Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Return of the sheep

Prior to leaving for Australia in August 2006, I called upon a local butcher, Patrick Charvet, to spend a morning slaughtering my existing flock of sheep (with my active participation in the events). But we refrained from killing a ewe and three tiny lambs. Shortly before I left for Australia, these remnants of my flock escaped from Gamone, maybe because they smelt blood in the air. In fact, escaping wasn't difficult, since my donkey Moshe (who often shared paddocks with sheep) had the habit of leaning against the fencing, to eat greener grass on the other side, and my once-robust paddocks at Gamone had deteriorated to the point of being like a prison without padlocks.

A few days ago, I was surprised by this scene up behind my house:

The ewe and the three tiny lambs of August 2006 have now evolved into a flock of nine animals. Totally wild.

As I walk slowly towards them, they wander slowly away from me. And they usually disappear over the crest of the hill behind my house, in the direction of their familiar mountainous abode above Pont-en-Royans.

What can you do with such animals? The immediate obvious answer is: Nothing. Let them be! But this is an unsatisfactory answer for two reasons: (a) It's illegal to "own" undeclared wild sheep. (b) These animals could stray onto the road and provoke an accident.

So, I would like to eliminate them. But how? That's a good question. The only solution, I fear, will consist of my asking officially the gendarmerie to authorize the physical elimination of all these wild sheep with the technical assistance of local hunters.

Aussie readers at such-and-such a refined Sydney golf club might make fun of the fact that my handful of sheep could cause problems here in France. I could use a nice word such as Antipodes to designate our respective viewpoints, but the truth of the matter is that we're not really living on the same planet.


  1. There might be another solution: in some regions in the South of France, they use sheep as a sort of "lawn mover" in order to prevent fires in summer...

  2. Children are told that, to catch a bird, you merely have to spread some salt on its tail feathers. Then they react according to their particular mental structures (I'm referring to the children, not the birds):

    — Children who are destined to become scientists will ask: "Why would the presence of salt have such a calming effect upon a wild bird?"

    — Children whom God intended to be poets, artists or priests will inquire: "Wouldn't it be better to paint the bird's tail red or blue?"

    — Meanwhile, children with a good chance of becoming business leaders or politicians will observe: "If I can get close enough to put salt on its tail, then I'll be able to grab the bird and stuff it in a bag."

    If only I could creep up on my nine sheep, I would hit them with rugby tackles and rope them up. That's the usual technique when the animals are in a small pen. But trying to play rugby with nine wild sheep that are roaming around in liberty on mountain slopes is a hopeless game. They're an unbeatable team.

    This morning, I spoke seriously on this subject with Pierrot, the municipal employee. He's a shepherd of kinds, and I already told him he could keep the sheep if he succeeded in catching them... which he can't. He told me, for the first time, about the official possibility of obtaining hypodermic darts from my veterinarian, and then calling upon the local hunting federation to fire these darts at the sheep. Then there's the question of conveying the sleeping animals back to Gamone, to be slaughtered by the butcher. It's a complicated affair.