Thanksgiving at the ranch

Our friends Mike and Kristi invited us to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with them at their ranch in Ranger, TX.  We’ve visited there the past two years on my birthday, and I went up there with Mike back in September.  But this time we had most of four days to enjoy.

Mike and Kristi bought the place–50 acres–in the summer of 2007 as a weekend getaway, a hunting area, and with the idea of eventually moving up there.  They’ve been slowly improving the property.  The first year we visited, we slept in a pop-up camp trailer.  Now they have a 400 square foot cabin complete with a toilet and “almost running” water:  you fill a bucket from the rain barrel and pour the water into the tank.  Believe me, that’s much better than going out behind the cabin when it’s 40 degrees (or colder) outside.

The primary goal of the long weekend was to relax.  But with four days to kill, I couldn’t spend all that time just carving by the campfire.  Mike’s been slowly removing a lot of the underbrush and dead trees near the front of the property, chopping firewood, and taking the smaller stuff to the burn pile.  So I grabbed a chainsaw and joined in.  We had a grand old time on Friday and Saturday, and by the time we left the view to the south had been much improved.

While Debra and Kristi were cooking on Thanksgiving day, I decided to try my hand at something I’ve been wanting to do:  carve a sweet potato.  The photo above is “Yaman” (yam man).  The sweet potato carves very easily, but it’s important to have a sharp knife or you’ll end up breaking the potato.  This isn’t the best face I’ve ever carved, but I’m betting it’ll be okay.  Now I just have to wait six weeks or so for the thing to dry before I can paint highlights.  The drying process will introduce wrinkles, and it will turn brown.  I’ll update here when it’s sufficiently dried.

I didn’t do as much carving as I had envisioned, but I did manage to complete a few projects:  another little dog, this one from a piece of cherry wood that a friend gave me, a small bowl for Debra, carved from a piece of ashe juniper (what they call cedar around here), and a little drink stir stick from a piece of oak whiskey barrel.  The last has a wizard face on the top and a finger at the other end.  I wish I had a picture of that thing, because I’m pretty happy with the wizard face carved in a piece of oak that’s about an inch tall and 1/4″ square.

I also learned of a new art form:  beer bottle art.  I idly wondered whether I could melt a beer bottle by throwing it in the fire, and Mike assured me that it’s possible.  So I put a few bottles in the coals (after consuming the bottles’ contents, of course), and left them overnight.  Of the half dozen bottles we put in the fire, only these two survived mostly intact.

They give some idea of what’s possible, but they’re flawed because they have cracks and holes.  The key seems to be having the patience to let them cool very slowly.  I’m thinking that I’ll have to experiment with this art form.

Even with the hard work on Friday and Saturday, it was a very relaxing time up at the ranch.  The food was excellent, we very much enjoyed spending time with Mike and Kristi, and I really needed the time away to recharge.  It’s hard to worry about too much when you’re sitting in the sun whittling on a stick and laughing at the Guinea fowl running around.  Noisy dang birds, though.

Still, as relaxing as the time was, it was good to get home Sunday afternoon, take a hot shower, and sleep in our own bed.  Wouldn’t want too much of a good thing.