Notes from Windward: #68


Exploring the Ovine Learning Curve

Emily describes a late afternoon tradition

     An anthropology major at Grinnell College, I came to Windward excited to learn how a group of people can intentionally build a strong community around core values. It did not take long for me to realize that our community extends far past the surveyor's post which marks the edge of the property and includes more than the nine adults living on-site. Indeed, earning the goodwill of our Klickitat county neighbors is of key importance to Windward's harmonious lifestyle. Since this is open range country, we would prefer our drove of sheep to roam free over the hills, some fresh-from-thecity neighbors seem to take offense at finding a ram in their flower patch, and so it was decided that we would take measures to control our fugitive flock. One of the tenets of sustainable animal husbandry is that animals are raised to convert things we cannot eat, in this case grass and deer brush, into things we can use like meat and wool. Raising our future lamb kabobs on store-bought alfalfa is not particularly sustainable, so we seek to find a balance between our ideal free-range practices and respecting our neighbor's preferences.

The sheep are hard at work converting cellulose, which our bellies can't process, into dinner

     At home in Portland, it is not unusual to wind down after a stressful day by walking the dog. I had to giggle a little when I realized that my days at Windward would now end by walking the sheep. All set to play Bo Peep, I grabbed my crook and opened the gate. Bad planning. All eight of our sheep headed straight for the goat's pen and promptly gobbled their dinner. As any newly minted shepherd would tell you, the best way to direct a herd of sheep in a particular direction is to go where you don't want them to be, stretch your wingspan to its fullest, and yell a whole bunch. Two hoarse voices, quite a bit of frustrated sprinting and an hour later, we finally got the sheep back in their pens, their bellies hopefully a little fuller than when we started. Day two of the sheep-walking experiment found the sheep rooted in the raspberry patch, unwilling to budge. On day three, we finally got the sheep out of their pen and into Herland. Getting them back in the pen was not quite so easy. Few experiences bring five people together like waving sticks while wildly chasing after eight stubborn sheep.

The herd is being less than cooperative as Monica directs them back into their summer pen

One of the beautifully convenient habits of sheep is that they tend to stick together. After a week of steady training, Chaucer got the idea and established a path which thankfully the herd has more or less followed ever since. Sheep walking is now a pleasant afternoon diversion in which interns can have wonderful discussions while taking an hour-long hike through the woods. I will say this: the boy who cried wolf must have had some strong calf muscles.


Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68