Summer, don’t leave me…


This week on the podcast, I have coffee with my little sister, Alex, who is a former guidance counselor and teacher, to get some perspective on back to school. Alex gives some tips on the best questions to ask about your child’s day to actually get a response and I try to get to the bottom of why having a kid going into first grade is carrying more weight than the first day of Kindergarten. We talk season changes on the ranch, back to school traditions and more. Listen at this link or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.  

What can happen in a summer at the ranch? When you’re raising two young daughters this is where they sprout and bloom, in this season of sunshine and sprinklers and butterflies and toads. We’re winding it down now.

If you’re reading this in your local newspaper, I am probably in one of the big towns coaxing those daughters to try on pair of school shoes, making them stand up, walk around a bit, feeling where their big toe hits, asking them if they feel ok. Do they feel ok? It’s the exact same thing my mom used to do, word for word it seems. Because these days you can get just about anything to come to you in the mail out here with the click of a button, but the shoes need to be tried. It’s a back-to-school ritual that we’re in now because I blinked.

I blinked.

They all told me not to, but I did and the spring that brought record breaking snow drifts with it, then it melted and made way for a summer filled with armpit high grass and wildflowers and healthy black calves kicking up their heels on the hilltops and laying down in the cool draws. Because the rain came to feed the hay crop and you should see the bales dotting the fields. Here we spend our three fleeting months of summer preparing for the long winter and we’re all more prepared than ever it seems. Thanks to the rain. Thanks to the sun. Thanks for the work.

I watched my daughters’ sandy hair turn blonde under that sun, and their pale skin tan, their cheeks rosy and flushed when they came in for popsicles. And I saw them stretch out of their long pants so they could properly skin their knees on the scoria road as they ran wide open toward their cousins’ house. I want to run wide open with them right back into the spring so we can do it all over again, but this time I’ll keep my eyes wide open. I promise.  

Why does this always happen to me? Why do I get lonesome for this season before it’s even officially over? Is it because it always feels like we’re at the end of one of those predictable summer themed movies, where the lighting is perfect and they conquer a fear and they all fall in love in the end at a beach house somewhere along the coastline? Back here in the real world I’m picking the ripe tomatoes from my garden and hoping for rain again, the sun is setting low at 9 pm and  the credits are rolling and I have to get back inside to get to the dishes….

And nothing has changed here except sort of everything. Kids learn to ride their bikes and climb the monkey bars backwards. They make friends in the campground they’ll never see again. She decides not to wear shirts with unicorns on them because she’s not a baby anymore. They fix their own hair, get their own milk to pour, decide they like tomatoes, grow an inch…

It’s all so gradual, these quiet transformations, like summer herself. You go out one day and notice the sweet peas coming with the green grass and the next time you look they’re dried up and gone, making way for the sunflowers to bend in the wind alongside that green grass turned golden.

This is us too you know, I need to make the reminder should we forget that we are as much a part of the transformation of seasons and time ticking as the rising and setting of the sun. You might not have noticed. You might have blinked, and that’s ok.

So stand up, walk around in it now, how does it fit? Does it feel ok? Do you feel ok?

Summer Don’t Leave Me

Summer don’t leave me
stay under my feet
hang warm in the sky
don’t dry up the wheat

Summer stay near me
to kiss my skin tan
mess up my long hair
hold tight my hand

Summer please stay here
in the chokecherry trees
on the back of a good horse
in the green of the leaves

Oh, Summer my good friend
there’s only so many hours
so take the storms and the rainbows…

but don’t take my wildflowers

Wild Sunflowers

Sweet clover, sweet summer

Listen to Jessie and her sister Alex get interrupted and sidetracked as they try to catch up on motherhood and memories, a real live look into the chaos of life at the ranch on this week’s podcast, “Meanwhile, back at the Ranch…”

Read in the Fargo Forum

It’s officially summer and my daughters have officially done the thing that I’ve sorta been waiting for the past month or so — they’ve made the great escape over the hill to my little sister’s place, without mention to me. By themselves.

Don’t worry, there are no major roadways between the two places. In fact, it’s just a long driveway connected by a prairie trail that cuts across the homestead place and barnyard and into another long driveway (the beauty of country living) — but it’s a big deal for them to be able to do it alone.

So much so that when they asked if they could go exploring in the trees by our house and I said yes and then also said, specifically, “Just don’t go over to Aunt Alex’s,” they went ahead and did it anyway. Because maybe they were feeling brave and maybe they were feeling grown-up in their jean shorts and tie-dye shirts, but mostly if kids listen to their parents all the time, are they really even kids?

I stepped outside and hollered for them with no answer back and had a hunch. My sister texted — “Your kids are over here in case you were wondering.” And I was. Sort of.

I couldn’t blame them really. To have an aunt who gives out Popsicles and two cousins your age who have different toys and a trampoline just over the hill and now all of the sudden your little legs (or the battery-operated plastic Jeep) can get you there unaccompanied, well, see ya later girls.

I don’t know how many times this summer I’ve said something like, “I’m so glad they have each other.” Or watched them run full speed down our scoria road and had a flashback to my childhood out here alongside my cousins, doing the very same thing.

I can almost feel my knees being skinned and scraped on that very road and the sweet clover itching my bare legs as we took a cardboard box down a grassy hill. I swat a mosquito and itch a bite and feel the curls spring out of my ponytail, unarmed against the humidity of a hot June day, and I might as well be 4 or 6 or 8 again on our grandma’s deck eating an orange push-up pop from the Schwan’s man.

I walked myself over the hill and found them hauling buckets of water to the little clay butte in front of my sister’s house so they could make mud pies. And in her daughters I saw my sister standing 3-foot-something, with a permanent crusted tear on her cheek, Band-Aids up and down her arms from picking at mosquito bites and patches on her little overalls.

Raising kids in a place that raised you will do that sometimes. In the crisp smell of a storm brewing on the horizon, or the wind blowing the sweet scent of fresh-cut hay to your door, the sprinkler whirring on your lawn and their happy screeches, a handful of sweet peas, the pop of a wild plum in your mouth, in the heat of the summer you are transported for a moment to a time when those things were all that mattered to you in the whole wide world. Those things and ice cream, maybe.

My summers with my little sister used to be fort-building in the trees by the creek, a tin-can telephone, singing at the top of my lungs running on cow trails and her following close behind despite my protests. Summer for us out here was riding horses bareback and mixing mud and flower petals in a leftover ice cream bucket and riding bikes and skinning those knees; it was a tire swing out over the banks of that crick and getting lost bringing lunch to Dad in the field and it was our bottle calf Pooper and the way he would escape and chase us down the road to the house, but I was faster and she got the brunt of it. It was telling her about the elves that lived under the big mushrooms that grow out of cow poop and her believing me.

And me wanting to believe it myself.

Because summer is magic, and it’s easy to forget that in the reality of living in this adult-sized world.

But the kids, with their sun-bleached hair and sticky cheeks and skinned knees and small voices singing while they run, full speed, down the road into the sweet spot of childhood, the sweet spot of official summer, making their great escape, they remind you. And I’m so glad they do. And I’m so glad they have each other.

Notes on Summer

Notes on a Rural Summer

Listen to this week’s column and Jessie’s conversation with her daughters and her little sister in this week’s Meanwhile Podcast.

By the time you read this, summer will have officially arrived for most of the kids in North Dakota. That last bell, it means more to me now that we wrapped up our first official school year with our six-year-old. I watched her stand smack dab in the middle of one hundred other kindergartners on risers dressed in matching shirts and singing a school kid version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” My favorite line? “Teacher in a tidy room, smell of paint and Elmer’s glue. For a day that seems to go on and on and on and on…” But wait? Wasn’t I just embarrassing her by existing in the classroom on the first day of school? Now she can read and frankly, does math better than me and so we’re on to our next task of cramming as much fun in a three-month time period as possible.

For my family it also means trying to keep up with fencing and haying and barnyard reconstruction projects while juggling yard work and day jobs, my performing schedule and getting the kids in their swimsuits as much as possible, even if it just means splashing in the tiny plastic wading pool currently collecting dirt and bugs on our lawn.

I’m ready for it and determined to keep my focus on what really matters…

Because summer means that my babies constantly smell like sunscreen and bug spray and come in from outside with a warm, sweaty glow on their faces. It means 9 PM supper and 10 PM bedtime because no matter how hard we try we just can’t settle down until the sun settles down. It means picking wildflowers and swatting bugs, brushing the ponies, sleepovers with the cousins and slow walks down the gravel road pulling baby dolls in the wagon.

A western North Dakota summer means digging in the garden and praying the hail from the summer storm doesn’t take our little tomato crop while we lean into the screen and count the seconds between thunder and lightning.

Summer out here means searching for the right place to dock the boat or plant a beach chair on the shores of Lake Sakakawea and spitting sunflower seeds waiting for a bite to hit your pole, trying to convince the kids to swim where they won’t scare the fish away.

And then summer is laughing even though they aren’t listening, knowing that this time of year, especially in a place where it’s so fleeting, is magic for kids. And you can’t blame them, because you remember the rush of the cold lake water against your hot skin and how you would pretend your were a mermaid or a sea dragon and the afternoons seemed to drag on for days before the sun started sinking, cooling the air and reminding you that you were not a mermaid after all, but a kid in need of a hamburger and juice box.

You remember the way the fresh cut grass stuck to your feet as you did cartwheels through the sprinklers or the how you smelled after coming in from washing and grooming your 4-H steer in preparation for county fair. You remember the anticipation of the carnival, the way the lights of your town looked from the top of the Ferris wheel and how maybe you brought a boy up there with you and maybe he held your hand.

Summer in North Dakota is dandelion wishes and a fish fry, fireflies and camping in tents that never hold out the rain. Summer is wood ticks and scraped knees, bike rides and gramma’s porch popsicles, catching candy at parades, swimming pool slides, drinking from the hose and trying to bottle it all up into memories that won’t fade.

And so I am stocking up on popsicles and doing my best to make some plans for my young daughters that don’t include any plans at all. Because they are in the sweet spot right now, wild sisters who have one another and who are just big enough to take on the kind of summer adventures that only happen when nothing’s happening and the sun is shining and the day stretches out long and lazy in front of them. Because they can only be four and six for one June, one July and one sweltering hot August before the next summer rolls around with another year behind it. And I have my memories, but the girls, they are smack dab in the middle of making them. And for all that they don’t know, for all the things they are still learning, they don’t need anyone to tell them how to spend their summer. They are experts on that one. And I intend to take notes.

Who are we without our memories?

Happy summer everyone. We took as much of a hiatus from real life as we could over the 4th of July week to head to my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota like we do every year over the holiday.

This year was pretty special as more family joined us from across the midwest and my two-year old had a blast following the big kids around the lake.

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Great Grandpa and Grandma with all ten of their great grandchildren

I’m not going to lie, traveling with two young kids and staying in a hotel for night upon night is no joke.

Kids like schedules. But there are so many reasons it’s worth it to spend a week having donut holes for breakfast, skipping naps for more swim time, serving popsicles before supper and wiping the sand and grass off of their little feet before zipping up their jammies and flopping down for bed sunkissed, dirty and exhausted from fun at 10 pm.

My only wish is that my girls could remember every minute of the weekend spent with this family, especially these special moments…

Last week, Edie caught her first fish off of her great-grandparents’ dock on a little lake in Minnesota.

After her daddy helped her pull that bluegill out of the water using the little orange fishing pole with the button reel that has likely caught many grandkids’ first fishes, she inspected its puckered mouth, ran her fingers over its scales, looked toward the shore and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Gramma Ginny, look! I caught a fish!”

Gramma Ginny is Edie’s 80-something great-grandmother who is known to her family as a woman who loves to play bridge, has read thousands of books, is probably magic because she can float in the water for hours without paddling and refuses to look on anything but the bright side in life. This is a quality that is seeing her and her family through the difficult and inevitable process of time that has taken her quick wit and memory, but has not broken her spirit.

Edie calls gramma Ginny her best friend and like any best friend, she was thrilled by her little granddaughter’s first catch. I watched them celebrate with a lump in my throat wishing time would stop for a moment.

Edie, don’t get bigger just yet. Gramma, don’t get older. Warm sun, don’t go down on Lake Melissa today; just hang in the sky a little longer and shine on my mom in her swimsuit as she floats out to the sailboat with her sisters. Don’t set on these cousins getting to know one another and growing up too fast. Don’t stop our laughing and start our worries. Not yet. Hold still now, time.

“It’s a beautiful day. A good day,” said Gramma Ginny over and over as all 10 of her great-grandchildren, from 7 months to 14 years old, navigated their relationships to one another over games of beanbag toss, squirt gun fights and kayak trips to the lily pads.

“Yes, yes it is Gramma,” we would reply, all of us reliving old memories of swim lessons from aunties, rainy day card games and mosquito slapping by the campfire, wishing we didn’t know that our matriarch’s memories slip in and out like waves as she holds on tight to her husband’s hand and wades into the familiar feel of the cool lake water towards her grown daughters with children and grandchildren of their own.

I looked at my grandparents and thought about the 60-some years of a life they’ve lived hand in hand like that and I wondered how it is that I want to stop the very thing that has given them so much adventure and fulfillment and love.

What do we know if we can’t remember it all?

Who are we without our recollections, our stories? Our memories?

We are my 2-year-old daughter, fresh and eager to discover a mysterious new world, and her great-grandmother, two best friends celebrating a catch in a special moment on a good and beautiful day.

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Small challenges. Small reminders.

Here’s a video of Edie in the lake last weekend. It was hot as hell and it was my birthday month so I decided we needed to take the pontoon out on the lake for the first time all summer to celebrate, you know, now that summer is over.

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Edie loves the water, as you can see, and I’m pretty sure she would have floated like this all day. IMG_1997

I’m watching it now because the girl just finished fighting me for a good three hours about the whole nap thing. She finally gave in after having won two previous battles, but I’ve won the third and final and, I’ve come to find out,  that’s what really counts in this parenting game.

Who knew ‘strong willed’ came into play so early. Last night while she was standing up in her crib screaming at the top of her lungs, her post-bath mohawk illuminated by the night vision on the baby monitor, I ran across this:

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I showed my husband. He said, “Yeah, I think she’s as strong as you, but she might have you beat on the whole stubborn thing.”

Arghhh. And then Awwweee.  That’s personality and I love her for it. And it turns out it’s just like they said, for all the hard shit there’s the moments where you discover that your nine-month-old likes to watch the morning news like this.

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And it’s really funny.

And then there are the moments you’ve imagined for years and years that come to life right before your eyes and you have to sort of stop to catch your breath and tell yourself that this is what a dream come true feels like.

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Sometimes life gives you what you wanted and then it’s up to you to do what you should with it all.

Like squeeze her into a purple lifejacket and set her on her aunt’s lap on a boat floating across a beautiful lake so that you can help her put her tiny toes in the water.

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And point out the bald eagle soaring above us…

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And the horses who came from their pasture to take a long drink next to our beach blankets…

These things she won’t remember, but I want to.

I will….

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Because right now she’s sleeping but tomorrow she’ll likely be scaling that cliff to catch that eagle and I’ll be running after her saying things like “Honey, you forgot your jacket!” or  “Did you eat breakfast today?” or “Stop! Let me take your picture!!!”

or “Call me when you get to the top so I know that you’ve made it there safely.”

Oh my, they’re only babies for such a short amount of time.

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*sniff* *sniff*

Forget the drink, I need (a couple) donut(s).

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Peace, Love and good Lord take a nap,

Jessie

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The fabric of a family.

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Coming Home: Lake traditions become more precious with plus-one
by Jessie Veeder
7-17-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I spent last week in vacation mode, which to some might bring to mind palm trees and tropical drinks by the pool, but to me it meant packing up for a weekend of tradition.

And the husband and baby, of course, with a bottle and a plastic baggie full of toys for the six-hour drive.

And along the way a stop at the store to get the things we don’t currently own, but need. Like deodorant and blue nail polish and tonic water for our vodka drinks. And a baby lifejacket.

Because we were heading to my grandparents’ lake cabin in Minnesota just like we have done every year for the Fourth of July since the beginning of time, except this time, of course, we had a small and chubby plus-one, who apparently comes with a lot of baggage.

Like a one-ton, long box, pickup full.

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Seriously.

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But to carry out the holiday properly in my family, there are things you need to carry with you. Like at least one patriotic outfit to wear while sitting on the dock sipping bloody marys, waving an American flag at the pontoons decked out for the Fourth of July, tooling by the shore in the boat parade.

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Oh, the lengths we go to hold on to our traditions.

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That’s what I was thinking at 2 a.m. as I bounced the baby back and forth in the small backroom of the cabin, the one where my parents likely sat up with my little sister summer after summer, sweating, swatting mosquitoes and willing her to sleep while my other sister and I snuggled under thin blankets in tiny beds in the screened-in porch.

In a few hours my little family would emerge from that room and shuffle to the kitchen, say good morning to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, grab a couple doughnut holes to go with the coffee we sip on the deck together and catch up while the family of ducks swims on the calm lake.

I can predict it all, the summer sausage sandwiches, the pontoon rides around the lake to look at the houses, the trip to the flea market where Dad stocks up on homemade jelly and Mom finds the best old furniture, the campfires and the fireworks lighting up the dark lake. All of those expected moments are more important to me than ever before now that I have a baby to raise.

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Because our rituals might remain the same year after year, but they can’t stop time from chipping away at us.

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I watched Grampa flip his famous pancakes on the stove in the little kitchen while Gramma fussed over us all crammed around the table, the same sort of breakfasts we’ve shared since I was 7 years old and suddenly, 25 years later, it all seemed a little less predictable and so much more precious.

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So I suppose it’s more than a vacation—this tradition has become the fabric of what it means to be a part of this family.

I walked out into the shallow lake with my baby as the hot sun beat down on Minnesota. In front of me I watched my grandmother, 80-some years old in her floral swimsuit dip her body in the water and swim out past the sailboat just as I have watched her do for years and years. Baby Edie kicked and splashed and I willed her to see it.

I wished she would remember this.

I hoped for forever right there in that clear lake with the blue house behind us and the future pressing cool and heavy on our hot skin.

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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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Garden Wars…

I’m having gardener’s remorse.

Up until now I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s a thing.

My big fat mouth got me in trouble last year when I went around waving my giant carrots and perfect, beautiful green beans around like I was Queen of the Prairie and I opened up a can of worms that’s too full now to close.

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Yup, you probably remember it from last year. I dared say “My garden’s better than your garden” to Pops and now he’s throwing down the gauntlet.

And it’s not looking good for me.

In fact, at this point, I think I’ll be lucky to get a radish, seeing how, after ten trips to the garden (and ten back inside to soothe a fussy baby) I finally got the thing in a few weeks ago and now, no matter how I squint, I am pretty certain my peas are not coming up.

And neither is the spinach.

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But even if they did decide to make an appearance, it would have only been to face the magic cow who somehow got by the dogs and the fence to take a little stroll through the beans and a stomp on the cucumbers, the only vegetation in the entire plot that showed promise, besides the thistle.

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Meanwhile, down the road, Pops, who’s typically a pretty laid back horticulturalist, went to a special store and bought sheep poop for crying out loud!

I saw it in bags on his driveway in April and I knew shit was about to get real, in more ways than one you know…

And, before he had to endure last year’s episode of coming over to ask for tomatoes because his had contracted some unsightly spots, Pops would have shared this useful little gardening tip with me.

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But not now. Nope. Because I guess I was a little too cocky about my endless supply of cucumbers and those spotless tomatoes, and, well, he’s just not having it.

Not this year.

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This year he bought sheep poop.

And I’m not positive, but I think he let that cow in my yard…

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Coming Home: Reaping what I sowed with garden boasting
6-26-16
by Jessie Veeder
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

Lord, it’s good to be humble.

It’s a lesson I’ve implemented in my daily life since discovering, at a young age, just as soon as I think things are moving along swimmingly is about the exact time I fall on my face.

Unless it comes to mini golf. Or bowling. Or board games … you know, all the things that matter most in life.

Yeah, give me a tiny golf club and I’ll ride it around the mini-golf course, galloping and whooping at my (lucky) hole-in-one. My team guesses my spot-on impression of Cher during a heated game of charades, and I am queen of the living room.

Get a strike in bowling, and the entire alley gets to witness my shopping cart/running man/stir-the-butter victory moves.

It’s obnoxious. People stare. And unless they’re on my team in charades, it makes my family roll their eyes.

But I’m afraid I’ve stepped out of my boasting comfort zone, taking that happy dance from the safety of the bowling alley and into a place where I might require a little more skill and a little less booze.

A place where talent and knowledge has been honed and passed on through the centuries by the masters of the craft.

A place that has been feeding men, women, children and the wily bunny for ages — the family garden.

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I blame it on last summer’s pregnancy hormones. I think they made me overconfident in my ability to successfully grow things, and maybe those hormones had something to do with the big fat tomatoes, the giant carrots and the never-ending supply of beans that appeared in full force despite the fact that I didn’t get a thing planted until late June.

Or maybe it was the magic in the soil my husband dug from in front of the old barn where cows have been pooping for a million years, but oh Lord, did I have a great garden.

And Lord, did I ever brag about it.

Check the newspaper archives for August 2015. You’ll see the evidence.

And when Dad, the man who has been growing things since he was still growing himself, decided not to plant beans or peas because of the wily deer who sneaks in the fence for a snack every night and then found that his tomato plants turned up with spots, when he humphed about his garden looking a little shabby, well, I took it as an invitation to make sure my biggest carrots and most perfect tomatoes were on the table when he came over.

And then I sent him home with a plastic bag full of peas and an “I’m sure sorry about your garden” comment through the smirk on my face.

But now I’m in trouble.

Because apparently an arrogant horticulturalist doesn’t sit well with him, especially when he taught that arrogant horticulturalist everything she knows about planting carrot seeds and on her first attempt she’s somehow outdone him.

The man has found the whole thing entirely annoying, and now I’m afraid he’s stepping up his game in retaliation.

I sensed this might happen. There have been comments. Snide remarks. Sideways looks.

But it became pretty evident when I went over to his place earlier this spring to find 10 big bags of sheep manure waiting to be spread on that garden plot of his, a sign that he’s determined to put actual effort into a task that typically comes naturally to him and his green thumb.

And now I have a competition on my hands with the guy whom I rely on to water my garden when we’re out of town.

A competition that I’m currently losing because, with a baby in tow, it took me a good 10 attempts to get my garden in last week.

Dad? Well, his has been in since Memorial Day, just like the books tell you.

He’s in the zone, and I’m obsessively checking to see if the radishes have at least come up.

I think I better spend more time watering and less time on my victory dance.

Because, Lord, it’s good to be humble.

But, Dad, the growing season’s still young …

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The sweet spot of the season

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Coming Home: In the sweet spot of summer, motherhood
by Jessie Veeder
5-30-16
http://www.inforum.com

The cows are milling by the dam and grazing on the short, neon green grass that’s growing just on the edge of my fenced-in yard, sending the dogs into a routine of nervous little ticks.

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Speaking of ticks, those are out in full force too, of course. And not one author of a parenting magazine, blog or book has mentioned how unnerving and annoying it is to find one of the buggers crawling up the tiny pant leg of your baby as you walk across the pastures with her strapped to your chest so she can look up and learn about how the sun lights the tips of the trees and makes them sparkle.She doesn’t seem to mind the creepy parts of summer as much as I do. Babies haven’t yet learned to be bothered by such things. But I’m not about to let some little pest keep us inside for my favorite time of year.

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Because I have things to show this baby. Today she’s officially half a year old. It feels like a lifetime ago that we drove her across the cattle guard to the ranch for the first time, drive-­thru Thanksgiving dinner in the console of the pickup.

And I guess it was. It was her whole lifetime ago …

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I keep saying it’s crazy how fast and slow it all goes at the same time.

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A baby calf is born and it immediately and instinctively wobbles to its shaky legs. In a few days you can find him bucking and leaping across the pastures, kicking his heels up to the sky, testing out what it means to have four hooves and a snout.

On the deck this morning our barn cat sits by the door, looking at me through the screen, waiting for a pat on the head or a bowl of milk.

Out in the barnyard somewhere she’s hidden a fresh batch of kittens. Last night my husband took my 12-year-old niece out to look for them, to listen for the whimpers and cries of their tiny new lives so that we might catch them and tame them before they open their eyes and grow wild.

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Last weekend I sat on the floor of my living room and sorted through piles of hand­-me-down baby clothes my sister­-in-­law sent for Edie. There were sun hats and swimming suits, shorts and sweaters, snow pants and pink socks. In one bin I pulled out a tiny green and red plaid Christmas dress, one that I recognized from a holiday spent with their family when that 12-­year-­old niece was small — small enough to fit in that frilly little dress.

This morning as I type she’s downstairs playing peek­a­boo with Edie. She’s come for a week to help out, to babysit, ride horses, tell me stories about her friends and look for baby kittens.

Wasn’t I just playing peek­a­boo with her? I swear it was just yesterday but maybe it was a lifetime ago.

Well it was. Her lifetime.

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Tomorrow I’ll wake up and Edie will be almost 13, too.

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I can’t help but relate to this season. Because I feel like I’m in the sweet spot of new motherhood, navigating a fresh and fleeting time where the world is so new to her and so completely changed to me that it might as well be a new life all together.

Except for the ticks. I remember the ticks from my other life.

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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.

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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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