Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
Every week, I get a much-anticipated text message from my friend Jill Miller, my own personal egg lady. “I’m coming to town tomorrow… do you need any eggs?”
She lives on the C.E. Miller Ranch in Valentine, about an hour from Fort Davis, and lets me know when she’s headed to town and bringing her beautiful brown eggs… I usually buy between two and four dozen, depending on what I’ve been cooking.
My egg lady Jill, with one dozen of her brown eggs…
I’ve known Jill for several years now. We met through the Big Bend Photography Club (she’s a professional photographer as well as a rancher). She’s been raising chickens for about five years, out on the Miller Ranch, where their water supply comes from springs in the Sierra Vieja Mountains. The spring’s natural power is breathtaking to behold in person.
The Miller Ranch is an amazing piece of the earth, and I feel fortunate to have been out there and explored the ranch’s very own fort – Camp Holland – which was, according to the historical marker, where, on, “June 12, 1880, the Apaches made their last stand in Presidio County when four Pueblo Indian scouts of General Benj. H. Grierson, USA, fought and defeated 20 Apache warriors.” It’s steeped in history.
I don’t always take selfies when I’m alone in a spectacular place with my camera… wait, YES, I DO… took lots of selfie-timered pics on this particular day at Camp Holland at the Miller Ranch. I got home with 480 photos of the day. WOW.
According to the Miller Ranch website, “Established in 1925, the C.E. Miller Ranch is nestled at the base of the Sierra Vieja Mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert. Located in Jeff Davis and Presidio counties, it is comprised of grassland and oak and juniper woodlands with madrones and colorful bigtooth maples. The nearest town, Valentine, Texas, is 11 miles east, or about a 30-minute drive along a lonely dirt road. The C.E. Miller Ranch headquarters sits at an elevation of 4,400 feet and the mountains rise to 5,800 feet in elevation.
In good years, the ranch can support 500 Angus mother cows. During the most recent drought years, the Millers have sold many of the cattle to maintain the land’s productivity.
ZH Canyon, located behind the C.E. Miller Ranch headquarters, boasts a spring that supplies drinking water throughout the year for people, livestock and wildlife on the south end of the ranch. A young cowboy named Tom Moore stated that when he worked for Mr. Finley in 1900, the pipeline which still “snakes” through the canyon and carries water down to the headquarters, was already there. This spring was the reason the army built Camp Holland in ZH Canyon 1918 in response to Mexican bandit raids.”
Pictured below, Jill led some of us to the springs…
That’s the spring that supplies the entire ranch with water. It’s quite a hike to get to it… and like an oasis, it’s tucked away in a lush green grove of trees. It’s fantastic!
When Jill retired from teaching in Van Horn, she and her husband Bill began living full-time on the ranch. Bill grew up on the Miller Ranch, and they moved back to his family homestead in the early 2000s. She keeps about 60 hens, and one beautiful rooster named, “Mr. Fancy Pants.” Her chickens are free range, and although they do have a pen to sleep in at night, many of them choose to roost in the trees above the pen. Mr. Fancy Pants is one happy fella, no doubt.
Jill sells her eggs at the Marfa Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. If you go to the market, be sure and take cash. If you can’t catch her there and want to buy her eggs, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Miller Ranch, visit their website at cemillerranch.com
Huevos con Tortilla Fritas
(I make this every Saturday morning, sometimes on Sundays, too. Some people call it “migas” and some call it “chilaquiles”, but there’s a big argument over which is correct. So, to keep it simple, it’s “Eggs with Fried Tortillas” and it’s delicious.)
6 corn tortillas, cut in small pieces (I usually cut them into nickel-sized pieces)
6 large eggs, beaten
1-1/8 tablespoons milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, and brown the corn tortilla pieces until slightly crispy. Lower the heat. Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour egg mixture into skillet with tortillas and cook over low heat until eggs are cooked, turning often to ensure even cooking. Serve with salsa, or sprinkle shredded cheese on top. This is one reason I order so many eggs from Jill.