Just outside of Austin, a residency on the range offers writers unfettered time to create, and draw inspiration from the ruggedly beautiful landscape.
I arrived at Madroño Ranch with a package of index cards, a bag of coffee, a jug of wine, and thirteen cans of soup. From these ingredients I hoped to construct a novel.
It was fall in Texas, hot and dry, and I’d also tossed a swimsuit and sneakers into my car with the thought that maybe I’d start jogging again, and swim afterward. (I planned to be in pajamas for the rest of my hours.) As a mom of three wonderful and mischievous children, I was tired. When I drove off the paved road into the ranch, I rolled down my car window and inhaled, smelling sage.
I had heard about Madroño Ranch, which is owned by Austinites Martin and Heather Kohout, from my friend Juli Berwald, a biologist and science writer. Juli wrote the first chapter of her book about jellyfish, Spineless, at Madroño. She remembers, “While I was at Madroño, the swifts were nesting in the eaves of the Lake House. Early in the morning the babies would start chirping for food…they were my alarm clock.”
Madroño Ranch is rugged and lovely, comprising 1,500 acres and located on Wallace Creek a few miles north of Medina. The property includes a lake of about 25 acres and numerous other streams and draws; steep, rocky terrain; and grassy, rolling hills. It’s home to a number of plant and animal species, including bison and chickens; the madrone trees (madroño in Spanish) for which the ranch is named; feral hogs; raccoons; whitetail, sika, and axis deer; bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, and perch; bald eagles; wild turkeys; and many more, according to the ranch’s website.