By Jennifer Latzke

Most visitors to the Aubrey, TX, area come for a single purpose--horses.

After all, the area is known throughout the nation as a Mecca for horse farms.

Here, visitors can find breeds ranging from Arabians to Thoroughbreds and nearly everything between. So, it is only natural to find several unique amenities in the area specializing in horses.

Nestled off the backroads surrounding Aubrey, is a cozy, two-story, yellow pine log cabin known to neighbors as Bison Hollow Bed, Breakfast and Barn. This unique bed and breakfast provides stalling facilities for horses traveling with their human companions.

The idea began forming 16 years ago, when Chuck and Jean Burch built the cabin as a family home, raising their three children--Ed, Eric and Elisa--there. When Burch retired in 1998 after more than 30 years in the U.S. Postal Service, he and Jean decided to open up their family home as a bed and breakfast.

"We like to meet new people and enjoy hosting people as guests in our home," Jean says. "We feel we are small enough to enjoy the business, but still be a wonderful retreat for guests."

While still in the planning stages, the couple discussed their plans with an equine veterinarian friend and he suggested including stalls and runs for horses. So, with the help of their veterinarian friend and a tremendous amount of research on the needs of horses, they built a barn on the property.

The facilities include three runs that are 60 feet long with 12 feet by 12 feet overhangs. The enclosure is made of pipe and sucker rod for added safety, and is built on sandy soil for good drainage. Because most folks traveling with their horses bring their own feed, the Burches do not provide feed, unless prior arrangements are made. A negative Coggins test is required for horses from out-of-state, to reduce chances of spreading diseases.

"We have a couple of Bureau of Land Management mustangs that are family horses," Burch says. "However, we keep our livestock entirely separate from the guest horse stalls." In addition to their horses, they also have a menagerie of pets that includes goats, a donkey, chickens, cats and dogs. The animals only are allowed in the couple's private areas away from the guest stalls.

When building their cabin, the Burches researched how to make it more energy efficient.

"We have been long-time subscribers to The Mother Earth News and at one time it featured a log cabin that was entirely self-sufficient," Jean says. "We tried to accomplish the same thing here, but we aren't entirely self-sufficient." The cabin is run entirely on electricity, which the Burches say has cut their energy bills in half from what they were spending living in the city and using natural gas energy. A wood-burning fireplace heats the home in the winter, and the decorative cement floors on the first floor keep it cool in the summer months. Area rugs and the natural insulation of the yellow pine logs keep the home cool or warm depending on the season. The home came as a kit and the Burches tailored it to fit their needs by adding interior walls. The downstairs living room offers a cozy seating area in front of the fireplace, as well as a breakfast nook for a more private dining experience.

Guests are treated to a farm fresh country breakfast in the morning, prepared by Burch in the cabin's open kitchen and dining room area. He is required by law to follow Texas State guidelines for food handling and preparation and keeps his certification current.

"I love to cook," he says. "With a mom and four sisters, growing up you learned if you wanted something to eat, you should learn to prepare it for yourself." Guests can sit and enjoy a morning cup of coffee while Jean and Chuck banter about the kitchen.

Upstairs, what once was the boys' living area has been turned into a guest sitting room, with a television, VCR and a library of videos for viewing.

The two guest bedrooms are upstairs as well. The "Elisa Room" is named after the couple's daughter, and features a white queen wrought iron bed with white, black and red decor throughout the room. The "High-post Room" offers a queen, maple, high-post bed, as well as an iron day bed and trundle, and an antique armoire. Because of the homey atmosphere of a bed and breakfast, guests share the private upstairs bathroom, which has a Texas western decor.

Even though the property is called Bison Hollow, the only buffalo found on the property will be found in the home decor. Burch's nickname in the Postal Service was "Buffalo" and, because of that, he has gathered a collection of buffalo knickknacks which are displayed throughout the home and on the property.

Guests can enjoy the seclusion more than 16 acres of wood offers, as well as close proximity to equestrian trails. The bed and breakfast can be reached by a winding driveway that crosses an antique iron bridge, which was brought in by the Burches.

"The bridge is listed with the historical society," Jean says. "We had it shipped in from Grayson County." The couple purchased the bridge from a house mover, who had bought several one-lane bridges from counties that were replacing them on county-maintained roads. The mover installed the 62-foot bridge, replanked it and added a gate for security.

As for future additions to their property, Chuck and Jean would like to build a small cabin in the surrounding woods for their family, as well as enclose their back porch.

"It is tough to mix business and family," Jean says. "But the benefits far outweigh the time spent." Other future possibilities include hosting weddings on the property, in the open air chapel in the woods, as well as hosting more small luncheons and catering.

The couple has hosted guests ranging from newlywed couples on their honeymoons to visiting professors, and even one visitor from South Africa. They do request guests give them advanced notice if they will be bringing children, because of the need for added supervision around the home and property.

The surrounding area gives visitors plenty of options for activities. Aubrey is within close proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There are equestrian trails and show arenas that attract guests and their horses, as well as shopping and fine dining.

The Burches are members of the Denton Area Bed and Breakfast Association, and the Denton Area Tourism Association, and work with both to promote the industry. And they can be found on the Internet, at www.bisonhollow@earthlink.net, for travelers to the Aubrey area.

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