Imagine the sound of 35 sheep bleating. Imagine trying to sleep.
"It's just a matter of them making too much noise," said Bruce Snyder, a Woodbine resident who has complained to the county about his Daisy Road neighbors' sheep.
Snyder, who has lived in the rural area for 12 years, does not want to say more about his complaint: "I don't want to make a big deal of it, make it a neighbor-to-neighbor thing."
But the neighbors, whose 22-year-old daughter keeps the sheep for a 4-H project, say they feel a bit under siege.
"We don't intend to move because of him," said Annette Fleishell, who said the family is appealing the $25 fine assessed last month by the county office of animal control.
"It's a matter of principle," said Fleishell, who maintains that the sheep, who only bleat for "good reason," are not disturbing the peace.
Generally, the sheep make noise from 5:30 to 6:30 in the morning and from 5:30 to 6:30 in the evening, she said. The size of the flock varies; it is sometimes as small as 14, and grows to about 35 when she combines it with sheep she normally keeps at another farm on Route 32.
"They'll also bleat occasionally when the young are being separated from their mothers and the mothers cry and call for them," said Fleishell, whose family has lived in the area for 13 years.
"And they might get roused up if a fox comes through, or a deer," she said, "Or when someone, a neighborhood kid, maybe, disturbs them."
Fleishell said the animal noises are not a problem for most people in the area, which has a mixture of old farms, dairy operations and homes built in the past decade.
"There are other people with horses, ducks, goats, sheep and cows. And we've had our sheep for over a decade," Fleishell said, acknowledging that the flock has grown. "If he's had a problem with them, it's developed over a long time."
The Fleishells' appeal of their fine will be heard by the county Animal Control Board.
"Disputes like this are fairly common; we get a fair amount of them," said Keller Harden, animal warden supervisor for Howard County. "A new development comes up around an area that was previously rural . . . . "
Although many of the complaints are from newcomers upset by animals' odors and noises, the disputes do not always fit that pattern.
"Some of the new people come out to the country so their animals can run," Haden said, "so it's their neighbors and the farmers filing the complaints."
An even more common problem, she said, stems from the first encounters of previously urban newcomers with the wildlife that still exists near three-acre "farmettes" in the western part of the county.
"They call up all worried because they just saw a fox," Haden said. "A lot of people don't know what an opossum looks like. And they'll call up and say, 'I have this huge rat!'
"People just don't realize that wildlife don't respect property lines."