It has been a rascally year for the sheep. Generally we can count on them getting into the garden a half a dozen times, usually in the fall when they start cycling, but this year they started their shenanegans early. We woke up some mornings in the spring and those sheep voices were way closer than they should have been. They took their favorite things, the two rows of peas, the kale, the brussel sprouts, still leaving us with an abundant, if specifically diminished, harvest.
But today I went out to get a bed ready for garlic planting and couldn't quite believe my eyes. I already knew that the sheep had been out the night before, as evidenced by the tipped over swingset, but I was unprepared for what I found- they ate everything! Echinacea leaves, old cucumbers, leek tops, strawberry and hollyhock leaves. They chewed the bark of the elderberries and devoured the horseradish plants, thin tall whisps of the leaf ribs sticking up where the bright green leaves were yesterday. They knocked over the bean tipi and ate the beans, plants and all, down to the ground, and while they usually leave a few tiny kale leaves on the plants, this time all that remained were the thick purple stalks sticking out of the ground.
We have already relinquished the garden to a few hard frosts, and the sheep did not do any permanent damage- the horseradish will grow more leaves in the spring, the elderberry bark will heal. It was not the grief of a garden lost but more a feeling of amazement at the thoroughness of their munching, and a surprise gladness, that the garden harvest could be made even more abundant with this food and medicine for the sheep, before the snow covers it all and really puts things to bed around here.