My second-oldest ewe Grace and I have been at war for some time. It has become abundantly obvious that in spite of my insistence on keeping her within the confines of the ewe pasture (whichever one that may be at any given point in time), Grace has her own agenda. I put her in, and she finds her way out. I put her in again, and she gets out again. This has been going on for well over a year now, and I’ll admit that the entire process has grown tedious. Not only am I tired of repeatedly putting Grace back in; I am even more tired of people stopping by (seriously, how many people use our gravel road in one day?!) and telling me that I have a sheep out. They stop early in the morning (6:00 a.m. for the earliest) and long after the sun has set, when they see her lying along our roadway fenceline. It seems endless.
So last week I decided on a compromise — a truce, you might call it — that should keep Grace fairly safe and happy and allow me to have a life besides playing doorman for a sheep. I know that Grace likes clean pasture — for “clean” you can substitute the words “not contaminated by another sheep’s or llama’s manure.” I decided to allow her to graze in the Fire Circle Pasture, which adjoins the South Pasture where the ewes are currently residing. I turned on the automatic waterer so she would have her very own fresh water, and I closed the gate so she wouldn’t be tempted to get out into the roadway. I put her in her own pasture in spite of the fact that she’ll be unprotected from coyotes — just as she is when she leaves the llamas behind and goes off exploring. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was a compromise that gave us each something we wanted. It was the truce to our ongoing war…. Or so I thought.
Tuesday was my regular day for lunch with my Mom. We usually meet at a restaurant once a week and spend two to three hours talking about all manner of things. Rick planned to take a break from work and join us for an hour or so. About an hour and a half into my time with my mom, I suddenly got a call from one of our neighbors telling me that I “had a sheep out.” I explained that I unfortunately often had a sheep out — that the neighbor shouldn’t worry if she saw Grace alone in the field. No, she insisted, she wasn’t in a pasture — that’s why she was calling. Grace was in my other neighbor’s alfalfa field. That was a problem! And it was bad!
Not only was I sure that my neighbor hadn’t planted that field for Grace’s nourishment, but suddenly eating straight alfalfa after having only grass and forbs would be an actual danger for Grace! There are all kinds of digestive issues that can occur in sheep who change their diet so dramatically and suddenly. I gave my mother a quick summary and hopped in the truck for home, hoping I would be able to find Grace in the large field. Would I have to wander acres? Or would she decide that she’d had enough alfalfa and head for home, her usual mode of operation? Grace knows that, if nothing else, I am well trained in getting her back among her friends when she’s ready to be home!
The restaurant was across town, and I drove as quickly and legally as I could, arriving at the gate to the alfalfa field in about 25 minutes. As I pulled up, I had no idea what I would find, so my eyes kept scanning the huge field, looking for a very happy and free old gray ewe. As I pulled to a stop at the field and opened my truck door, I suddenly heard Grace calling me! There she stood at our own gate just down the road! She was obviously full of alfalfa and ready for a drink of water and a bit of shade to cud for a while. I opened the gate to the Fire Circle Pasture and she happily trotted through, leaving me in her dusty wake. She made a beeline for the waterer to get her drink, and then off to the shade of the old hickory tree where she could rest and finish digesting. What a nice life!
I’m assuming from this episode that our very hard-won but obviously dubious truce has not held — Grace and I are once again pitted against each other in a battle of wills: she wanting full freedom to graze as she pleases and me insisting she stay within our property lines. At this point, how this will end is anyone’s guess.