of Cher during a heated game of charades, and I am queen of the living room.

Get a strike in bowling, and the entire alley gets to witness my shopping cart/running man/stir-the-butter victory moves.

It’s obnoxious. People stare. And unless they’re on my team in charades, it makes my family roll their eyes.

But I’m afraid I’ve stepped out of my boasting comfort zone, taking that happy dance from the safety of the bowling alley and into a place where I might require a little more skill and a little less booze.

A place where talent and knowledge has been honed and passed on through the centuries by the masters of the craft.

A place that has been feeding men, women, children and the wily bunny for ages — the family garden.

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I blame it on last summer’s pregnancy hormones. I think they made me overconfident in my ability to successfully grow things, and maybe those hormones had something to do with the big fat tomatoes, the giant carrots and the never-ending supply of beans that appeared in full force despite the fact that I didn’t get a thing planted until late June.

Or maybe it was the magic in the soil my husband dug from in front of the old barn where cows have been pooping for a million years, but oh Lord, did I have a great garden.

And Lord, did I ever brag about it.

Check the newspaper archives for August 2015. You’ll see the evidence.

And when Dad, the man who has been growing things since he was still growing himself, decided not to plant beans or peas because of the wily deer who sneaks in the fence for a snack every night and then found that his tomato plants turned up with spots, when he humphed about his garden looking a little shabby, well, I took it as an invitation to make sure my biggest carrots and most perfect tomatoes were on the table when he came over.

And then I sent him home with a plastic bag full of peas and an “I’m sure sorry about your garden” comment through the smirk on my face.

But now I’m in trouble.

Because apparently an arrogant horticulturalist doesn’t sit well with him, especially when he taught that arrogant horticulturalist everything she knows about planting carrot seeds and on her first attempt she’s somehow outdone him.

The man has found the whole thing entirely annoying, and now I’m afraid he’s stepping up his game in retaliation.

I sensed this might happen. There have been comments. Snide remarks. Sideways looks.

But it became pretty evident when I went over to his place earlier this spring to find 10 big bags of sheep manure waiting to be spread on that garden plot of his, a sign that he’s determined to put actual effort into a task that typically comes naturally to him and his green thumb.

And now I have a competition on my hands with the guy whom I rely on to water my garden when we’re out of town.

A competition that I’m currently losing because, with a baby in tow, it took me a good 10 attempts to get my garden in last week.

Dad? Well, his has been in since Memorial Day, just like the books tell you.

He’s in the zone, and I’m obsessively checking to see if the radishes have at least come up.

I think I better spend more time watering and less time on my victory dance.

Because, Lord, it’s good to be humble.

But, Dad, the growing season’s still young …

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Whirlwind.

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A storm built up over us last night just as I was settling in to bed. The radar screamed red and flashed tornado warnings above our town while we sat in the house at the ranch, pressing our noses against the windows to watch the dark clouds skim past us, leaving nothing but some wind that bent the trees down pretty good, a little hail that poked some holes in my petunias and a headache from all my worrying.

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It seemed the town, despite the tornado warning, fared ok. A few backyard trampolines were displaced, cars were dented, lawn chairs rearranged and what not, but that’s small potatoes compared to what could have been. After the tornado that ripped through an RV park in my hometown a few summers back, I think people are a little punchy about the summer weather.

And I have to admit so am I. I have seen too many close calls in my life.

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Tonight though.

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Tonight was the definition of the calm after the storm. 60 degrees and still, the smell of cattle hanging in the air. The wildflowers poking up out of the cool ground. The sun setting golden on the grass, kissing it just the way I like.

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I was feeling a little emotionally drained and frazzled after a long couple days of trying to comfort a baby who just wants to be happy, but dammit, she’s sprouted five teeth in a matter of a couple weeks. So I’ve been coping by snuggles and distracting her with walks outside to watch the dogs, and this morning, to chase a cow who had somehow mysteriously got into the yard. Edie thought it was funny how the old bag made a point of pooping during her entire walk to the exit, leaving a smelly string of lawn ornaments for me to pick up.

I know what her chore will be some day.

And if holding a baby on your hip while chasing a cow out of the yard isn’t multi-tasking enough, I’ve also found myself setting up an office in my car to get some work done, taking advantage of the fact that the baby fell asleep during the three minute drive to the other place to feed the calf.

This afternoon I was busted twice working in my car by my brother-in-law. Once behind my mom’s shop after a meeting in town and once on the hill before home. Because the baby’s gonna wake up once I open that door…and well, she’s got teeth to sprout and I’ve got shit to do.

But that reasoning is sort of hard to explain to a man who maybe thinks I’m a little kooky already…

Anyway, the time was right to take a walk. To see a little of my world from out behind the computer screen and bald baby head (bless her heart.)

This is my favorite time of year and it was my favorite time of day and it’s all so fleeting isn’t it?

That’s what makes it so especially beautiful I think…

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I feel like making time to really see it is as important to me as breathing these days.

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I think the same can be said with this baby and me.

Those stormy patches are rough, but oh so momentary too.

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And the rest of it is a whirlwind of pretty damn special.

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