There is one advantage to keeping my sheep in a wide-open pasture which is an ampitheatre view for the neighbors. The other evening as I was heading to barn chores I had two calls to tell me my sheep were loose. I couldn’t imagine what had happened.
“I think the fence blew over!” one neighbor exclaimed.
Wind has been common this spring as thunderstorms have moved in and out with lightning, hail, and torrential rain. At lunchtime when Allen and I were washing down the excavator, the wind began to pick up. Allen’s hat flew off; the water from the hose blew sideways, soaking me. By late afternoon the wind was slamming the barn, banging the doors heavily. Now it was even fiercer.
But why would a fence blow out? Electric netting would hardly catch the wind.
I jumped in my truck and drove down to Betty’s field. Sure enough, my sheep were grazing happily in a far corner of the pasture, their backs to the wind (and to me). I checked out their paddock. The fence seemed perfectly sound and upright. I couldn’t understand it.
The wind was so high that the tall grass rippled in waves like water on an open sea. It suddenly dawned on me that one of the sheep shelters was outside the fence — and as I watched, the shelter moved slowly across the field, a heavy galleon tacking under sail.
I realized that the shelter must have been blown into the fence and — miraculously without breaking it — bent the fence over. While the fence was flat and shorted out, my sheep had run free. Then the shelter had sailed majestically on and the fence sprang back up, none the worse for wear.
I looked at all four shelters and realized all had been blown out of position (easy to see from the grass flattened by their skids). However only this one had been perfectly positioned to catch the wind and sail away.
I disconnected the charger, opened the paddock, and shouted into the wind. “Sheep! Sheep!” The flock lifted their heads and began to gallop to me across the field, bleating. Even though you know it’s food they’re looking for, this is always heartwarming. In a moment all 23 were safely back in their paddock, gobbling their grain reward.
Then, as the wind snapped my coveralls, I ran to get the lawnmower to tow the shelters safely away from the fences. I had no stakes in my truck. Besides, I reasoned, if the wind was picking up a 250-pound shelter, a tent stake wasn’t going to be much help. I dragged the three shelters that were outside the fence far down the hill.
I wasn’t sure what I could do about the one shelter still inside the paddock.
As it turned out, the sheep took care of that. All 23 huddled inside and around the lone shelter, effectively nailing it to the ground.
“Good girls,” I cried. “Batten down the hatches!”
In the morning I heard the news of the tornado in Massachusetts and realized we’d had the fringe of that storm. Our temperatures plummeted from the 80s to below freezing. After days sweating in the thinnest of clothes, yesterday I dug back out my winter jacket.