Four years ago, “The guy who cuts the grass said, ‘I’m going to retire,’” said Frank Alfieri, administrator at the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan, New York. The Reverend Monsignor Donald Sakano, who is pastor of the church, said, “What am I going to do, get sheep?” and they did.

This landscaping crew knows innately, intuitively, instinctively how to tend grass and improve the look of a lawn. Any landscaping crew knows that, but this is not just any landscaping crew.

“This is lamb-scaping,” said Alfieri, with a laugh. These landscapers are sheep--three ewes, to be exact. They will spend six weeks at the Basilica’s yard, nibbling their way through the churchyard. They will graze by the ancient, weathered gravestones. They will bleat and baa and maybe even butt heads, but they will get the job done.

They will also be the latest in a woolly procession that began four years ago, because of a vacancy on the church staff. The arrival of sheep at Old St. Patrick’s has become an annual event, anticipated in the neighborhood the way the return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano is anticipated in California. In preparation for their arrival, Old St. Patrick’s, built before and during the War of 1812, lets the grass grow.