Counting Sheep

Counting sheep to fall asleep, a strategy not too steep, won’t make you weep and oh so very very cheap. I didn’t intend to write such a beautifully poetic first line but after realising sheep and sleep rhyme I couldn’t help myself.

They say the practice and expression comes from medieval British shepherds who would count their herd before each night. We do it today symbolically as a way to focus on the mundane and allow our minds to wander into drowsiness and fall asleep. Yesterday I spent the afternoon rounding up some sheep from pasture, it took a solid effort from 15 people to even attempt such a mammoth task. We had a plan, get in groups of 3, one person would be the decoy and hold out grain and once the little fella was in grabbing range the other 2 would flank him from both sides. One low on the legs, one high on the horns. Well this method worked well for a bit and within a minute we had our first sheep caught and loaded onto the truck. Our hubris may have gotten the best of us when we thought this would be an easy task because right after the first snatch the most senior shepherd of us all, Shamu, uttered the words none of us wanted to hear. “Oh no, they’re onto us.” He said it so subtly as to not startle the other sheep, so quietly it felt like covert mission and so deflated that it was comical. From that point on the old trick em with the grain stunt was not going to cut it.

Not to worry we had a plan B, the old get them in a corner and hope for the best kind of plan B. We hid in bushes, ducked and weaved through shrubbery, blocked of gullies and paths with our bodies to get these little hairy monsters into a corner. I’m not sure if anyone here has tried to catch a sheep before but don’t let the little legs fool you, they are fast and can jump with the grace of a ballerina through the air, gliding past our grip on every occasion. 30 minutes went by and watching this all unfold I started to hear the Benny Hill theme song in my head, we must have looked like absolute shmucks out there. Eventually as luck would have it the sheep found themselves in a corner and that’s when we pounced. Hooves, horns and wool were flying all over the place. It felt like a comical abduction scene from a movie.

All the sheep were in the truck and as we hugged and high fived to celebrate our success’ someone counted just to make sure. “1, 2, 3, 4…oh for fu…where’s the fifth one?” in the mayhem of the mass grab we left one behind, there he was in the pasture just staring at us, I could swear he was even laughing but that could also just be me projecting my feelings having been outwitted by a sheep. 5 of us stayed behind to round up the last one, how hard could it be? I wish I wasn’t exaggerating but 1 and a half hours later we were still stumped as this mischievous little boy out smarted us every step of the way. He knew where we would be at every turn and it didn’t take him long to figure out how much fitter he was than all of us. If they say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result then we had officially lost the plot. Such an evasive, athletic and acrobatic little bah bah. 2 hours had passed when it dawned on me that this little bugger had about half an acre of pasture to run through, “What if we make the space smaller?” I asked. Worth a try and try we did …SUCCESSFULLY!!

Oh the elation, the victory, the triumph of the human mind and body to achieve simple and direct goals. We hugged, some may have even cried with joy because we had got our man.

This is the part in the story where I share with you, that with this happiness for our success came the awful reminder that we were taking these sheep and their goat brethren to the place where we are going to slaughter them on Sunday. Ooft! A bit of a kick to the gut. This Sunday I will be taking part in shechitah (kosher slaughter). These animals were freely raised in open pasture, loved with the hearts of all members of summer and autumn cohorts, cared for by any and all who gave them time and as sad as it feels and sounds we are going to kill them this Sunday. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of us here but it may also be the biggest learning curve we take here on this experience. There are a lot of positives in having livestock on a farm, for education, eggs, milk, pasture creation, compost management and at the end of the day meat. I have fluctuated between herbivore and carnivore for the last 8 years going from militantly vegan for periods to practising apathetic whatever-ism at other times, including right now. Animal slaughter is going to happen with or without us regardless of what we think about the ethics of it. I think taking part in this slaughter will offer us an invaluable education on the gravity of taking life and the fragility of our own.

The goats and sheep will be killed tomorrow in a shechita, a method that has been happening for over 2 thousand years. It’s a hard reality in a harsh world but it’s the truth.

They say that, “Truth is a lot like poetry…some people fucking hate poetry.” Except obviously mine from the start of this blog.

Are you an early riser?
Simchat Torah sounded like a blast!
Missed Succot? Check out the blog
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Learn what it means to schlepp here
Catch the Part 3 by heading here
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