After a stressful day at work, I sometimes need to unwind and turn off my brain. Netflix helps, of course, and a couple of glasses of wine helps even more, but nothing compares to the Sheep Barn.
The Sheep Barn is at Farm Sanctuary in the New York Finger Lakes, and tuning in to their live webcam prepares me for a restful night of sleep, by allowing me to watch a hundred or so sheep, as they settle down for sleep, themselves. Some sheep lay down quickly, closing their eyes, while others lay down, but remain alert, munching on a bedtime snack of hay, and always, there are the restless few, pacing around in the dark, their eyes glowing on the infrared cameras, after all of the other sheep have turned in.
There is something calming, and almost meditative, about watching that Sheep Barn, especially at night. I can’t explain the whys or the hows of it, but I know, that as I am watching a sheep chew his hay, with that oh-so slow, circular, jaw movement, and as I listen to the periodic guttural growl or baa, that the electrical and chemical systems of my brain are coming into a nice balance, giving me a sense of contentment, and for some reason, a little reassurance about the world.
A few weeks ago, Joe, Jake and I got to meet the sheep, and all the rescued farm animals at Farm Sanctuary, in real life.
After we followed our guide through the wet grass in the cow pasture, avoiding cow pies, which were literally everywhere, we patted the largest cows I have ever seen, met a bunch of goats, and finally made it to the Sheep Barn.
As we approached their pen, the sheep were all outside, gathered at the top of a hill. When they saw us approaching, though, the sheep moved together, almost stampeding, down the steep hill. At the bottom, most turned into the safety of the barn, but many came to greet us.
Sandwiched between two sheep, I carefully patted their wooly backs, with an open, flat hand.
I was warmed by how enthusiastic the sheep were for human visitors. They were paying particular attention to our guide, and it was clear that they recognized her, among the humans. No one was spared their affections, though, and each of the eight people in our group was immediately surrounded by at least two or three sheep.
“Dig in more, Lis,” Joe called out to me, holding up his hand and making a scratching motion with his fingers. “They like you to scratch their skin.” He turned his hand to show me his black, oily fingers.
“Lanolin,” he said, smiling.
Just then, I felt something tap the back of my calf, and was surprised to see one of my sheep friends had lifted his hoof and had gently tapped my leg. I continued with my open hand pats, not quite ready to dig in to his wooly coat, as Joe had suggested, and my sheep friend tapped my leg again. Soon, he sauntered off, sidling up to another human, because apparently I was not doing a very good job of petting him properly.
At Farm Sanctuary, each of the resident animals has been rescued, some from the difficult life, and certain death, of the factory farm, and some from smaller, family farms, where they were not getting adequate care. Many of the animals suffered abuse, malnutrition, neglect, isolation, or heartbreak, before coming to these rolling hills and quiet pastures. Our guide continued to tell us the back stories of the animals that surrounded us, and how they came to be living in this bucolic setting.
Looking at Joe, who was now petting the sheep that had abandoned me, and still smiling a giant smile, I think I could actually see the electrical and chemical systems of his brain, coming into balance.
Next time you have a stressful day at work, check out the Farm Sanctuary’s live web feeds at Explore.org.
It’s cheaper than Netflix, works faster than wine, and it just might will leave you with a little reassurance about the world.
If you enjoy RoofTop’s Blog, consider following by email. Simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click the “follow” button to be notified by email whenever Lisa has a new post. RoofTop also LOVES comments, so comment away!