Hungry Sheep

They have been straining at the fence behind the eastern hot house for weeks. The scent of luscious saltbush driving them near to ruin.

The hundreds of acres, like a dusty halo, about the edges of our remote country nursery are a blessing for us. The past has seen native bush cleared for mostly grazing of sheep and cattle but no intensive horticulture in this area. Which, in Mike’s knowledge bank, grown in a lifetime of respect for the balance of nature, means a place of clean air without a build-up of pests and other burdens, left by over use of the land…

The sheep at our boundary fence, often not noticed by us, but mostly grazing at the edge of our vision, have brought to us their urgency. We have not seen this before in this area, but they started nipping the wires off the solenoids of the irrigation system at the back of one of the hot houses, causing a bit of a fluster for Mike.

The other night, well that was a sight. We became aware of the sound of sheep, closer than usual… and both walked out to the nursery to see.

They were long toothed ewes, shorn and showing their years, their twiggy long legs tensed ready to dash like a Shetland pony to where they oughtn’t go. We saw the destruction of their urgency. Tubestock trampled, soft seedling plugs upended and juicy herbs eaten, which were ready for picking in the morning to fill customer’s orders waiting on the clip boards.

In the first moments of disbelief and torchlight, we just silently stared. Team ewe, sizing us up and still defiantly chewing our native herbs. Then, that predictable chaos. In shock we ran with arm waving madness muttering generic evaluative expletives. Team ewe - divide and conquer.

This went on for awhile. We called Trev to help and eventually in the headlights of the tractor the fence was repaired and order returned. We hoped.

Into the night, I couldn’t settle, feeling our shock and concern for letting big city restaurants down and the dark always feels longer with worry... I quietly shut the back door, tapped my Rossi boots before putting them on and just in my red dressing gown, dolphin torch in hand walked out the back into the nursery area.

The clear night with frog song and yabby dam is comforting to me and I strain to hear if anything is out of place... Destruction by torchlight is always worse and as I walked into the saltbush hot house, my anger was keeping the chill off the late night hour.

Like a statue she stood, rows of luscious saltbush above her head. I stilled in her stare and understood. In an instant my mind recognised that menopausal fire in her eye. That determination, above all else, to go on and the affront as to why we would chase her from this hypnotic food…

The moment was long, the negotiation was hard, I let her stay longer than I should and with extra mouthfuls, she reluctantly let me win. Balancing desires and outcomes is never easy.

Gayle Quarmby

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Mike and Gayle Quarmby

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