A Spring Break in the Desert and Backyard

We had a snowstorm a month ago. This still boggles the mind.

Spring is here! I planted cosmos, basil, and gomphrena seeds yesterday and then passed a dozen eggs across the back fence to the neighbor while my family played basketball and my husband barbecued.

Here’s how “my hometown” this town is: the back fence neighbor is a good friend of my cousin Judah, and one of my next door neighbors is the sister of some of my other cousins’ good friend. I’m sure there are even more connections on my very street. Like, I bet the no-good-niks at the far end have been sentenced by my other cousin over something… her being the DA and all. Oh right, and said cousin has a rental house on my street too.

This town is a veritable 6 degrees of separation game… except the game is one degree of separation and is titled: “which cousin or uncle do you know?” (It’s pretty evenly split between Jimmy and John, on the uncles). I used to hate the immediacy of being identified by strangers as part of the familial group back in high school when all I wanted was my anonymity and autonomy… but now I find I love it. Connection is good.

I digress about my giant ass family. The point I was trying to make was that the weather is BEAUTIFUL and the irises, roses, and spirea are budding and flowering and it’s seed planting and hanging out outside time and we’re spinning around like Maria in the Sound of Music in these parts.

And some good news after my last post about the state of the garden: we have some Lazurus plants I had chalked up as dead that are coming back! Turns out the Belinda’s Dream rose made an amazing recovery and isn’t a goner after all, the Castroville yucca plant (taken from a cutting) has died… but two tiny offshoots are coming up from the bottom. Same can be said for the thryallis and morning glory bush. Hope, as they say, does in fact spring eternal.

With the snap from crazy cold weather to warm weather the chickens have gone NUTS on laying eggs too, hence having to pawn some off on the back fence neighbors.

I’m like Oprah these days: “YOU GET EGGS! AND YOU GET EGGS! AND…”

My cousin’s son (see above. Different cousin from any mentioned) watched our chickens for us while we were out of town on Spring Break (will get to in a sec)and she sent him over the DAY we got back with the nearly dozen eggs collected while we were gone. I told her she could keep them, but having 4 chickens of her own I assume she’s in the same boat we are right now on the over abundance front. Eggs are to spring what zucchini is to summer, I guess.

But, out of necessity of using up these eggs I had this for breakfast a couple days ago:

My breakfast taco loving heart hates to admit this… but that breakfast was top 10 I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever felt better after a meal.

It was awesome. That’s a boiled egg on a bed of arugula that was dressed with a red wine vinegar, olive oil, and parmesan cheese dressing I made the night before. The next day I had a bowl of leftover spaghetti for breakfast though, so like, it’s still me and all.

The weather is nice, the eggs are plentiful, the butterflies are flitting around… and this week, while mid-sentence on a Zoom call for work, the yellow-crowned night herons flew over our yard and up to the neighbor’s tree where they nest every year! I literally said: “The engineering presentations scheduled for Apr-OH MY GOD THE NIGHT HERONS ARE BACK!” And then had to explain to my coworkers what was going on. (The night herons? Are back? Where did I lose y’all?)

They look like this. All my own pictures suck so this is from the internet.

They almost exclusively eat crustaceans, which means they drop crawfish shells on our neighbors roof all nesting season long. We appreciate the neighbors, every year, for taking one for the team on that. Thanks neighbors. Have some eggs.

As mentioned above we went for Spring Break to some cabins on the Pecos River in west Texas. Our youngest kept exclaiming I can’t believe I’m in the desert! I’ve never been to a desert before!” Which, oh sweet child, you live in Texas, you’re practically a Bedouin. But whatever, I wasn’t going to burst her adorable bubble on that.

The view right before descending into the Pecos River valley.

Before we got to the cabins we stopped at Fort Lancaster as it was on the way. Fort Lancaster is a fairly obscure western Texas fort that was operational on and off from the 1850s to 1870s. They also had camels.

It is an absolute windswept plain and has a few ruins of the buildings.

Historically accurate flag and some of the ruins.

Sound boring? I WAS DELIGHTED with this place!

So turns out the officers were American citizens but the two companies that were deployed in the 1850s were mostly new Irish and German immigrants. Do you know how many awesome jokes popped into my head over this? Like the Odd Couple style antics I imagined this resulted in?!

“We like beer!”

“Ve like beer too!”

“Has to be lukewarm though.”

“Down with the Irish!”

Or like:

“Ve like cabbage and potatoes!”

“We like cabbage and potatoes too!”

“Cabbage has to be pickled and the potatoes have to be shredded and then fried in a pancake though.”

“Down with the Germans!”

We also learned that when one of the soldiers had too much to drink the punishment was to be “barreled” which means they had to wear a barrel while on the daily perimeter marches the next day. I would give EVERYTHING to know what the ever vigilant Comanches in the regions thought of THAT.

Also- the two companies’ barracks are in vastly different states of disrepair. The image in my head is that it’s the Irish barracks in the shot above behind the flag, and the one with the still standing, beautifully constructed, double fireplace was the German barracks…as I’m well familiar with their meticulous stonework skills from my German hometown.

Plus they had camels at this place?! Tended by the Irish and Germans? Watched by Comanches?! CAM-flipping-ALS!!

I loved every bit of it. 10 of 10, would imagine endless 170-year-old hijinks again.

And then we were there- to our cabins on Independence Creek, right where it flows into the Pecos River! We stayed on a private ranch that has cabins for rent and a mess hall where 3 meals a day were provided. It is the very best combination of camping and a normal vacation that is possible. Still out in the wilderness… but then hot showers and chicken fried chicken with a Tres Leches cake after!

Some friends of ours found this place on exploreranches.com and I highly recommend the site for deals like this across the country. (Place we went was called Chandler Ranch) here are some pictures!

Independence Creek, just feet away from where it flows into the Pecos River. I don’t really know why but a river in the desert is my ideal place- I find absolutely nothing else as rejuvenating as it.
Here is a picture of my oldest and my husband when we hiked up the bluff to a couple of Indian shelters. The opposite side of the rock from this picture still had smoke discoloration from fires. (“What do you see?” “I think… it’s a German ghost in a barrel marching on the opposite bluff?” Oh Fort Lancaster and your comedy gold.)

The first shelter we got to was the large one above. We next hiked even higher up the bluff to the smaller scout shelter near the top… where we learned what mountain lion scat looks like!

I have a hard time justifying this picture, if I’m honest, but leave it here for educational purposes. Rest assured there is NO WAY that is human, but unfortunately I didn’t have a handy banana to put down for scale to convey the true size to you. Lesson here is DO NOT BE ANYWHERE NEAR THERE NEAR DUSK.
I read a meme this week that explained that housecats were so grumpy because cats are nature’s perfect killing machines, but that housecats are only 8 pounds and we insist on picking them up and kissing their little velvet heads. Considering how shredded I’ve gotten trying to rescue feral kittens and while bathing cats, I would NOT like to meet their much, much, much, much, much bigger wild relatives that made an entire cave into a litterbox.
I only put the picture of my cats there so this picture wouldn’t be right after the shot of mountain lion poop. Note to Chandler Ranch- more than a single hammock would be the ideal number of hammocks.

7 thoughts on “A Spring Break in the Desert and Backyard

    1. Well now that is true… and if the bounty keeps up may be the way to go. I do wonder if this is just the lip they’re going to go at now or will they slowdown?

      1. We buy from a local lady and we love those fresh eggs. She doesn’t have to sell them, but we’re glad she does and she can’t use all the ones her hens lay – too many – so it works out for everyone.

      2. I used to sell chicken eggs years ago when we had chickens and it was a nice little bit of extra change that more than covered the price of the feed. Fun times!

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