Look what the rain did…


I was away most of last week and on into this one, celebrating the release of my new album “Northern Lights” and playing a few concerts around the state.

I have a million things to say about the sold out shows, the little girls who got up on stage to dance with me, the generous crowd and the awesome musicians who backed me, but I have to get out the door to catch another gig.

So I’ll just do what I did when I got home last night before the sun set and let you take in what the rain created while I was out traipsing around.


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I just couldn’t resist a quick walk before bed.

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Can’t you just smell the green grass growing?

I think this is what heaven is like…

Like the rain after a hot day…and a warm day after the rain.

To celebrate my favorite kind of weather, here’s a video of me singing “Raining” at my CD release concert in Fargo on Sunday.

Peace, love and growing things,


Hazy Skies

There has been a haze in the air for the last couple days. Fires in Canada couldn’t hold their breath any longer and so some puffs escaped our way, lingering in the calm, hot air and reminding me of living in Montana in August.

When the wind doesn’t blow here in North Dakota it’s sort of eerie, like there’s some secret we’re not being told.

This place is full of them, untold secrets. I’ve always thought that.

How the snow ever fell on all this green and gold I never understand come mid-July. How it could look anything like this, my skin anything but brown and warm, my hair fuzzed just a bit from the heat.

How pink flowers spring from the same earth that was frozen seven feet under just months ago…

and the once wooly horses shed their coats and transform into sleek, high-spirited creatures I can’t comprehend because I have decided it’s magic.

And so I can hardly stand to be inside.

There’s plenty to do out there in terms of work, so I wander around a bit, grab a broom and sweep the garage, pick a weed or two and then sort of wander off to a couple hilltops to see how the flowers look from up there. The purple coneflowers out in full force, sprung up overnight among the grass and clover stirrup high.

I was away less than a week and look at all I missed.

How can I be lonesome for a season I’m standing in the middle of? How can I be scared that I might not catch it all? It’s ridiculous to be so anxious about the flowers. It’s ridiculous to be so worried that I might blink and miss the best part of a summer sunset.

When I was a little girl I was convinced there were parts of this ranch that were yet to be discovered and so I was determined to explore every inch. I walked the trail beside the creek bed in the spring, throwing in sticks to see where the cold rushing water would take them. In the summer I took off my boots and walked directly in that water, my bare feet navigating trails to the big beaver dams.

In the fall I would crawl to the tops of the banks and count the colors. In the winter I would bundle up and trudge, trudge, trudge…not to be kept away no matter the weather.

It wasn’t until I grew up and came home, camera pointed out of every window, dangling off my neck on every ride, every walk, that I discovered the gift of this place is the very thing that makes me crazy and sends me walking, searching for the undiscovered places. The most beautiful things.

This place never looks the same. Every day, every shift of light, every turn of season, every passing cloud, every breeze, every snowflake and raindrop changes it completely.

Gray sky, gray grass. Gold sun, gold flowers. White snow, white trees. Rain clouds, sparkling leaves.

It’s nature, but isn’t it interesting? Isn’t it magic how something so many miles up in the universe can change things for us, our mood, or intrigue, or plans for the day.

May the fires in Canada soon become a memory and the ashes turn to the greenest grass.

Because up here, the wind, the wind changes everything.

I picked myself some flowers and I’m ok.

I’ve been away for a few days visiting with people about what makes their communities unique, the challenges they face, the best restaurants, who its people are and what the future might look like.

I have connected with some great ideas, some pertinent issues and some major rain storms. And the miles in between have helped me reflect on what it means to be out here on the ranch, the responsibility of it all and the importance of telling our story, each one of us, in our own way.

My head is full, my timeline crunched, my chest tight with deadlines and pressure to do the right thing, to say the right thing…

to be the best possible version of myself, knowing it is simply impossible to be her at all times.

The miles do that to me. The being away gets me all riled up and flustered and hopped up on margaritas and fast food …excited and stressed about possibilities and getting my butt back home to get things done.

I wind up…and up…and up in the spaces and pavement between here and there, the small towns and gas stations and hotels and little sister’s apartment, anxious about timing and getting to where I’m going and making the best use of my precious time away…making good time on the way back.

But I have a ritual when I hit the pink road in the spring and summer months that involves rolling down the windows and sucking in the air, taking notice of how things have changed, even in a mere five days.

Then I pick myself a wildflower bouquet…

recognize and accept my age inappropriate obsession with blue nailpolish…

and remind myself that no matter the expectations and the questions I simply cannot answer right now, the grass keeps growing, the sky keeps pouring, the horses keep grazing and the bluebells keep blooming.

Whether I’m here or not.

No matter what.

And damn, I’m glad I’m here.

Summer, I miss you already…

In honor of the last day of summer (sniff, sniff…waahhhhh), I decided to share some of the photos that speak to the sunny side of life at the ranch and are sure to warm you like the wool mittens and ear-flap cap that will soon become a fashionable staple of my wardrobe.

I am sure I will be revisiting these pictures many times in the coming months, because come December, I tend to forget…

…what colors really look like…

Storm cloud and rainbow

…the smoky taste of brats and beans on a tiny grill…

Campsite Grilling

…the warm wind in my face (or the fact that one day, I will be able to drive with the windows down again)…

Pug on a summer ride

…the sweet smell of wildflowers…

Wildflower bouquet

Wild Sunflowers

Purple Wildflower

…the thrill of the first splash in big Lake Sakakawea…

Sailboat on Lake Sakakawea

Pug's version of swimming

…well, maybe “thrilling” isn’t the word of choice for all of us…

Pug, not so happy about swimming

…the drama of the horizon…

Moon rise over pasture

Summer Sunset

Horse on hill

…and the true meaning of “dog days”…

Pug and Lab in the lawn

Dogs on the boat

Enjoy the last day of the season everyone. I think I’ll celebrate by wearing my swimming suit and short shorts under my long pants, flannel and fluffy socks. Then I’ll eat some cookies. Lots and lots of cookies….

Goodbye summer…I miss your face already.

Goodbye Summer

Sniff, sniff…

Blue skies

September…with frosting?

So, it was cold today. And I should have known after putting on my third long sleeved shirt (you know, over the other two) that something was up.

I don’t mind the chill that comes with the fall season here and find it a little thrilling that in this part of the country it can go from 85 degrees to 45 in 24 hours. It keeps us on our toes.

So I was looking forward to taking in the fall colors, enjoying the brisk (although brief) sweater season that comes before puffy coat, mitten and face mask season. But nature had a little surprise this afternoon–a little frosting before the leaves have even fully changed.

Outside my kitchen window...brrr...

Now for those of you who don’t live in North Dakota, just a disclaimer: this is not typical. But it is not unexpected.

So we  took the air conditioning out of the window and I went outside to take some pictures of the things that, like me, may not quite be ready for the fluffy white stuff.

And now I’m making a casserole (you know, the kind with all of the “cream ofs” added in) in celebration of the first snow flurry and the fact that it has already melted.

The pug’s holding on to hope for 80 degrees tomorrow…

May all his dreams come true.

Happy fall!

Our wild backyard (no mowing necessary)

I have a pretty awesome backyard. It won’t make Better Homes and Gardens and no one will be calling me up for tips on how to get my grass so green or my flower garden so colorful and free of weeds. There will never be a plan to install a water feature with those fancy fish or a walking path made of perfectly smooth river stones. There will be cow poop and there will never be a white picket fence.

But your backyard might have one. Your yard may have the neighbors swooning and strolling by slowly as they walk their lap dogs or bike ride with their children. It might be the perfect spot for a BBQ complete with margaritas and a big umbrella over your table. You probably grow the most pristine daisies along your immaculately placed paving stones. Better Homes and Gardens is more than likely dialing your number right now.

And that’s pretty awesome too.

I do enjoy a good yard, no matter the condition, especially in the summer. So this weekend I ventured out a bit from the red gravel road to take in some of the big back yard that we all share, and it turned out that our lawn, the one we co-own, hadn’t been mowed either, so I didn’t feel so bad about mine.

For those of you who live in North Dakota, you have probably heard of the Maah Daah Hey Trail. If you haven’t, well I’m going to tell you about it, because it is where I tested my cowgirl, girl scout, Pilates, camp cook, photographer and reptile handler skills this Labor Day weekend. (Because we don’t get enough “middle of nowhere” out here in my little house in the hills the other five days of the week.)

In a nutshell, the Maah Daah Hey is a 125-mile multi-use trail, which stretches throughout public land in the Badlands of North Dakota from the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Watford City to the South Unit near Medora. This well-groomed, well-marked, gorgeous trail sweeps in and out of the clay buttes, winding across the valleys, crossing rivers and streams, cutting up the sides of steep cliffs and meandering through the trees. Even experienced in pieces (which is what we did for two days) this trail is not for wusses.

We chose to take the trail the good old-fashioned way, via the back of a trusty horse. Just a side note here to those wild men and women who think that taking a pedal bike out for a stroll through this rugged, unforgiving, majestic country is a good idea—may sweet Jesus be with you.

Anyway, the public has been enjoying this trail officially since 1995, but its name is taken from the Mandan Indian phrase meaning “an area that has been or will be around for a long time.” Which is fitting, because it has been said that this trail actually has been around for hundreds of years, serving as a trade route for the American Indians. So the Maah Daah Hey, I think, is and has been a true gift to those of us who wish to experience and exist in an untamed, unsettled, wild as the wind adventure out in the backcountry where it is not uncommon to ride for a day and not see another human soul (but a couple that belong to beasts).

And for those of you who prefer not to venture out of the fence and mowed lawn, it sure photographs nice and looks lovely hanging above a mantle in a pretty frame.

But there is nothing like being out in it really. Nothing.

With my crew of three pretty great wilderness guys (husband, dad, father-in-law), four horses that were lucky enough to prove themselves worthy of the climb, several bottles full of water, lunches pre-packed and labeled with names (because I give the people what they want), necessities like knives, matches, band-aids and, of course, toilet paper, we hit the trail that starts at Bennett Creek Camp and ends up there again.

And in those twelve miles that took us and our necessities past unaware deer grazing in a brush patch, out in the open to spook a lone coyote in the sage, over an unsuspecting, and rather angry rattlesnake in our path, down low to photograph the purple flowers growing unpredictably out of the hard, baked clay, and up high to see it all from a distance, I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be.

We plodded along for a few miles, snapping photos, basking in the scenery, chatting about previous rides, catching up. And then our voices silenced, our horses fell in line, and we were quiet for a while, alone with our thoughts for a few miles, bodies moving with the rhythm of the animals underneath us.

We got off to stretch our legs and walked the horses up steep cliffs, we took moments to let our mounts splash and dunk their noses in the creeks. We pushed on toward camp, letting the trail and markers guide us.

Even as I stretched my kinked back after nearly 7 hours in the saddle, my bony ass aching and my ankles stiff as we rounded the final mile back to camp, I couldn’t help but feel extremely fortunate to be breathing this wild air, without a sound or a footprint that didn’t belong there.

And my hope in the human race was restored a bit when we got back to camp to find that there was a multitude of others, in tents, in campers, in extravagant RVs, who were looking for the same connection with this land. I will admit at first I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have the campsite to ourselves, as if we were the only ones allowed this little piece of heaven, the only ones who deserved this quiet and solitude in which I get to live every day.

But then I came to my senses. Because I have been blessed with a backyard full of these wild things. My family has lived happily without immaculate lawns and flower gardens untouched by hungry critters. We have given up late night trips to the market and the option of take out when we don’t want to cook in order to be able to exist and live in a natural and somewhat untamed environment. We sweep our floors a little more, we swat more flies, we see more mice (and an occasional raccoon may or may not have entered my parent’s home and rearranged the décor), but that is a small price to pay for the quiet simplicity of country living. We have been blessed.

So where on earth did I think the white picket fence people go to get away from it all when they don’t have a place like ours to run to? Where do they go when the constant stream of suburban life has reached its limit for the month? Where did I think the girls with horses locked in stalls go to ride like the wind? Where do the dads bring their sons to teach them to build a fire, use a pocketknife, shoot a bow? Where do the mammas take their daughters to teach them the names of the wild animals and flowers? Where do ranchers, and daughters of ranchers go to take in the beauty of a different landscape without the distraction of fences that need fixing and hay that needs moving? Where do husbands go to reconnect with their strength and hardy instincts?

There has to be places like this for us. They must exist for us to stay human.

So as we watered and fed the horses, put up our tents, grilled our pork (and the angry rattlesnake), built the campfire, cracked open a beverage and settled in for the night, I took a moment to look around at my fellow campers who drove for hundreds of miles, from Omaha, Dallas, Minneapolis, Chicago, Fargo and even just down the road from Watford City, to exist for a few days in a place that looks the same as it did when our ancestors hunted whitetail and jackrabbits for supper, drank from the river, used the strong back of a horse to get a day’s work done and walked to get somewhere (because they definitely weren’t crazy enough to try it on a bike).

And I smiled, because there we all were, looking up at the same sky glistening with the same stars that have been hanging there for a million years in a landscape that has been soaked in the swamp, beaten by the wind, cut by glaciers, baked in the sun and battered by the water to form a world that is simply marvelous really.

A marvelous, breathtaking, ruthless, wild, wonderful backyard.

Simply untamable–just like us, it turns out.

And it’s all ours neighbors! Now go out and live in it.

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In honor of the ride in beautiful country, I thought I’d share my version of a couple classics. Enjoy!  Red River Valley Medley

For more information about the Maah Daah Hey trail, or to contribute to the project, visit the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association Website at www.mdhta.com

*Oh, and a quick note about the Mountain Biking thing, for those of you who like that sort of thing 🙂 The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) recognized the Maah Daah Hey  with their most prestigious award, the IMBA Epic Ride of 2001. In addition, a national women’s sports magazine named the Maah Daah Hey Trail among their top 18 outside sport destinations in the country. So go get ’em, I just won’t be joining you until I get that gym membership I haven’t been talking about…

The extraordinary ones…

The coulees that dot the landscape on the ranch are mystical places that I spent my entire childhood exploring. Each season they changed, and each year when I returned after a long winter, I found something new.

I walked them today again for the first time in several years and I was taken right back to the magic I feel they possess. I believe that the curious, the brave and special people that take the time to pick apart this prairie and get to the roots of the rough places give themselves a gift of beauty and life and discovery, losing themselves in a mystery like nothing else.

And so when I returned, I wrote….

There are secrets out here at the ranch that not many have explored. These secrets are quiet and hidden and full of magical life that only a watchful, imaginative eye can detect. This magic is not that far off the beaten path and most people, the ordinary people, never even turn a head or give this world a glance as they kick up dust from the tires of their SUVs.

But the special ones, they are curious. The special ones listen. They stand deathly still at the side of the road and hold their breath to hear through the wind and the traffic and the barking dogs. They lift a hand to shield their eyes and carefully take a step off the gravel—one step into the world. And then the brave ones take another and another…

Because they think they can hear something faintly calling to them saying, “hello up there” from way down below, under the tangle of grasses and cactus, along the base of trees, where the roots peek out from under the damp earth. So the curious ones, the ones who listen, move their eyes from the horizon and follow the call from the ground. Their feet bravely urge them to move from the top of the hills among the safety of the open prairie to the mysterious, damp, dark and prickly gullies of the surrounding coulees and creek beds.

They take in the panoramic view of cattails springing up like furry corn-dogs bouncing and bending on frail sticks in the breeze, congregating together under the care of the world’s largest street fair vendor. So the special ones are called to take a step a little closer and the smell of the marsh fills their nostrils as the once solid ground gives way to the dark mud under the reeds. And the water seeps into the brave one’s shoes.

A little startled, they look down and decide that soggy feet may be a small price to pay, because they’re on to something here. They need to get to the other side, to the trail that cuts along the creek that runs, uncommonly, up the banks of the ravine on a hot August day.

They wobble and slosh their way, deeper in, and with each step the voices get a bit louder, coaxing them to look down to the mushrooms and moss multiplying and spreading on the bark of the bur oak. The brave ones bend down to run their fingers along it, to feel the sponge of the mushroom’s fragile skin. Some might take a look underneath the caps of the fungus, not feeling at all silly at this point about making sure the stories of the fairies and the elves aren’t true. And they will be a little disappointed, really, to find, when they look, there is nothing there but a couple gnats…

And the curious ones have their eyes open enough to sense a soft rippling on the surface of the creek as the water bugs zip and glide and row and skim across the water. The brave ones feel the urge to jump in and splash with them, but don’t want to disturb the frail bugs.

Because, if not the fairies or the elves, maybe they are the ones who have called them here…

And when the voices (whoever they are) are drowned out by the buzzing of the mosquitoes and the air gets cooler and damper as the brush thickens up again along the path, even the brave ones can’t take it —they want to see the sky again, to see how the time has passed and how far they have gone. So they claw their way up the steep banks the creek has cut. They want to run to the top of the hill, but their legs are not meant to go so fast at times like these. Something slows them and they crouch to see how the tall grass looks against the overcast sky. They stand up and stretch their limbs to taste the ripe plumbs at the very tips of the thorny branches. The sweet juice pops in their mouths.

The curious ones bend down low to skim the vines for the rare red raspberries and wild strawberries underneath the mangle of green and they tiptoe along the juniper spreading up through the rocks and watch for the poison ivy that has, until the voices, deterred them from coming here.

And in their drunken wonderment, mouths puckered from sucking on the pits of wild berries and foreheads wrinkled from really seeing the small things, they are all surprised that the road has found them again, somehow.

Turning their heads back over their shoulder, they are bewildered by the look of it all from far away.

The trees put their arms around each other, moving so close together they all become one, the wind blows through the reeds, the grass stands up straight, the wild sunflowers spread open their smiles and everything (except the water who hides itself away, not so good at goodbyes) seems to wave at the brave and curious and special ones as they make their way home.

And the extraordinary people say a quiet word of thanks to the voices whispering their secrets, because the small world they thought they knew, the one they thought had belonged only to them, had become quite large indeed.

And after all that magic, it never looked the same again.

Tiger Lilies and Sweet Clover

There are certain things at the ranch that signify we’ve moved on to mid-summer–mosquito bites, 80+ weather, thunderstorms, the yellow clover and, my favorite, tiger lilies.

I wish you could smell it out here.  The air is heavy with the the lush, fresh scent of this wild (and, if I were a cow, delicious would be an adjective here) sweet clover.  I wish I could bottle this air up, or make it a plug-in scent, or sell it to the candle companies to burn on the long winter nights, to help remind me that this time does come, in all its wonder and splendor and drama.

I took a walk this morning before the hot weather hit to gather some tiger lilies we saw on a side hill on our ride the other night. Usually these wild variety are quite rare on the landscape, but if you spot a patch one summer, and the weather is right, they will most likely be there the next. I am sure many of you grow these flowers outside your home, but there is nothing like coming up over a hill filled with wild grasses, prickly brush and cactus to find these vibrant orange, perfectly constructed, delicate flowers dotting the landscape. This morning I couldn’t believe how many there were. Maybe I’m too simple, but it was simply thrilling to me.

Happy mid-summer to you. Enjoy our beautiful world this weekend, and enjoy your 4th of July!