Sunday, June 30, 2013

Meetings and Partings

Life is full of meetings and partings--that is the way of it
--Kermit the Frog; Muppets' Christmas Carol

I know, it's the weekend, and here I am laying some Kermit-style philosophy on you.  Funny thing is, that little green Muppet got it totally right--life never stays the same.  We meet people, we lose touch with people.  Things come into our lives, and things go out of our lives.  It is how it is.

It's not easy being green

We're at a crossroads here at Chicken Scratch, and I have had to think very hard about a lot of things for quite some time.  The most pressing things of all are what to do with some of the animals here.  For example, I can't keep all of the kids that were born.  In fact, Oscar has already left.  Yesterday a man came with two little boys whose eyes just lit up when they saw him.  They wanted him as a companion for a male goat they had at home, who needed a friend.  I was sad to see Oscar go, but I am very, very glad for him because of where he went.  I know he's going to have a good life.

But it's damn pretty.
Cleo left a week or so ago.  She was not working out.  She is a sweet, sweet girl, but she just never fit in.  I know that I was hoping to have bred her to Stewart and have her make ultra-milker Boer/Nubians, but she may have miscarried, and that kind of killed that plan.  After Minerva kidded, I knew I was going to keep one of her girls, as Minerva's udder is completely fabulous, her teats are like handles, but the CAE is the thing that is her downfall.  Her girls have never nursed a drop and hang out with me and not mama.  They should be clear of what Minerva has, hopefully, and will hopefully inherit her amazing udder.  Since she had the two girls, I was going to keep them both, or one of Minerva's and one of Lilly's.  Well, Lilly's udder is beautiful, her teats are small, but growing, and the girl milks like a never ending fountain.  So yeah, I wanted some of that too, and luckily she had a girl.  But in order to keep the two new ones, someone had to go.  That someone was Cleo, so she did. 

That leaves me with Tallulah, Amelia, and Olive.  It's going to be Olive who leaves.  I love that girl, but Amelia is the one who is more attached to me, and that's the deciding factor.  I am a pushover for a goat who needs to be in my lap all the time, I really am.  Of course, that does backfire on me down the line when that goat is say, fat as a sausage (DULCI), and still insists on sitting on me.  But will it break my heart?   Absolutely.  I can't keep them all, though, so what I will do is make sure that she goes to a good home and be happy for her.
Tallulah and Bad Man.  They just don't get along at all. 
So sad.
The kittens also are moving out.  This is not as sad, because I always knew they were leaving.  One little girl left today.  Two are staying, so two are left to find new homes.  This is just one of those things that had to be done.  We have a lot of cats.  Though my children are upset with me, too many is too many, and they need to move to other homes.  I know that's what's best.

Super Kitty!
This is Charlotte.  She is one of the two who are staying.  She is not dead, she is asleep.
Just in case you were worried.
In addition, I'm downsizing my chicken flock by a huge amount.  There are many reasons for this, which I'll talk about some other day.  I think I'll just leave it by saying that it hasn't worked out the way I had hoped it would.  At this point, I am reducing the flock to produce enough eggs for us and a little extra.  And that's where it will stay.  When layers need to be replaced, I will set eggs.  I am done with purchasing fancy chickens from hatcheries--it has not been worth all the expense.  
I'm still thinking about the ducks and geese.  I don't care too much about the ducks, as there are so few left, but I do like the Muscovies better.  Those guys eat bugs like nobody's business!  It's a joy to see and a gigantic help because all our streams attract lots and lots of bugs.  The problem I have is that the pond I dug out years ago for them has dried up.  Something happened to the underground stream that fed it--I don't know what--and it's dry, dry dry. It's just a big hole now that collects rainwater.  Not cool, so I have to do something about it, I just haven't decided what.  It has been a big problem.
I guess you could say there's been a lot of re-evaluation going on.  Yep, you'll probably hear more about it.  Today, though, it's pouring rain and I have to go out and do the chores in it.  Joy!  Ah, it's all part of the job.  Have a wonderful evening everyone! 
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Variations on a Theme

I looked at all the goat babies today, all together, and noticed something.  That is, that the way they came out, even though they are the same "breed", is really different.  All four of them are Nubian/Alpine crosses.  With Olive and Amelia, you can tell.  Those ears are a dead giveaway.  But with the two new ones?  Well, not so much.

Submitted for your approval....

No...wait...hold on.  Olive.

Ok, no, no that won't work.  Olive.

Dangit Amelia!  Move it!  Olive!

Ok, yes, Olive.  Olive of the airplane ears, coming in for a landing.  Even as a new baby, she had the airplane ears.

Yep, they've gotten bigger and stick out more, but they were always there.  Just like her sister, Amelia.

Stop moving, you little monkey.  Amelia.
Too close honey, too close.  Amelia.

No, Olive, not you.  I saw you already.  Amelia.

Um....not quite.  Amelia?

Much better.  Amelia's airplane wings can either look like she's about to take off,
Neyaruuummmm!!  Coming in for a landing!!!
or like Yoda, or a gremlin, depending on how she holds them.

As you know, these are Minerva's babies, and she was bred to a Nubian at a local dairy.  I think his name was Prince.  We didn't become very acquainted, so I don't really remember.  Amelia is a spitting image of mama, but in brown. 

See that?  Freaky!  Minerva is the white version of Amelia!
I have no idea where Olive's patterns came from.  The ears on both, however, are Alpine in size (maybe a little larger), but lower on their heads, tilted differently, and have the flick on the end from their Nubian roots.  In other words, you can see the cross.

Lilly's babies?  Not so much.  Now Lilly, who is brown with a black stripe and some white here and there was bred to Stewart, our Nubian buck, who is also brown with a black stripe and some white here and there--so it's no surprise that the babies are brown with a black stripe and some white here and there.  But the ears I don't get.

Not an airplane wing in sight.

Here's mama....

And here's little Oscar...
And little Tallulah

You'd swear Lilly didn't even show up, they look so much like daddy.  Down to the Roman noses, even. 

All the little ones are doing very well.  Amelia and Olive are super bouncy, getting heavy and very tall, and Oscar and Tallulah are getting around very well for newly hatched, but I can't keep all of them.  Now that I'm done with kidding for the year, I have to make some decisions.  I discussed with my husband previously that I'd like to keep one girl from each of my girls.  As Tallulah is the only girl from Lilly, she stays.  Oscar, unfortunately, will have to move on.  I just don't need another buck.  And yes, it breaks my heart.

But the hardest decision of all is what to do about Olive and Amelia.  They've been here nearly 4 weeks, and I just love them.  But they can't both stay.  So do I go with the beautifully marked Olive?  Or do I go with the plainer, but sits in my lap all the time to cuddle Amelia?  I am at a loss.  If you have an opinion, I'd love to hear it.  Please? 

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Thursday, June 27, 2013


I have a story for you today--a nice one.  For a change, I'm going to start at the end and go back to the beginning.  Just to shake things up.
So long story short, I have this to say in summation:
  • For all the times I said "Don't do it in the dirt", she did it in the dirt, just like I thought she might.
  • The days when I need help the most are always the days there's no help to be found.
  • I am grateful that it was not exactly the same time I had to pick my kids up from camp, even though it was close enough to make my life difficult, and at least the soap got poured beforehand.
  • Thank goodness that the will to live is strong, or this story would have a very different ending.
  • If I were a drinker, I would be hitting the bottle about now.

The day started off very early--3:30 in the morning, to be exact.  I woke up, and didn't know why.  Figuring it was Lilly making noise, who is pretty overdue and behind my head in the garage so I can hear her, I guessed that maybe she was maaing and in labor, and I heard it in my sleep and it woke me.  It turned out to be none of that.   She was in the garage in her pen, standing up and contracting, as she really has been doing on and off for a few days.  But there was no progress there, and she hadn't made a peep.  I have no idea what woke me up.

I went back to sleep as best I could, since I have a major case of poison ivy, and the itching really gets fun and itchy early in the morning.  Luckily, I fell back asleep after combating the scratchies with another round of products that sort of work, and woke up at 5 as normal, but this time, hit the snooze a few too many times.

After gathering all the milking things, I went out to feed Olive and Amelia and check on Lilly.  She was still standing there, doing exactly what she's been doing for days--not much.  I fed the littles, released Lilly from her "cage", and brought her out to the pen.  Fed all the piranhas, milked Minerva, and finished the rest of the feeding chores.  Went inside, puttered, drank coffee, got things ready to make cheese, went out and checked on Lilly.

The pattern to my days has been pretty much this:  do stuff, then check Lilly.  Do something else, then check Lilly.  Do something even more, and check Lilly.  Go somewhere and come back quickly, so I can check Lilly.   Yep, it's getting old.  But that was the morning for me anyway--kind of same old, same old.  The only difference was that my husband, who works from home, was in NJ today, and my kids were at camp this morning, so I was by myself.  My parents live nearby, but when I spoke to them, they were across  the river and not coming back.  So I was definitely alone, which pretty much clinched that Lilly would have her babies today.  When I went out to check Lilly one time, she had a string of goob coming out.  That was nice, but it was opaque goob, not clear goob.  So, labor looked like it was a way off.  I figured I was safe, and maybe people would be around by the time she got to it, so I amused myself by trying to make some cheese.  Then I checked Lilly.  She was doing what she has been doing for a while--not much.  No more goob, so I went inside and made some goat's milk soap.  As I'm pouring the soap, Minerva is screaming bloody blue murder.  This is nothing new.  She does that when she thinks it's time to be milked, which is every hour on the hour.  The girl likes her grain.  Since Lilly has been overdue, I've gone running to see what it is she's yelling about, and it's nothing, just her normal wanting to be milked. 

So Minerva is screaming bloody blue murder, and I'm scraping the soap pan, and I think to myself "I really should go check on that, even though it's probably nothing".  So I do.  I count heads.  Minerva--check, obviously.  Cynthia--check.  Dulcinea--check.  Stewart--yodeling.  Max--check.  Amelia--check.  Olive--check.  Lilly-------ummmm----where's Lilly?

Where Lilly was, was laying in the DIRT in the back of the pen.  She didn't get up when I went to the fence.  That's not good.  I opened the gate and ran.  And there, right behind her butt, was a sack of baby.  The sack was not warm anymore--not fresh out of the goat hot, if you know what I mean.  It'd been there a little while.  Cursing loudly, and figuring I'd lost one, I bent down to pick up the little sack of goat.  And it breathed, just a little bit.

Cursing louder and ranting at Lilly for having her babies in the DIRT where I had been telling her NOT to, I ripped that sac open in a flash.  I had no towels.  I had no snot-sucker.  I had nothing--everything was inside in the PEN she was SUPPOSED to have her babies in.  Set up beautifully, I might add.  I cleaned off the little one's face as best I could.  I used my shirt, my shorts, anything to get that slippery goo off.  But still, only a breath or two would come.  I worked quick--I put my fingers in the little one's mouth and pulled out what I could.  Still one breath--not enough.  I figured on drastic measures.  I picked that baby up by the back feet and swung it back and forth.  Two good swings and out came the mucous on the upswing--a whole nice gob of it.  And the baby breathed and finally--finally--shook it's head.

I took the second I had to run like a wild thing into the garage with the baby and get the towels and the stuff I needed, like the snot-sucker, which I have found is crucial to giving birth.  I get back as fast as I can, sit down, and try to figure out what I'm seeing.  Do I have to cut the umbilical cord?  How much more mucous do I have to pull out of the little one's mouth?  What the hell is it, anyway, boy or girl?  All while trying to towel dry off the little shivering pupkin, Lilly began to push.  Except that she was pushing with her knees on the ground and her ass in the air.  She tried that for a minute or two, realized it wasn't going to work, and finally layed down.  And there was the bubble, then the feet and the nose.  Thank goodness it was positioned correctly.  I put my hands on that one and pulled with her contraction.  I popped that bubble quick as a wink and went at it with the snot-sucker.  At that point, the first baby ( a boy!) was trying to stand up and was already sucking my elbow.  And of course, the entire herd was there, Amelia was jumping on my back because it's fun, Minerva had her face in my bag of stuff, and everyone else was sniffing and biting on the pads I had put down to try to keep the babies clean (ha ha).
Lilly giving birth in the dirt
Unwanted audience participation.  Minerva's head was in my bag of birthing stuff.
So helpful.  Reminding everyone that audience participation was not necessary or even wanted, and again cursing Lilly for not doing this in the PEN I had set up for her, I scrubbed that new baby with a towel to dry (her!) off.  The little boy was trying to stand and was still sucking anything he could.  The little girl came around quickly, since she wasn't stuck in a sack for a while, and was also trying to stand.  I got out the Bo-Se, shot them in the butts (after taking the syringe packet out of Minerva's mouth), and scrubbed all the goo off.  Then I got to look them over.  They look like Stewart.  See?

Boy and girl.  The girl is the one with the frosted ears.  Anyway, by this time, I wanted to get the family in the pen and get a bottle into those babies.  I brought the babies out and put them away, came back for Lilly, and had to DRAG her into the pen-- Lilly hates being taken around by the collar.  Of course, the other goats had busted through the gate to the pasture, so I fought them off while trying to push Lilly through the gate to the outside.  I succeeded in getting her out--as well as Minerva, which I did not want.  However, I ignored Minerva, who was jumping up on the milking stand, waiting for her milking, settled Lilly in (whose placenta bits were hanging out of her rear, I might add), and rushed inside to make a couple of little bottles.  Got back to the pen, put the bottles down, and grabbed Minerva to bring her back to her yard.  Narrowly stopped a Stewart escape, and finally went into the pen myself to spend a bit of time teaching the babies how to suckle.

Then it was nearly time to pick up the kids from camp, and I really couldn't leave.  But no one was around to help.  The placenta bits were hanging out of Lilly's rear, and the babies still needed to eat.  Oh--and now Olive and Amelia were past their mealtime and were letting me know all about it.  Their little party horn voices rang out loud and clear and insisted on feeding. 

So I did.  Running everywhere, I got the girls' bottles ready and down the hatch to quiet them down.  Then I got a tiny bit more bottle into the two new babies, and had to lock up to leave.  I drove to camp way too fast, on no gas, because oops!  I forgot I had to fill up.  Luckily, I had sped so much I had enough time to do so right before pick up.  If I hadn't, I would have been pushing the car.  I got my kids, got back in the car and sped home.  Quick like a wink, back in the pen, checking things out and feeding babies.  I helped Lilly expel the placenta, which took a while, since she was un-motivated.  But finally I was done.  The babies were up and dry and fed.  Mama had gotten the placenta out and was falling asleep standing up.   Minerva was yelling at the injustice of not being milked when SHE wanted it, and Stewart was yodeling at the nerve of me taking one of his girls away.  I could finally walk away and get on with the day. 

So long story short, I have this to say in summation:
  • For all the times I said "Don't do it in the dirt", she did it in the dirt, just like I thought she might.
  • The days when I need help the most are always the days there's no help to be found.
  • I am grateful that it was not exactly the same time I had to pick my kids up from camp, even though it was close enough to make my life difficult, and at least the soap got poured beforehand.
  • Thank goodness that the will to live is strong, or this story would have a very different ending.
  • If I were a drinker, I would be hitting the bottle about now.
The End

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Day From Hell

Monday Max got sick.  Really, really sick.

I went to open up the house, and he was laying in the corner, which is not like him at all--he's usually the first one out of the door.  He tried to get up, and fell right back down.  He tried again, and stood like a drunken sailor.  He was foaming at the mouth.

Right away, I thought "Foamy Bloat"--we opened a new pasture on Sunday, and though I made sure that they ate lots of dry hay before going into it, Max was very happy to stuff his face.  Too many wet (inside water) leaves and grasses will trap the bubbles and cause the foam.  It was possible, since he had taken it upon himself to clean that pasture out, that this was the case.  I ran to the house, and pulled out what I needed.  I got back out to him and listened to his stomach--not a peep.  Max is a LOUD digester.  I pumped him full of Milk of Magnesia, which is the treatment for foamy bloat, different from "dry bloat", which would be treated with oil.  His rumen started to move slightly, but he tottered around like a drunken sailor for a while.  Finally, he just collapsed.

He was still alive.  He could not get up and was still foaming at the mouth.  Did you know that poisoning and foamy bloat pretty much look the same?  I had no idea what I was dealing with.  The rest of the day (and I mean the entire day), I spent running back and forth, pumping Max with Vitamin B Complex, C/D Antitoxin (because foamy bloat can turn into enterotoxemia--fun), simethicone, baking soda and strong tea, and activated charcoal from a fish filter I ripped open.  There were many points in the day when I thought about where I might bury Max, should he die.   It was looking bad.

Later in the afternoon, I had just finished giving him another round of tea and baking soda with a syringe, and I filled it with cool water.  His eyes just lit up. I gave him as much cool water as he could drink--even filling a baby's bottle with it (Max LOVES the bottle---still!  He's always trying to steal it from Amelia and Olive) and giving it to him that way.  Eventually the foaming stopped, but Max still could not stand.

I had no idea what was going on.  His head wobbled, his legs could not hold him up.  I made a quick guess at Goat Polio, which is a thiamin deficiency.  The symptoms did not exactly fit, but that's all I had.  I pumped that little guy full of vitamin B.  I kept pumping him full of the Antitoxin as well.  I kept at it the rest of the day.  Finally, finally, at 7:30 that night, Max stood up, went outside, and walked around.  Slightly drunkenly, mind you, but he was up.

Yesterday, he was pretty much Max again.  Complaining, noisy digestion-ing Max.  My boy.  Today he looks ok as well.  He's still getting the Antitoxin once a day, as well as a nice dose of vitamin B, but today may be the last day for that.  When you have an illness that serious, you don't just stop the treatment outright.  You taper, just in case of relapse.  I'm hoping he'll be ok.  He's a sweet and beautiful boy, and I just love him.

I spent the entire day caring for him on Monday.  And as I did, I kept thinking, "should I be going to all this trouble?"  Would a farmer on a large farm be running back and forth, racking their brains on what to do this for one goat?  You know what?  I don't know.  I would like to think that they would, but maybe if you had a farm with 100 Maxes, you wouldn't be so worried about the one.  I've only got the one.  And as I said before, this is a homestead, not a farm.  Every life is valuable.  He deserved me doing anything I could possibly do to try and help him.  I am thankful that it seems to have worked for him.  But what would you have done?  Would you have spent the day on your one little guy?  Or would you have treated him as best you could and said "Ok, it's up to you now"?  I'd love to know.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Minus 1

Hey Lilly...


You know you were due yesterday?


Well....You didn't give birth.
Your point?

Well, you were due yesterday.  As in not today or tomorrow.  Minerva went early, you know.

Do I look like Minerva?

No.... but wouldn't you rather pop those little ones out, so you can stop walking around in a daze, contracting all over the place?  There are people waiting here, you know.

Maybe you got your dates wrong.  I don't feel like giving birth today, either.
Nope, I have a calendar and a program.  They both say you were due yesterday.  So....get on with it, ok??

I'll take it under consideration. 
I'm feeling very 2:00 in the morning right now.  Perhaps on Tuesday. 
We'll see.

And so we wait.....

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Friday, June 21, 2013


Ah, it's that time of year!  The time when things start rolling in around here, and it feels like it's all starting to hum like a finely tuned machine, and I get to sit back and look at it all and think about where it's all going and how else I'd like to manage it.  There's a lot of managing in this job.  Those of you who also homestead know that as well as I do.  And there are plenty of things I have decided about future management that I'll share at some time. 

But not today.

Today is a day for simple.  You know what's simple?  Soap.  Soap is oil and lye and water, and this and that, and BAM!  Pretty and usable things come out of it.  I love making soap.  It is relaxing and fun and kinda frustrating too.  It's a good mix that keeps me on my toes.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I make soap to sell at a local shop.  I did a spring "line", and now I'm up to summer, and it's been going like hotcakes.  I just finished up the summer soaps, and I thought I'd share them with you before they go out the door and are never seen again.  (Don't mind the little edges and such--I'm still cleaning up the bars.)

First up, Blueberry Verbena.  It's pretty straightforward, I just love the colors of it.  So pretty!

Then, Hibiscus.  I just really wanted to do PINK.
Golden Honeysuckle.

White Ginger and Amber.  I tried to make it look like beach glass and a beachball.  It worked pretty well.

I also did a few batches for my brother and his fiancĂ©e.  They are:

Citrus Basil

Sparkling Mojito (and I think I found a new way to make pretty inside swirls)

Stormy Seas

Pink Pepperberry.  Again with the whole pink thing. I think it must be this room
And for my husband?  Bay Rum.  And no pink.
Yep, that was pretty fun.  It was a whole flurry of soapmaking craziness for a few days.  Now the nicest part is that my sewing office smells nice, and there's quite a bit of beautiful soap floating around.

However, while I was working on this, I realized "Hey, I have goat milk", so yep, I'm going to do some goat milk soaps.  But I have decided to do it with essential oils and natural herbs and colorings.  Colored soap is beautiful, but there's a lot of beauty in the simple, herbal soaps too.  I might even say that I like them more (but don't tell the other soap--I wouldn't want it to feel bad). 

Today is the last day of school, and the day before Lilly's due date.  It will be a busy one, I think.  Enjoy your summer solstice, everyone.  Remember to keep it simple!
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Garden Tour

Well, I promised you a non-Minerva post, so here it is!  As I wait for Lilly to pop (Saturday's her due date), and make a ton of soap (I will share pics), I have been a weeding fool.  The rain has been both a bane and a blessing.  Actually, I don't think it's the rain so much as the lack of warm weather.  We have been pretty firmly stuck at 60ish to 70ish degrees, which some crops like, and others, not so much.  I'm sure summer will show up eventually--and stay.  We did have some warm weather, but that was last month, and it hasn't come back yet.  It will, I know.  But until then, this is where things stand.

The lettuce has been loving the cooler weather and the rain.  The heads are gigantic--bigger than I have had so far.  We have been eating lots and sharing plenty, but there's still lots more out there.

This Oakleaf is one of my favorites.  So tender.

And this speckley guy is Jester, another beauty with a tender leaf.  Yum!
The peas are very slowly starting their bloom, so peas should be coming.  Germination this year was really spotty.  Then the wind knocked over the vines and their support.  Nothing I can do can stand them up again without breaking them, so I have to leave them be.  I think that I will be putting in a fall crop of peas this year to make up for the poor germination, but I have very little luck with fall peas, that's the truth.  I will try, though.  Garden peas are a real treat!

Another thing enjoying the wet and rain?  The strawberries.  We have had a gigantic crop so far this year.  I have been keeping track of the weights of each harvest I do, but I haven't tallied yet.  I know it's the biggest one so far, though. 

On the unhappy list?  The beans.  The cooler weather slowed down the germination significantly, and some did not germinate at all and had to be replanted.  However, they are starting to gain some ground. 

Also unhappy, with no surprise, are the peppers.  They are pretty much at a standstill, waiting for the warmer weather.  A couple tried to put out some pathetic, tiny little peppers because I think they figured it was all over for them, but I pinched them off.  The plants are WAY too small to make any peppers of significant size.  I don't want the plants to waste their time--or mine--on mini peppers that are no use.

The tomatoes--in the large back garden only--are held back somewhat as well.  That's not true of the front garden, but I'll show you those in a minute.  These are the back garden's tomatoes.  They're growing, but not winning any races.

The crop that doesn't care either way?  Squash.  It's happy to be happy.

The front garden is going gangbusters, for the most part.  I think it's partly due to the lasagna gardening because there's lots of good things under the roots, but also due to the topsoil.  Either way, it's ahead of the back garden by quite a bit.

For example, the tomatoes up here are gigantic compared to the tomatoes in the back.

And the pumpkins have exploded.  I don't think I've ever had pumpkins like this before.  It will be nice if I have pumpkins worth carving and eating this year.  It would be a first!

Also happy?  The collards:

And the broccoli (which I'm afraid will bolt before it makes heads, it's taking SO long).

But to keep me humble, the corn is still tiny, and the spinach has already bolted.  Can't win them all!

Otherwise, the orchard is looking great, the berries are growing, and the grapes, which are new this year, are leafing out nicely.

So on the whole?  It's looking pretty good.  Now we need some warmer weather, and I think things will just pop.  But the crops are not the only thing growing.  So are these two:

Remember when they were so little? You know, last week??  They grow so fast!

And yes, their ears are like airplane wings.  But are they not the cutest littles?  I think they're so good looking.  Of course, I'm not exactly a neutral party. 

Also cute?  These guys. 

Maybe not AS cute, though.


You be the judge!

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