The other day I was weeding the picket fence along the outside of the wild flower garden. My back was to the yard. Gradually I became aware of a sound emerging from the afternoon silence: it was the soft green sound of many sheep eating grass within a few feet of me. They wander about so quietly that if you are outside and yourself engaged in a quiet activity, unless you are watching you will not even know they have arrived.
That afternoon, as I walked down to the dock with a pail full of fish heads and guts, I counted thirty one sheep in the lower orchard. Lately we have been counting nineteen or twenty around the house on most days. They graze and rest, graze and rest.
Sometimes a few lambs will get up a game. Then four or five of them will race around the yard and over the stone walls. Once I watched as they raced in a huge circle completely around the house, going at top speed. But mostly they have lost the gamboling exuberance of their first few weeks.
They are quite vocal. If they wander away from their mothers, in search of that famously greener grass, they will suddenly realize that they are all alone in the world. Then they call out for their mothers with urgent, anxious baaas. The mothers responded when the lambs were younger. Now they mostly roll their eyes and keep on grazing. Especially if they are already nearby.
But sometimes it's the mother who misses her lamb. They are still protective of their little ones. A group of ewes and lambs may be lolling about up here by the house, when a ewe begins to call out from down in the lower orchard. The ewe stands and looks up toward the house, baaing. Her lamb then obediently gets up and runs down the bog path toward her. Ewe and lamb bleat back and forth until the lamb reaches the ewe and a tender reunion ensues.
Usually the lambs stay near their mothers. They still nurse occasionally, especially when they are frightened. Yesterday I watched a lamb lying next to its mother with its head resting on her back. A peaceful scene. But lest you think the island is all harmony and light, I've also watched one of The Major's lambs butt its own mother. Such an ingrate.
Some island visitors have said that they looked for the sheep but couldn't find them. I think it's because the flocks keep away from people if they can. In that way they are like most other wild things. If you want to see them you'll need to sit very still and be very quiet and wait for them to show up. Which they may not do anyway since, at least for now, they live life on their own terms.