Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sheep Speak

When you live on a farm, you get used to a certain amount of animal noise going on in the background of your life. If you're attentive, you also start to learn the language of your animal charges.

Most of the sheep noises I hear all day are the basic, "I'm here. Where are you?" calls. If the sheep see me carrying a bucket that might have feed in it, they yell, "Food! Food!" and all the other sheep come running. Sometimes, if I've forgotten to feed the ewe who is in the isolation pen, she urgently tells me, "Hey! You forgot me!" and I'll apologize and go back and feed her.

But today I was working at the computer and I heard the sheep in the back yard bleating their curious yet concerned, "Hey, look what I found! Is this good or bad? What shall we do about it?" noises. That's not a normal conversation for them to be having at that time of day, so I looked out the window to see what they were talking about.

Sure enough, the gate to the big pasture had come open, and the sheep were debating whether it was a good idea to all go charging out there. They were just starting to trickle through the gate by the time I got my shoes on and rushed out there to stop them. I'm saving the big pasture as my parasite-free "clean" pasture for them to graze on during the summer when parasite loads tend to be high. So I don't want them out there now.

Fortunately, I've taught the sheep to understand a little bit of my language too. "Sheep! SHEEEEEEEP!" I yelled. The sheep whirled around, and many enthusiastic "BAAAAs" answered me. The flock abandoned the green grass of the open pasture and stampeded after me back to the barn, where I rewarded them by scattering a bucket of feed into their dishes while Ken surreptitiously shut the pasture gate for me so they couldn't escape again.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's one of the more interesting conversations you've had with them in ages! Isn't it remarkable how we can understand them and vice versa just by listening and watching body language? Faaaaascinating. [Spock voice]

Rhea said...

Oh, my gosh, I love it. Communicating and understanding sheep language. That's awesome! Great post!!