Out and Back In Again

The sheep are very much creatures of habit (except when they’re not) and tend to follow the same routes with enough precision to wear footpaths through the grass. One of these footpaths leads from the barn to the gate, where the sheep walk out single file to eat sycamore leaves every morning in the spring and summer. For some reason once they pass the first gate they don’t have to observe the single file rule anymore.

“Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go!”

Jeb appears to be off the beaten path, but he’s actually walking on the second, fainter path that serves as a “passing zone” the sheep take when the main path is moving too slowly or when they want to avoid walking too close to a pasturemate they happen not to like at the moment.

Holly and Marigold also seem to be breaking traffic laws by walking side by side instead of single file, but there’s actually a loophole saying joined-at-the-hip mama-daughter pairs only count as one and are allowed to make exceptions.

“Everybody follow me!”

Duchess and Daisy also employed the mama-daughter loophole as Angel led the way for the sheep who decided to wait around the barn for me. All except for Mira, who was rubbing her face against my leg and sulking because she tried to go first and Angel butted her from behind. Which is clearly a terribly unfair and cowardly thing to do. (Unless it’s Mira herself doing it, in which case it’s just good tactics.)

That second group (and a few from the first that doubled back) followed me down to the gate, having mass-hallucinated at some point last night that I promised they could come in the yard this morning. Which I did not, they have not been let into the yard in weeks because we’re trying to get grass to grow over their favorite mud patch and they kept pulling up the new grass and digging more holes in the mud.

“Ok, we’re ready for you to open the gate!”

They were miffed when I did not let them out despite the promise I hadn’t made, but quickly got over it and ran off to catch up with the rest of the flock by the sycamore tree. I’ve had to start chaining the gate closed again since they were exiled from the yard, because otherwise they keep letting themselves out. I haven’t caught them in the act to see how they’re doing it, but they have to be doing something, it’s happened too many times lately for it to just be me not latching the gate all the way.

This evening at bedtime, Barney understandably wasn’t keen on being locked in with the Dukelings and less understandably decided to try a new strategy for getting out of it.

Barney is a master tactician (for a sheep anyway) but I have always had a higher opinion of his intelligence than he seems to have of mine. He decided instead of his usual routine of balking at the door and refusing to come in unless he gets an extra treat, he would sprint around the side of the barn and stand in front of the window, presumably hoping I would see him through the window and think he was inside. It was too dark at bedtime for phone pictures to turn out well, but it was so funny I had to try anyway.

“What are you doing out there, Barney?”

Hush, Chestnut! If ShepherdPerson looks in the stall and sees me, she’ll think I’m inside!”

“ShepherdPerson, I think there’s some shenanigans going on around here!”

Me too, Chestnut. Though I think Chestnut, like Mira earlier, would have thought it a perfectly acceptable idea if it had been him doing it instead of Barney. Sigh. Sheep. It’s fortunate I (usually) find their antics more entertaining than annoying.

I went out and chased Barney in, much to his annoyance, but running in ahead of me meant he could run past the stall door and grab a snack from the winter’s hay before bed, so he wasn’t completely unsuccessful. Actually I wouldn’t rule out the whole rigmarole being an elaborate ruse to get at the hay, knowing Barney. Interacting with Barney always feels like playing a game of chess, except for shearing time when it’s more like a professional MMA tournament.

I was eventually able to get everyone in and settled down, where hopefully there will be no more clever ideas before morning.

8 thoughts on “Out and Back In Again

  1. Ok, are we talking like 5th graders here. Just learning how clever they can be? Almost need a psychology degree to keep ahead of them. funny, funny stories.

  2. I love, love, love the way you write and how you interact with your sweet sheep! You brighten my day! Thank you!

  3. Oh, Barney, you were adorable looking in through the window. Pretty clever idea, and too bad the stall avoidance didn’t work out.

    As for the latch, perhaps it’s time for a cam so you can watch them surreptitiously working the gate late until it’s undone. That would make one funny, fascinating video, for sure.
    Hugs,
    Natalie

    • We’ve talked about putting up a camera before, but we’ve never gotten around to figuring out the practicalities of how to do it with neither electricity nor wifi out there.

      It would make funny videos, though!

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