sheep and other critters
- Double feature tonight 1/21/11. First was the 6th and final episode of Wild China. Things standing out were how Chinese work with the wildlife symbiotically. They used 3 examples. One are a species of swan that winters in southern sea. The hut roofs of the villagers are made of kelp. The villagers have laid out rows of buoys with rope where they grow their kelp. The swans don't eat the kelp but they do eat aquatic plants that grow around the rows of kelp. The villagers and the swans each live their own lives unmolested by the other. The villagers pay homage through throwing the "winter angels" (I think that's what they call the swans.) scraps of bread left over from meals. As it is still chilly there, the swans appreciate the extra energy food. The second is where humans set monkeys up with a swimming pool in the forest where tourists pay to watch the monkeys drop from the branches overhead and into the very nice pool. The third is the place where they have grown oolong tea for hundreds (thousands?) of years the same way, on terraced rows on the sides of mountains. As they have for hundreds/thousands of years, they turn the goat herds loose to help them out. There is an acid in the leaves of tea that goats don't eat. The goats eat the weeds that grow among the tea plants.
The second feature was, "Sweetgrass", about the last sheep rancher in CO who has kept his permit to graze his humongous flock on public lands over 3 months every year. It shows sheep being shorn, birthed, then driven up and down mountains by TWO guys and some questionably useful dogs. One thing standing out for me was one of the herders, a young guy, had brought his dog but had forgotten to bring food for the dog, then wondered why the dog went lame and eventually refused to leave camp. It also showed him punching his horse in the face on the way back. The oldtimer, by contrast, was calm and kind where the animals were concerned. The sheep were, well, sheep. I have a new respect for sheep and herd instinct with sheep. Imagining the hundreds/thousands of sheep that were herded each making an individual decision as to where to go or whether or not to obey the herders or the dogs would have ended disastrously.