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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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Actually, it was more like, "where did this chicken come from?" While working out in front of the barn today, Ralph was visited by this red hen. We didn't think any of our neighbors had chickens so it left us wondering just where on earth she came from. Her wings were visibly clipped and she appeared to be well cared for. We thought about putting her in the barnyard, but around sunset she went back across the road. Turns out some of our Amish neighbors just set up a new chicken coop. So now when we ask why the chicken crossed the road, we know she came over to hang out with Ralph for the afternoon. I wonder if she'll come back tomorrow since he tossed her shelled corn all day. Blooming crocus and swelling lilac buds...more signs of Spring's arrival.
And we call these characters the Comeback Kids. I'm amazed at some plants' ability to overwinter and snapped right back with the first few warm days of spring. This chard, spinach and Italian green (which is more red) are practically ready for harvesting! Despite being in the 20's last night, the appeared fine this morning even without any cover.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Babies & an Emma Update

A lovely set of twin does from Tinkerbell.

It's been a while since I posted an update on Emma's udder drama. Here she is all healed up and in production. So much for buying a Surge bucket with four inflations. I'm back to using the modified bucket for goat milking. As you can see, her entire front quarter, including the teat is gone--a true "three-titter". Due to mastitis, I dried off the hind quarter on the same side. Whether or not that quarter will milk again normally is anyone's guess. I won't find out until her next lactation. But for now, she's still pumping out approximately 30 pounds of rich Jersey milk each day from which we make butter, buttermilk, feed skim back to the veal calves (along with the buttermilk when we can't use it all) and drink for our own consumption.

This is the latest rendition of Ralph's "self-portrait" from the gleanings of things he finds in the dirt around the farm. The frost heave gives up more 'treasures' each year and finds a place for them somewhere in his whimsical expressions.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Farewell, our lovely girl

Some days just plain suck and today was one of them. Our wonderful Great Pyrenees, Dora crossed over the rainbow bridge. It was very unexpected and we are extremely saddened.

However, we know that her spirit and will to protect in a most gentle nature will live on in her offspring who currently work on farms throughout the east guarding sheep, goats, horses, llamas, alpacas and poultry along with those who work in their own special way as therapy dogs.

A very special thanks to Dr. Chris Palgrave, a recent veterinary school graduate from Scotland who is working for our regular veterinarian. His professionalism, empathy and respect for Dora's wellbeing in the last moments of her life are a a true indicator that he'll make an excellent veterinarian in the coming years.

Dora, your warm furry dog hugs be dearly missed every morning at Painted Hand Farm.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Two Strikes, You're Out!

This isn't baseball. This is sustainable farming and that means making tough decisions when it comes to breeding stock. At Painted Hand, you get TWO chances to reproduce and show yourself worthy, but after it's off to add to the bottom line through another profit avenue.
Hottie, one of our purebred Boer does, blew it again. She is a perfect example of what has happened in the meat goat industry, especially with registered Boers. Hottie was a product of a purebred doe that was brought up from the south for a registered production stock sale about five years ago. Buyers in the northeast were desperate for registered Boer goats. Unfortunately, they were also ignorant and paid top dollar for animals that should have been culled. But instead, slick salesmen drove their animals north and peddled them to many unsuspecting buyers for top dollar instead of to the auction or slaughter house.

While Hottie's bloodline is impeccable, sporting many of the well-known genetic lines of the Boer goat world, the truth is that she herself needs to be taken out of the gene pool for a variety of reasons.

First, she's a lousy mother...drops her kids and then walks away. Zero maternal instinct. Secondly, she has a very poor teat structure known as "fish teats". Each one of her teats ends has a functioning pair of nipples. Milking colostrum out of her has been difficult & messy. Despite her good body condition and minimal parasite load, this is the second time she's kidded with low birth weight babies when all the other does are delivering normal kids. If you follow this blog, you may recall the Neonatal post from about a year ago.

Yes, that was her doing. This time she had twins--bucks both less than two pounds. They should have been 8-10 pounds each. Again, she dropped them and walked away. When we found them, they were cold and one hadn't even been cleaned off. They were barely alive. Off to the neonatal ward to get dried off and warmed up.
Both were still weak so after stripping colostrum from the doe, I tubed them. One perked up, but the other I put down this morning rather than let it suffer. It was obvious he was not long for this world.

Despite having the ability to be registered as breeding stock, the remaining buck is destined for the dinner table. Low birth weight combined with an undershot jaw has levied two strikes from the moment he hit the ground. He'll be raised up to 20-25 pounds and sold as a whole milk-fed kid or put into our own freezer. While I admit that I may sound callous, the reality is that if people in the meat goat industry continue to breed inferior animals, the reputation and growth of our industry will suffer. That's why in a few weeks, all the does who have blown two consecutive breeding seasons, will be heading to Horsts', my USDA butcher. By doing so, I feel that I'm being a responsible breeder by not allowing such poor genetics to continue to pollute the Boer goat gene pool.

So, look for goat sausage at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market by the end of April.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Harbinger of Spring

It's that time of the year when the days have begun getting longer and daylight savings time steps in. Nature is just begging for winter to relax its cold, hard grip so the cycle of life can once again leap forth in all it's wonder. Despite a somewhat drab appearance, this is one of my favorite times of the year. The creek runs through the center of a still frozen riparian. Rarely do I get to explore this part of my farm and find such treasures. In the late spring, the wetness and thick organic matter makes it impossible to tread anywhere near the stream without sinking up to one's butt cheeks (don't ask how I know). Further into the summer and fall, the dense brush adds to the impenetrable nature of this area. And in the winter, the starkness lends to quiet contemplation knowing everything lies dormant waiting for the longer, warmer days' return.

Despite temperatures in the low thirties and a bitter wind, I took a long walk and discovered the first signs that spring is near--the emergence of Symplocarpus foetidus....skunk cabbage. Soon they will unfurl their huge fan-like leaves into a dense carpet of green to be followed by the May apples.
Winter couldn't decide if it wanted to snow or rain so it did both and then threw in a heavy dose of wind for good measure just to knock down all the dead and weak trees whose roots had lost their anchors in the saturated earth.

This fish box awaits another season as a holding tank for water collected off the backside of the barn roof. Of course, Ralph is no dummy and he knows what all this means....time to service the chain saw and get it ready for a good workout.
There has also been another arrival...Oreo had a strapping set of twins, buck & doe, both with gorgeous black heads.

Not exactly a Barrel of Monkeys, but just as fun.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I must be doing something right

Wow. I was totally blown away when I found out that I'd been given the Project Grass award this year. After all, the farm is more like Project Weeds. People think I'm joking when I tell them that we cultivate poison ivy, multiflora rose, chicory and thistles. While everyone else is out trying to eradicate these 'invasive species' from their farms, I'm carefully rotationally browsing the goat herd to take advantage of these high-protein leafy and woody forbs.

Using Weeds of the Northeast, last year I identified 47 different species of plants in my paddocks.

So now I have this really cool sign I get to hang up and got my picture in Lancaster Farming this week. Click on the picture to read the article about the Pennsylvania Forage & Grazing Council's conference.