Midian Ranch Blog

This is the web log for Midian Ranch, an isolated homestead in rural Nevada. It is owned by Jason and Tina Walters, whom are also its regular posters. This blog is exclusively for the enlightenment and edification of our friends, family, and colleagues.

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Location: Gerlach, Nevada, United States

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

March 18th, 19th, and 20th

I think Snap is getting sick of me. No, I know he’s getting sick of me. All of this driving, working, buying lumber, and leaving him in the car so that he doesn’t pick a fight with other ranch dogs has obviously worn on his nerves. On the eight-hour drive back to San Francisco (it’s normally six, but we hit a blizzard) he just sat there in the passenger seat, eyes glazed over, looking at me and occasionally sighing. Not that I blame him. It’s all part of natural dog psychology. When your world is divided up into four time periods – food, sleep, playing, not-playing – and the least fun of those four periods becomes the dominant one, somebody is definitely responsible for your misfortune. He handled it better than I would, were I forty pounds, covered with black hair, and possessed by a mad desire to chase tennis balls.

In spite of Snap’s dissatisfaction with my behavior, we had a pretty good time on this last trip. After spending a day repairing various winter damages, at 1 P.M. on Sunday I decided to make up for my lack of quality “dog time” by taking him on a two hour ATV adventure into the backcountry between Midian Ranch and The Banjo (the lower Granite Mountain). We started by going up the treacherous road to the top of Walter’s Wart (the mountain behind the ranch), and then cut across the back face into the gullied area below. Snap enjoyed this immensely, running about like an idiot, chasing rabbits, barking at the ATV, and surprising a tiny herd of three pronghorn antelope that were peacefully grazing near a stream. As for myself, I can’t really recommend actually going off road into the brush on an ATV, even one purposefully constructed for the purpose like mine is. The only way I can describe the experience is to say that it’s a lot deal like whitewater rafting on a riding mower in slow motion. So, if that’s your idea of a good time, give it a shot. Otherwise, stick to the trails. Your tailbone will thank you.

As an experiment this trip, I descended to live entirely off of one of the cartons of MRE’s that Tina and I have been hoarding in the warehouse for a rainy day. Despite dire warnings by my military friends I found that, not only do I enjoy MRE’s, but also there is an impressive amount of thought that goes into each individual package. Each meal comes with a main coarse, a secondary coarse, a packet of vegetable crackers (very nutritious), some sort of spread for the crackers (I liked the jalapeno best), a desert, a tiny bottle of hot sauce, chewing gum, a packet of instant tea or coffee, a packed of instant hot cider (very tasty), a napkin, a really superior plastic spoon, a moist towelette, and salt and pepper. There is also helpful nutritional information on the packaging about exercise and calorie intake written in that cool, WWII military kind of way that warmly reminds me of childhood lectures by my father.

A plastic “sock” with a heat pack inside of it is also supplied with each meal. When water is poured into the sock it reacts with the head pack, producing very hot water. Ideally, a soldier is able to put his first and second courses into the water to cook them, and then pour the water into a cup to make tea, coffee, or cider. Ingenious! Being a little lazy, I simply slapped the packages directly on top of the ranch house’s wood burning stove to heat them. They seem to be resistant to melting, enabling me to literally cook the contents before chopping off the end of the package and pouring them onto my plate.

I liked the meatloaf and pasta dishes best. The turkey seemed a little tough to me, but it does have Snap’s seal of approval. He enjoyed his share of the MREs so much that the second time I slapped our packets onto the stove he stood right next to them, his sensitive nose quivering an inch from those tasty military meals… and the red hot metal surface! We both agree that the military doesn’t make a good power bar; it’s edible, but barely. In conclusion, I expect that next time I go camping I will bring MRE’s to eat. They’re light, compact, tasty, and intelligently packaged. Next time I see a surplus sale on them I’m definitely going to pick up a few more cases.

There were other adventures over our three-day weekend. I went over to Dog Ranch where Outlaw Ron and Jim were surveying a bunch of halftrack parts. When Jim told me that he was planning on building a military halftrack, I had this naive idea that he was going to buy a whole vehicle somewhere and fix it up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jim is obtaining the vehicle “Radar O’Reilley” style off of ebay one part at a time: a transmission here, an exhaust pipe there. He Ron says that this is the most economical way to build one – and he would know – but it looks like a lot of work to me. Still, Jim is the kind of guy who always finished his projects, so I look forward to swooping down on startled Burning Man hippies like General Patton this autumn.

Early Sunday morning Snap went into fully doggy freakout mode behind the ranch house. If he had been that robot from Lost In Space, he would have been waving his arms in the air screaming “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!” A pair of mustang had come up right to the fence line to graze! I locked Snap in the house, and then slowly walked up to them. Very slowly: a stallion protecting his wives and children will cheerfully trample anyone who seems to be a threat. But these two didn’t seem very worried about me. I got within ten feet of the two of them before they began to get uncomfortable, at which point I thanked them both and left them to their eating. It was a particularly special Black Rock Desert moment that only makes sense within the context of that place. Fortunately, they also let me take their picture.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

MRE's, you gotta love em.

Now Jay, we hung out for about a good 6 - 7 years over on Grove street, and I am sure you heard a debate between Dan an I on the Virtures of MRE's. Dan, hating all things dealing with military, structure, and or things Green (except for St. Patties day, cause he's irish for God's sake) hates em, and I swear by them. Two will give you all the nutrient you need to survive for the day, and they are pretty tasty these days. I guess you got some made in the 90's, cause I never heard of a Jalapeno spread. Sounds good.
Things to be aware of include: The date, they have MRE's from back in the 60's still floating around at Around.... and there's better "quality" out there. Beware the Omlette! YUCK! There was an issue with the ones from 80's getting you really constipated - So if you go camping with MRE's bring some fresh fruit too. When youre hiking a million miles from civilization and Malox, you don't want to get all stiff and crampy.

Finally, I use to be a die-hard "Take some MRE's Camping" guy, until I realized they aren't really worth the weight. You pack them in and if you're responsible (and I think you are...) you pack them out too. I've recently gotten really "realistic" about camping food - If I don't have to pack out my stuff, cause there's a a trashcan handy, I might take all kinds of stuff to include a bottle of wine. If I am "leaving no trace" bagels and cheese and fresh fruit (banana's, apples, even firm white peaches) with some dried salami leave a lot less wrapper. But then you don't get the spoon, which I agree is the coolest thing about the MRE. So after years of going "green" in the back country, I still have a couple in my pack. Never know when you're gonna have to stir a backcountry soup, or fight off a bear. =)

I hope we get a chance to hook up soon, J. I'll be in the bay the first or second weekend in May.

10:07 AM  

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