Landscaping has a different meaning for every American. For some, it’s a way of improving their home’s resale value by 14%. For others, it’s a way to keep their basement from flooding — clogged gutters are the number one cause of flooded basements, but landscaping tilted down toward the building’s foundation is another significant cause.

Yet for New Yorkers living in Manhattan, the word landscaping has a different meaning altogether.

“This is lamb-scaping,” said Frank Alfieri to the New York Times.

Alfieri is an administrator at the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan where a team of three professionals will make their annual trek to feed on the grass in the churchyard. That’s right. Feed.

Old St. Patrick’s has been hiring the assistance of three sheep for the past four years and the ewes’ arrival to the churchyard has become an annual neighborhood event.

“They’re irresistible in a mystical way, because they don’t do anything,” said the pastor of Old St. Patrick’s Rev. Msgr. Donald Sakano. “The attraction is, in a pressure-cooker world where there’s so much anxiety, they’re the image of tranquillity.”

Old St. Patrick’s use of sheep to tend to the churchyard began four years ago when the church’s groundskeeper retired. “The guy who cuts the grass said, ‘I’m going to retire,'” said Alfieri, “and the monsignor said, ‘What am I going to do, get sheep?'” Two days later, the church tracked down a farmer willing to lend the church three ewes.

Using sheep to mow the lawn isn’t as strange as it sounds. Goats and sheep have been used to tend the grass of yards and lawns in small farmland areas for years. Their innate ability to maintain the lawn’s length reduces the need to mow the area by hand three to four times a week on average.

It also negates the need to apply postemergence herbicide at half the recommended rate after these mowings to control the growth of weeds. The goats or sheep take care of the weeds on their own, which is not only great for the environment but also great for the landowner’s wallet.

“They did a better job than the guy who cut the grass,” said Alfieri said the sheep.

The church never uses the same sheep twice and is sure to name each group. The first year’s sheep were named Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh after the gifts of the three wise men. Last year’s sheep were named Charity, Hope, and Faith.

This year’s sheep, a group of ewes from a farm in Elizaville, NY, 110 miles from Old St. Patrick’s, are currently named No. 1004, No. 1018, and No. 1078 as most standard sheep are so as to separate them properly from the flock.

The sheep, lent by farmer Sara Healy, are a breed of sheep called cormo, originally bred in Tasmania. According to American Cormo Sheep Association, they eat 40% less feed than the average sheep and are also smaller in size. This suits well with the size of Old St. Patrick’s churchyard, which sits at eight-tenths of an acre.

“The city can be a pretty lonely and dreary place at times,” Sean McCluskey, a volunteer shepherd at Old St. Patrick’s, said to the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s nice to have that sign of life here. It’s a nice juxtaposition.”

Photo: National Catholic Reporter