Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Tail Of Two Christmas Projects

One day last summer I saw Stella way out in the back forty, checking on one of her calves. It was such a classic picture I could almost even hear her saying "Well, hello there cutie." (What she always says to each new animal she meets :-). I had hoped to paint this for her birthday, but you know how my year went... Sigh.



My first attempt at cows (I'm sure not quitting my day job). The old house in the background is the first house they lived in many years ago. Part is log. It's not in great shape anymore, but I still like seeing it way back there.



This is a floor cloth painted as a surprise for another friend. Ellitt is a cousin to Miss Tilly. Callie is a saint for putting up with him. Those darn corgis - there's a reason they are so cute ;-).

I had hopes for more finished Christmas projects - lots of empty stockings this year :-(.

Wait! Aren't there 12 days of Christmas?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas Treat


Janbaby

The Illinois Prairie Path runs through the middle of Saint Tim's home town. This is a beautiful tree lined rails to trails walking, running, bicycling path treasured by locals and visitors alike.


Janbaby and Saint Tim

Two trees along the path have been planted in memory of Tim's maternal grandparents. For the last several years, we've gone out to hang pine cone ornaments as a Christmas treat for the birds. For us.



City Boy, the family chronologist, common pose.



The stranger walking past with his beautiful dogs turned out to be a family friend. No surprise.



Jumping for joy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dutch Treat



A Christmas moon from the Heartland...for Ed ;-).

For an equally offbeat, but hilarious Christmas story, it is hard as yet impossible to top 6 to 8 Black Men by David Sedaris.






Enjoy! (Not responsible for beverage spewage.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Night The Animals Talk

It was Christmas Eve in the barnyard. Seven ordinary animals had just settled down for the night. It was just a typical night -- or so they thought.

The hour of midnight drew near. Silent snow fell gently to the ground. And then something quite amazing happened. These seven ordinary animals, in this simple barn, became seven special animals, if only for this one night.
"What has happened?" asked the young sheep. "Baa! Baa! I can talk."

"Me, too!" said the dog. "Ruff!"

"Moo! Listen to me!" said the calf.

"What's going on?" asked the surprised donkey. "Hee-haw!"

The cow wasn't surprised. "It's midnight," she said. "And it's Christmas Eve."

"What does that mean?" asked the young sheep.

"I'll tell you a story," said the cow, "about the very first Christmas. Then you will understand."

All the animals in the barn gathered to hear the cow's story.

"Long, long ago, one special night," began the cow, "Baby Jesus was born in an ordinary stable, in an ordinary town called Bethlehem. This was the first Christmas."

"Was the stable like this barn?" the dog asked.

"Yes, almost exactly like it," said the cow.

"With animals in the stable, just like us?" asked the young calf.

"Yes," said the cow, "with animals just like us. Let me explain.

"Before Baby Jesus was born, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph, had to travel through the countryside to the town of Bethlehem. Their trip took many days. They traveled up and down steep hills. To make things easier for Mary, an ordinary donkey carried her on his back and Joseph led the way."

"A donkey, just like me?" asked the donkey.

"Yes, a donkey just like you," said the cow. "Finally, Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. But there was nowhere for them to sleep. They had to go to a stable and sleep with the animals. The donkey carried Mary safely to that stable.

"So it was an ordinary donkey who gave Baby Jesus a unique gift, even before he was born, by carrying Mary safely to Bethlehem.

"Later that evening, inside the simple stable, Mary gave birth to a special baby named Jesus.

"The stable was cold. Luckily, in the stable lived a handsome sheep with very soft, beautiful wool."

"A sheep, like me?" asked the young sheep.

"Yes, just like you and your mother," answered the cow. " And this sheep's soft, beautiful wool was made into a very special blanket. The sheep offered this blanket, her unique and most precious gift, to the baby. Mary wrapped Baby Jesus in this special, soft, woolly blanket. It would keep the baby snug and warm during his stay in the stable.

"After their long journey, and the birth of the baby, Mary and Joseph were too tired for lullabies. They needed something to lull the baby to sleep. But what? Mary and Joseph were lucky to find a gentle dove living high in the rafters of the stable."

"A dove, like me?" asked the dove.

"Just like you," said the cow. " And each night her soft cooing soothed the animals in the barn so they could enjoy a good night's sleep. That night was no different. The gentle dove's soft cooing quickly lulled Baby Jesus to sleep, as he lay covered with the sheep's special, soft, woolly blanket.

"But the baby still didn't have everything he needed, even with these most precious and unique gifts.
"Since Baby Jesus was so special, someone was needed to keep watch over him and his family. A brave dog lived in the stable. And though he was an ordinary dog, he was a very special watchdog."

"Just like me!" said the dog.

"Yes, just like you," said the cow. "All night, this brave dog stood watch at the door to the stable. No harm would come to Baby Jesus as long as he was around. The dog was glad to offer this precious and unique gift, and protect the baby from danger.

"All the animals in the stable gathered around Baby Jesus. Covered with a special blanket, lulled to sleep by the cooing of the dove, and protected by the dog, the baby still needed someplace special to sleep.

"His mother could not hold him in her arms all night. So Mary needed a comfortable bed for her child. The ordinary cow came forward and offered the manger, her most precious and unique gift, so the baby would have a safe and soft place to rest his sweet head."

"An ordinary cow, just like you and me, Mom?" asked the young calf.

"Yes, just like you and me, dear," said the cow. "Mary and Joseph lined the manger with hay and tucked the baby under the soft woolen blanket.

"That night, another special thing happened," continued the cow. "A bright star began to shine in the sky."
The animals were puzzled again.

"Where did the star come from?" asked the young calf.

"The star was a gift from God to announce to the world that a special baby had been born. It was the largest star in the sky. It shone over the earth to lead travelers from far and near to the Baby Jesus. In fact, the star was so bright, the stable glowed as the dog stood watch, with the cow and the donkey nearby.

"So you see," said the cow, "it was on a special night, in a simple stable like this one, that ordinary animals became special animals because of the unique and most precious gifts each of them offered to Baby Jesus."

"It was a donkey, like me, who carried the baby's mother safely on his back," said the donkey.

"And a sheep, like me, gave her a special woolen blanket," said the young sheep.

"Only a dove, like me, could have lulled the baby to sleep," cooed the gentle dove.

"And it took a brave dog to keep watch over them all," said the dog, "just like me. Ruff! Ruff!"

"Yes, everyone has a unique and most special gift to give at Christmas," said the cow. "That's why animals like us are given this special gift of speech each Christmas Eve at midnight. So we might tell our children about those very first Christmas gifts given by ordinary animals."

The animals gathered at the door to the stable. Suddenly they saw a bright star in the sky.

"Look! It's the same star!" said the young donkey.

"Yes," said the cow. "It is a special star that will always remind us of that special night when the most special baby was born."


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In The Bleak Midwinter



I have been working hard to finish Christmas orders and completed a big project this afternoon. I grabbed my camera to take a couple pictures, took the 200 mm lens off to switch to the 18-55...and dropped it. It bounced off the table, down to the floor. I was as sick about that as I was about the creep who broke into my car the other night and stole my billfold and Magoo. This is a test picture to see that, miraculously, it was not damaged.

Thank you.

These are some cows across the road - looking out our front door. A bit bleak, but kind of nice, too. I hope everyone has a full hay feeder as the sun continues down this evening.

--------
Post script - Saint Tim has noted, while taking me out for margaritas (definitely a saint) that this is not yet mid-winter, but just the first full day of winter. Oh brother.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Angels

Southern Kentucky actually had a decent snowfall over night, but any snow around here is a big snow and big fun.



Unless you are loyal Brushy, following me around with my camera at first light.



Eli obviously made a trip to "the office".



Do you see the faces in the bark? Owls or raccoons?



These were the only sheep out and about.



And Hank, of course.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three Cat Night



I don't even want to know why Comby had the whole cat condo to himself last night...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Behind The Scenes

Oh, you knew we would have to re-visit the greatest sheep video of all time. Just received an interview on how it was made and thought I'd share...mostly because it would give me a chance to watch it all again :-D.




Director James Rouse on the Baaa-Studs and "Extreme Shepherding"
Viral Spot for Samsung LED TVs Strikes All the Right Notes Online
By Bryant Frazer
April 30, 2009 Source: Film & Video Post your comments below

All hail the Baaa-Studs! This YouTube video showcasing the
animal-wrangling acumen of a group of Welsh shepherds had reached
seven-and-a-half million views at last count. Wearing LED vests at
night, and precisely herded to create animated shapes on a lush Welsh
hillside, the sheep (with some help from their whimsically monickered
handlers, the Baaa-Studs) created a video that feels like one of those
homemade, can-you-believe-it clips that becomes an online sensation.
This clip, however, was a soft sell conceived by The Viral Factory as
a way to promote Samsung LED television sets. F&V talked to director
James Rouse about the shoot, the shepherds, and keeping it real.

FILM & VIDEO: I’m a little ashamed that I have to ask the question —
but is this real?

James Rouse: It’s real. We were using real shepherds and real
sheepdogs, and a lot of it was achieved in camera. It was always our
ambition to achieve most of it in camera. We even had the Welsh
shepherding champion — in terms of shepherding, that’s one of the
biggest claims you can make. What he was able to pull off for us, his
control of his dogs, was phenomenal.

That said, we were helped enormously by our post company. But nothing
that you see isn’t a sheep.

Nothing was created in a computer out of whole cloth?

It’s all elements that we shot that got helped together [in post] to
form shapes. There is, categorically, no sheep in there that wasn’t
filmed in camera. I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that.
I’ll get my mother involved if necessary.

Where did the idea come from?

[Long pause.] Too many beers, probably. Where does an idea come from?
It’s very difficult to say. I didn’t, personally, write the idea. I
developed it a lot from a much vaguer concept. The Viral Factory were
the ones who came up with the idea of putting these LED jackets on
sheep and making them do crazy things. I worked a lot on the back
story of the Baaa-studs, and why they were making a film.

It’s interesting because the branding message is kind of soft. You
don’t realize it’s a Samsung promotion until the very end.

Absolutely. I particularly enjoyed the takeaway people had when they
wrote comments on YouTube. The general consensus is that it’s a group
of shepherds who got together and did this out of their own personal
passions. Yeah, they might have been helped out by computers and,
yeah, Samsung seems to have paid some money for it — but who cares?
People may have felt warmer about it because it didn’t have the heavy
hand of an advertising agency of a big corporation.

It’s been very successful on YouTube.

It’s obviously piqued people’s imaginations. I looked [at the
statistics] yesterday, actually, because it was on our ITV News at 10.
It’s been on BBC News two or three times. I was looking to see whether
that had an immediate effect on the main thread on YouTube, and I
noticed a comment from a guy in Australia who had just seen it on the
news. Another had seen it on Hawaiian news. And I know for a fact it’s
been on a couple of news channels in America. Heaven only knows how
many outlets have picked it up. The shepherds who have been
interviewed as a result of this have their own Hollywood kind of cult
following down in Wales, which is very pleasing to them. They find
that very amusing.

Where did you actually find the shepherds?

Well, we needed a location, and we knew we needed shepherds. We went
to Wales, where there are a lot of nice hills and a lot of sheep and a
lot of shepherds. We made inquiries to find the best shepherds around.
They look great because they’re the real deal. We shot for two days.
They were amazing — they gave everything they had to it.

Was it tough to wrangle all the shots you wanted during the two shooting days?

It’s always tough, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever been on a shoot
where everything just comes together, and you can put your feet up.

So was it just like any other shoot?

I’m never going to put LED jackets on sheep and send them to play Pong
on a hillside again. But on many shoots you’re doing extraordinary
things, and this is another extraordinary thing that I’m fortunate to
have been involved in.

In the greater scheme of things, it was a very different shoot.
Strangely, I don’t think it was particularly difficult. I was
pleasantly surprised at what was possible using real sheep. Of course,
using animals you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.

Was there anything especially challenging during the shoot?

Sheep don’t like being separated from the pack, I know that much.
Getting one sheep to stand alone is a bloody nightmare. They stick
together like mercury. Getting one sheep to stand on its own while
there’s another pack of sheep near it is virtually impossible.

They couldn’t have been used to being herded around at night, could they?

No. The shepherds genuinely had no idea whether that would work or
not. They couldn’t tell us how freaked out the animals would be
wearing these jackets. Strangely, they didn’t seem to be bothered by
it at all. It was as if they had always had lights on their backs
since they were born. The dogs wore lights as well, and they were also
completely unfazed by it. It was as if they had always herded at
night. With sheeps with lights on them. It was very, very strange. It
could have gone either way. I don’t want to be cruel to an animal, and
I would have felt extremely uncomfortable if the animals had seemed to
be in discomfort. But none of the animals were in the slightest bit
disturbed. It was just another day’s work.

Do you normally do TV spots, or do you do a lot of virals?

I’ve done a lot of both. I like to keep things as varied as possible.
Hopefully my style is eclectic. I’m working, at the moment, on a
film-ic number with 35mm, anamorphic lenses, massive crowd
replication. It feels like a scene from Gladiator, or whatever epic
movie you want to pick. It’s the storytelling that I’m motivated by –
the storytelling and the characters. And you can execute that in
millions of ways.

There’s a Honda ad you’re probably aware of, “Let it Shine.” It’s one
of those bizarre moments when there are two different executions of a
very similar idea. The similarities are very interesting, although the
style and execution are very different. The basic concept of lights on
a hill making shapes, and even the framing of the lights on the hill
and the type of hill they’ve chosen, is very similar. And then the
execution of that idea is vastly different. They are parallel ideas.

But the Honda spot looks like a characteristically glossy television
commercial This one feels more down-home.

I wanted to have the feeling that it had been self-generated by this
group of farmers and shepherds. I didn’t want it to feel like the hand
of a corporation, or a too-skilled filmmaker was making it. That’s
probably why they came to me — they didn’t want a too-skilled
filmmaker. [Chuckles.] The skill is in the sheep and the shepherding
and not in the filmmaking.
------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------
Client: Samsung
Spot Title: "Extreme Shepherding"
Launch Date: March 16, 2009

Creative: The Viral Factory

Director: James Rouse (represented by Outsider in the US and UK)
Producer: Jon Stopp
DOP: Richard Stewart
Editor: Owen Oppenheimer
Post: Unit/MPC

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whoops!



What's wrong with this picture? Or, should I say what's wrong with our sign? Guess I should have painted grazing sheep.



Suspicious Ford might raise his head, but he's probably just keeping an eye on that dastardly dog.



Who means no one (except some Adventure Chickens) any harm, but try to convince a bunch of hard headed sheep...

And before anyone calls animal welfare on us, the skinny sheep is Crazy Esther, who is probably a hundred years old and had her last front tooth fall out this fall. In an amazing turn of events, she's finally decided she'll let us feed her ewe nuggets....by hand no less. And if there is a tough old bird out there who can make it through another winter, it will be her.



On the other side of the spectrum, how 'bout these big butts? Actually, Miss Ewenice (on the left) is the one I'm most worried about this winter. She has on a couple occasions gotten down and needed help getting up. You can see how atrophied her left hip has gotten. She and Esther are happy little old ladies though.



Not much slowing these boys down. Woolliam was bummed he didn't get to go see Santa this year, but he's confident Graham Lamb asked for the right presents, namely an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.

"You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

He Knows If You've Been Bad Or Good

Stella and I have made it an annual tradition to take a sheep on a Christmas adventure. Popcorn PeePee Pants went to a holiday photo shoot, Henrietta went to visit Santa at Tractor Supply Company, Ewen McTeagle participated in a walking nativity and Woolliam got to chat with the big guy last year.

The Santa Paws pet photos at TSC supports the neighboring Scott County Humane Society. It's always a fun time and this year we knew we'd have to take the boys.



"Hi Santa. My name's Graham Lamb and this is my brother Keebs. We've been real good all year!"



"Um, I think he's on to us."



"Yeah, I did chase Comby the other day. YES, we did get into the hay stall when we weren't supposed to. But it was Keebler who ate all Esther's cookies!"



"Yeah, yeah, right. I'm going to start being good. All year. Got it. Whatever you say. Just bring the presents."



Keebs, you gotta tell Santa what you want for Christmas. (I got a lot of those looks the whole time. You know the one - just like the one on the porch when he was a baby.)



While Keebler only wanted to stay right by my side, Graham Lamb was quite happy to "work" the crowd.



"Why did you make me have to come here. You knew I wouldn't have any fun. And why do I have to wear these stupid reindeer antlers?"



"Oh, there's shopping?"



Or shop lifting. "Saint Tim, we'd better get out of here. They just opened a bag of alfalfa cubes."



"Hey Keebs! I think we need one of these!"

"Just keep walking Graham. Come on."

Even if your local humane society doesn't let encourage you to bring a sheep, dog, cat or even iguana to have their photo taken with Santa, don't forget them over the holidays. Those shelters always need a helping hand.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's A Conspiracy

I finally broke down and paid money for a dozen store bought eggs the other day. It's been months since we've had any return on investment for all the laying mash, scratch grains, coop heater, heated water... The very next day someone laid an egg out there. Don't tell me they aren't laughing behind my back.

There was a small(ish) incident with Hank back in the summer and the Adventure Chickens no longer go on many true adventures in the front field. I felt bad about this - no one should be denied adventures - so we decided to let them wander the yard this winter. As long as they stayed out of the flower garden.



Ahem, as long as they stay out of the flower garden!



I thought it was funny how all the little birds in the trees were looking down on the girls.



And then I noticed why they were so concerned. Uh oh.



This picture is funny in that you can see evidence that there's always something going on at Equinox Farm. The girls are under the bird feeder, Graham Lamb, Keebs and Hank up by the gate - Keebs has been trying the latch all afternoon - and the rest of the sheep are watching from a distance to make sure the coast is clear (Come on, let it go guys!) to go out to graze for awhile.



Finally, everyone always asks us what kind of chicken this is. We didn't know. Her name is Little Jane (there's a funny story there as well), she does lay eggs, but also crows like a rooster. Seriously. Go ahead and google it - I sure did the first time I heard her. Today on Life on a Southern Farm I learned (I'm pretty sure) that she's a Sebright.

So, other than a small(ish) incident with COMBY today, the Adventure Chickens have had a pretty good day.

I need mailing addresses for Deb at Tylerfarm Homestead, Tifany and Joanna@BooneDockWilcox. KatieB and Peacecat are the other two card winners, but I know where to find you ;-). If a set of mixed farm cards doesn't suit, let me know which single design you'd like. You can email me at thecrazysheeplady at gmail dot com.

Thank you for helping with Holiday Mail for Heroes!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deck The Wool House

The wind keeps blowing down the three trees I set out on the wool house porch so I moved them inside. I just love Christmas trees. The old tree I set up in the house is covered in sheep (of course) and horses (of course) and cats (of course), but also miniature bales of straw, apples, dog biscuits and even bird nests. It's full.

It's so full that when I saw Ewen McTeagle's aunt Eleanor's beautiful sheep ornaments, I did stop and think "where on earth will I put these?" But just for a second. They are so darling I knew I'd find the perfect spot. And the wind helped.



Aren't these just wonderful? Little Ewen and Petunia and Rebecca Boone and Buddy and Miss Ewenice and Boudreaux...



Maybe needs a little yarn tinsel or garland. And a bird nest!



The angels are courtesy of Popcorn PeePee Pants.



And I love the view of the sheep field behind the sheep tree.



And the ponies snug in their run in sheds out the front window. This wind can quit any time now. I appreciate it drying up all the rain soaked ground, but I think we're "good" now.

What are your favorite decorations?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Kitties Were Nestled All Snug In Their Beds

Or "Why There Are Mice Trying To Move Into Our House" or "Et Tu Claire Bear?!?" or "Just Shoot Me. Please."

It's not even cold yet. Windy, yes. Cold, no. I still have the kitchen door open. Yeesh.



Yin Yang



I think the food bowl located right outside the cubby door is an especially nice touch. Don't trip on that heater cord when you get up for dinner tonight, Brushy.



Claire Bear. Sigh. I guess everyone deserves a day off. At least she's earned it...



"Yeah, whatever."



It's apparently important to cook each side equally.

Monday, December 7, 2009

While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night...And Day

We moved (or tried to move) all the sheep into the front field this morning. The main flock wasn't that jazzed (I'll admit the weather is pretty cruddy and good for sleeping in...), but Graham Lamb and Keebs were right out there. All day. Stuffing grass into their mouths as fast as they could.

After the tragedy over the summer, I found I no longer enjoyed looking out the window and seeing sheep out front. Even worse, GL and Keebs were out all morning by themselves. Hank was off duty (!), cashed out with the main flock. I realize he has to sleep sometime, but he used to sleep out with the boys. I was worried sick and checked on them regularly through the day.

At the last check, this is what I found.



Whew!



It didn't even take him a day to figure out the new routine.



Because even if he looks asleep...



He doesn't miss much.



This is surely the end of the petunias.

What a bunch of hard workers we have here.

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