Monday, June 9, 2008
The Tyranny of Sheep
June. June on Vashon Island in 2008.
Different. Right now, it’s about 45 degrees and the farm is being buffeted by nearly gale-force winds. Welcome to Summer!
Meanwhile, we moved the sheep yesterday to their 1-2 day grazing area, this time a new place literally steps from both our house and my mom’s. Apparently, they don’t like it. At all. I’m not sure why – long grass, a big tall tree for shade. But, no. They are very, very annoyed. And, believe it or not, sheep have the collective ability to use their unifying skills to make your life a living Hell.
Here’s how it goes. In our life – I can’t speak for other shepherds – we have this small (doesn’t feel small any more) flock that genuinely has some kind of relationship to us. I wouldn’t begin to presume to try to define or even understand that relationship, but it’s there. We live together on small acreage and we feed them, move them to different pastures, handle them, etc. Ironically, the two “gift” ewes, given to us and essentially untouchable when they arrived 18 months ago are now almost annoying lapdogs – any time we try to move or herd the sheep, I am literally stumbling over the Cotswolds.
Well. This familiarity has bred the predictable contempt and now said Cotswold stands and baa’s relentlessly. I use this word advisably: RELENTLESSLY. People who have not been around sheep cannot begin to understand the tyranny they can exert on their shepherds when the spirit moves them. Our lapdog ewe has decided she’s annoyed at her surroundings, so she baa’s. But, fortuitously for her, and oh so unfortunately for us, she resides among a flock. So, whatsoever she does, so goes the flock.
Thus, we have this evening, as gale force winds howl and I fret about our tender plants, our one Cotswold stands alone, 20 feet from my kitchen, maa-ing and maa-ing (the Cotwolds “maa”) and the icelandics are only too happy to lend their support. So all evening – all afternoon and evening – nearly every moment is filled with howling wind and incessant baa/maa-ing. Hard to know whom to root for in the decibel race.
It is a delicate balance, understanding when the maa/baaing means genuine hunger and when it is simply signifies the understanding that at some point the person on the other end (me) will break down and decide they clearly need grain. I did that today, and that bought me about 5 minutes of peace. I want them to have grain, so that’s not a problem, but it’s tricky to figure out when you’re being played.