Friday, May 8, 2009

Our Love Affair With Dexter Cows

I never thought I would say this, but I love cows. My husband grew up with cows, but the past few years have been a first for me. What gentle, wonderful creatures. I should actually say "little creatures" because our cows are Dexter cows, an old breed that originated in Ireland.

They are a lot smaller than your typical cow, therefore easier to handle around the barn yard. Our cow had her first calf last summer (my first calf, too) and I was so pleased at how easy the birth was. We bonded that day, Molly was in labor and I sat with her under the trees, keeping the flies away from her. When the time came for the calf, I was right there with her. Not that she needed me. Instincts kicked in and everything went smoothly. It was a happy day for both of us, and Emma entered the world. Emma is half Hereford, half Dexter (Molly was already bred when we got her, or else we would have bred her with a Dexter).

When the calf was born, we thought we would try letting her nurse and also try to milk Molly as well, so that we could get a little milk. That worked for about 2 weeks, then, the little pig got all the milk. I am not sorry, because Emma has grown into a beautiful cow. All that good milk, all she wanted, was good for her.

Dexters make a nice homestead cow because they produce a decent amount of milk, are good for meat, plus, with the addition of a yoke, are good workers. We haven't tried that with ours yet, but it is in the plans for the future. I would love to be able to use our own animals to haul out our firewood (no noisy gas engines). They are quite easy to train, ours love carrots and apples, and we have them trained to come when we ring a bell (we always give a treat.....I think bribery is a great thing).

I hope Molly's labor goes as easily this year as it did last, and I hope I can be right there with her.
Molly and Emma

A Little Sun

solar panels
The sun is actually shinning today a little bit. The first time all week. It's really tough on the solar panels with no sun! We have a gas powered generator that we run for back up, but we really hate to and are trying to do away with that. I am not sure if that is possible. We use propane as well, and would like to do away with that as well. Very tough.

The biggest problem we have here in the summer is refrigeration. While I would love to have a solar frig, we just can't afford one right now, so we have propane. We also use gas for cooking (only in the summer, in the winter everything gets cooked on and in the wood cook stove) and we have an on-demand water heater. Last summer we put in a wood water heater and used that all winter. I think I may try using it some in the summer just to see how it goes.

We are hoping to build a solar oven this summer and a solar dehydrator (I dry a lot of produce in the summer in the gas stove, not very efficient).

We would love to hear ideas from other people who are trying to do the same as us. I am always looking for ideas on how to cut back.

On a happy note, the strawberries I panted the other day are looking good. The rain was very good for them.