Just a week or so ago, I went up to Vermont for a few days. While there, my friend Tammy at Wing and a Prayer Farm in Shaftsbury commissioned me to letter her barn board. (When Meleen and I have our retreats in Arlington, we always go to see her at the farm. A highlight!) Tammy and her family have a small fiber farm where they raise a number of flocks for wool, eggs and the fun of it. Tammy is a remarkable and delightful woman. Her fondness for every one of her many critters informs the endlessly demanding hard work and the way that she generously shares the highs and lows of farming with her followers. She is a gifted writer and keeps a blog, an honest, funny, and heartwarming journal of life at the farm. One of my favorite books is E. B. White's One Man's Meat. I often think of that when I read her posts or listen to her sharing a daily anecdote from the fields or barn. I grew up on a small farm slightly similar to Tammy's. There was a time when we were busy as a family doing chores and tending animals, though never on the scale that Tammy does. That sentimental love of working barns, paddocks, fields and gentle animals makes me feel very much at home here.
With visitors stopping by for lambing season, Tammy will have her hands full in a week or so. Good to have some handy information to begin the story. The newly painted board is on the first wall of the barn. Tammy envisioned a kind of map of the animals. She made a quick sketch with the information I would need to tell the farm story and then handed it over. I've had lots of work painting large illustrated signs and my style is pretty unfussy, but it was still a bit daunting. I was only there for the afternoon and it was cooling off. I began in the middle, using the center screw in the frame as my center guide. Then I just had to start. So much information! In this case, I worked the center panel first and then added the one to the left and then the right. The marker I use is a water-based chalk marker with a chisel point which I prefer for crisp lettering. Flowers and other decorations filled in to balance a crooked line or indicate a change in breed category.
Honestly, I don't know how to draw lots of these farm animals. For all the days I spent as a moody teenager trying to draw my own horse, it was challenging to get him rendered with a few lines. I took my phone out and took quick photos of the animals in action around the farm - going for silhouettes that I could use as suggestion. The alpacas were right there watching me in the stall beside the sign. They make funny noises and were very interested in what I was up to. I really, really like my alpaca on the board! Next stall over, the Muppets, Angora goats, were milling about waiting for the vet to come by and update their due dates. The ponies were within sight just out the door and the busy dogs darted in and out of the scene. I so loved being in the midst of their world. Such a peaceful and pretty place with late afternoon sun cutting through the stall doors. Tammy came through with her helper, Maggie. Buckets full of grain and water delivered, hay forked. Gates and stall doors sliding open and creaking shut. Tammy's comforting advice to each animal. Hooves clattering on the wood floor, little scuffles and contented meanderings. The smell of the leathery tack, the sweet and pungent manure, the early spring air blowing cold through the doors.
Finished just as the day turned dusky and fairly pleased to see how well it turned out. As I like to say, everything looks better in a barn. We headed into the house where Tammy's family and friends gathered for a lovely evening at her table. A very fine day.
Late that night I looked at the board on my camera roll and realized I'd made a mistake with her website. Oops. The next day I went back, fixed it, some punctuation and added a few more of the animals that I'd forgotten. Tammy's daughter Char mentioned the mini-donkeys. The Assettes. Had to add them, the trio of family dogs we have all come to know and love, and the peacock, Mario. Found a place for Tammy's credo.
Many thanks to my friend, Meleen, who put me up and always makes me feel so at home. Vermont is a magical place. I do love it and all the wonderful friends I've made there. Loved, loved doing this board for Tammy.
Visit Tammy's site and read about the wonders of spring at Tammy's farm. She has a lamb cam set up now in the barn. Going to be a lot of action in the next few weeks!