Tag Archives: Sheep

The Sheep Are Out Again… Wait, What?

The very first meal that we ate in this house inspired the name of this blog, the sheep are out.  I won’t retell the story here, but you can read about it in the first post that is linked here.

Whadda ya lookin' at?  Can we get back to our snack now?

Whadda ya lookin’ at? Can we get back to our snack now?

Since that time the sheep have gotten out a couple more times, generally their short-lived freedom being spent nibbling and pooping (lots of pooping) in the garden.  There’s also been a loose horse in the front yard, munching by the basketball hoop, as well as various and a sundry other wildlife.

Running with the bulls… I mean the sheep…

So when Dave came bursting into the living room last night after just having put Little Man to bed and said that I needed to look outside, I flew to the front door.  Outside I was greeted by a group of sheep munching away around Little Man’s sand box.  They looked a bit chagrined that their late night snack was being interrupted.  Luckily Dave was doing the sheep herding and steered them down the driveway rather than the shorter distance through the garden (which I likely would have done without thinking about the consequences) since it would have been destroyed.

Wait for me!

I have to say that Dave is becoming a quite proficient with his sheep herding, much better than our first night here back in 2013.  Hopefully the sheep don’t take this as a challenge to up their game.  Until then, the sheep were out, but are now… noisily… back in their pens.

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The Sheep Are Out… Again

This is not what I meant to post tonight, but then I left for yoga.  I was balancing yoga mat, water bottle, purse, all being held in an unintentionally awkward way.  As I stepped up to the car, purse now open while I fished out the keys, I glanced to my left towards my garden and stopped stunned.  Not quite understanding what I was seeing.  Was there truly a herd of sheep on my sidewalk?  And were they supposed to be there?  Then I noticed our farmer-landlord running towards me, summer dress flapping and sheep feed bucket waving towards the errant flock.  It then took me a moment to grab my phone from the awkwardly held purse and snap the pictures before shoeing the sheep along.

This is when I started feeling like I was back in Turkey.  I was “hut! hutting!” like the village shepard, moving the sheep toward their pasture, though I think the flapping yoga mat would stand out a bit on the Turkish prairies.

What made that moment so perfect, was that exactly one year ago tonight… almost to the exact hour and minute…  Dave, Little Man and I were just sitting down with Dave’s parents, Ruth and Joe, for dinner when Joe looked out the window and said “The sheep are out…” That simple phrase ended up inspiring this blog and forever keeps me laughing even a year later… and especially when a year later the same situation is happening.  To read that original post, click here.

We’ve now officially lived in Canada for one year.  Not too bad, eh?

One Year More...

Black Pellets of Doom

In honor of Little Man starting potty training today, I thought I would share this story from Turkey…

 Flying Black Pellets of Doom or The Sheep Are Out… Turkish Style

 Third archaeological field season at Kenan Tepe, Turkey

My mom pointed out that I haven’t told many sheep and goat stories this year, and that their absence has been noted.  So I thought I would tell you a little about the herds here in southeastern Turkey.  If you have a strong attachment to a romanticized notion of clean shepherds gently herding their cute flocks, stop reading now…

Every day a couple of different herds are taken across the tepe where we are excavating, and in the evenings they are often “parked” there as well.  By way of quick Turkish lesson, “tepe” is the word for “hill.”  It’s the same as “tell” or “höyük” or “chagar” depending on which Middle Eastern country you are in.  We work at Kenan Tepe; the hill of Kenan.  “Kenan” is the same as “Canaan,” so the name of our site means the Hill of Canaan or Canaan’s Hill.  We do not know what the village or town was called in the ancient past, since much of our excavation has focused on the prehistoric portions, and the historic parts haven’t given us any writing as of yet.

Here the shepherds tend to be men, but I have seen two young women caring for a small herd of cattle.  I have never seen sheep and goats herded separately, but they are always in a mixed, motley group.  Herd size can range from as few as five to as many as 50+ beasties.  There is always one donkey amongst the group, laden down with food, water, etc. and sometimes being ridden by a small boy.  Every now and then there is a shepherd that goes by my trench, singing to his flock.  It’s a beautiful tone that just sort of floats on the wind.  With the birdsong and frogs in the background it’s really nice.  Most shepherds make a sort of shushing noise to their sheep to help steer them… as well as throwing rocks.  Their aim is amazing.  They don’t do it to hurt the animals, but when you have that many not-so-bright-beasties roaming the hillside you need to steer them somehow.

Now to describe the sheep themselves…  These are not what you picture as the cute, little, white, fuzzy lambs skipping across the tepe.  These sheep have been especially bred for their wool and have very large… shall we say… gluteus maximi… that hang over the backs of their legs and flap in the breeze.  This is not their tail; that is there too.  Apparently these… bottoms… are full of fat and are considered a delicacy; one that I must admit I haven’t developed a taste for yet.  Too gamey.  The fleece, however, taken from this particular region of the sheep is supposedly the softest and highest quality.  Makes you think of cashmere in an entirely different way.

The first time I saw one of these sheep up close I thought it had a huge, cancerous deformity flapping along behind it.  Then I noticed that all of them are the same.  In some strange way the goats actually end up being the cuter of the two.

Now to the crux of my tale, but first let me remind you that my trench is more then two meters deep.  That means that when I’m in my trench, standing on tip toe, I can just peek over the edge and be eye level with the ground.

Last Saturday (we get one day off a week, and that is Friday for the Muslim holyday), when I hiked up the side of the tepe to my trench to get working, the entire side of the hill looked like someone had upended a massive pepper shaker.  The flocks must have been “parked” on my side of the tepe the whole time we were off.  That means that they were “doing their business” all over the hillside, and it was absolutely covered with small black pellets, and those would be swarming with flies in the heat… thank you sheep!

We had gotten to the tepe at our normal 5am, but rather than the clear blue sky we are used to, it was hazy and overcast.  We could just see a white glowing space where the sun was.  This is unusual for Turkey at this time of year, but we foreigners just thought it was a nice cool morning and we enjoyed the respite from the heat.  Our workers kept eyeing the horizon suspiciously.  The morning turned a little blustery, and we thought it weird that the horizon stayed looking so blurry, like rain but without any moisture in the air or lightening.  What we were actually seeing but not comprehending was a sandstorm.  We were just too ignorant to know it.

Around 11am the wind really started to pick up.  A huge blast hit my trench, sending a very large dust devil right through.  It literally knocked us over and sounded like our sun cover was being ripped to shreds.  Just before this happened, my workmen and I had been noses to the ground, completely oblivious to the upper world around us.  Now that we were upended by the wind and so being curious souls, we all crept to the edge of the trench, stood on tip toe and peered out at a world gone mad.  Everything was airborne, including all those little black pellets.  I opened my mouth to exclaim and then clamped it shut immediately before any black pellets of doom could come flying in.  A little herd of cows were all standing diagonally into the wind.  This couldn’t be good…

We ended up shutting down the excavation early that day, before our tents, our trench journals, and our lovely bags of artifacts were swept up Wizard of Oz-style and dropped into the Tigris.  I’ve seen a dust devil pick up a bag of light animal bone, sweep it straight up 30 feet in the air, and then gently hover craft it over the river to deposit it in the sheep and goat herd on the opposite bank.  This wind was not gentle, so we gave up and went home for lab work.

When we finally got back to the dig house the crew all ran up the eight stories of stairs to the rooftop to see if we could rescue our bedding.  Luckily only one mattress had blown off the roof (we never did find it…), but everything else had blown across it and was now in a large dusty pile.  Sleep time was going to be a bit gritty this evening.

By 4pm the sky turned yellow.  For those of you who have seen the movie Pitch Black… Bismil had that same crazy, yellow hue that the planet did when there was sunlight.  Eerie.

Eventually the wind died down and the next day was back to normal.  That small taste of a sandstorm made us all wonder what it would have been like out in the desert, where the entire landscape is moveable.  This part of southeastern Turkey looks a lot like southern California (if you take away all the cities and freeways); lots of rolling golden hills and flat land for crops.  Our landscape had not changed by the time we got back to the tepe and our excavation trenches, but the contents of our trenches had.  The first thing my workmen and I had to deal with were the heaps of black pellets of doom piled around the bottom of my trench.  I started being disgruntled with the sheep…

Sunrise over the Tigris River from the top of Kenan Tepe.

Sunrise over the Tigris River from the top of Kenan Tepe.

Foggy Bottom

With Fall we are seeing the island wrapped in fog.  It’s hard to capture a good foggy picture since everything ends up looking rather… foggy.  And while the monochromatic look might wear on me after a bit, we live high enough up in the hills that we are often driving down into the fog rather than being shrouded in it every day.  This morning while we were driving Dave to work, it was gorgeous to look at the varying shades of dark greenish grey trees rushing towards us along the highway.  Then we climbed a hill again, broke through the fog and were greeted by a nearly full moon in the bright blue sky just above the cedars.  The ocean was hidden in the fog, but maybe when we go out again later it will be visible again.

Up at the farm, we are starting to see the fog rolling in and holding shape above the fields, and along the drained lake bed.  One of the favorite pastures of the sheep is just above the lake bed in this little grove of trees.  Tendrils of fog were just starting to creep towards the sheep when I took these pictures.

I think that Little Man and I are going to need to go fog exploring soon.  We just need some better shoes before we accidentally step in a fog covered “present” from the sheep.

Sheep taking it easy under the trees while the fog starts to roll in.

Sheep taking it easy under the trees while the fog starts to roll in.

The Sheep Are Out…

Close up of Mallow blossoms near our home.

Close up of Mallow blossoms near our home.

“The sheep are out…”

“No, Dad, they are in their pen, it just looks like they are out.”

“No, the sheep are out…”

We had lived on the farm for three days and our farmer landlords were away on a long-planned vacation, having left before we had arrived.  Now, as we were just sitting down to the first dinner with my in-laws in our new home…  the sheep were out.

 Let me begin by stating that Dave and I are NOT farmers.  In fact, we haven’t even proven to be successful gardeners yet.  We moved to Vancouver Island with our toddler son for a new job and happened to stumble on this fantastic rental property smack in the middle of a small organic farm.  Awesome!  But now the main residents of the farm were “going on walk aboot” and we had to figure out how to get them back into their picturesque setting.

 Dave and his Dad ran down to tend to the sheep, while I called the previous renter and stared incredulously over my wine glass across our unfinished deck at the scene below.  To say that our deck is “unfinished” is to put it kindly.  Our deck does not exist.  In fact, the glass French doors that will eventually open out to the deck currently open out to a grand drop of about 15 feet down to the dirt below.  An old bannister with flaking white paint has been nailed outside of the doors to forestall anyone visiting the deck before it is actually in place.  This means that Dave’s Mom, our toddler son and I had an amazing double-glass door view from our table to the scene unfolding below.

 There were probably only 10 sheep that had gotten out, but they are robust, large sheep not the soft little lambs of the cartoons.  Dave and his Dad were being remarkably successful in herding the sheep back towards their pen as they surged in waves around the backyard.  That is to say that they were being remarkably successful until the farm dog came to “help,” and in a burst of joy scattered the sheep across the property.  Once the dog was separated from the sheep, the men were able to corral them and head back to dinner.

 For some people, the idea of running out of the dining room to corral sheep may not seem like such a herculean venture.  Why make such a fuss?  Those people have never met Dave or me.

 Dave and I are both city kids, born and raised in large West Coast metropolises.  We have spent a number of years living in the Midwest and I had studied farm politics, but we’d never ventured to the actual farm side of food production.  Now we had moved our family of three halfway across the continent, across national borders, to an island where I knew how to do nothing.  Literally.  I can’t figure out the temperature (Celsius), the speed or distance to anything (kilometers), or how to use their debit card machines (Interac).  It’s not pretty.  Anyone who thinks that Canada and the States are the same, should move across a border and see just how similar things are.  They aren’t.  Similarly, teaching university classes, writing dissertations and researching academic articles do not quite prepare you for the “real world” of sheep wrangling before your dinner gets cold.

 Yet despite the dog’s best efforts to scatter the sheep to the winds, Dave and his Dad managed to get the sheep contained and return to their dinners unscathed.  Dave’s Mom was concerned that their dinners were cold; our son was simply concerned that someone keeps filling his little plate; and the men looked a bit dazed.  In my mind, however, a slightly cooled dinner would only last in our memories for a few moments; the story of this evening would live in the family forever.

 The next morning I was feeling the need for “home,” and following the advice of real estate agents to make your house smell inviting, I baked up a batch of these Banana Chocolate muffins.  I’ve adapted the recipe a bit, but the original comes from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home.  I may not be a domestic goddess, but her food makes me feel homey.  And our son, who was a total trooper through the entire move, had just lost all of his friends, his parks, his familiar jaunts.  Most of his toys were still packed, and he kept asking where we were.  These muffins are one of his favorite things, and I wanted to see that little chocolate smeared smile.

 Later that evening, once Dave’s folks had taken the ferry to the mainland (our son thinks his grandparents just might be “fairies” going to the Mainland from Neverland Island), Dave and I sat on the little arbor bench next to the driveway.  We were looking out over the pasturage lined with trees, sipping two well-deserved frosty beverages after our day of unpacking an endless stream of boxes, when the sheep started bleating from their stalls and we started laughing.  The sheep were most definitely not out this time, but our new home promises to be an interesting adventure.

Banana Chocolate Muffins

Makes 1 dozen awesome muffins

These are my son’s favorite muffins.  He thinks he’s getting a real treat, and doesn’t realize all the good things packed into these great little packages.  My best experiences with this recipe are when I use four (and sometimes up to six) over-ripe bananas that I’ve stored in the freezer.  When bananas are just about too far gone, I chuck them into the freezer to use later for muffins like these.  Just put the frozen bananas on a plate in a single layer in the microwave for about 20 seconds or so to soften them up.  You can also pull them out of the freezer the night before you want to make them and thaw them on the counter, but I’m never that well-organized.

4 very ripe bananas

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup plain yogurt (I use fat free, but full fat is fine too)

2 eggs

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup good quality dark chocolate chips (optional… if you don’t like awesome)

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl mash the bananas, leaving them a little coarse.  Mix in the oil, yogurt, eggs and sugar.

In a medium bowl mix the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda.  Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, being careful to not over mix the batter.  Gently fold in the chocolate and walnuts if using.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Let the muffins rest briefly in the pan and then cool them on a wire rack.

Chocolate Banana Muffin batter

Chocolate Banana Muffin batter

Filling the muffin tins

Filling the muffin tins

My “new to me” oven runs a bit hot, so these are almost over done, but the extra-doneness just makes them taste extra-chocolatey.

A satisfied customer... who wants "more muffins please."

 Banana Chocolate Muffins Card

Click on the above link for a pdf version of the recipe that can be printed.