Bagel Bandits

I slept in today, so I carried my bagel out with me to the barn instead of eating it in the house.

Eating a bagel without sharing did not meet with the approval of Miss Angel.

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“Gimme! I want that!”

I offered her a small bite torn off of my bagel, but she quickly determined that it wasn’t crunchy, made a face, and spit it out.

Eating a bagel and offering a bite to Angel did not meet with the approval of Miss Mira.

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“MINE! Not Angel’s! I want that!”

Mira also got a small bite of bagel, which she also made a face at and spit out because it wasn’t crunchy…

… and then she and Angel both came back and demanded again that I share my bagel. Which they’d already tried. And spit out. Kids…

I wasn’t willing to give up any more of my bagel if they weren’t going to eat it, so I finished it myself by the time I got to the yard gate.

Echo was very Betrayed and Disappointed that I ate the whole thing and didn’t share my bagel with him. I can’t stand his Betrayed and Disappointed face. It’s just so sad.

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“You didn’t give me any bagel! I don’t understand, I love bagels! I’ve never had one, but I know I’d love them! And you didn’t share with me! I just don’t understand why you would do that…”

So I sat on the grass and petted his ears and held his paw for a while, until he got over his slump. Echo loves having his paws held. (As long as you’re not trying to trim his toenails. Toenail trimming is mean and results in the Betrayed and Disappointed face.)

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“Well, since you held my paw I suppose I forgive you.”

Normally I think Watcher would have also been upset about the lack of bagel-sharing, but he was busy being the official Farm Alarm and yelling at a deer that dared to pass by our field, so he didn’t notice that I was eating.

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“Did you see that deer run? I sure told HIM off! Let’s play ball!”

I threw his ball twice, then that got boring and he decided to play fight with Echo. About seventy-five percent of the time play fighting with Echo involves Watcher spinning in mad circles snarling and snapping while Echo just stands there half-heartedly sniping at Watcher when he gets too close.

The other twenty-five percent of the time Echo usually wins. Echo is over fifteen pounds heavier than Watcher. Watcher is lucky he’s usually laid back and lazy.

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“Fight me!”

“Do I have to?”

And off we all went back to the house, Watcher spinning along in front of us, and Echo sort of half chasing him.

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“Ah-ha! I knew I could get you to play!”

“This game is too much work! Why can’t I just stay in the house and eat bagels?”

Poor Watcher. He works (and plays) so hard, and nobody has enough energy to keep up. If anybody around here needs the extra carbs of a bagel it’s him.

Home Invasion

I didn’t get the porch gate closed in time today, so I had Angel running around the porch yelling through the windows at me. I hid in the dining room and recorded her through the window. Pardon the shaky footage, my zoom is wobbly and I kept accidentally bumping the camera into the glass.

Mira eventually popped in just to make sure I didn’t come out and give Angel attention behind her back, then they both went around the corner where I couldn’t see them anymore. I tried calling them back, but I think they had decided to stake out my bedroom window or something, because they didn’t come until after I’d stopped recording.

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“Stop pointing that camera through the window and come give me crunchies, Mommy!”

There’s a reason the sheep are usually locked off of the porch.

Spoiled

I noticed I hadn’t taken any good pictures of the ram lambs lately, so today I tried to focus on getting close-ups of them. Drake refused to cooperate, but I did get a pretty nice one of Griffin, who is still Mr Angry Eyebrows when photographed straight on. The angry eyebrow markings are starting to be overshadowed by his horns, though. The growth rate of a ram’s horns always amazes me; it doesn’t seem like it should be physically possible for them to grow that fast.

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“I need big horns so I can impress the girls! I’m trying to get a girlfriend, but they just keep butting me away!”

I like this picture. It has Griffin and Duchess in the foreground, Lady with all three of her babies in the background, and Nova swooping in from the side to retrieve her wayward son just for added interest.

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“Can we have crunchies for breakfast?”

I like this picture, too. The Shetlands always seem so peaceful and picturesque, standing in that green grass.

As I was taking this picture I felt a tugging on my back pocket, and discovered Mira trying to steal my cell phone while I was distracted.

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“Hey, why aren’t you paying attention to me?”

So then I had to stop and make a fuss over Mira of course, and then Angel ran up and needed to be fussed over, too. Then Mira got jealous and started trying to run Angel off, and it was all very dramatic.

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“You’re MY mommy! You’re only supposed to pet ME!”

Fortunately my mother was with me this morning, and since she’s Angel’s “real” mom, Angel was happy to run back to her when Mira started getting pushy.

Once everyone migrated to the yard, I gave them some mineral mix, which is even more wonderful than crunchies. Feeding them minerals is not one of my favorite chores. They’re so crazy about it I always end up getting mugged, as documented by my mother’s cell phone camera.

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“Mine, Mine, MINE!”

Most of the salt was already in the tray, but of course the salt in the scoop is better. Liam and Nova pigged out while everyone else was hypnotized by the scoop.

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“You guys keep after ShepherdPerson, leave the tray to us!”

If Neo the sweet cinnamon roll is jumping up on me, I’m willing to consider that there may be actual drugs in that mix.

Soon enough, the salt in the tray is gone and Liam and Nova join the rest.

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“We want more!”

Angel, despite having gotten her salt hand-fed to her, decided to check out the tray just in case.

Mira gives little Griffin the stink-eye. He’s been fanboying over her a lot lately, so she’s annoyed by his general existence at this point, even without delicious mineral mix to fight over.

As always, the feeding frenzy ends with me running for the basement doors to escape the woolly piranhas, with muddy hoof-marks all over my clothes.

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“Nooo, come back with the salt!”

There were a lot more sheep than just Mira and Angel yelling at me through the basement doors today. Greedy sheep, anyone would think they were mistreated.

Fortunately it’s usually only the bottle babies that think to run around to the back porch and continue their yelling. Neither Angel nor Mira particularly wanted to share the porch steps, but that’s the harsh reality of not being the only bottle baby on the farm.

“Hey, what are you doing on my stairs?”

“These are MY stairs! I was here first!”

Sometimes I feel sorry for Mira, but then I remember that she wouldn’t have to compete with a younger rival if she’d raised Angel herself. Then I feel less sorry for her.

But only a tiny, tiny, bit less. Because Mira’s still my baby and I’m a pushover for sad Miss Miracle eyes.

Never Happy

When it’s sunny, like it was a few days ago, the sheep head out single-file to graze in the morning. They all tend to run out ahead of me in their quest for breakfast, except the bottle babies who tend to sick close just in case I decide to give them crunchies.

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“Breakfast time!”

The Shetlands were out in front that day, which is a bit unusual, but I suppose Liam might have just been especially eager to get to graze. Liam isn’t deliberately pushy, but he’s so big nobody usually gets in his way. Except Griffin and Drake, but they’re ram lambs and therefore have no sense of scale. (Or sense in general, to be honest.)

Despite their initial enthusiasm, it doesn’t take very long before the sun starts bothering them and everyone comes back to huddle in the shade and complain about the weather.

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“Grumble-grumble, it’s too hooooot. I don’t like it.”

Well, almost everyone.

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“Crunchiiieeees! They’re in this pocket here, where my hoof is!”

Angel’s been picking up Mira’s manners, unfortunately. If anything, I think she might be a tiny bit more demanding, which is a bit scary to think about.

In contrast to the sunny days, on rainy days like this morning the single-file march to breakfast is droopy and grumpy, and tends to drag along behind me instead of charging ahead.

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“Grumble-grumble. Everything’s wet. I don’t like it. Make it stop.”

Little Angel somehow ended up out in front today, which was pretty funny. Even she wasn’t sure how that happened. I couldn’t get the whole procession in one shot, but everyone (including me) was grumping along half wishing they’d stayed in bed.

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“Grumble-grumble. Grazing in the rain is not a Splendid Game.”

The single-file march only lasts to the gate. Once through, they wander off to graze. The Shetlands usually only go a short distance, while the Soays venture forth as far as possible before everyone settles down to focus on breakfast.

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“Grumble-grumble, breakfast is all wet. I’m getting wet. Why do those Soays want to go all the way out there when there’s grass right here?”

Well, almost everyone.

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“Crunchiiiees! Everything’s wet! I’m hungry, I need crunchies!”

She was very confused by my rain coat’s lack of pockets. ShepherdPeople are supposed to be naturally equipped with lots of pockets full of crunchies and cell phones and other fun things for sheep to steal.

She was also highly unhappy that I didn’t bring her into the house with me. She yelled at me through the basement door until she heard me going up the steps, then she ran around to the porch gate to yell at me some more.

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“Hey! You forgot me!”

Why do they have to be so cute? It’s so hard to ignore a crying lambie. Of course once she hits a certain volume I’m just as glad she’s doing her yelling outside.

Last time I checked everyone had taken the edge off their hunger and then retreated back to huddle under the hoop houses and complain about the weather.

8.jpg“HEEEEEY! Did you hear me? I said YOU FORGOT MEEE!”

Well, almost everyone.

 

 

Rainstorm

We had heavy rain most of the day Friday. The sheep had much to say about this, all of it negative. Angel was particularly vocal, since she hasn’t been stuck outside in a heavy rain before. She had her choice of three different shelters to get under, but still.

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“It was terrible! How am I supposed to eat grass like a big girl with water falling on me out of the sky?!”

Being an outside sheep instead of a house sheep is a very trying experience.

The sheep are still convinced that there is no grass at all anywhere and their only food source is the trees.

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“Quick, everybody to the trees!”

Unfortunately they’ve already pretty well stripped the trees as high as they can reach.

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“Now what are we going to do?”

Griffin is flirting with Lady, who is deeply unimpressed. Usually it’s Duchess who gets all the fanboys, but since Griffin is her baby he has to devote his attention to the other girls.

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“I need crunchies, I had a traumatic experience!”

Crunchies are a remedy to cure all ills. Angel has become quite a fan of crunchies since she decided she didn’t want her bottle anymore. Mira has very firm objections to that, and makes determined but usually unsuccessful attempts to chase her away. They end up playing ring-around-the-rosie around my legs.

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“Ahem, why are you giving that little squirt my crunchies? I’M your baby, so I believe all the crunchies are MINE!”

While the bottle babies squabble at each other, the rest of the flock devotes their attention to eating the (apparently substandard) grass and looking wistfully at all the leaves they can’t reach.

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“Sigh, all those yummy leaves…”

The dogs keep careful watch from the other side of the fence, waiting to escort me back to the house. Usually they also end up playing ring-around-the-rosie around my legs. Those games make it very difficult to walk.

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“When do we get our crunchies?”

Echo isn’t a fan of getting wet, either. It’s hard to get him to go out in the yard at all when it’s raining. He is a fan of crunchies, though.

The animals may not have liked it, but we needed the rain. It’s made everything green again, so I was glad to see it.

Saturday Morning

I like Saturday mornings, when I can let the sheep out and visit a little bit instead of rushing off to work. Unfortunately I keep forgetting to charge the batteries in my real camera so all I’ve gotten lately are phone pictures, which are always zoomed in too far for some reason and are usually focused oddly.

“Crunchies?”

Holly gave me a bit of a scare last night wobbling around twitching her head, but it turned out she just got something in her eye. The wobbling was from trying to navigate with one eye closed and keep her “blind” side to Lady.

Today she’s still a bit squinty but the eye is clear and she’s acting better. Unless something changes I’m going to chalk it up to Lady’s family always wildly overreacting to minor injuries.

“Crunchies?”

I want to have words with whoever introduced Angel to climbing on me trying to stick her nose in my pockets. I wonder who on earth that could have been, hmmm…

“Does she have to hang around with us?”

If Mira’s accepted Angel enough to teach her bad habits I guess that’s good enough for me. She seems resigned to having Angel around her, so that’s an improvement over the days when she wouldn’t stop attacking the poor baby trying to drive her away from “her” humans.

“Mira knows lots of Splendid Games, and she wants to come live in the house, too! Can we come back in the house, please?”

Nope. Sorry. One way ticket.

They really wouldn’t like it in the house anymore, since there isn’t any food for them. They just think they want in. What they really want is for me (and my mom, who’s more Angel’s mom than I am) to move out with them, but I’m not on board with that plan.

“Breakfast!!”

My nice, serene early-morning landscape looks decidedly less serene with Neo and Mira trying to reach the tree leaves instead of eating the grass.

The Shetlands are off in their own little Sane Sheep Club. Nina was hanging out with them this morning, even though in her mind she’s Obviously A Soay. I guess she has dual citizenship or something.

“I gots a tasty leaf, ShepherdPerson!”

Griffin still has angry eyebrows but he’s grown into them well enough they’re not as noticeable. He’s turning into a very determined flirt (Duchess is his mom, so that’s no surprise) instead of a grumpy sleepy-head. Although he does still take a lot of naps.

“I gotta practice for my rematch with the Dukelings!”

The sheep won’t eat those purple stalky weeds, so I’m assuming they’re probably poisonous or something, but the thick stalks are ideal for sharpening horns, apparently. The purple rubs off on their horns and gives them a nice bloody look so they can scare ShepherdPerson, which is always fun.

The big boys were in this field most of the spring and they’ve rubbed most of the purple off by now, but there are enough stalks left for Drake to practice on.

“Why am I stuck watching the babies? I poked my eye, I might be dying, I shouldn’t have to babysit!”

Holly got left to watch the lambs and didn’t seem too happy about it. Too bad for her, it’s the inevitable duty of the yearlings to watch the babies when their mothers need a break. Nobody likes babysitting the ram lambs when they’re big enough to be bothersome but not old enough to have any sense.

For my flock, it’s a relatively peaceful morning. It’s a pity I can’t sit out with them and read without curious sheep trying to eat my book or stick their noses in my tea. I bet that would be nice.

Boy Trouble

The boys got in with the girls yesterday. They broke the twine that’s been holding the field gate closed ever since they broke the clasp on the chain that used to hold the gate. Now I have a chain with a (hopefully) sturdier clasp. We’ll see how long that lasts.

I know they can do their escaping less destructively, since last time they got out, they got into the yard by lifting the yard gate right up off of its hinge pins. They say Soays have ancient genetics, but I’m starting to wonder if they’re part velocirapor.

Drake and Griffin were thrilled to have so many other guys around, and ran around challenging everyone from the Dukelings to great big Little John to duels. I think it was a mind blowing experience for the Dukelings, having tiny ram lambs pestering them trying to pick a fight. Oh how the tables were turned!

The two babies tried to sneak out with the rest of the boys when we finally got them separated, but once they realized that being big, grown up rams meant not having their mamas following them around they decided they weren’t quite ready to grow up after all.

The rest of the boys were pouty at having their Grand Adventure spoiled, but I’m sure they’ll get over it (and start planning the next one, ugh) soon enough.

“Why do you keep fixing all the fences?? We work hard to break those down!

Duke is a ram with Too Many Kids. When the Dukelings are being especially bothersome I think Duke agrees with me, but he’s not sure how it keeps happening.

“I’m proud of all my sons!”

“But there are an awful lot of them… Why don’t you guys go follow Johnny around for a while?”

“You don’t think he’s trying to get rid of us, do you?”

“Of course not! Why would he want to do that?”

The Dukelings are shedding off and proving my suspicion that the average Dukeling is 25% hair and at least 25% horns. It’s going on a year now that I’ve been telling myself every few days that I need to get them wethered. At this point I may as well wait and do them and the babies at the same time.

Fortunately it didn’t look like anybody was in heat, so there probably won’t be any unplanned winter babies. An escape still isn’t something I like seeing when I get home from work. 

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my birthday! My mom and I sat outside with the babies for a while, which was nice. I haven’t had as much time lately to sit with them as I’d like. Angel moved out this week, so there’s plenty of ruffled feathers to soothe. The move was a little bit ahead of schedule, but she weaned herself a long time ahead of schedule, so there wasn’t much point in her staying in the house anymore.

Watcher broke Angel’s bottle last week, (I was very upset, that was Mira’s bottle. Echo is my favorite dog now.)  so there was much scrambling to obtain a replacement bottle before the hungry yelling blew anybody’s eardrums. She was very happy and relieved at first when I managed to find one for her, but after one or two feedings she decided she didn’t like the new bottle anymore and wanted her old bottle back. Which unfortunately wasn’t possible since the old one was in several pieces.

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“This isn’t my bottle, why are you trying to trick me?”

I really didn’t want her to be weaned so early, but she apparently decided she’d rather go without entirely than drink from the awful, terrible, completely unacceptable new bottle, so after a day or two I gave up on forcing her. She was even less happy about the barn than she was about the bottle, but she seems to be settling in just fine now.

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“I can’t pose right now, I have to eat lots of grass to make up for all the milk you mean people aren’t giving me!”

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“Go away, Griffin! I can’t play, I have to eat! I’m starving, they won’t give me any milk!”

She was offered milk. Over and over she was offered milk. She’s just too finicky for her own good. I don’t know how she ended up like that, it’s not like anyone else in her family is spoiled at all.

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“Do I get crunchies for your birthday, Mommy?”

Mira got crunchies for my birthday, because she always tends to get her way. Then Angel had to come running over to see what Mira was getting. I’m not sure I like being outnumbered here.

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“Where are MY crunchies? Don’t I get crunchies for your birthday, too!”

Angel got crunchies for my birthday, too. Mira wasn’t happy. There was squabbling. Business as usual.

Drake took advantage of the ruckus to try to eat the tags off of our camp chairs.

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“I’m gonna eat this!”

He did actually manage to rip it off, which led to me chasing him around trying to snatch it back before he swallowed it. I did manage to get it away from him, but Nova got mad about me mistreating her poor little baby and shuffled him away.

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“Why do you always pick on MY babies? My babies never do anything wrong!”

What is it about lambs that makes their mothers so indulgent? Case in point, my tolerance of Angel’s blood feud with my foot. She says living out with those bratty boys she needs to practice her head-butting. I say living with all these bratty sheep of both genders I deserve to not have my feet pounded to pulp.

Of course the lamb wins that argument. Those lambies always seem to get their way somehow.

Four Years

This weekend was my fourth anniversary of sheep keeping. (If you measure by exact days it was last Thursday, June 1, but measuring by “first weekend in June” makes this post only one day late instead of four days, so I’m going with that.) I remember the day those first four sheep came here to live, but it seems like it was a lot longer ago than four years.

Somehow in only four years I’ve gone from four sheep to… um… more sheep than I have fingers to count them on. I think I counted about fifty last time I checked. Although they were moving around a lot, I might have counted a few twice. My records say I have twenty-two, but it seems like more than that.

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“Should we beat up ShepherdPerson for crunchies, or is it too hot to bother?”

Ah, the good old early days when all the sheep (except Princess) were too scared to beat me up for crunchies. Now I can wave my arms over my head and yell trying to shoo them away and they don’t even flinch, they just stand there looking mildly concerned for my sanity. I don’t really blame them, sometimes I’m mildly concerned for my sanity, too.

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“Crunchies?”

Lady was one of those first four sheep. She and Holly feel neglected I’m sure, since they don’t have lambs this year and I’ve mostly been paying attention to the mamas and babies. Lady needed a break after having four lambs in three years, and I think Holly’s probably happy to still be Lady’s baby for another year.

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“We want crunchies, too!”

Duke, now edging towards the beginning of middle age, has a small army of duplicates running around, only some of whom are pictured here. Nobody’s gotten brave enough to challenge him for top spot yet, though.

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“Chompy-chomp!”

Angel looks like she’ll be as beautiful as her mother and grandmother when she grows up, but remains frustratingly hard to photograph unless engaged in acts of violence against my feet. I sympathize completely with Mira’s physically-painful-looking eye roll in the background.

I made a flower crown out of clover blossoms and tried to put it on Mira, but she thought it was a halter and fussed and fidgeted until she knocked it off onto her back where she couldn’t reach it. Then she just glared at me until I took it off of her. Mira has a very low tolerance of anything that might be a halter in disguise.

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“You only pull out halters when you’re trying to tell me what to do! This better not be you trying to tell me what to do, Mommy!”

On the other hand, I think Mira has no business rolling her eyes at Angel, given that Angel probably got her attitude from Mira.

I tried putting the flower chain on Angel, but she fussed and fidgeted and ran around in a panic with it dangling from one ear.

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“Get it off!”

Like mother, like daughter.

I then tried to put it on Nova. With absolutely no fuss and a bare minimum of fidgeting, she promptly tossed it off her head and ate it. Thus ended my attempt to take cute flower pictures.

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“ShepherdPerson’s being annoying and doesn’t have any crunchies, let’s go eat grass!”

One fun thing about having a larger flock is that watching the whole big mob charge gleefully through the gate is much more impressive than when it was only the three little ewe lambs with Duke wheezing along behind.

running-sheep

But those early days were fun and special, too. I’m glad I have pictures.

Keeping Busy

Griffin is growing very quickly, but he still likes his naps. Preferably on a flat rock or in his tree-cave, but he will lay in the grass if there’s no rock close and he’s just Too Tired.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES“Where’s a cozy rock when you need one? Oh well, I guess sleeping in the grass isn’t too bad.”

He has to take his naps where he can, because sooner or later either Drake or Angel will wake him up and want to play-fight.

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“Hey, not so hard!”

“You interrupted my NAP!”

Angel’s getting much better about playing with the other lambs, and braver about play-fighting.

The play fight only lasted for a minute, then it was time to run off and graze a little bit. The lambs are still prone to biting off more than they can chew. Literally.

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“This grass won’t fit in my mouth!”

Then the three lambs had to run off and re-investigate the rocks by the retaining wall. Sadly, none of those rocks are big enough or flat enough for napping Griffins.

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“Maybe there’s buried treasure!”

And then they ran off for a round or two of the Floor Is Lava. It’s harder with three lambs instead of just two, especially with how fast all three of them are growing.

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“Careful not to fall in!”

All this playing burns a lot of energy, so we had to take a break for Angel’s bottle, which Mira only halfheartedly tried to steal. She definitely recognizes that it’s her old bottle, but she doesn’t really want it any more. It’s just the principle of the thing.

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“Best part of the day!”

Getting back into the house to rinse the bottle out was a challenge, because Mira had stationed herself firmly by the porch gate to prevent me sneaking away without her.

That porch gate has been off its hinges for years, but we propped it back up because Mira was making a habit of crying outside my bedroom window making a racket and also making a mess of the porch. I don’t know how she knows which window goes to my bedroom, but she does.

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“You’re not getting past me, Mommy!”

Angel quickly joined her in barricading the steps. Angel has recently discovered the sneakiness of her human caretakers who keep sneaking off and leaving her with the sheep. She’s becoming a highly suspicious and paranoid little lambie.

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“If you keep forgetting to take me with you, I’m going to start thinking you’re doing it on purpose!”

Mira may not have raised Angel, but the two of them are definitely related. Every time I start wondering how long it will take for Angel to get used to being outside on her own, Mira starts crying at the window or knocking on the door again, and I reluctantly conclude the answer is probably ‘never.’

Fortunately she also inherited her mother’s good looks. You can’t stay annoyed with such a cute little face, even when they keep yelling at the top of their lungs and/or banging on the doors wanting in.