Die Nachbarn

Our neighbours are back. Noisy, nosey and oh, how we missed them! Not sure where they disappeared to early last summer, or even whether the herd that have come back to graze on the grassy slope just beyond our apartment are the same. I do know that life with sheep as neighbours is never dull.

The cling of their bells, which worried me as a source of noise when we first moved here, is now a welcome sign of life. It’s never loud enough to wake us up, especially now that the days are colder and the windows mostly closed. Instead, the music of the sheep bells is a reassuring presence.

I noticed when I got up the other morning that their silhouettes were visible on the dark hill just outside the office window. In the early morning with the lights on in our apartment, I suppose we are sheep TV. I went to the window and saw them just a couple of metres above, looking down on us in curiosity as I fed the dogs. There is something comical about how they stare at me with interest while chewing their cud.

And drama! Who would have thought the lives of sheep were so filled with sensation? On a sunny afternoon while working studiously in the office, I had the window open, and suddenly there was a commotion of bells. I went outside to check and saw all 18 of the sheep huddled together in the middle of the hill. Their eyes were all fixed at the top of the hill, where I spied an unusual visitor. At first I thought it was a big dog, with pointy ears like a Doberman, but then I realized: it was a red doe. While it clearly posed no threat to the sheep, the poor thing had somehow found its way into the sheep’s electric fenced enclosure and was looking for a way out. Panicked, the deer jumped the fence too close and fell, its legs entangled in the mesh. Thankfully, after thrashing around for a few seconds, it freed itself and high-tailed it towards the woods. The sheep watched it run off and soon returned to chomping their grass. What a life.

But it made me realize why these animals are so curious. They are vulnerable to predators. The herd mentality that made them all stick together in the face of an intruder is the same one that makes them stare at any by passer to make sure they’re not in any danger.

The other night I could hear one of the sheep baying in the wee hours. It was unusual: they’re generally fairly quiet other than their constantly ringing bells. But it was cold out and they’d recently been shorn. My daughter the vet who knows how to do things like tip sheep explained that they need to graze a lot to get enough calories to sustain them. Maybe they’d worn the grass down?

The next day I heard the bells ringing like crazy again and went out to check what was going on. Sure enough, the farm woman who looks after them had come to move them from one field to another. I watched from afar as she rolled back the fence. The sheep knew the drill: they lined up right away and shuffled through the space to the higher slope. Except one was left behind.

It was too small to go up the hill on its own, so the woman reached down and lifted it up to the mother. That’s when I realized just how small it was — it looked like a baby. I’d never seen it before and, putting two and two together, it occurred to me that this was what all the baying had been about. One of the sheep had given birth, right there on the hill in the middle of the night. Already the little one was scampering to follow her and nurse.

Ain’t life grand?

23 comments

  1. phildange · October 21

    Nice and refreshing mental landscape

    • MELewis · October 22

      Thanks, Phil. 😌 Always happy to refresh your mindset!

  2. Dale · October 21

    I could seriously get lost in watching their antics. What a fabulous view you have!

    • MELewis · October 22

      Thanks, Dale. Fortunately they’ve now moved a bit further away so I’m no longer quite as easily distracted. It’s hard to work sometimes with so much to enjoy out the window!

      • Dale · October 22

        I bet!!

  3. margaret21 · October 21

    Your friendly neighbourhood sheep sound a lot more interesting than ours. Which just graze and … that’s it.

    • MELewis · October 30

      That’s how I always imagined sheep, whence the expression ‘a bunch of sheep’. Maybe it’s our mountainous terrain that makes them more lively?

      • margaret21 · 30 Days Ago

        Maybe so. They have to keep some element of brain engaged.

  4. Barbara Karth · October 21

    Thank you for the picture of lively peace in this insane world. ‘My sheep know My voice and follow Me.’

    • MELewis · October 22

      Glad you found it uplifting. I am not a follower but the words are beautiful!

  5. Vanessa in France · October 22

    It’s always peaceful watching sheep and cattle graze. We have few sheep around here now, although that was the main type of farming not long ago. Now it’s cattle. Some of them wear cowbells, the sound of which which I love…until they get too close.

    • MELewis · October 23

      I know what you mean. Those big cow bells can be very loud up close. I wonder how the poor animals manage to tune them out, although I’m told they do. Also, cows are such big animals that I feel nervous when they get too close. Unlike the sheep, which are more my size!

  6. davidprosser · October 22

    What a pity the extra bell jangling took place at night so you didn’t see the miracle of birth of the new lamb. Maybe the night birth is intentional so predators don’t get to see the new vulnerable member. I’m happy to hear the deer managed to extricate itself from the wire without doing itself too much harm. Who knew a field of sheep could provide such diverting entertainment.
    Massive Hugs

    • MELewis · October 23

      I would have loved to see that little lamb born just as all the drama was over but perhaps not while it was happening as I would have worried for the mother (just as I screamed when the deer ran into the fence!) I suppose it makes sense for the birth to happen under cover of dark; human babies are often born in the wee hours, too. Nature works in mysterious ways!

  7. acflory · October 22

    What a delightful post! Never had much to do with sheep, but I love how they’ve become a part of your world. 🙂

    • MELewis · October 23

      Never would have imagined feeling a rapport with sheep either. Just glad they’re around and happy to share the love! 🥰

      • acflory · October 24

        New surroundings, new experiences. lol I never would have thought I’d love magpies either. Living here in semi-rural Warrandyte has changed my outlook on a lot of things.

  8. midihideaways · October 23

    I don’t think I would have gotten much work done with the sheep outside my office window !! 🙂 Beautifully observed and written – thank you!

    • MELewis · October 23

      Thank you, Andreas, for your kind comments! 🤗

  9. Suzanne et Pierre · October 25

    Wonderful story; nature has plenty of surprises for those who can take the time to observe it. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · October 30

      Thank you, Suzanne. But it is easy to take the time when you are lucky enough to live right beside it. I very much enjoy your and Pierre’s observations of nature through the lens.

  10. Ally Bean · October 29

    This is a wonderful story complete with great photos. How cool is it that you were nearby when it happened– and you saw the little one so soon after its birth. I’m smiling here.

    • MELewis · October 30

      Glad I made you smile. Sad to say the sheep have done their time on our hill and moved on to greener pastures. I already miss them…🐑🐏

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