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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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy 40th Birthday, Dave

Today is my brother's 40th birthday. It's kind of hard to believe that we're really that old now. It seems like only yesterday we were kids living in Holly, fishing in Mountain Creek, sneaking up to the Holly Dam to go swimming and working over at Orners' Greenhouse. He's still fishing--even celebrating his milestone fishing with our sister, Joan, at her place in New Hampshire. So, Happy Birthday Dave! And just so you wouldn't get mad at me posting an embarrassing picture of you as a kid, I included one of me, too. We were four & two. Look on the bright side, at least Mom never did that to your hair.

Squirrel Whisperer

Folks, this is my dad, the famous Squirrel Whisperer of East Pine Street. Scurious Sciuridae skitter from miles around to eat treats out of my parents' back yard. He has the squirrels so tame that they literally eat out of his hand.
But it's not just the personally harvested chestnuts, walnuts, hickory nuts and ear corn that the bushy-tailed rodents are after---it's the FUN! Mom & Dad's backyard is literally a squirrel amusement park. There's the whirly-bird gadget to which four ears of corn are attached and my personal favorite, the bungee-cord feeder. Not only does all this provide endless hours of entertainment for the squirrels, the humans are equally amused.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

WAgN Field Day in York

I have found that field days are one of the best ways how to learn both what and what not to do when it comes to farming. Yesterday's PA Women's Agricultural Network field day in southern York county was an excellent example of both ends of the spectrum.

We started off the day at Swissland Acres. While they had many great ideas, especially in regards to poultry, these people were a glaring example of what NOT to do when it comes to dairying--mainly, selling raw milk without any sort of testing or a legal permit.

At the State Senate Ag Committee Hearing on September 18th, during the open comments,
they stood up and said they were operating under the "single cow exemption" and were quoted in news articles stating so, however, they are actually milking a small herd. "We each have one cow," I was told. But the crowning moment of idiocy came when they allowed a full grown breeding Jersey bull with horns to blow through two strands of electric fence (that was turned off so no one got shocked) into the same pasture with everyone checking out their pastured poultry. Despite reassurance that he was a "nice bull", anyone who has had any experience with breeding bulls knows that these animals are unpredictable and dangerous. Here was a group of strangers between a pawing, bellowing bull and his cows. Needless to say, many of us kept our eye on him until we were safely out of the pasture.
Marc Shearer shows off his brooder design. Above is their home-built killing cone system and drum-style feather plucker.

A delicious lunch was served at our second stop of the day--Spoutwood Farm, home to the Mother Earth Harvest Festival (this weekend!) and the infamous May Day weekend Fairy Festival. Our gracious hosts, Rob & Lucy Wood shared with us about their farm, which includes a 100-member CSA. We toured the gardens with Rob offering samples of freshly-picked herbs & vegetables as well as his wisdom.
Rob Wood leading the group through Spoutwood's vegetable gardens.

Our third stop for the day was at Perrydell Dairy Farm, a third-generation dairy farm that bottles milk (legally, I might add) fresh at their farm. Although they only offered bottled raw goat milk from a neighboring (and permitted) farm, the Perrys hope to in the future be able to offer their customers raw cow milk after they transition from a conventional to grass-based dairy. For me, this was a great example of reality. Reality in dealing with circumstances and taking the time to effectively plan for expansion and change.
The Perry family in the bottling plant at Perrydell.

You can tell these kids live on dairy farms.

At the end of the tour, the Perrys treated everyone to an ice cream cone made from their cows' milk.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Green Grass Everywhere!

I finally got around to re-painting the mailbox after one of the local drunks whacked it off the post in broad daylight one Sunday afternoon on his way home from the local American Legion. Ralph built the post to take an impact and just pop off the arm on which the box sits instead of breaking off the whole post. His plan worked well, but still required some body work and a re-primering paint job on the mailbox. I'm sure the damage done to the truck was much worse.
We've got beeves on grass, veal on grass, goats on grass and even turkeys on grass! Grass-fed animals are better for the environment and better for eaters' health.Our veal calves lead happy lives on pasture instead of living in cramped, manure-laden pens where they are only fed a slurry of antibiotics, whey and bloodmeal.
We use the "follower" method that emulates the natural cycle of small & young grazers followed by larger grazers with birds...the cleanup crew...bringing up the rear.

This is the breeding herd meaning that this spring we'll have an explosion of kids come early spring. This season we are breeding to a black-caped purebred Boer buck bred by Joan & Bill Smith of BIJO Boer Goats in Gardners. Support a grass-based farmer today and help save the earth. :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Man on a Mission

As you can see, Ralph has been a man on a mission these last few days. Those first two beds have been amended, rototilled, sifted, tamped down, watered and planted with all sorts of tasty fall greens. To keep weeds at bay in between the rows, he's cut rubber roof. I'm sure his method of gardening will be much more prolific than me planting and then rooting through the weeds to find what I've attempted to cultivate.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Forget the Energizer Bunny

Some things keep going and going....like our rototiller. I heard the familiar sound of the Briggs & Straton 5hp engine on the old red rototiller that was given to me by my dear friend Joyce Lathan back in Ojai. When I lived on Rice Road, each year I would borrow her old rototiller to work my garden prior to planting. When she retired and left Ojai for Yuma she gave it to me. It worked like a champ for years until one day the engine froze. Before I could scrap it, Ralph and I happened upon an auction of old equipment at the city equipment yard. There were two edgers with the exact engine. I won the bid of $5 for both. The rototiller complete with another engine went back to work, this time at our place in the orchard on Fairview Road. When we moved across the country to Pennsylvania, the rototiller came with us. Each year it has continued to spring to life, its tines chewing into the dirt, mixing rich compost into the shale to produce yet another plentiful garden. Ralph is readying one of the gardens for a fall planting of hardy greens. With proper mulching and floating row covers, we should be eating fresh salad greens until the end of the year.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Overwhelming Success!!

We did it! This morning at 8 AM, we opened a market stand in conjunction with Keswick Creamery, at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. For hours, the market was awash in people from south central Pennsylvania checking out what all there was to buy...and buy they did!
This is our organically grown heirloom tomato salesperson. She did a great job when she wasn't eating Thai Pink Easter Eggs out of the cartons.

Chef Jason Turner from Alibis Eatery & Spirits gave the morning cooking demonstration using fresh ingredients from the market. In the afternoon, Chef Ross Morris from Piatto made a phenomenal batch of Butternut Squash Risotto as market manager Maryellen Stetz looks on waiting for a taste.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Saturday is Market Day!

While I attained my goal of selling meat produced on the farm at the farmers market at Dickinson College's local foods event in April, this Saturday marks the grand opening of the Carlisle Central Market in downtown Carlisle where we will be sharing a booth with Keswick Creamery. Please come out to show your support for local farmers, local foods and local businesses. The market is located at 111 Hanover Street and will be open from 8 am to 1 pm on Saturday and on Fridays from 11 am to 7 pm. We hope to see you there!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rotation Grazing = Moving Critters

Rotational grazing means just that...moving animals from one area to another. This mimics nature as animals move from one area to another as they would in their natural environment if we had no fences. For us, it was also a necessary step since the turkeys had figured out that if they all rush the electric netting at once, they can knock it down and stampede toward the person carrying the white bucket filled with food. Inevitably, one would get stuck in the netting and spasmodically jerk to the pulses of the electric fence until I could get to the jumper cable to turn off the juice. Being surrounded by a mob of nearly 40 turkeys didn't make the whole fiasco any faster. So on Sunday, we juggled critters in the name of rotational grazing and of practicality.
The first step was to move the three bull calves from their own pasture to the "big cow" pasture with Emma and the two steers. They're big enough to fend for themselves and I don't want them chowing on my concentrated goat food. The goats went into the pasture by the road. Now El Jefe, the Great Pyrenees will have even more subjects to guard. That pasture is usually the horse's day pasture, too.
Next, came the fun part...herding turkeys. I figured they'd be pretty easy to move since it was around noon and I hadn't fed or watered them yet. They'd follow anyone with a bucket. For the most part, they did, but a few stragglers happened on to a patch of something tasty, lagging behind. It took two tries to get all the birds into their new pasture previously occupied by the young bucks. Ralph followed behind making easy work of hauling their portable shelter up the hill. When all was done, the bull calves, young bucks and turkeys all had new digs to explore and stretch their legs as each got a bigger area in which to roam.
The turkeys found their new watering station as their new neighbors--Jessica's show projects--look on.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cheese & Beer: The Perfect Pair

Buy Fresh Buy Local kicked off Local Foods week here in South Central PA, the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance teamed up with Troegs Brewery in Harrisburg for an afternoon of pairing hand-crafted beers and cheeses. Last month I had the pleasure of attending a workshop at the American Cheese Society conference given by Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and author of the Brewmaster's Table. He explained that beer actually goes better with cheese for two reasons. First, he said, "You don't see cows eating grapes, do you?" meaning that cows eat grasses & grains to produce cheese while beer is also produced from grasses & grains so they are much closer together. Secondly, he explained that due to beer's carbonation, the fats from the cheeses are "scrubbed" from your tongue allowing for a true taste of both cheese and beer. Regardless of the reason, everyone enjoyed sampling both beer and cheese yesterday, attempting to pair the different selections together.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Congraduations to Wilma!

On of the people who has most inspired and encouraged me over the twenty years I have known her is Wilma Melville. She has ridden 100-mile endurance rides, trained and hunted with Red Tail Hawks, done theater, stand-up comedy and magic, built and flown airplanes, raised four incredible kids and makes the yummiest persimmon bread you'll ever eat. But this week she was honored by Civic Ventures by being awarded a Purpose Prize. She was honored for her dedication to founding and growing the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. The goal of the Purpose Prize aims to "invest in older social innovators by recognizing outstanding achievements, creating a network of people wanting to use their retirement years for the greater good, and channeling funds and assistance to these new pioneers." I remember in the early days of the Search Dog Foundation when Wilma would brainstorm with all those around her on how we could get people to donate ten dollars, let alone a hundred thousand! One of the things that makes Wilma so successful is her encouragement of those around her. Her faith in people's abilities has lead many to attain goals they themselves thought they could never achieve. Way to to go, Wilma! You deserve it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Weekend of Roasting Small Ruminants: Part Two

Thanks to my introduction to Kane's BBQ from the Skarlatos family, roasting a goat is a tradition that has taken place here on the farm for the last six years on Labor Day. This year over eighty neighbors, friends and family showed up to feast upon the bounty of locally produced foods.
Dad checking out what's left on the buffet wagon. Yes, we actually use a wagon!

Ralph has an audience as the goat is roasting. He's become a true master at this covering up the parts with foil that cook faster than the thicker parts.

Jim, Cecilia & Ralph hanging out by a well picked-over roasted goat.

Theo, Margaret and Linda relaxing and contemplating dessert.

Larry cleans up after serving up delicious snow cones. And yes, we still had home-made ice cream as always.

A Weekend of Roasting Small Ruminants: Part One

Labor Day weekend always starts out with the Skarlatos Family Reunion Lamb Roast.
The newest member of the Skarlatos family joins in the tradition of picking morsels from the roasting lamb.
The cousins carving the carcass.

Nick and I have been friends for 30 years. He's nine days younger than I am and just got married for the first time a few weeks ago. I honored them with a three-tier layered carrot cake. For anyone who has ever had my carrot cake, you know what a special occasion this had to be for me to crank out a masterpiece like that!

Some things never change......like a good bonfire!