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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The space between now and the future

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Coming Home: 10 years just a ‘blip on the timeline of forever’
by Jessie Veeder
8-14-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

We measure our lives by years. We mark them as they pass and wrap them up neat in a package to commemorate. We move on and look back

I sat down this morning to write something trivial, like “Ten reasons you shouldn’t wear shorts on the ranch,” because last week the calf tongue up and down my bare leg reminded me. And then the leaky garbage bag reminded me again. And then a frog in my garden took a flying leap and landed splat and slimy on the back of my thigh, and I thought surely it was a sign that I needed to make a public service announcement on the importance of long pants around the barnyard … but then I looked at the calendar, and I was reminded of something a little more important.

(And really, that’s all I had about the shorts thing … some weeks, the idea pool’s a little shallow).

Yes, the gears shifted a bit when I realized that on Aug. 12, I’ve been a wife for 10 years.

For 10 years, I’ve had a man living in my house, leaving his tools on the kitchen table and unclogging the hairball from the drain.

For 10 years, I’ve been mismatching that lovely man’s socks and confusing everybody and the IRS by using two last names.

And I feel like I should be more sentimental about it all. Ten years is a nice, even number. A milestone. Something to celebrate.

But then, 10 years is only a fraction of the time my husband has kept some of the T-shirts in his drawers … This isn’t getting romantic very quickly, is it?

Well, no one’s ever accused us of being overly starry-eyed. For the first few years of our marriage, I thought our anniversary was Aug. 19, so that’s how much I pay attention to things like this.

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But truthfully, I don’t really measure the success of our relationship by the calendar. Lord knows I’ve known this boy who became my husband for long enough to mark our friendship and love as a victory, but time is only part of the equation.

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I think the way we spend that time is what we like to lament about when we hit these big milestones together. Like, dear husband, remember when we loaded up your dad’s 1970s pickup camper on the back of his old Ford and headed across the great state of Montana to camp in Yellowstone together? And remember that it was 104 degrees? And the pickup didn’t have air-conditioning? Remember the cooler of ice we kept in the back seat and the way the grasshoppers felt slamming into the hot, bare skin of our arms resting on the open windowsill? Remember how, when we finally made it to our campsite and unloaded our supplies, the sky opened up and it started pouring? And you just laughed and cooked our hot dogs on the tiny stove in that tiny old camper?

I loved you so much for the way you could just do things like that, so effortlessly. You can’t be shaken. And that was the start of it all, really. That calm you possess has carried me through a life we try to spend making the minutes count toward a bigger picture we’ve been promising each other will emerge someday.

Although sometimes it’s been hard to see it. And I know that 10 years is just a blip on the timeline of the forever we’ve promised each other. Ten years together as part of this family has shown us that you’re not promised the plans you’ve made and you’re not promised forever. Or tomorrow.

And while the top 10 reasons not to wear shorts in the barnyard fell flat, the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of marriage would make a nice and neatly packaged little piece. But I’ve had 10 years to craft those words, and I’ve learned plenty along the way — about myself and about the man who lies beside me every night — and the only thing I can say for certain is that I want him around because he’s good to me.

And I try to be the same for him.

And that’s all I want in the space between now and the future.

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Unfinished Projects

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Coming Home: Not alone living amid the unfinished projects
by Jessie Veeder
8-7-16
http://www.inforum.com

If I were more of a linguist, I would have the term for it. But you know what I’m talking about. It’s that crack in the Sheetrock in the living room, right in the corner above the TV that really peeved you off when you first noticed it.

Why didn’t we get that fixed months ago?

OK. So I’m a woman who has been living in a house under construction for most of my married life. Because I wed a man who has just the right amount of knowhow and crazy to take on complete house remodeling projects and then, when that didn’t kill us, a near complete build from scratch.

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Right now, as I type, I’m sitting on a deck that, for two and a half years, has been partially completed. It’s really nice and will probably be even nicer when he finally gets around to building us a staircase so we can get down to the lawn without going through the house.

I’m looking forward to that even if it means I’ll feel less like Rapunzel, sort of trapped up here, looking down on my little lawn kingdom complete with an incomplete retaining wall and barbed wire temporarily stretched across where those nice garden gates will hang someday.

Someone needs to get married out here again or something so we can get the rock siding finished, for crying out loud.

Yes, I’ve learned to be patient. Because what choice do I have? I don’t have a clue how to build a staircase and I’m not crazy enough to attempt it under the “if you want something done you gotta do it yourself” motto. Carpentry was never one of those skills I really cared to acquire. I’ve acquired enough skills I didn’t want, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, I know I’m not the only one who suffers this way. I mean, I have a few friends who live behind manicured lawns along city streets who spend their weekends checking off lists at the Home Depot and even they have a missing tile somewhere. Right?

Right???

Anyway, while I’m becoming alarmingly immune to unfinished projects, I was reminded that I’m not alone by none other than my own flesh and blood last weekend when I enjoyed a few family suppers on my parents’ deck, gathering together because my uncle was home from Texas for a few days. My parents have a backyard that has a sweet view up a beautiful, tree-filled coulee. Their deck is right off their dining room and kitchen, making it easy to enjoy meals outdoors on summer nights.

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If it wasn’t for that dang screen door.

Seriously, that screen door. I swear. It’s been years, YEARS, of needing to have the right touch to get it to slide open, of guests struggling with a plate of food in one hand and a desperate look of awkward panic on their faces as they attempt to find that right maneuver before being rescued and let outside by my dad, who eventually always just sort of kicks it off its tracks and says something like, “I swear I just fixed that.” Mom makes this aggressive sigh of resignation before we can all sit down and relax until, heaven forbid, someone forgot there was noodle salad inside.

And I only mention this because it makes me feel better.

About all our unfinished trim. And the crack in the Sheetrock.

And this island of a deck.

If I were a linguist, I’d have a word for it.

If I were a carpenter … well … I’d probably have more unfinished projects.

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When the mist lifts off the doubt of motherhood

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Coming Home: Mist lifts off the doubt new mom feels
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s morning. The mist has settled in the valleys of this countryside like a heavy, cool blanket that promises to dissolve in the sun. Dad just sent me a photo from the hayfield, a canvas of pink, gold and green poking up from the fog as he bales up the grass and alfalfa nice and tight for the winter.

I didn’t know that about motherhood. I didn’t realize how fragmented and scattered a day can become, a little paradoxical considering 100 percent of that day is dedicated to keeping a tiny person content and alive.

The other 90 percent is spent bending over to pick stuff up.

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Which leaves no time left for math and just a few slivers here and there to get work done. Or wash a dish. Or take care of the gray roots coming from my 3-month-old dye job.

And this is where I am now. Looking for the balance in being a work-from-home mom, quickly realizing that the word “balance” should not have been invented, because it does not exist, not in the way we all dream it anyway.

Last week I had a performance in a small town in the middle of the week. My husband has been arriving home from his full-time job in the evening to help Dad get the hay crop put up between rain storms and broken down equipment, so I loaded up the baby, my niece and my guitar in the big pickup, leaving his evening free for work, because turns out dads are searching for that balance-myth, too.

I stood up there behind that microphone and in front of a small crowd that gathered for hamburgers and music on a Wednesday night, telling stories and singing songs while my niece tried to shush our baby who was babbling and screeching happily in her arms. I looked over at her while I sang words written long before she was born and was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that this is my life now.

And then, in between songs, I found myself explaining the fear I had about it all.

Because, if you remember, I had a lot of time—time to convince myself I was ready, and time, when it didn’t work out, to talk myself out of the whole motherhood thing entirely.

Because I was worried about that balance thing. I was worried I couldn’t be me and be a mom, too. I was worried I wouldn’t have the energy for music or writing or bigger aspirations should I feel so motivated.

And in a way I was right. I am not who I was before this child became mine. Because before her I didn’t know what it meant to be frazzled and content at the same time.

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Like in the two hours I’ve been working on this piece I’ve changed her diaper, gotten her dressed, fed her milk, snuggled her, kissed her, watched her play, fed her avocados, snuggled her again, changed her again and put her down to play while working sentence by sentence and wishing I would have woken up at 5 a.m. like I planned last night.

I likely won’t finish this until she goes down for her mid-morning nap.

Before the baby, leaving something undone would have driven me crazy. These days most things are left to be finished later. I didn’t know I could be fine with that.

And there are about a million more examples like that, most of them involving the common denominator named time. Because I’m no longer carefree with it, not in the way that I was before Edie.

To be away from her better be worth it.

Sometimes it is.

And sometimes the best part is taking her along, looking out into the crowd and seeing her there, fitting snug and happy in the life that I built, arms outstretched, head turned up and laughing, the mist lifting off the doubt, revealing more colors than I could have dreamed.

 

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Building good days.

Coming Home: Building good days a gift in this unpredictable life
by Jessie Veeder
7-24-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

Bad days.

Horse frustration

Good days.

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Out here on the ranch, for some reason, I like to define them.

And there are about a million criteria for the qualifications of both, which, I guess, is a good thing and a bad thing, respectively.

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Except for the time I got my finger smashed between a metal bar and a post by a 2,000-pound bull. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad day, I mean, things were going pretty good up until the emergency room visit that resulted in a cast on my middle finger that sent me out of the hospital flipping off the world.

But it could have been worse.

It could always be worse.

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Funny, we say that a lot around here.

Get bucked off your horse and land in a cactus patch? Well, at least it wasn’t your head smashed on that big rock over there.

Couldn’t get the swather running after six hours of tinkering in the field under the hot sun? Well, at least you didn’t have to be in a conference room meeting all day.

Get your four-wheeler stuck up to its belly in the creek again because you tend to think you’re magic when you’re on that thing (Dad)? Perfect. Now I have some material.

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When I think about it now, maybe that’s why I found my way back here. Because of the optimism that was somehow always generated even after the day had gone completely haywire. It’s a trait that could only occur in people who truly love what they’re doing. Who wouldn’t be drawn back to that?

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Through the years, we’ve had plenty of opportunity for bad days, for long walks home after the pickup quit, for lessons learned about polyester shirts and welding torches, for doctoring a herd of cattle with pinkeye well after the sun went down, saying to one another, “Well, at least the nail you stepped on didn’t go all the way through your big toe,” or “Would have been so much harder without all your help.”

But now that I think about it, it’s sort of telling that we continue to say, “Well, it could be worse,” and skip over the entire concept that in times of tractor breakdowns, man-chasing momma cows and an incident with an exploding motor that almost started the entire barnyard on fire, it could always be better, too.

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But just yesterday as I strapped the baby to my chest and took off hiking across the home pasture with my niece chatting happily beside me on a quest to fill my cap with enough wild raspberries to make some sort of dessert, I couldn’t help but label that moment “one that could not be better.”

Even with the flies and the thorns.

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We woke up that Sunday morning to a smiling baby and a hankering for blueberry muffins. So we made them. Because, what luck! Blueberries were on sale and I had some in the fridge. So we cooked them up, along with eggs and bacon, and had ourselves a regular, fancy brunch.

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And that evening, after stripping the baby down and watching her play and splash in the baby pool on the deck while the sun shone gold on the hilltops outside, after feeding her bananas as she sat in her robe and tiny socks, we tucked her sleepily into bed and ate a supper of grilled brats and beans together around the table outside. My husband put his feet up after a day of fixing equipment, and my niece and I saddled up the two lazy horses in the barnyard and took off together, walking slowly across those hills dotted with wildflowers and berries and we just kept saying, “Well, it’s so beautiful out here isn’t it?”

So peaceful.

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It just couldn’t be better.

And while I know there are plenty of ways to define the bad days, the days that are out of your control, I couldn’t help but think in that moment how wonderful it is to know that you can build your own good ones.

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The perspective from a distance

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We’re spending the week in vacation mode.

Vacation mode meaning heading east to the lake in Minnesota to spend time with family at my grandparent’s lake cabin, per tradition.

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And then coming home to cut some hay and meet some deadlines before heading back out the big lake tomorrow to spend time on the pontoon or roasting s’mores with the other side of the family.

When we’re at the lake in Minnesota we do this thing where we load up the crew on the pontoon, drinks and snacks and towels and caps and everything else we could have forgotten, and we drive that boat around the shore, slowly, so we can take a look at the beautiful houses that have been built in place of the small cabins that once stood there back when my grandparents first bought their place.

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We comment on the lawns and the landscaping, the docks and the red shutters. We like the cedar siding on that one, and the cottage feeling of the other. We wonder where the NFL football player’s house is. We wonder how much the inflatable trampoline costs. We like that patio set and the adorable kids playing catch in the front yard.

We wonder who lives there. And secretly, I think we all wonder, what that would be like.

It sounds sort of strange, a literal boatload of family tooling by people’s houses on the lake. But we’re not the only ones who do it. It’s like a parade of homes, only we’re the parade.

We wave.

They wave back.

We’re at a safe distance that way. We can imagine and talk and wonder while we make our rounds and come up, always sooner than expected, as the sun starts to sink, on the blue house with the sailboat in the water out front, the familiar trees where the hammock used to swing, grandma’s flowers, the American flags stuck in the grass by the rocky shore, and feel the warm flood of familiarity fill us up with the good memories we’ve had there year after year together.

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It happens to me every time we leave on that pontoon, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking and laughing with my aunts and uncles, sisters, parents, grandparents, looking briefly into other people’s lives, wondering, wishing perhaps that we could afford that big boat or that beautiful deck, contemplating who we would be there before pulling slowly into the dock on that one house out of a hundred that we know so well.

The one that holds so much.

The best one on the lake for people like us.

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Coming Home: Searching for perspective on life from a distance
by Jessie Veeder
7-3-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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When I lived between the sidewalks of town, one of my favorite things to do was go out for a walk in the evening as the sun was going down on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what time of year—the crisp, still air of winter or the thick heat of the summer—I liked to follow the path of the sidewalks that stretched past the neat rows of houses, the warm glow of the kitchen lights shining brighter than the setting sun outside, projecting a slice of each family’s life out onto the street.

For a few short years of my young life, when times were tough and my parents had to move to eastern North Dakota for work, I was one of those sidewalk kids, riding my bike a few houses down the block to the neighbor girl’s house so we could pretend we were riding horses in her front yard.

But mostly I was a kid who played in the coulees in the evenings after school, one who got to ride horses in real life, who never learned to rollerblade for severe lack of pavement, whose new neighbor girl was a mile away up the hill and who pushed a lawnmower over cocklebur plants and Canadian thistle that couldn’t be tamed no matter how my mother willed it.

Those were my memories.

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So it was surprising to me how much console I found in walking those neighborhood streets in my adult years spent away from the ranch.

I was thinking about this last night as I walked out in the pasture as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the grassy pastures and the sky behind me dark green and navy blue. I climbed the hill where the two teepee rings still sit and I looked back at our house, noticing how it somehow looks nestled and perched at the same time in that small opening of oak trees.

The lights were glowing small squares of gold to the outside, while inside the baby slept in her crib, holding the satin edges of her blanket, breathing in and out behind drawn curtains.

I couldn’t see her, of course, but I knew she was there, just as I knew my husband was in the new easy chair, reclined with his arms above his head and his stocking feet kicked back, a small glass of whiskey beside him.

This has always been my favorite way to look at our house. From this distance it seems like it doesn’t contain my life at all, but a life of another woman entirely, and I’m just a passerby who can make up her story.

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Because I can’t see the things undone from here—the fence that needs stain, the pile of unsorted laundry, the conversations we need to have about selling the car or cleaning the garage or juggling the bills.

From this distance I can imagine our life instead of live it, and it’s a strange but wonderful thing.

And I think that’s what I was doing all those years walking those sidewalks in my 20s, trying to imagine my life and how I was going to get to whatever came next.

I would put myself in those houses with the manicured lawns, the dad on the grill out back, the kids jumping on the trampoline. I could put myself in the kitchen that opened up to the deck and invite my neighbors over for burgers.

I could fall in love with the little boy fishing in the gutter of the street, I could name him and his siblings and make up what kind of mother I might be to him.

Because I wasn’t prepared for any of it, even when I found myself living in it, in a real job, renovating a real house, working on my own manicured lawn along those sidewalks. So I walked. For perspective.

And I still do.

Because everything’s a little easier, a little more perfect, at a safe distance.

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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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This not-so-glamourous life…

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A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair.  I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.

That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.

So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.

Because we don’t.

But I think you all knew that already…

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Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
6-5-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inform.com

This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.

Today as I reflect on the last couple weeks, I’m wondering if I should even read those little farm books to poor Edie. Maybe I should just toss them in the trash and keep her from asking some hard-hitting questions about this place.

Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?

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And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?

Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.

No.

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And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?

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I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.

And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.

But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.

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I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.

Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.

And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.

But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.

Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.

Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.

And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.

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Baby Edie rides her horses

Here’s Edie, doing what we do in the morning.

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Rolling and flipping and grabbing and smiling and screaming at her toys because they aren’t doing what she wants them to do and I have no idea what that might be but it sure pisses her off.

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But mostly she’s plain happy, as long as there’s action.

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So when she’s done rolling and flipping and screeching I put her on her horse.

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And as you can see she likes it.

So you can imagine her delight when we put her on a real horse yesterday.

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Yup.

We had a branding at the neighbor’s and Pops brought the horse around before he rode it back home.

I wish we had a video camera to record what she moved like when we put her close to the nose of that bay and then up on his back. It was one of my favorite moments with her.

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All of the sudden I had this flash-forward moment to all of the things I dreamed about doing with our daughter out here on this place someday. I saw her up there so tiny and excited, reaching for the horn of the saddle and squealing and then reaching further to grab the black mane and I saw her at five years old, blond hair and curls, riding a pony while I lead her around the pen in front of the barn. And then I saw her at ten years old, on a big horse, following behind us across the pasture in the warm glow of a sinking summer sun, her face flushed and dirty, her hair windswept.

And then she’s sixteen and I’m holding my breath, her ponytail flying and bouncing under her straw hat as she rounds the last barrel at a rodeo and I let out a sigh of relief…

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Maybe it was watching the neighbor girls that I used to babysit all grown up and beautiful, helping to ride and wrestle calves, or maybe it was the light of the evening casting long shadows and reflecting off the dust in the air, making everything soft and dreamlike, but I was nostalgic for a future with this tiny little human who could just as easily grow up to prefer video games to horses.

But for now she seems delighted by it all, by the big outdoors and the blue sky and the grass and especially the animals.

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She has a physical elated reaction to them. She sucks in air and reaches out her hands and grabs their fur. When we go to feed the calf she has a mini hyperventilation spell. When she’s crying for no apparent reason all I have to do is open the door and walk out on the deck and a smile spreads across her face.

She leans down from my arms and tries to get closer to the dogs.

She reaches out for the kitty’s fur.

The wild world is hers…

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Yes, this is Edie. Our daughter. Our baby discovering that the fun is just beginning.

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A Spring Dinosaur Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pops grabbed a walking stick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And this.

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

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