Blackie

What’s Up, In Pictures

 

We are about to emerge from the log jam of April and May, and I have a few minutes to post some pictures snapped in recent weeks. When last I left you, Cayden was duct-taped to a cart in the driveway. Since then:

We returned to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, which I described four years ago here. It is a massive sheep spectacle-meets-craft fair, with a healthy dollop of Americana.

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Hadley and I kicked off our respective softball seasons. On a Saturday in April, we celebrated at a sun-soaked lunch.

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Since then, virtually all of our games have been rained out.

 

Last weekend, we partied at the Potomac Hunt Races. On that day, it didn’t rain, but the wind blew like the dickens. Still, lots of fun for the adults:

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Kids, too:

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Between races, Hadley, Cayden and crew hawked decorative horseshoes and pulled in a nice profit.

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Back on the farm, we discovered one of Blackie’s relatives inside the bar. Our cat Olive has also been wriggling through a narrow gap beneath the door, so it appears that cat & snake are tag-teaming the rodent population inside. Cool.

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And finally, Felix, our semi-feral cat, continues to defy the textbook prototype of a barn cat, by getting fatter and fatter. His stomach nearly touches the ground and mouse-sized mats ride his back, because he’s too tubby to groom himself. More on that later.

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Postscript —  I can’t conclude with that blubbery feline. Frequent storms and volatile weather do yield some nice sunsets, like this one last night.

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The Chubby Club

 

The sheep are impossibly fat.

It’s no contest. They’ve earned the title of fattest creatures on the farm.

Granted, the horses are portly. Bugsy and one of the horses each graze with a muzzle — a nylon mesh bucket with a rubber bottom, and a quarter-sized hole through which to eat.

The cats take the bronze medal. Frog is especially waddle worthy (yes, a cat named “Frog”). Each time she slinks in the barn, I fear she’s pregnant though I know she’s spayed.

But Frog is twiggy compared to the sheep.

We haven’t been up close to the sheep since late fall. Then last Sunday, Martin and I rounded them up for a hoof trimming session.

“Sweet Jesus,” I whispered to Martin.

It was hard to tell where bulging torsos ended and spindly legs began. Each looked like a jumbo marshmallow, teetering on toothpicks.

The five of them barely squeezed into their corral chute. In fact Blackie — in an effort to evade handling — pressed his fat against the fencing and popped two boards loose.

(I should note that the sheep’s heftiness greatly hampered hoof trimming. They threw their weight around, trampling, squeezing and shoving Martin. He was smeared with mud and even peed on — one of the ewes urinated on his hand when he grabbed a hind leg….That last detail is unrelated to the topic, but was funny as hell.)

So the sheep are overweight. What to do? It’s hard to cut consumption. They receive no grain or hay and are cordoned off in a small pasture.

The accused, angled to optimize slimness.

 

I searched “obese sheep” and “fat sheep need to lose weight” on the web, but discovered nothing novel or noteworthy.

“Regulate supplementary feed,” advised owners on various forums.  “Increase your sheep’s exercise.”

Increase exercise? I thought. What am I supposed to do, sign them up for the gym? Teach them yoga?

There’s Maisie, of course. She’s eager to chase them, but that’s a hit-or-miss exercise regimen.

Before giving up, I searched the web for a sheep version of the horse grazing muzzle.

And — surprise — such products exist.  But they’re marketed to prevent sheep from eating bedding or biting other animals. They’re not designed for weight loss or 24-hour use.

And after viewing photos of the products, I think I’d rather the sheep die fat and happy than wear Hannibal Lecter headgear.  

Behold, protection when handling serial killer sheep:

 

 

Just spare me the Silence of the Lambs jokes…

 

 

 

 

 

Must I say this?

 

I frequently shout at the kids but I try not to holler at Martin.

Last night it was necessary.

I repeated the same sentence a dozen times in quick succession with crescendo, until I was yelling. Despite my unmitigated fervor, Martin appeared hesitant — uncommitted.

If I hadn’t been barefoot I would have pulled a Khrushchev, banging my shoe on the table and shouting in a rabid rant:

Do not bring that snake inside!

Do NOT bring that snake inside!

DO NOT BRING THAT SNAKE INSIDE!

The snake was discovered snoozing among hay bales and he spent the day in a bucket, awaiting the kids’ return. Then, Snake was relocated from bucket to a modest bug-viewing container.

Snake was peevish about his lengthy confinement and even more irate about the prospect of smaller digs. He hissed and struck out repeatedly.

In his defense we stuffed him in a cheap, cracked, plastic container with a loose lid.

It was the last detail that fueled my impassioned rave. I did not want a pissed-off snake, hissing and spitting, as it retreated beneath a couch or bed.

Fortunately Cayden is familiar with my wrath and knows it’s best to obey six words screamed repeatedly. He freed the snake outdoors…

…beside the house, right next to the broken cellar window.