OK, these are my pictures from our trip out to Stephenville, TX for New Years Eve. To see John's pictures, you should go here.

While sitting in traffic on the way to the ranch, we thought we'd take some pictures of the new highway they are building. When this is finished, we will sit in traffic about 500 yards further ahead. I am not making that up. We seldom venture to this part of Austin, and part of the reason is that they built zillions of houses and malls, and didn't put in higher capacity roads or [gasp] mass transit. So you sit in traffic.

There was one hell of a sunset on the way out there. This was the best photo I was able to get. John took some much better ones.

The ranch is located in Stephenville, Texas, and is around 1500 acres in size. That works out to be roughly 2.34 square miles of land. Now, in terms of most people's concept of owning land, that's a lot. I think out here it's considered "respectable." For comparison, my yard is approximately 1.97 x 10^-4 square miles. That means I can fit almost 12,000 of my yards into this ranch. It's huge! Here is a satellite shot with the ranch outlined.

Zoomed in a little.

Zoomed in a lot more. It's big I tell ya!

We arrived at the Ranch and found Christine and Patricia arrayed like babes on a cruise ship. Of course there are some subtle differences between hanging at the ranch for New Year's and being on a cruise ship. For one, the food is better at the ranch because John and Lorin cook. Secondly, you'd never catch Christine with her hand tucked into her bathing suit like that on a luxury ocean liner!

Later, Patricia has fallen asleep in the same pose. We're nothing if not classy... :-)

The front yard. When you're sitting on ~1500 acres, the front yard is whatever you want it to be. You also get a cool four-wheeler to ride around on.

This is Max. He completes the trifecta that is the Kneten Team.

Ok, now it gets fun. First is a picture of a goat with two baby goats. Goatlings? Whatever, my ignorance signals the shift from "City people hanging out at the ranch" to "City people playing ranch hand." We needed to move some hay and feed some cows, so we all set off in two pick up trucks to do so.

This is where my suburban/city roots begin to show. I think this is one of the dogs assigned to guard the hay. The hay stays out in the field exposed, and has few defenses save its enormous weight. Lacking the ability to move, dogs are required to keep them safe.

Dogs that screw up with the hay are assigned to less valuable targets, such as goats.

This photo also puts to rest any debate regarding whether or not the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Just look at it!

Here John says a silent prayer before operating the tractor. One of those levers operates the eject mechanism for the seat, and he is seeking the wisdom of the gods before he chooses a lever to pull to make the tractor move. (Actually, that's baloney, he is really good at working the tractor.)

Here he backs up the tractor, and impales the bale on the spiky thingys.

Then he lifts it up, and it can be carried to the field where the cows are, so they can eat it.

Sometimes the hay bales would fall off.

Doran and Christine practice looking "country."

Here is a cow ready to eat.

Ok, this is where ranching gets counterintuitive, and seems to be an excuse for ranchers (guys) to purchase all sorts of cool equipment...

Here, Randall and I push on a bale of hay. Our goal is to UNROLL it. I am not making that up.

After we unroll it, we sprinkle "feeder cubes" on it. (they were actually cylinders, but apparently this mistake doesn't bother anyone. The cows sure didn't seem to have a problem with the error.)

Notice the look on Lorin's face. She is saying, "Are you f(*#ing kidding me?" She is saying this as she realizes how cattle are kept. First, you put all the cows into a huge pasture, where grass is growing. Then you fence off another pasture, and let the grass grow. You use a huge machine to cut it up. Then you use another machine to roll it into huge cylinders ("hay cubes") and you let it sit in the field. The cows in the adjacent field then sit and stare longingly at these huge bales of hay. Occasionally you use another big machine to pick the bales up and move them, one by one, into the field with all the cows. Then, with the help of your idiot city-slicker friends you UNROLL the bales and sprinkle feeder cubes onto them. Keep in mind that all of this is done in a huge field with PERFECTLY EDIBLE grass growing everywhere. Look in the photo, the hay blends right in. As bizarre as it was, it was a lot of fun.

Here Patricia attempts to feed the calves by hand. They aren't going for it, perhaps because they know where that hand has been!

Does that look like a cube to you? Didn't think so. I was going to say that it looks like a turd, and that cows are dumb to eat these, and then I thought about foods like candy bars and realized that I am not one to talk...

Our work done for the day, we decided to play some Redneck Polo. We used mountain bikes, croquet mallets, and a big red ball.

John was a natural. This fellow can cook, he can ranch, and he can play polo. Ladies, I regret to inform you that he is happily married.

Here Lorin gets in on the action.

Doran running for his life...

And what trip to the country would be complete without...guns.

Here is John demonstrating his prowess with the shotgun.

Later that night, we sent Doran to bed, literally crying, as we got out one of his toys, the Play-Doh fun factory. I was once again reminded how cool it is to be a grown-up, and that being a little kid, while financially care-free, was mostly a series of denials and control experiments at the hands of cruel adults. Sorry kid!

Tubes being fabricated.

Patricia made an elephant. (Play-Doh is a Freudian field day!)

See how quietly they all play? It's nice.

Lorin made a head. (John fabricated the hair.)

John made this fence.

Taz slept the whole time.

That's it for now. Check back later, I will be adding a bunch of John's photos to this.