Mutton Hill used to have 1,300 sheep grazing 300 acres of land. They moved to the east coast in the mid-1800s.
Perkins Stone Mansion now houses the Summit County Historical Society. Thanks to the organization and The Spicy Lamb Farm of Peninsula, sheep are back on the land. “The land” being the front yard of the mansion.
Nine sheep are grazing the lawn this summer. First and foremost, the sheep are there to educate Akron about the history of the area. Simon Perkins was a co-founder of the city. His descendants lived here from 1835 to 1945.
He raised Merino sheep with the help of John Brown, whose mansion is across the street. Perkins’ flock was one of the finest in Ohio and produced high-quality Merino wool.
The Perkins and Brown mansions sit at the corner of Copley Road and South Portage Path. The surrounding blocks are now residential with homes and a towering apartment building. The current sheep living on the Perkins property don’t have much space to roam.
The lawn is sectioned off so the sheep can be rotated every three days. This helps with the flock’s second purpose: lawn maintenance. The historical society doesn’t have to mow a whole lot, which would produce only grass clippings and carbon emissions. Instead, the sheep graze, get energy from the grass, and then fertilize the lawn.
The sheep are saving the historical society about $1,000 a month in landscaping costs and giving them a greener footprint. And they’re cute.
Anyone can stop by and see the sheep. If you’re lucky, Edie Steiner will be there with her three border collies: Modibo, Rudy and Lincoln.
Edie started shepherding nearly 13 years ago. She now competes across the country. Ironically, she lives two blocks from Perkins Stone Mansion on Auld Farm — where Perkins’ sheep used to roam.
Edie and her dogs help move the sheep from pen to pen when they need to rotate. When there is an audience, she demonstrates various commands using her voice or whistle. Watching the highly focused dogs flit around the lawn with Edie’s instructions is fascinating.
The sheep aren’t in any danger. Border collies have been bred through the ages to use their natural predator instincts to help farmers. The dogs are very, very smart. And don’t think their prey is dumb.
Edie explained that studies have been done that show how smart sheep actually are. They aren’t just followers that stick with the flock. And if you watch them for a while, you can tell each one has its own personality.
There seems to be an art to herding sheep. Not to wax poetic, but it’s a beautiful dance between Edie, the dog in the field and the sheep. Take the time to see it in person. You won’t be disappointed.
Edie reached out to me through @summitpeeks on Instagram, asking if I wanted to do a feature on the Mutton Hill sheep. I excitedly said yes, and asked if she would take over Summit Peeks for a week.
Edie will host the Twitter account August 15–19. You’ll learn more about the sheep and shepherding. You’ll also find out what Edie does when she’s not working with the flock.
I didn’t expect how fun and interesting it would be to meet Edie, her dogs and the sheep. So if you can, stop by Perkins Stone Mansion and see what’s going on in that corner of Downtown Akron. It’s a neat way to imagine history.
If you want to find out more about the Mutton Hill Sheep and Summit County Historical Society, visit the historical society’s website.