Sunday, November 3, 2013
On Tuesday, we were going to move the sheep to a pasture near the barn to make it easier for us to feed them over the winter. We had been gradually rotating them from one pasture to another in that direction, so it didn't seem like it was going to be a big deal to move them the last leg into the correct pasture.
In addition to myself, there was apprentice Jane, son Jonathan, and a volunteer who's been helping out every Tuesday lately. Since he had zero experience with sheep, we told him to stand in the middle of the ford of the dried-up creek bed so that the sheep couldn't run across there when they reached the pasture. It seemed simple enough. We'd drive the sheep west, and they'd only have two choices -- run into the pasture or into the creek. Simple, right?
We opened up the temporary electric fencing that had been keeping them in their current area, and they were eager to run out.
Things were going splendidly! They ran straight north and then west to exactly where we wanted them to be. Jonathan and Jane were following close behind, and I was way behind because I'm middle-aged and slow.
There were a lot of trees between point A and point B, so I was only getting an occasional glimpse of the sheep, but I could see that they were moving perfectly.
Then suddenly, I see them moving east! What? East? They were coming back! I ran towards the area where I knew they'd be coming through, and when they got near me, I started screaming, "No! No! No!" And they all turned around and started running west again. I was so proud of myself. Then a few sheep ran across the creek before getting to the ford. Jonathan ran across the creek to try and turn them around again.
From this point, it all gets very fuzzy, and there was no more time for picture taking. Apparently the volunteer had walked up out of the middle of the dried up creek bed and was standing much too close to the pasture gate, so the sheep saw him, and they turned around again and came running back to where I was -- and this time they didn't stop when I yelled and jumped up and down, trying to look scary. Half of them ran to one side and half to the other side, zooming right past me! And they kept running ... and running ... and running.
They ran all the way back to their old pastures where they had spent most of the summer. Jonathan and Jane were in hot pursuit. About two-thirds of the sheep stopped in their old pasture, but the other third just kept going and went through the hayfield and then through the fence on the other side of the hayfield and into the woods. Jonathan and Jane disappeared.
Somehow Porter our English shepherd, who has zero herding training, had gotten himself into the pasture and was determined to move two spring lambs into the old pasture with the other sheep. That was not going well at all, and he was completely deaf to all of my commands to "come" and "sit" and "stay." Finally, he did come to me -- probably because he was just too exhausted to keep trying to herd the sheep -- so I took him back to the house. I told the volunteer that he could leave because a bunch of the sheep were gone, as well as Jonathan and Jane, and I didn't know when they were going to be back.
I went back out there, and eventually Jonathan and Jane came back through the woods. They said the sheep were completely lost, but within a few minutes, we heard them. They were across the creek. Everyone split up to go look for them, and at one point, I heard Jane scream. It turns out that the sound she was following was a rabbit that decided to turn around and run straight at her, which startled her.
We eventually got the sheep back into their old pasture. No, we did not try to move them back to the new pasture, which is on the other side of our property. The sun was going down, and we had not even started on evening chores. What we had expected would take about 15 minutes had occupied us for more than an hour.
Check back in a couple of days for the exciting conclusion!