It’s taken me a while to get around to blogging about Utah. Which is, honestly, a shame. I was hoping to manage to incorporate some of the less-busy aspects of my vacation back into my normal life. Sad to say, this has not happened. Life has been a whirlwind since I got back. (I will fix this, I swear.)

But it wasn’t a whirlwind while I was away. It was the single most relaxing vacation I can remember having in … uh … maybe ever.

Uncle Pasto and I were invited to spend a week at a close friend’s familial ranch in Utah. (Hi Juni!)

The Snow Ranch

The Snow Ranch 2

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I am so grateful she invited us and so glad we went. The ranch is outside of Kamas, which is near-ish Park City. Eastern Utah, which doesn’t look anything like the license plates. It may be a desert, but it’s a green desert, with gorgeous lodgepole pines and spruce and aspen. I still find it hard to believe that it’s a desert if you’ve got a river running through your backyard that you’re getting all of your household’s water from. But that’s just me. (;

South fork of the Provo

While we were there, it seemed like every wildflower was in bloom. The meadow was full of green grasses and thistles and forget-me-nots which insisted on sending their seeds along with our bootlaces. You can find broken geodes on the side of the road — and we did.

We did a bunch of hiking — hiked into the Uinta national forest to find said aforementioned geodes, hiked up the hill to visit the nearby caves and Inspiration Point. (“Hill.” You can tell I’m a Californian. An elevation-change of 500-700 feet doesn’t qualify as a mountain, even if you’re starting at 7000 feet, I guess! Ha!)

This is me at Inspiration Point!

Let me tell you, hiking in Utah is great, at least in this area. No poison oak, no poison ivy, no snakes, no black widows, no Lyme disease (though there are ticks), no nothing that is going to make you have to be super-careful. You can bushwhack pretty much anywhere you like, without fear of running into anything nastier than prickly pear or barbed wire — and their prickly pear is small. It was so liberating!

So we did hike and get geodes, and we went geocaching that day too, and found the cache we were after, yay. (: And we did hike to the caves, and the caves were cool. I love caves. Any excuse I have to visit caves, I take. These were small limestone caves, most of which were just little hollows in the rock. One was large enough to have a large bird nest in it — it might have been a golden eagle’s, but whatever it was wasn’t home when we visited.

The other was large enough that you could crawl in if you wanted to, but we chose not to. It looked like something had been living in there, and none of us wanted to disturb the area.

We found some deer bones near the caves, as well.

And there was this gorgeous tree across the way and up a little bit from Inspiration Point.

Really, it’s so gorgeous out there, it’s just amazing. There are no words.

The ranch has been in their family for generations. It isn’t a working ranch, but there are still some horses, and Juni gave us a riding lesson mid-week. I’m the first to admit that I’m not very comfortable with horses — they’re much larger than me, and I often find them intimidating. (Mostly, that’s a communication issue, I think.) We learned how to brush the horses, saddle and bridle them, went for a ride, removed the gear, and cleaned the horses up again. This, to me, was the best way to learn about horses — up close and personal and connected to all parts of the process. I really enjoyed it.

We spent some time in Kamas and enjoyed the “Best Burgers in Utah” at Hi Mountain Drug — and they might very well have been. They were awfully darn tasty. And while they don’t have an award for their milkshakes, they really ought to. They’re works of art. Also, I found out what fry sauce is, since I’m not a Utah native. It’s apparently a Utah thing? So I will tell you! Fry sauce is a combination of ketchup and mayo, and is used for fries, onion rings, what-have-you. It comes out kind of like Thousand Island. Tasty, and pretty good on onion rings! But I wouldn’t object to mine having some chile powder added. (; (Funnily enough, fry sauce came up on Pioneer Woman’s blog not long after we got back, and I just about died laughing, going “HEY! I know what that is! And I wouldn’t have known two weeks ago!”)

What else did we do? Stuff around the ranch, which honestly was a great load of fun for me. We split wood, which I’d never done before, and is a nice workout. (For those of you who do sledgehammer workouts — well, this is what you’re looking for!) There was a lot of wood to split, given that they’d had a lot of beetle-killed pine in the area, and we were using up the wood pile reasonably quickly by burning the day’s trash at the end of the day.

So — woodsplitting! With sledgehammer and wedge, or with axe, your choice. I was much happier with the sledge-and-wedge technique, but that may have been because the first couple pieces of wood I was working on really weren’t seasoned enough yet. It is really satisfying to smack the wedge and it goes “thock!” and you feel the wood split and fall away under the force of your blow. YARR! (:

We also did some work around the house that included setting up a better system for hanging mattresses. Since the house isn’t in use year-round, and since it’s old and not perfectly sealed, mice can get in and do mousey things on and to your beds. Not so good. So the mattresses get hung up. We replaced an old pulley-and-wire-and-sling system with a much sturdier O-ring-and-chain-and-sling system. Being a small type, and not totally checked out on all the hardware and tools, I did some of the smaller assembly and gofer work for that, but that’s OK, it was still cool to do. (:

Besides those things, we pretty much took it easy. On my end, I drew, read, knitted, and cooked. Not in that order and not listed in order of quantity. (: There was much cooking, and lo, it was tasty. We had some of Juni’s relatives over for one of the evenings we were there, and together Juni and I made a fantastic Yucatan lamb with cinnamon rice and nopales, mmm. I took the leftover lamb and made sandwiches throughout the trip, and a big pot of caldillo. (Did you know caldillo makes good breakfast? It does, if you add an egg or two. Yum!) Juni made muffins not once but twice, and my goodness, were they fantastic. Everything we made tasted so good. (:

Anyway, the whole trip was wonderful. I do have a couple of things to rave about that actually pertain to the blog, even. (: Two things: one, I now understand how a farmhouse sink works, which I didn’t before, and two: I have learned how to and successfully cleaned a wood stove.

Let’s take a look at the two culpri — I mean, inspirations, here:

A farmhouse sink. I always wondered — how do you do dishes in that without wasting a ton of water? It’s really simple, actually. If you take a look over at the picture of the stove, you’ll see, hanging on the wall up above the stove on the left, a couple of dishpans. You don’t fill the farmhouse sink with water, you fill the dishpan with hot soapy water, and place it in the sink. And you do all your small dishes in the dishpan, and rinse off to the side of the dishpan. Voilá, no water wasteage! For those of you who grew up with one of these sinks, well … this is not news to you. (: But I grew up in the land of divided sinks, and now I know what a dishpan is for. A small revelation, but a revelation nonetheless. I love learning stuff like this. And I also know that my next sink is likely to be a farmhouse sink, because as much as I like my divided sink, I cannot fit my canner or my big stockpot in it at all reasonably. A farmhouse sink is large enough for either of those, no sweat!

Now, on to Señor the Stove. Since we were the ones closing down the ranch house for the summer, there are lots of things that need doing to get it all packed up and tidy for the next year.

Me, I got to clean that gorgeous woodburning stove. And really, I consider it a privilege. I know, I’m weird. But it’s just an awesome stove. I can’t really explain. Just file it away under “Leanne’s weird.” So Juni gave me the directions, I read through them, went over the anatomy of the stove pretty carefully … and gave it the cleaning of its life. Or at least the past 10 years. (;

I took apart the top burners and the vent that leads to the chimney, and dumped all the ashes in there into the grate, and from there into the ash box. Cleaned out the box under the oven (I should remember its name, but I don’t) — the one that traps all the ash and soot from the chimney that falls down. That’s a bit of work — you really have to get in there and scrape, especially in the far back, because there’s tubing back there that catches stuff. I could have been done then, but I figured … we were way ahead on getting the Ranch settled, so why not be more thorough? Besides — I learned in Girl Scouts to always leave your campsite better than you found it — and I knew this was one thing I could really make a difference with.

So I cleaned out the oven, which looked like it hadn’t been used in a while, poor thing. And then I went after the grate and the grate lever that helps the ash fall down into the ash box. Man, I don’t know what happened to that thing, because the grate lever was so caked up with gunk, but I think someone melted a juice can in it. That took lots of clawing and scraping and application of the fireplace poker, but by the end of it, the grate lever moved well enough, and I had an entirely full ash box.

It was so satisfying.

And I was such a mess! Ha!

(That’s while I was doing the oven. This does not get into the fact that I still had the grate and grate lever to go, nor that I immediately cleaned the fireplace afterwards. I may eventually post a picture of that, if the ones that were taken turned out …)

Anyway, that was my trip. It was fantastic, wonderful, and all those other superlatives I haven’t managed to cram into this post. I loved it so much. It was awesome. It was marvelous. It was bang-up spectacular and I’ll treasure the memories forever.