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, October 28, 2007

Back on Grass

Despite offering her some grass hay, alfalfa hay and even a little sweet feed, Emma hasn't been too interested in eating since calving on Wednesday. To coax back her appetite, I decided to set her up on the freshest, choice grass and clover on the farm. That patch also happened to be our front yard. After spending the time to get the portable paddock all set up, Emma refused to get up. Finally, I gave her an ultimatum--either get up or lose out on fresh grass. Nothing was lost in translation and she lumbered to her feet. Once outside, her head went down and that's where it stayed for the next few hours while the calf followed her around nosing all four teats, which she is now draining, thus, alleviating my need to milk much. Thanks to all that good milk, the calf had plenty of energy to burn off running around in the grass.

When I did a 'barn check' prior to turning out all the lights for the night, there was Emma chewing her cud and her calf by her side.

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has come out to support the Carlisle Central Farmers Market! Our stand continues to evolve. This week I was able to pick some red beets, tomatoes, chard and kale to take along. The hot items this week were our all-natural bratwursts, the Wallaby cheese from Keswick Creamery and the fresh pastured chickens from Otterbein Acres. Each week I have met many new people as well as learned to recognize the regulars. The market continues to grow and expand. Saturday hours have been extended an extra hour, plus there will be all sorts of special events taking place in November. On the 3rd, the Critical Mass Bike Race will end at the Farmers Market. On the 10th, there will be a Medieval Event, sponsored by the local SCA groups and on the 16th & 17th, there will be a Holiday Market in conjunction with the kickoff of Carlisle's Holiday Festivities. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Learning Curve

While hand-milking a few goats is no big deal, I knew I'd require a little mechanical help when it came to a dairy animal with an udder the size of New Hampshire. A few years ago, my neighbor had given me an old Babson Surge Milking System, complete with vacuum pump and portable bucket. However, since he had milked his goats, too, with the bucket, the unit had been modified for two teats instead of four. At first, I thought I could get away with just doing the front quarter and then the hind quarter, but after cruising on eBay for a few weeks I came across a really nice unit at a reasonable price.

Another reason I was anxious to get the Surge Milker going was to further alleviate my chances of getting the snot kicked out of me. Trust me, you just don't go and start tweaking teats on a first time freshener without any argument. And goats don't kick no where as hard as cows do.

The first day of trying to milk Emma was frustrating for the both of us. She managed to knock off my glasses with her tail. By the time I was done, I had more milk on my clothing than in the bucket.

The Second Day
Realizing that Melanie, Ralph or Jessica won't always be around to help, I decided to tackle milking single-handedly. Getting a better idea for what's going on, Emma was much more agreeable today. Her calf had been nursing regularly and she knew what that giant thing between her hind legs was for now. Plus, to help reduce the swelling, I was also rubbing her swollen bag regularly with "Udder Comfort", a natural cream that contains Peppermint Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Menthol & Lanolin. I can't believe I paid more for cream to rub on my cow's udder than for something I'd put on my own face!
Every few hours, I'd go out and milk Emma. She would start off agitated, but when I whipped out the cream, she'd relax. We always ended on a good note, and by the afternoon she would just stand there without even being tied.

So by late afternoon, I was ready to fire up the Surge Milker. Everything was cleaned & sanitized. All I would have to do is hook up the regulator to the vacuum compressor, adjust the inflation rate and try to convince Emma that the alien contraption I was about to attach to her udder would not kill her. But when I went to plug in the compressor, I couldn't find the cord. Upon further inspection, I couldn't find the motor! And then it hit me. We had taken the motor off the compressor earlier this summer to use on the hay elevator.

So I'll be hand-milking until I can get to Tractor Supply and get a new motor. We've decided to dam-raise the calf so I really only have to milk out the right quarters since the calf prefers the left side and has been draining them herself.

Freaking Out
Around three-three thirty, the milk turned a strange color. It was watery and brown. Jessica said it looked like iced-coffee. Frantic, I called Melanie who was in Philadelphia with the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance visiting White Dog Cafe, Reading Terminal Market and meeting with Jeffrey Roberts, author of Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, at DiBruno Brothers. It was a trip that I was supposed to be on, but with the calf's arrival, I knew there was no way I could swing it.

"Don't worry. It's just capillary bleeding and it's colostrum," she assured me. I'd seen plenty of colostrum, but never anything this dark. Maybe it's true that brown cows give brown milk.
Regular Raw Milk, Yesterday's Colostrum, Day Two Colostrum

While cleaning out the horse's stall next to the cow's stall, Emma laid down and took a nap, but when it was time to clean out her stall, she refused to get up. Panic-stricken, I called Melanie's mom, Susan, who has been milking for 30 years and is a walking encyclopedia about cows. If Emma wouldn't get up, she suggested calling the vet.

Twenty minutes later, Dr. Trent and his darling daughter arrived. The moment he pulled in, Emma stood up and began eating. "There's nothing wrong with her," he assured me. Her ears were warm, her heart rate and breathing normal. I showed him her milk. "That's colostrum from a Jersey. Don't you know that brown cows give brown milk?" I love my vet. He's got a great sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Let the Milking Begin!

The radar indicated that the downpour this morning would pass so I settled into my upstairs office with a cup of coffee and caught up on the latest news about the fires in California from my friend, Anne, who lives in San Diego. Despite the rain, the rising sun shed enough light that when I looked out at the pasture I could see there were five cows instead of four and knew immediately that Emma had calved.

She wasn't due until Halloween and I figured I would put her in the barn three to five days prior to the 31st depending on the swelling of her udder and vulva. When I checked her last night at feeding, both were still fairly normal. I figured that this weekend I'd give the milking equipment a good cleaning and get everything set up. At least I had the foresight to buy the E. coli vaccine for calves yesterday on an impulse when I was at the local farm store.

But the calf was here now and I was all alone...Jess at school and Ralph in Texas...so I called Melanie, over at Keswick Creamery (where Emma came from). She's birthed out enough calves in her lifetime, that she can do it in her sleep. She was here within minutes and between the two of us, we got mother & baby into a nice dry and deeply bedded stall in the barn.

Our next task was to milk out about a pint into a calf bottle to feed along with the vaccine. Without the confines of a parlor, it was a chore that required both of us to complete. For the uninformed, cows (and goats & sheep for that matter) need to get used to being milked. Until they get the routine down, they put up a pretty good fight and fighting with a thousand-pound cow is a lot harder than with a goat or sheep.

Thanks to Select Sire's sexed semen, the calf is a heifer (female) out of 7JE590 Action.

Of course, after all this was done it quit raining.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Check Out Those Mammaries!

Ok, so I'm a little excited about the impending freshening of Jessica's heifer the end of this month. This shot is for you, Anne! Our breasts are nothing compared to these babies and they are only going to get bigger. So, just what am I planning to do with all that fresh, rich Jersey milk? Of course, I'm going to be making plenty of butter and some cheese, but we had four new additions to the farm today that will also get some of Emma's milk.
Keeping track of bull calves that all look the same is difficult so they always get a generic name. These guys are going to be Eenie, Meenie, Minie and Mo. The "mommy bucket" is back in action. For those of you who frequent our stand at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market, look for freshly made Bratwursts and premium cuts from these calves' predecessors. Remember, there's no hormones, antibiotics or guilt trip with our naturally & humanely raised veal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Clipped Wings

We are often asked what's the difference between a heritage turkey and a regular turkey. Had anyone been visiting last night at dusk, they would have had first-hand experience.

Heritage turkeys can fly. Unlike commercial birds such as the Broad-breasted Bronze and White which have been bred to grow amazingly fast and develop oversized breasts to the point they are too heavy to fly or even naturally mate, heritage turkeys have smaller breasts and are still able to take to the air. This was becoming increasingly obvious last night as several birds hopped the fence when Jessica fed up her Farm Show goats in the pen next to theirs.

So Ralph and I had to do the duty. Clipping wings on small chickens and turkey poults isn't all that hard and I've done it by myself quite easily, but last night's task was definitely a two-person job. He would grab each bird by their legs, flip it upside down and I would clip their wings. Don't worry, there's no blood or mutilation involved...just a simple clipping. It was fairly easy to tell who had been clipped because I only removed the white-striped portions of their flight feathers.

Plenty of flapping, but no flying.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Glorious Fall Day at the Farm

What a wonderful fall day it was today. The breeding does cleaned up a long strip on the back of the large pasture. Mr. Martin is still actively doing his thing. Miss Kitty, Truffle and Phyllis where on his hit list this afternoon. I'm anxious to see what Pumpkin Pie (belted doe below) throws out of the black headed buck. She's 75% Boer, as is the majority of the breeding herd at this time.
The turkeys are getting big and gobbling up a storm. I'll miss them after Thanksgiving.

Miss Bango checking out the scenery out of her stall door in the barn. She's turned out most of the day in one of the pastures.
These are the young does turned out on what I consider "fresh pasture" although most farmers would have a coronary if their pastures were as weedy as mine! Actually, this is a typical browse pasture. I was browsed in June and this is secondary growth. A really good browse pasture is one you can't see through. I've found that when I run the goats on thick browse, they gain faster and carry a minimal parasite load.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Keswick Creamery

Hey everyone, Keswick Creamery finally has their website up and running so check it out! The URL is www.keswickcreamerycheese.com.
Melanie & Mark have been a HUGE inspiration and help in the trek toward making butter & cheese here at Painted Hand Farm. The Jersey heifer they sold Jessica just a little over two years ago will be freshening (having a baby calf for the non-farming folk out there), soon followed by the dairy goats so we'll be going online and fresh handmade butter as well as fresh Chèvre (correctly pronounced 'shev(r&), NOT 'shev-RAY') should be available from our legally licensed operation by February.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hitchcock at the Farm

Great writers and film makers are often inspired by real-world occurrences and the late, great Alfred Hitchcock was no exception. Actually, his movie was based upon a short story by British novelist, Daphne du Maurier. But there's no doubt that both of them had in their life witnessed the fall migration of birds, often amassing by the tens of thousands to begin their trek south for the winter. The past few days here at the farm, we've witnessed cackling flocks of birds blackening the sky in a mile-long swath.
This morning, the sound became deafening drowning out the television and radio, so I went outside to check it out. Anyone who has been here knows the size of the pine tree in the front yard. That tree was entirely full of birds, along with just about every other tree on the property, the barn roof, the telephone and electrical wires. They began taking off in waves, one after the other. Their departure took nearly twenty minutes until there were few birds in sight.