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  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.

June

I feel bad that I haven’t posted in so long. I’ve been busy with non-sheep-related things, and the weather has been bad, and my camera battery died and I couldn’t remember where I’d put the charger… hopefully soon it will be easier to take the camera out more.

Johnny finally got his haircut. He’s a lot less massive and more Soay-looking without all that felty wool on his back. He was the best boy ever and barely flicked an ear while I was shearing him.

“Whyever would you think I’d be bad?”

Why the best behaved sheep are usually the worst to shear and vice-versa is a mystery. Liam is the exception, generally well behaved and generally not too bad to shear.

Of course one cannot stand at the fence taking pictures of Johnny without the frame being suddenly filled with Duke and his Dukelings. If you won’t look where they’re standing, they’ll come stand where you’re looking.

“We’re all very good boys, too!”

Johnny might have to start being nicer; without all that floof he’s not all that much bigger than the Dukelings. He’s stockier, but not much taller. Plus there’s only one of him and the Dukelings tend to fight cooperatively.

I tried to get pictures of just Johnny and Bran to compare the two crossbreds, but what with the Dukelings always running around getting in the way the best one I got was a blurry shot of the two of them plus Barney doing a good impression of being headless. He’s next on the list to be de-fluffed, and no one at all is looking forward to it. He is not a good boy at all about shearing.

Even allowing for the fact that Bran’s had a couple of week to start re-growing his fluff, the two of them look very different. Bran looks like a very fine-boned Shetland and Johnny looks like a huge, stocky Soay. Even when it comes to their wool, Bran’s wool is fading like Shetlands tend to do, and Johnny’s is staying dark like a Soay.

Over in the ewe flock, I hadn’t let the girls into the yard for a while because the weather’s either been too hot or too rainy or both, but after a highly irritating day when they broke into the yard three times in one morning before I managed to find the gap in the fence they were exploiting, I decided  they were probably going to stage a riot if I didn’t let them have a turn in the yard soon.

I let them out on a day when it was cooler but not (yet) pouring rain, and it was the most exciting thing ever. The more high-spirited ones of the flock couldn’t even graze they were so busy running around kicking up their heels.

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“Whoo-hoo! Freedom at last!”

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“Wheee!”

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“Now the other way!”

The Shetlands (and the hungrier and/or less high-strung Soays) were excited, too, but they expressed their excitement by eating grass as fast as possible. Mira was grazing as fast as possible while standing on my foot to make sure I didn’t wander off.

Both reactions are a bit over the top if you ask me. It’s not like there’s no grass or room to run in their own field, but apparently it’s just not the same.

I think the only other recent development is that Lady is finally starting to wean Danny off of nursing, thank goodness. That’s not to say she thinks he’s ready to be on his own or anything; she still starts yelling the barn down if he gets separated from her at bedtime, but at least maybe she’ll start gaining weight back if she can dry off.

It’s been a pretty nice first half of June, even with the unpredictable weather and lack of photos.

Good Mothers

I missed making a Mother’s Day post this year; I think the weather was bad or I just forgot to do it, I can’t remember which. Today I happened to get a lot of pictures of the mothers with their babies, so I decided to do a late Mother’s Day post.

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“Don’t bother us, we’re eating!”

Excellent display of synchronized grazing by Duchess and Daisy, my favorite mother-daughter pair.

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“Unless maybe you have crunchies?”

Daisy’s face is starting to darken, so she looks more like Duchess than ever. If it darkens completely like Mira’s did, they really will be a matched pair. At least in the face; Daisy’s spots are rather distinctive.

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“Don’t bother us, either!”

My other favorite mother-daughter pair, Holly and Marigold. Another set of look-alikes, just with the color scheme reversed. Also a very pretty pair, though they look a bit ragged right now due to shedding. It’s hard to get good pictures of Marigold, since Holly usually gets between us if she sees me looking at her lamb too intently.

I tried to get a picture of myself with Mira while I was on a “mother-daughter” theme, but she just butted me and ran away. Her loose wool is driving her to misery, and she was afraid I might try to help her get it off. Silly girl.

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“I’m Mama’s favorite!”

“I guess…”

A mother-son pair, Nova and Flynn, just for variety. Nova is an obsessively protective mother when her babies are young, but doesn’t seem to maintain any affection for them once they’re weaned. I suspect it’s because she’s only had boys, though I can’t be sure. All the other mothers I’ve had stay attached to their daughters much more than their sons.

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“Yummy grass!”

Lana and Nina aren’t quite as clingy as the other pairs, but Lana is still keeping an eye on me in case I make any sudden moves. She can relax, I think Nina’s just a bit too big for me to snatch.

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“Aah, a moment’s peace!”

The Grand Matriarch, Lady, getting a moment of “me” time away from her four children. She actually does stay somewhat attached to her sons once they’re weaned, unlike the other ewes. Such a good mama. She still hasn’t weaned Danny, so at this rate I’m worried she might keep him forever. I don’t care if she wants to mother him forever, but I’d rather she stopped nursing him so she can gain some weight back.

I was getting ready to go back inside when Mira sensed I was about to leave and decided she wanted attention after all.

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“I distinctly remember the house has air conditioning, and it’s not fair at all to leave me out here with all these sheep in the heat!”

Poor baby. The heat and her itchy wool were making her very droopy. And moody.

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“Mommy I’m so miserable, I need cuddles!”

She kept moving off to graze, then running back all upset when I’d start to get up. She finally decided she had to drape her head and neck over my legs to make sure I didn’t sneak off on her.

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“Stop trying to sneak away on me! I want you to stay! Just don’t try to pull my wool off, I can do it all by myself!”

She cannot. She never sheds off by herself. I will eventually have to do it for her and put up with being shunned for a week.

But not today. Today I let her pin my legs and just enjoyed sitting with her for a while.

Wild and Untamable

I saw another forum post recently confidently asserting that Soays are the most unfriendly and untamable sheep on the planet, they will barely interact with each other, and no matter how hard you try to coax them they will never voluntarily approach a human.

As always, I beg to differ, and am highly offended on behalf of my favorite breed. Granted, it took me several years and an incredible amount of patience (and crunchies!) to initially make friends with Duchess, Lady, and Duke, and if I’d had any intention at all of using or selling any of them for meat I probably wouldn’t have invested that much effort into taming them, but it is definitely possible. And once those first ones accepted me their lambs have mostly accepted me, too.

That’s not to say they make things easy for me. Are they high strung? Definitely. Easily offended? Absolutely. Strong willed? Ridiculously so. But they’re not at all anti-social, either with each other or with me. They’re always keeping a close eye on each other, and when I’m not being shunned over some terrible misdeed, it’s sometimes hard for me to walk with them all crowded around me legs.

And of course there’s their lovely habit of running around between the porch and the back patio yelling their heads off whenever they start thinking they should have some salt. I finally took a video of them doing that, just to prove how ridiculous they are.

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“Me! Me! Give ME crunchies! You have crunchies, right?”

If I’d had a bag of crunchies, or worse, a scoop of mineral mix, I would have been holding it up at least at the level of my head while they bounced around trying to snatch it like overexcited puppies. Since I just had a handful of cereal, they were eager but relatively calm about it.

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“Hey, where are the Shetlands going?”

The Shetlands didn’t care if I had crunchies or not, they said it was a) naptime and b) far too hot to be in the sun. I can’t tell which of the Soays that is running after them. I think it’s Drake, but I’m not sure.

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“I need cuddles, Mommy!”

After my handful of crunchies was gone, everyone wandered off except Mira and Angel, who were sticking close to me, and Flynn, who was sticking close to Angel.

It was pretty hot even for the Soays, (who are starting to lose their wool and looking rather ragged) so they were fairly agreeable about going back to their own field for a nap so the dogs could have their turn in the yard.

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“Naptime! Do we get more crunchies?”

Actually, much as I like to complain about their orneriness, they’re usually pretty cooperative as long as they understand what I want them to do. And as long as they’re sure they’ll get bribed rewarded for cooperating. And as long as I don’t make the mistake of acting like I’m the boss and trying to make them do something.

Well. I said Soays could be tame and friendly, I didn’t say anything about them being obedient.

Shade

Today is very hot, and everyone including me is trying to stay out of the sun.

Lana and Liam aren’t doing a good job of it, but they get an “A” for effort.

“It’s funny, but ever since the tarps got taken down this hoop house just doesn’t work as well…”

Nobody ever used that hoop house much until the tarps were gone, and now they keep going under it and poking around like they’re upset it’s not working. Maybe they just miss the fun they used to have putting “windows” in the tarps.

Most of the Soays were hanging out under the lamb-cave tree, which is probably why the Shetlands were trying to find other accommodations.

“This is our favorite tree!”

Holly thought about trying to get Marigold into the lamb-cave when she saw me coming, but apparently realized there’s no way she would fit. I don’t know why she’s still convinced I’m going to snatch her baby, but she definitely inherited Lady’s mothering instincts.

“Crunchies, please!”

Lady had to come see if I had brought her rightful tribute. I had not. Shame on me.

“Are you sure you don’t have crunchy treats?”

Will had to check, too.

“Any for me?”

And the oldest boy, Neo.

“What about me?”

And the youngest, Mr Dandelion, which rounded out Lady’s whole family group except Holly, who was glaring at me suspiciously and shuffling Marigold around behind her.

Then it was time for Nova & Sons to check.

“Nothing? Really?”

“What’s the deal with no treats, Drake?”

“I don’t know, Flynn, this just isn’t right!”

Duchess and her family were napping under the other tree and couldn’t be bothered to get up, except of course for poor, neglected Mira.

“I am just so sad and neglected and it’s hot and you didn’t even bring me treats I’m just going to have to eat this fence. Nom-nom-nom!”

To her mild surprise, I still didn’t produce any treats, even when she tried to eat the fence.

“I’m having a hard day, Mommy!”

Poor Mira, she has a lot of hard days. It’s so difficult, being her.

“It’s still not working!”

Although not as hard as it is to be a Shetland in this heat with a malfunctioning hoop house, I suspect. Maybe they’ll eventually get up and go to the other one that’s still covered, or crowd under the tree with the Soays.

The dogs and I are fortunate enough to have air conditioning, and we’re staying inside as much as possible until it starts cooling off this evening.

It’s an Outrage!

Poor little Dandelion was so busy chasing girls last night that he lost track of his mama and got shut into the wrong stall. I noticed, but thought at 8 or 9 months old he was big enough to handle being without her overnight.

Lady and Danny both disagreed. This morning the barn was filled with Danny’s unhappy-baby crying and Lady’s unhappy mama bellowing. Mira was yelling too, I guess for me to make the other two stop.

“I’m so hungry I almost starved to death!”

That lambie obviously is too small not to have his mama taking care of him. Lady had to inspect him thoroughly and try very hard to tuck him under her chin.

“This is my little baby, even if I have to stretch to rest my chin on his back!”

“Why are you laughing at us? We’re traumatized, and it’s all your fault!

My poor sheep are always so offended when I laugh at their traumas. Of course, they just roll their eyes and insist I’m overreacting when they traumatize me, so I think we’re even.