Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sheep, dog, human

If I could change one thing about myself I'd have to choose blindly from a list, but that list would include not wanting to get too close to actual farm animals.

Stuffed versions: totally.  Admiring from a distance, sure thing.  Within proximity of their aroma or the source thereof: thank you but no.  And while there's nothing actually shameful about not loving the smell or squish of manure, I feel it's unbecoming of me to covet the fiber off these animals' backs and pinch my nose (and toes) at the animals themselves.

Still, I felt better about my arm's length relationship with the animal responsible for so much of my relaxation and comfort when I went to a sheep herding exhibition at this year's Royal Agricultural Fair.

I know, I know - what am I doing, going to the Royal every year if I don't like smelling large numbers of animals in a fairly compact space?  You know the answer to that, silly.  YARN.  and also, kettle corn.

I've never actually seen sheep herding in action before, unless you count watching the movie Babe, and I learned a lot.  For example, the meaning of 'border collie' turns out not to be 'dog that will herd you and your children into the corner so it can have the sofa to him/herself.'  (Border refers to the region where they were developed, and Collie means useful farm dog.  so succinct!)

Also I learned how important it is to have the help of a really good dog in rounding up sheep to bring them back to the barn after they've been off grazing hither and yon.  And that sheep don't like to be divided up from their peers, and that 'Combye' means Come by a Clockwise Route and 'Way' means Away from me Counterclockwise, and that subtle changes in the tone of each command tells a border collie something a little different.

Check out the sheep on the left, pretending to find grass instead of openly watching the dog

Mostly what I took away though is that there are people for whom dogs are as dangerous a hobby as knitting.  The very informative woman who was sending out her dogs to demonstrate the process explained that she actually has a city job, but got the sheep and rented a barn and some farmland pretty much to exercise her collies.   She has a particular fascination with recreating the conditions early shepherds had, when they needed the dogs to do all the sorting and dividing and directing of sheep into the barn.

All I could think was: this is like people who learn to knit, then learn to make yarn, then covet a whole fleece.  You can just keep going back down to the farthest root of this stuff and never lose interest.

And I can tell you, I'm glad I am content to stop at the spinning yarn part, because what's next after washing and spinning fleeces and then raising the sheep they come from?  the dogs, that's what.  You'd go all the way back to training border collies.  And when you'd get time to knit once you've gone that far, I really don't know, because those guys just never rest. (and I mean never: there's a reason I didn't get any pictures of them.  they did lie down alertly a few times, but never long enough for me to get the camera ready and snap my digital camera at a still figure.)

Hope you had a more relaxing day yesterday than these poor sheep did.  And I want to thank Darlene and Su for their help on my fuzzy, fluffy, llama cowl

Take care of yourselves everybody, and I'll see you tomorrow.

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