One of the definitions of “sheepish” in Webster’s dictionary is “Feeling or showing embarrassment, especially over being discovered having done something wrong or foolish” – certainly something I’ve experienced lately. My recent bout started with a purchase of several Painted Desert “hair sheep” to raise for the table.
I’d assumed that their disposition would be similar to their woolly cousins. Wool sheep are docile, easily led, and are not prone to escaping minimal fencing. Fatefully, I discovered hair sheep were far closer in temperament to goats or deer.
In the previous year, I’d acquired two young goats. I’d no sooner let Merry and Pippin loose in my nearest pasture and turned my back when they somehow jumped right through the small chicken door into the hen house and were swiftly devouring feed. The automated electric chicken door is not much bigger than a chicken. My birds must duck to keep from scraping their combs on the top of the opening. The goats tucked their legs under their bodies and sailed, one at a time, right through the opening. I tell you, those successful jumps were something to behold, almost unbelievable. As I spent the next week “goat proofing” and added a yoke to the neck of the worst offender, they continued to get into anything and everything.
Did I learn my lesson when I brought home the hair sheep? Nope. Upon arrival, I locked them inside a small paddock for a few days while I strung a single-wire electric fence around their large pasture. Egads! They escaped the small paddock, finding a washout under one fence, and making their way toward a nearby creek. It took three of us a sore and disgusted hour to herd them back.
I secured cattle panels along fences, closing any possible openings. The next day, they escaped in the opposite direction in some unknown way. I was mystified. I put yet more cattle panels along a section of fence with metal bars about twelve inches apart. My hair sheep are large. I couldn’t see how they’d gotten through the bars.
The following day, they escaped again. We chased them for miles before finally corralling them in a narrow chute locked at both ends. One ewe and a lamb didn’t go into the chute. It was late, and I reasoned that being herd animals, they wouldn’t leave the area, especially since we’d contained the ram (their leader and the head instigator) immobile. Big mistake. Sigh!
The next morning, the two were missing, not to be found. We searched for hours. The next afternoon, a helpful neighbor across the highway reported seeing them in his backyard. My brother and I hunted for quite a while before we finally spotted them. Every time we thought we had the ewe cornered, she would bolt. If we blocked her with our bodies, she ran over us. It took more help to get her to our pasture finally. Everyone was tired, and I was disgusted – no, more than that, I was ready to sell off the whole lot.
Fast-forward to today. They haven’t escaped now for weeks. I’ve got four strands of electric wire around their big pasture with a charger that’s reported to deter bears. I am waiting for nicer weather to turn them out so I can stand guard just out of sight to see what happens next.
My wife rolls her eyes and reminds me that I’d originally said, “Wasn’t much to taking care of goats and sheep.” Yeah, I’m feeling pretty sheepish.