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, April 22, 2008

Farming with Free Stuff, Act IV

Our friends and blog readers know that we're hardcore freegans here at Painted Hand Farm, so when someone at a southcentral PASA committee meeting announced they had an older Ford diesel flatbed free for the taking, I had to ask about it. Turns out that it has a 6.9L engine and runs. Sure, there are some quirks--sticky glow plug actuator, fuel gauge doesn't work and it has been cobbled back together after hitting a pole, but all-in-all it will get put to good use.
Ralph is already making plans to fix all the little things and then install a dump kit for the bed. It's already hinged so it just needs the cylinder and the lift kit. Also in the image, you'll notice another set of portable shelters. The multi-colored siding came from a neighbor's bone pile after he completed some roof & shed work. The short pieces worked perfect for us. He already put it to use when he picked up a free work counter with cabinets from a pizza shop that went out of business. It was 9'x4'x3' and will be perfect for the creamery.
I see a lot of farmers driving around in their $50K pick up trucks and you know what...either their spouse works full time off the farm or they're in debt up to their eyeballs. The last thing I want is a $400+ monthly vehicle payment plus the cost of insurance that goes along with it. Anyone who says they can't afford to farm, I say "hogwash"! There's plenty of opportunity and free stuff out there as long as you aren't hung up on pretty & perfect.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Make Way for the Fencing

We've reached the point in our rotational browsing project that requires some trees be removed. After surveying the lay of the land, Ralph pointed out that there were LOTS of trees that needed removal, many of which were dead or dying pines. So instead of him slogging away with the 8N and a chain saw, we hired a local heavy equipment contractor to clear out pathways where the fencing will be installed. Ralph explained to the operator that only pathways were to be cleared...not the entire area as he thought we wanted done. We had to explain to him that all the briers and vines were what we wanted to grow. We just needed to get fencing down through certain areas.
The path for another 16' alleyways is cleared.

A former grove of dead pines once blocked the path of a future fence row.
This was another fence row that needed clearing, only this time the operator got into deep mud caused by the recent rains. Fortunately, he made it back up the hill. We had to hold off on two areas that were slated for clearing due to the recent heavy rains. At least the wet ground make it much easier for pushing over the shallow-rooted pines.

We were left with three very large piles. I was in favor of turning the goats loose on them to clean up all the green, but Ralph feared that as high as the piles are, the goats would clime on them and get caught in the unconsolidated branches. I know what he's thinking..."I need a can of gasoline & a flair gun!"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sure Signs of Spring

One of the sure signs of spring in our neighborhood is when we start hearing the roar of the lawn tractor engines. This is how my neighbor mows his grass. And this is how I mow mine. No noise, no riding around in circles for hours on a Saturday afternoon, no paying $3.50 a gallon to fuel the mower and have it belch fumes. Instead, I've opted for 15 minutes of setting up the electric netting and spending the rest of the afternoon working in one of the gardens. I've learned that if I work in the garden next to the fence, I can toss over all the weeks I pull and the goats will happily snap them up as well. One more iteration before it becomes compost.
Emma is more than happy to trim the lawn. The only problem has been that we have a lot of wild onion & garlic. She's so happy to be back out on lush forage, but her milk right now is quite odoriferous and has a peculiar taste. Nothing you'd want to make a batch of ice cream with.
Speaking of the Allium genus, these are Ralph's Elephant Garlics he planted. I'm looking forward to soaking a head in olive oil, roasting it on the grill and then spreading the soft bulbs on freshly-baked crusty bread. Yum!
Spring is my favorite season because of the fruit blossoms. The cherry trees rain down petals of white and the peach trees light up the yard with their rosy blossoms against the backdrop of green grass and freshly rototilled dirt in the garden.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back-In-Stock & Then Some

Once again, the freezer is full at our stand at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market in downtown Carlisle, PA. In addition to our usual items, including goat meat, Guilt-Free Veal and bratwursts made from a combination of our veal and pork produced by Cedarbrook Organic Farm, we now have grass-fed beef including three different styles of all-beef sausage. There is Mild, which is made with brown sugar & pepper, Regular Italian and Hot Italian.

For Weston A. Price practitioners, you'll find an assortment of organ meats, including liver, from grass fed animals raised without the use of chemicals, hormones or antibiotics.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Out with the Old, In with the New

Well, I wouldn't exactly call the steers & calves 'old', but it was time for them to take a trip to see Mr. Horst, our USDA-certified butcher approximately 45 minutes from the farm. It's never an easy task, but it's a fact of life whenever a farmer raises livestock for meat. While there are a few USDA butchers closer to the farm, I prefer to take my animals to Horsts' because they do an excellent job at cutting & packaging. Rarely do any of their vacuum-sealed packages come unsealed. But most importantly, they provide a clean and low-stress holding environment. The animals have access to water and are not kept in over-crowded pens. No downer cows, no abuse, no filth. Because they limit the number of animals they slaughter in a given week, Horsts can devote the care needed to minimize the possibility for contamination. We can thank Horsts for maintaining our level of quality in the products we deliver to our customers. I think I'll dig up some fresh horseradish to go along with our grass-fed steaks.
Phyllis plays Queen of the Stump.

This is Emma's calf, Grayling. She's getting so big. Don't worry, Gray. Be a good girl and you won't end up at Mr. Horst's.
No matter how good any of these guys are, though, they're going to be someone's dinner eventually. Until then, they'll live the good life.
And speaking of the good life, the next batch of veal calves is already here. The truth is if you eat ice cream, drink milk, use butter or any type of dairy product, you're contributing to the veal industry. They can't all be bulls or beef, especially the Jerseys. They are a by-product of the dairy industry. Since practically all veal operations only use large-breed dairy calves for veal since they grow faster, smaller breeds are often worthless on a commercial level. Instead of living three or four months in cramped boxes, fed a slurry of powered bone meal, milk and antibiotics and injected with synthetic estrogen, our calves have room to run and are fed a mixture of skim milk and buttermilk with some added organic 'milk only' replacer and grass hay or pasture. Sure, the meat is a little pinker than that pale, gelatinous goo tasting of little more than the sauce in which it is cooked which is currently sold as veal, but when you toss one of our veal chops on the grill it's going to end up tasting good without any help from breading or sauces. For people who love good veal, but don't want to eat it because of all the horror stories they've been told by the animal rights activists, remember this picture.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Local Foods Celebration

We participated in the Fourth Annual Local Foods Celebration that was held at Dickinson College. This year's event was a fund-raiser for the Southcentral Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. The event kicked off with a three-hour mini farmers market with local producers offering a variety of locally grown and made products. While I was setting up, one of the students was on her mobile phone telling someone that she was at the Holland Union Building where some sort of a 'flea market' was going on. So I stopped her and said, "I am NOT A FLEA. I am a FARMER and this is a farmers market." Flea markets are analogous with second hand, low quality, counterfeit, bootleg and inexpensive non-food items. Under no circumstances do I ever want my food products, in which I take great care in producing, lumped into that category and sold next to outdated Avon or someone's used sporting equipment. If there has been anyone who has pounded this into my head, it has been Melanie Dietrich Cochran of Keswick Creamery. She and her husband, Mark, have been selling their farmstead and artisan cheeses at producers-only farmers markets for five years. Together, we share a stand at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. We are also both active in the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance and were able to sample some locally produced cheeses at the Local Foods Celebration.Cheese was everywhere at this event. Other local cheesemakers and PA FACA members, Otterbein Acres also had their sheep and cow milk cheeses for sale along with Lena's awesome bread. They, too, are vendors at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market.At the dinner, a variety of cheeses from local producers was served. Besides good food, there were also some finely hand-crafted items from local producers including brooms, fiber, quilted and woven items from Knelm & Carolyn Winslow.
Diane Weist from Brushwood Farm was also there and I couldn't resist her Patchouli Lime with Hemp Oil soap. She is also an occasional vendor a the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. Doesn't her soap look wonderful? You should smell it...fantastic!