A guest blog post from Ron.
Or, story time with Ron.
Taking the sheep out for pizza
At a recent New Year’s Day gathering, a neighbor asked about winter feeding of our sheep, and whether they get a bit bored with hay all the time. “Don’t they crave a bit of variety” she asked? I explained that the hay is simply dried pasture, just as they eat in the summer, and that there may well be 50 species of grasses and forbs in there. All they really need. I did not discuss the evolutionary wonders of the ruminant digestive system that takes grass, forbs, even bark and small sticks, and turns it into muscle and bone and wool. Again, all they need!
However, this question stuck in my mind and I began to wonder if our wooly charges might not like a little treat now and again. We have a red wooden box in our entry way where profits (HA!) from wool and egg sales collect. I pointed out to my wife that this was likely enough to take the sheep out for pizza! Won’t that be fun! Sara was skeptical but supportive, but wisely suggested reservations as a table for 14 (12 sheep, 2 humans) can be hard to come by on a Friday night in Ithaca. So I called Simeon’s (a fancy restaurant with great pizza) on The Commons in Ithaca and reserved a table for 14, but said we would only need two chairs as most of our party prefers to eat standing.
With that the only challenge was transportation the 7 miles to downtown Ithaca as we only have a Subaru Forester and a Nissan Leaf. However, Navajo-Churro sheep are not that big, both cars seat 4 plus driver plus the Forester can take two more in the back, and Flora and Rosa (our little lambs) could ride on our laps behind the steering wheel. This worked fine, but seat belts were an issue, so we hoped we did not get pulled over, and Flora on my lap kept wanting to steer! I let her steer on Snyder Hill Road, but when we hit the traffic of town I insisted I take over.
When we arrived at Simeon’s, and I held the door for our sheep and my lovely wife, the staff seemed a bit surprised about the non-human makeup of their guests. However, this is Ithaca where the unexpected is to be expected. They showed us to our large table and shortly brought out 6 large, vegetarian pizzas and one small pepperoni for me. Being the good shepherd I had ordered in advance as sheep are not know for patience when it is time to eat. The sheep dug in to their slices with their usual quiet enthusiasm, but I did notice Crescent (our drama queen ewe) pushing aside the artichoke hearts! I thought she would crave pickled foods as she is pregnant.
As I enjoyed my pepperoni pizza and quietly visited with Sara, I noticed a few missing noses. I did a quick check and sure enough Joseph and Paco (our teenage wether boys) were missing. Being the good shepherd I went on a search and quickly found them pulled up to the bar, precariously balanced on the bar stools, and drinking a golden liquid from two bowls under the eye of the attentive barkeep. I was alarmed as I assumed it was beer! Barley, hops, and other grains are all fine for sheep, but the bubbles could be disastrous, not to mention alcohol in the brains of adolescent sheep boys! I approached the bar with urgency, but was intercepted by the barkeep who assured me it was non-sparkling, non-alcoholic apple cider. Turns out she was a Cornell vet student working nights, and was well-versed in the wonders and limitations of ruminant biology. I made a silent thanks for the wonders of Ithaca, and returned to our meal.
In short order the pizza was gone, and we had a bit of a mess! Sheep are not known for their table manners. We asked for the bill and I suggested a 25% tip, but Sara pointed out the piles of sheep poop and pee collecting on the polished hard wood floors and suggested a more generous 30%. “We want to be sure we are welcome in the future,” she said.
A week later, when Friday night arrived again, I wondered if the sheep would want another town adventure. I am not sure I want this to be a weekly thing! However, they were quite content with their hay, clean water, mineral salts, and warm and dry sheep shack. Those things, along with room to run and protection from coyotes (and occasional snuggles from their humans), are really all sheep ask of the world. Perhaps their human companions could learn a bit from that!