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.