Chicken Confession

They say admittance is the first step toward recovery. In a previous blog, I spoke about how chickens were like potato chips, you can’t have just one. I felt that we were at a point where we had the perfect amount of chickens for us. We were handling them, they were all well taken care of, everyone was getting along, and in the back of my mind I was thinking, we probably have enough. I was kind of proud of myself, and I thought maybe I’m really not the crazy chicken lady. What I failed to notice is what was happening around me.

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You know how when you have a baby there are different stages of care, and as the baby grows and becomes a toddler, and then later is out of diapers, things start to seem easier and the thought of having another baby becomes less of a desire? Well that is kind of what was happening to me with the chickens. When we first started with all the chicks, we loved them and held and handled them a ton, and really enjoyed all of their sweet chirping. But as they grew, were able to go outside, and then began laying eggs, they were so much easier than the chicks, and I thought you know we are good, no more chicks for a while. It’s usually about that time when boom, life hands you a surprise.

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My phone rang one afternoon, the kids were visiting a friend, and found a chick (a sweet little fluffy chick) “Mom, we think it’s a silkie!” (Exactly what I did not want to hear) “Mom, we need your help, please.” They insisted that I needed to drive across town exactly at that moment, because its chicken mom had attacked it and was rejecting the chick. Now they know how to tug at my heartstrings poor little fluff ball needed help. So in the car I went, to pick up a very tiny little cotton ball chick, we got her home and all set up in the barn, hoping that she would do as well as all of the other chicks we had hand raised. To say within a couple of days she flourished would be an understatement, she knew this was her new home and she was happy.

Okay I know what you all are thinking, one more chicken. One more white fluffy chicken that hardly will make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Agreed! But do you really think it stopped at just little fluffy Agnes?

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This is where the tables turn. You see, I am not the crazy chicken lady; I am though married to the CRAZY CHICKEN MAN!

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While sitting in the classroom with Dylan, Kayton walks in and announces that the chicks were back at Tractor Supply. I told her I knew I had noticed them the last time I was there the week before getting feed… I paused for a moment, thought about her statement then dismissed it, no they wouldn’t have gotten any chicks. A few seconds passed and I asked Kayton where Daddy was, she replied, “In the barn…. Putting the chicks in the cage with Agnes.” WHAT! Wait, chicks? Chicks as in must buy a minimum of 6 chicks? Here we go again! What did he get? They call them Asian Blue’s…. whatever that is? Into the barn I go to see 6 little black chicks, hopping around with Agnes. I gave him the look (you wives know the look I am talking about), only this was the look of seriously Jody more chickens?! The plan for these 6 I am not exactly sure… so that’s it right?

 

WRONG!

I was getting ready to leave the farm for a few days for an out of state baby shower. Before leaving a BIG box is delivered (thank you Amazon Prime), I never really saw what was in the box, but we get lots of stuff delivered so I didn’t really think anything of it. We head down to Florida for 3 nights, and then return. It was at the airport that I was informed we were on day 4. Day 4? What does that mean? 17 days left… I thought I must have lost something in translation. They will hatch in 17 more days, my chicken loving man says. They will hatch? How will they hatch? Why will they hatch? HATCH?! “Yes I put some eggs in the incubator I bought off of Amazon.” It was at this point I realized I HAVE CREATED A MONSTER! Let me get this straight, you put them in the incubator the day I left? YEP! And in 17 days we will have another flock of chicks? YEP! There better be an olive egger in this bunch that is all I am going to say. He smiles and said, “oh there will be a few!” Redemption!

So hatching day should be coming up soon, I’m not going to tell him, but I’m pretty excited about it!

As for Agnes and the other 6 they are all doing quite well.  They have grown pretty quickly and will be moving into some bigger housing in another week or so, just in time for the little house to get the newly hatched flock.

Where my GOAT at?

So all those stories that were shared with us…. The stories about Billy Goats, the stories about the goat cologne and the like, shockingly accurate. Several weeks after the birth of the three babies, Friedrich our resident leash walking Billy decided it was time for the ladies to start noticing him again. I guess he assumed his children were old enough for him to move back in with his ladies. The guys around here started telling me stories about Friedrich peeing in their general direction, about him rearing up, about him becoming more aggressive with them in and around the barn. And I thought to myself, Friedrich my sweet little friendly man?

The week of the eclipse came, and as we were all looking and worrying about the effects on the animals, much of which was completely crazy. Friedrich became more and more atypical billy like. The day of the eclipse we had some friends here enjoying the amazing experience, by the way being in the line of totality was not all hype it was unbelievable.

As the eclipse passed, Friedrich decides to come over to the back pool deck and say hello to all our guests, it was at this point that I started noticing, he wasn’t my sweet little boy anymore he was a hormonal billy that wanted to do billy-goat things.

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The very next week Dylan was in the barn mucking stalls and he came running in saying Friedrich won’t leave me alone in the barn, he keeps trying to pee on me, and butt me. My first reaction was to laugh, I thought seriously you are afraid of Friedrich, Jody walked out to the stalls and moved him into the pasture, only Friedrich was making this noise I had never heard from his goat mouth. Dylan said, “That goat is crazy, he was trying to lick me!” Lick you I said. What in the world! The next weekend we had company here visiting, and Friedrich did not disappoint, he chased us girls down in the side pasture, he sang a weird song every time he saw us, and you guessed it attempted to lick us every chance he got! (If you see me in person I can mimic this behavior with pretty amazing accuracy)

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The question came to mind, now what!? What are we going to do with this weird hormonal goat? How about a goat stud service? There has to be a need for this around here, he really makes some beautiful babies.

So that is exactly what we did, I’m not sure it is going to be a new business venture or anything, goat pimping, but right now he is at the neighboring farm helping bring some “kids” into this world.

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He is a happy goat, temporarily apart of a new “lonely goatherd” singing his little “O ho lay dee odl lee o, o ho lay dee old ay O ho lay dee odl lee o, lay dee odl lee o lay.” 

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Meanwhile, here our “kids” are really growing, hopping, rearing, and getting more and more mischievous everyday. They daily interact with each other, the chickens, and us. And if you ever think you are having a bad day, watch little goat’s play it is not possible to watch them interact and not at the very least smile.

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Pick me up!

My son turned 14 this week. 14 it doesn’t seem possible. It’s mind-boggling to me to think about how an event can happen that you anticipate, plan out, look forward to, and over think…. and than unfold, march on, lead to more events, more memories, more anticipation…. the next thing you know you are sitting somewhere years later in disbelief that the time, the years have flown by.

Becoming a parent was one of lives great blessings. But everything it requires and brings is sure not for the faint of heart. When Dylan first started to walk, I mean run he went full force into every corner, or blunt object that was available to hit within head shot, he walked around with a knot on his head for probably the first 6 months after starting to walk. Hard knocks. And as a new mom, I quickly discovered if I reacted to every bump, fall or scrape he would react to every bump, fall or scrape. We even took it a bit farther, when Dylan would walk and trip and kind of fall we would clap, sounds weird I know, but it was like the support he needed to know okay you tripped or you kind of fell down, but you got this! Come on buddy up you go!

That clap, that little cheer we put into practice is really a valuable lesson that can be applied to any stage of life, any task, heartache, trip up or fall we make. We can overcome it. We can sit and wallow because we tripped or we can listen to the little cheerleaders in our lives and get back up.

It’s important to have those people in your life, the people who encourage, the people who help you grow, the people who get you back up. They aren’t usually the flashy cheerleaders, the ones looking to be showcased they are usually more of a pit crew. You know what I’m talking about a group of people who when we drive in they are their waiting to fix a flat, adjust some pressure or fill us up so we can get out there and get back in the race.

So what does this have to do with the farm? Well I needed a pit crew after our week, last week. Losing our little baby donkey, tripped us up for a little bit. And what a pit crew we had, the love, support and kindness that was expressed was overwhelming. Life is full of bumps and bruises, when we are down, sad, defeated, and that crew, those cheerleaders show up what an amazing relief it is to know people do care.

What I have also seen is animals also have a crew, when Christina was down, depressed and sad after losing her baby, her little donkey bestie, Shawnee was exactly the support she needed the next morning when they were reunited, Shawnee simply approached Christina and gave her a little donkey hug. Never forget to cheer on, build up and encourage those on your team, it can make more of a difference than you may ever know.

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Sometimes life stinks….and it’s okay to say it!

There is a saying… “Mostly it is loss which teaches us the worth of things.” I would like to think as a human who has lost many important people throughout my lifetime, that I can see the worth of those around  that we love before we ever have to lose them, and that’s what makes losing them so difficult.

When the children were small I use to read them a book called, “Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” If today were a book it would be called Kayton, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. We all have those days in life right, where you think will this day ever end?  Where you can’t wait until bedtime so you can close your eyes to the day you just endured. Today was one of those days.

The day started with a drive to the orthodontist so Kayton could get her braces on. For anyone that has ever had braces it isn’t a jump up with excitement kind of time. It’s a tedious ordeal, that concludes with having a metal smile, that takes some getting use to, along with a very sore mouth that you never really get use to.

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Today was also Donkey Day. A day that we have been waiting for, along with lots here in our town, both friends, acquaintances and even some strangers who read the blog in other areas far and near. We quickly learned through this process that things don’t always happen as one would hope, dream, or even sometimes wish.

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Our little grey girl Christina, stole our hearts when she came to the farm one year ago, when we learned not long after her arrival here that she was expecting a little longears we were completely thrilled. She’s a special little mini, one that is loved easily by all who meet her, she is gentle, sweet, and loves attention. After many months and then many more months, we started to see that Christina was growing with each passing month but when 12 months became 15 months we started to get worried. After careful conversation with the previous owner, and our vet, we estimated that this pregnancy had gone on for we believe several months too long. So this morning Christina was given a low dose shot not to start contractions but one that would help her body if it were truly ready to begin the process. When we returned home from the orthodontist, it seemed that the process had begun. Christina was pacing, restless, laying down, getting up, pawing at the ground, all the “signs of labor” I had been watching for since May were finally here. She was being very closely monitored, and it seemed like she was handling it all pretty well. As the evening progressed our vet came back over to check Christina and her progress, and thought and even warned us that the baby appeared to be breach.

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When you are an adult you hear what’s being said, but you also hear what isn’t being said, I started to realize that this wasn’t going to go the way I was (everyone) was hoping it would, this was going to be complicated. When you are 11 you don’t even really know what breach means, you are on the wave of excitement. The innocence and love of a child is such a blessing!

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The labor continued to progress and I continued to stay stationed in the barn, and look for the continued signs. As the sunset, and the farm grew quiet, Christina became more agitated, more vocal, and now had all the symptoms of full-blown labor. Suddenly the moment we had waited over a year for happened, we saw a bubble, as I watched the bubble protrude and get pushed further and further out with every contraction, our one fear was accurate, the foal was breach. The sac though looked different from every picture I had looked at, totally different than the goats, and not at all what our vet described, it was BRIGHT BLOOD RED! As Christina gave one last push, there completely enclosed in the sac was a tiny little donkey. Dr. Jessica was here just in time, freed the baby that was trapped, and began the heart wrenching task of stimulating this little black foal, to take a breath. As the minutes marched on the harsh reality of what we were really witnessing smacked us right in the face.

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Our little baby who we nurtured, talked about, wrote about, thought about, and planned for, over the last 16 months was gone! We lost our little donkey (it was a boy). Christina apparently had something wrong with her placenta, and it was so thick that the baby wasn’t getting the nutrition or the oxygen that it needed, this could have been one of the reasons she was so overdue, and was also the reason for the sac being so thick and red. We are so very sad, Christina is even in mourning, this was a tough one.

Goodbyes hurt the most, when the story was not finished.  As someone we hold near and dear said this evening, “Don’t ever let life make you sour to the beautiful things God has created for us to experience and enjoy.”

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Thank you Dr. Jessica for your love, support, amazing care, and promptness. There is not another vet we would want to call our friend or have as part of our family.

 

Everybody Does IT!

Certain subjects can produce reactions in different types of people, like women, somehow when a group of women get together childbirth stories, or talks about hormones, at some point seems to come up. Some women have horrific stories of labor and delivery; others talk about hot flashes and menopause. Young or old, it’s a subject that somehow bonds the masses. Men though talk about much different topics, sports, beer, cars, how they got a particular scar,  hunting, or grilling. Kids both boys and girls, between the ages of about 4-8 seem to get an absolute kick out of talking about poop, their own, their siblings, an animal, it’s a topic that often embarrasses the mothers and cracks up the fathers. It’s such a fun topic for children that there is even books about it. Imagine a child’s reaction in this age group to the farm, where we have lots of well POOP!

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It never fails whenever anyone comes to the farm, within moments we can tell how the visit is going to go. If they immediately start high-stepping through the pasture like they are walking on hot coals, we know that they haven’t spent much time around horses, or the like. I always laugh when we have kids come to the farm, and we hear oh my are those your…. Before they can even say horses, either giggling or eeewww it’s pooping follows it.

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This is probably the point you all are like really? Is she really blogging about poop? The short answer I guess is yes.

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You see like with everything else here, there was a learning curve. We honestly didn’t know how to handle or what to do with it all. It’s something after the age of 8 stops becoming amusing, and there is no manure for dummies books out there. So we had to learn on the fly (literally). This is where things started to get really really interesting. After several months, of waiting for it to break down, moving it around, and using it as fertilizer we realized this was not working, there was WAY to much of it. So we decided to build an area where we moved it all, we got some composting worms, and allowed them to do their thing. Then came some discussions with people asking us if we were going to sell it? Sell it? Are you kidding me, who would? Wait people actually pay for poop? This made me laugh. So my husband the Craigslist King, decided he was going to check  out the market for manure sales. Well I grew impatient and wanted the stuff gone, so we opted to put an ad up for free manure. And I’m sure you all know what happened next.

The phone calls started coming through, and Jody and I both became 7 years old again, every single time the phone would ring and we would hear someone say, “we are calling about the manure you have on Craigslist” (insert obnoxious laughter).

'I'm collecting manure for my strawberries.' 'I always put cream and sugar on mine.'

Suddenly the pile started to dwindle, we had people come in trucks, we had people bring trailers, we had a woman in a mini van drive an hour to load her van full for her potato farm. I now know more about manure than I ever dreamed possible, and it started as one of the few things here I gave little to no thought. What I thought the animals did with everything I researched feeding them is completely beyond me. But just like anything else in life, the more you are around something and the more you do something the more you learn, the more it becomes second nature. You can choose to embrace it (let’s hope not literally), or fight it. If only we were as smart as a guy I just recently read about named Brett Reinford, who converted manure from his cattle into electricity, he went from spending $2,500 a month on electricity for his farm to absolutely nothing, that is amazing.

Since we don’t live on a Suessical Farm where everyone’s a pony that eats rainbows and poops butterflies, we will continue to have a plan for poop, because what goes in certainly does come out.

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Love to laugh…

One of my favorite movies as a child, and still even now is Mary Poppins, I can still sing the words to almost every song, and I always appreciated how Mary had a real way of making even the menial sometimes miserable chores seem fun and enjoyable. I also loved how she was stern when she needed to be yet she was respected and admired for it. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when they laughed so hard when visiting  a friend that they ended up having tea on the ceiling. Who can watch that scene and not relate to all of the different laughs people can use, and it really shows how infectious laughter is.

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Some people refer to laughter as medicine. Others say it’s contagious, however you refer to this outburst of joy, no one can deny how it is often necessary, sometimes spontaneous and really is chicken soup for the soul. I have found in life that when times are dark, when things get hard, the first thing that is usually missing is some type of joy, some kind of laughter. Laughing at stupidity, laughing at a joke, laughing at yourself, laughing alone, with family, or friends, is a blessing.

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My family is laughers, we sometimes laugh loud, hardy, boisterous laughs that scare or catch others off guard, we have been known to get a case of the giggles at times when we shouldn’t and later when we think about it start all over again with tears running down our face.

Here on the farm we are surrounded by comedians, which perform stand up comedy routines, daily. Some are funny looking, some are funny acting, and some purposely do things to get a reaction from you. We are living many of the viral videos I see posted on social media, the videos of funny goats, crazy chickens, floppy clumsy puppies, or people who attempt something only to suffer great fails. Goats really do run and bounce off any and everything around them, puppies really do fall over their own feet, and people really do get drug in flip-flops attempting to hold still pregnant donkeys (okay maybe that video hasn’t gone viral yet). The term funny farm isn’t really a stretch.

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I find myself in the barn, the pasture, the goat pasture, the coop smiling, not because the task is always enjoyable but because the creatures here at Firefly Acres are always ready to perform, ready to take something menial, or miserable and make it fun. The animals are Mary; they know with every job that must be done there is an element of fun. This is life isn’t for sissies, or for the faint of heart… it isn’t something where everyone can take the day off, or one person can handle it all. But when we don’t sweat the small stuff, when we work together as a team, when we find the humor, the chores become less of a chore, and the time we spend doing these chores go by faster. This is something that young or old can surely benefit from, laughter is an instant vacation, it can transport you to a place that on the outside appears normal, dismal, or nothing special, into a moment that is enjoyable, memorable, and treasured.

When my grandmother was in her final fight for her life, we were sitting around my parent’s house just existing together really. This particular evening she was up sitting in the living room with us, from an outsider looking in, this would be what many would define in the moment as an uneventful, maybe even a bad night. The details of what transpired I do not recall, other than my French Bull Dog comedian brother Harley got very excited about something and with that excitement came drool, and some how that drool found it’s way into my son Dylan’s mouth. What transpired after that was a sprint to the restroom with the dull sound of dry heaving in the background, we though couldn’t hear those sounds because we were laughing so hard, so loud, and with such gut wrenching force that Gigi almost fell off of the couch. We all needed that moment (Dylan will say he definitely did not need that moment) but that memory, her laugh, the look on her face, the uncontrollable tears that resulted are etched into my brain, and the brain of all those that were there on that night. I truly believe what is written there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.

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When our friends and family come to the farm, we laugh, we enjoy one another’s company, we watch the comedians perform, we laugh at some who visits phobias, and we laugh till it hurts or until we can’t hold our bladders anymore. We create memories from time spent together. We take a break even if it’s just for a moment to laugh through our noses, because we love to laugh, loud and long and clear.

What are they all looking at?

I’m sure everyone has seen those dinner bells on the front porches of homes, most of the time they are depicted on older television shows, or in a farm setting like we have here. The wife prepares dinner and calls everyone in using this dinner bell. Living here on the farm I have realized that the bell would be a waste and definitely not needed. In fact we have become almost secret service agents in an attempt to not alert anyone around to our whereabouts yet somehow they always seem to know.

A typical day here on the farm is coffee (because life without it would be scary) and then the morning check in. We make sure everyone is present and accounted for, and then the job of feeding the masses begins. Dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, donkeys and horses, are you out of breath? As the day progresses we personally check on everyone make sure they all have water, we listen for odd noises (like baby Kurt whose new budding horns got stuck in the fence so he screams until someone frees him). This week has been an interesting week for odd things. You see normally when the masses even here a peep they all start making themselves know, the squeaky wheel gets the oil they say how about the loudest screamer gets fed first. It seems that no matter where I turn there is a set of eyes staring at me.

It is a very common thing to walk towards my car, walk out on the porch, drive thru the front gate or even when I’m on the phone, someone will hear me and demand something from me. Since I think I have learned how to speak the foreign languages of Christina the donkey, Gretl the goat, Feather Locklear the chicken, Ellie Mae the duck, and whatever language Zuri and Zahara the sheep speak, I have been able to discern for the most part what exactly everyone is needing or wanting. For instance, if I go into the barn to put feed into the feed bins you will hear the sheep begin to baaaaa at a volume that is almost shocking for their size, which will get Christina and Shawnee braying so loudly that if you are inside not aware of what is happening you would assume they are in labor (one can dream at least), which will get Friedrich the goat bleating for food, attention or because he just wants to be louder than the ladies, which will get Beep Beep crowing so loud from the chicken coop that he could wake the neighbors down the road. I know this sounds like a bad soundtrack to a farm based horror movie, but you get so accustomed to the noises that if you don’t hear them you begin to get nervous. It’s exactly like when your children decide to play quietly, you immediately run to check on them because something has to be really wrong.

The other night I walked outside and looked over towards the pasture, at the chicken coop, and I see all of the chickens and ducks jammed up in the smaller section of the oversized enclosure.  Now this was a very odd sight because there has never been a time when the chickens see me that they all don’t run towards me and towards the area they know I am going to enter, this time though they all just stood huddle together and not making a peep. This was concerning, so I decided it was time to investigate, which made everyone come alive, wanting attention, food or to just be heard, so much so that for a moment I was distracted and almost lost sight of what I was really doing out there. As I entered the enclosure a couple of the ladies came towards me, but the majority stayed huddled all together, and I got a sinking feeling like maybe something is in the coop trying to attack them, as I threw down some treats for them, I noticed Heidi Plume (one of my Columbian Wyandotte’s) hanging out in the nesting box, but where was Cruella DeHen her Wyandotte sister? And then I saw her, almost completely flat like a little pancake stuck between the big main enclosure and the small coop where we put the smaller chickens that we raise. She was bleeding, and it didn’t appear she was even blinking. I yelled for Jody, because getting her out was going to be no easy task, we had to pick up the small coop, and move it so we could free her.

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At this exact moment our vet Dr. Jessica was driving in to check the still very pregnant Christina, so Cruella immediately got checked out, she was going to be okay but she did have a broken tail, her neck was missing most of her gorgeous feathers, and her skin was severely bruised. We still have no idea how she got in there, or how long she was in there, but she lived to tell about it, and is now separate from her girlfriends because chickens will bully or peck at the one they feel is injured or weak, so at night she sleeps in her own secure area and during the day we allow her to hang out with the goats and Heidi, until two days later, when she apparently convinced Heidi to squeeze into the very same spot we rescued her from before…..apparently chickens do not have memories like elephants.

What I have learned from being a mother to human and non-humans is noise signifies life, the louder sometimes the more alive. Although we can often bask in the quiet and feel that silence is golden, if it lasts too long, and it’s an animal or a child investigate. Cruella is improving although her tail is crooked, and her feathers don’t look like they will come back around her neck, she is alive and we are hoping she doesn’t continue to try to make herself into a chicken patty. And tonight just like the night before, all of the farm sang their song as soon as they heard me coming in their direction, and as usual all eyes were on me, all of them rudely staring so unapologetically.

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As the saying goes people (animals) are going to stare, make it worth their while.

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