Sheep in the city

I live across the street from a city park and often say it is my front yard.  But sometimes the lawn mowing gets to me, and even worse are those horrid leaf blowers which just blow dirt around.  And small stones.  I need to get working on a campaign to ban them in Boston.  Maybe that will be my next retirement project.  But on to the sheep.

In case you missed the story, Paris is experimenting with sheep to mow lawns.  This short story from the Boston Globe caught my eye the other day.

PARIS — Will tourists soon see flocks of baahing sheep at the Eiffel Tower and bleating ewes by Notre Dame cathedral?

That could be the case, since Paris City Hall this week installed a small flock of sheep to mow the lawn at the city’s gardens, replacing gas-guzzling mowers. Four ewes — shipped in from an island off the Brittany coast — are munching the grass surrounding Paris Archives building.

‘‘I can imagine this very easily in London and New York . . . even Tokyo,’’ said ­Fabienne Giboudeaux, City Hall’s director of green spaces. ‘‘And why not have them at the Eiffel Tower?’’

Last year, two goats mowed the lawn at Tuileries, the city’s grand 17th-century gardens. A similar experiment outside Paris found that sheep droppings brought swallows back to the area. ‘‘It might sound funny, but animal lawnmowers are ecological as no gasoline is required, and cost half the price of a machine,’’ said Marcel Collet, Paris farm director. ‘‘And they’re so cute.’’

One of the Paris sheep.

One of the Paris sheep.

I read this and wondered how they keep the sheep from wandering off.  According to the Atlantic, they use an electric fence.  I guess they would have to move it around to different grazing areas as they can’t keep the entire space blocked off.  I think they should hire shepherds and a few dogs.  Give some people jobs.  They can use a portable pen at night.

As the Atlantic points out

It’s honestly a pretty sensible idea. For centuries, if not millennia, grazing animals like sheep and cows have been used both to trim and to fertilize fields. In fact, many of the oldest urban parks were originally populated by farm animals, sometimes just during the day when their owners went into to town to do business. A funny if only marginally related story about in-town grazing comes from Cambridge, Massachusetts, a former suburb of Boston that’s now very much a part of the city. Back in the early days of Harvard College, one of the perks of being a professor was that you were allowed to graze your cow in Harvard Yard. Back in 2009, retiring professor Harvey Cox actually exercised this privilege when he brought his cow Faith to school.

Actually, there shouldn’t be a lot of odor as sheep don’t do big patties like cows.  And if they hire a shepherd she can rake it up – not with a leaf blower.

I hope this catches on.  I like the thought of a couple of sheep with a shepherd on Fort Hill.  Plus it lowers noise pollution and helps with climate change and could create some jobs.

Photograph from Reuters