Spring Already?

It’s been relatively warm and muddy for a few days, and I’ve started hearing songbirds in the morning when I go out, so I’m thinking we’re moving into spring without really having had much winter. It’s very strange to have spring in January when a few years ago we were snowed in in late February, and still having occasional snow flurries in March.

Barney decided it was much too gloomy outside and he didn’t want to wake up this morning.

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“It’s awfully dreary out there…”

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“I’m just going to stay in this nice cozy barn today, thanks!”

It didn’t take Duke long to come back to the barn looking for his friend Barney, with all his assorted Dukelings in tow.

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“Hey Barney, why are you still inside? It’s breakfast time!”

Duke ran Barney out, but then apparently decided Barney might have had a point and wouldn’t go back out himself.

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“I think I might stay in this nice cozy barn today…”

By the time I persuaded all the boys to go out the girls were highly impatient for breakfast, so I didn’t have any trouble persuading them to leave the barn.

A few weeks ago they put in a stake that was supposed to mark where the new utility pole was going in for the house next door, but they neglected to get permission from the sheep, so the sheep have pretty thoroughly “killed” it. Oops.

Angel’s been butting it regularly ever since it was put in, and today she finally managed to uproot it entirely due to the soggy ground. She considers it “defeated” now and has lost interest, but Mira’s still pawing at it and scooting it around. It’s been several months since I’ve seen her going after rocks and sticks, so I thought maybe she’d finally grown out of it. I suppose she hasn’t, though.

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“This stick does not belong here! It’s terrible!”

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“Don’t touch my stick, Mommy! It’s MY stick!”

Silly, strange girl. I think any marking done in the pasture is going to have to be done with ground paint.

Most everyone is used to Mira’s antics, but the youngest set of lambs were highly curious about this new Splendid Game. Clover tried to “help” Mira with the stick. Briefly. Mira quickly made him regret all of his life choices that led him to that point. Daisy and Marigold were smart enough to watch the shenanigans from a distance. Marigold brought a snack.

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“What’s Mira doing, ShepherdPerson? Is it a Splendid Game?”

Mira decided that the stick was completely ruined once it had Clover’s hoofprints on it, and moved on to bullying a rock instead.

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“This rock does not go here, either! It’s completely ruining my aesthetic!”

Deciding I might as well leave Mira be, I tried to crouch down by the fence to take a picture of the boys, but slipped and fell in the mud. Falling wasn’t very pleasant, but at least I got everyone to actually look at me instead of breakfast for once.

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“What on earth are you doing over there, ShepherdPerson??”

For about five seconds, anyway. Then they remembered breakfast and everything went back to normal.

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“Oh well, whatever she’s doing doesn’t seem to involve food, so it must just be one of those crazy ShepherdPerson things she does. False alarm, back to breakfast!”

This is why ShepherdPerson needs collies as well as sheep; at least if I fall down around them the collies mill around worriedly and “helpfully” poke me with their paws and noses until they’re sure I’m alright. And bring me dog toys to cheer me up about the whole thing. And Echo may decide to sit in my lap and let me pet him if I don’t get up right away.

I’m hoping we have some sunny weather soon. I like having the rain, but it does get gloomy after a while. Not to mention slippery.

Winter Sun

I took my camera out with me this morning, but I left it sitting on a hay bale and forgot to take any pictures. When I realized (an embarrassingly long time later) that I’d left the camera in the barn, I decided I might as well take pictures on my way back from retrieving it.

The sheep were alarmed to see me back so soon. They know I don’t usually loiter when it’s this cold.

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“I am very worried because you’re out here and I think you have crunchies and I’m afraid I won’t get any!”

Poor Danny never gets any crunchies ever, he says.

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“Any crunchies for hungry sheepies?”

Lady’s kids (and grandkid) make sure I can’t get past them to the gate without having my pockets inspected, while Liam and Nina watch from a distance to see if any treats actually materialize.

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“What about us sad, neglected boys?”

Duke, flanked by Ash on the left and Apple on the right, with Cedar and Johnny hovering behind and Drake almost out of frame on the far right. I’m not sure where Chestnut was; he may have been taking advantage of the temporarily abandoned hay racks.

Duke’s mini-mes are not really “mini” anymore, even if Duke still maintains his position as the boss ram. Drake’s the only one that’s still small, but he has another year to grow so he may catch up.

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“Excuse me, there seems to be a rumor going around about crunchies?”

Clover looks like he’s glaring at me, but he’s actually squinting because the morning sun was in his eyes. He’s still a little guy, but he’s looking much more grown-up around the face. I think he’s very handsome, even with his little scurs instead of the big horns the other boys have.

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“Mamas get crunchies first!”

“Yes, Mama!”

Beautiful Duchess loves her “babies” very much, but there are limits. Sharing treats is over the limit.

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“It’s too bright! I won’t be able to see the crunchies!”

Poor Daisy always has to hover behind her mother and brother, and catch the crunchies I toss over their heads.

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“Careful, Nina! The crunchies might be a trick!”

The Shetlands were much more suspicious about my unscheduled visit. They have too many memories of being sheared, and it is coming up on haircut season again. (Already?!)

When no crunchies made an appearance everyone ran off back to the hay racks, except Mira and Angel, who were determined, in the absence of crunchies, to eat my hair, my coat, the camera, etc, while simultaneously trying to push each other away from me. Also Neo, who came up for chin scratches and dozed off standing up, as usual. I only made it back to the house (this time with the camera) when my fingertips were going numb.

It’s still very cold, and the bright sun makes the light angles in picture-taking a bit tricky, but I will miss these cold, sunny days when we get to the dark, soggy days of spring.

Sticking Close to Family

Holly and Marigold are a funny pair. Usually with my flock, the lambs take for granted that their mothers will be there if needed, and the mothers run themselves ragged trying to keep their babies close to them. With Holly and Marigold, Marigold is just as clingy as Holly, if not more so.

I have so many pictures of the two of them moving in perfect tandem, side by side with their heads through the fence, or climbing on the hay feeders, or cleaning each other’s faces. Often they show up in the background of pictures, standing in identical positions watching their flockmates with identical judgmental expressions.

I love Marigold’s habit of physically draping herself over Holly’s back and shuffling sideways on her back legs whenever the flock gets agitated and she thinks they might be separated. Usually the lambs grow out of playing Climb On Mom, but Marigold is over a year old and she hasn’t yet.

I got some pictures of her doing it the other day, which made me happy even though the weather was cloudy and the pictures turned out too dark. Usually if the sheep are agitated enough for Marigold to jump on her mom’s back I’m too busy dealing with whatever’s agitating them to take pictures. I can’t remember exactly what spooked the sheep into running off this particular morning, I think it may have been an unexpected cow showing up in the treeline or something, but whatever it was I had my hands free and my camera handy.

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“I got you, Mama!”

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“I got my Mama!”

Holly and her own mother, Lady, aren’t quite as clingy as they were before Marigold and Danny were born, but they do still tend to gravitate towards each other.

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“I have my mama and my baby both!”

I love this picture too, of all three generations together.

Today they were too busy eating to pose for pictures. Holly had her head in the top of one of the girls’ feeders, and Marigold was trying to pull hay out the back of one of the boys’ feeders.

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“Om-nom-nom!”

Duchess’s little family is usually pretty tight-knit as well, but today she was in heat and distracted with the boys, so her lambs were left to their own devices.

Daisy often comes and stares fixedly at me every time Duchess leaves her alone, and I’m not really sure why.

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“What are you up to, ShepherdPerson?”

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“What do you think, Clover?”

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“I don’t know, I think maybe she’s hiding some crunchies!”

I walked around the corner to check on the far feeder, and Daisy ran after me so she could stare at me some more.

 

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“What are you doing now, ShepherdPerson?”

I made the mistake of tossing her a piece of cereal, and we were instantly swarmed by half the flock who I could have sworn were back around the corner eating hay where they couldn’t possibly have seen us. I think they have some sort of psychic alarm that goes off whenever my hand goes in my coat pocket. It is the only explanation.

The Shetland family ignored all the craziness in favor of eating breakfast together.

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“We need to hurry and eat all this hay before the Soays start all that pushing and shoving!”

I eventually extracted myself from the dogpile (sheep-pile?) and escaped back to the house. I faced twin accusing glares from the gate, from bottle babies who felt I was showing a terrible lack of family loyalty by abandoning them and not letting them into the yard.

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“You are the worst. Mommy. Ever.”

I’m pretty sure Mira would spend most of her time physically hanging on to me if she could. She certainly likes to pin my legs down when I sit on the ground. I can’t give her too much of a hard time about it though, since I am the only “mother” who regularly leaves her lambs entirely for long periods.

I like to think that being the only “mother” who carries Chex cereal around in her pockets and can open all the gate latches that require thumbs makes up for some of it, though.

Merry Christmas

“Christmas breakfast is the best!”

Christmas breakfast is the same as every other day’s breakfast, but fortunately every breakfast is equally delicious.

Also, there are three other feeders they could have eaten from, but the hay in the last one filled is always best.

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The dogs are feeling frisky; even Echo is bouncing around with Watcher.

I’m a little gloomy this Christmas, but the animals are happy, so that makes me feel better.

Griffin

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Griffin

4/30/17 – 12/23/19

I don’t know why you left us so suddenly, and it’s a sad Christmas without you. Hopefully the vets will be able to find answers.

I don’t have many individual pictures of Griffin since he liked to stay in the middle of the flock, but I found this one of him front and center with all of his friends, and his lifelong best friend Drake right beside him. I think that’s even better than one of him by himself.

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a Horn

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the girls for injuries since they’ve been fighting so much, but it was poor old Jeb who turned up with only one horn last Monday. Broken horns bleed like crazy, but he managed not to bleed to death and it seems like it’s healing over ok now.

I’ve walked all the fences and checked all the feeders, and there’s no evidence of him getting his head stuck anywhere, and no trace of the missing horn itself anywhere in the field that I can find. His horns are big enough I’d expect to be able to find it, so I’m assuming an animal must have carried the horn off. It’s not that I particularly wanted to keep a broken horn, but I would have liked to have been able to figure out how he broke it.

I’ve been trying to get a picture of him ever since the bleeding stopped, but this is scaredy-cat Jeb so of course he’s convinced I’ve sensed his weakness and singled him out to eat him. I finally decided to ambush him at the barn doors when I let them out this morning. He still managed to bury himself in the middle of the flock, but he’s identifiable as the black sheep in the middle with the worried expression and a stump where his left horn should be.

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“Oh no, she’s looking at me again, oh no, oh no!”

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Pre-horn-breakage photo from earlier in the year for size reference. Poor guy’s head is going to be unevenly weighted now.

On a happier note, we put new round bales out yesterday in both fields, so the sheep had brand new piles of yummy waste hay on the ground to eat while mostly ignoring the new bales.

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“Yum, this pile of hay on the ground is the best!”

The girls are equally silly about preferring what’s left on the ground to what’s in the feeders.

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“This is the best hay ever!”

The only ones not crowded around the magical waste hay piles were Duchess and her two “babies,” who were standing by the gate insisting that yard grass would be better than any hay.

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“Let us out! We are starving! I’m sure the grass is greener on the other side of the fence!”

It really isn’t, but they never believe me unless they can check for themselves.

Everyone seems to be dealing with the cold weather well, except being unhappy┬á about the lack of green grass and leaves. I don’t like the cold, but I like that the animals feel more like themselves, instead of drooping around like they do when it’s too hot.

Although if it leads to fighting and broken horns, I could stand for them to maybe not feel quite so lively.

Winter is Here

Officially, it might not be winter until the end of December, but it feels like it’s winter already.

The sheep, who were very sulky and tried to stage a mutiny during all the rain we had last week, are perfectly unconcerned with the cold.

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“I don’t feel the cold, but I think I could use some extra crunchies!”

Lady, the grand matriarch of the flock, decreed that extra crunchies were needed. She didn’t have a hard time convincing everyone else to agree with her.

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“Me too!”

Pretty Nova, demanding her fair share. Duchess and Daisy in the background on the right wanted crunchies too, but were a bit shy of wading through the crowd to get them.

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“Mommy, no! I’m your BABY! You’re not supposed to give crunchies to anyone but ME!”

Poor Mira, always having to share her mommy with the rest of the flock. Danny is hovering behind her because he thinks he’s her boyfriend. It’s a very one-sided relationship, where Danny follows her around and drives off any of the other wethers that come near, and Mira rolls her eyes and either ignores him or glares at him, depending on her level of patience at the moment.

The party got broken up when Nova and Angel declared war and everyone else scattered to avoid becoming collateral damage. Neo hovered around and pretended he was helping Nova, but he actually just got in her way. He crowded in and did some impressive posturing and horn-brandishing, but every time Angel so much as swung her head in his direction he’d flinch violently and turn his head away before she even tried to hit him.

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“Leave my sister alone, or I’ll… approve heartily when she beats you up!”

Poor Neo. He never was much of a fighter, but ever since that time he got his head cracked open a couple of years ago he’s even more reluctant to butt heads with anyone. I don’t blame him at all; I think I’m still traumatized from that one.

In spite of Neo’s attempts to “help,” Angel and Nova fought their way across the field, while the more sensible sheep ignored them and focused on breakfast.

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“Munch-munch-munch!”

I stopped really paying attention to the scuffle, but eventually either Angel won or they called a truce (Angel never loses unless two or three sheep gang up on her together, and Neo doesn’t really count,) and she came flying back along the footpath back to me.

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“Hey, hey! Did you see me? I was fighting! I’m super tough!”

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“I get all the crunchies now, right?”

She did not get all the crunchies, because for one thing I didn’t have any more, and for another she’s a sheep that really doesn’t need too much candy. She’s much less inclined to pick fights even with her own shadow than she was when she was a baby, but she’s still not what I would call sedate.

Watcher was waiting for me at the gate with his Jolly Ball, absolutely frantic to play, but he got temporarily distracted when the neighbor’s cows started lowing about something (probably a new hay bale) and he had to decide if that was something he approved of or not.

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“What are those EvilCowSpies up to now??”

Echo does not worry about such things, he just stands there looking beautiful and hoping someone will pet his ears.

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“I haven’t had my ears petted at all since you petted them on your way out! It’s been ages!”

His sad posing was interrupted by Watcher, who had decided not to object to the cows next door making noise without his permission, and resumed his playtime by running up and pouncing on Echo.

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“Play with me!”

“Hey!”

And then Echo followed me back to the house, trying unsuccessfully to make me sit down in the frosty grass and let him sit in my lap while Watcher bounced around and chewed on his ruff and his ears trying to get him to play.

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“Nom nom, I’m biting you! I’m so fierce! Come on, play with me! Pleeeease?”

“Help, I’m being mauled by a giant puppy! I don’t want to play! I want to go inside where it’s warm and take a nap!”

Taking a nap is an excellent idea for such a frosty morning. This is the time of year when I always seriously consider hibernating until spring, if only I could get the sheep to agree to it. In the meantime I suppose I’ll have to make do with making a “nest” of cosy lap thows, warm sweaters, and hot tea.

Cool Morning

We’ve finally gotten a break in the heat wave! The sheep have at last gotten over their paralyzing terror of the new gravel pad in front of the barn, mostly I think because it was too hot to care about things like falling to one’s death down a 6-inch trench or walking on scary gravel. They’re much happier with the cool weather we have so far this morning.

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“You two stay right next to me!”

Duchess still keeps a watchful eye on her “little” brood, though Clover runs off pretty often now that he’s a big boy. Daisy still stays close to her mother as much as possible.

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“This is MY baby, no snatching, ShepherdPerson!”

Holly has relaxed her paranoia enough to come near me again, but she still occasionally suspects I’m just waiting for the opportunity to steal Marigold from her. Her baby is the best baby ever, of course, so she has to watch for that sort of thing.

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“The nice thing about having great big lambs is that they’re too heavy to snatch!”

I keep telling Lady that when the lamb is bigger than you are he’s probably big enough to look after himself, but Lady still looks after Danny anyway. I don’t really blame her, since her first baby was Neo, who still can’t look after himself despite being 5 years old and the biggest Soay wether on the farm.

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“I don’t know why all the other guys pick on me!”

Nobody really picks on Danny, but he’s similar enough to Neo in looks and temperament that as long as he behaves I’m not going to risk moving him over with the boys.

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“I’m MUCH tougher than Big Brother Neo! Those big boys wouldn’t beat ME up all the time! … But I’d rather stay here with my mama anyway.”

I tried to get a nice wide shot of all the boys peacefully grazing together, but of course as soon as I got close enough for the fence to not show in the shot they all came running to see if I had goodies.

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“Last one there’s a rotten egg!”

Fortunately I was taking pictures through the fence instead of climbing over, so I was not trampled in the stampede. Although Apple did poke his nose through and chew on my jeans a little bit while I was leaning on the fence to catch Duchess and Angel having a Disagreement.

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“I’m the toughest!”

I told Angel it isn’t nice to hit your grandmother, but she did not listen to me. Usually Disagreements involving members of Duchess’s bloodline are tiresome things that go on all day (and sometimes all week) but by the time I left for the house it looked like they had settled down for the time being.

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“One big happy family!”

I’m enjoying the peace while it lasts. The pastures are starting to look a little scruffy, so it won’t be long before they start getting hay, which always signals a new round of World War III.

Fall and Falling

It’s been a terribly long time since I’ve posted anything. In my defense, the summer was too miserably hot to take many pictures, and what few I did take were all variations on the same thing: miserably hot sheep laying around being miserable and glaring at me for not doing something about the awful weather.

Now that the we’re starting to have a few cool days now and then, the sheep are starting to get their spirits back. Since the girls are also at their most hormonally active this time of year, that means a lot of fighting. Daisy and Marigold in particular, having never come into heat before, are almost frantically quarrelsome.

Fortunately, they now have something to take their minds off their squabbling. My father just excavated out the area in front of the barn to have gravel put down.

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To the casual observer, the area might look like a relatively shallow excavation lined with black fabric. The sheep, predictably, are all unanimously agreed that it is a Bottomless Chasm of Death.

I tried walking back and forth across the tarp to show them it was safe, but apparently the ability to walk across Bottomless Chasms of Death safely is just one of the unique ShepherdPerson powers they credit me with, along with controlling the weather and producing endless treats ex nihilo.

The sheep flatly refused to enter the barn until Mira hit upon the tiny little land bridge remaining in front of the doors.

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Once they’d seen Mira reach the barn safely, (and seen me walk across it myself twice) the others were willing to scuttle across after her in terrified single file. I was very impressed with their agility. Even Liam managed to tiptoe across without falling off.

The only trouble with this tiny land bridge is that it isn’t visible from inside the barn. When I opened the barn door this morning, it appeared to open straight into the Bottomless Chasm of Death, and they all took one look and noped themselves right back into their stall. I chased them back out of the stall and closed it behind them, so they all crammed themselves into the tiny private stall instead.

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“You can’t make us go out there! We’ll all die!”

Mira and the two Shetland ewes managed to find their way out, but everyone else refused to even get close to the door. I tried to shoo them out, but they panicked and charged up and down the barn aisle in terrified confusion until they knocked over the garbage can (giving them something fun to jump over while running around in circles) and stirred up so much gravel dust that we all had to take a break to cough and sneeze for a while until it died down.

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“Oh no, we’re trapped! We’ll never escape!”

Nina braved the passage back to the barn to see what all the racket was, while Mira contented herself with playing on the “mountain” of excavated dirt and ignored the chaos in the barn. I’m not sure what Lana was up to; probably she was hovering off to the side wishing Nina wouldn’t be so reckless.

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“Come on guys, it’s not so hard! If I can do it you guys can!”

Thus reminded of the safe passage they’d crossed last night, they all crowded around the doors, nudging each other and hoping someone else would go first.

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“I don’t know about this…”

After I spent a truly ridiculous amount of time coaxing, pleading, and threatening, one by one they all got up the courage to skitter across the bridge to freedom.

Duchess was last, and only the fear of being alone and separated from her babies (who are both as tall as she is, but her babies nonetheless) managed to make her leave.

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“Oh no, what if I fall in?!”

Fortunately she launched herself across without stepping on the tarp dying a horrible death.

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“I made it!”

And thus reunited, the flock was free to wander off to graze as if nothing unusual had ever happened.

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“Lovely weather this morning, isn’t it?”

I’m trying not to dread getting them back in again tonight. Hopefully once the gravel is down it won’t be too scary to walk on.

Cleanup Crew

We’ve lost a few branches in the recent series of storms, though fortunately the only fence to be seriously smashed was not a sheep-containment fence.

The sheep are very keen to help us clean up.

“Alright guys, let’s get to work!”

It’s like watching those nature videos of piranhas. Every leaf they can reach gets gobbled up.

The lamb cave tree also lost a large branch; or rather, one of the offshoots and saplings clustered around the hollow stump of the lamb cave fell over. Fortunately it broke off high enough that it just dented the top of the fence instead of crushing it flat.

The sheep were highly indignant that they weren’t allowed to dive in until the branch was off the fence and cut up.

“What do you mean, sheep and chainsaws don’t mix? This is oppression, ShepherdPerson!”

Once the tree was chopped up they got to enjoy it buffet-style.

“Yay! Leaves!”

The boys are very pouty because no big branches fell in their pen, and they only got to nibble on individual leaves and one branch that fell in the ewe pen near enough for the boys to reach through the fence.

“This is oppression, ShepherdPerson!”

Everything is just so unfair. As if the uneven distribution of literal windfalls weren’t enough, the sheep and the dogs (and the people, and the plants, and everything else) are all very unhappy about the constant rain we’ve been having lately. I still say it’s better than droughts, but I’m starting to say it with less certainty. I’m really tired of mud and rain and storms.