Mar 10 2009
But the first question really should be: Why?
As in, why do we have sheep?
The answer: I don’t know.
Most people raise sheep for wool or meat. A few years ago Martin announced that he wanted to herd sheep with our Border Collie, Corrie. I was not especially supportive. If memory recalls I think something like: “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve heard from you in a while.”
But in my defense, we were barely handling the demands of our little farm and 5 horses. Why add to our headache? Besides, we knew less than zero about sheep.
“I’ll tell you all that you need to know,” said our vet. “Sheep are looking for a place to die.”
But Martin persisted, signing up for some “sheep school” up-county and the next thing I knew, some guy had dumped half a dozen beasts in our orchard. Only they looked nothing like sheep and everything like goats.
The “geep” — as I dubbed them — were skittish, aggressive when approached, and all together unmanageable. Our dog Corrie, in the winter of her life, wanted nothing to do with them. And neither did I, after numerous failed attempted to win them over with food.
Fortunately, the vet was right. One did die. And the rest were sold and we lived happily ever after. For about a year or so. Then Martin started beating that sheep drum again.
This time however, he called on a trainer who not only worked with herding stock but also raised his own sheep. He noted that the first lot we got — Barbados Blackbelly — are the most skittish, difficult sheep to work with and are reserved for well-trained dogs and handlers. Not dolts like us with a 14-year-old dog who preferred dozing on the porch and barking at the horses standing at their water trough.
So Dickie the sheep guy, offered us loaners from his herd — sheep who were already dog-broke, ie, quick to respond, even to an inexperienced herding dog like Maisie.
And Maisie does enjoy herding, though at a speed that rivals Nascar. Sometimes I think she’s conditioning them for track and field competition, and I’ll admit, they have gotten very fast under her tutelage. I guarantee they’d outrun all challengers.
Anyway, we’ve had them almost a year and have only killed one (he died when we were on vacation, so technically, not our fault). Otherwise, they appear hardy and resistant to Maisie’s grueling weekly speed meets.
But we haven’t done much with them this winter. Because it’s been windy and frigid, and who wants to spend anymore time outside than absolutely necessary?
But the sheep haven’t been idle. They’ve been busy.
This brings us back to when sheep attack.
They’ve neatly gnawed off every shred of bark within their reach. Normally we’d say, it’s either the trees or the sheep. And we’d have a fridge full of mutton. In this case the apples trees — or what’s left of them — are going. They were past their prime 10 years ago. I let the sheep do their dirty work knowing that we’d junk and replace the trees.
Unfortunately, not everyone realizes there’s a method to my madness. Just the other day a local farmer asked me, “are you gonna let them sheep eat those trees all the way down?” Translation: “Are you really as dense as you look?”
No! I get it. Sheep + apple trees = destruction. But right now I’m plotting my next move and wondering: What kind of apples should we plant? When? Do we plant the trees near where the old ones stood? And who am I going to sucker in, I mean, “get to assist me” in removing the old trees?
Easy questions, right? Not for someone known as The best house-plant killer in the mid-Atlantic region. No plant has survived my wrath. My secret: I don’t water them.
But since this undertaking will require some investment (sorry kids, no groceries this week, we’re plantin’ for the future), I don’t want to screw this up. So stay tuned…
…odds are, I screw this up.