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.

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 Part 3

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When we pulled up to the house, it was clearly occupied. A baby was sitting in a high chair by the front window and a fire could be seen roaring away in the wood stove at the back of the living room. Nancy got out and went to the door as we sat anxiously in the car. The house itself, never struck me as notable. I am not sure that I really gave it much thought from the outside. It was dull, plain and the colors all blended in to the slushy gray snow.

After a few minutes, the baby was swooped up out of the highchair and we were beckoned inside. We were greeted by the owner, a diminutive man wearing a lovely Swedish style hat and holding his small daughter in his arms. He seemed a bit awkward and told us to feel free to look around as he slowly guided us through the rooms. The house was very bright and warm. The yellow walls gave an air of sunshine filled spaces and the wood stove flames made everything feel a bit like a holiday.

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Just as I was about to follow Nancy and my husband down the main hall, a little hand grabbed my fingers. Startled, I looked down to see the grinning round face of a 4ish year old girl who immediately began babbling in half gibberish and yanking on my arm. “cmon’ show you!” she said and lead me to the wide stairwell in the corner of the room. It seems she had been through the routine of house tours before and she was certain that what I wanted to see was upstairs. I easily obliged and followed her up a rough white stair case to the second floor where she triumphantly announced “This is my room!” She lead me to a pile of blocks that she had been arranging and proceeded to build a tower as high as her adorable little head. Her room was enchanting. A small window looked out the back with a view of the property and the park beyond. But the best feature of the room was a mural of the moon and stars the decorated one side of the slanting wall.

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We were quickly joined by the others; I presume that the owner sensed that his daughter was missing. We toured the awkward sloped bathroom, the HUGE drafty master bedroom with one tiny closet and a porch door that did not fit it’s jam and needed to be held closed by a large chair. I noticed that the hall floor was nothing but a screwed on sheet of melamine. The stairwell was made from wide rough cut and occasionally warped board that had a thick coating of white paint. I tried for a moment to see them as cottage chic…but decided I wasn’t sure that was my decorating style. The paint was spotty, the ceilings clearly showed where each panel of drywall ended and another began and overall the house was unfinished. We went back down the stairs to the living room and resumed the walk down the main hallway. All the while, I had a small, monkey child bouncing off my arm and randomly pointing to things. I got a quick glance at the kitchen, which while large, had ancient appliances and a ruined counter top…..but OH, the cupboards!

Once Upon a House

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This is the beginning of a story that will carry on for years. Back in 2012, my husband and I purchased this home in La Pine, Oregon which is a very small town just south east of the center of Oregon. The climate there is referred to as “high desert”. Dry air, cold nights, perfect days and lots of blue skies. The air in La Pine smells like apple sauce in the spring and vanilla in the morning when the sun just starts warming up the Ponderosa pines. If TV had smell-o-vision, they would have added this smell to the Bonanza series, because without it, there is a large piece of authenticity missing.

When I met my husband (#3 I confess) back in 2006, we bonded over a shared dream to have a cabin in the high desert of Oregon. We joked about designs we would add, like a trap door in the middle of the main room so I could sweep all the junk under the house. I lightly argued about the placement of the wood stove and whether or not we would have indoor plumbing. It was a dream but one that was fun to imagine.

If you read my first blog, you will find that I once had a sizable nest egg that was subsequently seized by the IRS. Well, in 2012, 4 years after the money was taken away, the IRS unexpectedly refunded almost 1/4 of the money and as a result, we started thinking about making our little dream a reality.

We had already been looking at houses on a Bend, Oregon real estate site so the next step was to find out how much financing we would be able to get. I went to our local USBank, where we held a checking account and met with their mortgage specialist. I won’t mention her name, but needless to say, after a confusing and very curt meeting she calculated a sum of $130K and I left feeling like an uniformed idiot. As a first time home buyer, I had a lot of questions about terminology and the difference in finance rates for manufactured homes, property and “stick built” homes….which was a term I had only learned when she abruptly corrected me. She made me feel foolish and immature. So, in typical introvert style, I left with visions of whomping her WWF style and instead drove home like I was Mario Andretti.

We now had a number to work with, so we wasted no time hoping in a car and driving 4 hours to get to Bend. The Realtor we met, Nancy, we very genuine. It was February and the roads were covered in slush and ice. We drove the 1/2 hour from Bend to La Pine in relative silence as I admired the small pile of rocks she kept in the cup holder of her SUV and pondered what the day might bring. My husband had been armed with a sheet of listings he had pulled off the internet and Nancy plotted them in order of nearest to farthest away from Bend so we would have a feeling for how long a commute we might have for employment and significant shopping.

LaPine….or is it La Pine….can’t get a real answer on that…is a township of about 5000. Rural Highway 97 cuts right through it connecting California with Canada. There are a few fast food restaurants, a small grocery chain, and even a Best Western, but mostly, it is a town that you might overlook as you passed through. While that is difficult for the economy, it makes it nice for those of us who grew up in and appreciate small towns. Back behind the familiar corporations that line the highway, there are fabulous restaurants, wonderful gift and craft shops and the friendliest hardware store I have ever been to. It would behoove you to stop if you are ever in the area and get the BEST Mexican food and service at Cinco de Mayo…or go to the Red Rooster for breakfast….and if you are crafty and like cloth the Quilt shop will literally leave you salivating.

Enough said, La Pine was the place for us. The first thing I noticed as we pulled off the highway was that the majority of roads were not paved. HUGE puddles of indeterminable depth blocked many of our paths, but Nancy waded through like a pro, even bottoming out her SUV at one point, in a hole so deep that there was a muffler left behind by a previous driver. We bumped and slushed our way for miles and came to the first house on our list.

And here I will leave you for a bit because I KNOW you want to go and research La Pine, Oregon and get a good visual before I continue. In blogs to come, you will hear a home buying nightmare, a costly victory and continuing takes of renovations, decorations and the ETSY business I try to keep afloat through it all.

It has been a CRAZY year!