Muggle Job

It’s been a few months since I have been able to do any work on the furniture. I had to take on a regular paying job in order to keep things going until the tables start selling. The learning curve has been steep and it’s been a long process getting my methods perfected.

I have three table bases built, and the tops and shelves for all three are ready to be attached. I put paint on one of the bases and then had to store it in the greenhouse while I worked on the others. It’s good I did that because I learned something important about milk paint that will allow me to make a better product in the long run. I discovered that if milk paint is applied over wood filler and is then exposed to a lot of heat and humidity, it will peel. This is an easy fix because the company that makes the milk paint also makes a product that will seal the wood and the wood filler, which I will apply before the milk paint. Problem solved.

I’m also glad the paint on the one table peeled, because I decided after putting it on that I want that one to be a different color. So that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I was finally able to spend a few hours in the wood shop today, which felt great. I spent it sanding down the table base that had the peeling milk paint on it. In couple of weeks, I should be putting in fewer hours at the muggle job, which will free up a lot more time for working on the tables. I’m looking forward to getting this process moving again.

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First Table Prototype

The first table was an opportunity to experiment and make mistakes on wood that wasn’t suitable for tables that I intend to sell.  And it also serves as a proof of concept prototype – a way to know if the design actually works when it’s all put together.  I used half inch plywood for the sides and severely damaged barn wood for the top and shelf.  Future tables will have 3/4 inch plywood and barn wood without too many obvious flaws.  There is a design element on the front apron that is made from a twig that was about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter that I split in half and attached with copper wire.  The sides each have a design element that was made from metal I salvaged from a food can.  I cut the metal out in the shape I wanted, straightened it out as much as possible, crimped the edges a bit so they wouldn’t have any sharp parts sticking out, and then painted them with copper paint that I oxidized with a verdigris patina.  The metal on the sides was attached with brass screws, the heads of which I also treated with the copper paint and the verdigris patina.  I sealed these with spray polyurethane.

I cut three pieces of barn wood, two the same length for the top, and a shorter one for the shelf. I sanded them a little bit and then ripped one edge on each piece of wood for the top so that they would have a clean edge for joining.  I joined them using pocket screws.  The barn wood was somewhat warped, so it took some effort to join them in a way that didn’t make the warping too noticeable.  I first joined them at one end, and then used a clamp to hold them together with a smooth join, which had the effect of straightening out some of the warping.  And then I added two more screws, joining the two pieces in three places.

I cut out the shapes I wanted in the plywood using a jigsaw for the outer edges, and a scroll saw for the tighter, inside edges.  For the next table I make, I’m going to experiment with using a large drill bit to drill a hole the size of the tightest parts of the curves in the hope of making it easier to cut with the saws.  We’ll see how that goes.

I attached the apron to the sides (legs) using pocket screws, and then attached the shelf and the top the same way.  After the sides were joined to the apron, I painted the base using Old Fashioned Milk Paint, and then treated it with tung oil and carnauba wax.  I think I might leave the carnauba wax off from now on.  It seems to want to bring out imperfections in the milk paint.  I applied PolyWhey urethane to the barn wood, and then attached those pieces.

The barn wood I used for the top has a lot of problems, one of which is a crack that runs somewhat diagonally along the entire length of one of the pieces.  I saw this as an opportunity to experiment with some different design ideas.  I tried filling it with wood filler and painting that with copper paint and verdigris patina.  That really looked horrible, so I dug it out and then painted the insides of the crack and about a half inch of the top on either side of the crack with the copper and patina.  I was using as my inspiration the way the oxidized copper paint looked on the pecan veneer coffee table I transformed several years ago.  With that piece, I took off about fifty years of old furniture wax and added a design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows.  The oxidized copper finish was intended to look like oxidized copper caming in between the glass panes (which I reproduced using artists’ oils on white primer).  It looked great on the pecan veneer, which was not very dark, but the darkness of the barn wood caused the verdigris copper to get lost and not really stand out.  I decided it just amounted to a distraction, so I will not be doing that again with barn wood.  But it was a worthwhile experiment.

Milk Paint is a natural, low to no-VOC paint that comes in powder form that you mix yourself with water.  It’s my favorite paint.  I love the way it looks and the many different ways it can be applied for different effects.  And I like that it’s mostly non-toxic.  I think it contains some lye in it or something like that, so you definitely wouldn’t want to drink it.  The PolyWhey is also natural and milk based, and is low VOC.  The tung oil and carnauba wax are also low VOC.  I love the way they look as compared to most other finishes.  I use the spray polyurethane on the verdigris copper because I am concerned about applying anything with a brush to that finish.  I’m afraid it could be damaged if it’s brushed before it has been sealed.

The table has several flaws in it, such as places where screws went all the way through the wood and holes for the copper wire that are positioned badly.  Of course, those mistakes were an important part of my learning curve, and I’ll know what not to do in the future so those things won’t happen again.

This table was only around 19 inches in height, but future tables will mostly be 22 inches in height, and varying widths.  I’m using this one as a place to display some of my favorite pieces of pottery that I have collected over the years.  I anticipate people using the tables for displaying art or decorative items, or possibly plants, but I’m sure they could be used in many other ways as well.

Here is the first table again

4-4-15 First Table Crop    4-4-15 First Table Crop 2

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Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

2013 and 2014 were pretty grueling years for a lot of people.  At least for people I have talked with or know personally.  A lot of upheaval and change was experienced by many people during this time, and a lot of people hunkered down in a sort of protective crouch (a spiritual fetal position, as it were) while waiting for it all to pass over.

For us it was a complete restructuring of our life and our daily rhythms.  We were surprised with a sudden ending of our old way of getting by, and spent several months processing all of the ramifications of that and working out what to do next.  In my protective crouch, extending myself in a spiritual way (for instance, by writing in this blog), felt wrong.  It was time to pull in the oars and let the current take us in the direction we needed to go.  This we did, feeling jumpy and a bit dazed a lot of the time, but as the new configuration emerged, the old one gradually faded away.

When big change is about to happen, our energy tends to become more inwardly focused,  contracting a bit while all of the particulars are being worked out and arranged on causal and energetic levels (although we often aren’t even aware of that – we just tend to think that we are feeling disconnected and out of sorts).   And then our energy becomes expansive and things start falling into place, sometimes in a way that almost feels like magic.

So a few months ago I began to feel a sense that we had passed through the falling apart stage, and were beginning the stage of putting it all back together in a new way.  I started feeling prompted to do new things, or do old things in new ways.  I decided to turn the bulk of my energies in a different direction than before; to let most of the food garden go, and start exploring new ideas that felt like they were being given to me like a gift.  I asked that I be given or shown the best possible work for me.  The next day after asking this, the designs for some decorative tables came fully formed into my mind.  I drew out the designs and started getting the workshop ready to begin making the tables a reality.

As I was working, ideas about how to do things emerged in my mind fully formed.  And when I had a question about the best way to do something, the answer would also emerge in my mind fully formed.  Having said all of that, there still is room for improvisation and experimentation.  For instance, the piece of barn wood I was working with for the prototype table had a large crack in it.  I didn’t want to use a good piece of wood for a table I didn’t intend to sell.  I decided to experiment around to see if it would be possible to use the crack as a decorative element.  I learned that with the barn wood, most things that could be done to it are essentially gilding the lily, and I decided to leave it alone and not add any decorative elements to it.  So it’s definitely a collaborative effort.

I was also given the complete outline of a book during this time; beginning, middle, and end.  I hope to have time to write it some time in the not too distant future.  It’s a children’s book that addresses issues of native species disappearing because of being unable to compete with introduced species.  This story uses ladybugs as the species that is unable to compete.

As I am in the process of manifesting the new energies I’m experiencing, I often feel the presence of old energies as they are being cleared out.  Energies that have to do with scarcity, fear, insecurity, and inadequacy.  I have been learning to acknowledge these energies as I perceive them, and then let them go.  I still have some work to do on that, but I’m making progress.

So it’s good to have a sense of direction again, and to feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

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Celebrating Nature

Here are some of the pictures I took in celebration of nature in 2014

A rare ice storm for this part of the world

2-11-14 Ice Close-up    2-12-14 Ice 2

2-12-14 Ice 4    2-12-14 Ice 5

2-12-14 Ice 3    2-12-14 Ice 6

Closeup of a dandelion and a green tree frog on some bubble wrap in the greenhouse

3-24-14 Dandelion Closeup    4-5-14 Frog on the Bubblewrap

White poppy, which is indigenous to this area and which grows in our yard, and a passionflower blossom.  I planted the passionflower in a pot, and it has yet to be put in the ground.  Hopefully this year.

6-14-14 White Poppy Close Crop More Contrast    6-17-14 Passionflower

A little toad that was living in one of the grow bags that I planted carrots in last year and what I believe are probably assassin bug larvae

7-14-14 Toad in the Carrots    9-4-14 Assassin Bug Larvae

Some of the numerous monarch butterfly larvae that lived on the butterfly asclepias that seeded itself in the side garden last year.  There was a lot of butterfly asclepias and even so, the poor monarch larvae had slim pickings toward the end because there were so many of them and they were voracious.  I am hoping that I was able to help slow down the decline of the monarch population if only just a little bit

9-4-14 Monarch Butterfly Larvae 4    9-4-14 Monarch Butterfly Larvae 2

9-4-14 Monarch Butterfly Larvae 3

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The 2014 Garden

I didn’t post any updates during the 2014 garden year, but here are some pictures from 2014 to show where things were going in the garden before I had to stop .

Peppers and Jerusalem artichoke

6-14-14 Peppers and Jerusalem Artichoke

Potted plants in the side garden, including potted cucumbers and the Meyer lemon

6-14-14 Side Garden Potted Plants

New Zealand spinach, lambs’ quarters, and onions

6-14-14 New Zealand Spinach Lambs' Quarters Onions

This is the back garden.  Those are the supports we built for the tomatoes.  It was the first year my tomato supports were tall enough for the plants.

6-14-14 Tomato Supports 2

Patio Princess, Black Plum, and Early Girl tomatoes

6-17-14 Patio Princess Black Plum Early Girl

Neptune tomato

6-27-14 Neptune

Black Krim

7-1-14 Black Krim

This variety of tomato was just called Black

7-1-14 Black

Cherokee Chocolate tomato.  I liked these way better than the Cherokee Purple I grew the year before

7-1-14 Cherokee Chocolate

This is an artichoke blossom.  I discovered too late that you have to pick the globes before they blossom. 😉

7-7-14 Artichoke Blossom

Baby pineapple.  I had two pineapples growing on the plants last year.  They were both very small

7-7-14 Baby Pineapple

Eggplant and Lambs’ quarters.  The largest of the lambs’ quarters reached 7 or 8 feet in height, and probably six feet in width, with a trunk of 2 or 3 inches in thickness at the base.

9-4-14 Lambs' Quarters

This is the side garden in July.  I was already working the desk job by then, and not too long after this, the garden started to really fall apart.

7-7-14 July Garden

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The Furniture Garden… Yay!

This is work that I have for years been wanting to do, but didn’t have time because most of my time was being spent taking care of the food gardens.  Once the decision about whether or not to put my time into the food garden was essentially taken out of my hands for a while, and now finding myself no longer tethered to a desk for many hours a day, it was a much easier decision to just say, ok, it’s time to put the food gardens on the back burner for now, and put my energies into the furniture garden.

I already have several designs that I plan to make, using plywood, reclaimed barn wood, twigs, pieces of corrugated metal (recycled/repurposed from food cans), and copper.  I have one table made – a prototype – and I’m very happy with it.  I hope to be going into production with tables to sell some time in the next couple of weeks.  The finishes are milk paint, tung oil, carnauba wax, and polywhey urethane on the wood and copper paint with an oxidized verdigris patina on the metal.  The twig is held on with copper wire.

Here is the first table prototype.  I’ll go into more detail about how it was made in subsequent entries.

4-4-15 First Table Crop4-4-15 First Table Crop 2

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We Begin Anew

It’s hard for me to believe that I haven’t made an entry to this blog since 2013.  Life got upheaved for us here toward the end of 2013, and a lot of changes happened as a result.

The 2014 garden was doing well, and I was just entering the stage where I was going to use the products mentioned in the last entry when it became necessary for me to get a job that involved being tethered to a desk for many hours each day.  The vegetable and herb gardens fell by the wayside by necessity.  Since I didn’t have time to apply the things that would protect the plants, the whole vegetable garden became a bug garden.  It was theirs to do with as they willed.  The herb garden suffered a lot of die back because the irrigation line to that garden was severed and I didn’t have time to fix it.  And also for some reason people kept weed whacking the area where the mints grew, particularly the chocolate mint, which was and still is my favorite mint.

This year I am not having much of a garden.  I’m not currently working tethered to a desk, but I could find myself in that situation again at any time, and in the meantime, I have started to build furniture.  I would like that to become my full time job.  So this year I have started just a few tomato plants of two varieties that are fairly small – Black Sea Man and Bush Early Girl, a few starts of eggplants – Listada de Gandia and Pingtung Long, and two varieties of peppers – Carmen and Jalapeno.  I wanted to grow Douce de Espagne peppers again this year, but I didn’t have any seeds and I decided to only use seeds that I already had this year.  It doesn’t look like the Carmens are going to come up, but those seeds are at least two, possibly three years old, so I’m not at all surprised.

The Lambs’ Quarters and Butterfly Asclepias re-seeded themselves last year and I had a bumper crop of those (and also a bumper crop of monarch butterfly larvae living on the Asclepias).  The Meyer Lemon tree produced a couple of dozen lemons over the winter, and we are still enjoying those.  And it is blossoming profusely right now.  The strawberries in the baskets died back a lot because of the irrigation line being severed, but I still have two that survived and one that actually reseeded itself in the form of one little baby strawberry plant.  The volunteer strawberry that planted itself in one of the artichoke planters is doing great although it’s possible that two of the three artichokes did not survive the winter.

I’ve bought a few herbs to replace the ones that didn’t survive last summer.  The rosemary, fennel, and one of the lavendar plants look like they’re doing ok.  There are now three tree saplings spaced out in the herb garden.  It’s either two wild plums and one crab apple, or the other way around.  They’re doing well.  I’ll be planting two kinds of thyme, curry plant, chocolate mint, and oregano.  I don’t know yet whether or not the chives, parsley, tarragon, bee balm, and lemon balm will come back.  I think the lemon verbena might have survived last year, but I’m not sure yet.  The fig tree and blueberry bushes appear to be doing well.

From now on, most of the updates will be about the furniture garden, while the food gardens will take a bit of a back seat.

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