Notes from Windward: #62

Adventures with Sheep

Terri tells why the males are called "rams."

One of the most unique things about living at Windward is that it gives you the ability to choose what you would like to do with your life. Time is given to you so that you can make the best decision of how your contribution to Windward will be realized. For me, the choice was an easy one. I was an animal lover and I wanted to use my skills to assist with the sheep.

Working with the sheep has been an enormous eye opener and some days I donít know who has more fun, the sheep or me. We have developed some sort of symbiotic relationship where we exist together in balance. It was really easy to achieve. I offer food, water, and lots of loving attention and the sheepÖ why the sheep give me a lifetime of love and excitement. Oh yes, they are exciting to say the least.

Hopefully some of you have already perused my article about Buffy and her encounter with a flowerpot. If you havenít then please do since it describes one of the many adventures I have experienced in my year here. Let me share with you a couple of my most recent experiences.

One day this past week I was home lounging around in a very cool housecoat. It was one of those silky things that makes things seem just a degree or two cooler. It might not seem much, but it most certainly is. when the temperature outside is over one hundred degrees. Anyway as evening wore on I needed to go down to feed Oliver, our newest addition to Windward's Watchdogs, and settle him in for the night.

As Roy and I were getting him feed and water we heard someone calling "sheep sheep." This is the traditional call around here when the sheep are out and you want them back. Well it seems that our "Elders Group" had quite a few missing sheep. Mattie, Leeann, and Dollyís Llama were all missing along with their babies. Naturally my first thought was for the sheep; it certainly wasnít what I was. So there I was complete in housecoat and blue slippers.

Since I wasnít dressed appropriately I was left behind to simply bellow. I have one of those voices that sort of carry everywhere. Annoying right? As I was there strictly as a megaphone I thought I would go over and see Buffy and Kayla and all the other sheep. I got close to the fence calling their names and immediately they both came towards me.

Suddenly Buffy stopped stared at me and jumped back several feet. I was startled. I didnít think I had done anything wrong. I called her name again and she called back to me and started forward again. For the second time she jumped back.

Now of course I was really concerned. Buffy hadnít acted that way to me for a long time. That was when I noticed that all the sheep except for Kayla were glaring at me and all staying back from the fence by several dozen feet. I tried one last time to convince one of the flock to come closer. This time when Buffy tried to come forward I realized that she was glaring intently at my housecoat.

That was when reality dawned and I took in the lovely leopard spots on my housedress. Boy did I feel like a dummy. Here I was confusing the sheep. They recognized my voice and scent but I looked like a predator and so they didnít know what to think. Everyone else there was laughing at the situation and finally I was too. I had to promise the sheep I wouldnít wear that housecoat again.

While others went out to search Heather, and I stayed behind. That was when Heather noticed one of the sheep, Peekaboo, was trapped in one of the smaller jugs that we used this lambing season. Heather wanted me to go in and let her out. I really didnít want to since I knew they hated my attire but it was one of those situations where you just simply do what needs to be done.

Brave little me goes into the sheep pen. This time the reaction of the sheep to run from me wasnít anything new. I kept talking to all of them hoping they would recognize me. Peekaboo couldnít figure out which was worse being trapped in the newborn pen, or having to bypass this weird creature holding open her escape route.

Fortunately Peekaboo finally came out of the jug when Kayla came up and nuzzled me. After Peekaboo went off to join the flock I spent a few moments petting Kayla. It was then that I noticed Warner staring at me. He had his nostrils flared as if trying to catch the scent of a predator. I decided it wasnít worth sticking around for. Just a few hours before Warner had tried to ram Roy but Roy had gracefully sidestepped and Warner fell flat.

Meanwhile our wayward sheep returned home. Actually they were lead home by Sarah, Tara, and Roy. It seems they had found their way over to the goat pens and Bobís stash of alfalfa. They thought they had found heaven.

Yesterday we went out with a couple of visitors who wanted to experience sheep herding Windward-style, and then watch Walt sheer. We started out relatively peaceful as the sheep made a huge arc around the property, ending up at a tasty green patch in the pasture where they were much more interested in grazing than running. The sheep were obviously on their best behavior, what with company watching. It was a novel experience; one we were hopeful would be repeated.

Our herding peace ended suddenly as without warning Warner butted Tara causing her to fall. We were all shocked. Tara fortunately was fine but she was vowing to withhold treats from Warner because of his rude conduct. It was one of those incidents that you look back on and realize you should have reacted differently, but we were all laughing including Tara.

Warner proceeded to make his rounds eventually coming right up to my pocket. He has learned over time that Terri usually has some sort of goodie in her pockets when out herding. I gave him a few pieces and was joking with the rest of the group that I felt like I was paying protection money.

That was when Warner decided to ram me as well. Sadly I was raised around horses and dogs and you never ever let them think they have the best of you. Instinctively I lashed out and grabbed his collar as he went by. I told him in my most stern voice, ďNo.Ē

I was a bit shaken. I never thought that Warner would bother me since I had Oliver at my side. That alone was rather scary. Perhaps I was more emotionally hurt than physically. It was one of those moments when I am forced to realized that I havenít made it to Dr. Doolittle status yet.

Warner gets a "time out."
We continued to watch the flock a bit longer as they grazed, and all of us were keeping a close eye on Warner. He went up to Tara again but she held out her staff in his face and he went away. Iím not sure if I turned my attention away or if I blanked some of it out, but the next thing I knew Warner had rammed me from the side just a bit above my knee.

Down I went like a sack of potatoes only a lot less graceful. As I fell I could see Warner heading my way. I had fallen flat on my back and with the wind knocked out of me I wouldnít have been able to protect myself.

That was when I saw a flurry of fuzzy white dogs. Somehow Tucker had arrived from across the flock to dive at Warner. Young Oliver meanwhile wasnít sure what was happening but he did know it was wrong for his human to be on the ground, and he quickly inserted himself between Warner and myself.

After that the next thing I remembered was how my glasses had flown over my head and we had to search for those. We found them; I got my breath back, and was back up and watching sheep again. After that, Warner seemed content to stay away from me. I guess that with Tucker and Oliver at my side, he thought it better to pass.

Warner has since been separated from the flock. He is as we would say a rather horny little guy at the moment and so we need to give him a break. I donít hold it against him, but I can sure tell you that Iím going to be a whole lot more cautious around rams in the future.

Who knows what other adventures await us as we work with the sheep? Whatever they are I will face them with new understanding of sheep and of myself. Each of our encounters leads to a better awareness of one another. That alone is a gift without price.

[Walt: The mating season is triggered by the summer solstice, and once the days start to noticeably shorten, the annual dance begins in earnest. Warner, like all our sheep, is really very nice; it's just that once the musk starts to rise, it's best to give him a time out. We won't let him carry out his studly duties until the fall, since we don't want lambs to be born in the dead of winter.

Warner's not happy about the arrangement, but he doesn't get to vote on it. When the choice is between disappointing an over-eager ram, and having ewes giving birth in the snow... Well, Warner will just have to wait.

The upshot is that Warner now has Bravo pen to roam around in, and the two ram lambs for company. It's spacious and shady, and a good place to wait out the calendar, but he lets us know loud and clear that he'd rather be in the main pen with the ewes.]