Nothing beats the sun coming out after a week of spring storms. The whole landscape steams, and then glows. Unlike most of the rest of the country, California has three seasons, not four, each about four months long. You could call them the Dry Season (crispy, precipitation-free), the Rainy Season (gray, cold, wet), and the Growing Season, the only one with both water and light, which begins in late February. The first flowers, narcissus, acacia, and wild almond, are blooming in the flourishing grass. When it isn't raining, the sky is pure blue with fluffy white clouds, and the smallest creeks are burbling. It was on such a day that I led my sheep and goats down to their newly enclosed little pasture; a day made for sheep to be happy in.
I didn't think it would take this long to get them down there, but first the weather, and then the logistics of moving the electronet to another spot, and then my anxieties (what if while we're walking down there the sheep panic and run away never to be seen again? what if they run through the fence and don't notice they've been shocked until they're outside and don't know how to get home?) slowed me up.
In between storms, I had dragged the electronet fencing up to the house and set up a little trial pen so they could get used to it (that is, they could be shocked and not be able to escape into the wilds). That exercise merely illustrated yet another difference between goats and sheep. When I did this with the goats, they immediately went over and sniffed the fence and got shocked. They each had to do this twice or three times, and then they were convinced, in the space about fifteen minutes. The sheep, however, stood huddled in the center of the bare pen, without moving an inch, for about two hours (I kept checking on them), before relaxing enough to lie down. If they ever experienced getting shocked by the fence, I did not observe it.
Meanwhile, every day Bonnie and I worked on gathering and fetching, moving the sheep around the corral, and out into the garden, and finally on down the road. Real-world herding is to a large extent about reaching an understanding between the livestock, the dog, and you. We had to convince the sheep that giving up on the escape idea and just minding Bonnie was always the safest and most relaxing way to go. Sheep are really big on the concept of safety.
Today, we finally got the fence moved and staked, the various shorts fixed, the battery recharged, and I girded my loins, tried to envision only the positive outcome, and took the whole band, goats and sheep, out of the corral and down the road to the pasture a half mile away.
I was lucky. The German Shepherd who sometimes runs along the fence barking decided to stay on top of his dog house and bark from there, making the sheep nervous but not enough to lose their marbles. The children who Bonnie feels obliged to run to for petting weren't home. No cats crossed our path, and no delivery trucks came barreling up the road. The goats lagged, nibbling, as usual, but I kept walking and the sheep clung dubiously to me as Bonnie nagged the goats in the rear. It was about as smooth as I could have hoped.
Once in the pasture, the sheep seemed a little agog. They skipped around a bit, reveling in the grass, and then set to grazing. I watched them for awhile, sitting in the sunny grass with my satisfied dog, and then wandered back home, feeling successful.
Bringing them home in the evening was a little tense but Bonnie kept everybody in line, and we made it back without the slightest hitch. The next morning was about twice as easy as the first one. They're learning! I had to reprimand Bonnie for being too pushy and close about ten times the first day; the second day, between her relaxing and the sheep relaxing, I hardly had to say a word.