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Veeder: Living with an undomesticated yard

Jessie Veeder

We built our house in the middle of a cow pasture. It was unavoidable really. I mean, out here everywhere is either in the middle of a cow pasture or the middle of an alfalfa field.

Until we build a fence.

When we build a fence we can call it yard.

But for now, if you come over for a visit, you might have to watch where you step, if you know what I mean.

It's roundup season and time to bring the cows home. And because home for the cows is also home for us, we've had company the past few weeks.

Company that serenades us from outside the kitchen window with low bellowing in the morning as the sun comes up, saunters by in a neat line for afternoon drinks in the stock dam, takes evening naps under the shade of the deck and all-out ignores the pug's best guard dog impression.

But I don't mind at all, especially since I never got around to planting that garden or attempting a lawn.

In fact when I'm home, I like to keep the windows wide open and the music off so I can hear them doing what cows do -- munching, mooing, drinking and kicking little puffs of dust up off their heels on their way back and forth on the trail they've cut.

A trail that was here long before a house popped up.

And while it's typical for me to step outside to find a calf in a stand-off with my should-be house dog, to ask my husband to help me shovel the cow poop out of the driveway before company arrives or to wake up in the morning to find a wild turkey roosting on the roof of the house next to the satellite dish, it's occurred to me lately that perhaps these sorts of things could be considered a little, uh, undomesticated.

Maybe I should have pushed a little harder to get that fence done this summer so we could focus on normal things like raking the lawn and throwing a nice garden party.

But I have yet to become the woman who throws a nice garden party.


I am the woman who shows up to the garden party with a cocklebur stuck in her hair.

It's not that I'm ashamed of that cocklebur. It's just that lately I've been wondering how to best fit in all that I want to be with all that I need to be out here at the ranch.

Because I'm a woman who would appreciate a well-manicured garden with roses untouched by cow molars, but I'm also a woman who wants to know what's going on with those rose-munching cows, a woman who saddles up a horse to go along and check.

Because there's nothing else I'd rather do than sit on a horse and push cows through the trees, even when those cows are not even remotely heading in the right direction and my efforts in turning them around land me with a thorn buried a half an inch deep in my shin, or, you know, a cocklebur in my hair.

And when my husband, my thorn and I get home, I'm reminded that I'm a woman who likes to eat and it's a little annoying discovering that none of us has given a thought to dinner.

Or to the mud we tracked in on the floor last week.

Or the dishes piled in the sink.

Or the plant I can't seem to remember to water.

For some reason I just can't seem to keep it all working harmoniously together. For some reason I can't seem to put those dishes, the dinner or the darn fence on the top of my priority list while maintaining the relationship I think I need to have with the other critters who share this pasture with me.

For some reason I don't think I'll ever host a garden party.

At least until we build that darn fence.

But that's OK. You're still welcome for a visit.

Just watch your step.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at