Muggle Job Garden

I didn’t anticipate that one of my gardens would be a muggle job.  But I have the job.  And so why shouldn’t it be a garden?  To be honest, it’s not what I would prefer to be doing with my time.  I would much prefer to be making things and growing things.  That is my natural milieu.  But here I am.  I have a job.  There is energy in that, too.  So if I’m going to have to do it, it deserves to be a garden, and it deserves to have the best energy I can put into it.

I do customer service over the phone.  I am fortunate in that I can do this from my home.  But even doing it from home, it’s still pretty much like any other job, and it has most of the same stresses that go with any other job.  I can’t control very many of the variables in my virtual working environment.  Our work is measured in seconds spent doing this or that, and how many of the required elements we successfully complete during each call.  Sometimes it’s difficult to remember to verify someone’s email address when they’re being short tempered and cranky.  But you do your best, and you hope that everything evens out in the end.

Fortunately for me, as someone who has a natural inclination to want to help, the helpfulness and friendliness that we exhibit is considered one of the most important elements of the call.  I would not be happy in a job where the call handle time was considered by my employers to be more important than helping people and making them feel happy they called.  My job satisfaction comes from helping people get their problems solved and making them feel welcome and special during the course of working on their problems.

So that is the fertilizer and the water for the muggle job garden: helping to bring a little bit more light into my caller’s day whenever it is possible for me to do so.  And the bounty of the garden is the way that makes me feel, which is really where my job satisfaction comes from.

There is also inner work for me with having the muggle garden.  Working on and clearing out old patterns relating to concepts of failure and giving up and never thinking what I do is good enough.  I still feel that way a lot – like nobody will like the work I do – because that was a message I got a lot in earlier parts of my life.  It’s tough to clear out those kinds of inner messages.  But I get a lot of great feedback from my callers, and I am almost always ranked among the top 6 and usually in the top three in metrics in the program I work for.  I even was ranked in first place in February.  My team lead says I’m one of her top agents.  It’s funny how all of the external messages one gets in a current context can still be overridden by the inner messages that are habitual thought patterns that we develop over the course of a lifetime.  I sensed, at times when I was feeling very discouraged on the job, that this was just a part of my process of clearing out old stuff, and that I had to ignore the feeling and just plow through it, and that once I had manifested enough success for long enough, my inner patterns would change from a failure mentality to a success mentality.  I’m part way there, anyway.

I wonder how many gardens I have now?

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Basket Garden

Still trying to get back into the workshop to continue work on the tables.  But the muggle job and the extra amount of time I have to spend on food preparation because of my problems swallowing have prevented me from doing that.  So I have found a solution that gets around that problem.  I’ve started making baskets.  I can work on the baskets in between calls at work and while relaxing after work in the evenings. It’s a good compromise for the time being.  I’m just getting started, but I’m making some headway.  Here are some of the baskets I’ve made so far.  They are fabric-wrapped, coiled baskets.  All of the stitching is done by hand using an invisible stitch technique.  More colors coming soon.

Making the baskets feels like good work to me.  It feels as much like what I’m supposed to be doing as building furniture does.   I no longer have any outdoor garden to speak of, other than a few potted plants, but this basket garden is good.

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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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