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Posts in category Lucerne Valley

Small Towns with Big Hearts

Rural Towns Grow Big Hearts

I love small towns.

In small towns, families tend to stay in one place and raise generations. Extended families and extended friendships can grow. Interaction and traditions become second-nature. I love it when the trends of today become the traditions for decades and beyond.

Where else can you drive through a small town and wave to a handful of regulars you recognize and appreciate every day.

Burger Depot

The First Business you see entering Lucerne Valley

You can also see the same store owners and clerks managing the storefront business with the bonus feature of actually knowing you when they say, “Is there anything I can help you with?”

In the small community of Lucerne Valley, we have the basic needs covered. You’ll find schools, plenty of churches, two shopping centers, a bank, thrift stores, barber, salon, and fire department and sheriff sub-station. We have an active library, senior center, chamber of commerce, local weekly newspaper, museum, and two parks.

Just one of everything.

Small towns know how to play nice together. Even though we can support many restaurants, each one offers a specialty: from Chinese to Mexican to American cuisine to fast food, pizza, and deli … even a doughnut shop arriving soon. Very little overlap in menus makes this an accommodating community.

And where else can you go to Burger Depot, our one drive-thru, and get personal service? While I was making my order last week the voice on the intercom asked, “Is this order for your daughter, too?” The owner, Laura Mount, recognized my voice.

Railroad themed drive thru

Inside Depot Burger you are surrounded by railroad and train photos and clocks that toot and whistle

I answered, “Yes, it is. The first burger’s for me; the second for her.”

“Well, she doesn’t like anything but ketchup, lettuce, and cheese on her burgers.”

“Really? I didn’t remember that.”

“Do you want me to change it for her?”

“Yep. You know best.”

When I continued driving up to the window to pay, I smiled at the owner and commented, “This town is so small that you know nearly everyone’s’ choices. How do you do it?”

“They’re regulars. It’s easy.”


And there ya go. Small town living has its perks. With or without pickles.

You can enjoy yummy burgers, burritos, shakes, and sodas plus much more.

Phone (760) 248-6576 · Burger Depot has been in this one locale for over 35 years at 31337 State Highway 18 (near Custer Road intersection.) Monday thru Friday only 10am – 6pm.

Rusty LaGrange

now with three generations living and thriving in Lucerne Valley, CA

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Cadillac Antiques Calling Lucerne Valley it’s High Desert Home

Small towns, like Lucerne Valley, can seem to move at their own pace — too slow for the younger generation, too fast for those entering their retirement years. Then there’s the working folk who want a slower pace.

Stylish Glass and Vases

Stylish Glass and Vases

Meet Patty Muldoon of Cadillac Antiques. She’s slowly moving up to the High Desert one weekend at a time. The new shop, open just a year ago come July, is a long-term investment for two couples. Patty and her husband, Ralph, are co-partner/owners with good friends Charlene and Dave Guertin.

“The High Desert offers so much of what we want: less noise, wide open spaces, blue skies, and at night you can see the stars,” says Patty.

When they made the choice to find the perfect place for an antiques shop in 2014, they all fell in love with the two-story Pueblo Building in Lucerne Valley. The building was once owned by Tom and Arla Daugherty and their daughter, Karen. Over the years, ill health took both Tom then Arla. Karen owned another business out-of-state so she began placing the large Pueblo-styled shop on the market.


A Few Dolls & Crafted Toys

A Few Dolls & Crafted Toys

The Muldoons and Guertins  made the move and the commitment to see their business grow, while the Muldoons are gradually moving to the less stressful lifestyle of the desert.

“We made some remodeling changes that exposed the wood rafter ceilings, then we painted and changed a few more things. I was a bit nervous when the current owner came by to check on us,” said Patty. “But Karen was pleased with the facelift, too. And I think her mother would have loved it.”

Men with find Car-lectibles and repurposed auto parts

Men with find Car-lectibles and repurposed auto parts

Settling into the new community has been much easier than they thought. Patty reports that so many people like to just come in and browse, talk to us like we’ve been here a long time.”

With the ideas of expansion, Patty explained that they’d like to add a “Cruising Cars & Coffee” event maybe once a month, and eventually a café next door. “In a small town people need something to do,” said Patty.

Snowy Curio Family

Snowy Curio Family

It’s the antiques and collectibles that draw new customers. You can stroll through a selection of mid-century art and icons, repurposed car art what Dave and Ralph call their ‘car-lectibles”, dolls, jewelry, paintings, kitchen gadgets and cut glass — all lovingly displayed in curio cabinets, and bookcases. Some items are on consignment, or offered through quality vendors, but most items are managed by the owners.

Two Young Girls

Two Young Girls

This past Saturday Patty hosted a bloggers brunch and shopping event with members of She provided breakfast croissants, fruit, pastries, and coffee. Bloggers will be posting here about their experience visiting with Patty and shopping among the vintage and antique items.

Meet Patty Muldoon

Meet Patty Muldoon

“Maybe it’s the small town attitude, the easy pace, that let’s us know that Cadillac Antiques is home. So we’ve decided to purchase the building in July.”


Cadillac Antiques, in Lucerne Valley’s historic Pueblo Building, is at 32090 State Hwy 18. They can be reached at (760) 248-2829. The store is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 am-5 pm; Sunday 11am-5pm; and closed Mondays.

The Pueblo Building now Cadillac Antiques store

The Pueblo Building now Cadillac Antiques store

Rusty LaGrange

Strangest Stray Visited the Rusty Bucket Ranch

It was a dark and stormy morning… No, Really! And my dogs howled and barked and carried on so loudly that at 5:15 it seemed like the end of the world would happen any second. Something prowled outside the fence, and it was frightening my dogs. I wandered to the dark kitchen, watching the rain beat against the window. It couldn’t be coyotes. Even they didn’t like hunting in the rain at 5 a.m.

Not a Bunny-In-The-Yard Bark

As I got a better idea what was happening, the dogs continued their constant barking. This was not their typical “bunny-in-the-yard” bark. They sounded scared and defensive. I peered through the kitchen window and a large, white body glistened in the half hazy dawn. I stared at it for a long moment until my eyes focused on two beady eyes.

I even backed away. Then a huge pink snout poked through the cat door in the wall next to me. That was a clincher — I realized an escapee had come to The Rusty Bucket Ranch. It wasn’t my hog; I don’t own one. So I called my next door neighbor, apologized for calling so early, and  asked if they knew anyone raising a hog. Yes! His son down the road was fattening up a white Duroc. Aha! Mystery solved.

How Do You Get  a Hog to Follow You? white Duroc Hog_11222013

First, you get dressed warmly because the early morning rain was nearly sleet and driving hard from the north. I bundled up, grabbed a few handfuls of dog cereal and tossed them into a metal bowl. Any pig worth his weight would come running to a promise of food in a rattle-rattle bowl. I was right. On the first rattle, the 100+ pound hog was at my front door snuffling and waiting for food.

He seemed nice enough. He followed me out across the yard and back to the empty horse corrals. I knew these old pens would come in handy again. “Piggy” followed me like dog. By the time I reached the corral gate, the owner and his daughter arrived with their own rattle-rattle bowl. I told them the hog would be safe until daylight. They promised to be back soon. They also promised a BBQ pork sandwich when the time came.

Once the storm dissipated, they returned in their pickup truck to escort the escapee back to his own pen. “Miss Pinky” followed faithfully the promise of food, and I watched from my window as a little girl, bundled up and sitting on the tailgate, rattled her bowl all the way home. Not quite the nursery rhyme… but you get the idea.

I perked some coffee and sat bundled up in my recliner letting the steam warm up my still chilly nose. The storm continued as the sun rose higher but, it came to me that so many strays arrive at the ranch … and I’m warmly encouraged and greatly entertained to know I have “the beacon” flashing above my roof. All strays are welcome here.

Rusty LaGrange


Uh Oh, Three Shrikes and You’re Out!

We often have nests in our Mulberry tree in early summer. Just this weekend,  a pair of Shrikes took up housekeeping and were raising a noisy brood of three. A baby bird’s life is spent sleeping and opening its mouth for food. Parents diligently relay back and forth to feed these little bottomless chirping fuzz balls. Fortunately, they grow fast and within 17-20 days, they have enough flight feathers to leave home.

The fledglings began testing their wings. All was well until a gopher snake got a late night craving for the nestlings. You may not be aware that some snakes can and do climb trees to find delicacies. This was not the first time I’d seen a gopher snake climb a tree … the same tree, in fact.


This gopher snake was determined to go after the fledglings. I moved him with my snake stick. A few hours later, the snake was prowling around the tree again.

These nestlings were living on borrowed time. The next morning a whirlwind hit the backyard and I happened to see two of the baby Shrikes on the ground. I rescued them, placing them on a towel in the bathtub. Cute little guys but I didn’t have any bird “food” to keep them quiet.


I was determined to keep them safe. I thought that if I could bring the nest to them, I may have a nice cozy environment for them. I went back to check the nest and Mama Shrike was bouncing from branch to branch scolding me about the loss of her babies. While staring up at her, I noticed another fledgling. This one was caught on a piece of stringy fiber in the nest. I had to cut him loose to rescue him.  He was weak and didn’t look strong enough to survive the day.


I got on the Internet to look for some help. Bird rescue groups flourish throughout the state of California. I chose a few numbers to call and reached a bird rescue group in Calimesa. I just needed advice. And she was helpful. She supported the idea to replace the fledglings back into their nest. When my husband returned home from work, we were able to place  the babies back into their nest. But, as birds often do, they kept flopping out and landing hard on the ground.

three shrikes and you're out_06072013

By next morning, after my drive to town for a few groceries, my dogs had caught the snake at the base of the Mulberry again. I scooted the dogs back into the house for round two with the gopher snake. I moved him away with my snake stick. In a few hours, the result of our rescue attempt was a failure for two of the birds. My husband found that the one remaining baby bird seemed to have left the yard.

We’re hopeful that he was the strongest of his siblings. Mama Shrike watched our coming and going for the rest of the day. She still thinks we are holding them for ransom.


another angry bird

In nature, without our interference, bird fledglings are subjected to hunters from the air and the ground, weather, falling from the nest, lack of food if the parents don’t return, and disease. I can only hope that our feeble attempts were enough for one Shrike to grow up and stay on the ranch.


Rusty LaGrange

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My Day At the Sustainable Learning Center by Guest Blogger Laura M. Sands

Neville and Tammy Slade's Environmentally Friendly Home

A Hand-Built Sustainable Home

Many thanks to Neville and Tammy Slade for allowing me to tour the environmentally-friendly home they are building just east of Apple Valley. Having only read about, seen photos of or viewed YouTube footage of sustainable housing projects, I was thrilled to be able to experience one in person…and in my own backyard, no less! A special shout out to all of Mr. Slade’s Sustainable Practice students from Victor Valley College– who the tour was actually arranged for and I was merely a grateful tag-along.

What I witnessed during my time on the sprawling 7.5 acre property was nothing short of inspiring. From the natural beauty which surrounds the home to its mostly hand-built construction, it is an astonishing display of what we can all accomplish with barely any disturbance of the environment at all.

I’d Call First, If I Were You

The Slade’s home is nestled only slightly beneath one of many hills which embrace the land surrounding Highway 18 en route to Lucerne Valley. Anyone hoping to find this masterpiece on their own, however, is advised to wait for an invitation and a detailed set of directions first. Save a few handwritten posts, there are zero street signs or even paved roads to guide a would-be visitor. Folks, when I tell you that this home blends into the landscape, I’m being nearly literal as there is very little else that surrounds it.

Simple, Smart, Stewardship

As longtime environmentalists, the Slade’s live by a three-fold creed that is summed up as ‘simple, smart, stewardship’. The home absolutely reflects this, as well. Simple in structure, smart in materials used and architecture, and good stewardship in making use of what is naturally at hand. In fact, Mr. Slade defined the latter as one who is a ‘good manager’ and who, “uses the resources given and expanding their use as opposed to tearing it all down”. This is evident in the vintage Airstream RV that has been repurposed to support an outdoor kitchen (where we enjoyed the plentiful sunshine during our lunchtime visit), the old cast iron sink that was installed in the home’s interior kitchen and the recycled indoor cabinetry no longer used by Habitat For Humanity.

Other highlights of this well-planned, environmentally conscious two-bedroom home include:



  • Metal roofing, which is 60% recycled

  • Windows made of recycled glass

  • Flooring made from natural materials

Large straw bales used to make the home’s walls are stacked in brick-like formation and are temporarily held together by nails and rebar. While straw walls are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and easy to build with, Mr. Slade shared that bare straw walls don’t stand up too well against water. Completed walls, however, are covered with sand and polyurethane, which effectively guard the home against water.

For those of you who are as in the dark as I was about straw bale construction, here are a few facts that may interest you:

Walls made of straw bale…

  • Are proven to stand up well against earthquakes and fire

  • Provide excellent insulation

  • Are celebrated as green building materials

More information on using straw bale to construct walls can be found on Neville and Tammy Slade’s Sustainable Learning Center Blog and in California’s Health and Safety Code, Section 18944.40-18944.41.

Sustainable Living

The home has its own well, which is pumped to an uphill storage facility and provides a downhill run of generated water only when needed. Very little is wasted here as grey water is used to for plant irrigation and will eventually also be used to irrigate future vegetable gardens and fruit trees. The Slades are also planning a living roof (garden) atop the repurposed container featured below, which provides an additional structure detached from the home and currently overlooks the community garden being regularly tended to by students of nearby Apple Valley Christian School.

Recycled Container Put to Good Use

Everything Becomes New Again

And speaking of no waste, the Slade’s not only use waterless composting toilets, but the couple also have an area for composting non-meat organics. In fact, instead of filling trash barrels after our lunch, leftovers were dumped and buried in the composting center, which is made from the manure of the sheep that the couple tends to at their temporary residence.

Garden Composting

Simple Composting

A Cool Place

When the Slade’s finally do move into their home, there is no doubt as to the comfort they will enjoy. Having put much thought into the house’s construction, it has been built in ways that optimize the natural resources around it while enhancing the home’s comfort and appeal. Eventually, it will rely only on solar energy for heat and for much of its electricity, and it is built in such a way as to deflect the hot desert sun, which would normally overheat a home in the desert via its southern and western walls. Since it is a desert residence and hot sun is a hallmark of this area, additional cooling may be needed, which is why the Slade’s plan on installing an energy-efficient system that will be programmed to only run during periods of sunlight and will automatically disable as soon as the sun sets.

A Place to Retreat

As much as I enjoyed learning about all that the Slade’s home had to offer in terms of energy-efficiency and resourceful planning– and I mean no disrespect to the hard work invested in bringing this hand-built home to life– I do want to go on record with saying that its most striking feature is the surrounding acreage. The fragrant creosote and sage bushes that ramble throughout the property alongside noble, statuesque Joshua trees, and a vast array of colorful cacti and wild desert flowers are, without a doubt, a large part of why the Slade’s chose this particularly remote area of the high desert to call home. With natural fauna that includes owls, roadrunners, bobcats, jack rabbits and (ever-adorable) kangaroo rats, one begins to feel an overpowering sense of serenity and awe after just a few minutes outdoors.

Lots of flora, fauna and unique insects at the Sustainable Living Center

A Yucca Moth busy pollinating the area

High Desert Pioneers

Having grown up on a farm in South Africa, Neville Slade appears solidly connected to the beauty surrounding his Mojave kingdom; and with a deep respect for the environment, he is a dedicated advocate of disturbing as little of it as possible. During the tour, I overheard one of Slade’s students quietly expressing her admiration for Tammy Slade, a remarkable woman eager to embrace her husband’s minimalist ideals. As she so effortlessly served our lunch in the outdoor kitchen equipped with fresh well water and makeshift countertops, her joy, peace and contentment were clearly evident. As high desert residents with the same resources within our collective reach, we could all stand to learn quite a bit from these modern pioneers in our midst.

Community sustainable living leaders

Owners, Neville and Tammy Slade, Built the Sustainable Learning Center by Hand

See For Yourself!

For more information about Neville and Tammy Slade’s Sustainable Learning Center or to donate time, items or materials to the site, please visit their blog at Be sure to also check out Neville Slade’s YouTube videos to watch the home’s progress on the Neville Slade channel.

Professor Neville Slade, the man behind the high desert's Sustainable Living Center

Neville Slade enjoying the cool shade of his porch overlooking Lucerne Valley


More Photos:

A well at the Sustainable Living Center in the high desert

That little structure in the distance is the property’s 400-foot well


Water storage location for sustainable living needs

Well water is pumped uphill and stored in a special shed. When needed, its downhill flow provides adequate water pressure for the property's needs.

Recycled and reused kitchen cabinets
Discarded kitchen cabinets donated to the Sustainable Learning Center courtesy of Habitat For Humanity
A recycled cast iron sink lives again at the Sustainable Learning Center
Recycled glass windows
Recycled glass windows are present throughout this environmentally-friendly home
Straw bale walls at various stages of the building process:
Walls made of straw
Densely stacked, these straw bale walls are surprisingly hard and sturdy!
Side view of a wall in-progress at the Sustainable Learning Center
A completed outdoor wall covered in polyurethane
Recycled Metal Roofing at the Sustainable Learning Center in the High Desert
The outdoor kitchen is where Professor Neville Slade and his wife, Tammy, prepare meals until the home’s interior kitchen is completed.
Community garden and composting area for students of Apple Valley Christian School

A view from the patio extending across the front of the home (and Neville Slade’s fortunate view from the porch swing in the photo above)

Spend Some Time at Your High Desert Museums


 Our town enjoyed great weather and a number of events this last  weekend. From Motorcyle clubs raising funds for our local FFA students to Garden Club Plant Sales and a two-day Powwow, Lucerne Valley had everything going.

So my daughter, Chelsea, and I opened the Lucerne Valley Museum. We took advantage of the increased number of visitors in town to share our town’s outdoor collection. We counted 30 on Saturday and 19 on Sunday. Not bad for a venue of mining and agricultural equipment.

You see, we don’t have an indoor museum like most towns… we just haven’t been able to afford it. But whenever we can, we dust off the counters, sweep out the spider webs, and share our valley’s rich heritage with anyone passing by.

The Muller Family view displays from the porch

Some indoor displays with Chelsea LaGrange

We’ll be opening the Museum on a regular bases, once the weather cools off. Our tentative schedule may be the last Sunday of every month… if weather permits. We’ll post the hours here later. Entrance is free and families or groups may make  appointments to see the Museum by calling CSA 29 office 760-248-6048 or


Young Lucerne Valley Artists Win Museum Contest


Chelsea LaGrange, Rylee Giles (on lap) craft paper fans with Darlene Ralson at Museum Open House

Crafts & Games Draw Visitors to Museum’s Open House

Young Art Winners

Elementary school students, Mia Feucht won First Place and Kristen Cummings won runner-up in a Lucerne Valley art contest sponsored by Lucerne Valley Museum Association.

Recently, 47 artists’ entries were received for the First Annual Art Contest celebrating “National May Is Museum Month — Support Your Local Museum.” Artists from LV Elementary School’s third, fourth, and fifth grade classes, were encouraged to draw “Icons of the West.”

“On behalf of the LV Museum Association’s Board of Directors, congratulations go to Mia Feucht, age 8, from Mrs. Byrd’s third grade class,” announced Barbara LaGrange, president of the board. “She wins $25 cash and a one-year family membership, valued at $20 to LV Museum Association. The runner up is Kristen Cummings, age 11, from Mr. Deisler’s fifth grade class. She and her family receive a one-year family membership, valued at $20 to LV Museum Association.”

Lucerne Valley is 15 miles east of Apple Valley in the High Desert of southern California. Summer hours for the Outdoor Museum is by appointment only. Call Rusty at 760-248-6777 or CSA 29 office 760-248-7048.


photo credits: Rusty LaGrange


Rusty LaGrange

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