Rock Hounding

We recently purchased our first travel trailer. I am not exactly sure how it happened. If you ask me, I will tell you that I just woke up one morning and decided that we needed one. I am sure it was more complicated than that, but I know that from the time the idea struck me until we were backing it into our driveway only about two weeks had passed.  I have a congenital condition that makes is impossible to sleep on the ground any more and perhaps I was just really missing camping. What ever it was, we are now the proud owners of a Jayco, Baja Edition trailer.Travel Trailer

The Baja Edition just means that it has extra clearance and truck tires; perfect for going off road. Maybe the idea started when my father sent us back to Oregon last year with boxes of mineral specimens that he and my mother had collected over the years. She is a geologist and he is a geophysicist, so I grew up with a deep curiosity surrounding all things “rock”. My husband introduced me to Oregon Sunstone a few years ago and we had always wanted to go and find some ourselves but hotel rooms are scarce in the middle of BLM land.

I am positive that my parents involvement with rocks is what has spurred my desire to make jewelry. Many moons ago, I was sure I would grow up to be a gemologist but life does not always dish out what you want. We had already done a day trip collecting Thunder Eggs which, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are volcanic burps that harden before they hit the ground and thus are very round. Over time, the centers turn to various forms of quartz. Geodes are relatively well known as are picture agate, but the ones we have here are mostly iron infused jasper. That is another story.

Our first trip with the trailer was to Glass Butte, Oregon where we picked up a tidy collection of obsidian. That is also another story as I have not managed to sort through those rocks yet.

So, I will show you pictures of our second trailer trip and third rock collecting excursion. This trip we went to Congleton Hollow.

Congleton Hollow

We chose this camp site because we could watch both the sunrise and the sunset. The goal of this trip was to find limb casts. Limb casts are not the same as petrified wood. They are formed when a volcano erupts sending hot ash into the air. This ash lands on the trees and quickly hardens into a cement like substance. Because it is hot, it also sets the tree on fire burning it away. What is left, is a hole in the shape of a tree. Over millennia, mineral laden water percolates through the castings, leaving behind, well, minerals which fill the castings. Then, over MORE time, the freezing and thawing of the ground, pushes these limb casts towards the surface where folks like us can wander around and, with hope, find them.

At first, we had NO idea what to look for, so we wandered around rather aimlessly, but then they started to reveal themselves and our eyes adjusted to focus better on our goal.

Limb Casts

So here they are. Most are agate, all are some form of quartz. I have yet to wash them and see how pretty they really are. The green is from copper, which you see everywhere there.

Now I need to turn one into a necklace.

First Painting in 20 Years DAY ONE

It has been a very long time since I last sat down and put my mind to starting a painting. In truth, I have always thought of myself as a painter, even though my degree focus was in illustration. I had only discovered painting in my senior year of college and did not have enough credit hours under my belt to be able to use that medium in my final project. I knew right away, however, that I was hooked….

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When we moved into our house in central Oregon, this was the view from the dining room window. One of my first thoughts was of how much I would like to make a painting of this tree. Aspen trees are one of my husband’s favorites. This tree, like all Aspens, captures the seasons so clearly and this autumn was no exception.

Aspen tree layout

At first, I tried to draw directly from the subject, but the constant back and forth, as well as the light to dark was giving me quite a headache. I have never been much for drawing out my subject anyway. There is something about drawing on a vertical surface that has always been a challenge for me. I used to get in trouble in college for insisting on moving my pad of paper, no matter how large, from the easel onto my lap.

Aspen tree image 1

So, instead, I took a photo with my phone and used it as my primary reference. This was also helpful because the sun was moving in and out of the clouds all day making the lighting different every time I looked up.

With a dirty brush and a limited palate, I scratched the primary shapes and color fields onto the canvas and called it an end of day one.

Painting takes a CRAZY amount of concentration and a steady hand. These are two things that I no longer have, so I imagine this project will take some time to complete!

The Spice of Life

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I am a little bit all over the place these days. Dabbling in Jewelry, collecting rocks to tumble, hiking the back woods for animal bones and some times just sitting down with a pencil and paper and seeing if I still have, “it”.

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My daughter recently rekindled my desire to play with polymer clay. My neighbor is requesting help making Christmas presents for the very poorest in our community and I just can’t seem to put my Ryobi away. There is always SOMETHING new to carve into or sand off.

Now, if only I could keep up with the housework……

I will post more soon.

My New Website

It has been a while, I have missed you……

I started this blog back in October, hoping to revamp my Etsy store and spend some time chatting about it, and life in general. Well, I have given up on Etsy now. On top of the already discussed issues of allowing mass producers of crafts to sell on the site, now they are letting mass producers of supplies….I have been choked out and I quit.

My new site is all mine. I can sell what I want, how I want. If you would like to visit me it is GilliancBruce.com. I will blog there about my creations as well and use this site to talk more about life and my restoration work at my house in Central Oregon.

I have not been doing any work on the house in La Pine as of late. We have mapped out where my studio will go and have spent a lot of these rainy looking for old wood stoves and firewood trucks.

Once the Aspen leaves start sprouting, I intend to use them as molds for my silver metal clay. I can’t wait!!!! In the mean time, I am slowly packing up our house here in Beaverton, getting rid of a lot and trying not to get lost in memories.Image

Once Upon a House – New Roof!

Sorry I have been absent for so long. Tis’ the time of year for illness, holiday panic and, if you live in western Oregon, rain.

As for the house in La Pine, this story could go one of two ways. I could bore you, or anger you, or make you feel empathy by ranting on and on about the process of buying a house in a short sale….but I think it would be best to leave that to an entirely different thread. Trust me, it was a NIGHTMARE. The end result was that we got the house and I was put on blood pressure medication, but there were no homicides on my behalf, which is always a good thing.

In order to get the house, we had 2 weeks from closing to put a new roof on it or we would lose our financing. We found an excellent roofer (after finding a complete charlatan who caused more harm than good – but again, that is part of the OTHER story) and he agreed to have the roof installed by the deadline for the tidy sum of $12,000.

Seems having a pitched roof and needing a high quality roofer comes with a steep price tag. But, they had us over a barrel. By the time we got to this part of the transaction, I was so riled up, there was NO WAY we were not going to get this house. Of course, when we drove out to La Pine on the day of the deadline, the house still sat, old roof intact….but again, that is the OTHER story.

Wow, I have PTSD just thinking about the 7 months I spent fighting over this house…..breathe.

Ok, so where was I….Oh, yes, WE GOT THE HOUSE!!!!

The new roof was finally put on, the financing stayed intact, for the most part, and we were ready to start dreaming and scheming about how we were going to turn this slapped together vacation home into something we were proud to call our permanent residence.

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Old roof from the back of the house.

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Old roof from the front of the house.

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New Roof!!!!

As stated earlier, come move in day, we still did not have a new roof, but we remained hopeful and made some panicked phone calls. It turned out the sky light the roofer had ordered, was subsequently shattered and they needed an additional week to get a new one (you can see it in the above photo). The finance people we already calling ME asking why I had not taken care of the roof, but in the end, through shoddy cell phone service and hard to reach people on a Saturday, it seemed that everything would still work out.

I had never owned a house before….actually, I never even IMAGINED owning a house before, so this whole experience to me was surreal.

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Here I am, standing for the first time on MY porch…mine, all mine.

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Then a friendly squirrel offered to snap a picture of hubby carrying me over the threshold.

He likes to note that there was not an ounce of strain showing in his body as he lugged me into what has, thus far, become my dream home.

The House is Ours!!!

Sorry for the delay in posting anything new. My daughter was in the hospital with a serious kidney infection. I thought, given the circumstances, that I would veer off in a new direction and dabble a bit into parenting.

My daughter is 18 years old and has been suffering with an unknown disorder for several years now. Actually, it seems she might have had it her whole life and it took puberty to make it’s ugly presence known. She has accute bladder pain that happens sporatically and leaves her incopacitated for days on end. We have yet to find a cause, but it is clearly worse when she is under stress or having horemonal spikes. We thought it might be interstisal cystitis, but she is laking too many symptoms. 

A few years ago, after the urologist had ruled out any kind of abnormalies, he put her on Toviaz (an overactive bladder medication) and that seemed to at least lessen the frequency. Lately, however, things have taken a myserious turn for the worse. Over the past few months, we hae ben to urgent care several times to address what we thuh were bladder infections. The doctor would do a quick urine test for white blood cells and then write her a prescription for antibiotics. 

Once Upon a House Part 4

As we continued down the main hall of the house (which is all of 15 feet long) the little hands that had been grasping my wrist, pulled me again to the side and into a room that was overlooked by the others. It was set back from the hall by a deep alcove that, at first glance,  appeared to be nothing more than a closet. The child pushed open the door, ran from my side and threw herself on a large bed that dominated the room. “This is Ghrhefts’s room!” she exclaimed loudly as she rolled back and forth across the bed. Aside from the bed, I noticed a large closet with a sliding door and that there was ample room for a desk and book shelf in the room as well. Then, before I could take in much more, my wrist was once again under the control of the child and I was whisked back into the hallway.

Down bedroom

We quickly walked past the door to a large bathroom that was making a gurgling sound, through the utility room and out into the garage where the other had been standing and chatting quietly.  Nancy was awkwardly trying to seem interested in what my husband, Steve, was showing her while the owner stood at the ready to answer any questions as best he could. A previous owner had, oddly, decided to build a bathroom in the garage. It was derelict and filthy and a mouse or squirrel has obviously been eating pine cones regularly while sitting on the back of the toilet. The debris pile left behind was several inches thick. The owner chatted on about the absurdity of having plumbing in a room that could be 20 degrees below 0 in the winter. Nancy nodded appropriately while my husband continued to stare up into the rafters. It all felt awkward and I was really not sure why we were standing around in the garage to begin with. Then Steve pointed to a large beam over my head and let me in on the secret. The beam was very obviously milled from a small milling machine, The blade swirls and cut marks were unmistakable. “this house was built by a woodworker”, he said. “did you see the doors?” He pointed to the one I had just passed through to enter the garage. “They are solid wood, held together with forged iron bars”. I looked and suddenly, it hit me. This house was made of WOOD!

Garage 2

OK, that sounds silly, because most houses are made of wood, but this one was REALLY made of wood. There was no fiber board, no plywood paneling, no commercial grade 2×4’s. This was hand cut, hand milled WOOD. The walls of the garage could not lie. We walked outside and it was more of the same. The exterior of the house was board and batton, all showing milling scars…the porch was large flat planks with lovely swirling blade marks peaking through the layers of pealing paint. This house was not a kit. It was not a random plan, this house was someone’s hard earned dream. This house was built out of imagination and sweat. THIS house was what we were looking for. Our diamond in the rough…and oh boy, was it rough.  In the Real Estate industry the frequently throw around the phrase “good bones” when trying to describe a house that is solid, but needs work. The bones of this house were as solid as you could get and I knew right then and there that Steve had made up his mind.

When we got back into the car after thanking the owner, Nancy paused for a moment before asking if there were any other houses we would like to see before we headed back to her office. “Nope, this is it” Steve said giving me a hopeful glance. Nancy seemed a bit relieved and confused at the same time. “What did you like about it most?” she asked. When we told her it was hand made and solid wood, she seemed to accept that as reason enough. “Well, I guess when you know it, you know it”, she said and spent the rest of the trip back to the office telling us who we could contact to remodel pretty much everything.

What Nancy did not know was that our entire plan, was to remodel it ourselves. Steve is a woodworker with an entire wood shop at his disposal. I am an artist with a deep love for anything that involves paint. Together, we were already making plans to turn this jalopy of a house into the home it should have been when it was first imagined by the original owner only better!

Then Nancy dropped the bomb…..it was a short sale.