Hungry sheep flock to Montreal for lawnmowing duties
Volunteer shepherds guide a flock of sheep to their new park Wednesday, July 26, 2017 in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Ryan Remiorz)
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, July 26, 2017 5:08PM EDT
MONTREAL -- With only a few bleats of protest, a flock of woolly, four-legged lawnmowers 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 lawnmowers, "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.