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Of Sheep and Men

Since extricating myself from the sulphuric clutches of Dodgydagoland I’ve sought some purpose and meaning in my quiet, uneventful life. As I’m only in Germany for a few months, just until my December holiday and then a few weeks afterwards, establishing a truly regular routine is senseless. Through pure accident, however, I’ve found purpose and meaning in my life. I am a sheep observer.

Since returning to Hunland I’ve started bringing carrots, old bread and any other assorted fruits and vegetables that would otherwise have been binned to a flock of friendly sheep. We’ve developed a warm rapport with each other and a number of them have started to answer to the names I’ve given them. There’s Maaaggie, a black-faced ewe with a puff of sable wool on her forehead. There’s the lovely, for a sheep, Beeehtina with delicate features and a purplish grey face. Beeehrtha is among the friendliest and gregarious of ewes, but she’s prone to binge-eating and burping in my face. Sheep burps are not fragrant. They’re more pleasant than Dodgydagos, but only in relative terms.

Sheep behaviour has many eerie parallels to human behaviour, save that sheep show more frequent moments of independent thought and free will. Most days I make a point of not bringing more than three carrots with me. I enjoy feeding sheep, but do not feel responsible for supporting an entire flock. Unless I can adopt Beeehtina. I’d be very happy to have her munch away happily on the grass in my garden. I doubt me Nan would be as content to see her beloved flowers and herbs disappear into the woolly cavity of a ewe! Where was I? Oh yes, feeding sheep carrots.

Beeehrtha is a bloody pig. She’s the largest of the ewes and, unless another of the friendlier ewes is 10 yards closer, the first to greet me, poking her head through the sheep fence. Far less charming are Maaariah, a snow-white ewe and Jemimaaah, the only black sheep in the flock. Jemimaaah is the less obnoxious of the two. Maaariah is almost as aggressive as Beeehrtha in terms of demanding additional bits of carrots. As both are often some of the later sheep to arrive, they’re more likely to have to go without carrots resulting in Maaariah and Jemimaaah butting each other’s heads and bleating hysterically.

I’ve noticed that some of the ewes, especially Beeehrtha and Beeehttina, have let me pat them and stroke their wool. They’ve developed a sense of trust in me and I continue to strengthen this through ensuring that they only get the freshest carrots from the Rhineland. On rare days I have nothing to offer them and simply walk past. Beeehttina bleated at me mournfully today. I bought 2.2 pounds of carrots soon after and will make sure to secret her an additional small carrot by way of apology.

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Categories: General
  1. O Zangado
    October 13, 2016 at 6:59 am

    There was an ancient, gnarled shepherd who used to bring a flock of twenty or so sheep past The Cave on his daily meanderings. Likewise a (slightly) younger fellow with a much larger flock of small black goats and a couple of even smaller dogs. Both shepherds have long since gone to that great corral in the sky and the flocks no longer appear. That is a pity and I do miss them.

    OZ

  2. October 13, 2016 at 7:06 am

    I had a house in the Derbyshire Dales for a dozen years and developed a similar rapport with the local flock. As lambs they reveal their characters quite early in life – leaders and followers, active and dozy, passive and aggressive. One lamb, dubbed Wesley, liked to disobey his doting mother, charging off to the wrong corner of the field, followed by his mates, thus annoying the whole adult flock. When weary of disobedience. Wesley hopped onto a convenient woolly back for a nap – so much more comfortable than wet grass, innit?

  3. October 13, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Oz: There is something reassuring about shepherding. Whatever their quirks, sheep and goats are honest and it’s an honest life. I’m lucky as this neighbourhood is very close to miles and miles of rolling hills and pastures.

    Janus: “Reveal their characters early in life”. How true. The more time I spend with this flock, the more I see that sheep are no less unique than people. There’s only one, very shy, lamb in this flock. Today another ewe let herself be fed. Beeertha and Maaariah eat out of my hand, this ewe — I don’t have a name for her — won’t come closer than a yard so I have to toss her bits of carrot.

  4. christinaosborne
    October 13, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    I have 6 Hereford steers within 15′ of my back door here. They only have to see me emerge and literally stampeded to the fence for treats. They line up and I pop goodies straight into their mouths. To date this summer , they have had, apples, pears, green tomatoes, cabbages, corn stalks broccoli, chopped up squash, cucumbers, melons, turnips, carrots and parsnips. I don’t think there is anything they won’t eat!
    Peoplq have got in the habit of dropping windfalls in my drive for them, when short, I raid the food bank!
    All stuff that would have ended up on the compost, so much more fun to feed them. And so obviously appreciated. They have now emptied my greenhouse for the winter, an excellent job!

  5. christinaosborne
    October 13, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    And eggplants, surprised they ate them.

  6. October 14, 2016 at 12:11 am

    CO: The sheep are not quite as simple! They enjoy carrots, cucumbers, break, etc. but they dislike cabbage and other leafy greens. Beeertha spat out a leaf and walked away in disgust.

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