Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sheep, Sheep, Everywhere

Every spring they come to eat weeds and grasses, reducing fire hazards around our area. This year, Mary and I were lucky to come upon a place where they birth their lambs. It doesn't get much cuter than a newborn lamb. And on a hill across the nearby freeway, the shepherds' marvelous dogs were driving the largest flock/herd of sheep we had ever seen, thousands of them, toward a gathering place. The pictures I took with my phone didn't come out well. 
As I was looking for old springtime posts, I came upon this one: 

The Franciscan Padres were the first to bring sheep to California in the late 1700s. And sheep have been a large part of farm and ranch life in this area for centuries. Large sheep drives of up to 10,000 sheep came through the Tehachapi valley in the late 1800s on their way from California to New Mexico. 

For many years, sheep ranchers in the San Joaquin Valley hired Basque shepherds to drive their sheep from the valley to the mountains, where they would spend the summer grazing in the mountain meadows. The Basque shepherds still bring sheep up to our town and the surrounding countryside. While it's a serious business to get the weeds eaten, it's also lots of fun for us all up here to see and enjoy the sheep and watch the marvelous sheep herding dogs at work.

They drove sheep through town until 1970 when modern life caught up with them. I think it's great that sheep are still useful, helping to reduce the risk of fires around our town. I often mention the winds here and if you look at the trees in the background, it's easy to see how they are affected by the more or less constant winds. The prevailing winds come from the west or north-west here and all trees get bent accordingly.


  1. you know i would snap myself silly if i saw all those sheep. it is amazing there are so many.. what a super idea for fire control.... maybe you need to borrow a few to take down all your weeds, or a goat might do it...

  2. I love the history. I also like that they know the benefits of the grazing. Great pictures.

  3. What a wonderful post! Seeing this many sheep in one place would be amazing. I didn't know they used them to graze to help with the wild fires. That is cool!

  4. Baaaaaaa. In the town where we lived in Western Maryland, one road that had been enlarged because of an increase in traffic had a tunnel under it so the farmer who owned the land could drive his sheep from one side to the other. It was his condition for selling the land to the city.


  5. There are still some jobs that Mother Nature does best!!

  6. I always love to see sheep grazing in a pasture. I think we need a few, the farmer guy doesn't! lol

  7. I hadn't known about all the sheep in CA. I must admit I didn't care about history when the study of it was mandatory. This does help me understand more about the range wars years ago. Thanks, Inger!

  8. I too love sheep. especially the little lambs. they always look to me like they're smiling!
    my beloved zeke was a polish lowland sheepdog. you can google to see how adorable they look.
    and he'd never been around a sheep in his life. but he would HERD!!! just in their DNA!
    when his best friend... little papito (a dachshund) came over to visit...
    my zeke would literally herd him around. gently nudging with his nose.
    it was comical! LOLOL.
    love hearing about and seeing your beautiful mountain desert valley.

  9. Your header picture is gorgeous! And lambs?!? THE cutest!!

  10. Oh Inger, you would blog about sheep when I had lamb chops for dinner. . .but aside from that, I love sheep. At one time I wanted to live in New Zealand and raise sheep. I was idealistic yes, but I only made it as far as Canada and fell in love with Vancouver. It's a great use of natural means letting the sheep keep down the dry growth and decreases the fire hazard. I hope all is well with you!

  11. Hi Inger - those photos are lovely - as too reading the history. The Basques - are they from Spain and the Basque country as I know it?

    We're now using sheep in the way they were used centuries ago .. letting them graze appropriate ground where they won't damage the natural habitat and it can recover ... land management is fascinating .. and I'm so glad we're going back to the old ways: maybe not droving the sheep so far ... but utilising a wonderful creature.

    I was driving my 10 year old honorary god-daughter around down here .. and my brother (her uncle) has black poodles ... and I said to her - look lots of white poodles - what a mass of them ... she didn't twig they were sheep ... sometimes kids!! She was shocked when she realised she'd been taken in .. and 12 years later ... I still tease her!!

    Cheers and enjoy watching the lambs, and see the valleys full of munching sheep ... lovely shots - Hilary

    1. Yes, they are from the Basque country and have a fascinating history here in the US. Many came with Columbus, some may have come even earlier. I guess that could be a whole other blog post.

  12. i think it is neat that the old methods of driving herds are still used today!

  13. Great sheeps and landscapes photos, Inger!
    I would love to be there to see all these beautiful sheeps and the shepherds dogs driving the largest flock of sheeps.
    I also like to know the history of the Franciscan Padres bring sheeps to California in the late 1700s.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend and sending hugs!

  14. Very interesting, Inger. What a good 'fire-prevention' method as an adjunct to this large industry.

  15. Who knew something so cute could be so useful. That is managing our resources the way they should be.

  16. Interesting post, Inger! It makes me want to watch Babe again.

  17. When I was a young fellow in New Mexico, I used to go down around Bosque Farms, and there were always big flocks of sheep with Navajo shepherds.

  18. Golly, a slice of life the way it was meant to be . . .
    Thank You!!!

  19. Great pictures, Inger! Sheep and lambs have always been favorites of mine. Interesting history.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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