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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For the love of music

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In an old small theater in a small western North Dakota town, a retired professional bull rider stood up on the stage behind his guitar, next to his band, and strummed the first few notes that kicked off the culmination of an idea that had been in the works for months.

The lights were flashing, the sound was big, and the recently reupholstered seats were filled with a crowd of people who made plans to attend a party in the name of turning a Saturday night into something bigger.

And that something bigger was to save that old theater standing among a collection of brick buildings on Main Street in Belfield, a town of 1,000 off the off the interstate west of Dickinson.

It’s a big project. Everything needed a facelift, a tinkering, a fresh coat of paint. Work was being done up to the moment guests started arriving, buying drinks, filling up small paper plates with food and finding their seats.

I was there that night to perform and to watch some of the guys from the band I play with debut their new project, a tribute band honoring the late Chris Ledoux, a bull rider musician made famous by a line in a Garth Brooks song.

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And that’s where this story started, with a song that kicked off a show where that singing cowboy left his guitar and microphone to step off the stage and ride a bucking machine under the spotlight in front of a crowd of a couple hundred of his community members and peers while I held my breath hoping that the man could pull it off.

The music kept playing, the crowd cheered, the bucking machine stopped and he jumped back on the stage. The show went on.

He pulled it off.

I let out a sigh of relief and a big cheer, then sat back and looked around, wondering what possesses us to do such things.

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I mean, it would have been easier to skip the bull-riding section of the performance all together and eliminate the risk of embarrassment or injury. If it were me, I probably would have. The show would have been good without that surprise element. But with it, well, it was pretty awesome.

And the musicians in that band also work full-time jobs, some have families, and they dedicated months to prepare for this night, to prepare for a crowd that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to show up.

The woman who made a dedication to save the theater and the handful of volunteers who scrubbed and scraped the walls, re-upholstered those seats, sent out press releases and made the food for the night probably had other ways to spend their time.

And the crowd who showed up probably had work to do, fields to till, cattle to brand, yards to clean, windows to wash.

But it was Saturday night …

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For the past year I’ve been working with a group of volunteers in my town to put together a council on the arts in our remote area. To raise money for the new organization, we decided to organize a big fundraiser featuring western North Dakota artists and performers. It’s been a labor of love and, with a baby at home, not the most convenient time to take on such a big commitment.

I spend a lot of my time crossing my fingers, hoping that people will show up, that we will get a crowd and that celebrating our artists and performers is something this community might want to invest in, something that they might find valuable.

It could be a total flop, yet we’re still gambling our time and energy on the belief that committing our time and talent to this will help make our community better.

I think of those men last weekend and, you know, it could have been Chris Ledoux or Garth Brooks himself up there, but I doubt it would have had the same effect on me.

Because Garth Brooks has owned stages all over the world, but that night in that small town in western North Dakota, the theater, the stage, the music and that crazy cowboy riding that bucking machine in the spotlight, all of it was all ours.

Jessie Gene MikeP1010595

If you’re in the Watford City area, please join us for the
Long X Arts Council’s Badlands Arts Showcase and Fundraising Gala
Thursday, May 26th
at the new Performing Arts Center in the Watford City High School.

Doors open to the Art Show at 5:30
Performance starts at 7
More information at http://www.longxarts.com 

Arts Showcase Poster

With a little help from the best…

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Edie’s getting a new perspective on the world these days.

The weather has been warmer and I’ve scheduled a few appearances out of town, so that means road time, restaurant time, hotel time, shopping time and the best part, auntie and gramma time.

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They are the only reasons there is even a prayer for me to continue to travel and sing with a baby in tow.

And last weekend they earned their keep as they endured loading all four of us and our suitcases, a guitar, a giant stroller, a car seat and thirty-seven changes of clothes for the baby into Husband’s giant pickup because the tire was low on my car. They held their pee without complaint for the three hour drive because the baby was sleeping and we didn’t want to disrupt a good thing only to have to pull off the interstate to feed her twenty miles from our destination just like I predicted.

Because a screaming baby can test even the most loving aunt, gramma and mother…

It’s a small price to pay to have the little cherub along though. Because 90% of the time she’s a drooly dream who makes everything harder and more fun. We got the hotel and just stared at her on the bed, hanging out in her diaper practicing rolling over.

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And leave it to Edie to wait until I’m gone to bust out her big tricks. While I was waiting to go on air at the North Dakota Today show the next morning, my little sister was texting me video from the hotel room of the little turkey rolling all over the bed.

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Apparently she needs a bigger audience.

And after one live TV appearance, one terrifying trip through the carwash with the giant pickup, one equally terrifying trip through the narrow Starbucks drive through, lunch, a nursing/puking/outfit changing session in the parking lot of the liquor store while my mom and sister shopped the buy one/get one sale…

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and a meltdown in the car seat from one end of town to another, we finally made it to the mall where we promised ourselves a quick trip.

Mom just needed to exchange some things. Little Sister just needed to look at some boots. I just needed a couple new shirts and ingredients to make some bars for the Fireman’s fundraiser the next day…

But also I needed makeup. And mom needed a giant pack of paper towels for the store and an equally giant box of toilet paper. And speaking of boxes, she might as well pick up that plastic box for the deck so Pops can store his grilling tools out of the weather. He just leaves them outside you know…

Oh, and I guess she also needed a bucket and a mop. Apparently it’s spring cleaning at the store…

And while she was trying to fit that all in the cart I figured I should pick up some more socks for Edie. And then pick up Edie out of the stroller. Because the stroller is a little too much like the carseat and, well, she has a short tolerance for such confinement.

So you can about picture it. Three women, one pushing an overflowing cart full of cleaning supplies, one pulling a stroller full of purses and coats instead of a baby like God intended and the other one wandering around aimlessly, a burp rag over her shoulder, holding the baby in one hand and a cell phone in the other, texting to locate the other two women she arrived with.

I swear, we passed two moms strolling tiny twin babies in the mall that day who both looked like they just arrived from a spa vacation compared to the hot mess we had going on.

And that was before we attempted to sort all our treasures in the checkout line and fit them into the pickup.

Really. Only the Veeder women could fill a one-ton, long box pickup to the brim after one overnight stay in the big town.

It’s like we never get off the ranch.

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So that was Friday.

Saturday mom came with me to take care of Edie while I sang at an event that evening, and Edie only screamed once for no apparent reason and didn’t require an outfit change, so that was good.

I however, emerged from a back room feeding to sign CDs with my dress hiked up past my hips, puke on my shoulder and my bra unlatched.

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I got distracted.

I’m sure no one noticed.

But then this was Sunday.

70-degree Sunday.

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Or as Little Sister declared as she walked the gravel road with my baby strapped like a little kangaroo to her body…”What Sundays are made for…”

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I couldn’t agree more.

And now it’s Monday. Time to rest up for the weekend.

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Because I’m raising a singing, kicking, screaming, wiggly, drooly, road warrior…with a little help from the best…

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Tutus, cousins and pipe cleaner glasses…

IMG_9107Remember my three blonde nieces?

Well, it turns out we’re pretty popular with them these days, you know because we managed to produce the girl cousin they hoped and shopped for.

And it turns out, that little girl cousin sorta looks like them, especially when you add the pink tutu and headband.

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Anyway, they came for an impromptu visit last weekend and it was just as much the explosion of fun as they always bring, only we got to add an infant and a new puppy to the mix, so yeah, this is the place to be man…

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The first thing on their agenda was picking out Edie’s outfit,

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then on to pancakes,

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then it was time to play with the puppy

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and then, well, Edie needed to be dressed again, because the last outfit wasn’t pink or frilly enough apparently…

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And then the highlight of my weekend, when The Middle Niece whipped up a pair of pipe cleaner glasses, you know, so Edie fits in with her semi-blind cousins.

Oh. My. Gawd. I can’t stop laughing.

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Seriously. I think I peed a little (and not because I recently gave birth).

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No, there’s no shortage of cute and chaos around these parts.

Having family around at the ranch with this new little human is a big blur of love and kisses and weekend afternoons spent cuddling and fussing over her. Add to that the a couple puppies and, well, this is life these days…

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I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to handle a baby and a baby puppy, but we’re full-on bringing Dolly over to the house this weekend after I get back from a road trip with Mom, Little Sister and Edie to the big town. I’m starting to get back into playing some music now and will be on the North Dakota Today show on Friday morning, so at night I’ve been playing the guitar and practicing a bit while Edie kicks her legs and flings her arms and coos and works out some good gas bubbles for me.

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So while life is completely different it is also so much the same. Three months into parenthood and we’re not sure what we did before her, except it’s been established that road trips were a little easier.

Probably everything was easier, but who’s to say really when it doesn’t really matter.

If I know anything it’s that the best part of life happens in moments that look a lot like chaos.

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And now, in case you didn’t laugh hard enough the first time…

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Sunday Column: How the music sounds up here

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

I have been in love with folk music my entire life, ever since first hearing my dad sing a Harry Chapin song, or listening to John Prine on his record player, I have been fascinated by the people in these songs, fascinated by how the music paints a picture and how you can fall in love with the characters, and how they can break your heart.

Folk and Americana music is the reason I write. It’s the reason I continue to make music and perform it in whatever way I find the opportunity. It’s the reason I’m still doing what I’m doing. Because I’m in love with the stories.

A few weeks ago I was honored with the Favorite North Dakota Folk Artist Award at the 2nd Annual North Dakota Music awards. I picked out a couple dresses (one for me and one for Edie), packed up my little family and met the band in the big town to celebrate at the awards ceremony with a theater full of North Dakota talent.

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It was a huge honor to be granted this awards by the fans who have followed me as a singer and writer since I was just a little girl singing an Emmylou Harris song dressed in a western shirt buttoned up to the very top.

I’ve been singing for a long time and have had the privilege of being backed by and working with some of the best and most supportive musicians in this little landlocked state. I could have moved to L.A.. I probably should have moved to Nashville. But I wanted to stay landlocked in the place that I love, singing about the place that I love.

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That night surrounded by the music of North Dakota and the people that support it I was reminded why it’s great, and why I’m so glad I chose to make music in this little state.

Thank you to everyone who listens, shares, votes and sits in the audience. Thanks to the bands for learning all those damn Jessie Veeder folk songs so willingly and wonderfully.

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Thanks  URL Radio for working hard to put this together!

Coming Home: Celebrating all the music makers under our big North Dakota sky
by Jessie Veeder
2-22-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a great time to be a musician in North Dakota.

This thought crossed my mind as I sat in the back of the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck last weekend, dressed up to celebrate the second annual North Dakota Music Awards.

The awards ceremony is a concept put together last year by the owners of URL Radio, a local online radio station that often dedicates air time to hosting interviews and playing North Dakota music out of their offices in downtown Bismarck.
Their enthusiasm for their work inspired them to put a call out to the fans to nominate and vote for their favorite musical acts, teachers, writers and venues and then celebrate them in a ceremony in the following months.

The concept is in its infancy, but after the first year’s efforts wrapped, it became clear this sort of recognition of the music makers, spread from Ellendale to Williston, was a refreshing and well-received concept, one that fans and musicians alike wanted in on.

“Who do you dance to on a Friday night at your favorite bar after a long week?”

“Who helped your child to fall in love with playing the trumpet in school?”

“What locally written songs move you?”

When these questions are finally posed, the importance of the answers ring a little clearer and suddenly we realize we want to spread the word about those talented kids who play bluegrass gospel music in church every Sunday.

Because while North Dakota isn’t known for its proximity to big stages and big connections, it’s always amazing to me to find myself surrounded by such big talent, big ambition and big passion for the craft.

And inside that beautiful theater last weekend, an equally beautiful crowd gathered to celebrate folk, rock, rap, classical and bluegrass, piano players, teachers and marching bands, each of us likely to be categorized by our shoes or our hair style.

Yes, it turns out North Dakota musicians are an eclectic group, and I’ll tell you it’s been a nice discovery for me to hear the different ways this harsh and beautiful place sounds to other music makers.

And it makes sense that a place like this would cultivate such diverse and inspired sounds. There’s likely no place in this country that needs or appreciates music more than us Northerners looking to endure our long, cold winters or celebrate under the big summer sky.

It’s been the case through the generations and I can’t help but think about the sounds these prairies have heard — the sharp echo of a fiddle against the wooden walls of a barn, the sound of the drums thumping like a heartbeat to the step of moccasins, the big voice of a girl practicing her school solo outside, the neighbor kid’s garage band, your cousin singing James Taylor songs around the campfire, the Nashville band at the county fair.

This big sky has room to hear it all and endless ways to inspire a song. The music makers have always known this to be true. But as I watched a woman who has played bluegrass music for years accept an award on behalf of her band that participates in a festival along the shores of the Missouri River in the summer, I couldn’t help but appreciate all of the new ways this community is creating to hear and celebrate their artists.

In a time where access to popular music is available at the click of a button, it seems, little by little, North Dakotans are putting stages and sound systems in breweries and restaurants and hiring local bands instead of relying on jukeboxes. They’re envisioning local music festivals, hosting open mic nights and sharing YouTube videos of the neighbor kid playing Mozart on his keyboard.

Last week, my community cut the ribbon on a new multimillion-dollar high school. Part of the blueprint includes a state-of-the-art performing arts theater to be used by the students and the community.

That’s a huge vote of confidence for the students and rural arts, and it’s so refreshing to me.

Because you might not be a poet, a rapper or a singer of country songs, but you’re inspiring the music we make. You’re helping us tell your story.

And I thank you for celebrating and encouraging the sound.

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

Sunday Column: The “what if’s” in Boomtown

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My husband and I moved back to the ranch more than five years ago. If you’ve been following along here, you’ve likely seen how much has changed, and how much hasn’t, at the ranch, in our family and in our community.

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We moved back for a few reasons. Number one was because it is where we wanted to settle down and raise a family, but the number two reason made it possible–the economy was booming due to the oil and gas industry and seemingly overnight there were more jobs and more opportunity than our small town could keep a tally on.
The results have been unprecedented growth for our small town that was once only 1,200 people and now boasts a population that is seemingly uncountable due to fluctuations and many people living in temporary housing situations. My guess is we’re likely close to 8,000 people today.

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Our small town that never had a stop light, now has many. We have a sort of suburban sprawl happening with new apartment buildings and housing units going up. We have Main Street bars and a sushi restaurant. We have little strip malls. A big grocery store. A nice daycare, a brand new high school and multi-million dollar community and event center going up, with two indoor ice slabs and a couple pools. We’re working on a new hospital and clinic.
Everything that once was is now updated, expanded and improved upon, including our roads.
When oil prices were at $100 a barrel we worked on playing catch up because the entire country was moving in.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.16.56 PMAnd now we’re planning for the future in a time we knew could come, a slow down due to lower oil prices.  We’re in a sort of eerie place where we can catch up, not realizing how we’ve gotten used to such a fast pace until there’s a shift.
In the new year I think we all wish we could see into the future, knowing that all we can do is believe in and trust in today. And today it seems like despite what looks sort of grim, my community is showing it’s a little beacon of light and hope on this cold prairie.
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by Jessie Veeder
1-17-16
Forum Communications

It’s been more than five years since my husband and I unloaded our hand-me-down furniture into the little brown ranch house in the barnyard where my dad grew up, fulfilling our dream of moving home, because unlike the economy the two of us grew up in during the ’80s and ’90s, there were jobs.

Everyone talks about how the oil boom seemed to happen overnight, but when you’re living among it, that sense of immediacy is only partially true.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of “what-if” that sits alongside “could it be true?” in your mind as you wonder about the alleged oil well that promises to pop up on the hill behind the house.

It seems like it could never happen, until one day you wake up and there it is.

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That’s how it’s been for the past five years around here in western North Dakota. Not believing and then believing — that there would be a stoplight in town, a four-lane highway to Williston, a fast-food restaurant, a brand new high school, dozens of new apartment buildings and so on and so on until you find yourself used to the stoplights, sushi and Southern accents surrounding you.

The “if you build it they will come” mentality wasn’t as much the case here in this once 1,200-person town. No, it was more of the “they have come so let’s do what we can to make it work better.”

And so we made time for the extra traffic, the long lines and construction detours, and have come to expect events and restaurants filled to capacity with people of all ages, races and backgrounds, our new little melting pot on the western edge of the state.

We knew it would slow down eventually, that the four new hotels that were built wouldn’t be filled to the brim every week with working residents, and instead we would have to find a way to fill them with guests.

We knew that we wouldn’t always have to make reservations for supper.

We knew that oil wouldn’t stay at $100 a barrel, and that we might get a chance to take a breath someday and catch up, even though the thought was both terrifying and relieving.

Because we knew what it was like to have our quiet and slow life interrupted, but maybe we didn’t realize how quickly we could get used to a new normal, a fast pace of planning hectic moment to hectic moment.

But that hectic moment has slowed for a bit now and, as oil prices have slid, adjustments have been made.

Is the boom over?

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That’s a question every news source and coffee conversation wants answered.

I’m not sure if anyone knows. Just like nobody seemed to know exactly what was coming five years ago. I read a different dramatic report, opinion and prediction every day.

But here’s what I know to be true for us: Oil prices have changed, but the sense of “what-if” coupled with “could it be true?” has not.

We have never settled into a sense of security in such fast-paced growth. Instead, we have remained committed to keep steady in our own plan to figure out how to stay here at the family’s ranch for the long run.

And I’ll tell you, it’s been much easier with better jobs and more opportunity at our fingertips. But along with that, for whatever challenges we continue to face, what our community has become in the wake of the boom has made this an easier and exciting place to live in many ways.

And for that we have been grateful.

I think that realization might be the case for most people who, after coming here for the work, have decided to make this place their permanent home now. Because of the jobs, yes, but also because, like us, they see a future here.

And it’s because of those people it seems our new population is remaining more steady than predicted. Yes, people are losing jobs and families are moving away, but businesses are also still hiring and new residents still seem to see the value in a community that has moved from building to keep up with the present into building for a future we want for our families.

For more information on Watford City and McKenzie County, and for other perspectives on Boomtown Living visit: 
www.mckenziecounty.net
www.voicesofwatford.com
www.oilgoesboom.com
www.boomtowndiaries.com 
www.beautifulbakken.com 

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Sunday Column: Press that red button

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This weekend, between feeding, burping and rocking the baby, I worked on collecting photos on my computer to put into photo albums, a sort of New Years resolution (besides trying to cut back on the caramel rolls and donuts I’ve grown accustomed to during my pregnancy) I’ve set aside for myself after suffering a major computer and external drive meltdown a few months back.

I don’t want Edie’s memories to be stuck on some broken hard drive somewhere.

And this Christmas the importance of that resolution became even clearer when we dug out a couple old VHS tapes from the back room and spent the afternoon waiting on the prime rib and watching ourselves, scratchy and sorta blurry, on mom and dad’s big screen t.v.

I was five or so with my big sister, inside a cardboard box we made out to be a t.v., doing a Jergens lotion television commercial bit.

Then carving pumpkins in the little kitchen, our mom pregnant with our little sister giving our dad the very classic and signature (still used to this day) evil eye when he put the camera on her and her big belly.

And then there we were, when she was born, my big sister holding her arms out like a ballerina waiting for her turn to hold the baby, the same way she does today waiting to hold Edie.

But this week’s column is about what was most precious about those moving pictures my family captured in the year of the first camcorder, 1989 or so I suppose, purchased together by the family to help us remember on cold winter afternoons like these.

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Because to hear the voice of my grandmother again, to see the way she climbed up on a horse, the way her husband teased her and she teased back, to see them interact right there before our eyes twenty-some years later, not only reinforces a memory, but may help create one, on just an ordinary day, that might have been lost.

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Because some people leave us too soon and all we’re left with is what we remember and what we’ve done to help us do so.

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And just those few minutes we got to spend in the past that day stuck in my guts and so I spent the Christmas celebration trying to remember to put my phone on record, to capture Edie smiling, to capture a gift exchange or a conversation between aunts and uncles gathered in the same room, little moments that might seem mundane at the time but could mean the world to us some day far away.

Coming Home: Give yourself the gift of recording family moments
by Jessie Veeder
1-10-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com
 

We watched her from the couch, her silver hair tucked up under her flat-brimmed feed store cap, her husband on the other side of the camcorder lightheartedly poking fun at the way she climbed up on her horse, laughing with the reins in her hand as she set out for the gate.

The VHS tape with our family memories found its way into my dad’s hand while he was searching for something else in the back closet. It’s funny how we seem to stumble upon such important things.

The label read something like “Feeding cattle, Alex’s Birth, Dance, 1989,” the year my little sister was born.

The year my dad’s father was battling his second bout of cancer and the outcome looked grim. And until I saw him again, dressed in coveralls and a wool cap emerging from that little brown house in the farmyard, blurry, shaky and worn like the old tape itself, it hadn’t occurred to me the reason the new camcorder existed in my family that year.

 Because Polaroids wouldn’t capture his voice or her laugh or the joke she told about her first husband filming her backside.

So they bought a camcorder. Bulky and not the least bit user-friendly, they read the manual, pushed the red button at the wrong times and carted it around so that they might remember how he dressed when he fed cattle, what he looked like opening a gate and the expression on his face when he cradled his tiny and brand new grandchild just months before he said goodbye to this world.

But of course they didn’t know how little time they had then, not just with Grandpa Pete, but with Grandma Edie as well. Because that’s the trouble with things like time, we always think we have more of it.

It’s been a couple weeks since we all sat down as a family on Christmas unprepared for the emotions that would stick in our guts after seeing and hearing them in living, breathing, moving color, and still I’m stirred.

Because there I was, standing on the stoop outside the little brown house, barely 5 years old, in my snowsuit and stocking cap watching my grandma wrap my scarf around my neck and I remembered what that was like. I remembered that scarf and how she didn’t tie it like my mother did. How she wrapped it tighter and up over my nose.

And there was her voice saying my name, saying “Jessica, why don’t you go stand by your grandpa so your dad can take a picture.” And I turned the other way, acting shy, not knowing much of time or about how some goodbyes are forever.

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Frame by frame we went, the little snippets of our ordinary lives—unwrapping presents at Christmas, playing dress-up with my cousins in the farmhouse, listening to the grownups talk and sip coffee around the table—somehow made extraordinary after all of these years.

And I can’t shake it. As we spent our holiday carting our newborn to holiday celebrations here and across the state to meet relatives, I thought about the way my mother looked at my tiny little sister from across the hospital room, just minutes after she gave birth to that 9-pound baby on her 33rd birthday, smiling and fresh and caught on camera putting on mascara in her hospital bed, just a year older than I was when I had baby Edie. It was a simple moment captured, but it said so much about a woman.

And there were my grandparents, facing an illness that could end a life and welcoming a new one with big smiles, bundled up and fresh in the chill and uncertainty of a new year.

Time has ticked on like it promises to, making televisions bigger, communication easier and access to video more affordable and at our fingertips.

In this new year, even in what seems like the most ordinary times, give yourself a gift and press that red button.

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The wait (to love you forever…)

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I’m a big ‘ol ticking time bomb. Any day this baby could make his or her arrival and the wait will be over.

We’re in the in-between phase. The hurry up and wait. The preparing to prepare.

I never thought I’d look like this.

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I never thought I’d feel the kicks or the hiccups inside my belly or the panic that I HAVE to get the microwave clean or I might spontaneously combust.

Never thought the arches of my feet would ache like this.

Never thought I would understand the way a body wakes you up every two hours in preparation of what’s to come.

Never thought I get this big.

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I just watched a cow in the pasture trying to get up from a rest, with a ‘one, two, three…heave, ho…’ sort of technique and I could relate to her.

I watched another one attempt to lay down, and I nodded my head in solidarity.

It’s weird. And most of the time it’s not so pretty. Just last week I had a mental breakdown about moving the board games from one closet to another.

Seriously.

And my poor husband can’t find a thing in the kitchen because, according to him, some crazy pregnant lady keeps rearranging things.

I don’t believe him. I have no recollection of such acts. I tell him maybe it’s him who’s going crazy.

He doubts that theory very much.  

I don’t know who’s rearranging the kitchen, but I do know I have the strongest urge to vacuum right now. And last week I felt just as urgent about capturing a few photos of what the two of us look like in this phase of ‘pre-parenthood.’

So I forced my little sister to take some, right after I finished the donut she brought me from town. The poor thing didn’t know what was coming, but she did a great job (and she’s not even the sister of mine who’s an actual photographer).

Anyway, in a couple weeks (or tomorrow or the next day) we will be three.

But here we are, still just the two of us (sort of) and counting down the days.

I don’t think my husband has ever taken a better photo, he’s just sort of radiating, a smile as big as his wife’s belly.

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For a long time there were only your footprints & laughter in our dreams & even from such small things, we knew we could not wait to love you forever.
-Brian Andreas-Storypeople

Sunday Column: Haunted

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Another Halloween has come and gone and, although I this year didn’t find me traipsing around to parties dressed as my favorite farm animal, it did get me thinking, for some reason, about the origin of this all.

The art of the spook.

Mysterious things left behind.

And the definition of haunting.

Because out here we’re surrounded by a history that has left behind artifacts for us to contemplate, old abandoned farm houses, out buildings or shacks that many midwesterners have standing on their properties, out in fields or cow pastures, little snippets of stories of who used to live there hanging in the air as dinner table discussion or campfire ghost stories, leaving us to wonder who was here before.

So this week I dug back in my memory to reflect on an old homestead that used to sit up behind the house where I grew up…and all of the things we leave behind….

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ghost stories for us country kids
by Jessie Veeder
11-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a gloomy day, the rain is falling, the sky is gray and the trees are stripped from black branches. It’s Halloween season and all of the sudden I’m reminded of the old house that used to sit up in a grove of trees behind the yard where I grew up.

It’s not so uncommon around here for a family to purchase land from neighbors or inherit an old family homestead, so there aren’t many farmsteads around these parts that didn’t come with an old structure lingering on the property, providing ranch kids with plenty of bedtime ghost story material.

And so it went with the old house that stood tucked back on the other side of the barbed wire fence, against a slope of a hill, surrounded by oak trees and the remnants of Mrs. B’s famous garden. Her hearty lilac bushes, her grove of apple trees, her wild asparagus and rhubarb still thrived in the clearing she made in those trees all those mysterious years ago before the family up and left, leaving that garden untended, the root cellar full and a house seemingly frozen in time.

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“What happened to them?” I would contemplate with my cousins, one of our favorite subjects as our eyes grew heavy, tucked in bunk beds and sleeping bags scattered on the floor, together growing up, together trying to figure out what the passing of time really means and how a story could be left so undone.

Gramma took some old dresses, vintage black smocks with pearl buttons and lace collars, from the small bedroom closet of the old house. We would pull them over our heads to perform pretend wedding ceremonies or attend fancy parties like we saw on our mothers’ soap operas, the fabric smelling like mothballs, dust and old forgotten things.

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But no matter what character you were that day, you couldn’t help but think about who the real woman in those dresses once was.

And who would leave them behind?

So, as it goes with kids, our curiosity outweighed our fear and we went on a mission to collect samples of this family’s life that still existed between those walls.

And while I remember kitchen utensils hanging neatly on hooks, canned beets and potatoes lined up on shelves, the table and chairs sitting in the sunlight against the window, waiting for a neighbor to stop over for coffee, I also remember bedrooms scattered with old newspapers and magazines, the dates revealing the last years of occupancy, the fashion of the season, stories of drought and cattle prices sprawled out among diary entries and old letters, a glimpse into a world that existed long before us kids sifting through the rubble in tennis shoes with neon laces.

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And then I remember the dentures. Or maybe I just remember the story my oldest cousin told about the dentures. It doesn’t matter now who was actually there to witness it, it evolved to belong to everyone. An expedition to the old house, a creak of a cupboard door, a jar full of teeth that nobody noticed before.

“The place is haunted.” That was the consensus, especially when, at the next visit, the unwelcome house guests were greeted at the door by a flurry of bats (or, more likely, a bat or two). Yes, the spirits of that mysterious couple came back to the place. How else could you explain the thriving asparagus plants? The teeth?!

And so that was our story of the old house, a mysteriously fantastic pillar of our childhood adventures and a structure that had to eventually be burned down due to its disintegrating floor joists and general unsafe environment.

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I stood in my snowsuit and beanie and watched the flames engulf the graying wood and shoot up over the tops of the black oak trees and wondered how it all eventually came down to this … a life turned into old forgotten things, turned into ashes, turned into stories.

Maybe that’s the scariest tale of them all.

But each fall the apples in the old woman’s orchard ripen, each spring her lilacs bloom and each year their names come to our lips because of what they left behind, making me wonder if we were right about the haunting thing after all.

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Sunday Column: A letter to this baby…

Last weekend Husband finally got a chance to get off the ranch and out of the basement building project to load up the pickup and head to the big town so that he could participate in the very exciting/horrifying/intense process of learning all about the birthing process in a class we took through our hospital.

Now I’m not going to be what you might call a young mother, and lately I’ve started to realize my extra years of experience in this world has made me increasingly aware of reality…i.e. the older you get the more you realize that shit can go wrong and shit does go wrong and if it doesn’t go wrong it isn’t always easy so it’s best to be prepared.

In my younger days my ignorance was my bliss. But I guess those days are gone. Because I know just enough to worry, and not enough to feel prepared, I decided it was a good idea to take this class and take some notes.

And so off we went. My husband and me and this baby bump of ours on what will likely be one of the last overnight outings we take together before this baby makes his or her arrival.

Seven hours of lessons and questions and video examples and breathing and I am holding on to my initial idea that it’s nothing short of a miracle that anyone survives the process of being born.

We walked down the street to grab lunch and said “I can’t believe we’ve arrived here. I can’t believe we’re at a frickin’ birthing class. I don’t even feel like us.”

“I know,” was all he could say back.

We felt like normal people there. Like a normal couple having a normal baby and having the normal questions and normal worries.

We weren’t the couple with the infertility problems. The couple who have been fighting to be parents for almost 8 years. The couple who lost six pregnancies before this.

No. Now we’re the couple preparing for the birth of our first born. And my back hurts. Oh shit my back hurts. And after walking around Menards for three hours yesterday before we heading home with supplies for the basement and the nursery, my ankle bones are stiff and creaky. I take a bite of a granola bar and my heart burns up to my throat. I’m having crazy dreams. I get up to pee about every fifteen minutes…you know, all the things that happen to a woman when she’s busy growing a healthy baby. All the miserable things I’m happy to be experiencing.

Because at the end of all that pushing and breathing and contracting we learned about last weekend, at the end of my waddling stage, my nesting stage, my stretchy pants stage, we will get the greatest gift of all. And if I learned anything in the years that I’ve settled into adulthood it’s that sometimes the fighting and the suffering and the worry and the wait make the best things better.

We can’t wait to find out.

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Coming Home: Dreaming of baby and all she could be…
by Jessie Veeder
10-4-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Dear Baby,

Last night I dreamed you were born. A girl with a thick head of dark hair, tiny and perfect. As I held you, the hospital room filled with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors, all the people who love you already.

I opened my eyes to the dim light streaming through the tops of the autumn trees, stretched my arms above my head and felt you move inside my belly.

You’re not born yet, Baby.

You have two more months to grow.

We have two more months to wait before we get to know you.

Baby, you’re making my back ache and my ankles creak with the physical weight of your impending arrival. I walk around the house in your dad’s flannel shirts, and he laughs at the sight of his wife groaning as I bend over to pick out a pan for supper or put my hands on my no-longer-existent hips to ask him what’s so funny.

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But he’s not laughing because anything’s funny. He’s beaming. He can’t help it. The thought of you growing healthy and strong out in this world seems to put actual light in his eyes.

I guess that’s the twinkle they talk about.

Because you’re such a beautiful mystery, a journey we only dreamed to travel. A wish we hold our breath for.

And now, after seven years of hoping, in two months when you draw your first breath in this world, we will finally be able to let ours go.

And still we’re not ready. This house on the ranch we’ll bring you home to is still only half finished. The basement is covered in sawdust as your dad scrambles to put up walls and wrap up loose ends for your arrival.

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I have your crib and a chair to rock you still sitting in unopened boxes next to the tools in the garage.

Your nursery is still my office, with papers and guitars sharing the space with a box of your bottles and a dresser full of outfits and blankets your grammas and aunties already bought for you.

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You’ll learn that about us, Baby. That we we’re not the most organized people, but we have big plans, and our big plans make messes. You’ll find as you grow up in this house with us that the dishes will wait in the sink if the day is too beautiful to spend behind closed doors.

You’ll find that some days we track in more dirt than we sweep away, and that our work and commitment out here on this ranch will keep us from long vacations and big fancy toys because we want to take care of this land so that you can grow up with mud on your boots and fresh air on your face while you learn all you’re capable of.

But in the midst of all the challenge and heartbreak that you’ll find in this life with us, I hope you’ll find that I play more than I vacuum, sing more than I holler, hug more than I scold and through it all we can laugh, even on the messiest days.

And I hope you grow to like our cooking and that there might be some things we can teach you, because believe me, Baby, we know you have endless lessons to teach us.

And, Baby, I want you to know that I’ve loved your dad since I was much too young for things like that. And so you can imagine the fun we have picturing you and how our qualities might combine to make up the person you’ll become. For all the time spent in my belly behind my guitar, he wonders if you’ll come out singing.

I worry you’ll be wild like him, turning my hair gray with your affinity to drive too fast or climb too high.

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Boy or girl? Blond hair? Brown eyes? For years we have dreamed you a thousand times, a thousand different ways, but none of it matters. You’ll be perfectly flawed, perfectly imperfect, like us and unlike us in so many ways, the only person in this world we love before we’ve even been introduced.

And we can’t wait to be introduced.

Baby