The law of the land and other gruesome truths…

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I grow vegetables. Vegetables attract bugs. Bugs attract frogs. Frogs eat bugs. I like bug-less vegetables so I like these frogs. So I don’t mind when I wear my shortyshorts to the garden and they jump splat on to my bare legs. Nope. Love them.

And because we live right by a stock dam we have the slimy creatures hanging out all over our lawn. Dozens of them jump up and make their presence known when I wander out there. I don’t mind protecting them from my stupid dogs. We help each other out.

Or at least I try…

But I still can’t get over that unfortunate incident with the lawn mower last summer. It haunts me. I was so careful. I was giving them time.

But that particular frog needed more.

And that’s nature.

The law of the land.

And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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At the ranch, circle of life can be tough to witness
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

When I was a little girl my big sister and her friend rescued a baby robin from a knocked-down nest. I was so young at the time that the memory doesn’t have any details, except for the way that creature’s eyes looked before they were open, all blue and puffy, and how naked and impossibly fragile it was.

Tonight I’m out on my deck listening to the coyotes howl and watching a couple does come down the hill to take a drink in the dam. They’ve been creeping slowly toward their spot, shaken but not deterred by what sounds like a muskrat slapping and splashing in their water hole, and I’m wishing he would cool it. I mean, all those girls want is a little drink.

The way we do this circle of life thing seems so painstaking sometimes.

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A few weeks ago all of the ranch dogs turned up with porcupine quills in their noses (well, all but our big old Lab who learned his lesson years ago when he came home full of sorrow and one tiny quill barely dangling from his nostril).

So my husband and dad had the task of pulling a few quills from snouts after work that day. It wasn’t the first time.

And if those dogs don’t learn their lesson, it won’t be the last.

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These are the things that happen out here. Sometimes between the beautiful sunrise and sunset we’re reminded that nature is not the Disney movie we’d like to imagine it to be.

For example, earlier this summer, Dad was driving his side-by-side down the road with his brother and his two dogs. They were taking it slow, noticing the scenery and catching up when he noticed a baby killdeer running and flitting beside them. So he slowed down and remarked on the tiny bird, pointed it out to his brother, marveled at the little creature. And just as he finished saying some tender thing about being a witness to new life, his pup jumped out and snatched it up, bit it right out of the air like a scene out of an old Loony Tunes cartoon, feathers flying, tiny bird leg dangling out the dog’s mouth.

And that was that.

I have dozens of similar stories that I could pull out of the archives to help illustrate my point, like the time Mom’s cat drug a not-quite-dead-chipmunk into the house, or the one where my husband smashed a mouse with his boot in the middle of our living room in the middle of Easter dessert while his big sister stood shrieking on our couch.

And I have one about bats that I don’t want to get into right now, but why I’m bringing this all up in the first place is because just the other day, in the middle of a visit about the baby, my grandparents and my nephew going to kindergarten, Mom pulled out the latest.

“Oh, did I tell you about the bird in the sink?”

No. No, she hadn’t.

“Oh, I was standing at the sink and a bird flew up out of it.”

“Wait. A bird flew out of your sink!?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Well anyway, it flew up at me and then started banging against the window and so I screamed.”

“Yeah, I bet you screamed.”

“And Dad came huffing in, wondering what was going on, you know …”

“Because you’re easily startled.”

“Yeah. And so he was able to grab the bird against the window and bring it out to the door to set it free.”

“Oh, that’s good.”

“But, well, then I heard him holler, ‘Don’t look, don’t look!”

“Oh, no …”

“Cause the cat was out on the deck …”

“Oh. No.”

“And as soon as that bird left his hands, well, she got up off her chair and snatched it up, and that was that.”

If this were a Disney movie, I think that would have turned out differently.

Yes, the law of the land is hard to buck sometimes.

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Wild berries, worms and cuss words…

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Last night I went on a walk to close some gates in our home pasture and check a couple juneberry patches.

Juneberries are a special treat around here. Like wild mini-blueberries, if they show up, they show up around this time to much fan fare for those of us who know people who make pies.

Juneberries make the best pies in the world.

Probably because getting to them before the frost kills them or the birds eat them up is so rare, and the entire task of picking enough of the little purple berries sends you to the most mosquito and tick infested, hot, thorny, itchiest places in the free world, so finally making and tasting a Juneberry pie is like completing some prairie, culinary, ironman marathon.

Only better and more gratifying, because, well, pie.

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Anyway, my little stroll before sunset was only mildly successful. The gates on this place were made to be shut only by Thor himself. Or the Hulk. Or some hybrid of a bear-man. By the time I grunted and groaned, used my entire body weight trying to push the two posts together to maybe, possibly, for the love of Dolly Parton, stretch the three wires tight enough to get the little wire loop over the top of the scrawny post, I was sweating, cussing, bleeding and wondering how I missed the yeti that we apparently hired to fix the gates on this place.

I called Husband on my cell phone (who was inside the house with the baby, like twenty yards away) and told him there’s no way in hell I’m ever getting that damn gate shut and that shutting the damn gates was his job from now on who the hell do you think I am what the hell is this all about who in their right mind makes gates that tight good gawd sweet mercy Martha Stewart.

And, if you’re wondering, the gate on the other side of that pasture went about the same way…

Anyway, on my way I did in fact locate a big ‘ol juneberry patch. But the best berries, of course, were hanging out about fifteen feet above my head at the very tops of the bushes. And to get to them I had to wade through thorny bushes up to my armpits. But some of those thorny bushes had raspberries growing on them, so that was a win.

I proceeded to eat every ripe red berry I could find.

Even the one with the worm on it…which I discovered after I put it in my mouth and crunched.

So that was a loss.

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Yes, the raspberries, worms and all, were within my reach. The juneberries, not so much. But tonight I’m going to use my best convincing skills to see if Husband might want to come with me to back our old pickup up to that bush, stand in the box, brave the mosquitos and pick us some berries.

Because, well…pie.

Anyway, when I got home I discovered that apparently wading up to my armpits in thorny brush to pick raspberries was not only a good way to accidentally eat a worm, but, even better, it’s a great way to acquire 500 wood ticks.

I came home and picked off a good fifteen or so. Stripped down to my undies, checked myself out in the mirror, sat down on the chair and proceeded to pick off at least five more.

When I crawled into bed I wondered out loud to Husband what time of night I would wake up to a tick crawling across my face. He made a guess. I made a guess.

But we were both wrong.

At about 12:30 or so, just as I had drifted into a really nice slumber, I was indeed awoken by a tick…but it wasn’t crawling across my face. No.

It was crawling toward my butt crack.

Thank good gawd sweet mercy Martha Stewart, I cut him off at the pass…

Ugh, all I wanted to do was close some freakin’ gates…

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The long way home

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Coming Home: Sometimes we need to take a different road to get back home
by Jessie Veeder
5-15-16
Forum Communications


Last week I took a different road from town to home. I do that sometimes, to break up the scenery that flies by outside the window of my car. There were blossoms in the brush patches, the gravel roads had dried up from a week of rain, and I needed to see something new.

 
And we have gotten really good at arguing after all these years together. Throw a baby, a man who can’t eat solids and a woman who can’t sleep in the mix, and we got plenty of practice that week.

And it was only Monday.

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But as the sun was setting on a day that took him to work and kept me home trying figure out a way to rock the baby, type and return a phone call at the same time, we found ourselves all three alone in the car together, driving home. 

I can’t remember why we were all in town together, but I do remember that the radio was low and the baby was sleeping and I turned left off the highway where I normally would keep going straight and my husband asked what I was doing.

I said, “Don’t you ever take a different way home?”

“Yeah, I do sometimes,” he replied. And then we were on the back roads driving past neighbors’ houses we haven’t seen for a while, taking note of the green grass growing in the pastures, the baby calves kicking up their heels and the way the light hit the big butte close to home.

And under that butte, right next to the road, two large dark figures appeared before us and revealed themselves as giant elk. I reminded him of the weekend before

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Yesterday morning while the baby slept, I watched a flock of turkeys come down to the same dam to water. They lingered there undisrupted, one tom fanning his feathers, showing off in the morning sun.

I was wrapped up in the tasks of the day, the dirty bottles in the sink, the dirt tracked in on the floor and the work deadlines, but the privilege of witnessing wild things never fails to make me pause.

I’m glad we put so many windows in this house. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a majestic place we’re living in when we’re living in it. I looked up from my computer screen and watched them waddle up the hill. I cracked the patio door and listened for the gobbles.

Last Saturday my husband arranged for my little sister to babysit for a few hours so we could take a ride together through the cows. It was a simple gesture that put me back in one of my favorite places after over a year of giving it up to grow and care for a baby. I swung my leg up over the saddle and listened to it squeak as I rode alongside my husband out of the barnyard and into the hills, the sun and the scent of plum blossoms.

In the past few months I’ve experienced some of the most wonderful moments of my life, but I’ve also found myself overcome with the task of working, mothering and trying to figure out how to be my best for my family. I’ve had my most happy moments, but I’ve also had my most ungrateful waves rush over me in frustration and exhaustion. But last Saturday my husband took me out — not to a movie or to a restaurant for wine — but out of our house and into the hills and coulees of the place we love.

Because he knows, sometimes all I need is to take a different way home.

A Spring Dinosaur Hunt

As the weather’s warmed up a bit, we finally get to spend some time outside. And it seems I was given the right baby because Edie loves it as much as I do.

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And as much as the dogs it seems. Every time I put her in the carrier, eyes facing the world in front of her, she calms. She looks. She kicks her legs. She laughs at the dogs running in front of her. She looks up at the sky and smiles.

I wish it were spring and 70 here forever, and maybe that she would stay little, so that I could take her out like this every day.

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A few weeks back on a pretty nice day (yeah, these photos are from a few weeks back…I’m not as quick on the updates as I used to be) Little Man came over to visit and we all went out on a walk, Little Man, Little Sister, Pops, Edie and I.

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Little Man wore Husband’s cap to keep the sun from his eyes and Little Sister wore Edie because when she’s here the two are stuck together like glue.

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Edie wore her hat and and sunglasses and other hat and snowsuit of course. Because it was  warm but not that warm. And windy. And sunny. A typical North Dakota spring day and a girl’s gotta dress the part.

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Pops grabbed a walking stick.

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I grabbed a camera and we were off on a hike up the hill and past the dam and through the trees.
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A hike that soon turned into an imaginary dinosaur hunt where we all got assignments and duties from the Pre-schooler.

Pops was the hunter, Little Man was the scientist, I was the photographer and Little Sister and Edie needed to be on the lookout.

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Maybe when Little Man grows up he’ll be an actual scientist, but he’d also make a pretty good movie director.

And while we were hunting for bones we looked for spring.

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The weeks that passed since taking this walk and taking these pictures has greened things up considerably. Edie has even gotten to go on a walk without her second hat and snowsuit, so summer’s just around the corner.

And I have so many things to say about spring out here. You know me.  I want to tell you how I got back in the saddle for the first time since finding out I was pregnant over a year ago and it was the best therapy in the world. And how I saw and heard a rattlesnake outside our fence the other day while I was on a walk and it scared the shit out of me. And then how we watched two elk come down to water in the dam outside our house and no matter how many times we see them it’s still pretty magical.

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And how the blossoms smell and how, when I call Gus back, Dolly crouches down beside me and waits to tackle him when he arrives. Every. Singe. Time. And it’s hilarious and Gus deserves all the pestering he’s receiving.

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I want to tell you how I love this little boy, who just graduated from Pre-school and is on to Kindergarten in the fall, who wants to be a cop and a scientist and a cowboy and everything, he can’t pick just one.

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And there’s more I have to say, you know there is, but the baby is waking in her crib an it’s time for our morning snuggle. So I’ll just leave you with this…

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And this.

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Happy Thursday and Happy Spring. May you find time to get out and enjoy it with your nephew and Little Sister and your Pops and your baby and your dogs…or whoever you love who you can convince to go dinosaur hunting with you…

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Unpredictable January

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The end of January is here and I think I can speak for most North Dakotans when I say, “Whew.”

It’s a tough month up north, full of unpredictable and freezing weather, long evenings and short days and lots of reasons to eat soup and heavy carbs, no matter what you said in your New Years Resolution about eating better.

We’re not meant to eat lettuce in the deep freeze of January. It’s not natural.

We’re meant to hibernate and hunker down. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

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I’ve spent more days consecutively in the house this January than ever before in my life. Except maybe when I was a newborn myself.

I’m so used to running around, playing music late at night, heading to meetings or wandering outside on a whim that this hiding out has been a big adjustment.

Never mind that I’m hanging out with a brand new tiny little person we made.

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Yes, when you live out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter, the whole getting out of the house thing takes way more effort. There’s no such thing as a quick trip anywhere, except maybe to the changing table.

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So I leave the grocery shopping to my husband, which I’ve found to be one of the major perks of hanging home with a newborn.

That and hanging in my stretchy pants all day.

What’s not so fun? Daytime television and trying to work with a baby who doesn’t nap much or for very long.

But she smiles a lot when she’s awake, so it’s worth it.

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And when we do get out of the house, we go visit the other babies on the ranch.

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Or, on the weekends, I leave Edie to rock with her daddy and I take a wander, get some fresh air in my lungs, swing my arms without a baby in them and walk the big dogs.

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Last week Edie had her two month appointment and with each of her little milestones I’m reminded that time ticks so quickly.

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Last winter I was in Nashville.

Next winter I will be chasing a one year old around in the snow.

 

Turns out the ever predictable January has proven that, in some ways, she’s not so predictable after all.

And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

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Outside. Inside.

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January’s a good month to have an excuse to stay inside with a baby.

All the snuggling, singing and miles put on pacing and bouncing the burps out in front of the fireplace is as good of an activity as any when the thermometer registers well below zero.

And while I love it, I am also restless. Having spent every other winter of my life able to bundle up and hit the trail or the road on a whim sometimes sends me pressing my nose up against the window.

The light is already starting to linger longer, and this baby is already starting to hold her head up and make little noises, but I find myself daydreaming about smushing her leg rolls into a little swimming suit and hitting the beaches of the big lake this summer.

And that’s a rough daydream, because I already think she’s growing up too fast.

So in an attempt to beat cabin fever and to force myself to stay in the moment, last weekend Husband held down the fort and the pacifier and I made a plan to trek out and about around the barnyard, ignoring the fact that it was literally -20 with the windchill or something like that.

I would just stay in the low parts of the place, avoid the wind and try to squeeze my fat ass into my long underwear, under sweat pants, under snow pants I could barely button up.

I just needed to take a tally of all of the frost, put a flush in my cheeks and sweat a bit.

Because while I have a new role now as a mom, there are things I know about myself that help keep me balanced.

I need to go outside. It’s imperative for me to remain the best version of myself.

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So I did.

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And I froze my face off.

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And came in after only about fifteen minutes.

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Happy to know that all was as it should be in January.

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Frosty and freezing…

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Windy and white…

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And pretty in a middle-of-winter sort of way.

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And it felt good to be frozen, only to warm up…

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with a warm fire and the best stuff waiting for me inside.

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In between seasons

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“You should have seen it out in the east pasture,” Husband told me when he got in from searching for stray bulls last week. “It was so colorful, like God dropped a bag of Skittles from the sky.”

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It was an adorable statement coming from the scruffy, sorta smelly man sitting next to me.

And I was immediately jealous.

Although I can see it from outside my windows and on my slow strolls on the trails there’s nothing like experiencing fall on the back of a horse.

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So Monday I did the next best thing and convinced Husband to take a little 4-wheeler drive with me to our favorite pasture so I could take photos from the tops of the hills and feel like I got my fix of it.

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He never says no to ideas like this. It means that he doesn’t have to be cooped up in the basement putting up walls and wiring and things like that. It means that he can spend a little more time behind those binoculars looking for elk or deer or coyotes or mountain lions or whatever a man hopes to find on the other side of the glass.

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I never hope to find a mountain lion.

That’s one difference between the two of us I guess.

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Now a 4-wheeler these days isn’t my preferred mode of transportation. Every bump and wiggle sort of bounces me and this baby I’m cooking the wrong way, although she doesn’t seem to mind, because when we’re moving is the only time she’s sitting still.

And that’s terrifying and reassuring all at the same time.

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But all that bumping around sends me popping a squat behind a bullberry bush at least once before I make it back to our front door.

If I need help initiating labor, I tell you, I know every stubble field and bumpy trail we can ride across to move it along. Let’ s hope that it doesn’t come to that.

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But oh, it was worth it to take the trip back there. Everything is so gold it’s almost unreal. I kept checking my camera to make sure it was on the right setting, as if my eyes were lying to me.

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But they weren’t. It’s just plain beautiful out here in this prolonged fall we’ve been given. Usually by now we might have already had a dusting of snow or a couple pretty chilly days, but not this year. This year my garden’s still growing, the sun is still shining a nice and comfortable 70+ degrees and the flies are still somehow finding their annoying way in to this house through some mysterious crack somewhere so they can die on the tallest and hardest to clean window ledge in the entire place.

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When the sun started to cast long shadows and darken the valleys we headed toward home in the rapidly dropping temperature. That’s the thing about fall, it goes from 39 degrees, to 70 and back to 39 in a short 12 hour period. I was starting to wish for my mittens when Husband stopped his 4-wheeler by the place we cut our first Christmas tree as a married couple.

And got the pickup stuck to the floorboards in the snow.

And rocked and pushed and spun so much that our poor new puppy Hondo got sick and shit all over the pickup.

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“Remember this spot?” he asked.

“I sure do,” I said.

“There’s a tree right there,” he said as he pointed to a 20 foot cedar, big enough to bring to Times Square.

“There will be no Charley Brown, spindly Christmas tree this year. Not for this kid’s first Christmas,” he said.

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I shook my head and we bounced along our merry way, in between seasons, in the weather and in our lives.

In the calm before the storm, the warm before the cool down,

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The wait before everything changes…

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Watch my “Work (Girl)” Music Video
off my new Nashville album “Northern Lights” 

Inside this body. Outside this house.

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Fall is creeping up on us, slowly changing the leaves on the trees from green to gold and bouncing the weather back and forth from 90 degrees to 60 in a matter of 24 hours.

Last night we had a nice, loud thunderstorm that dumped a good soak on us. It tamed the dust and softened the crispiness of this season.

But before it rained I went out wandering in the hills to take some photos. The wind was so still, the temperature was perfect and I liked the way the overcast sky looked like a blue blanket above us.

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I’ve been moving a little slower lately and the bending over to capture the small details of the landscape leaves me huffing.

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Give me a month and this slow walk will have turned into a full on waddle, but I just can’t stand to stay inside, especially on these beautiful days.

In the moments I have to myself in these last months of pregnancy, I can’t comprehend how our lives are going to change and I can’t help but visualize taking this same walk next year with a baby in tow, or waiting back at the house with Husband while I take a moment…

Because it’s always been the moving, the walking, the riding, the driving, that’s kept me motivated and inspired.

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Soon I know our lives are going to slow down and speed up all at the same time and adventure will take on a whole new meaning.

For now I’ve charged myself with trying to enjoy what’s left of carrying this kid along inside of me… the kicks, the heartburn, the plans for the nursery and this body of mine that finally got a chance to show me what it can do.

It can climb up the buttes and grow a human at the same time. That’s pretty miraculous.

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It’s nature at its finest and that’s just the sort of thing I marvel at outside the doors of this house every day.

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In the garden: A recipe hunt.

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When I first moved back to the ranch five summers ago (five summers ago?) I made a list of the goals I wanted to accomplish in my new life here.

One of the first on the list, (among writing and recording an album and learning to make chokecherry jelly) was to plant a garden.

A house project, a business project, a baby project, a hundred ranch projects and five summers later I finally got around to it…but not until late June…you know, after the lawn was planted, the CD was released and the big wedding was complete.

I didn’t have much hope for the seeds being so late in the game, but the knowledge I gained from helping Pops plant his gardens year after year reassured me that some heat and water could get things moving along nicely.

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And boy have we had heat this summer.

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So I provided the water and the watchful eye and pretty soon, when I wasn’t looking, things started sprouting and reaching their limbs toward the sun.

Now, in the garden of my dreams I was going to plant potatoes, onions, strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, pumpkins, gourds, peppers, peas, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, corn, sunflowers, watermelon, cucumbers for making pickles and cucumbers for slicing, spinach, beans and a partridge in a pear tree.

But because Husband didn’t have the time or the dirt required to dig up sixteen acres in front of our house and I’m pretty sure I planted my garden at 9 pm on a Thursday before I had to take off across the state for shows, I stuck to the seed packets I picked up at Farm and Fleet and called it good–dad’s leftover tomato plants, radishes, carrots, beans, peas, spinach and cucumbers.

I figured if all went well I’d start to see some vegetable action come August, and so here we are. I’ve already sent my harvest of radishes down the road to Pops, because I can grow ‘em but I don’t eat ‘em, but the rest had yet to yield, despite all the watering I catch Gus doing behind my back, if you know what I mean…

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Anyway, earlier this week I noticed a few little beans starting to poke out, some tomatoes that I’m impatiently waiting to see get their red on, and the tops of the carrots that show promise for what’s happening down below the ground. I even thought I saw some tiny little cucumbers starting to grow where the frogs hang out under the canopy of big leaves. The pea plants still looked a little sad, which was what I expected, having failed to give them the head start they deserved.

So I took a break from my big computer screen to step out into the mid-afternoon 100-degree heat and poked around among the frogs and hoppers and was pleasantly surprised by my findings…

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Overnight the beans started stretching from blossoms to veggies,

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the tomato plants seemed to have made a hundred more green tomatoes,

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the carrot tops grew a couple inches and, well, I’ll be dammed if there wasn’t peas big enough to eat.

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But the best part? The giant cucumbers that grew overnight, ripe and ready for slicing for our anniversary dinner tonight.

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And just like that I was reminded why people love to garden. Because it’s magic. It really is. One tiny seed, a little sun, water and patience, and one day you wake up to a harvest.

I loaded up those cucs and headed inside, feeling a little like a garden fairy or a wizard or some powerful creature like that.

Now I just need to harness the energy of the Internet and you my dear friends to help me figure out what to do with all of these vegetables!

So I’ll ask you this:
Share your favorite garden (or cucumber) inspired recipe with me and I will enter you all in for a chance to win my new album “Northern Lights” and a T-shirt and Work Girl sticker to go with it.

Northern Lights Album Cover Sticker

Just email me at jessieveeder@gmail.com, head on over to my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/veederranch or leave the recipe in the comment section here. 

Some of my favorites I’ll con my cooking cowboy into trying out in the kitchen and posting on the blog.

Because my garden’s inspired me and now I believe I can do anything.

Which could end up in eventual disaster, but today I’m just going with it.

Peace, love and cucumber salad,

Jessie the Garden Goddess.

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