ABOUT TINY T RANCH
How the Tiny T Ranch came to be is a tale of wild serendipity. In spring 2015, I made a plan to fly up to Jersey to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday. It’s rare for me to visit the place I grew up, but this was a very special occasion.
Though I left my hometown shortly after graduating high school, the magic of FaceBook helped me reconnect with long lost friends I’d gone to school with in my youth. When word reached them I was heading their way, my kindergarten crush announced he and some other former classmates would be throwing me a dinner party.
I’d not seen some of the folks who’d showed up for more than thirty years. But my nervousness dissipated instantly upon walking in the door. It was an incredible evening catching up with everyone from my sixth grade teacher to my high school prom date. I also found myself in a conversation with Sean, who’d been one of my cabinet members when I was President of the Student Council of Gateway Regional High School 1981-82.
As we chatted, Sean told me that his daughter was considering transferring to UT Austin. I told him to give me a call when they were heading down, since I love giving grand tours of ATX. Well that’s just what happened. And as I took them around to see my favorite places and meet my favorite people, we got to talking about the crazy Austin real estate market. I told Sean about my then blog, Austin Housing Sucks.
Fast forward a couple of conversations later and Sean, a financial whiz, offered to help me figure out how to hang onto my little house in Cherrywood—the taxes were killing me. It was right around this time a FaceBook acquaintance sent me a link, bringing to my attention a Tiny Chapel for sale in Luling, TX. I was smitten.
I told Sean I might just sell my house, buy the chapel, and find a piece of land for it. Fast forward some more and before you know it, Sean and I joined forces and found this amazing piece of land in Garfield. To say the ranch has a checkered past is a pleasant understatement. Rumor has it that this place could have, at one point, given Breaking Bad a run for the money.
We closed on it in late October 2015. I sold my house. And Sean and I joined forces to oversee a massive renovation. The inside of the ranch house has been totally remodeled. The barn— which really was a five-car garage, but did for awhile serve as shelter for a poor, skinny one-eyed horse that wandered around alone out here for who knows how long before a neighbor took him in—is now the Molly Ivins’ Pavilion, named in honor of my beloved friend and mentor, who taught me so much before her untimely death in 2007.
The Tiny Chapel arrived in the spring of 2016, after much negotiation, a decision not to purchase after all, and then another decision to go for it. I wish you could’ve seen them haul that thing down the road and onto the property. I do believe I squealed.
In addition to renting out the ranch for weddings, memorial services, concerts, weekend getaways, and other sundry events, the Tiny T Ranch also exists to serve others. Every month we host a dinner for bereft parents to gather and share their stories with one another over dinner. We host potluck salons open to all in the name of forging community. And as we grow we’ll keep adding to the list of good deeds we do.
In late 2016 Bob, a retired Indiana farmer, moved to the ranch to be closer to his daughter, my friend Ellen, who lives in Austin. Bob has brought so much joy, mowed so many acres, and bonded with the ragtag members of our rescue animal menagerie. You can read all about the love story of Bob and me in this wonderful essay Ellen wrote for Texas Co-Op Power Magazine.
Every morning I wake up and I wander through this place and my mind is blown anew. I am the living, breathing illustration of that old saying, Not in My Wildest Dreams. The ranch affords me opportunities to live a life that speaks to all of my passions—marrying folks, offering comfort and shelter and food, fostering great conversation, hosting music events, and overseeing memorials to honor those who have passed. I’m am so incredibly fortunate. I sure hope you’ll come out and visit me.