Four days and three nights of the ungulate

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I could get a sheep to eat the grass. I would save time and money on gardening. It would be ecologically sound, as the animal consumes no fossil fuels and fertilizes its own pastures. Beyond that, sheep are picturesque. I thought it would be a biological version of one of those robotic vacuum cleaners that drives around on the floor, turning round when it bumps into something, but generally working automatically. The trouble is that I didn’t know much about sheep.

I thought they were like big dogs that ate grass, i.e. I thought they would be like a pet and behave like a dog. They don’t. Dogs do dumb things, but compared to sheep they are Einsteins. Sheep, I learned to my sorrow, really are just as incredibly stupid as you have heard. The only thing my sheep did, besides eat and shit (see below) was look in the window and baa. They are a lot louder than you suppose. My sheep generally slept when it got dark, but it did not sleep the whole night, occasionally waking up to remind everyone that it was still out there. It kind of warms up, sometime with a low ummm, which sometimes crescendos to a very loud ummmBAA-AAA. I am not sure why it did that. I think it may have seen its own reflection and thought was another sheep.

But that was not the big problem. I could get used to that; maybe even appreciate the bucolic beauty of it all. On the plus side, it did eat grass, and seemed to like the taller grass better, so it was trimming exactly as I had hoped it would. The other end of the process was not so agreeable.

I was prepared for the fertilizer aspect of the sheep. In fact, I considered that a net benefit, as it would make my plants grow better. I have no problem with manure and happily use biosolids on the tree farms. But I assumed that the fertilizer would be mostly deposited on the grass, where it would do some good. No. My sheep evidently walks around on and eats the grass, but holds most of the shit for when it is standing around on the veranda under the roof. Worse, it seems to want to shit as close as possible to the house and most prefers to go right near the doors or windows. And it shits a lot. I soon found my pre-work period would be devoted to shoveling and washing down the patio; I got a similar task when I got back from work. Despite my shoveling and hosing, it was really starting to stink.

I was going to give the sheep a little more time, but the odor was starting to get pretty strong. I planned to be away for a week and a half. The guy who sold me the sheep told me that it would be okay. Independence was a big advantage of sheep. I travel a lot. If the sheep has shelter from the rain, it can be left along. It just stays out and eats grass. I had to make sure it had water, but probably not even that, since the rainy season grass was very wet. The guy told me that it would get enough water from the moist grass it ate. So, I COULD have left it alone, but I figured that if I left it for a week and half, the shit would be knee high when I got back and the smell would knock the proverbial buzzard off the proverbial shit wagon. My plane was leaving that night. I depend on sweet serendipity and a solution presented itself.

The cleaning woman comes by every two weeks and Wednesday was her day. When she showed up around 7:15, she was surprised to see a sheep in the front yard, but not much bothered. Her rural childhood included lots of sheep & goats. She knew what I was just discovering and seemed to find my dilemma very amusing. Courtesy and the fact that I pay her kept her from laughing out loud, but I am sure my story will engender mirth back in the village. It will also provide a sheep. I asked her if she wanted the sheep; she had some relatives with a pickup truck & when I got home after work, my problem was gone, almost. I am not sure where it went, but I don’t really care. I like to think that my erstwhile lawn mowing manure machine is off romping with others of its kind, stinking up somebody else’s yard for an indefinite period, maybe gracing somebody’s table for a somewhat shorter time. No matter. It seemed lonely by itself. After all, sheep are naturally gregarious. The essence of the animal will persist for a while around my house. But I cleaned off the patio and I expect that the strong rains we get around here will do the rest.

My advice, which I allow applies to few people but that I will give nevertheless, is to avoid buying sheep unless you have a way to keep them far from the house. They stink on ice even just standing around and they seem to enjoy crapping where they sleep, not like a dog. If you must get sheep, you probably want a border collie to “herd” them. Just get the collie. Border collies are the smartest of the dogs, they may at least seem to be happy to see you when you come home and don’t crap all over the place.