Tacos: Breakfast of champions

Hello, taco.
Hello, taco.

The best mornings at our house involve some coffee (to wake up the brain) and a savory breakfast (for sustainable energy). One of our favorites is breakfast tacos. Wrap some combination of scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, cheese, green onion and salsa in a flour tortilla and you have a delicious, portable breakfast that will definitely tide you over until lunchtime. I’m not sure exactly what I love about them. Maybe it’s the fluffy eggs or the crumbly sausage or the melted cheese or the fresh, flavorful toppings. Or maybe the magic happens in the combination. It’s the sum of the parts, and of course, there are lots of variations on that theme. Sometimes we have chorizo (Basque or Mexican), or we’ll add some bacon into the mix. Potatoes can take the form of hashbrowns or cubes. We usually use medium Tillamook cheddar cheese, but pepper jack, Monterey jack or something else would work just as well. There’s no right or wrong way to do it as long as it pleases the tastebuds.

Austin Breakfast TacosWe used to call them “breakfast burritos,” but after reading a book called “Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day” by Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece we were quickly converted to “tacos.” The book, written by two self-professed breakfast taco addicts, is a love letter to both tacos and Austin, Texas. It breaks down the anatomy of a breakfast taco and then interviews several different Austin residents on how they were introduced to breakfast tacos and which ones they like the best. The book also highlights several breakfast taco proprietors and some of their recipes. There truly are hundreds of different combinations that can go into a good taco and this book offers some great insight on what makes them such a delectable way to break the fast.

Here’s a step by step guide of some tacos we had the other morning (we made four):

First we browned some sausage on the stovetop and set it aside on a paper towel-lined plate to degrease a bit.


Then we cracked six eggs in a bowl, added some milk, salt and pepper and whisked them together.


We scrambled the eggs, added the sausage back in the pan and sprinkled some sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese on top. Turn off the heat and cover.

Eggs and sausage and cheese

Then we got our toppings ready. We happened to have some fresh cilantro, green onion and a serrano chile on hand.

Fresh stuff

We chopped those up, and added our favorite store bought salsas. Fresh tomatoes and homemade salsa would of course be a big plus here, but hey.


Then we put it all together. Egg, sausage, cheese, cilantro, green onion, serrano and salsa on a flour tortilla that’s been heated in the microwave.

Breakfast taco unwrapped

Then we wrap it up and enjoy.


Good morning, taco.

The up side

Rocks and a creek provide minutes of entertainment.
Rocks and a creek provide hours of entertainment.

So while we just ranted about some of the hardships of rural life in the last post, there are a number of reasons why we choose to live 40 miles from town. In fact, we have more than 5 reasons, so that’s a positive right from the start:

  1. Natural beauty. When we wake up in the morning and take in the view of the desert, the creek, the big sky and miles and miles of greasewood and sagebrush, it truly feels like anything is possible. We understand the meaning of feeling like the world is bigger than you and your daily-grind problems. The natural, sometimes harsh, beauty of the landscape is a constant reminder of a higher power, whatever you believe that might be.
  2. Traffic. There is no traffic or road rage, and while traveling the 20 miles of gravel road to town you are likely to encounter jack rabbits, cows, coyotes, wild horses, a hawk or two and if you’re lucky, a bald eagle.
  3. Space. The wide open spaces are ideal for exploring, and it’s truly a joy to watch our 2.5-year-old wander the land and discover the desert in all its glory. One of our favorite activities is throwing rocks in the creek. We also regularly walk down the half-mile driveway to the gate where he relishes the chance to wave in the unlikely event that any cars or trucks drive by. We’ve seen cows, deer, porcupines and lots of waterfowl. We hoot at the owls up in the tree and dig holes in the dirt. It is the perfect playground in which to absorb all nature has to offer.
  4. Big sky. With no light pollution, the stars fill the night sky. It is such a sight to see. Every night, Li’l E requests a trip or two outside to marvel at the “moo-un and stahs” (moon and stars). Maybe he’s just stalling, trying to postpone bedtime for a few more minutes, but I think it’s something more. Also, sunrises and sunsets. Ridiculously gorgeous.
  5. Neighbors. We have them, but the nearest one is at least a half-mile away. We admit it, we like not living right next door to anyone. However, the neighbors we do have are pretty great, and we know that if we ever need a helping hand they’d be right there to extend one. There’s a sense of kinship when driving down the county road as folks around here give each other a little wave. Also, no one is going to sneak up on you. You can see ’em coming from miles away.
  6. Silence. There is no street noise, no hum of electricity and no squawk from the TV next door. This is home on the range quiet. Little house on the prairie quiet. We fall asleep to the distant sound of coyotes howling and owls hooting.
  7. Family time together. This. This is the primary reason we love living where we do. We pretty much spend the majority of each day together. We are a team. We get to watch our boys grow up in real time. There are chores and tasks that must be done, but we get to do them as a family, and we hope to instill a sense of love and respect for each other in the way we live this rural life.


There are never enough sunset photos.
There are never enough sunset photos.

Trials and tribulations

Rats! Foiled again.
Rats! Foiled again.

You are more resourceful than you think you are.

That’s the one piece of wisdom we’ve centered on in the year since we’ve moved to rural Harney County. Sure, we knew we’d be giving up some conveniences when we left town, but we didn’t realize how much we’d have to rely on our own ingenuity and physical labor. So let’s focus on the unglamorous part of living in a locale so remote people rarely find it on the first try, even with directions. Here’s our top 5 list of things you can’t do in this rural place we call home:

You can’t:

  1. Drive to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk when you run out. Trips to town are planned in advance and come with an extensive to-do list. There will be at least five stops at varying locations, but the gas station, post office and grocery story are permanent stops you will make every time. And lately, so is the Dairy Queen drive-thru.
  2. Go out for Mexican (or Chinese or pizza or input your favorite kind of take out here) at the end of a long week or when you don’t feel like cooking. If you don’t make it, you don’t eat it. There is no corner espresso stand for a quick caffeine jolt in the afternoon. You are your own Starbucks.
  3. Simply hire someone to fix something if it breaks. We found this out the hard way with a backed-up septic system. We had the tank pumped when we moved in, but the problem quickly returned. The only reputable plumber in town had recently had surgery and couldn’t drive. We researched the problem online and dug up the tank and the drainfield ourselves. Willow roots some 30 feet from the nearest tree had totally obstructed the perforated drain pipe. We knew it could be bad but we hadn’t expected to find THAT!  We pinpointed the problem, rented a power auger and blasted the darn tree roots out of the way so that the toilet would quit backing up on us.
  4. Count on the roads to be passable. One afternoon we were going to watch a football game with the in-laws and it had rained so much the day before that the gravel road was muddy enough to stop us in our tracks. After 6 miles of worrying about getting stuck, we turned around and headed back home.
  5. Always rely on your vehicle to start. We have had a terrible time with mice and packrats chewing wires under the hood of our truck. So far they have sampled the wires to the crankshaft position sensor twice (?!) and several spark plug wires. The pests have managed to thwart us three times so far, rendering our truck useless in the driveway. We’ve tried traps and keeping the hood up to discourage them from getting in there, but so far it’s the rodents 3, Browns 0. If anyone has any constructive suggestions for us, we’d love to hear them.

So those are a few of the frustrations we’ve dealt with in the last year. Sometimes after we fix something, instead of patting ourselves on the back, we look around warily and wonder what is going to break next. And I’m sure this is only the tip of the ice berg. We haven’t even had a bad snowstorm yet. Even so the positives clearly still outweigh the negatives for us so far. So as not to dwell on the negative, stay tuned for our top 5 list of things we love about living the rural life.


This is February …

72 degrees in mid-February at the Double O. Unbelievable.
72 degrees in mid-February at the Double O. Unbelievable.

Perhaps it was the angle of the sun on the deck or perhaps our thermometer is haywire, but we have had a stretch of unbelievably nice weather here in Harney County. While we’re basking in the warm rays, we know that if we don’t get some more snow here this winter, it could make things difficult this spring and summer in the form of drought. These warm temps make me daydream about tomatoes fresh from the garden, iced tea and barbecue. However, we aren’t the only ones who appreciate the sunshine. Hello mosquitoes.

"Look Mom, no coat!"
“Look Mom, no coat!”

Undercover birder

Birds mallard

I’ve never considered myself a birder. I mean birders wear funny hats, sport numerous pairs of binoculars, expensive digital cameras with massive lenses and drive Subarus, which they insist on parking haphazardly just off the highway when they’ve spotted a rare bird off in a meadow. At least that would be a description of some of the birders I’ve seen here in Harney County during the migratory bird season.

However, since we’ve moved to the country, I find myself bird watching quite a bit. We live near a creek that attracts many different kinds of water fowl. I inexplicitly find myself looking up unfamiliar birds in books and looking through the binoculars to see if I can identify color patterns and feathers. White egrets look like ghosts gliding through the sky, while the Blue Heron seems more like a prehistoric throwback with its startling call.

This summer we had the pleasure of watching a mama Mallard successfully usher 10 little ones from ducklings to ducks. We’ve had several owl and hawk sightings (some of which have scared L’il E half out of his pants as we were walking along the road).

Four pelicans called the creek home for a while this summer. I had no idea they were so huge. But despite their awkward proportions, they move quite gracefully in the water. Hummingbirds were also frequent visitors this past summer, with as many as 10 buzzing a little feeder we put out.

Birds pelicans

Birds humming

Right now California quail call this area home and grebes have dominated the creek landscape for the last few weeks. L’il E and I were outside at dusk one night when I heard some unfamiliar bird calls getting nearer and nearer. We both looked up just in time to see a group of about 12 swans sail overhead. It was one of those moments that I was certain would not have happened if we lived in town and reminded me that nature can be filled with a wild grace for those who open themselves to seeing it. Maybe I’ll become a birder yet.

Hello there …

Family (2)We are the Browns: DJ, Lauren, Li’l E and Li’l S, and we have recently moved to a little patch of paradise in the middle of the sagebrush to see if we can eek out a living while raising our kids in the rural country that we feel lucky to wake up to each  day. Living miles down a gravel road with the nearest town at least a 40-minute drive away presents some challenges, and we totally admit we are learning as we go. Everything is a little bit wilder and dustier in this rural place, but it certainly has its charm as well. Lauren’s first job out of college was in Astoria, where she watched ships sail the mighty Columbia from her tiny third story apartment and DJ worked at a seafood distributing company. We see quite a few parallels between vintage ships navigating an unpredictable ocean to our life amongst the expansive sea of alkali and greasewood we call home. Back in the day when people were using the Oregon Trail to explore and settle new territory, covered wagons were called prairie schooners. So in the spirit of adventure and discovery we’ve called our blog the Desert Schooner. Take a deep breath with us and experience the high desert. There will be highs and there will be lows. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.