“I sometimes think that the only real purpose of an initial design is to evolve some sort of of plan to get one started in an otherwise confusing and complex situation.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designer's Manual



There is a special time, a special transition … when I complete the asana part of practice and transition to pranayama and sitting. Today, just as that time arrived the world outside exploded with the noise of barking dogs … many dogs … our dogs and others.

A neighbor came driving down the road from their house, past ours. The road is very muddy and slippery. A few days ago an excavator finished working here, burying a main water line. The work left the road and the area around it extra-muddy.

It is NOT a good time of the year to do this kind of excavation work. The transitions from fall-to-winter and winter-to-spring are notoriously muddy.

Then some rain arrived and made everything even muddier. The neighbor came down the road and to avoid the mud he veered to the right of the road, onto the edge where our property meets the road, where it is slightly less muddy. There he got entangled in some barbed wire that was lying on the ground.

Our dogs started barking at the “event” and their barking summoned the pack of dogs that escort the herd of sheep that graze next to our land.

The sheep should have been gone by now, but since it hasn’t snowed and the ground hasn’t frozen over, the owner of the herd prefers to keep them on the land (though the grazing area is almost completely shaved to the ground) which is apparently easier than keeping them enclosed and having to feed them.

It also happens that the dogs are going into heat. And a couple of the sheep-herd dogs are at it right across the street. Other sheep-herd dogs are gathered around the mating couple barking hysterically. Our dogs are barking hysterically at the other barking dogs (long after the entangled neighbor has disentangled and departed).

In Romanian villages most people don’t believe in or bother to castrate male dogs or to sterilize females. When approached with this idea they either laugh it off or are abhorred by it. They are not abhorred at drowning puppies or dumping them in a remote field.

A stray male dog we nicknamed Romeo is also hanging around. He got Tana pregnant last year and is a major contributing factor to us having four barking dogs (instead of two … that is a whole other separate “consequences” post). He is around because the females are in heat. But he is a single male facing a pack of dogs … and he is getting the shit kicked out of him … and he can’t help but coming back for more. All this raises the barking level even more.

Why is there barbed wire lying on the ground? Because I haven’t collected it! I haven’t collected it because it is a shit task low on my list of priorities and difficult to do on my own. But why is it there in the first place?

The sheep constantly move up and down the road, because they graze higher up in the valley but need to be moved down the valley to where there is water they can drink. When the herd was smaller the owner brought large water containers by tractor. I am guessing that was tedious work and that when his herd grew tedious became impractical.

Gotta grow! Why would someone bring sheep to a grazing area that doesn’t have water? Because all the other grazing areas are occupied with other herds and herd owners. Because sheep are a big business (made up of a many small businesses) in Romania and the growth imperative translates directly into systemic and destructive over-grazing.

Most of the time the herd owner hired shepherds of the “I don’t give a fuck” mindset. As the herd was passing up and down the road sheep would constantly “leak” all over our land. After YEARS of talking and trying to find understanding the herd owner, we agreed to put in a “fence” together. Basically he cut down some trees into posts and pounded them into the ground and I strung up two lines of … you guessed it … barbed wire to keep the sheep out.

The “fence” kind of worked … it helped the “I don’t give a fuck” shepherds to slightly better guide the herd along the road. Of course, shortly after we had the fence in place that they added goats to the herd. The goats easily and merrily jumped over the “fence”.

The improvised “fence” deteriorated over the few years it has been up until most of the barbed wire has fallen to the ground and got covered by grasses. Fortunately, this year the herd owner hired a much better shepherd … an older man with a family who whistles a lot more and drinks a lot less … who is able to herd the sheep with more precision and efficiency and respect for our wish to stay off our land. So the “fence” is currently redundant … and I (who didn’t want a fence in the first place) am left with the task of collecting a few hundred meters of barbed wire.

… unless of course next year a different shepherd will arrive … another member of the “I don’t give a fuck” clan … in which case I may want the barbed wire in place.

… and all I really want is a quiet practice space!

… from that quiet space I see choices and actions rippling out over time … realizing that such dynamics and forces are constantly at play (whether or not we are aware of them) and that there is no stopping this rippling and resonating … we can either align ourselves with such dynamics into relationships of growth and improvement … or we can get entangled with them in disruption and confusion …

The sheep and the disruptive patterns deeply embedded in their presence will leave soon and the valley will settle into a few months of peaceful quiet winter.

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