Repose

After all the running around and craziness that comes with playing in the yard every morning, the sheep wear themselves out by about noon, and are ready to go back to their field to settle down and ruminate.

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“I’m still huuuungry, booo-hooo.”

Except Mira, who has to droop woefully in my lap for a while, bemoaning her lack of crunchies. Even though she’s already had crunchies.

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“I’m a super-sneaky SpySheep!”

And Holly, who makes a Splendid Game out of spying on me through the new “window” in the hoop house. Spying through peepholes is a very Splendid Game indeed.

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“Zzz…”

Nova and Neo, the first two lambs to be born here, settled down under the tree while a visiting robin hops by.

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Duchess, still hanging on to some of last year’s wool, but fairest of them all nonetheless, keeping a sleepy eye out for crunchies, but not with any great intensity..

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“Cheese!”

Liam and his little front toofers, dozing off mid-chew.

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Will Scarlet, no doubt daydreaming about what disaster brave exploit he can attempt next.

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“Hi, ShepherdPerson!”

Lady and Holly, cozy together like a mama and baby sheep should be. I think this is my new favorite picture of the two of them.

Nina and Lana were laying together behind the hoop house, but I knew they’d jump up if I moved around, so I didn’t get a picture of them today.

Since I’m Mira’s mother, she usually settles down next to me (or on top of me) when I’m outside at chewing-time, but she was more put out than normal that I wouldn’t give her any more treats, and had retreated all the way to the fence to pointedly ignore me until I’d learned my lesson.

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“Hmph, I KNOW there were still crunchies in Mommy’s pocket, but she won’t give them to me! I’m going to sit over here all by myself, and not cuddle or chew on her at all! See how she likes that!”

Although I did notice her peeking my way every now and then to make sure I noticed how hard she was ignoring me.

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“Still don’t see any crunchies… Guess I’ll have to keep ignoring her, then!”

I’m pretty sure she thinks crunchies grow in my coat pockets. She’s taken to “punching” my pocket with her nose lately the way baby lambs punch the udder to get more milk. Unfortunately that just makes the crunchies… crunched… and I end up with a pocket full of cereal crumbs that please neither of us.

Less than a month now before lambing I think! The ewes better enjoy their rest while they can, before there are new little tornadoes on hooves to run around keeping everyone awake with their baby lamb games. I’ll be interested to see how Mira likes somebody climbing on her for food and attention.

Chaos

A few days ago I didn’t let the sheep out fast enough, so they had to vent all their energy on each other. Or, in Liam’s case, on a fencepost. I think I counted three separate fights going on, not counting all the boys in the ram pen trying to butt the fencepost at the exact same time as Liam.

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Crazy sheep are crazy. And then once they were out, they couldn’t decide if they should run off to eat the grass, or stick next to me in case I decided to give them lots of crunchies. Mira was firmly in the “stay next to mommy” camp, but everybody else ended up running back and forth a lot.

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Little Mira definitely has a baby belly going, and Duchess and Nova are starting to look pretty round as well. Liam, fortunately, was not as round under his fleece as I was afraid he’d be, so he has been spared the horrible fate of a diet. Not that he was ever in any real danger of that, since I’m not really sure how you’d go about putting a sheep on a diet in the first place.

They spend the morning running around the yard eating, then by about noon they’re ready to go back to their own field to settle down and chew cud. Then the dogs get to go out and investigate the “invasion,” which gives Watcher something to entertain him, so it all works out pretty well. I’m still hoping the grass comes back quickly so I don’t have to keep managing this time share hassle.

Quoth The Sheepies

Once on a midmorning dreary, while I wandered, weak and weary,
In from giving quaint and curious sheepies hay they will ignore-
    While I shed my winter wrapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Can’t be the sheepies” I muttered, “begging at my chamber door-
They’ve had grass and treats galore.”

*rap-rap-rap* Quoth the sheepies “We want more!”

Mira is pretty much expected to be banging on the door at this point, but Lana was an unexpected visitor to find entreating at my chamber door.  She’s never been in the yard before this week, let alone the basement, but there she was.

“Ooh, I see that box of crunchies on the table!”

I’m going to have to move the cereal boxes so they’re not visible through the window. At this rate I’ll have all ten of them moping on my back patio staring at the crunchies through the door. And following me across the basement to the stairway going from window to window.

“Ooh, and there’s the tub of sheep feed! And mineral mix! It’s a smorgasbord in there!”

I have a feeling I’m going to be very unpopular when the field grows back and they don’t get to come in the yard anymore.

Indulgence

Sheep are supposed to have free access to a steady supply of specially formulated mineral mix, but I can’t let them have constant access to it because no matter how much I put out or how often I feed it to them, the sillies lick up every single particle as fast as possible trying to make sure they get the biggest share. Mineral mix isn’t meant to be eaten in large quantities, so I end up feeding it to them a small amount at a time to make sure they don’t poison themselves on it.

I was taking a fresh scoop of minerals out to the barn so I’d have a little bit on hand, but Mira jumped up and bumped the scoop with her head, resulting in a fine shower of mineral mix covering her back and Neo’s head. I put some in a trough for them to fight over, but Will had noticed that Mira’s wool was salty and kept chasing her everywhere trying to lick it off instead of crowding around the tray with everyone else.

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“Mmm, salty!”

I still haven’t managed to definitely confirm the udder development on Mira, but she’s definitely got a belly going there all of a sudden.

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“Stop walking around, I’m trying to lick the salt!”

Mira quickly got annoyed and hid behind me, so Will decided to go try to lick Neo’s head instead, without much better results.

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“Come back here and let me lick your head!”

“No! Leave me alone!”

It didn’t take long before Neo was also seeking refuge by me. Clever sheep know that Will is still skittish around me for whatever reason and I can actually shoo him away from bothering them.

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“ShepherdPerson is nice. She keeps my annoying little brother off my head, and gives me hugs, and chin scratches, and crunchies!”

Neo is the most stereotypically “bottle baby” sheep ever to not actually be raised on a bottle. He and I have been good friends since he was a tiny, ridiculously cute baby. In case anyone thought Mira was the only lap sheep around, it should be noted that Neo has also been known to doze off with his head in my lap while having his chin and cheeks rubbed.

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“My cuddles! My crunchies!”

“Hey!”

…Although not nearly as often since Mira’s been around. Poor guy. He was smaller than Nova when he was born, and I think he genuinely doesn’t realize he’s now the biggest Soay on the farm. (Arguably. Duke has bigger horns and more muscle, but Neo has a bigger frame.)

He’s not easily discouraged, though. He just shifted over to my other side so I could keep petting him.

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“Keep petting, please!”

Mira’s nose photobombing, trying to lean across my lap to keep fussing at Neo. Will gathered up enough courage to start nibbling on her salty wool again at that point, so she got distracted running around throwing a fit at him.

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“Can I have some crunchies, while Mira’s not looking?”

He really is a big baby. Mira isn’t the only sheep around here who’s spoiled.

Deprivation

When you’ve been letting the sheep out into the yard for a few hours most days so they can eat the grass, they start thinking they’re entitled to it. Then they stand at the gate and make sad faces when you don’t let them out right away.

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“We’re hungry! Starving! Let us out!”

It’s a sad fact of life that the dogs need to use the yard, too. Hungry sheeps who won’t eat their hay have to wait their turn.

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“I still think if we climb this brace we could get out on our own!”

Lady’s been working on that theory for a while now. I dread the day she figures out how to make it work. So far she’s been balking at moving her hind hooves onto the brace. I have assured her it is indeed a scary thing and she shouldn’t try it.

As soon as she does, Holly will be right behind her, and all the other Soay ewes after that. I think Neo is probably too big to climb that brace, and the Shetlands definitely couldn’t make it, but the girls probably could if they really put their minds to it. Shh, nobody tell them.

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“She’s not going to let us out! We’re going to starve! Time for emergency measures!”

It’s a little hard to see, but when they concluded I wasn’t going to let them out four or five of the Soays decided to keep themselves alive by eating the bark off of that tree stump. Which was really very overdramatic, since they had a whole feeder full of hay. Nasty hay, I’m told, but it couldn’t be worse than tree bark. And there actually is grass in their field, it’s just been grazed so short over the winter I’d rather they leave it alone until it has a chance to grow a little taller.

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“Finally! We’re saved!”

Miraculously, nobody died of starvation while waiting an hour or two for the dogs to have their morning run and go back inside.

Speaking of Miracles…

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“Hey, everybody’s looking at the grass! Quick, give me some crunchy treats!”

I’m not sure, but I think I noticed what might be the beginnings of an udder on Mira this morning, in one of the brief moments she turned her back to me. She’d be due on April 10th, so the timing is about right.

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“Me too! Give me sneaky extra crunchies, too!”

Duchess does not have any udder development. She was bred against my wishes about two weeks after Mira, so I’m not really worried about it yet, but I’ve told her on no uncertain terms that if she has another baby she can’t feed I’m taking it out of her treat allowance. I’m moderately sure she is pregnant, because she hasn’t been acting like she’s in heat since she was bred, and for her that’s a big deal.

The downside of letting the sheep in the yard is when you go back inside, and certain people think they still have house privileges.

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“Ooh, I see a whole box of crunchies on that table! Are we going inside now, Mommy?”

We aren’t. I am. You get into the full boxes of crunchies and the sheep feed bin and you’ll explode.

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“Hey! Mommy! You forgot me!”

Sigh. You give them a yard, and they’ll take the whole house. Yes, she is rapping on the door with her hoof.

Eventually she gave up and wandered back out to the other sheep, radiating displeasure about the unfairness of it all and how she’s out there all alone except for all of her friends, and Mommy is just so mean. Took me right back to when I was weaning her and she kept getting out and bursting into the house through the dog door.

I hope she has a daughter just like her. I shall nickname her ShepherdPerson’s Revenge. And spoil her rotten.

Silver Lining

Generally, shearing is my least favorite part of sheep keeping. There’s a reason I started out with a breed that theoretically doesn’t need to be sheared. It’s hard, it’s dirty, and I ache for days afterwards, especially with the naughty sheep that fight and squirm the whole time.

But on the bright side, my dread of shearing is mixed with anticipation of having lovely fleeces to play with, and nobody around here has a lovelier fleece than Liam, who got his annual haircut yesterday. He was a pretty good boy about it, only really wiggled when we were cutting around his face, neck, and privates. Which, granted, are the worst possible times for him to be shimmying around while we’re trying to cut, but I can’t really blame him for being nervous.

There wasn’t as much confusion about his identity as there was about Lana and Nina after their haircuts, possibly because the sheep have seen him sheared before. Or possibly because the only pure white sheep in the flock is more easily recognizable than two brown sheep out of over a dozen other brown ones. Even if he does go from a light gray sphere-with-legs to an almost luminously white miniature Dall sheep when he’s sheared.

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“Now we have matching haircuts, Lana!”

This morning he finally had the energy to put his hoof down about Will Scarlet flirting with his girlfriend. I was starting to wonder why he was letting that go on so long. His fleece was very big and heavy, he must feel lighter and cooler without carrying all that around with him.

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“Lana’s MY girlfriend, go away!”

“Hey!”

Poor Will. Foiled in love yet again. It’s hard being a lady’s man when all the ewes are either taken, pregnant, or part of his immediate family.

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“This is MY little family, Will can go find his own!”

I haven’t had a chance to examine his fleece very closely yet, but from what I saw of it while shearing, it’s just as pretty as the last two. Maybe this will be the year I manage a hand spun Liam sweater!

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

March came in like a lion this morning, with thunder, lighting, strong wind, torrential rain, flash floods, tornado watches, the works. The sheep had to wait an extra hour for breakfast because the storm was too bad for me to walk out to the barn.

Once things died down to to a steady rain, I ran into another problem. I’ve run out of hay that the sheep will eat, and the pastures aren’t quite ready to pick up the slack yet. I’ve been having trouble with them refusing to eat some bales while agreeing to eat others with no difference I can tell between them, or refusing to eat a certain bale one day but diving all over it the next day, but this was the second or third day in a row they flat out refused to eat any of it, and my pregnant girls were hungry to the point of distress.

So, lacking any other options, I decided to put the dogs up and let the sheep into the yard for a while, where the grass is taller. Most of the Soays ran right out, but Lana wouldn’t go through the gate, so Liam, Nina and Will Scarlet stayed with her and dug through the “nasty” hay looking for any bits they could stomach. Normally Will would have gone with the rest of the Soays, if only to keep up with big brother Neo, but Lana is Will’s latest unrequited crush so he decided to stay behind. It is scary how well his name fits him.

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“Grass! We’re saved!”

I retreated to the back patio to take pictures with the long-distance zoom, so they could concentrate on the grass instead of mugging me for crunchies. I thought they wouldn’t get into too much trouble in the upper corner of the yard, and I was pretty sure they’d stay in that corner since the rain had left a pretty wide “river” cutting them off from the rest of the yard, and everybody knows sheep won’t cross running water.

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“Hi, ShepherdPerson! I’m coming for crunchies!”

Everyone except Nova knows sheep won’t cross running water. And of course once Nova did it, the taboo was broken and they all did it. Some with more splashing than others. I feel like it would be easier to outsmart them if they didn’t learn from each other so fast. All those little sheep heads together are better than my one.

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“Hey, didn’t the Clubhouse used to be here? Where’d it go?”

All the lambs except Nova, Holly, and the Dukelings were born in the old Clubhouse, which was indeed about where the girls are standing. Holly and the Dukelings (that sounds like a band) were born in the new barn last year, and Nova was born in the back left corner of the yard, because Nova just had to be special and enter the world outside instead of in a cozy shelter like everyone else.

They spent quite a while poking around that area, so I think either some sheep scent must still be there or they just remembered where they used to live.

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“No fair! We want the new grass, too!”

The poor boys all stood there in a huddle yelling about the unfairness of it all until the girls came running down to the fence to say hi. I laughed at them for standing in the rain to keep an eye on the girls until I remembered I was also standing in the rain to keep an eye on the girls. Then I laughed at all of us.

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“We want food! All this eating makes us hungry, ShepherdPerson!”

After about an hour of frantic grazing they all got the simultaneous urge to run me down demanding crunchies, so I assumed they had enough grass in their tummies for the time being and lured them back into the field so I could go inside, dry off, and have breakfast. And the dogs could go outside and lose their minds because they smelled sheep in the yard.

They’re nibbling on the hay a little bit right now, but I may let them back into the yard for a while this afternoon while the dogs are taking their nap. The weather is gorgeous now that the storm has blown over, so it’ll be easier to sit outside with them and keep them from eating the landscaping.

Escalation

We’re having another of those lovely weekends where the high temperature today (40 degrees) is thirty-five degrees lower than yesterday (77 degrees) and the sheep are therefore ecstatically happy. Echo and I are both gloomy about it, but at least the sheep are happy.

Today’s episode of crazy started innocently enough, with Holly and Nina play-fighting under the watchful eye of Holly’s family.

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“I’m the toughest!”

“Nuh-uh, I’M the toughest!”

I’m still not used to Nina’s haircut, but I will say she has a much easier time bouncing around without all that fluff in the way. She and Holly weren’t really fighting, mostly just hopping around and stopping to bonk heads a little bit whenever they happened to bounce into each other. The grown-ups don’t play that game very often, but it’s very popular with the lambs and yearlings.

As such things tend to do, the bouncing and playing escalated until Neo got excited and wanted to join the game.

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“I want to play, too!”

Neo didn’t mean any harm, he just wanted to play, but he is quite a bit bigger than Holly and Nina, so they switched games from “Jump Up and Down and Bonk Heads Sometimes” to “Run Around Like We’re Crazy.” This is a Splendid Game even grown-ups can play, so of course Lady and Will had to come join in, too.

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“Wheee!”

Little Nina’s ears are just barely visible behind Neo. Lana, in the background, keeps one eye on her wayward offspring while continuing to devote most of her attention to breakfast. I’m not sure where Liam was, I think he was around the corner eating out of the boys’ feeder.

Running around as fast as possible without actually trying to catch or get away from anything in particular is apparently great fun; it only took one or two laps before even the pregnant girls got pulled into the game, much to their delight and my dismay.

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“Charge through the gate!”

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“Jump over the mole tunnels!”

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“And round and round the hoop house we go!”

They ran at least four or five laps around the hoop house before Lady and Nova bumped into each other, took mutual offense, and had to stop and have yet another fight over who’s boss.

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“I’m the toughest!”

“No, I’M the toughest!”

And so the whole thing came full circle, to two of the girls bonking heads (albeit a little less playfully) after bumping into each other, while everyone else stands around and watches.

Except for Lana. She’s still eating breakfast.

Happy Birthday, Miss Miracle!

My little Mira is two years old today! It doesn’t seem like two years since she “helped” me write up a blog post about her birth, and Prince Bran the Brawny’s a day later.

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“Too many pictures of that other lamb, not enough about me!”

And showed her pictures of Maisie from Equinox Farm as encouragement. Anybody who’s read about Maisie on thecrazysheeplady’s blog will know that probably wasn’t the best choice of role models I could have picked.

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“And see, Mira? She was a tiny preemie who had to wear lots of sweaters, just like you! And she was very brave and grew up big and strong!”

“Hmm, I think I could get some good ideas from that sheep…”

She definitely grew up big and strong willed. Although it was definitely Princess who taught her how to head-butt people to get her way, not anything she saw on the internet.

Since I probably won’t get around to making birthday posts for Bran and Will, here’s a short little video of all three of them from when Mira was about three weeks old. Mira was running laps around Princess, Will was determinedly trying to play Climb On Mom, (a very important lamb exercise that helps prepare them to play King of the Hill when they grow up) and Bran was just trying to get someone to play with him. Johnny hadn’t yet made his appearance in the world when this was taken.

They were so cute and little when they were babies. Now they’re all grown up and… still cute, just slightly less little.

We had a small birthday party this morning, after I gave everyone breakfast. Mira was very excited about her birthday crunchies.

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“Look at the camera, Mira!”

“Mmm… I’d rather look in your pocket, thanks.”

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“Mira, come on, I’ve got crunchies in my hand! At least pretend you’re looking at the camera!”

“Mmm… you’ve got a lot more crunchies in your pocket!”

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“That’s a good girl!”

“Fine, I’ll eat the crunchies in your hand, and look at the camera while I’m eating them. I’m not going to smile, though, ’cause I know you’ve still got more in your pocket you’re not giving me!”

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“Happy birthday, Mira. I love you, baby girl.”

“Uh-huh, I know. Can I eat your buttons?”

It’s been two good years with my precious Miracle girl. I hope we have many more happy returns and mini-Miracles to look forward to.

De-Floofed

Lana and Nina got sheared yesterday. It’s a traumatic experience, especially for babies like Nina who have never been de-floofed before. But on the other hand the sheep are much more comfortable without their bulky fleeces, at least once they get over their embarrassment and convince the rest of the flock that they haven’t been replaced by Scary Impostors.

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“Look at this haircut they gave me!”

“I think you look fine! It’s nice to have new Shetlands around, tell me, have you seen Lana anywhere?”

Liam kept wandering around through the flock yesterday afternoon looking for Lana, even when she was right in front of him. He seems to have figured it out this morning, after spending the night in the barn together, although he still looks a little confused about why she suddenly looks different. He stood in the barn and watched us shear her, I’m not sure why he’s confused, but he certainly is, poor guy.

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“MeanShepherdPerson is Mean! I knew I didn’t trust her for a reason!

“Nooo, ShepherdPerson is nice! She has  crunchies!”

We’ll see how Liam feels after he gets his own haircut. He hid behind a hay bale for two days last year.

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“You’re not going to lure me in with your tricky crunchies of treachery!”

Not having any free-standing hay bales to hide behind this year, Lana is hiding behind the waste hay keeping a suspicious eye on me. Which is actually pretty much how she always acts, so I’m not worried about it. She’ll still come into the barn at night for crunchies, as long as she can hide behind Liam while she’s eating them, so she’s free to be as suspicious as she likes during the day.

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“Hurry up, before ShepherdPerson sees!”

The Soay girls took advantage of my distraction to sneak back into the barn, which is also pretty normal behavior for them. Sometimes they’re outrageously bad at being sneaky, and sometimes they’re scarily good at being sneaky, and they seem genuinely unable to tell the difference.

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“I think you owe me some crunchies, MeanShepherdPerson!”

Nina seems to have mostly forgiven me already. I suspected she would, given her fondness for crunchies. She managed to scarf down a few before Mira noticed and said nope no way all the crunchies are hers.

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“Nope, no way! All the crunchies are mine!”

Mira was extremely freaked out by Nina’s haircut, and spent a lot of time running from her in terror yesterday. She’s still giving both Nina and Lana a wide berth and glaring at them suspiciously, but she’s not going to stand for any competition for my food attention, no matter who her rival turns out to be. Mira will even try to butt Lady away from me, and Lady’s much higher in the pecking order than she is.

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“I am a sweet little baby, Mommy! I need some more food! Everybody’s mean to me out here!”

Cue instant 180-degree shift in attitude. She’s the funniest girl, she’s convinced she can play the helpless little lamb to me, like I couldn’t see her butting Nina away literally seconds ago. A lot of people think that sheep are dumb, but I’m convinced I sheep think humans are dumb. Probably because they can be a bully one minute, turn around and act sweet the next, and the silly human will give them crunchies anyway, apparently completely  fooled.

It’s really hard for me to see if she has any udder development, because I never see her from the rear for more than a second or two before she notices me looking at her and comes running, but she is getting a bit tubby around the middle and I still haven’t seen her cycle, so I’m pretty sure there’s a mini-Mira on the way. Heaven help us all.