On days when I happen to be listening to the radio during rush hour, the news blips come on about every 30 minutes: “worst buildup in history on the American Legion Bridge”, “miles of delay on the inner loop”, “oh boy, you don’t want to be out in THIS one”, and so on. And I chuckle, since I no longer commute. The thing is, it doesn’t pay to laugh at others’ expense.
These days Derry the Maremma (livestock guardian dog) is living inside the house full time, as he recovers from his knee surgery. He’s a big boy – nearly 100 pounds plus white puffy fur all over. He, along with the other two somewhat smaller dogs accompany me as I do laundry, walk from end of the house to the other, take a shower, sit at the computer, talk on the phone.
There are times when I simply cannot get through the hallway without multiple utterances of “excuse me, pardon me, can I get by?” and eventually a loud “MOVE!”. I’ve heard from other dog owners that their dogs, too, follow them wherever they go, helping with their snouts in the most intimate of procedures (I’m thinking of pulling socks on my feet, I’m not sure just what you were thinking of). It’s both endearing and inconvenient to have canines always underfoot, but it’s part of living with dogs.
It is NOT, however, supposed to be part of living with sheep. I know for a fact that experienced shepherds would never put up with this flock’s nonsense; for heaven’s sake, these sheep seem to think they are people (or at the very least, dogs). Of all the nerve. Just as the dogs need to be involved with the household chores, the sheep feel the need to stand right in the middle of the barn as it’s being cleaned. Mr. Newman Goat, just by the way, is the worst offender in the barn cleaning category. He seems to think that whatever it is that I’m shoveling up has great value and so he places his considerable body force right over it,
reducing me to either shovel bits and pieces around his hooves, or push him out of the way. Well, OK, I’ve only tried the push thing in the most desperate of moments because pushing a goat means “We are now playing ‘PUSH’ and I always win ‘PUSH’. I’m the one with the horns, capiche?”
Perhaps some of you remember Dr. Seuss’ story about the lady who had 23 sons and named them all Dave – when she wanted one of them, she’d call out “Yoo hoo, Dave!” and all 23 boys would come running. So the neat thing at this farm is that the animals know their name – and they’re all named “Yoo hoo, sheepies!”.
It was cute when there were 2-3 mid-size lambs. That was 4 years ago. Now “yoo hoo” brings a thundering herd, to include our 1500 pound Dutch Warmblood horse, Rocky and Bullwinkle the ever-growing horned steers, and a squealing and snorting Tetsuro the pig. No buildup on the beltway was ever this terrifying.
A friend of mine confessed to me that the first time he came to the farm, he was scared to get out of his car. I laughed. Scared of a bunch of wooly sheep (and their extremely large friends)? I insisted that the only time he needs to worry is if he has anything edible on his person.
Too many people say that sheep are stupid animals; I cannot imagine this. My sheep are a bunch of wily, crafty, clever SOBs. For instance: The new lambs Fred and Huckleberry have learned that there is nice new grass growing on the outside of the farm gate. Every time I drive the truck out and open the gate, they dash out in front of me and begin chowing down.
I’ve tried cajoling, herding, yelling, pleading, running back and forth like a border collie (unfortunately witnessed by some neighbors), and these lambs have outsmarted me every time, making me cry in frustration. Can you imagine? Sheep bringing a grown person to tears? The arrangement is now that if I carry corn in my pocket, they will agree to walk back inside the gate – but only after they SEE the corn and know that they’ve got a deal.
The problem is that the inmates in my class at the prison see the corn in my pocket and think I’ve brought them goodies, too. What a life.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm