I never thought much about sheep before, let alone the peaceful effect they might have on me. They produce wool and lamb is tasty. That’s about it. I’ve seen sheep shorn and was amazed. I’ve even, on occasion, counted them jumping fences in the middle of a sleepless night.
Times have changed. We bought this house four years ago and were excited that the property in back of us was an open field. It was unbuildable so we were safe. We’ve seen ducks when winter rains build up, and we watch neighborhood cats emerge from the tall grass saving us from rat traps and horror stories. We’re thankful for that.
Then, two weeks ago this little herd of sheep appeared. What a delightful surprise and… quick, repair the fence! We’re thrilled to have something to watch out back. It’s not the grace of grazing horses or the awe of powerful bison browsing on the plains, but it is four-legged nature right out the back door.
Every morning they head out for a fresh patch of grass. Alpha male leads the pack as they head down the field single file. He has a black head and his flock number 20. I’ve dubbed him Nelson Mandela for his superior leadership qualities! Watching them follow the leader makes it clear where the reference “mindlessly following, like sheep” comes from.
When Nelson stops, the line disperses as they drift toward our backyard. I supposed he’s deemed it delish. Occasionally birds hitch a ride on their backs, and occasionally they look up and watch us watching them. They do not seem to care.
The Slow Pace of Grazing Animals Calms a Body Down
Animals grazing is a very calming sight for me, but I’ve felt it before. My first taste of countryside was when we first moved to Oregon from San Francisco suburbia. Our farmhouse was on two and a half acres of pasture land, so we made the un-suburban-like decision to get us a couple of cows and a flock a chickens. We were country neophytes who endlessly amused our seasoned neighbors. (Our initiation was being invited to watch their bull service that spring! A chance to educate your children to the facts of life, she said. Ha!) We didn‘t know not to name or make friends with what we were about to eat, so my husband got carried away and made fast friends with “Hoss”. So named because the size of his head plus horns reminded us of the huge hat Hoss wore in Bonanza. Hmmm, I wonder how Nelson would take to Billy cuddling up. Then there was the time Hoss got his head stuck in the tree. It was a very entertaining period in my life.
I used to tell friends back home how much I liked cows, and they thought I was nuts. It was that lazy grazing that really got to me. That, and the udder slowness of their pace with only one thing on their minds, where that next blade of grass was. Watching something that slow feels very peaceful.
I grew up as a city girl. Except for family camping trips to public campgrounds, nature was not a part of my parent’s plan. But, thanks to my husband’s draw to the outdoors, the value of this has slowly taken hold over the years. As of this week, I even know about “mutton busting”, when small children compete at rodeos by staying on longer than anyone else. I have mixed feelings about it, but it’s still pretty funny.
Every morning I get to start my day, not a a snail’s pace, but at a sheep’s pace. By now I’m hoping they’re being raised for their wool, not their chops.
SECRET: Grab a peace of nature whenever and wherever you can!