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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Saturday, June 30, 2007

PA FACA Goes to Washington, D.C.

This week the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance took a marketing trip to Washington, D.C. Our first stop was Agraria, which is a restaurant that uses locally grown products. They received quite a compliment from the Fishers, an Amish family making sheep & cow cheeses, who said that was the first time they've ever gone out to eat and had food as good as what they make at home.

Our next stop was at the Cowgirl Creamery where owners Sue Conley & Peggy Smith treated our group to a tasting of their cheeses and spoke about their dedication to providing a showcase for artisan cheesemakers.

After a short walk over a few blocks, we arrived at the Penn Quarter Farmers Market, one of the FreshFarm Markets. Market co-director Bernie Prince introduced us to the cheesemakers selling at the market and spoke about the demographic who regularly shops there.

Then we were off to the Big Bear Cafe where we were welcomed by Robin Shuster who has started a number of smaller farmers markets in several D.C. neighborhoods.

Our final stop of the day (after our driver was lost in D.C. for nearly 45 minutes) was the Whole Foods store in Georgetown. What a cheese counter!

Overall, the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance was well-received and from this trip I'm sure more Pennsylvania cheeses will be showing up in D.C restaurants, specialty shops, cheese counters and farmers markets.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Attention All Foodies!

For anyone who loves good food, I mean really, really good local, wholesome awesome food, this is the must-attend event of the year.

Last year's dinner served up an all-star menu (on which goat meat from Painted Hand Farm was served!) along with refreshing libations from Pennsylvania wineries and breweries.

There were over two dozen artisan cheeses provided by members of the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance. And who can turn down a chance to try delicacies such as Slow Roasted Suckling Ping with Mustard & Molasses Slop and Rosemary Crusted Leg of Lamb with Mint & Walnut Pesto...just to name a few of the many delicious items all prepared with locally produced foods.

Additionally, the evening includes wonderful music and a bag auction for marvelous donated items.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Latest Additions

This is how your Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners first arrive at the farm. Yes, that box hold 50 day-old turkey poults (that's what they call babies) hatched and shipped yesterday. Birds can survive without food and water up to three days after hatching because they are still drawing nutrition from their yolk so many birds are shipped through the regular old US Postal Service.

When the poults arrive, we take them out of the box one by one and dip their beaks in the water so they know where to drink. They will be kept in a brooder for a few weeks until they are big enough to go outside into a portable pen on pasture.

Veal Calves

A pair of Jersey bull calves arrived this week, too. They will be raised in an open, non-confined area prior to being turned out on pasture. Some people won't eat veal because they are opposed to modern commercial veal-raising practices. However, our calves are allowed to run free in the barnyard together and are not pumped full of any antibiotics & hormones.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Flitshinger

Ralph shows off his latest completed project here at the farm as the goats look on.

A couple weeks ago our elderly Amish neighbors had an auction to get rid of most of their worldly possessions. There was the $3,000 wedding quilt and lots of other pricey antiques, but we were after one thing---the ground-driven manure spreader. I remember when Mr. Fisher first bought the contraption not long after we first moved here. He enjoyed tinkering with it and would tow it behind his equally old 1952 Farmall tractor (yes, some Amish use tractors) spreading manure over his pastures.

As the animal population on the farm grows, so does the poop pile. Last year we had another neighbor spread our compost pile using his tractor & spreader, but we wanted one of our own.

As the auctioneer jabbered away with his numbers, I kept nodding my head. "SOLD for a hundred dollars," he barked. The spreader was ours. Later in the day, Ralph putted down the hill on the 8N and hooked up the spreader. Once parked in front of our barn, we began cleaning all the old plastic and baling twine that was wound around the bars with fingers that flings the shit into the air. Some of the bars were loose and broken. The back bar that gives the final oomff to the spreader was missing a few wings.

After several days of dismantling, cleaning, oiling, greasing, tightening and a few trips to the welder, Ralph had replaced the broken parts and had the spreader put back together ready to go to work.

We don't know what kind of spreader it is, but while at the tire shop (it needed a new wheel and tire) which is also an old farm implements bone yard I saw a similar model rotting in the weeds. "How much do you want for that old spreader?" I asked the owner.
"I'll take a thousand bucks for it. It's an antique, you know," he replied.

I knew we had done good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Birth of a New Venture?


Long before I ever bought the farm, moved back to Pennsylvania and started raising meat goats, I was fascinated by the premise of using goats for brush reduction after I first read about a company called Goats R Us. Not being prone to fires, I did not believe the need for kinder & gentler brush reduction methods were necessary here in the east.

But I forgot about poison ivy and began learning more about grass-based farming and certified organic methods. As I became more educated on the caprine dietary preferences for forbs and woody shrubs, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could give this a try.

Last year on the farm we experimented with spot grazing & browsing and from our success decided to build a rotational paddock system. But a series of events have taking place this spring that has led me to begin working with what I initially termed the "B-Herd" (those destined to become sausage) for brush reduction. With my freezers full and the farmers market at which I plan to sell my meat products not opening until this fall, I somehow had to hold over my culls a few extra months. For the non-farming folk, hay prices have nearly doubled so feeding them purchased forage would only result in a higher price for the consumer. Enter brush reduction.

Pressed for time with the upcoming PASA field day here at the farm, I wanted to get my woefully overgrown gardens weeded and planted. But with days of back-breaking weeding ahead of me, I shuddered at the thought of weeding to exhaustion for days on end. So I got lazy, spent 15 minutes installing my portable electric netting from Premier One Supplies and began my experimentation.

Now I understand that part of taking goats on the road for brush reduction is training them not to scatter. Most large herds use dogs such as Border Collies to help keep the strays in check. I decided on a bell. So on Saturday morning with my fencing all set up, I opened the main paddock gate and began walking down our road with a ringing copper bell aided with a feed bucket with a few cups of corn. They followed effortlessly. I repeated the ritual that evening back to their paddock approximately 100 yards away and twice on Sunday. My weeding was complete. Ironically, this is my perennial herb garden and I was prepared to sacrifice my well-established herbs and flowers to get this garden under control, but the goats only mowed off the chives....all others (oreganos, sages, lavenders, lambs tails and bee balm) were spared. Off into the woods will be the next test. Say tuned.....