May 16, 2018

What a Difference 3 years makes.....

Whoa!  This is the view from our back porch then and now....

December 24, 2015



...And now we await the squeals of delight!
Wishing you all a wonderful and magical Christmas morning!

November 15, 2015

R.I.P. Framing Nailer


It was after the fire in 2011 when we first met at the pawn shop.
You started your life in a foreign factory, and were sold thru a cheap retailer. I had no idea who owned you prior to our meeting, or how you were treated before you were hocked, but for 60 bucks I was willing to take a chance on you.
You had no idea what I was about to get you involved in, but I was honestly naive at the time. You and I, we had a good run.  I must say, you well exceeded my $60 worth of expectations from a low quality pneumatic tool with oddball nail requirements.
Oh sure, you're an oddball, but so am aren't fancy or expensive, and neither am I....that's why we made a good team. How many times I needed you to deliver that one nail to set a heavy board...knees knocking on shaky ladders, dangling from the rafters, and you came through for me time and time again.
And well, I'm sorry for all those times I cussed at you, it wasn't your fault. It was me. I know you were doing the best you could under the circumstances. It sure was a crazy time for us all.
Oh and remember how I forced you to shoot the wrong degree nails for so long...haha, that was funny, but dude, you did it! Way to go!... And also that time when I found you those two boxes of the right nails on clearance for $10 each?...4000 nails! that was amazing! Ah, the good times.
Of course, there were times you needed some TLC and redneck modifications to keep trudging along...but you did and I thank you. I thank you for the 15,000+ nails you shot to build my home and workshop. We were strong, we were brave, and we limped along together through it all, but sadly I am no longer able to resuscitate you.
Now with your passing,  I feel as though I've lost a sidekick and valuable team member. I regret I never gave you a cool name like, "Trigger". And will see to it that you have a proper burial.
I say too soon your demise, old friend, for I still have 2000 of those oddball nails that will never know the sweet touch of your internal piston.
Goodbye, nail gun, our family thanks you for your valiant service.

September 4, 2015




Today we remember the last time we saw our little green house in the woods. I snapped these photos as we evacuated, not knowing our fate as the fiery beast closed in around us.
At the time, it was the greatest loss we'd suffered in our lives. Since that day, we've had depressing lows and exhilarating highs. We've had our failures and have accomplished things we wouldn't have imagined prior. Life forced us to dream up new dreams and fight for something greater than the pile of ashes and hundreds of dead trees we were left with. On this 4 year anniversary, we are a mixed bag of feelings....proud that we've toughed out this unconventional path we chose, but discouraged that have not completely "recovered" yet.

August 15, 2015



The fire made us tough. The logging/mill work made us tough. The construction made us tough. And, two Texas summers with no insulation in our living area made us tougher....but, HOT no more- pink salvation has arrived.

June 6, 2015



In order to move forward with our art endeavors, we were in major need of replacing our workshop, and moving our supplies/equipment out of the living room.  We decided to reuse the existing concrete slab where our old shop stood.

After working around some great spring rain, we completed the shell and electrical, and moved our YURNS supplies inside today! This is a exciting step towards progress with the business, and healing for our creative souls to have a new space to work!

May 13, 2015




Sunsets After Spring Thunderstorms - Our View Out in the Sticks 

January 15, 2015



In the time since the fire, our primary focus has been recovering a place to call "home" the best way we could, while trying to stay true to a vision of what it could be. A desire to be financially free from a mortgage has us building this home slowly, through bartering and in cash.  Changes in career, financial constraints along with the passion to utilize the trees has us taking a seemingly long route to get where we want to be. 

It has been almost a year since we moved into the house and there are still many unfinished projects that we need to complete to make it a more comfortable living space- primarily insulation. Even with all of it's unfinished state, we love it, and love that we have made it this far in accomplishing our rebuilding goals.

The choices we have made along this journey continue to challenge us in new ways for new purposes, and have ultimately led us to a new artistic endeavor doing the work we love, clay sculpture- and for now, right up in the middle of our unfinished home. This shift in focus to new career goals will hopefully propel us financially to complete our home sooner rather than later.

After the fire Rob quit his career in the medical field, and for two years while working on our home, he worked at the local sawmill that has assisted us in processing the wood.  While there, we helped our sawyer friend, develop Star of Texas Casket Company. This experience and exposure to the funeral industry gave us insight into a changing industry where consumers attitudes about life and death are changing, and traditional customs are evolving; cremation services are set to cater to the modern family, their financial concerns, environmental concerns and their mobility away from family birthplaces.

Rebecca Ann
By the end of February 2014, we had completed enough of our new home to move into it....two weeks later, our joy turned to sadness and loss again with the passing of Rob's mother on March 10th. The family had a small private gathering and a couple weeks later a small package arrived by post containing her cremains. Rob's mom, Beckie, had a great artistic influence on him growing up and her talents fueled his love for creativity.

He spent years as a child helping his parents and grandmother in their family-owned gifts and ceramics shop in Houston. As an adult, Rob found naturally found his artistic niche in clay sculpture. Faced with needing a proper memorial for his mother, Rob knew that he must sculpt for her a unique urn that would reflect her passions and personality- a most fitting memorial for her.

The need to produce this tribute for mom had us reflecting on a figurative ceramic urn we created in 2006 for a friend. A Vietnam Veteran Marine and avid fisherman with a big personality, we created for his widow a wall-mounted big mouth bass fish. To this day it hangs at her country home and she finds great comfort in it- From her experience, we knew that our art served well in this function and it touched us greatly to honor his spirit with our craft.

The collective experiences of industry exposure and personal loss had us looking further into the urn market to see if our ideas for cremation vessels were available. What we found is a market that is saturated with imported products that lack artisan charm, personality or essence of character. Of the thousands of products online, we see a gap in finding cremation vessels which have a figurative form and style in function...namely breaking out of the traditional vase/box form. It can be challenging to find a cremation vessel for an exceptional individual whose memory just does not resonate with a solemn vase or box on the shelf. Our goal with YURNS by MorzArt is to create memorials that are statuesque in finish, and possess a unique, unpretentious nature...urns that are honest in form, but discreet in function. In other words, urns that don't look like urns and have a down-to-earth quality. 

For more information please visit our gallery at: and follow us on Facebook.

September 4, 2014



One evening it's carousel and pony rides at the county fair- the next, it's a fiery inferno engulfing life as we knew it.  

It was that next day that we lost our home- and the years of energy and work we placed in it... we lost investments of time and money- and the beautiful forest sanctuary we prepared for our family…we lost the cute cabin we built for guests, the studio space we always wanted, and the nursery for our child- lovingly created just 22 months prior…we lost our baby books, childhood mementos, family heirlooms, treasured love letters, irreplaceable photos, souvenirs from travels, wedding keepsakes, and an inventory of our artwork that developed. Fifteen years of building a life together were reduced to charred remnants that barely filled a plastic tote- we lost part of ourselves that day and with it comes a residual pain that will never go away.
Since that day, we’ve lost friends along the way- whether we are to blame or not, we all had to find our own ways to cope with the situation…even with the best intentions, perhaps this type of life-transforming event changes us too much to take things back to the way they were…so, grief remains there, and we’ve found out a lot about ourselves- the hard way.
Through all the loss we have found other things too… we found our bootstraps- and we continue to pull ourselves up by them…we found strengths in ourselves we wouldn’t have otherwise known…and we found weaknesses that we hope to improve. We found silver linings, unusual passions, creative solutions and new skills... we found different dreams to work toward.  We found that we are unique in an uncomfortable, yet liberating way.
We found that no matter how hard you plan and work at it- the future you expect is not guaranteed…so for today- grab the reigns, hold onto your ponies, enjoy the ups and downs of the carousel, and savor the merry-go-round…’cause, after all, it’s just a ride.

June 9, 2014



I received an email today inquiring about lumber material for a sustainable housing project in Austin.  This led me to respond with a brief explanation about the tree situation in Bastrop's fire area and our experiences trying to mill it for lumber. 


I am conducting materials research for Foundation Communities ( to build affordable housing in Austin. We are trying to meet an extremely ambitious sustainability certification known as the Living Building Challenge (

We thought that Bastrop burned timber might be an abundant and under-utilized resource in our region and by exposing some of this burned wood in the building project we could tell the story of this vicious fire.
I can see that you all offer a service to harvest this wood for landowners in Texas to help rebuild homes- can you send more information along? Is this wood available for other building projects in the area or have any contacts that could help us do this?
Looking forward to hearing back!

My Response:


We are individual homeowners who lost our home in the fire.  We had hundreds of pine trees and a desire to use the timber from our 7 acres of forestland to rebuild our home.  Initially, we tried working with a start-up organization, Logs to Lumber, who had worked out a milling arrangement with a sawmill in Huntsville - the intention, fire victims could get lumber to rebuild.  We personally made efforts to bring awareness to Logs to Lumber and utilizing the timber for our community... however, Logs to Lumber was never able to get the support for equipment, labor and transport needed in order to harvest effectively.  Sadly, of 1700 homes lost and the need for housing/building material in our immediate area, the timber was never harvested in a way that was beneficial for our own community. 

Although I appreciate the spirit of your request, unfortunately, the Lost Pines timber today is not viable for lumber due to the state of fact, the majority of forest area is still standing burned, dead and now broken.  It is an emotional and visual blight for those of us still living among it. In hindsight, it is my opinion there are a number of factors why there has been an enormous amount of timber wasted here (for building lumber). 

One, we are in a endangered species area (Houston Toad) and the federal agencies simply did not allow commercial loggers to harvest timber without costly liability coverage (5x the state requirement)....therefore, industry loggers never came to Bastrop to commercially harvest for lumber.  This factor has left homeowners stuck without the resources necessary to cleanup.  The county and utilities had loggers here to clear right-of-ways and utility easements, however the timber that was cut by their federal contractors was primarily mulched, but never milled for lumber. As of just a couple of months ago, a new wood pellet (biomass fuel) processing plant was given permission from Texas Fish and Wildlife to come in and harvest the burn area.  They are under the supervision of biologists protecting the Toad and project it will take an additional 3-5 years to clean up the burn area (Update 8/26/2015- Go Green shuts down in Paige, homeowners still in need)

Reason number two, it requires a significant amount of energy and resources to harvest, transport and mill for dimensional lumber....especially for timber which is not specifically grown for the purpose of harvest (such as timber farms in East Texas).  Quite simply, it is A LOT of work without the means of large logging operations....and we live in a day in age where it is just easier to go to Home Depot for a $2 2x4. The efforts we have personally made have been of our own volition and diligence.  Not having the heavy equipment resources available, we had to be creative in the personal harvest of our timber.  In May 2012, we made a game of it and held a competition for 4x4 trucks and tractors to pull logs from our forest and out to our road (Lost Pines Log Pull).  We successfully pulled 237 twenty-foot logs in two days. Due to transportation costs, we ultimately made the decision to take our timber 25 miles away to a small specialty sawmill in Elgin.  We paid out of pocket to have our first run of 100 logs cut, and subsequently befriended the sawmill owner who bartered with us to trade my husbands labor at the mill, for the rest of the milling work needed to rebuild our home. Today we are living in our home which we personally built, and it is made out of the trees from our isn't yet complete and we still have a lot of work ahead, but we are finally feeling the fruits of our labors. 

My apologies for the long-winded email, and that was probably more than you wanted to know....but I thought the response deserved a brief explanation of a complicated situation with the state of Bastrop's trees. We know the owners of the two local sawmills in Bastrop County and neither milled the pines in any significant way.  We only know of a handful of people who even used the resource at all in rebuilding, and we are the only ones I know of who milled dimensional lumber for framing material. So, as for other resources to direct you to for Bastrop lumber, I know of none and I believe it to be a lost cause at this point.

Good luck and best regards,

June 4, 2014




Today marks the end of a chapter with the departure of our temporary home.  This construction-office trailer was a blessing for it allowed us to live on property while we went on our logging, milling, and rebuilding adventures.  It was a love-hate relationship...thankful for the roof it provided, while resenting the reason we had to live within it's confining space.  Many tears were shed upon it's cheaply tiled floors....many screams were cast upon it's thin paneled stood quietly taunting us when we were filled with doubt and questioned our was there for us and it shared in our heartbreaks and our victories.  It was our "home" for the meanwhile- and for that we give great thanks for the opportunities it provided us.  Good bye, you piece of shit...we will remember you always.

April 20, 2014



32 months post fire and the pines, willows and cottonwoods are going strong in their 3rd spring. We have heard that, "the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap". With Rob standing at 6'1", it will be interesting to see what the growth is like by the he is with 7' pine and 20'+ cottonwood.

As for the house, not much has been accomplished since our move into it at the end of February.  On March 10th, Robert's mother passed away from health complications. That coupled with the need to settle in and breathe has had us enjoying our weekends more than working on the house.  However, we are ready to get cracking back at the never-ending list of small projects to accomplish. 

February 22, 2014



Although it is not completed, we have decided that we can make the move into the house! We have completed enough construction to make it work, and have made ready this bedroom to live in in the meanwhile.
The walls are made from pine tree slices. It lacks flooring and some trim, but it is insulated on all sides and will do for now. This is our son's room, and once the main space is completed, we will sleep in the loft (until we eventually do another addition on the house).

This is definitely a happy milestone we are proud to wasn't without it's doubts, challenges and sore bodies- but, here we are! Thank God! We are currently still in the process of moving things out of the rented trailer and into the home...and it feels so amazing to finally be in this space!

In addition to getting the room ready, Adrian Santos came back out to help us install this antique wood burning stove in the living room. This stove and other furniture was kindly gifted to us by Jamaica's uncle.

February 14, 2014



Three of four exterior walls have cedar siding mostly complete and lack trim work.  After researching options for moisture barrier, we decided on the tried and true method of roofing felt laid under the siding.  Tannins in the cedar are thought to erode modern Tyvec material, so we went with "tar paper" which has been used for such purposes for over 100 years. We have temporarily placed Tyvec on the long east wall until we get the cedar material here from the sawmill. 
Wood, when unsealed and exposed to UV rays, turns gray, and yet unlike pine, cedar is naturally resistant to rot by weather or insects, making it ideal for exterior siding. It is our desire that this home have a raw and rustic aesthetic to it, so we have decided that we would like the cedar siding to naturally gray.

January 12, 2014




What a joyful milestone this is...a bathtub!!! We've had a stand-up shower in this temporary trailer for two years, and our son has been bathing in a small plastic tub- so this is big excitement and we'll be soaking it up! Through all this work, we haven't been able to relax in a hot, this is really amazing for all of us! We all took our turn with a nice long bath....ahhh, the small stuff is the good stuff! We have not made the official move into the house yet, but were able to make great progress over the holidays and the last couple of weeks! 

Here is the island bar we built in order to install the kitchen sink....currently unfinished, it is made from pine timbers with cedar on the top. 

December 28, 2013



After many long months since the timber trusses were placed as the first portion of the roofing structure, we finally completed the roof!  A number of factors contributed to the delay it's completion, and we are thrilled to finally be on the backside of it. The weight/size of the wood and elevation on ladders, had this being one of the most daunting tasks we have taken on since the fire.  The living room area has a vaulted ceiling, so in order to make the 20' span with a 12/12 pitch and 19' peak, we used 16-foot, 2x8's on 24" centers. (12/12 means for every 12" of run, it elevates 12" in the 10' run to the center ridge, the pitch rises 10' high.) This section was built with a future house addition in mind, so we had to build it with a reverse gable.  The 12/12 pitch meets up to a perpendicular 6/12 pitch, appropriately known as a "bastard hip"...we were very fortunate to have Stephen Wusterhausen assist us with the complex cuts to create the valleys in the turn of the pitch.  A local waterproofing contractor, Adrian Santos, kindly helped us cut and lay the metal roof material.  During the process of hanging the metal, we also installed the windows and exterior doors. 

November 4, 2013



Boy howdy. One ladder rung at a time, one board at a time...and we are oh so close to wrapping up this roof business! In the next couple of weeks, we will have a seasoned contractor who will assist us in cutting and laying the metal down.
The roof framing has been an intense process for a couple of newbs like us...We have had to rely on the kindness of our friends, and we are so appreciative of each and everyone who has helped along the way.
We had beautiful weather this weekend...on Saturday our friends helped us knock out the roof framing by finishing up with the last of the purlins...and on Sunday we hung the floor joists for the loft. Hooray for a productive weekend!
Here's a view of the inside from each of the four corners....

September 4, 2013



It has been two years since the wildfire took our home and sense of normalcy.  We have been living life in this temporary situation that brings with it insecurity and uncertainty, but also wonderful milestones of success along the way. It is truly a "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" scenario. We see it as a tremendous character building exercise to take on these tasks of tree harvest and home construction, when basically these endeavors are foreign to us. However, we move forward each day in faith, continuing to muster the strength and keep our eye on the prize.  
Admittedly, summer weather has had us a little stalled on the home construction. Rob has been working full time at the sawmill, and slinging boards in 100 degrees has him plumb tuckered out when the weekends come and in desperate need to rest his body. However, over this past anniversary Labor Day weekend, we were able to make some forward progress. We harvested the last of our biggest trees in order to mill what will be the wall and flooring material. Thanks to the help of a couple of friends, we were also able to put up the last of the big wood rafters for the roof. We are hoping with the fall weather approaching more can be accomplished as we move along.

June 24, 2013



For the longest time it seems, Google satellite images hadn't updated the fire area in the maps...they finally did and consequently, we discovered that Google Earth has a timeline function.  Compared to the memories we have, the dramatic view is seen each day at ground level, and now it can be seen over time from above (Click for larger image)

Google satellites happened to capture an image three days after the fire broke out (9/7/11), which was before we even received confirmation that the home was gone.  When we did return, we still were very optimistic about the trees around the home site, however over time the drought and fire shock were just too much.  You can see the 99% loss of the trees on our property...we only have a handful of mature green pine trees that remain. 

The image above also shows the logging road that was cut through the property for our timber harvest at the back of the property.  We still have many dead trees that ultimately won't be milled and most likely will be used along the property bounds as natural barrier and animal habitat.  My dad pointed out to me that the logging road is shaped like a raised fist...How awesome is that?!... Power to the people!... and the trees!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

It may seem odd to some, but it seems we have grieved for the loss these woods more than our home and "stuff".  We moved here for the natural environment and that old growth forest can't be replaced in short order. Facing the changes in the landscape has been emotionally challenging, leading us to this passionate mission. We are "big picture" people and know time heals all is a natural process for ultimate regeneration of the forest to an abundant vegetative state. 
With that, check out the natural growth of our new cottonwood and black willow trees. They came up on their own since the fire 22 months ago...and some already over 15' tall! On the left Rob (6'1") is standing next to a Cottonwood, and on the right he is pointing out the height of a baby pine. We are going to have this awesome willow grove in no time's a pretty cool positive sight to see.

April 29, 2013



We are so pleased to have the opportunity to appear on the Texas Country Reporter.  TCR is a Texas treasure for those who watch the show, and know the quality of their production and the fantastic storytelling they do. What a great honor to have our story told in such a beautiful was an emotional experience for us to watch ourselves in relation to the devastation and recovery.

We were featured in the Bastrop Recovery Special Episode.  Here is a condensed version that appeared on KFDM, out of Beaumont, TX.

Weekend of April 27th 2013, Show #1339
Texas Country Reporter ©
Weekend of April 27th 2013
Show #1339

"This week on a special edition of Texas Country Reporter, Wildfires devastated Bastrop County more than a year and a half ago, but hope is alive with the residents who still call it home. a couple who lost their home, but not their resolve, as they personally rebuild using the very trees that caught fire."

"Texas Country Reporter" is a highly-acclaimed TV program that celebrates the history, emotion and beauty that make Texas and Texans so unique. Since 1972, Bob Phillips has traveled the backroads of the Lone Star State and shared the stories of real Texans. From artists to cowboys, hobbyists to musicians, "Texas Country Reporter" explores the passions, interests, and lifestyles of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Every week you're invited to hop in and travel with Bob as he meets the folks that make Texas such a special place. Bob Phillips, Jason Anderson, Ryan Britt, Brian Hawkins, Mike Snyder, Dan Stricklin.

April 20, 2013



For our 11th wedding anniversary, Robert called in the calvary and got me some roof framing... *he's so romantic* ....and sure knows the way to this girls heart! 

We found this scorched cedar tree on our property and have installed it as a support post for the valley boards in the roof framing. If you look closely, it has a gnarly face in it...beard and all.

- Jamaica

March 31, 2013



Together, Robert and I have completed the framing of the two short gable ends.  They may not look like much, but their completion feels like a big accomplishment...especially when lifting heavy boards 20' in the air on ladders.

Life has forced our hand in many ways to grow from this experience. Robert has overcome so much on this recovery mission...and this now includes his fear of heights.  He has a "gotta do, what'cha gotta do" attitude and is our family's hero.

- Jamaica

March 2, 2013



Installation of our custom trusses went off without a hitch, and we had the Texas Country Reporter production team back to film their installation!  We are extremely grateful for Stephen's time and talents given to us in order to have this unique element in our home.

The timber trusses are a very exciting and special addition for us...we love them! Symbolically, they represent the big, heavy work done to accomplish this home...they show the rugged, burned scars we've acquired, and the ultimate beauty that rises from the flames and ashes.


February 23, 2013



TA-DA! Check out our awesome timber trusses that were completed today!...12/12 pitch, 20' wide, 10' tall, D-Logs with a raw edge, burnt bark and custom steel plates. Jamaica created the flame design, Rob cut the steel, and Stephen cut the weekend, their installation!

January 8, 2013



In the early part of the twentieth-century, prior to the advent of plywood and other sheet materials, many homes were built with 1-by lumber as a structural sheathing on the exterior of the framework.  In an effort to maximize our lumber resources, we opted to employ this type of construction using rough sawn 1"x12" boards hung diagonally across the studs. Due to the high cost of solid board sheathing, today this type of sheathing is rarely used, however it is recommended in areas that are earthquake or hurricane prone for it's structural integrity.  Oddly enough our situation, having the timber resource and relationship with the SAW Mill, has it being more cost effective to sheath with this method compared to buying ply or OSB.  This is a win-win-win solution for us in terms of cost, it's high structural rigidity and the utilization our timber.
Currently, it looks kinda strange....the boards extending past the top plate will continue up into the gable ends when the roof is constructed...and next on the list, the trusses and roof rafters.

November 25, 2012



With the help of Stephen, Cody and another volunteer, we got off to a good start on Sat., Nov. 17th, by getting half of the exterior walls framed up. The following weekend, the Thanksgiving holiday gave Rob the opportunity to work on the other half with some assistance from Jamaica.  The 9' walls with truss beam pockets are constructed with 2"x6" studs on 16" centers, with 2"x10" headers over 5 windows, a side entry door and a double patio door.


November 19, 2012




I went for a walk with my camera...through the lens, I saw beauty, I felt hope and my path led me back to the start of a new home. Giving thanks for seeing the rainbow after the rain...
- Jamaica

November 10, 2012



We have officially begun the construction of Phase 1 of our new home!   Work on the house will primarily be done on the weekends when Robert is available. We are tremendously blessed to have the help of good friends that will assist us along the way...and we can not thank Stephen Wusterhausen enough!

On the first day of construction, the guys set and leveled the dry-stacked piers, laid the pine girders, assembled the floor joists, and decked the sub-floor.  They made a very impressive pace for one days work and it is a very exciting beginning for us to finally make this project a realization!