Friday, March 28, 2014

Breaking Ground in the Garden at Aelfheim

Spring is looking up, I'm so excited, we finally broke ground on our first garden here at the home we call Aelfheim.  We had a corral in the front of the barn where the horses had been hanging out for years, it gets lots of sun and has had plenty of manure dropped all over the place. We decide it would make a perfect vegetable garden.  The horses left to go with the previous owner last fall, so it sat all winter.

It's also pretty cool because Dan and I like to use organic gardening methods and as far as anyone knows, this land has never been planted, so there should be just natural soil with no residual chemicals lurking.

We used to use a little hand tiller back at the old place, but Grandpa Gecko has a great garden tractor with tiller attachments.  When you're tilling up a 25' x 30' vegetable garden this is the only way to go!

Tilled it deep and the earth was actually fluffy!  Gecko ran the tiller and Dan, Mom, and I went behind gathering rocks as he tilled them up.

Dan got down and just smelled the soil, I have to admit, it really smelled amazing.

It was just beautiful! I'm sure not everyone falls in love with the earth, but we have.  When you grow your own food, you can't help but love the earth and it's potential for life. There were tons of earthworms too, always a good sign. One end of the garden is lovely, the other end is partially clay, but Dan and I have amended clay soil before, and much worse than this.  We have a big pile of oak leaf mold that we're putting on the clay end along with three stables full of perfectly seasoned manure the horses left as a going away present, we couldn't be happier about a pile of poo!

Speaking of piles, right now we aren't harvesting anything but rocks...lots of rocks.  See this big pile of rocks?  This isn't the only one this size that we pulled out of the new garden.  I'll use all the rocks we harvested to build a little wall around a new herb garden.

Soon, we'll till all the added material in, and then we'll be ready to start planting. We'll be starting our own seeds, and I just can't wait to see this beautiful earth bursting with life!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Drawers to Dress Up the Studio

Since we moved to Aelfheim last fall, we've spent lots of time making this house a home.  Although we have gotten a lot done, we keep finding little things we can do to improve our space.  These clear plastic drawers used to have a home in a giant cabinet at our old house, but at Aelfheim, they ended up being used in my studio, and were one of the first things you would see when entering from the front door.  Not so nice.
This is the "before" view as you enter our front door.  See those nice plastic drawers? You can also see all the junk, i.e. art supplies etc. jumbled up inside of them. Not a great first impression.

The view from my art table when I turn around.  Pretty crap-tastic!

So Dan came up with a great plan to replace those ugly old plastic drawers with something much nicer.  I loved the idea, so we picked up two ClosetMaid Cubicals 3 cube organizers and 6 of their fabric cube shaped drawers and went to work.  
What's in my drawers?!  Holy cats, what a mess! Step one, organize and release!  I went though this mess and figured out what to keep, put it in a category, and what to pitch.

Next we built the two ClosetMaid pieces.  Now I have to tell you something really important here. ClosetMaid makes two lines of organisers, the Cubicals line will work with their fabric drawers, however... their Shelf Stackers line do not work with their fabric drawers, they look like they will, but they are about an inch too small. Yes, this was a lesson learned the hard way, one set had to be returned and the correct set purchased. We went with their 3 Cube Organizer.  We found two in a coffee color.  These are designed to be used horizontally or vertically, but they are designed to only stack in the horizontal position.  That cabinet that you see our ugly plastic drawers next to?  That's actually part of the house and can't be moved, so we needed to stack them vertically. 
Dan and I have built tons of these crazy boxed up furniture pieces in our day, we're like a well oiled machine working together.  Now to figure out a way to hack their design and make  the two pieces stack vertically.
Our homemade bamboo skewer peg tapped into place with a hammer.

Here's how we stacked them. We made 4 of our own pegs out of a bamboo skewer I found in the kitchen, they were the perfect diameter to make a tight fit.  Then, we put the top board onto the cubical that was going to be on the bottom of the stack and instead of using the screws to attach the board, we tapped the homemade pegs into the board as shown in the photo above. Then we built the second cubical and left the bottom board off. We stacked it on top of the other cubical lining up the pre-drilled holes with our homemade pegs and voila! We now had a 6 cube tower! I wouldn't stack these that high unless you have a nook like we did to put it in or at least a corner to add stability.  They also include a wall bracket which might be good to attach if you decide to try this little hack.  We didn't because it's pretty tight in that corner and clearly isn't going anywhere.

Now, I wanted some pretty labels for each fabric drawer so I wouldn't have to open each one to see what's inside.  I really wanted those fancy tags that look like luggage tags, heavy paper with a little metal strip around the outside. I've seen them in craft stores for use in scrap booking. But I had already spent more than my meager limit on this project, so I looked around to see what I had that I could make something with instead.
I found some pretty scrapbook paper and cut it to size, then folded it in half and glued both sides together so it would be thicker and two sided in case they ever flip.  
These are the only fancy scrapbook scissors I had at my house, I think my daughter Brittany left them here years ago...ummm...perfect!

Hole punched the top, threaded pretty green ribbon and tied it to the handle of the fabric drawer.

Then I used a cool font and printed labels for each drawer, aged them with some brown watercolor, and cut them to size.
I'm really happy with these, fancier than the tags I actually wanted, and they were free!

So now my studio has a nice upgrade! I have much more storage, I can find everything I need, and everyone that walks through doesn't have to look at all my junk in clear plastic drawers!
Didn't it turn out nice?! You can't even tell that it's two pieces that weren't meant to stack that way. It's really sturdy and visually a big improvement, not to mention all the extra storage!

Acrylic paint, I still have room for more!

Candle making supplies, a crafty witch's must-have!
Household tools, "I need a phillips head screwdriver!" Ha! I know right where that is! I added some empty tin cans so I don't have to dig to the bottom to find anything.

The new and improved view as you walk in the front door!  Oh so much better, that's a nice first impression!
And the view from my art table when I turn to stand up from my chair! 

I'm so much happier with this new storage solution! It's not a super expensive piece of furniture, but it really added function, class and personality to my studio and the adjoining library.  Sometimes being creative with what you can find and what you already have really pays off.

Brightest Blessings,


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Signs of Spring on the Equinox

It's the morning of the Spring Equinox, also known by it's old Pagan name, Ostara.  I awoke with one thought in my head, probably inspired by some elusive dream that melted with the opening of my eyes, today's the day, I've got to get moving.  I haven't prepared a big celebration today, my little grands won't be visiting for a couple of weeks, although we'll have a big celebration then.  I have not set up a fancy altar, although I did boil a few eggs last night, and I have a bottle of honey mead for this evening to enjoy with the Old Gods, but I did not prepare a huge event this year.  I awoke, fed the cats, made coffee, and before it was done, I set forth to walk through the meadows of Aelfheim, to see what lessons the spirits of the land had to offer on this equinox morning.
I still need to color my eggs, and the flower pots will be transformed into an Ostara egg tree for when my little grands come to stay for a late Equinox celebration.  I love the cheery flameless candle and embroidered Ostara candle wrap that my mom gave me! See more here (Frogbirds House)

The first thing I noticed was the empty bird feeders, so I went to the barn for some bird seed and suet blocks.  As I worked in the chilled morning air, the birds gathered in a nearby stand of budding trees. Cardinals, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, juncos, doves and chickadees alike, watching my every move.  Once they realized, "Oh she's filling it up, hey guys, she's filling it up!" It was as if laughter erupted from the trees! They rose such a ruckus, they could hardly wait for me to leave so they could have their equinox morning feast.

A moth enjoying sap flowing from the maple.
My next stop was to visit the Four Trees Oak.  I decided to step up into the middle of the magical trees that all grow from one trunk for a quick blessing on this magical day of balance.  The equal hours of day and night inspired me to seek balance for my own spirit and I know no other place at Aelfheim better than the Four Trees Oak to find that balance.  I stood there peacefully soaking up the energy, feeling the tree summoning up life from under ground, pulsing with the life of yet another spring.
New buds on the maple tree, neighbor of the Four Trees Oak.

My spiritual battery recharged, I decided to take a brisk walk through the back pastures, the sun thankfully was shining through the branches of the trees, although mostly bare, they bear the new buds of potential.  I've decided that a morning constitutional will become part of my daily routine, to boost my metabolism before my coffee and breakfast, and also to watch this new land that I'm beginning a relationship with as it waxes and wanes through the year. 
Wild Cinquefoil bursts forth from beneath some dry leaves.
As I walked along the outer edge of the two back pastures, I thought about the difficult spring we've had so far, only days ago this pasture was covered in snow and ice. We've had weather nice enough for bare feet and so bitter that we needed hats and gloves all in one week. But as I walked, I noticed that nature is taking it all in stride.  We complain because we want to get started on our gardens and pack up our winter coats and sweaters for good, but through all of our aggravation,  green is being born all around.
The vast areas of  mossy faerie carpet is becoming an emerald green, offering promise of life returning to the land.
Even though much of Aelfheim still looks brown, there is green life bursting forth if you have patience and know where to look.  When I look out at the pastures from my windows it seems so brown, but walking and becoming one with the land helps you notice what's really happening as the land awakens from it's wintry slumber.

Upon returning to my house, I grabbed a stale bagel I had put aside and tore it into pieces as I strolled over to the bird feeder that's in front of my studio window and began tossing  the bits around the base.  The birds scattered upon my arrival at their feeding station, but as I was finishing up my work, a lone brave nuthatch flew over and positioned himself upside down on the shepherds hook (as is their nature to do) and curiously looked right at me.  I could have reached out and touched him, but didn't dare try.  "Well, hello." I said softly. Not wanting to appear rude, the nuthatch replied, "Hello, thanks for the bagel." and then flew back up to a nearby tree top. I chucked as I walked away, "Your welcome, my friend, enjoy!"
Moss with new spring sporophyte pushing their way upward, eventually releasing spores to continue the green carpet yet further along the path.  
Now I sit with my first cup of coffee. My walk awakened my body as I moved my legs along the land. Energy rose up into my chakras and filled my heart with joy.  The air fresh and clean filled my heart and awakened my mind with the scents of the earth. My system became energized, my spirit fed with the beauty of new life unfolding, I felt the burn in my thighs, oh I really need this, I sat too long at the art table this winter! So this shall be my new morning routine, as often as possible, I will walk the land first thing.  I know that and object set in motion tends to stay in motion, so the action that I choose to take on this day of the Spring Equinox is to plant the seeds of a healthier body, mind, and spirit.  So mote it be!

Where is my Ostara altar? It's all around me!

Happy Spring!
Mickie Mueller

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mystical Cats Proof Pages are Here!

It's interesting how a project that takes years to complete doesn't feel as real as it does the first time you get the finished project in your hands.  Mystical Cats Tarot is a project that is no exception. I was delighted to receive the giant tube from Lynne at the Llewellyn art department for I knew what was inside!

Garfield seems perplexed by the big sheet of cats he's standing on.

I unrolled the uncut sheets of Mystical Cats Tarot and was completely blown away! I used to work for a company that made displays for big companies like Coca-Cola and Under Armor, so I've seen lots of press sheets over the years, but it's always exciting when it's your own work.  They print them all on a big sheet, have to match up the backs on the other side, and then they are die cut to the correct size and shape of the tarot cards that we're all so used to.  It's a pretty cool process.
Continuing the inspection, The Cat (The Fool) begins his journey.

I laid the press proof sheet out on my kitchen table, it's much too big to fit on my old wooden art table.  I weighed the edges down with anything heavy I could find and of course my cats Willow and Garfield had to jump right up in the middle of everything and do the official Mystical Cats inspection.  The first to investigate was Garfield, which is appropriate since he was the model for The Cat (The Fool).

Willow seems satisfied.

Willow checked it all out and then plopped her butt down right in the middle of the whole thing which I have come to understand as her highest approval.  This was her inspection process for most of the art as I created it.

I was really excited to find a cut deck as well inside that magical shipping tube!  I've flipped through them over and over, but I can't bring myself to shuffle them yet for some reason.  I'll have to bite the bullet and do it this week, I really want to start doing some sample readings with it.
Mystical Cats Tarot, the card return to the old wooden art table where they were born!

Lynne did such an amazing job adjusting the color from the scans, she really made sure that the colors on this deck are accurate to the colors of my original art.  She even managed to keep the delicate shading in the white areas, which is no easy task! All of that means that when you get this deck in your hands, it looks exactly as the original art does, just smaller, every detail, highlight, shadow is accurate!
The Stars card, King of Earth, and the aces!

As an artist, I can't be happier!  The deck is borderless which means you get a little more art. The drop in banners with the names of each card turned out so pretty, slightly decorative, easy to read, and it's got the slightest bit of bronzey metallic to it, so it's really elegant.

All I'm waiting on is the boxes to arrive! I can't wait to see that box, pop it open, and flip through Lunaea Weatherstone's beautiful book, even though I've seen the PDF proof, it's just going to be amazing to flip those pages!  If you're as excited as I am, you can pre-order the deck now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and of course Llewellyn's website, the decks are coming out in May, so not long now! I'll add the links below for those of you that want to be among the first to let these cats out of the bag.

Speaking of bags, we also have special bags to keep your decks in over at the official Mystical Cats Tarot Etsy shop, be sure to drop in, there will be more items coming soon, and you'll be able to order your favorite cat on beautiful gifts!
A satin tarot bag featuring "The Priestess" from Mystical Cat's Tarot, we make these right in our studio workshop.
Check them out at Mystical Cats Tarot official Etsy shop, click here!

Barnes & Noble: