Wrangling Sheep

Its nearly 10:00PM on Sunday night. Michelle is upstairs on the phone with her brother. I am in the kitchen starting to boil the water for making another batch of mead. Suddenly Michelle yells at me, suspecting that all hell—or rather, as we found out, Rebbecca—had broken loose.

Earlier in the day, before the downpour that accompanied this afternoon’s thunderstorm, Michelle and I moved the sheep to a new patch of grass on the embankment of our pond, as we have been doing for past three weeks. In order to have the sheep’s electric fence range away from the house, where we had previously had the fence energizer plugged in, we had to buy a deep-cycle battery and use the DC adapter. Earlier this afternoon we decided to recharge the battery, which, when we connected it to the charger, we discovered had been about 75% discharged over the past three weeks.

Back to 10:00PM: Michelle came running down saying That sheep sounds really close, which should not have been the case given how far away from the house on the far side of the pond they were. Michelle ran out the front door and I ran out the garage. I heard a sheep, whose deep voice I recognized to be that of Rebbecca, and grabbed a flake of alfalfa to toss inside another temporary fence I had previously put up in the back yard in order to keep the chickens out of an area I had reseeded. As I made an opening in the backyard fence, Michelle managed to drive Rebbecca around back and the latter gladly followed me in to get the alfalfa. Rebbecca was, however, bleating like mad, as had happened the only other time she was separated form the rest of the flock. We could hear the other two sheep bleating and they sounded to be at a much greater distance away, so we hoped they were still inside the fence on the pond embankment not ranging on some neighbor’s property.

I stayed with Rebbecca, as I noticed she very quickly tested the backyard fence to see if it was electrified, which it was not. Michelle ran off to the pond embankment than came back to me. Are they still there? Yes. But you need to help me, they’re all tangled in the fencing. You stay here with Rebbecca, since she wants to get out of this fence. I’ll go get the other two. By this time, Rebbecca was pacing back-and-forth along the fence edge facing the pond, bleating with great anxiety. I ran off and found both Dinah and Reuben stuck with their faces and horns entangled in the fence netting. They had been bleating before I arrived, but once I pinned them down in order to begin freeing them, they both got quite docile. This, however, seemed to make Rebbecca even more anxious, as her intensity of bleating increased. I managed to free Dinah relatively quickly, then got enough of the fence mess reassembled into a fence that would keep the generally skittish Dinah inside while I worked to free Reuben. He proved a little harder to free, having managed to also lodge one of his front legs through the fencing as well. In the meantime, Michelle was trying to keep Rebbecca’s attention focused on her rather than on what I was up with Dinah and Reuben.

Once I let Reuben go in the makeshift paddock and wanting to make sure the two of them stayed in their mediocre fence, I yelled to Michelle to bring the now mostly charged battery. She came with the battery which we hooked up and did not hear the necessary clicking in the fence. At this point we had to then slip around on the now muddied bank to untangle the fence mess and reassemble a fence that was not grounded out. That proved surprisingly easy.

With Reuben and Dinah contained once more, we headed back to Rebbecca. After some coaxing, too much chasing, ineffective cajoling, a little praying and a dash of profanity, I managed to push Rebbecca into a corner and grabbed her by the horn. After reflecting briefly on how blessed we are to have horned sheep so that I can actually catch them, I wrangled Rebbecca down to the ground. Yes, this is the very same ground upon which we spread composted horse manure two weeks ago. I had Michelle tie up Rebbecca’s front legs, so that if she broke free from me, we’d at least have some hope of catching her. I carried Rebbecca quite some distance, but that proved more difficult than straddling her and coaxing her along the embankment back to her flock. Along the way, I managed to stumble into a hole and, lest I collapse on Rebbecca, ended up crashing down on my left knee. A short distance later we put Rebbecca back with Dinah and Reuben.

The sheep are quiet once more. Michelle called Dominic back to tell him all the sheep were contained and returning to listening to his adventures cycling in Philadelphia. After a shower, I am now compressing ice on my knee. And the must for the mead is now chilling. I am still not sure why Rebbecca came to the house when she was outside her pen, but it is a near miracle that she did so and that everything worked out. All said, there could have been many worse pieces to this story. Perhaps I too needed to incur a limp through wrestling to be worthy of Jacob’s own sheep (see Genesis 34:24-33). Through the intercession of Saint Isidore and Saint Maria, we offer thanks to God for our strange blessings!

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