A game of cat and mouse and me in my robe at 6 am

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Cat and mouse game isn’t our new cat’s strong suit

Last week while I was writing my column, unfolding a tale from the olden days about my dear grandmother’s run-in with an ornery bovine and an exasperated husband, a saga of my own was developing in my living room between our new orange cat who now has six names and a mouse, who shall never be named.

At first I thought the commotion our new feline was making was just what cats do when they become “possessed” and chase imaginary threats around the house. I continued with my work unconcerned, encouraging the behavior of Sven (one of his names), thinking he was just practicing for the real fight.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the threat — and it was not imaginary. The fight was real, and Reggie (one of his other names) wasn’t winning. The mouse ran under the couch. The Cat (his third name) was now on a stakeout.

But I decided to be in denial for a bit. Tigger (his other name) looked like he had it under control and I had a deadline. I continued typing, one eye on the couch, but I couldn’t concentrate.

I called my husband to give him the report, because I heard husbands like to be informed of impending doom. I was right.

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Sven the cat takes a break after a hard day of work.

I texted my sister. I called the fire department. No, I didn’t really call the fire department.

But I did move the couch because Orange Kitty (his fifth name) needed help. The mouse scampered out toward my bare feet, and though I be tough, I screeched with immediate regret, praying it didn’t wake the kids. Because now the mouse was under my chair and I was neck-deep in a hunt and I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet.

I grabbed the cat and set him by the chair. He didn’t get the hint, but the mouse did, and he ran for his furry life toward the fireplace, huddling there behind the dollhouse. I grabbed Sven (my preferred name for the cat) again and placed his nose right on the stunned mouse. But apparently Sven only likes a challenge, and he turned that nose up and strolled away.

And so there I was, hunkered over, my robe undone, my hair undone, my column undone, my quiet morning undone, trying to teach a cat how to chase a mouse. It wasn’t working.

The mouse retreated behind the kids’ craft cupboard and I tried to pretend nothing was happening. I sat back down. I heard the 1-year-old stir just as I hit “send” on my column and realized that having a mouse and two toddlers roaming free in the house was not the kind of life I wanted to live.

So I got up. The baby cried louder. I grabbed the broom. I sent Sven subliminal messages and we approached that cabinet. I got down on my hands and knees to take a look and the mouse flew out toward my face at lightning speed. And though I be fierce, I screamed.

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The baby cried, I wiped the sweat from my forehead and I muttered some harsh words about our broken cat under my breath — until Sven, glorious Sven, emerged from the abyss of dust and smoke with the mouse in his jaws.

I beamed with pride for about three seconds until he dropped it. And though I be Wonder Woman, I screeched. And the baby cried harder. And the mouse ran back under my chair.

But its time had come. I grabbed the broom and Sven and I went to work as a team of freaked-out hunters, me sweeping, him catching and releasing, leaving toys and furniture, my hair and robe flying behind us until Sven crouched over a stunned mouse in the middle of the living room, the door of my 3-year-old’s bedroom cracked open, the baby couldn’t be left to cry any longer and I mustered my courage to finish the job, flinging the remains out the door and turning around just in time to bid my oldest daughter good morning.

And though I be brave, I never want to do that again. If you need me, I’ll be setting some traps.

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What the cat knows…

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What the cat knows
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When we were growing up, we had a house cat.

I shouldn’t say “we,” really, because that cat was all my little sister’s, except that my big sister named her Belly, after one of her favorite mid-’90s girl grunge bands and I got the heroic ranch kid privilege of rescuing her as a tiny abandoned kitten from underneath my grandma’s deck while my 5-year-old sister clenched her small, nervous fists under her chin and waited for her turn to hold her.

And so the runty calico cat with the weird name came to be ours and stayed through the entirety of my little sister’s childhood. And she was a typical cat in all the ways cats are cats.

She did her own thing. She waited at the door to go out and then would immediately climb up the screen, tearing it to shreds and driving my mother crazy. In an effort to try to deter this habit, we were given permission to use our squirt guns in the house. But only on the cat clinging to the screen door, of course.

But Belly didn’t care. She knew how to get our attention. She knew how to get what she wanted. And what she wanted was to sleep in my little sister’s bed every night.

After she was tucked in, if my dad forgot to leave the door open a crack, the cat would sit out there pathetically whining until the little kid version of my sister, with her wild hair, leaky eyes and big heart, would let her in. Every night for 13 years until my sister left home and left that cat behind.

Belly didn’t live a year without my sister in the house. My little sister was her person. And in a different life I’d be the type of skeptic that doesn’t believe in those sorts of bonds, except I watched that cat come and get my little sister before she gave birth to both sets of her kittens in that house that raised us all, which is an uncommon behavior for any animal, especially an independent cat.

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I’ve seen it with my dad and his horses, too. And I’ve had it with my old dog Hondo, who always slept on the floor on my side of the bed, even though he was technically my husband’s hunting lab. My mom has a cat now that will only sit on her lap — that is until the few times a year my uncle from Texas arrives, and then that cat’s all his. It’s as if she’s saying, “Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Yes, I think we choose them, and then they choose us, because maybe they just know better.

Last week I brought my two young daughters to Dickinson, N.D., to sign the paperwork to adopt a big, orange house cat from an animal rescue. As I write, I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do such a crazy thing. Maybe it was that heroic ranch kid rescue gene in me, but the last thing I need is another wild creature in these walls.

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And Lord knows there are plenty of cats for giveaway out here in rural North Dakota, except I saw him in a photo all curled up in that cage and I made a decision. Oh, I used the “we need a mouser” excuse on my husband, but this big orange cat is clearly a lover, not a fighter and my husband knows it.

Time will tell us what this cat knows.

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What’s normal anyway?

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What’s normal anyway?
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On the evening of Christmas Day, after all the gifts were opened, the leftovers were boxed up and the goodbye hugs were given, we arrived home to our house in the middle of nowhere to discover an open front door, a bag of scattered garbage and every boot in the entryway missing.

In another setting, I imagine one’s mind might have automatically thought “burglar.” But in my life, my husband just mumbled, “Apparently the dog can get our new front door open” as he trudged with his arms full of bundled-up babies through that open door.

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As I wandered around my yard the next morning, shielding my eyes against the sun reflecting off acres and acres of fresh, sparkling snow under which any one of my boots could be lying (and hopefully not shredded), I couldn’t help but think that these are not the sort of problems normal people have.

Unless, of course, you live on a ranch in rural North Dakota. In that case, I’m guessing you’re with me here. You’re also with me on the thrill of the weekend morning drive to town without the kids so that you can stock up on a grocery supply that fills the deep freeze and hopefully lasts a few weeks.

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And if you’re from rural North Dakota, or maybe anywhere up here in the great white north, please tell me I’m not the only one who has found herself and that overfilled cart stuck wheels-deep in the snow-packed parking lot on the way to the car. Like, so stuck I needed assistance from the nice lady who just pulled into her spot to witness me spinning out and grunting profanities under my breath in failed shove after failed shove to free it.

“No, these are not the sort of problems normal people have,” I thought again as I unwrapped the celebratory doughnut I purchased to eat on the 30-mile drive home… and then the second one because I was alone in my car with no one there to judge me…

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And, when I arrived home, I muttered it yet again, because after all that effort I forgot the milk and had to call a neighbor on the hunt for an ingredient I needed for my New Year’s Eve party dip. Because I swore I bought it, but it could have flipped out of the cart in my efforts to free it from the grips of the winter parking lot, or maybe it is in my car, just living in the black hole of space where the sippy cups, Froot Loops and missing gloves go to die.

Next time I accidentally lock the barn cat in my car while unloading the kids, I’m sure she’ll find it and have a front-seat feast, just like she did with my missing package of cashews a few weeks back — which was a welcomed clue to her existence before I accidentally drove her to a meeting in town.

Which, judging from the cat in a sweater I saw being pushed around in a stroller at the airport last month, showing up to a meeting with a cat might actually be normal everywhere but here. I don’t know anymore.

Happy New Year, you weirdos!

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Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

Hoofbeats and paw prints and measuring time

Chad on his bay horseHoofbeats and paw prints and measuring time

My husband used to have a big yellow dog that would pull him around town on his Rollerblades. Young, strong and full of heart, the two of them flew through the quiet streets of our hometown, back when Rollerblades were cool and so was he.

I never knew the Chad that existed before that dog. They called him Rebel, except the only rebellious thing about him was that he’d take a cracked door as an invitation to go wandering.

Before Rebel, Chad’s family had a pup named Cookie. I never knew Cookie or the young boy my husband was when he loved that dog except I saw the home movie his parents took when they surprised their boys with her.

Chad always described it as one of the best and most exciting days of his childhood, so I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the footage of that young kid standing so stoic and serious with that puppy in his arms, willing away his fidgety little brother with the darts of his eyes.

Last night, my husband and I started talking about our new border collie pup, a welcome addition after we lost the lab we had since we got married 12 years ago today. We are excited to see what kind of cow-dog she might become.

And then, without really realizing it, we started recounting our memories together according to which animals were there loving us, bucking us off, running away, getting hurt, growing old and teaching us lessons along the way.

“So, I starting hanging around you when you just got that horse, Tex,” he recalled.

“And my old mare Rindy, you remember her,” I said, reminding him of the first time I took him riding at the ranch and how I wanted to impress him so badly that my enthusiastic attempt at a graceful mount on her bare back resulted in me landing in a heap on the other side.

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Then there was his mom’s dog, Phoebe, who got her through the sadness of an empty nest, and our cat, Belly, who was so bonded with my little sister that we all got to watch her give birth to kittens on the beanbag chair in her bedroom.

And I never thought about measuring a good life by the good animals who witnessed us growing up, heartful and heartbroken, falling in and out of love with people and life and learning how to let go and hold on tight to one another or the big plans we’ve made and changed a million times.

They’re along with us, on the end of a leash, the reins or the bed, steady and predictable.

“Cowboy’s close to 20,” my husband realized then about the young bay horse that made a cowboy out of that lovestruck teenager.

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Seems like time wears itself thinner on the backs of the beasts we love until, one day, we catch ourselves remembering them and the scruff of their fur and the click of their paws on the pavement and how they pulled us through when we were young, strong and full of heart.

How a dog’s life measures time…

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How a dog’s life measu
res time
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The first year my husband and I got married, we lived in the little house in the barnyard where my dad was raised, unloading all the earthly possessions a pair of 23-year-olds can acquire in the short and broke spans of our adult lives — hand-me-down lamps and quesadilla makers. By the time we emptied our car and unwrapped our presents there was barely any room left for walking.

And so I did what any responsible 20-something newlywed with an uncertain future would do: I got my husband a puppy for his 24th birthday.

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It’s been more than 10 years since I chose him from the swarm of his wiggly brothers and sisters. I picked him up and he melted in my arms the way kind creatures often do.

And then the woman warned me.

“Big dog, more poop to clean up. That’s what I always say,” she declared.

And she was right. He is big. His paws make tracks like a wolf in the mud and his tail clears a coffee table with one sweep while he runs to the door enthusiastically to welcome guests, sometimes with an accidental and oblivious swat to the groin.

And while he spends most of his time outside these days, grunting while he rolls around scratching his back on the lawn before picking up the giant stick I swear he’s saved for five years, when he does come inside, he still wonders why he can’t sit on the couch with me.

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Because in his mind he is fluff, weightless and wishing to fit in the palm of a hand all the while working to squeeze his body between the small nooks of this house, taking up the limited space available for walking.

But what he is in cumbersome, he’s always made up for in manners, polite and happy to move out of the way when prompted, not recognizing that perhaps he may indeed be fluff after all … and the rest of his 110 pounds is taken up by his heart.

But 10 years weighs heavy on a dog. White hair has appeared around his snout and his eyes droop a bit. His winter fur is slower to shed. Tonight we’ll go for a walk and he’ll hang by me instead of running ahead to kick up pheasants. If I have to take him in the pickup these days, I have to hoist him, heave-ho style, all 110 pounds.

I hoped our babies might grow up with him, but it all took too long and he’s beat them to the growing thing. I didn’t know when I made him part of our lives how those big paws would track time. I hope we have him around for many more years, but I didn’t know when I chose him, when we were so young, how fast a dog’s life goes…

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The newest member of the Kitten Caboodle Club

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This is the face she makes when I ask “Should we go see the kitties?”

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This is the face the kitties make when they hear us coming downstairs.

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I think there’s panic there as they hear the high-pitched squeals and the pitter patter of a one-year-old running down the hall and flopping her body down on the floor to get a good look at them under the bed.

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And, well, this is how the rest of it goes.

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Notice dad’s hand working to contain the excitement.

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I should really video it to give you the full effect these tiny fur balls have on my tiny bundle of energy.  But I’m usually too busy working on protecting them from that same enthusiasm and I don’t want to be distracted.
Oh, there’s nothing like having a pile of fur babies around the ranch. I’ve had a few people comment, asking why we don’t get our cats fixed out here, and the answer has to do with the fact that we live on a ranch and every animal, even our pets, serves a helpful purpose. (These days Brown Dog’s happens to be to keep us company and our arms and backs strong from lifting him in and out of the pickup.)

Anyway, simply put, farms and ranches have mice and we need cats to help us remedy that situation.

The laws and truths of nature aren’t pretty sometimes.

But these kitties are.

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The other reason is that we haven’t had a stray tom cat lurking around this place for years so we haven’t had to practice cat birth control lately. These kittens were the first batch we’ve had out here for a long time, a sweet little winter surprise, and lucky too, because they got to be born in the house instead of in the barn.

Soon a few of them will be ready to go to some of our friends’ homes who are looking for pets and pest helpers and we’ll keep the rest to help us keep this place varmint free.

And there will be plenty of snuggling to go around.

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This is a story I’ve told before, but when I was growing up, my cousins and I would go to the farm to visit gramma in the spring and summer and spend our days hunting around the farmstead for the newest batch of kittens. We got good at knowing the usual locations–a stack of hay bales, in the hole of an old tire, inside the old threshing machine–and we were so serious about our efforts we named ourselves “The Kitten Caboodle Club.”

We even made uniforms (a.k.a we puffy painted gramma’s old t-shirts).

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So it looks like Edie is the newest member of the KCC and I think she might be a natural. All we need now is some puffy paint.

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Peace, Love and Whiskers,

The KCC

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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Some adorable stuff.

Here’s the news from the ranch today and it’s adorable.

We have a bottle calf. I call her Lola.

Or Sweet Cakes.

Or BeBe.

Or Bubba

Whatever comes out.

She’s the other half of a set of twins born last weekend. The momma seemed to see one baby and forgot about the second so now the little babe is mine.

Ok. So there’s that.

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The other news is sorta old news, but Pops and his pup Waylon had an unfortunate accident with the side-by-side and now little Waylon is in a cast and it’s the most pathetic and adorable thing in the world. He gets along just fine but sorta drags that leg everywhere he goes. All because he can’t stand to be away from his momma, so he jumped out of a moving vehicle to get her.

So there’s that.

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Photo courtesy of dad’s phone…

When my little nephew, who adores Waylon, found out that his favorite puppy had an owie, he took Gramma to the drug store and bought him a get well card and a stuffed goose to play with that is as big as the puppy himself.

So that’s adorable as hell.

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And this morning when I went to feed the calf, Waylon and his peg leg tagged along, but not before attempting to bring his favorite stuffed goose with him.

Ugh, and as if I didn’t already have a toothache from the sweetness, the goose is so big that Waylon, in his attempt to drag it down the road, tripped and tumble rolled over it about three times before giving up because, get this, he got distracted by a butterfly.

A butterfly!

The adorable little puppy tagging along with me to feed the adorable calf waiting for me in the barn got distracted from the giant stuffed goose my adorable nephew gave him to literally go frolicking after a butterfly.

When I woke up this morning I felt shitty, with a scratchy throat and puffy eyes and a runny nose, but those ten minutes in my made getting out of bed worth it.

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That and this drooly little thing of course.

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*not her bottle*

 

Now go forth and keep smiling. It’s almost Friday.

You’re welcome

Puppy Pile

This little fella went to his new home today.

He was so chill about it when I handed him over, like he knew it was all going to be alright.

Like, he knew he wouldn’t have to share his food bowl with his hooligan brothers and sisters anymore.

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Out of the eleven pups, we’re down to seven left. Here’s a picture before they started going…notice Edie’s pup is the only one not sleeping.

I think she likes naps about as much as her little girl.

Or maybe we have a pattern of choosing the wild ones.

Either way, a pile of puppies is about as adorable as it gets.

I’ve been spending this week making arrangements to get these pups to their homes. They will be spread out a bit, some to neighbors and some across the state, but all have places at good homes.

And it sounds like most of them will have little kids to play with, which is important I think if you’re a puppy, to have someone who can match your energy level.

IMG_8759We need about twelve little boys to match Gus’s. So he should be happy when little Dolly is let loose to play. Hopefully the wear each other out.

Because it’s a rare occurrence to catch these squirmers sleeping, but I happened upon them after Husband paid them a good amount of attention, proving to me that they do indeed sit still.

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I know I can’t keep them all, but I feel like a mom whose babies are going off to college, annoying them with photos and snuggles, telling them to be good and mind their manners.

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Clearly it’s working.

I don’t know when we’ll have pups on this place again, but it sure has been fun. Mostly for me because I haven’t had to be the one to build the pen or scoop the poop, because, you know, I have the baby. But I think the boys have loved it too, just maybe not every smelly, squeaky second.

But probably most of the seconds, because, I mean, look at that face…nothing that smelly could come out of that could it?

Ah, I’m going to miss our puppy pile,

but we’ll be left with a couple cute ones to fill the void…and keep our hands full of babies at the ranch.

IMG_8380Next up, baby calves!

It’s Friday. Here are some puppy pictures.

It’s Friday. To get you through, here’s a shot of the puppies in their box five seconds before they all dispersed into a wiggly, frantic swarm of fluff anticipating their supper.

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They’re getting so big, and there are so many of them that we moved them into the big barn last weekend, which meant we put them all in a box for their first little road trip.

A pile of puppies in a box is probably the most adorable thing in the world.

It’s a good thing these pups are at mom and dad’s or Edie and I wouldn’t get anything done all day except cuddling.

I mean, that’s sorta all I do at home these days anyway…

IMG_8057But ugh. The fluff.

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In a few weeks all of these babies will go to their forever homes and Dolly and Pops’ pup will stay here with us.

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The timing of having a newborn and a newborn puppy sounds just about right for keeping the crazy and chaos at the normal level around here. I’d hate to be bored you know.

Here’s the best and most recent photo (out of dozens) of the two of them. The level of wiggle and squeaks are uncountable. Maybe I should try video next time to get the full effect.

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And the way these two girls are growing, you can bet the both of them are eating well.

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No, the ranch isn’t as quiet as it has been in past winters. To add to the excitement and work load, last weekend Pops and Husband went to pick up a small herd of cattle to add to the place.

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My husband and I have dreamed of owning our own cattle someday and last weekend that dream came true.

Funny how some dreams come on four legs, bearing promises of a whole lotta blood, sweat and tears.

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These cows will have their babies in early spring when the weather is a bit warmer. Until then we’ll feed them up and watch them close and make plans for the next season, which will look like a whole lot of fence fixing and corral maneuvering and some good excuses to get on a horse and take a ride.

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I can’t wait.

And to gear me up for the season change, it looks like this weekend the weather’s going to be nice and warm, a nice break in the winter to remind us that the cold isn’t forever.

Not that I’ve minded the weather so much this winter, you know, being my job title has been changed to Jessie Veeder, writer/singer/mother/rancher/professional snuggler…

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and baby feeder and putter-to-sleeper….

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Happy weekend everyone. We only watch the Super Bowl for the snacks, but we hope your team wins!

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