Sunday, September 16, 2012


Elements of the Dutch landscape - 7

Recently I started noticing sheep. My wife likes sheep. She thinks they're cute and she likes the feeling of nature they bring to the city.
Hitland - Capelle aan den IJssel

I never noticed sheep. I only noticed cows. Cows belong to the Dutch landscape. Sheep belong in Australia.
I was wrong. Sheep have been here since the neolithic. There exist Dutch indigenous sheep species (the Dutch Texel) that were bred in the 1890's.

Recently sheep have been grazing in the city parks. It's an experiment in natural grass management because  sheep are much better than lawnmowers. And more interesting to observe.
They seem to eat everything, but it's interesting to see which plants they prefer. They don't seem to like nettles and sorrel (rumex) but they eat them anyway. I heard they like the poisonous giant hogweed because it's rich in protein.
The sheep is a powerful Christian symbol. I should have a lot to say about it, but it never resonated with me strongly. I prefer: the cross, the all-seeing-eye, the dove the halo, water, wine and the mustard plant. Not sheep. Lions maybe. Or cats, but cats are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
Christ was a farmer. He knew a lot about sheep.
I would never have thought that sheep could be interesting. Then I read "A Wild Sheep Chase" by Haruki Murakami:
Most of the afternoons I would pass looking out at the pasture. I soon began seeing things. A figure emerging from the birch woods and running straight in my direction. Usually it was the Sheep Man, but sometimes it was the Rat, sometimes my girlfriend. Other times it was the sheep with the star on it's back.
And the most disgusting literary sheep-quote is probably from Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. You will never eat mutton with a clear conscience after reading this:
Thus bickering they pass into the Dining-Room. After the Cape custom, the Dutchman has lock'd his front door for the evening meal, which he now regards, smoldering, less predictable than an Italian Volcano.
Another volcanickal Emission, whilst he grimly attacks his slice of the evening's mutton in Tail-fat. Over the course of its late owner's life, the Tail has grown not merely larger and more fatty, but also, having absorbed years of ovine Flatulence ever blowing by, to exhibit a distinct Taste, perhaps priz'd by cognoscenti somewhere, though where cannot readily be imagin'd.

Sheep and goats in the Netherlands - more interesting than you would expect!
Low Countries time line
List of Murakami quotes
Mason & Dixon text online - don't know it it's legit

1 comment:

  1. The ubiquitous sheep. Great symbol. Great series of posts!