From my short but generally uneventful work as a shepherd, I’ve come to think of my flock as a placid group of routine loving creatures motivated by grain and the occasional need for a chin scratch. It has been easy to move them around the pastures behind the farmhouse simply by opening and shutting various gates. Moving them to the pasture in front of the house, however, is another matter entirely, because it entails getting the whole crew across the narrow dirt road that runs from the village and up the hill on which we live.
Our hill is steep and rugged, and it is as sparsely populated as is the rest of our village and county, nonetheless, there are a few cars and trucks going up and down throughout the day. The lower pasture has an electrified fence, an artesian well that provides water continuously (no need to lug buckets, a huge benefit), and plenty of lush grass. But…there is that road to cross.
Last week, with some quick footed help from my husband, I began moving the flock down to sample fresh pasture, and finish off the last of the year’s grass. Day after day passed without incident: the flock raced down in the morning, and back up to their pole barn when daylight began to fade. So far so good…until…
I looked up from doing dishes, through the kitchen window overlooking the back pastures, to see a line of sheep standing by the fence line – my sheep! The evening’s promised storm was already blowing through, but the flock looked calm, mildly curious about seeing life beyond their fence line, and generally unperturbed. When I dashed out of the house, coatless and panic stricken, they showed very little surprise, more of a “Ah, there you are!”
Bowie was in the pasture itself, barking excitedly at this unusual sight, and running back and forth in the hopes of herding the sheep back where they belonged. It took some quick thinking and even quicker movement to get the flock safely behind the fence again. Only then did it dawn on me that somehow the flock had managed to nose the gate open, cross the street as a group (the four new lambs included), and find their way behind the house. The only one worse for the wear was their shepherd, who was a panting nervous wreck.
This morning, I took pains to make sure the gate was secure, but I have a feeling that I will spend the rest of the day glancing at that gate, checking to see if my sheep are back to being placid and rule conforming, as opposed to being independent minded and up for adventures of their own.