Sunday, April 11, 2010

Counting Sheep

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

One of my favorite things about backroads travel is that we encounter all kinds of animals along the way. These animals provide us with some great entertainment as we watch them….or rather, they watch us. Cows are always curious, dogs are often playful, llamas are just plain silly, and sheep….well, sheep are interesting for a number of reasons. Let me explain.

Black-faced Sheep with Lambs, Dane County, Wisconsin

A number of years ago, Ruth and I had our first “interesting” encounter with a flock of sheep. As we were driving down the road, we saw a pastoral sheep scene that I wanted to capture. The sheep were lying in a pasture that went up a steep hill, so there was an intense green background with dozens of light-colored sheep set against it.

Sheep in the Foggy Meadow, Richland County, Wisconsin

When you try to photograph cows lying in a pasture, you have to be really quick because they almost always get up immediately and come toward you. Hoping to prevent this with the sheep, we drove beyond the pasture until the car was not visible to the sheep. I parked the car, grabbed my gear, and walked the short distance back to the pasture. As the pasture came into view, I stopped short. There was the pasture, all right, but there were no sheep in it. Not a one.

Sheep in the Barnyard, Monroe County, Wisconsin

I looked around and discovered that the sheep were all lying underneath a shade tree at the end of the pasture that was farthest away from me. I couldn’t believe it. The pasture had been dotted with sheep everywhere and, in roughly two minutes, every one of them had run from where they were to the shade tree. And now they were all lying there like they had been there for hours. My pastoral scene had disappeared in the blink of an eye and all I could do was laugh. Ruth was sitting in the car wondering why I was just standing there laughing instead of taking photographs.

Sheep in the Shed, Columbia County, Wisconsin

Sometimes we see sheep in the pasture and they seem totally relaxed and unafraid. As we watch them and enjoy the peaceful scene, some act as if we aren’t there and others casually watch us. Other times, the entire flock is totally wary of our presence and I have to remain further away than I would like for fear they will run.

Sheep in the Pasture, Wood County, Wisconsin

Last fall, Ruth and I ventured out an hour and a half before dawn and headed to Richland County, which is one of our favorite places. It was foggy and, as the dawn began to break, we stumbled upon a pasture full of the most interesting-looking sheep we had ever seen.

Scottish Blackfaced Sheep in the Foggy Meadow, Richland County, Wisconsin

Luckily, there was a sign that told us they were Scottish Blackfaced Sheep. Their black faces and large curving horns, which were shrouded in fog, made for a wonderfully mysterious scene.

Scottish Blackfaced Sheep in the Foggy Meadow, Richland County, Wisconsin

One of my favorite times to observe animals on the backroads is in the spring. This is often when the babies are born. Last spring, as we traveled the backroads of Sauk County early one Sunday morning, we came upon a pasture with several new-born lambs. Our favorites were a pair of twins who were brave enough to stray quite a distance from their mother.

Twin Lambs in a Spring Pasture, Sauk County, Wisconsin

Now that Spring is here, why not take a leisurely drive along the backroads and see what you can find in the fresh, green pastures.

Happy Shunpiking!

1 comment:

  1. I have friends who have sheep farmer here in my area of MN. I love to visit and see all their animals - especially the babies. They use guard dogs to protect their animals from coyotes and eagles. It's really neat to try to find the dogs amongst all the sheep.