Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Q&A: Cooking and bulls

Questions from a reader:

What's your favorite meal to make and why? Favorite dessert to make? Favorite thing to can? What item couldn't you live without? How hard is it keeping a bull for breeding? Have you ever tried AI with your cows?

Favorite meal: Hmmm, I have several, but one of my favorites is chicken piccata.

Favorite dessert to make: Trifle.

Favorite thing to can: I don't know if I have a "favorite," since I'll can whatever needs it. Perhaps a better answer is what do I find most satisfying to can? That's easy: Whatever we grow entirely ourselves, whether it's corn, peas, garlic, tomato sauce, blueberries, pears, apple pie filling, strawberry preserves, plum butter, etc.

What item could I not live without? My husband (wink).

How hard is it keeping a bull for breeding? Not hard, if you have a tightly fenced bull pen. Over the years we've had our bull loose with the cows, and the result is indiscriminate breeding whenever a cow is in heat. (Not to mention the occasional indiscriminate breeding with a neighbor's cow.) We like our ladies to calve during warmer months, i.e. between May and August, so it helps to keep the bull in his pen at other times.

The pen, obviously, has to be stoutly made. Even then, escapes happen.

I should point out we only keep Dexter bulls, which are fairly good tempered (for a bull). And at the moment, we are bull-less.

Have you ever tried AI (artificial insemination) with your cows? Yes, back when we lived in Oregon and didn't have room to keep a bull. Our success was mixed: Of the three times we tried it, two failed and one worked. AI is wonderful if you're set up for it, but in this deeply rural area, having an AI expert handy exactly when a cow is at the right spot in her heat cycle is not easy. For us, it's far, far easier to keep a bull, especially now that we have a place to put him.


  1. I'm glad you mention Samson as I keep meaning to ask 'What happened to him'? He's sure a hansom bull and I'm sure he isn't bull burger. Please tell.

    1. Actually, I'm sorry to report Samson IS bull burger. We have to swap bulls about every five years or we risk inbreeding, and Sampson also had a horn scur that threatened to grow into his skull, so butchering him was the best option. But you're right, he was very handsome.

      - Patrice

  2. We were blessed in that my husband was AI trained. Very handy when you have a dairy herd. Now that we've downsized dramatically and only have one cow he is available to AI for other farmers. A bit of extra income for our wee farm.

  3. LOVING the Q&A idea.

    Someday I might even come up with a question that's less inane than most of my opinions...

  4. Two more questions.....I know your well is really deep...I think 480 ft. Is that normal for Idaho and your area? With so much rain and snow I was surprised it is so deep. Also, what do you do with all the extras you produce such as eggs? With the daughters gone it seems you would have an over abundance.

  5. I'm glad you clarified AI. For a moment I was thinking A1 sauce. Ha!

  6. This is cool! Some more questions for your Q&A sessions...Best homestead WIN and FAIL...favorite 'go to' quick meal...easiest and hardest veg to grow in your climate...5 quick tips for a newbie gardener or homesteader or urban gardener/'s a biggie for me, how to downsize your daily cooking when you FINALLY become empty nesters after being used to cooking for a crowd...Oh, Patrice, I could pick your brain for days, LOL!