I’ve never tackled a sheep before until yesterday. No, seriously; never! Can you believe that?!
Yesterday I was doing some work on the cages for the trees I’ve been planting about the monastery, as I’ve spent the past few weeks doing…It’s a beautiful sunny early spring day and I’m just enjoying being in the moment…And notice motion out of the corner of my vision. I glance over, not really expecting much, but lo and behold, there, just scant feet away, a mother sheep is ambling her way up the driveway past me, with two young lambs scampering between her legs, reaching for her teats. They don’t notice me.
Having had a similar experience with a cow on our property (see Facebook imagery), I knew what was coming. So I stood, dropped my cage-building tools, and started walking towards the group, who immediately started and stared for an instant before the mother gave a sneezing sound. That’s an alarm call for sheep I’ve come to recognize. And expect. Just imagine: You’re a mild-mannered sheep that’s found its way to the property over the fence. The neighboring property with lush, ungrazed grass just waiting to be tasted. A beautiful pasture unsullied by the feces and hooves of your many, many neighbors. A nearby stream gurgles quietly…Birds make whistling calls you couldnt hear before over the bleats of your cousins…And suddenly a 2 meter black-faced native jumps out of a stand of flax plants and makes a beeline for you and your succulent young!!
So naturally, her and her kids tear down the drive, and I gave chase, pacing myself to simply keep up. Because four legs are better than two and I wasn’t running them down so easily. I managed to herd them towards a corner of the property, hoping the little family might stick together. But Mom leads her spawn out of the trap, and through the grove behind the monk’s office…At some point Venerable Jotipalo sticks his head out, having heard me running the group back and forth, trying to keep them boxed in behind the Japanese Cedar trees as I approach like a shark weaving between stands of kelp. And he simply grabs his jacket and walks on out; we’re both familiar with this routine after the bovine-incident.
Seeing an orange spectre gliding across the garden was too much for our poor family. They take off running, past me and along the fenceline, and finally up the road. The road that leads to 125 acres of property that I do NOT feel like running through. God damnit. As the family tears along the fenceline, one of the babies decides this place sucks and squeezes through the fence back to their side. Mom and the other baby don’t follow suit, not with me hot on their heels. They keep running along the fence to the top of one of our hills. But little do they know that the fence lines form another box just past the crest of the hill.
So Venerable and I formulate plans, like wolves or orcas working in concert. If I can get close enough, I grab the baby and hopefully the mother will follow me off the property. If not, just chase Mom back down the fenceline and we’ll work from there. But it seems the sheepies had plans of their own, for the baby squeezes through THAT fence (onto another section of our property), and Mom decides to book it back down. Ven. Jotipalo tries to make noise and slow her, but he can’t hurt living beings due to him being a Buddhist Monk and all, so he doesn’t go for the flying tackle, and Mom rushes past. I see my chance and tear down the hill after her, leaping over bumpy sections, in a full-out sprint. I figure at this point, Mom’s gotta be weary, and watching those sheep, they don’t get a ton of exercise whereas I work out nightly. I’m not going to be outpaced by that squat little gazelle.
Mom tears down the fenceeline, and I the road…And she’s definitely slowing down. She gets behind the tractor, against the fence and I stop on the road, on the other side of the tractor…And we play the cutoff game…She starts to go one way, but I leap in that direction. But it was a feint, for she was really going the other way; but I saw through it and I’m already facing that way! Something passes between us and Mom realizes she’s not gonna make it if she goes either way. So as I sprint around the tractor she takes her last available option and tries squirming through the fence…Aaaaand gets her fat little torso stuck haha.
And I pounce!!! I have a split second of indecision as I start working her back out of the fence…I mean, sheep don’t bite. Do they?…Crap. I figured I’d just lift her up and heave her over until I realize that 1.) they don’t bite. In fact, Mommy was absolutely exhausted. I could feel her poor little heart through her heaving ribs. She had no fight whatsoever in her and refused to even stand when I tried lifting her…Which brings me to point 2.) Despite all of that wool…Sheep weigh A LOT. And they have the consistency of an uncooked sausage filled with bonelike structures. I could not begin to lift this thing in any balanced fashion. When I lifted her torso, her butt hung down, and vice versa.
Not wanting to break her, I simply sat on the thing until Venerable Jotipalo came around and the two of us heaved her up…Up! And over she went…But not quite. In a fit of loving-kindness, I tried to gently lower first her back end, and then her front…And paid for it as she brushed the electric wire along the side and we both got a jolt good enough to make me say "OW!" and make Momma sheep never, ever, EVER want to come thisaway again as she took off running and bleating pitifully.
We took a moment to catch out breaths…Momma didn’t though. She started bleating and calling…And we heard her first baby calling back and they eventually reunited in the trodden, manure-ridden hillock. So cute. However another sheep needed to be hunted down…At this point, my adrenaline’s up and I’m grinning like an idiot. The hunter has awakened. And it craves…Well, donuts. Baby sheep are too cute! But there was a hunger in my veins…So Venerable and I make our way up the hill again, through the fence, and we formulate a new plan. This particular part of the property is at the very edge of a pine forest. The fenceline runs along the very top of a steep hill (~65 degrees or more slope) leaving very little room to move on. And fortunately, the fenceline runs down the hill almost immediately, leaving another box to trap the baby in.
We catch up to our last baby rather soon, and sure enough, his brother is on the other side of the fence, offering counsel…Or perhaps moral support. Meanwhile, the cows have all gathered at the very end of the fence and seemed amused by the whole spectacle. The capture of the final baby lamb proved not too difficult. I tried going along the slope in case the baby tried to go down the hill while Venerable went along the fenceline. Seeing it was out of options, it tried the same move Momma did and tried to barrel past Venerable, but Venerable proved to be an unmovable wall of passivity and blocked the baby from getting past. The little one squirmed through his arms, and mine as well just as I was reaching the top of the hill, and tried to get through the fence. It might have made it but it got stuck too, so I had to go and pull it out, and as our final reward, I got to cradle a baby lamb. We both laughed a ton, gave the baby a few pats, then I reached over and placed the little one on the other side, staying well clear of the electric line this time. Both babies ran off in the direction of Momma, probably traumatized for life.
In any case, I had fun. Just another day in the life.