Monday, December 7, 2009


We’ve had a lot of gray days this fall. They’re hard emotionally, but elegant coat of frost on everything in the morning somehow makes up for the grayness. The prairie grasses are limned with white. The barbs on the barbed wire fences end in tiny ice crystals. Even the sheep’s coats have a glaze of frost.

And now we have snow. I love snow on the ground. The fresh white surface hides the yellowed grass of the lawn, the garbage left by careless passers by, the half done projects, the manure in the barnyard.

The new snow reveals as much as it hides. Today I saw mouse tracks cross the driveway, a small, sinuous trail of footprints. A hotdog bun at the edge of the road had attracted a bird of some kind. The snow was disturbed, but no trail of tell tale prints led to or from the feast. Two deer had also passed along the road, their hoof prints clean and sharp in the fresh snow. Sheep prints are harder to isolate. There are many more sheep in our home pasture than there are deer in our woods, so their tracks cross and re-cross each other until the snow is churned into the dirt. But every once in awhile, a sheep ventures out on her own, wanders over to the fence line, climbs a manure pile, and leaves behind a record of her adventure.

I love to find sheep tracks. The small crisp lines are simple and beautiful. It amazes me that humans need big, broad, soft feet to support our bodies and keep us moving while my ewes make do with sharp edged hooves, even the largest of which is still smaller than one fourth of one of my feet. And yet, my sheep walk and run and jump with no problem at all. They eat standing up; they drink standing up. They only lay down to doze and sleep. No wonder there are so many tracks in the pasture.

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