Welcome to Painted Hand Farm

Painted Hand Farm is a 20 acre Civil War era farm located in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. We raise meat goats, veal calves, turkeys and organic vegetables using humane and sustainable agricultural practices.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Farming with Free Stuff

I recently wrote a story for New Farm about turning a junk farm into a functioning sustainable enterprise. When the editor asked me to talk about the financial costs, it got me thinking more about the savings we've done by salvaging, recycling and trading in order to get where we are.

Yesterday, I took this picture of Ralph moving a portable goat shed. As I looked closely at it, it spoke the world as to how people can effectively farm without spending a fortune.

This picture represents a savings of approximately $34,000. Yes, that's right...thirty-four thousand dollars. This is the list of all the items in that picture that only cost us our time.
  • 68 fence posts removed from a neighbor's property who no longer wanted fencing. We knew the fence had been installed less than five years prior by the previous owner. The posts are 6" treated which cost approximately $8.50 each new.
  • The portable shelter is made out of a shipping crate for a large network attached storage device that was delivered to the lab were I used to work. The guys were going to dismantle it until I had them load it in the back of my truck. The crate made two sheds. The sheds are covered with aluminum from an above-ground pool that has a fake wood graphic. Ralph picked it up along side the road during large trash item clean-up week. The skids are from landscaping timbers my uncle was hauling to the dump. He just happened to stop by to say hello before going. Needless to say, his load was significantly lightened. New Port-a-Huts with the same space are $475 each. In addition to being portable, our huts can be set face-to-face 31 inches apart and then a rubber roof (scrap from our neighbor's roofing business) covered garage door (also salvaged from a neighbor's remodel) can be set over the span creating an even larger hut.
  • The pure-bred Boer buck that has bred 21 of my does was leased in trade for my work for the owner to create a 36-page catalog for their production pen sale. If I were to purchase a buck of this quality, I'd spend a minimum of $2,500.
  • And for the biggest savings of all...the truck. Yes, that truck was free! I have the exact same year and body-style truck in a diesel version so when a former co-worker of mine was moving out-of-state and wanted to get rid of his old truck, he offered to give it to me for parts. It ran rough and had over 250,000 miles on the engine, but lots of the parts were still good. We drove it home and after $78 in parts, the truck ran fine. That was nearly three years ago and we've put less than $100 in it since. Even the tool box in the bed was free. Granted, it took some sanding and painting to make it look better, but both gull-wing doors work fine and it doesn't leak. A new Chevy today would be around $30,000.
As you can see, there is a significant savings to be had by not being afraid to do a little dumpster-diving, spending time removing something useful someone else doesn't want and trading your non-farm expertise for goods & services.

Be creative! We salvaged an entire farm! This place was a dump when we first arrived in 2000. I could add even more ideas--kidding pens from old doors (they even match!), shelters from silo covers on pallets. Look around...there is lots of life left in what others call "junk". Ralph built a cold frame out of another neighbor's garage doors. It's the middle of February and we are still eating fresh salad!

It's taken a lot of sweat, but we're meeting our goals. Yes, I don't have all the latest and greatest status-symbol items. But I also don't have any consumer debt or a vehicle payment. So for anyone who says they can't afford to farm, I say HOGWASH!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Everyone has been after me to keep up with my farm blog, but writing for a living....well, you know it's like a plumber with leaky pipes and a mechanic whose car always needs fixing. But the babies are coming daily so I thought I'd post a little something every day during kidding season.

Kidding season officially started last Friday with a set of twins born to a purebred Boer doe--Clara. She's a lousy mother...never even looked back at her kids. Left them there on their own. I had to halter her to nurse.

Two days later, we had another terrible mother--Ashley--with twin bucks. Jessica joked that we should name one of them "Karen" (after her biological mother), but then changed her mind deciding to save that name for a future market hog.

Nestle also kidded that evening, however, she was a wonderful mother to her single doe.

The next day held our first casualty. Pumpkin Pie had trouble kidding and drug her partially born baby around essentially killing it before it was born. In an attempt to salvage her colostrum (first milk, for you non-farming folk), I haltered her and worked at grafting one of Ashley's kids on to her.

Teacup, also a maiden doe, popped on the 13th with a big buck.

February 14th brought us two maiden does each kidding large singles. Appropriately, the girl was named Valentine and the boy is Cupid. Cupid is a toad and will most likely be one of Jessica's 4-H projects (that's Cupid and his mother, Oreo).

So far, all of the kids have been white with brown heads....traditional Boer, regardless of their percentages. But this afternoon Anabelle graced us with our first two paint kids. The doe has a dark brown body with two white legs on the left side. Maybe I'll name her Lefty. The second kid born was a traditional colored buck and a few minutes ago she surprised us with a triplet buck all dark brow with a lightening bolt down his ribs on either side...flashy little devil!