Sunday Column: Gardens and Grass and Work Girl…

IMG_5428Things are starting to shape up around here. We spent the weekend with family and friends working on sprucing up the barnyard. We painted out-buildings, built new fences and painted those, pruned some dead trees,


cleaned up old rusty pieces and parts, painted signs and made more plans for next time.


It’s funny what a little bloom on the trees and a little paint can do the spirit of the place. This barnyard facelift has been a long time in the making, but tough to get to because when we’re all working full time and getting ready for cattle in the spring, sometimes all we have time for is the basics: fix the fence so the cows don’t get out, make sure we have water. Ride to check on things.

But because Little Sister’s wedding and the 100 year celebration of the ranch is coming up on us quickly, we have a goal to make the place functional as well as presentable to the public. And so that’s what we did.


In the time in between, back over the hill at our house, my husband has been busy working on building the walls in the basement and I’ve been busy obsessing over our new lawn.


And making plans, finally, for a garden of my own over here.

It’s coming on time for planting. It was pretty cold the last couple days, but in a week or two I think we’ll be in the safer zone for frost and I can get my hands in the dirt to plant some beans and peas and cucumbers and corn and carrots and onions and tomatoes and anything else I can find room for there.

This garden has been on my list since before we got this house built over here, and each year it seems more important projects sort of push it out of the way. So I head on over to mom and dads and help plant theirs so that I don’t feel as guilty when I raid it come July and August.


But this year is my year. I mean, we got the grass growing. We got our fence up. We’re getting the barnyard under control. We’re getting our shit together…

And I’m getting my garden dammit.

Coming Home: Green grass inspires the year of the garden
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

And in honor of the work getting done around here, I want to share with you another song off of the new album, which will be available to download on CD BABY and at my front door TOMORROW!

“Work” Jessie Veeder, Northern Lights-2015 

 And if you order the signed album at today, I’ll throw in this cool sticker as a token of my appreciation 🙂


Jessie Veeder discusses her Nashville album, “Northern Lights”

Wanted: April Showers


It’s been a busy couple weeks at the ranch. The weather has been warm and too dry for comfort and we’re deep into “getting the place ready for Little Sister’s wedding” mode. Which means we have projects, not just in the barnyard, but at our house too.

We’ve got two months and only so many weekends to finish the deck, finish the basement, finish the siding, finish the finishing touches and make a lawn grow where only a single pig weed once emerged.

But first, let’s take a ride on Husband’s new/used dirt bike and Pops’ precious Trail 90. You know, just to blow off some steam…


Not that I’d ever driven that little motorcycle/scooter thing…no worries, this guy here is good with lessons….But he’s also adorable, which makes it hard for me to concentrate.


“Just like riding a bike,” he said.

Except bikes have pedals and don’t die at the far edge of the field two miles from home when I finally figure out how to turn and suddenly become a professional and want to start working on a ramp so I can practice my jumps…


I love you sweet man, and it looks like you’re going to have to get the tools…

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And the pickup…because me and the Trail 90 are getting a ride home…


Ok, we can call the sod guy now. Because, after three years, won’t it be kick-ass to have a lawn?


Yeah, that’s a lot of lawn. Like 7,300 square feet worth.

Like 10,000 tons of grass.

So we called in reinforcement and spent last weekend burning our forearms and getting in our squats in the name of landscaping.

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And I’ve spent the rest of the week obsessing over my sprinklers, where they’re pointing and how to aim them without soaking my jeans, drowning or shutting them off.

And the dogs have spent the last five days believing they’ve finally gone to doggy heaven, rolling and sun bathing and napping and dragging dead things on what they seem to think is their own personal, giant slab of carpet.

So there was that.

And we need rain. Not only for my sod, but for the rest of this part of the state that didn’t get the moisture in the winter or the April showers we expect this time of year.


On Tuesday Husband left work, along with rest of the office, fire departments from three communities, the forest service and hundreds of volunteers to fight a fire near the lake that burned almost 5,000 acres and nearly took out one of our favorite campgrounds and marinas. He came home late covered in soot, stripped his clothes and showered that desperate smell off of him.

The fire was contained and, in the meantime, we just hold our breath for rain and for that pager to stay quiet.

And I adjust the sprinklers, wishing we could turn on the sky with a nob like that, add some tasks to the list in my head before setting it all aside to go out looking for spring.

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Party ’till the people come home…

The ranch in summer. Its lush and green and yellow and smells of vegetation and clover and dirt and the backs of horses. Its been warm and sticky during the day and cool at night, perfect timing for pulling the windows open and laying on top of the sheets in my jammies while I read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer” or, if I’m feeling particularly vegged-out and relaxed, watch the latest episodes of “So You Think You Can Dance…” (Hey, my interests are broad, don’t judge–I think it might be the best show on television.)

Anyway, yes, summer at the ranch. It’s quite lovely most of the time. Even more so when you are blessed with a day of rain in the beginning of August guaranteeing the countryside a few more weeks of green.

That was the case on Friday. It was gloomy and rainy all day and I was happy knowing that I didn’t have to water my flowers, and actually, come to think of it, I never really had to water them at all this summer.

Yes, and all of this moisture has been great for the lawn too, you know, the lawn I battled with in the beginning of June. Because once I got the forest knocked down, husband and I have been maintaining it, grooming it, weed whacking the crap out of it, and admiring our neon green, lush, nearly town-material lawn that surrounds the barn and almost distracts from the broken down garage.

Things were going well. We are on the downslope of summer and the lawn was still immaculate.

So I was kinda happy with the rain on Friday. I was pleased with the cool down and the chance to stay inside, eat husband’s homemade knoephla soup, and write some new music. And the next day, while it was still a drizzle, husband and I headed out the door to take an engineering student who was visiting from Sweden on a tour of the oil field activity in the area.

We had a great day planned for him and I was excited to learn about what husband does all day (besides driving around and checking on things…which is the explanation I have been giving to friends and family for the past three years…)  It was also nice to get to know someone our age from across the ocean and learn that we have so much in common over one of the best steaks I’ve ever had cooked for me at a restaurant. Seriously, if you haven’t been to The Bison Room in New Town, NDmake a date with your spouse, your gram, your kids, your best friend, yourself, whatever, but get there. They know what they’re doing. Ok, so there’s my western North Dakota traveling/tourist tip for you, now on with my captivating and intense story…

So there I was sitting shotgun in husband’s pickup at 8:30 pm on our way back to the ranch. I was full and pleased and ready for a nice Sunday spent maybe, oh, I don’t know, picking chokecherries, riding, cleaning, reading or mowing the lawn.

But it turns out the cows had other plans for us.

Because while we were out frolicking in the oil field and probably feasting on one of their cousins for dinner, the cows were waiting in the bushes for our taillights to disappear over the hill and out of sight. See, on their schedule was a picnic. A picnic of short, lush, well groomed, green grass growing before their big, brown eyes. So as soon as we hit the highway they skipped on over, pulled out their lawn chairs and coolers, staked out the volleyball net, the croquet set, the Norwegian horseshoes, and proceeded to have themselves a regular old block party…all 150 women, their offspring and their two boyfriends.

And all in my, lush, beautiful, neon green, rain-saturated yard.

I’ll tell you they must have been looking for us, you know, to invite us to the festivities, because the evidence of their attempts to break in were in the deep footprints dug in right up to the basement door, and the living room window, and the bathroom window, and the bedroom window. They really didn’t want us to miss it. I mean, I’m sure croquet is more fun when you invite guests with opposable thumbs.

And judging by the size and numbers of plops in my yard, I am guessing the eating was as good as their games.




It smells like shit.

That’s what I said when we pulled into the yard in the dark and I stepped out of the pickup and into a fresh cow pie.

And as I scuffled my way to the front door, sniffing the pungent air, the illumination from the barnyard light revealed small reflections on water puddles in the lower yard, right next to the retaining wall and the flowers my grandmother planted that, um, used to be there…what the hell?

Is that mud?

Is that water sitting in deep crevices shaped like hundreds and hundreds of hoof prints?

Is that poop? I keep stepping in poop? Is it? I can’t see?!!

Where are the damn dogs?

Snort, snort, slobber, slobber, yawn, whap, whap, whap.

Oh, there they are. Sleeping on the deck.

I growled to husband as we deduced that all signs pointed to a flaw in the system. The system where you have dogs on a ranch to keep the cows out of the yard.

Or to help you get them out of the heavy brush when you’re riding.

Or to assist you as you herd them through a gate.

That would be the idea of a cow dog.

But, oh yeah, that’s right. We don’t have cow dogs. We have dogs whose only purpose is to eat, sleep, poop in front of the stoop, drag dead things to the deck in front of our door and apparently party with the cows.



3,000 acres and you party at my house?

Countless energy of screaming at you two dogs to get back, to stop chasing the damn cows, and you choose this day, these six hours, to actually obey a rule!!!

Hours spent in the sweltering sun clipping and whacking and working to create an acceptable carpet of grass and all I’m left with is three thousand cow plops, ankle deep mud, an invasion of flies and a bad farmer’s tan???!!!

I stormed inside and booked a flight to  Sweden. Because I have a new friend there and he said we could come to visit anytime.

So I hope you’ll stick with me on my journey abroad and check out my adventures coming soon on my new blog: Meanwhile, back in Stockholm…

Oh, and if you love me,  do me a favor tonight…eat beef!

This will not be in Better Homes and Gardens

I mowed the lawn yesterday afternoon on the first day this spring where the temperature was above 80 degrees.

Yes, you heard me people, 80+. It happens around here.

And so do sunburns on pasty skinned northern women who decide a tank top and shorts is an appropriate outfit for the type of manual labor that involves pushing over tall stocks of thick grass and weeds in the name of a well groomed lawn in the middle of a wild place–and then quickly decide that a northern woman with pasty skin that hasn’t seen the sun for six months should maybe try shaving her legs and applying sunscreen before attempting such risque outfits.

Eeek, it was a moment I decided I might be one of those people who look better from far away.

Anyway, as I primed and pulled and shoved that lawn mower around the old clothes line, up what was at one time a valiant attempt at landscaping and then, you know over the graveyard of bones and sticks and toys the dogs drug home from Timbuktu, sending at least two bones flying into husband’s pickup before shocking the blades of the mower on one of those old landscaping rocks and landing the machine directly in the center of a immaculately preserved cow plop from last fall, I had a wave of envy for people in town who can mow their lawns in fifteen minutes with no serious hazards to their vehicles or risk of being splattered with manure.

"She's got the mower again! Save yourself and your good eye!"

Yes, mowing the lawn and weed-eating was the equivalent of my summer outdoor chores when I lived in town. It was my favorite task and I was known for choosing hours of raking and mowing and weeding over three minutes of laundry folding.

But here’s the thing, working in the yards of all my homes in town I would not dared to have worn as little (with such little grooming) as I did yesterday pushing that mower across the barnyard. I mean, I at least owed that much to my neighbors.

And although yesterday I had to dodge barbed wire and mow around the tractor and dodge scoria flying at my exposed shins, I could at least do it with my white, scrawny, flailing arms and legs glowing (and then burning) in the sweet sunshine while sweat pooled on my forehead and down my back.

And I didn’t have to worry about the neighbors feeling sorry for me and  shaking their heads as they watched from their front porches.

Which got me thinking about my yard situation: Sigh. It will never be Better Homes and Gardens worthy and I will never  get Martha Stewart to accept my invitation for a visit.

Sigh again.

It’s a hard truth to swallow.

I mean the reality is that we live in a barnyard, a barnyard with a shop and equipment and, you know, a barn. And pickups and machinery don’t make the best lawn ornaments no matter how many pots of geraniums I set on them.

So yes, I realize there are things I may never be able to achieve in a lifetime of living on this ranch in the middle of the clay buttes, and picture perfect landscaping and pets with both eyes and no wood-ticks may just have to be some of them. Because country living means, undoubtedly, mowing over cow poop and a roll of wire and a tractor in your front yard.

But it also means running to your car in your skivvies at night with nothing but the dogs to take notice, a campfire out back on summer nights if you want, fresh-cut rhubarb left over from your grandmother’s garden, a song about wind and a long walk with your husband to your favorite spot to take the place of expensive marriage counseling.

Yes, country living means wood ticks crawling across your kitchen floor and wild weeds mixed in with your garden patch and an unending collection of mud and boots in your entryway at all times.

But it also means breaking for deer on drives to town with a cold diet coke and your hand out the window, horses, slick and sleek after shedding their winter coats grazing in the sun setting on your backyard, a cool spot in the shade, wildflower bouquets and sleeping with the windows open to feel the cool breeze as it moves the curtains and listen to the frogs sing in the creek below your house.

And this planted just for you (but not by you) a few steps out your door.

The grocery store is the basement deepfreeze, the movie theatre is an old DVD collection, a concert is learning a new song on your guitar, date night is sitting side by side on the deck on a clear night with a glass of wine or whiskey (depending on who’s drinking), the coffee house is a trip to the neighbor’s for coffee black in old mugs, and a relaxing evening is a trip to the river to drop in a line for catfish.

Or, you know, you could  always take that trip to town with your diet coke and stock up on groceries, have someone else cook you an appetizer and steak, sit on your friend’s manicured lawn, go to the bar to listen to the band, catch a movie in the theater and grab a latte on your way out.

But I would have to shave my legs for that, because in town people see you close up….

I think I’ll take that hamburger in the deepfreeze grilled up and served on my picnic table on the now-clipped lawn, a glass of wine, a tune on my guitar and a John Wayne movie, if not for any other reason than to avoid taking a shower.

Which reminds me, I am heading out into civilization to Medora to sing for my supper this weekend. If you’re looking for a nice getaway and someone else to cook you an amazing steak, please join me:

June 3, 2011
5:30-8:30 PM
Roughriders HotelTheodore’s Dining Room
Medora, ND

June 4, 2011
5:30-8:30 PM
Roughriders HotelTheodore’s Dining Room
Medora, ND

I guess I’ll have to take a shower after all 🙂

Hope to see you this weekend, but if I don’t enjoy your yards, country and city folk alike!