Coping: How to Keep Kids Happy on Holiday

Elaine and I are running about like mad (again/still) getting ready for the next batch of guests who will be coming to Uretopia: Delightful son of E’s from the Denver area, his wife, and two children.  Occasion?  Turkey Day weekend.

Thinking back on past holidays (a billion years ago) I was often more or less “stuck” listening to the old people talk. Learned a lot, sure. But was it what a kid would look back on and call fun?

Uh…not so much!

So I decided to give the kids (she is 11-12 I think and he is 12 or 13 I think) a chance to “pick the activities” they want in advance. The idea being that a person can only eat turkey for an hour or three out of 24 in a day…

Since Uretopia Ranch is really designed for fun from about their ages on up to the End, I decided to send the parents an activity list to pick from. This way, options for the children can be considered in advance and the oldsters won’t offer inappropriate activities, e.g. those not in harmony with the children’s parents wishes.

With that as the set-up, here are some of the activities:

Power Equipment Adventure

You will be introduced to the operation of a 24-horsepower 4-wheel drive tractor equipped with a rotary “brush hog.” You will learn safe tra ctor operation and will have an opportunity to test your skills on approximately 5-acres of overgrown land.

Required Reading: Kubota B7610 HST Operator’s manual

Introduction to Gas Welding

You will learn the basics of gas welding. You will work on mild steel sheet and exercises will include running butt joints, right-angle joints, single and multiple-pass joints.

Required reading: Kindle book at ranch on basics of gas welding.

Introduction to MIG Welding

This experience is similar to gas welding execept you will use a Lincoln wire welding machine. You will learn about welding both with Innershield® as well as argon/nitrogen shielding gas.

Required reading: MIG welding book on Kindles at ranch.

Advanced Welding

In this activity you will learn how to set up, align, and use a 12-inch metal chop saw for both bar and round stock. Possible projects (bring your imagination) include a small table or other furniture created from reinforcing bar stock from ¼ to ½ inch diameter.

Prerequisite: Gas or Wire Welding completion.

Sheet Metal Welding

You will be given scrap pieces of sheet metal and will be tasked with running MIG welds. And assortment of joints will be practiced including butt, lap, and corner joints.

Prerequisite: MIG Welding Basics

Required reading: Welding sheet metal on Kindles at ranch.

Sheet Metal Project

You will learn how to cut sheet metal with an air powered nibble and shears. Then, you will build a small tool box learning use of the Box and Pan Brake. Upon completion of the bend-up, you will run high precision welds beads along the sheet metal joins.

Prerequisite: Sheet metal welding.

Introduction to the Metal Lathe

You will learn some basics of turning metal. Working with Aluminum stock, you will make items like candle holders, knobs (with knurling). Once mastered, you will move to thread-cutting and taper turns.

Required Reading: Lathe practice books on Kindles at ranch.

Vertical Milling Machine Basics

You will transformer a block of aluminum into a nicely-finished small box. This project involves learning an assortment of milling bits including flat and ball end.

Required reading: Another one of those Kindle books.

Basic Woodworking

Using a drill press, table saw, jointer, belt/disk sander, and hand tools you will build your choice of an assortment of projects.

Required reading: Shop Safety on Kindles

Bicycle Motorizing Project

You will be presented a standard-size mountain bike and an eBay kit which contains all parts needed to install the included 80-cc motor on the bike. Optional: You will also use the milling machine to “clean up” the engine casting and use punches to inscribe the motor as “49 CC”

Prerequisites: None for basic, Vertical Milling basics for…er….

Real  Life Carpentry

Build an 8 by 10 foot deck. But before the project there are a number of demising (site prep) projects to be done. It’s the kind of work real home handymen do and you’ll learn a lot.

Must with an adult on this one.

Outdoor Cooking Adventure

You will learn to use a rocket stove and will first prepare coffee and then breakfast for yourself and others. This exercise will include using Char-clothe and a fire steel to keep it “real.”

Perquisites: Patience and an appetite. No burn ban in effect (rain dependent activity)

Electronic Kit Basics

You will assemble a small electronic project to learn part identification of small electronic components. You will also learn to use a soldering station.

Prerequisites: None

Advanced Electronic Kits

You will assemble an advanced kit – an electronic musical instrument called a Theremin. This is a kit which will likely involve up to 8-hours of actual board stuffing, assembling, soldering, and so forth.

Prerequisites: Electronic Kit Basics

Antique Radio Restoration

You will restore an older tube-type radio, a general coverage shortwave receiver such as the National NC-190. You will learn to assess old equipment, diagnose, and repair basic faults such as bad power supply capacitors.

Prerequisites: Electronic Kit Basics recommended for soldering skills will likely be required.

Antique Radio Alignment

With an old-time tube-type radio, you will learn the basics of alignment using a high precision signal generator and an assortment of ourput measuring devices such as the VTVM.

Prerequisites: Antique Radio restoration book in library

Basic AM Broadcast and Shortwave Listening

Using a good quality portable shortwave receiver, you will learn how radio propagation works day and night. You’ll log as many countries as possible.

Recommended reading: World Radio and Television Handbook in library at ranch.

Ham Radio Basics

Learn what you need in order to pass your ham radio Techician class license. You will learn the basics of FM VHF and UHF repeater operation using small hand-held antennas. Also included will be an introduction to Morse code and single sideband (voice) as well as Data modes using the massive 746-foot wire antenna recently installed.

Recommended reading: Ham radio study guide on Kindles at ranch.

Ranch Fence Work

Using your tractor skills, you will “load the bucket” and go down to the lower part of the property and keep fences up to date. Animals and hunters necessitate constant repairs.

Prerequisites: Basic tractor and fencing instruction.

Bread-Making in a Sun Oven

Want to try your hand at “from scratch” bread-making? Normally not too challenging, right? But how do you think you can do making bread in the Sun Oven?

Prerequisites:  Hunger and sunshine

Yard Work     (Pays $____per hour!)

The leaves are always dropping this time of year. Try your hand at getting ahead of the trees while fattening up your college fund.

(Parents to set rate, lest we be charged with child abuse,, lol).

Recording Studio Basics

Into our Studio! Bring your instruments, or chose what you want to record from items on hand: Electric six string, electric bass, drum set, percussion items, violin, clarinet, harmonica, bongos, wind instruments and so forth.

Prerequisite: Samplitude Pro X intro video here.

Introduction to Mixing

Learn the basics of mixing by utilizing “wild tracks” and coming up with a good mix.

Advanced Mixing

Learn advanced mixing techniques including mix automation, side-chaining of equipment such as gates, and toss in an assortment of vocoders, phasors, harmonizers, and whatever VST plug-ins turn your crank.

Required Reading: Samplitude Pro X2 video.


Interested in astronomy? So are we. Just tell us in advance what kind of gear you want on hand, and what your interest is; like photography, comet spotting, or ISS tracking…

Cruise the Library

In non-fiction we have all kinds of shop and “how to” books. Even a big collection or original The Mother Earth News.

Everyone visiting is issued a Kindle on arrival, so tell us what you want preloaded.

In our fiction collection we have great adventures from writers like Clive Cussler and Lous L’ Amour plus countless others.

In between? Lots of books on religions or the world, psychology, self improvement, and personal motivation.

Visit the Game Room

Here you can play an assortment of Nintendo Wii games, but not the passive kind. Mount up with numchuks and get on the balance board and take on some of the virtual sports. (We like the skiing and bowling in particular).

Take a Flying Lesson

Yes, you can get your first hour at the controls of a real airplane – with a real flight instructor, or just go for a sightseeing flight with George.

(Flights subject to weather, and lessons subject to flight instructor availability.)

Just let us know what you’d like to do…and we can probably come up with something you’ll find interesting and engaging.

Toss in a large turkey (we’re planning 20+ pounds) and some homemade pies and we think this can turn into a very nice Thanksgiving vacation.

Total overkill for first time guests?

Yeah…that’s how we roll around here.

Even something as simple as a $23 kit to make glassware out of old wine bottles and such, why that can be made to sound like a fine hour or two of fun with just a slight twinge of marketing tossed in.

Some of this is right off my To-Do List, like the fence work, but it’s like Mark Twain hinted: ‘Work’ is what a body has to do while ‘Play’ is pretty-much everything else. Or put another way: Play is just work with a better attitude about it.

People don’t generally realize how – when properly packaged – they have all kinds of fun and interesting things to do right at home. Thing is, not too many people look at Life through the eyes of a teenager – especially when you get over 60-something.

But when you do, it’s clear there is always something new to discover, new to learn, and satisfying to do.

Provided the attitude is right, naturally.

Write when you get rich or figure out the perfect crime and run for President.

Oh, wait, that one’s already taken.


26 thoughts on “Coping: How to Keep Kids Happy on Holiday”

    • Im with Al !

      Throw in a course on drinking Scotch and youll have friends and family visit that you never knew you had.

      Think of the marketing potential. Im sure if the producers of Survivor hear about this , theyll want in on the fun. The possibilities are endless !

      Ill have my “10 percenter” call you…

    • Beat me to it. That was the highlight of several trips to visit the grands and cousins in rural Illinois as a youngun. Taking turns shooting that single shot .22 rifle at tin cans was a gas. But, if someone had offered me a flying lesson I would have been overcome with excitement.

    • My thoughts also. Especially if they are “city” kids. A firearms safety course along with some range time would be huge to kids not raised in a rural setting. I grew up on a farm in a very rural area so this type of thing was nothing special, however, my wife and I fixed our family in the suburbs(bought the lie, big mistake), and it is a big treat for my kids (as well as alot of their friends and friends parents) to go shooting. If I was getting paid for all the firearms safety lessons I’ve given……..I’d probably just bought more guns.

  1. You have unknowingly discovered a way to make more money. Everything you have conjured for the youngsters to do could be rolled into an intensive, hands on prepper school. You could be very selective and take only a few folks at a time and teach them much of what they need to know and do in order to live off grid. I bet there would be so much interest, you would never run out of potential students.

  2. I don’t know whether to think the majority of your kid activities list is real or a joke — read your stuff for so long, I really don’t know! I will say that the majority of it + my 8yr and 10yr old kids=me with white hair and a perpetual twitch.

    You do realize that most kids (not all, thank goodness!) have no attention span to speak of, unless they’re staring at a monitor/tv screen, yes? Scary idea to offer power tools to less than focused individuals still in need of their digits… LOL!

    Since we’ve moved out of the city, my own are slowly being introduced to these things, but do not get free reign of the garage, aka Dad’sDominion.

  3. If Uretopia were a Summercamp, it would be oversubscribed. Interesting business model idea. You could add culinary arts, basic auto maintenance, and pellet gun safety and operation and animal husbandry. Of course a real camp would have team building games, too.

    Advanced campers could build their own shelter and add solar electric to it. Maybe even weld a trailer frame for it. The resulting tiny houses could be sold on eBay.

    A month there would be worth a couple of years of college. Maybe more.

    • Great Idea BUT I expect that the Teachers Union and various government agencies will shut you down pronto and probably fine you.
      How DARE you teach the little ones useful trades – it goes against decades of dumb-down govt brainwashing.
      Have you paid your fees, filled out stacks of punishing forms and, in general, gotten permission from the mountain of govt bureaucrats?
      You’ll be lucky if you’re not thrown in the hoosegow!
      P.S. There is an ‘impostor’ posting as “AL B.” save for the period after the “B.”

  4. The ‘activities’ sound like fun – for adults that is. Sign me up for the welding and flying lessons. However, Unless kids are raised with manual labor (and even running a vacuum or taking out trash is considered manual labor)- today’s kids are glued to their screens – small and large. Overworks a different part of the brain and underdevelops other parts.

    However, I agree with some of the other comments – this would be a fantastic money maker for preppers – kids and adults – just make sure you have plenty of insurance coverage and a good lawyer- for the just in case.

  5. Sounds like what you have planned for the kids is right out of a college level tech school. How do I get invited for Turkey Day??? And what is the tuition??? (Is turkey day supposed to be capitalized?)

  6. Sounds like what you have planned for the kids is right out of a college level tech school. How do I get invited for Turkey Day??? And what is the tuition??? (Is turkey day supposed to be capitalized?)

  7. Best vacation I had as a kid, other than camping and hunting, two weeks helping my aunt with her grocery store in the middle of no where CA. Good for you, George! Wish I could bring my kids for Thanksgiving at Ure Ranch!

  8. I find myself looking at life through my teenage eyes quite often. Then the wife tells me I have daughters older than them.

  9. You left out the ‘broom’, they gotta learn to sweep, can’t they sweep the shop building, the hangar, and the deck? Then comes cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and lastly vacuum the house. Then get out the pail and introduce them to a mop. ALL kids need to learn those skills! OH, and you forgot PIE lessons, inside, PIE 101, Apple pie. Gotta know how to bake!

  10. When can I come for a visit? I may stay and never leave! But seriously, you have given me a great list to implement at my own retirement ranch here.

  11. I’ll plan to show up on the 23rd and bring fixings for Cranberry Orange Relish and Sherry Cream Salad. If you don’t have a favored turkey stuffing, I’d be happy to bring that as well, provided you promise to be incorrect and cook it INSIDE the bird, where it belongs.

    Sign me up for the ham radio courses and the woodworking/carpentry projects.

    Thanks, George. You’re a peach. So’s Elaine.

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