Field of Wheat meets Table Topper

One day at work we sat around brainstorming the fall catalog’s cover concept: an inspirational shot of a table topper sewn in beautiful tones of harvest gold, red and orange. Our art director had a splendid idea in mind for showing this table topper in its harvest mode; surround it in a field of golden wheat loaded with succulent cheeses and breads. Sounded yummy to us. Now to find an available wheat field which wasn’t already being harvested. The thought bubble popped up above my head right then, “winter wheat, back 40.” So I grabbed my thought bubble and showed it to everybody and we dove into action. I called Pete to see if the wheat was harvested yet and if not, when. As it turns out, we had a window of 2 weeks to plan an off-site cover shoot on Pete’s wheat field.

winter wheat

Two weeks may seem like a lot of time to plan, but it went by fast, and there were a lot of preparations to be made for this off-site shoot. The calendar was consulted along with the extended weather report. Props were gathered. In fact, some of the team were assigned specific props to gather, such as Gouda cheese, wine, crumbly delicious bread, and a most beautiful Autumn floral display. Timing is a crucial thing. For one example, once the shoot date was set, the floral display had to be ordered at such a time as it wouldn’t dry out too soon. And it seemed that stormy weather was threatening before and after our scheduled shoot date. After each storm, I’d go out and check the status of the wheat. Each time good. Hurry up and shoot already!! This wheat wants to go!

After some studio test shots, the day finally came bright, clear and super hot! Time to hit the tractor road with gear and props. And the table topper. Don’t forget the table topper, that’s the whole reason we’re here! That, and our “after-shoot field picnic” where we get to eat all our delectable props! The whole process of the shoot was much like painting a canvas. It happened layer by layer. Once we got on site, a spot was picked out keeping in mind where the sun was and where it will be within the span of time it takes to “paint the canvas”.

Once a spot was chosen, the layering began. First up, place the table. Watch the wheat, don’t crush it!!

table and wheat field

Then the subject of the shoot was placed on top of the table. Hello table topper. And so the primary layers were in situ.

table in wheat field

Let’s layer some more, cue the first layer of props. We added some rustic wood elements. Ah, just look at those golden hues coming out already, and see that wheat just brushing up against the table giving the topper a little tickle. It’s blushing.

table topper with wooden props

With each layer, a few shots were taken to check positioning.

table topper with camera

Wait, who’s that coming up the tractor road? In that heat it was hard to imagine anyone wanting to walk out to the field, but lo, it is Action Figure Pete! With water! And a very smart-looking hat I might add. Naturally he wanted to come see what the heck is going on in his field of wheat.

Pete on tractor road

Now we are ready for another layer of props. Ze food! Bring it on. Our lovely creative director Donna is arranging the bread, apples, grapes and cheeses. (Sorry about the low grape count Donna, I thought they were snacks for me to eat) Notice with what precision she works. Nothing is simply thrown on but rather carefully arranged. Some things are placed, and then taken out or shuffled around till the right arrangement is achieved always keeping in mind that the table topper is the hero of the shot.

Food propping in wheat field

Now it is time for the next layer, the beauteous floral arrangement. Like everything else on set, the floral arrangement was very carefully pulled together with the type of flower and color in mind for the autumn season.

Autumn floral arrangement


Ah, phew, the arrangement has safely landed. Next our art director and photographer fussed over it for awhile. Its placement cannot overshadow the table topper but instead it should enhance it. As you can see, nothing is sitting directly on top of the topper. And no, the SUV will not be in the shot!! Gosh darn it, who parked that thing there anyway?!


Arranging table top display

Meanwhile, it looks like somebody found a job to do. Realizing the intensity of heat, Action Figure Pete leaped in to provide shade for Donna. Fortunately Marilyn, one of our graphic designers, caught this heroic moment with her camera. I was too busy eating grapes.

Action Figure Pete and Donna

Well, let’s get back to business here. Final touches were made on the set before and during the final round of shots. Not one shot is taken, but rather several to fit all formats and allow us several takes from which to chose. When we were satisfied with all the shots taken, we broke down the set and headed back to the farmyard to eat the props. Except for the flowers. We kept the flowers intact. But we had plenty of cheese, bread and wine. A delicious repast was had.

donna final touches on set

After all that fussing around, the end result is a 2016 Fall cover featuring a gorgeous table topper:

Nancys Notions fall cover

Oh, and Marilyn once again captured Action Figure Pete, this time frolicking in his field after the shoot was done. He is truly outstanding in his field! A few days later the wheat was harvested and baled. Done!

Pete with umbrella

It’s Cajun time!

Cajun in the Country On Air Sign

It’s happening again, another episode of Cajun In The Country! Not an episode really, and it won’t be on air, we just like to pretend around here. But Saturday, September 10th will be the third annual Cajun In The Country music event at our little farm. So preparations are being made. The barn floor has been swept, and will be swept again. The stage and dance floor has been mopped and will be mopped again. Signs and banners are slowly going up.

Cajun in the Country Barn interior

Cajun in the Country Stage and dance floor

It’s looking to be a grand time. The weather forecast is in our favor, we’ve got some delicious Cajun food coming our way, craft beer, cider, soda and water will be available for purchase, and this year for the first time, there will be areas available for open jams. Dance lessons are going to kick off the event at noon, followed by The Cajun Strangers from the Madison area and then later, straight up from Chicago, the Chicago Cajun Aces.

Cajun in the Country barn door

Because this is a farm, and there are steer present, there may be some fabulous farmy odor. I hope people will understand that they will have a stinking good time. But to help the situation, we will be opening windows and doors on both sides of the barn to let in some cross ventilation and asking the steer to please go downwind. Should you dare to cross the Farmer’s Line though, you will be in for a bigger stinking good time than you may have anticipated. All in good cheer though. We’ll fish you out and scrub you down!

Cajun in the Country Farmer's Line

If you find yourself in Wisconsin on September 10th, come on by…if you want to learn more about this thing, go to the Festival Urban Ninjas’ Facebook page at ColumbusWiFun or to their website at

The steer say, “let’s get this party on….mooove it, mooove it”! Put on your dancing hooves and have some fun!

Cajun in the Country Holstein Steers

Stunt Farmer Pete; exposed

I’ve been living on this farm for 4 years and 2 months. It is only now that I have come up with a theory that is rocking my little ag-life world…

CalvesInPastureAction Figure Pete has a stunt double. I know, right? All this time he’s been leading a double life right under my nose. I go to work 25 miles due north assuming that he is hard at work mixing feed, feeding calves, mending fences, digging fields. But in reality, something else is going on. The clues began to add up.

StuntFarmerPete1If I happen to come home unexpectedly early, no matter what time of day…he is home. Taking a nap, watching HGTV, playing with the cat or just coming out of the shower. “And don’t tell me you haven’t been taking a nap Action Figure Sleeping Pete, I can see the indentation of your head in the pillow! And it’s still warm!”

StuntFarmerPete2Ach mein gott! It suddenly hit me, all clues point to Stunt Farmer Pete!! All this time, when I’m around he is all action-packed, industrious and hard-working…but if I step off the farm, in comes Stunt Farmer Pete so that Action Figure Pete can go home, hang up his cap, eat chips and pet the cat. (and no that’s not a typo, there’s no “e” at the end of cap. He has a baseball cap, not a cape. Although if he had a baseball cape, that would be interesting.)

StuntFarmerPete4Now that I know the ugly truth, when do I get to meet this Stunt Farmer Pete? The Action Figure one just laughed at me, denying this accusation. And then it happened, one day I was standing at the end of the driveway at the calf barn. He wasn’t expecting that I would be there. But I was. Waiting. Wondering. Where was Action Figure Pete? Just then who comes tearing down the road in his souped-up lawnmower but gasp! Stunt Farmer Pete in the flesh. No cap, no cape, just a maniacal grin on his face plowing up the road.

Stunt Farmer Pete 5Oh good Stunt Farmer Pete, you’re just in time! We’re leaving on vacation tomorrow, so the farm is in your hands. Good luck with that!

A Full Pull

Hello Handsome…

Hello HorseIt was probably about 4 years ago that Pete took me to see my first Horse Pull. That’s not something I could see in my neighborhood in Chicago. That would be a little out of place. But here, beyond the bend in the road, past a few dusty buildings tucked amidst cropland, one of the first horse pulls of the season took place. 4 years later, the art of the pull started to sink in. Namely, that this is a sport, and these are equine athletes that train specifically for these events. And they are one hunk of sheer power in a bolt of movement.

Horse PullingLike any sport, there is an exactitude and science behind every movement. I haven’t figured all that out yet. I’m still trying to get beyond the awe of the horse’s massive musculature and sheer determination. There is a beauty in that power, sort of an homage to this beautifully engineered animal. Today’s event was only the beginning of the season, a demonstration if you will. A promise of the season to come. At first I thought it was all just fun and games, let’s see some horses pull some weights. But the announcer took the time to speak about the sport a little bit more. And this is what I learned, that there’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, there are hookers and pullers for each team. The puller drives the horses while the hookers, one on each side does just that, hooks the team in and they’re off. They’re not just pretty accessories those hookers, they have to be quick, deft and sure. And the puller, I am assuming here, needs to be able to communicate with the horses with absolute assurance. That’s gotta be a lot of training for everyone, horse and human.

One more thing, they go for the full pull.

Horse PairThat was what I kept hearing announced after each pull, “and it’s a full pull“! Again and again. I know the question marks were bouncing around like little cartoon drawings above my head. What the heck is a full pull?! And they don’t seem to be doing anything less than a full pull so what’s the big deal? Someone must have seen my overhead question marks bobbing around because Mr. Announcer said that a full pull is 27.5 ft. I’m trying to imagine pulling 7000 lbs 27 feet. Nope. But I did drive a heaping pile of concrete blocks for 6 miles in my car once. Not the same thing. And it was Pete’s car. And I wasn’t supposed to do that. oops.

Anyway, these are power horses no doubt. And they do the full pull and love it. You can see it in the way they hold their heads up high and prance off the arena. I want to see more. Maybe try to understand the art of the full pull. And maybe try to encourage myself to do a full pull when the going gets tough. Meanwhile, I’ll just look forward to seeing more of these beauties…

Horse Shine

Soil; the dig begins

Friday evening we stepped out the door and on our way to dinner in town. A few steps off the porch I was hit with a distinct smell….not manure if that’s what you’re thinking. That happens too, but this was different. It was, soil! I’ve been living here 4 years now and I’ve never been gobsmacked in the face with such a strong smell of soil. In fact, I had to announce it to Pete. “I smell soil”. Someone must be digging. Sure enough, our neighbor of the field next to ours was out in his tractor churning up the earth, turning the soil and letting loose that delectable smell. It’s digging time.

Field and Tractor

Now the days get a little unpredictable. If the weather is good, any other plans are put aside and Action Figure Pete hits the fields running, engines on, full tractor speed ahead. Go man go. And that’s where I saw him yesterday while I was taking Bowzer B. Dawg for a walk along the tractor road.


Here he comes. Let’s take a Dawg break and watch Action Figure Pete tear up the field. Bowzer B. doesn’t really like taking a break when he’s doing some serious dog walking. He’s pretty goal oriented that way. I mean it took Bowz about 10 minutes before his butt slowly maneuvered into a true sit position. Sometimes he’ll hold it in mid-air for a long while in case I change my mind and do continue walking. But I held my ground and waited for the tractor’s approach.

Tractor and Farmer

Oh how nice. He stopped for a visit.

Tractor Farmer Approaches

“No need to stop. Keep digging. I’m just walking Dawg.”

Tractor Farmer Approaches

Nope. He’s still coming. “Don’t you have to keep digging? Don’t you have a deadline? Why do you look so serious?”

Soil 7

“‘Sup there tractor-boy?” Turns out tractor-boy had something to say. And it sounded like a pick-up line that I’d expect to hear in a night club,

“Look at my new drag!!”

Whaaat? Er. Okay. What’s a drag? Well, it’s a $5000 piece of equipment attached to the back of the tractor behind the disc. All gleaming metal and chains. A girl would be impressed. And I am. Looks pretty. What does it do, besides dragging that is? Well, it helps even out the soil that the disc just turned up and over. It kinda sounds like a paradox but okay. It smooths out the soil that you just took the time to dig up. Dig and drag.

Tractor and Drag

After being duly impressed with the new drag, Action Figure Pete leaped back into the tractor cab to carry on. But not without first cracking the door open one more time so I could hear the radio cranked up high and filling the cab with classic rock, nice and loud, nodding his head to the pounding beat. Slamming the door shut, he bounced the tractor on its wheels up and down a few times like a souped-up ride before turning up the next row. That’s right, you bounce that field Pete.

Tractor Farmer Head On

Next time you’re driving along and you see a farmer digging his field, nod your head to the beat he’s got going. It’s soil baby.

The Mummies’ New Adventure

“We’re bored” said the mummies. You would be too if you were all wrapped up with nowhere to go, stuck in a room waiting for a more permanent spot on the farm. And where do mummies on a farm go anyway? So they cooked up a scheme for themselves while I lay sleeping. Those scheming mummies. Most of their work happens at night so I might as well get some sleep and let them do some work for a change.

mummy group

What they did surprised me. They got themselves signed onto a new fashion ecommerce company called that connects artists worldwide with producers in a way that brings them back to life. You can imagine how happy the mummies are about that. I am too. The mummies and other drawings I’ve done are reinterpreted into tops and scarves. I can now wear my mummies! And so can anyone else if one so desires. How cool is that!

Mummies on dress form

This ecommerce company has a story that I feel I can get behind. Not only does it give my mummies something better to do, but collaborates with multidisciplinary artists to produce custom apparel while at the same time, providing education for the makers of the final product allowing them to go on to build a better life for themselves and their families. It may only be one small way that I can help give someone else a leg up in this world, but I’ll take it if I can. I’ve always been hapless with volunteering. I can’t build a house, I’m awkward around strangers, and the last time I volunteered to pick up trash in a park, there wasn’t enough trash! So the mummies and I are in on this one. We now have a collection on,

maskie top

If you do visit, be sure to read the company’s back story. It really is enlightening. Plus, the wealth of artists and their product is simply beautiful and one of a kind. And it’s made to order. It’s not running off the press like yesterday’s rag. All custom-made items are printed, stitched, and hand-finished before it gets to you.

ForestMist scarf

I don’t know how this will ultimately go I’ll be honest with you, but it is a kick in the pants to get back to some drawing. Now that warmer weather is approaching, the milkhouse studio will be opened, aired out and back in business. Which means maybe I can start working on some Primitive Cat studies…

Primitive Cat Sketch

Because every mummy needs a cat.

*Disclaimer note: I did not take the photos of the dress form images. Those are composite images of my artwork on the apparel provided by shopvida. Just wanted to mention that. Otherwise, the mummies and primative cat…yeah, me.


Kitty Reprieve; it’s a white world

Dense Fog Alert.

Foggy Laundry Line

When I see that pop up on my smarty pants phone, I get the shivers. I love how fog shrouds the landscape in its ghostly way, but I don’t like driving in it. Fortunately, I was driving home from work when it was still a general mist. Not enough to induce panic, but enough to widen my eyes and appreciate that strange feeling of floating in a sea of nothingness. Driving on rural roads banked with flat cropland covered in snow and layered with mist leaves no notion of landmarks. It’s an eerie feeling. By the time I got home, I felt a sense of relief.

Foggy Barn

There’s only so much “floating in a sea of white” that I can take. Once home though, the mist became The Fog. With a vengeance. Thus the always helpful, “hey-just-in-case-you-didn’t-know-already” Dense Fog Alert. No problem, I’m not driving. Except drat, my cat has a vet appointment in an hour. And the fog is getting more and more heavy-handed. Oh Siri, so you gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go now. If I go there will be trouble (I can’t see in front of me) an’ if I stay it will be double (the cat is scratching her ears, and her nails are digging into me).

Foggy Road

I opted not to go and will pay double. Thanks for the options Clash. It’s a white, white world out there and I think I’ll play it safe. The cat got a reprieve. She doesn’t have to go the vet. She doesn’t know how close she was to her most unfavorite car ride. But don’t worry kitty, a reprieve is just that, a mere postponement. In two weeks time we will be visiting the vet. It’s called, “rescheduling due to inclement weather”.

Gray Ghost Domestic Gray

Don’t give me that look, or I’ll have them give you a bath too!! (p.s. love you cat!)