Dairy cows are true Mainers

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the cows think it’s delightful!

Seriously, cows much prefer the cold of winter to the heat of summer. I highly doubt the happiest cows are in California. Maine weather is perfect for cows. It never stays hot for too long, and a lot of rain and a little sun make for good grass.

On a recent blustery morning that started out at below zero and worked its way up to about 20 degrees as the sun came up, I stopped in to a couple of farms on my way to work to see how the dairy cows were fairing in the cold. It wasn’t like I was avoiding going to the office or anything; this is important work.

The barn was nice and toasty as the milking was finishing up at Triple D Acres – the Donald family in New Sharon. The farm, which ships its milk to Organic Valley, milks 70 to 75 cows.

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They have mostly Holsteins, but are crossing in the Normande breed as it easier to maintain with less grain. The telltale of a Normande cross is the circles around their eyes, said Jeff Donald – the nephew of the farm’s owner, John Donald.

Normande cross calf at Triple D Acres in New Sharon, Maine.
Normande cross calf at Triple D Acres in New Sharon, Maine.
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I, myself, recently got a Normande cross bull calf, and he too has rings around his eyes.

These little gals were not at all cold in their barn.

Normande x Holstein calves at Triple D Acres in New Sharon.
Normande x Holstein calves at Triple D Acres in New Sharon.

The heifers and a few dry cows were already outside. They have substantial, woolly coats to keep them warm and seemed oblivious to the cold even though my fingers were starting to go numb while taking their pictures. I love the slightly wild look they have when their hair starts growing out.

This Triple D Acres Heifer is growing a thick coat to keep her warm through the Maine winter.
This Triple D Acres Heifer is growing a thick coat to keep her warm through the Maine winter.
These are the tweens and teens of a dairy farm. Old enough to be outside but too young to be out with the bull.
These are the tweens and teens of a dairy farm. Old enough to be outside but too young to be out with the bull.

The older heifers that were (hopefully) bred to have their first calf about nine months from now and some of the dry cows were out in this big beautiful field. Triple D Acres will fool you. It looks pretty small from the road, but it is how it sits. Everything goes slightly downhill. Jeff led me out behind the barns and all the sudden it opens up. I am a sucker for rolling hills, and this place has them. It didn’t look like many bovines at first. As I started to take pictures, Jeff told me to wait. We were on a slight rise and I couldn’t see all the heifers until I got a little higher. I am going to go back (this is me inviting myself, but they are super nice people, so I am sure they’ll be OK with it) in the summer. I imagine it’s absolutely breathtaking when it’s all green and the cows are out grazing.

Heifers and dry cows out on winter pasture at Triple D Acres in New Sharon, Maine.
Heifers and dry cows out on winter pasture at Triple D Acres in New Sharon, Maine.

 

Thick, fluffy coats for the winter.
Thick, fluffy coats for the winter.
Black cow, white snow, blue sky.
Black cow, white snow, blue sky.

More fluffy cows.

Because it was such a gorgeous day, and the sun was warming, I kept on going into Farmington, turning onto Bailey Hill. When I saw By-Grace Farm, my jaw dropped open. It had that classic New England look, complete with a stonewall and big ol’ white dairy barn. The following picture doesn’t do it justice.

By-Grace Farm of the Bailey family in Farmington, Maine.
By-Grace Farm of the Bailey family in Farmington, Maine.

IMG_5392I was pretty much given free reign as long as I promised not to get a picture of the farmer. Honestly though, I usually get so into taking pictures of the cows, most of whom seem to really want their picture taken, that I leave out the humans. Oops. But just so you know, these cows aren’t on their own. They are in the very capable and caring hands of farmers who are just camera-shy.

Post-milking at By-Grace Farm. The ladies are gathering in the sunshine for a mid-morning meal of hay.
Post-milking at By-Grace Farm. The ladies are gathering in the sunshine for a mid-morning meal of hay.
By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine
By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine
A couple of Holsteins stop to check me out as they leave the barn after morning milking.
A couple of Holsteins stop to check me out as they leave the barn after morning milking.
Calves at By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine
Calves at By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine
Sweet little red and white calf at By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine.
Sweet little red and white calf at By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine.

And what is cuter than calves?! These little ones were inside the warm barn.

Oh wait, there’s a human! There! In the background.

By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine
By-Grace Farm, Farmington, Maine

 

Cold weather is always the best time for cooking soups and stews, which I have to say is probably what I am best at making. On the other hand, I am unable to make a small pot of soup, so it’s a good thing they are tasty because we are going to have to eat it for a few days. Every time I make a soup, my significant other mentions that his grandmother always makes dumplings and how delicious they are. Never mind the fact that I raised the chicken myself or that all the vegetables came from my mother’s garden. He kept hinting at the dumplings, so I figured I would give it a go. Turns out they are so simple. I don’t know why I had never made them before. Of course, I didn’t want to do just plain dumplings like everyone else, so I decided to make mine with buttermilk and Cheddar cheese. Gotta one-up Grandma, ya know?

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Well, significant other did not exactly appreciate my creativity. I loved them. He didn’t say he didn’t like them, but he obviously wasn’t overjoyed. His tastes are rather bland, shall we say. I don’t think he appreciated the tang of the buttermilk, which was only enhanced by the sharpness of the cheddar.

So on day two, I made another batch – just boring plain dumplings. I am offering both recipes here. You can choose. And just a note, you really can’t overcook dumplings as the liquid of the soup will keep them from drying out.

buttermilk cheddar dumplings