It seems like I spend an awfully lot of time 'counting sheep'--and not at bedtime either. If you are a shepherd, it is a natural instinct to count your sheep anytime you are near the field. During the spring when the lambs are little, or if the weather is terribly hot, or its terribly cold, or.. then I try and count everyone morning, noon (if I'm home) and night. I count them when I feed them in the morning, before they head out to pasture. I count them when I bring them in for the night. I count them one last time late in the evening, when Boone goes outside. There is a terrible feeling in my gut when the numbers come up short. If a sheep is hung up somewhere, and the rest of the sheepies run home, leaving it behind, that sheep will cry and cry. If I hear that, I know that in all likelihood the trapped sheep will be okay, once I extricate her. It's when the missing sheep is silent. That is when you know something bad has probably happened.Can you count them all??
One time, all the sheep came running in, but there was one missing. A quick look around and it proved to be Gracie's (Dorset) little lamb, Hope. It had been a very rough year anyway, and the fact that Hope was even alive was a miracle. I was heartsick as I struck off through the field. I didn't see her anywhere! That was bad. Something must have gotten her. She was all white, so it would be easy to spot her, if she was in the pasture. I grew more frantic. Maybe she was over that slight dip in the field. I dashed past the big dead tree, and over the slight rise. I could see the rest of the pasture. No Hope. I turned around to scan behind me again, and there she was! All curled up in the hollow of the dead tree, basking in the late evening sun, sound asleep. I was so happy and relieved. I picked her up and scolded her all the way back. Then I scolded Gracie too, who is an normally an excellent mom. Gracie was shocked all the way to her sheepie hooves to see me carrying her lamb! She looked around her at the other sheep, and seemed to say--but I swear she was just here! I know she was right here... Priceless.
Sometimes though the ending is sad. So when all the sheep come running in and everyone is accounted for, I shut the gate with a happy, contented feeling.
While the rest of the world thinks of counting sheep as a way to rest, shepherds are counting sheep as a way of life. It becomes second nature. I took these pictures, because it's extremely rare that the entire flock is ever still or in the same area like this. There are 36 sheep in this photo. The entire ewe flock. Trust me there are 36, even if you can't see them all. There are several little babies hiding behind the bigger sheep. Sixteen of these are lambs, so the normal flock isn't usually this large.
Sometimes counting sheep is like herding cats, and can be frustrating. Especially with the numbers up to 36. As you can tell the pasture they are in is shot, and I'm getting ready to turn them on the upper pasture. I wanted to fill them up a bit first and had loaded an old tarp with loose hay out of the barn. I nearly didn't get out of there alive. Talk about mob scene. For some reason the shutter was sticking on the camera, so in the upper left corner of all these it looks like a terrible storm cloud moving in, but it's only the silly camera.
If you ever think about counting sheep as a way to fall asleep, trust me when I say, counting sheep is not considered a way to relax on this tiny farm.