Friday, September 25, 2009


Last night I went to dinner at a friend’s house, a Bosnian feast to celebrate Eide. The food is amazing, and I always eat to much because I have to try every one of the ten dishes that she has prepared for her guests. When I leave, I am lucky to escape with just a plate of baklava and coconut, chocolate cake because she tries to press some of everything on me to take home to Dave who is working nights this week and couldn’t be at the party.

I drove down our road, enjoying being the night. Suddenly, at the crest of the hill at our driveway, I saw something move. I took my foot off the accelerator. Two somethings. And then in the beams of my headlights I saw them all, fifty somethings. Fifty sheep, our sheep, who were supposed to be grazing quietly in the south hayfield, safely surrounded by electric fencing, were milling around on the road just north of our property.

Okay, I thought, I can do this. I had to get them to go south down our driveway and to the safety of our fenced pastures. I stopped the car and turned on my hazard light. Then in their dim yellow beams, I walked up to the sheep, talking quietly.

“Hi Ladies, what are you doing up here? You’re supposed to be safely down in the hayfield. Did you eat all your alfalfa?” Just as I got to the flock, a car topped the second hill west of our farm. Please, please, please, don’t drive past my car, I thought.

I crossed the driveway and moved into our hay field, trying to get on the other side of the sheep with out making them run away from me until I knew they would run the right direction – down the driveway. There! I was past them. “Shoo, shoo,” I murmured the little tune I use to move the sheep in front of me. They started to circle.

The driver pulled up beside my car and left her lights on. Bless you, I thought. The extra light helped a lot. The sheep moved down the road past our driveway and toward the two cars. The driver got out of her car and moved quietly toward the sheep. The sheep turned and tried to go north across the road. I hurried up beside them and they circled again.

Kali the alpaca headed east down the road away from the cars, the driveway, and our farm. The lambs followed her.

Then Christmas found our driveway and turned south. A white sheep followed her, another and another. Finally the group who had been following Kali turned and ran across the hayfield to follow their mothers. The flock was together on the driveway heading down toward the barnyard.

I thanked Audrey for her help. They had animals too; she knew what a disaster it could have been. “I thought maybe someone had hit one of our horses,” she said. “Are you alone? Do you need help getting them into the barn?”

I reassured her. “From here on it will be easy.” She waved and drove off down the road. I turned the car onto the driveway and rolled down the windows so I could hear. But I saw the sheep before I heard them. They had stopped at the bottom of the driveway and were were milling at the entrance to the east hay field. I stopped the car, but they had already decided that foot high alfalfa plants in a hayfield felt safer to walk through than the hard packed, unfamiliar driveway that led to their barnyard. They turned east and disappeared around the corner.

I jumped out of the car and followed them quietly down the hill. My footing was unsure in clogs. As I walked down the hill I could feel the air getting colder through the thin silk of my blouse. The sheep paused to taste the garden, but kept moving.

I didn’t know how the sheep had broken out of their temporary pasture, so I didn’t know where the opening was. But it didn’t matter. The sheep turned west, toward the security of their permanent pastures. I walked east to the temporary pasture. The little red low battery light blinked in the darkness. I turned off the charger and began walking the fence line, looking for the opening where the sheep had escaped. I found it way across the field in the south east corner. What had they been thinking to get from there to the road? I reset the posts and the opened up the fence in the corner closest to the sheep.

“Hay ewes,” I called. “Hay ewes.” The horizon still glowed a dusky pink, but at 8 pm, even by the light of a quarter moon, I really couldn’t see anything in the distance. “Hay ewes.” They answered me. I kept calling. They kept answering, and each answer sounded a little closer to me. Finally, I could see them clustered at the entrance to the pasture. I stepped over to the fence, planning to outflank them and come in behind them (the position Dave would have had if he hadn’t been at work, or Audrey if I’d taken her up on her offer.)

But the sheep turned and headed back north, up the hill along the woods at the edge of the hayfield. Now I was running in my clogs, up hill, through dew wet, knee high alfalfa plants. The sheep paused again at the garden and I got in front of them. This time I worked them down the hill trying to force them east toward the temporary pasture.

They were not interested. At the corner of the woods, they turned right again, back toward their secure home pasture. My only hope was to walk through the flock to the fence line, disentangle the “gate” and try to encourage the sheep through that little three foot opening to the security of one of the permanent pastures.

I kept thinking of the night only about a week ago when we had heard the coyote chorus. The only sounds I heard now were the far off rush of cars on asphalt, a dog barking in the distance, and the munching of the sheep as they grazed.

Working by feel alone, I disentangled the gate from the fence and pushed it open. Then I stepped through and began calling the sheep. “Hay ewes.” Christmas stuck her head through the opening. “Hay ewes.” Her baby followed her. “Hay ewes.” The rest of the flock crowded in behind, eager for the safety of familiarity. I refastened the “gate” and walked up the hill, my moon cast shadow walking before me. Tomorrow I would buy a new battery and then once again, lead the sheep out onto temporary pasture in the hay field.

1 comment:

  1. You did well. Moving sheep in the dark is next to impossible. Their night vision seems very poor. I used to shine a flashlight in front of them so they could see the way.