The Ritual of Sheep Herding

Sheepherding with sky

One afternoon, I looked out the window and thought about  how much Jon must love to herd the sheep.  It was 90 degrees and the black flies were relentless, the last thing I wanted to do was stand in the middle of a field training a border collie puppy to run around sheep.

But no matter what the weather, rain, heat, beautiful breezes, Jon is out there at least twice a day yelling “Come By” and “Away” as Fate circles the sheep, mostly lies down when told, then chases Red in his grand out runs.

I think of sheep herding as being similar to weaving.  It’s something humans have been doing for thousands of years.  There’s no longer a need for either one in our society, but we’re still drawn to doing them.  They fulfill us in a way that feeds our soul.  It’s believed that weaving was once a religious practice which invited Spirit and taught of life, death and afterlife.  When I first started weaving I remember that it made me feel like I was connected to something bigger than myself.

So as much as I don’t want to do it, I understand Jon’s love of sheep herding.  And it seems to me, twice a day, there’s an ancient ritual going on in our pasture.  One where a man is in his natural environment, communicating, once again, with his fellow animals and mother earth.

7 thoughts on “The Ritual of Sheep Herding

  1. Herding sheep is not something from the quaint past–real, live ranchers in 2015 depend on these dogs to earn their livings. It’s a timeless activity for sure, but it’s still of real importance to many.

    1. That may be true Jenna, but it’s not something we need where we live. And I in no way think of it as “quaint”. The connection that it brings, no matter the reason for doing it, is an ancient and powerful one. Important to humans and dogs.

  2. So many key words…..ancient, earth, ritual, love, animals, mother. Any order works. Communicating love, ritual, ancient mother, earth animals Is a gift. Thank you.

  3. We are fortunate to live in a world where some of those ancient rituals still exist. It is a wonderful thing to love to do something so much that we continue to do it no matter the situation, the elements, etc. Would that more people felt that pull, that need to do something so strongly that they do it no matter what. Jon is like that.
    So are you, not just with your weaving, but also with riding Chloe. I would think that caring for and riding a pony is also a link to our past, our history. What an empty world it would be without those rituals. Sometimes I look around and all I see are people walking around with their I phones oblivious to the world around them. They walk down the sidewalk, cross streets, drive cars, sit in restaurants and seem to forget those around them. I hope that in some parts of their day, the phone is put down, the walk is in nature and they look people in the eye when they talk to them. How much nicer would the world be for them. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the past, to the part of it that seems to be vanishing, the part that connects us to nature and the people who inhabit the earth. You and Jon truly inhabit the world in which you live. It is a wonderful place, the Peaceable Kingdom where you live.

  4. By “where we live,” do you mean your farm specifically, or upstate New York in general? There are several major sheep operations (with several hundred breeding ewes) within 90 minutes of you, and all of them use working sheepdogs. A good dog is invaluable there–I’ve tried to do the work without one, and it wasn’t pretty!

    1. Jenna I was specifically talking about Jon and our animals and the work we’re doing with them now. Jon used to take Rose out to farms where cows or sheep had gotten loose and help the farmers get them back to the barns and fenced pastures. Our dog Red comes from Ireland where he was a working dog there. I understand the importance of the working dog. So if I made it sound like I don’t know that dogs still work, that wasn’t my intention. That aside I think you missed the point of my piece which is about how herding is a part of us as human beings, no matter when, where or what it’s purpose is. The same goes for weaving, do you see what I mean. I don’t see how what I wrote would be so insulting or upsetting.

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