Sheep take on lawn-mow­ing du­ties

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MOR­GAN LOWRIE

MON­TREAL — With only a few bleats of protest, a flock of woolly, four-legged lawn mow­ers took a rare stroll through the streets of Mon­treal on Wed­nes­day to take up their du­ties in a new city park.

The six ewes and four lambs were care­fully herded along the side­walk from one park to an­other with the help of shep­herds and vol­un­teers hold­ing up or­ange bar­ri­cades.

The 10 an­i­mals are pro­vid­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly lawn main­te­nance and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties in three parks in the Rose­mont-La Petite-Pa­trie bor­ough this sum­mer.

Marie-Eve Julien-De­nis, one of the project’s or­ga­niz­ers, says graz­ing an­i­mals pro­vide a nat­u­ral way to trim the grass and erad­i­cate in­va­sive plant species.

Un­like me­chan­i­cal lawn mow­ers, “her­bi­vores have the abil­ity to eat in­va­sive species like buck­thorn and phrag­mites, and to up­root them so they don’t grow back,” she said.

Wed­nes­day’s event was in­spired by a Euro­pean tran­shu­mance, when live­stock are moved from sum­mer to win­ter pastures — an event of­ten fol­lowed by a vil­lage cel­e­bra­tion.

Led by a shep­herd with a bucket of grain, Mon­treal’s sheep largely stayed within plas­tic mesh fenc­ing held by vol­un­teers dur­ing the kilo­me­tre-long walk down the side­walk.

While the first-ever Mon­treal tran­shu­mance didn’t come close to the scale of the events in Europe, which can in­volve thou­sands of an­i­mals, Julien-De­nis has high hopes for the lit­tle flock.

She hopes the project, ti­tled Bi­quette a Mon­treal, could soon bring in more sheep to more parks, and even­tu­ally even pro­duce cheese.

Be­yond graz­ing du­ties, the woolly her­bi­vores also have social du­ties to ful­fil.

In order to raise aware­ness of ur­ban agri­cul­ture, the or­ga­niz­ers are host­ing work­shops, pic­nics, happy hours and even yoga ses­sions with the sheep.

The sheep, who wan­der around dur­ing the yoga classes, may not have much in­ter­est in the poses but are “very zen,” as­sured one vol­un­teer.

“Be­ing with an­i­mals, you feel some­thing grander,” Claire Martin said. “So it fits to do yoga in na­ture.”

She says the an­i­mals have be­come stars in the neigh­bour­hood, draw­ing peo­ple to­gether and let­ting them ex­pe­ri­ence a taste of farm life in the city. The sheep them­selves, she says, are un­fazed by their celebrity sta­tus. “As long as they have grass to eat and some­where to sleep, they’re happy,” she said.

RYAN REMIORZ, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ju­lian Be­jer­man, 2, gets a close look at some sheep Wed­nes­day in Mon­treal. The sheep are part of a pi­lot project where they act as eco-friendly lawn mow­ers, chew­ing on the long grass.

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