The sun sets on the end of July.
The sun sets on the end of July.
A storm built up over us last night just as I was settling in to bed. The radar screamed red and flashed tornado warnings above our town while we sat in the house at the ranch, pressing our noses against the windows to watch the dark clouds skim past us, leaving nothing but some wind that bent the trees down pretty good, a little hail that poked some holes in my petunias and a headache from all my worrying.
It seemed the town, despite the tornado warning, fared ok. A few backyard trampolines were displaced, cars were dented, lawn chairs rearranged and what not, but that’s small potatoes compared to what could have been. After the tornado that ripped through an RV park in my hometown a few summers back, I think people are a little punchy about the summer weather.
And I have to admit so am I. I have seen too many close calls in my life.
Tonight was the definition of the calm after the storm. 60 degrees and still, the smell of cattle hanging in the air. The wildflowers poking up out of the cool ground. The sun setting golden on the grass, kissing it just the way I like.
I was feeling a little emotionally drained and frazzled after a long couple days of trying to comfort a baby who just wants to be happy, but dammit, she’s sprouted five teeth in a matter of a couple weeks. So I’ve been coping by snuggles and distracting her with walks outside to watch the dogs, and this morning, to chase a cow who had somehow mysteriously got into the yard. Edie thought it was funny how the old bag made a point of pooping during her entire walk to the exit, leaving a smelly string of lawn ornaments for me to pick up.
I know what her chore will be some day.
And if holding a baby on your hip while chasing a cow out of the yard isn’t multi-tasking enough, I’ve also found myself setting up an office in my car to get some work done, taking advantage of the fact that the baby fell asleep during the three minute drive to the other place to feed the calf.
This afternoon I was busted twice working in my car by my brother-in-law. Once behind my mom’s shop after a meeting in town and once on the hill before home. Because the baby’s gonna wake up once I open that door…and well, she’s got teeth to sprout and I’ve got shit to do.
But that reasoning is sort of hard to explain to a man who maybe thinks I’m a little kooky already…
Anyway, the time was right to take a walk. To see a little of my world from out behind the computer screen and bald baby head (bless her heart.)
This is my favorite time of year and it was my favorite time of day and it’s all so fleeting isn’t it?
That’s what makes it so especially beautiful I think…
I feel like making time to really see it is as important to me as breathing these days.
I think the same can be said with this baby and me.
Those stormy patches are rough, but oh so momentary too.
And the rest of it is a whirlwind of pretty damn special.
So we’re not really into sleeping at night these days, but the nice weather lately has gotten us really into walking, especially since Edie is big enough now to face out and see the world.
A world that looks like this.
Brown and muddy and full of puppy slobber.
And, it turns out, cactus. Of course cactus. Because here in Western North Dakota if it isn’t the cold it’s the mosquitos. And if it isn’t the snow it’s the damn cactus.
As I type this I have a few little wounds on my hands as a reminder. Because as peaceful and angelic as this little scene might look from the still capture of the camera, it turns out taking a walk across the pasture with three dogs, two puppies and a baby strapped to you looks a little like, well…
Finish eating lunch. Finish feeding the baby lunch. Look outside and notice the blue sky. Check the temperature gauge to make sure the blue sky isn’t deceiving. Decide that 50+ degrees calls for a walk. Decide to take a walk. Change the baby’s diaper and put on her leggings and socks under her footie onsie. Add a fleece jacket on top of that. And a hat. Tell her not to cry about the hat. Tell her this is going to be fun. Go find your hat. And sunglasses. And sweatshirt. Make sure your shoes are by the door. Detangle the baby carrier. Adjust the straps the way you’ve practiced and latch them together the wrong way first, of course, and then the right way. Cuss a little and wonder how you can make this so complicated. Go get the baby. Make sure the pacifier is clipped to her fleece. Put wiggly baby and dangly pacifier in carrier. Adjust those straps so you’re both nice and snug and cozy. Walk toward the door and realize you forgot to put your shoes on first. Say shit. Grunt and groan and remember what it was like being pregnant as you try to squeeze on your shoes without fully bending over or seeing what you’re doing. Sweat. Get shoes on finally. Kinda. Good enough.
Open door and go outside. Yell for the dogs who come barreling at your legs. Try not to step on the little ones who are rolling and frolicking around your sorta-half-tied shoes. Decide to take the trail to the east pasture. Maneuver your body and the baby strapped to it under the fence. Because around here you have to cross fences. Wonder if that’s in a baby book anywhere. “How to cross fences carrying a baby. Find the trail with the least cockleburs. Stop to remove cockleburs from your shoe laces. Try not to step on the pups as the gray one grabs the brown one’s tail.
Laugh. Try to take a picture. Fail at the picture. Wish you had your big camera. Or another set of arms.
Accidentally step in a mud puddle while laughing at the puppies. Notice Gus is out of site. Call for Gus. Notice the baby’s sleeping and the sun is in her eyes. Use one hand to hold her head and the other to shield her face.
Keep walking. Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.
Make it to the gate and decide to go off trail to stay out of the wind. Immediately regret it as you lead the puppies through a patch of cactus. Hear the gray one cry. Bend down. Grunt and attempt to fling the cactus from his wiggly paw with one hand while holding the sleeping baby’s head with the other.
Wonder if you strapped her in the baby carrier and sat with her in bed if she would sleep through the night.
Figure it would be likely, but also likely cause neck issues.
Cuss because now the cactus is stuck to your hand.
Grunt as you get back up. Keep walking. Pet momma dog. Find a trail. Avoid mud. Call for Gus because he’s chasing a rabbit in the trees.
Pet big brown dog. Notice little brown pup is limping. Say shit. Lean over to try to grab her wiggly leg with one hand while holding the sleeping baby’s head with the other. Get another cactus stuck to your hand.
Decide you’re glad your almost back to the house.
Step in horse poop. Go through the gate. Try to take the least muddy path. Get a lot of mud on your sorta tied shoes.
Pick up some more cockleburs and start planning the spring bur eradication process.
Make it to the driveway. Wonder if you can put the baby down and she’ll stay sleeping. Think it’s highly unlikely. Try to get in the garage without a puppy following you. Get one puppy out of the door as the other one runs in. Do that about three times and notice that momma dog got in the garage someone. Get her out.
Open the door to the house.
Sweat while you try to quietly maneuver the sleeping babe out of the carrier and into her swing without waking her up. Curse the sound of velcro and the burs still on the back of your pants.
Set the baby in the swing. Notice her eyes are still closed. Pat yourself on the back. Head to the bathroom because you had to pee that whole time.
Come back to the living room to find the baby smiling, eyes wide open just hanging in her swing.
Because we don’t sleep much around here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And when we do get out of the house, we go visit the other babies on the ranch.
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.
Last week Edie had her two month appointment and with each of her little milestones I’m reminded that time ticks so quickly.
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.
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.
So I did.
And I froze my face off.
And came in after only about fifteen minutes.
Happy to know that all was as it should be in January.
Frosty and freezing…
Windy and white…
And pretty in a middle-of-winter sort of way.
And it felt good to be frozen, only to warm up…
with a warm fire and the best stuff waiting for me inside.
The sky out here is volatile. Perfectly pleasant one minute, and violent the next, those of us who grew up here in the north country have a sort of “expect the unexpected” instinct born in us when it comes to the changing weather.
But it doesn’t mean we don’t get caught off guard. Just because we know that at any moment the clouds could build, one on another on another, and send the air swirling above our heads bending branches or sending hailstones flying, doesn’t mean we’re always ready for it.
But that’s the thing about this sky. As soon as you come to trust that another calm 80 degree day will pile up on another 80 degree calm day,
you head to the lake with your dad’s pontoon and friends from out of state to show them another side of the prairie, and just like that you’re caught out in the middle of the big water trying to out-boat a wall of hail and rain while a tornado warning buzzes on your smart phone and your little sister’s heart proceeds to lodge directly in her throat.
And suddenly I remember why I am a prairie person and not a boat person.
Because if I were on a horse in that storm, I’d give him his head, close my eyes and he’d run us both home.
On a boat? Well… on a boat on the big lake with friends working to get to know this foreign place we call North Dakota I felt so completely out of my element.
I wanted to show them the world that I knew and what we do out here when it’s hot. How we find ourselves a beach and set up shop. How we dig in the sand or the mud, pick rocks and sip drinks and thank God for the lake in the heat of the day.
And then the sky turned black and chased us down and everything I knew about what we do on a hot day blew away in the waves with the wind…
But when it was all said and done and we were back safely to shore, wind swept and nervously laughing, I think maybe I caught a glimpse of what it might be feel like to be, like the new friends who braved the adventure with us, on unfamiliar ground…
Coming Home: Wishing for solid ground in an unfamiliar place
by Jessie Veeder
The dark blue clouds sparked with lightning on the horizon in front of us, and the deep rumble of the thunder seemed to shoot up from the ground below our horses’ feet to settle and roar smack in the middle of my 10-year-old heart.
It was my first lesson in remaining calm in an uncontrollable situation that escalated quickly, the types of situations that, out here, are generally always caused by the sky or an animal.
Because there’s nothing nature does better than teach us lessons about our own human vulnerability.
Against an angry thousand-pound bull or a cloud full of hail stones, we are nothing but skin and bones, muscle and a built-in instinct to survive that we humans don’t exercise very often.
But out here, the animals do.
“These horses know how to get home,” Dad said to us, his silhouette darkening against a flashing horizon. “I know you can’t see the ground, but they can feel it. Just let their heads go and they will get you home.”
And there was our lesson in trust—in our dad, in our animal and in the inborn instinct that is survival.
Last night, the sky was brewing up storms across the state. The air was thick outside our house and the weatherman on TV predicted the unpredictable. There will be wind. There will be rain. There will be storms tonight.
The phones and Internet conversations began buzzing in a Boomtown filled with people new to the prairie. Where do we go? What do we do? When will it hit?
I’m a woman born and grown on the sweeping open prairies under a sky that will softly kiss the hilltops with light one minute, only to turn around to swallow up the land in a fury of wind and rain the next. I know this. I’ve seen its volatility and in some ways I’ve blamed its constant impulsiveness on my own. How could the drama of such sweetness and rage not get under my skin?
But these days, home on these familiar plains, I’m a minority. For the thousands of new residents who have come north from the rocky soil of a mountain range, the sandy beaches of the coast, or the dry heat of the desert, the roll of the thunder coming up from the horizon to rest in your gut is not a familiar feeling. And it can be terrifying to know that under this big open sky in the middle of America, anything can happen.
Even those of us whose roots are long planted here are still at risk of being taken off guard.
And so I’m thinking of my first lesson in the danger of our sky today, because last weekend, while taking new friends out on the boat on the big lake in the heat of the day I looked up at that horizon and watched white clouds turn to black, lightning flash, heard the thunder crack and felt the waves grow bigger underneath us as my husband put the throttle down to escape the white wall of hailstones and rain that were chasing us toward the shore on the other side of the lake.
I turned to my friend, a former Utah resident who has spent the past nine months discovering and learning about her new home on the prairie. I wanted to reassure her, but as I looked up at the darkening sky I felt my usual confidence in my home dissipate and my vulnerability swell on that water.
I wished desperately for solid ground and a trusted horse that would know his footing and bring us all home.
And for the first time, I think I began to understand what it might feel like to dig new roots in this fickle and mysterious place.
Smoke from fires in Canada are making our world hazy and hot. It sort of coincides with my mood this week as I mill around waiting for the 4th of July and my annual road trip to Minnesota where I’ll spend a few days with my family at my Grandparent’s lake cabin.
I have to leave Husband behind because he’s on call…at work…to water my garden…and to all of the animals on this place.
I know we’ll all have a more relaxed vacation knowing someone’s back at the ranch, but some days it seems like we spend more weekends apart than together.
That’s actually probably true, especially in the summer when my schedule is packed with performances.
It will all cool off and slow down in a matter of months and here we will sit, waiting for the holidays, waiting for a baby…
Summer is so fleeting that I just want to squeeze every ounce of pretty and warm and bright out of it if I can.
Last night we joined my parents for a supper of grilled steak kabobs and vegetables on their back deck that looks out into the coulee where the crick runs, a place I used to spend every waking summer minute as a kid.
As the sun sunk and my mom and husband worked on finding the bottom of the bottle of red wine, I looked out over that familiar coulee and started counting the fireflies flickering and making their presence known to us.
Of course fireflies exist in a world this green and lovely.
Why not just make it more lovely with tiny dancing stars close enough to touch?
If there was ever a winter I cannot remember it.
If I was ever cold, the feeling escapes me.
If I ever worried before–about money, about this unborn baby, about my parent’s getting older, my husband on the road or my goals being met–in that moment, I knew nothing of it.
If I ever knew anything but the tall green grass reaching up over the fence line, the dogs lying lazily in the front yard, the cat catching grasshoppers in the lawn, the garden slowly growing, the wildflowers dotting the prairie, the horses grazing on the hilltop in the home pasture, the laughter coming from the lungs of my mother, the handsome man sitting next to me wearing jeans spotted in grease, a result of what he called “a good day at work,” the little kick in my tummy or those flickering fireflies, I couldn’t recall it.
Not now. Not at the beginning of July with so much summer stretching out ahead…
I was away most of last week and on into this one, celebrating the release of my new album “Northern Lights” and playing a few concerts around the state.
I have a million things to say about the sold out shows, the little girls who got up on stage to dance with me, the generous crowd and the awesome musicians who backed me, but I have to get out the door to catch another gig.
So I’ll just do what I did when I got home last night before the sun set and let you take in what the rain created while I was out traipsing around.
I just couldn’t resist a quick walk before bed.
Can’t you just smell the green grass growing?
I think this is what heaven is like…
Like the rain after a hot day…and a warm day after the rain.
To celebrate my favorite kind of weather, here’s a video of me singing “Raining” at my CD release concert in Fargo on Sunday.
Peace, love and growing things,
Things are starting to shape up around here. We spent the weekend with family and friends working on sprucing up the barnyard. We painted out-buildings, built new fences and painted those, pruned some dead trees,
cleaned up old rusty pieces and parts, painted signs and made more plans for next time.
It’s funny what a little bloom on the trees and a little paint can do the spirit of the place. This barnyard facelift has been a long time in the making, but tough to get to because when we’re all working full time and getting ready for cattle in the spring, sometimes all we have time for is the basics: fix the fence so the cows don’t get out, make sure we have water. Ride to check on things.
But because Little Sister’s wedding and the 100 year celebration of the ranch is coming up on us quickly, we have a goal to make the place functional as well as presentable to the public. And so that’s what we did.
In the time in between, back over the hill at our house, my husband has been busy working on building the walls in the basement and I’ve been busy obsessing over our new lawn.
And making plans, finally, for a garden of my own over here.
It’s coming on time for planting. It was pretty cold the last couple days, but in a week or two I think we’ll be in the safer zone for frost and I can get my hands in the dirt to plant some beans and peas and cucumbers and corn and carrots and onions and tomatoes and anything else I can find room for there.
This garden has been on my list since before we got this house built over here, and each year it seems more important projects sort of push it out of the way. So I head on over to mom and dads and help plant theirs so that I don’t feel as guilty when I raid it come July and August.
But this year is my year. I mean, we got the grass growing. We got our fence up. We’re getting the barnyard under control. We’re getting our shit together…
And I’m getting my garden dammit.
Coming Home: Green grass inspires the year of the garden
by Jessie Veeder
And in honor of the work getting done around here, I want to share with you another song off of the new album, which will be available to download on CD BABY and at my front door TOMORROW!
“Work” Jessie Veeder, Northern Lights-2015
And if you order the signed album at www.jessieveedermusic.com today, I’ll throw in this cool sticker as a token of my appreciation🙂
Jessie Veeder discusses her Nashville album, “Northern Lights”
It’s been a busy couple weeks at the ranch. The weather has been warm and too dry for comfort and we’re deep into “getting the place ready for Little Sister’s wedding” mode. Which means we have projects, not just in the barnyard, but at our house too.
We’ve got two months and only so many weekends to finish the deck, finish the basement, finish the siding, finish the finishing touches and make a lawn grow where only a single pig weed once emerged.
But first, let’s take a ride on Husband’s new/used dirt bike and Pops’ precious Trail 90. You know, just to blow off some steam…
Not that I’d ever driven that little motorcycle/scooter thing…no worries, this guy here is good with lessons….But he’s also adorable, which makes it hard for me to concentrate.
“Just like riding a bike,” he said.
Except bikes have pedals and don’t die at the far edge of the field two miles from home when I finally figure out how to turn and suddenly become a professional and want to start working on a ramp so I can practice my jumps…
I love you sweet man, and it looks like you’re going to have to get the tools…
And the pickup…because me and the Trail 90 are getting a ride home…
Ok, we can call the sod guy now. Because, after three years, won’t it be kick-ass to have a lawn?
Yeah, that’s a lot of lawn. Like 7,300 square feet worth.
Like 10,000 tons of grass.
So we called in reinforcement and spent last weekend burning our forearms and getting in our squats in the name of landscaping.
And I’ve spent the rest of the week obsessing over my sprinklers, where they’re pointing and how to aim them without soaking my jeans, drowning or shutting them off.
And the dogs have spent the last five days believing they’ve finally gone to doggy heaven, rolling and sun bathing and napping and dragging dead things on what they seem to think is their own personal, giant slab of carpet.
So there was that.
And we need rain. Not only for my sod, but for the rest of this part of the state that didn’t get the moisture in the winter or the April showers we expect this time of year.
On Tuesday Husband left work, along with rest of the office, fire departments from three communities, the forest service and hundreds of volunteers to fight a fire near the lake that burned almost 5,000 acres and nearly took out one of our favorite campgrounds and marinas. He came home late covered in soot, stripped his clothes and showered that desperate smell off of him.
The fire was contained and, in the meantime, we just hold our breath for rain and for that pager to stay quiet.
And I adjust the sprinklers, wishing we could turn on the sky with a nob like that, add some tasks to the list in my head before setting it all aside to go out looking for spring.