Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stoic Creatures

Someone more eloquent than I once said that sheep are stoic creatures.  I interpret
this to mean that sheep accept whatever comes their way without complaint.  To me, this characteristic is why many stockmen are not suited to raising sheep - it's terribly frustrating to care for an animal that is fine one day and on death's door the next.  I've found that it takes a very discerning eye on the part of the shepherd to notice a problem with an individual sheep - it's any eye that I'm still developing.

This afternoon, I needed to move the ewes.  They had plenty of dry forage, but they had grazed most of the green grass.  As I prepared to move them into a holding pen, a powerful thunderstorm chased the ewes back under some tree cover - and chased me back to the truck (I'm always a little nervous about handling electric fence during an electrical storm).  By the time the lightning had passed (though it was still raining) I only had a half hour of daylight left for building fence.

I debated about whether to build fence - my rain gear had soaked through, my border collie was cowering from the lightning, and darkness was approaching.  I decided I'd expand the existing paddock by about two-thirds of an acre - giving the ewes enough fresh feed to last till tomorrow.

Usually if the ewes are out of feed, they come to the nearest fenceline to watch me complete the new fence.  Tonight, probably because of the rain, they watched me from under the treeline - about 75 yards away from where I was working.  However, as I removed the fence dividing the old paddock from the new, they trotted forward into the fresh forage.  Being stoic creatures, they were quiet about it - but they seemed relieved to have some green grass to graze.  At the risk of anthropomorphizing my sheep, they seemed to express gratitude for the new paddock as they trotted past me.  I can't articulate the feeling very well, but I was glad I'd decided to spend a half hour in the driving rain building fence.

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