Dexters, I guess

Well, we’ve finally got some cows. Dexters, I guess. At long last, and much mental and physical effort on Asher’s part, our fence is pulsing, and the cows are home. They don’t really seem to know they’re home, however, and the process for getting them there has been… entertaining. Some might even say frustrating.

On Wednesday night we were eating supper when I “missed” a call from Oren. I texted him, saying I’d call him back in a bit. His response. If you are still with Asher, tell him to call me right now.

I looked up from my plate of egg bake. “Asher, Oren wants you to call him. He said right now.” Asher paused annoyedly, nearly rolling his eyes. “I’ll call him back in a bit.” We went back to our respective egg bakes.

A couple further texts from Oren seemed to indicated mild to moderate frustration. I passed the general vibe of the conversation along. “Yeah, it seems like he really wants you to call him…”

Turns out, the Dexters had been hiding up in the southwest corner of the property, and the watering trough was towards the north. Asher’s plan was non-intervention: let them get comfortable, roam, and find their water. They would find it when they wanted it badly enough, and it would be a good incentive to get them out of that corner. Oren’s plan was intervention: Cattle Drive. Following his meeting in town, he booked back out to the farm to rally the motley crew left working on veggies for a good old-fashioned cattle drive.

A couple wild laps and one jumped fence later, they decided to give it up and simply move the water. A whole team of people who’d wanted to leave the farm hours earlier left late. Dexters.

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I remember when I told my Dad that we were getting Dexters.

“What kind of cows are you getting?”

“Dexters.”

A long-time milk hauler and dairy enthusiast, he paused uncertainly and furrowed his brow. “Hmm, I’ve never heard of Dexters.”

“Yeah, they’re small, I guess, and they really don’t produce all that much milk… their meat tastes pretty good though I guess, and they’re small… Yeah, I really don’t know exactly why we’re getting the Dexters…”

Randy Cutler, our fencing consultant and certified Gallagher Man, has raised Dexters, and had a couple available for sale. Maybe that’s why.

Anyway, earlier in the day on Wednesday, Asher and I had made a round out to Randy’s neighborhood in the Milladore area. We stopped at Mullins cheese store on the way, loading up on curds, mozzarella, sharp cheddar and garlic Jack, commenting how sweet it would be to produce our own milk and make our own cheese.

Which was the actually the major impetus for our trip, which included a stop at Joel K’s farm in Milladore, to check out a mobile milking machine. Having graciously offered us initial use of the machine for free, we figured we’d see if it was a worthwhile addition, to try and squeeze a bit of milk out of the Dexter and make some cheese of our own.

The machine was old, and Joel was absent, so plugged her in, fired her up and scratched our heads. Belt driven, hilariously loud, and slightly antiquated, it looked like the kind of thing that would fit well on our farm. We poked, prodded, speculated, and turned a couple valve nuts loose here and tight there. Finally, we felt some moderate pulsing, and eventually even coerced her into some mild suction. Nothing like successful milking would require, though. It seemed there was a long bolt missing in the center of the central unit, and the thing just kind of kept falling apart.

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Ella wasn’t digging the scene, or the noisy machine, so we put it back in the corner from whence it had come. Next stop was Randy’s, for some last-minute fencing and irrigation supplies. Somehow, his shop was simultaneously more and less professional than I thought it would be. Seemingly well-stocked with sharp, new materials, Gallagher signage and promotional pamphlets, he was coincidentally out of everything we actually needed. “Yeah, the round-tops should be coming tomorrow… nope, don’t have any of those right now… out of splitters…” At one point, he ran out the back door of the shed and took a small jumper cable off of his own fence for us, which was much appreciated. He very obviously knows his stuff.

Before we left, he advised gently against the use of Joel’s milking machine, in quite the same fashion that Joel had advised gently against the use of Randy’s cows, giving them a bit of a hilarious old married couple vibe — two guys in the same neighborhood who are obviously very good friends, and likely spend way too much time together; each thinking the other is a little nuts.

And maybe they both are. We hit the road and headed home — to our awaiting egg bake and Oren correspondence — with a few more fence supplies in-tow, and no real certainty about the arrival of the rest, or our eventual milking situation. At some point, Asher mentioned that the dogs had seemed initially afraid of the Dexters.

The next morning, that turned out not to be the case. I took the dogs for a walk on the leashes, and let them run in the fenced-in pasture they roam. They made a bee-line for the west, towards a gate I didn’t know had been left open. Minutes later, three Dexters circled our southern fence line, running for their lives with two aggressively barking dogs on the heel. I watched them charge towards our vegetable fields and hoophouses with mounting hysteria, imagining the destruction to all of our plots of vulnerable new plantings. I yelled at the top of my lungs; running at top speed as they approached the north fence, showing no sign of slowing.

Fortunately, the woven wire fence was an adequate deterrent, and they circled west. I let them pass, intersected, and captured the dogs. It was a traumatic experience for all of us. I thanked my lucky stars that they hadn’t burst through the fence and wrought havoc on our whole farm. They remained jittery for the next couple days, however, fleeing the Gator later in the morning, and rearing back excitedly at the sight of a small, squeaky toddling predator on the outskirts of the fence the following afternoon.

So, in their first three days, the Dexters have been famished for water, frightened by the Gator, driven over a fence, chased by dogs and excited by a squeaky small predator. I guess it’s about time to fire up that shaky old milk machine and go in for the teats. Maybe squeeze out a couple quarts for the ol’ cheese factory. Oh well. You know what they say about milking Dexters…

No you don’t. Nobody does.

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