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, May 25, 2008

Tractor Time

I've been searching for nearly two years. My quest--a diesel tractor with a loader in good condition that can handle moving round bales. My first choice was a Ford 5000, but the closest I've come to finding my quarry was one for sale up in New York State that needed a new transmission. And, in its state of disrepair, was at the upper end of my budget. So when I called on an International Harvester 444 listed in Lancaster Farming last week, I wasn't expecting anything contrary than my futile search. But the man on the other end of the phone gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling. He had 11 tractors and didn't need all of them. He made horse hay on his family farm in West Virginia, about an hour from here. No, the tractor wasn't sold.

So on Friday, Ralph and I took a trip south to check it out. To our joy, the tractor was in good condition, had not only a bucket, but a set of pallet forks (perfect for moving round bales) and best of all, fell well within my budget. SOLD!Today, a friend of ours who drives very large trucks for a living and does tractor pulling for fun took me down to West Virgina to pick up the tractor with his gooseneck trailer. After getting the old iron home and hooking up the bucket, Ralph's maiden run was to simply go turn the compost pile. As he said, "I just had to move something!" The rest of the afternoon was spent with friends and neighbors looking over the new addition, including Madelyn who wanted to take it for a spin, but her feet couldn't reach the pedals.

Friday, May 23, 2008

True Love

As far as women go, I'd be considered an 'easy keeper'. I don't wear jewelry or perfume. I don't like cut flowers from florists. I think trinkets are dust collectors. I can cook better than most restaurants in a 50-mile radius and a night-out-on-the-town isn't very appealing to me anymore. So what's a guy to do?Well, Ralph has long figured that out. I love farming and he puts his muscle, heart & soul into those things that make my life easier. From time to time, he adds those little touches that lets me know he cares, far better than a card from Hallmark could ever do. This is the barn stall where Emma spent the winter. Until yesterday, there was about a ton of hard-pack manure and hay. There's no way to get power equipment inside and Ralph was opposed to any 'pigerators' so with a pick-ax, pitchfork and wheelbarrow, he cleaned out the barn. When he was done, he put down a layer of lime and sawdust. There was some leftover neon green paint from when we marked the trees for removal when the bulldozer came last month so he reminded me that for the last two days, his was not just a labor of necessity, but a labor of love. To me, that means more than any bauble from Tiffany's could ever be. So instead of flowers, he builds me flower and vegetable beds. And when more calves show up, he's right there with his cordless drill and spade bit ready to build a Mommy Bucket at a moment's notice.
It takes a special kind of guy to put up with a farming addict. I'm just lucky I found one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Going Out to a Fresh Paddock

Heading Out to Pasture

This is my first stab at embedding YouTube video into the blog. Here come the critters out through the pasture. They know they are going to get let out on virgin grass. Andy & Bango have already high-tailed it into the new paddock. Gray Ling and the bull calf lead the way, bellowing as they go. The goats follow close behind. Pax, the Pyrenees could care less. After all, she doesn't eat grass.
Happy Critters on Fresh Grass

Monday, May 19, 2008

What is Browse?

If you can see from one end of your paddock to another, in my opinion, you don't have browse.
These are the yearling open does that have just been turned out on a heavy browse pasture. They get this paddock, as opposed to the pasture-based paddock, for two reasons. First, these girls have been carrying a heavier parasite load than the breeding does herd. They've just been wormed and spent three days on the sacrifice paddock so the number of parasites being shed in their feces should be at it's lowest. Plus, the browse areas are not conducive to parasite retention as it has very little grass and mostly leafy plants. Secondly, they are still maturing and will not be bred until November. That means that they need to have access to good forage to meet their nutritional needs so they will be at optimal health for breeding this fall.
Haemonchus contortus, you can't get to me when I eat way up here!
After a walk around the farm, I stepped off an approximately 650' perimeter (four sections of electric netting) of the thickest browse I could find. Ralph and I have been creating paths through the browse with the Bush Hog over the years so fencing targeted areas has become much easier. This is a portable paddock consisting of four sections of electric netting from Premier One Supplies, a Patriot fence charger and a deep-cycle marine battery. By contrast, this is the grass-based pasture. This is the breeding (and hopefully bred) doe herd. Mr. Red Hot N Ripped gets to have his way with the ladies until August 1st and then it's off to Heartbreak Hotel until November. This year I'll have to keep him holed up in Fort Knox so as not to have any clandestine rendezvouses with the open girls who will then drop kids during the most miserably cold months of the year.

Pax, our young Great Pyrenees, runs through the herd keeping an eye on things. After all, this is new territory for her.
Everyone gets in on the action of the grass pastures--goats, cows and horses. Given the high cost of hay this last winter, I'm thankful to have Mother Nature providing her goodness.
Bango is most happy in her green pastures. It sure beats those old pipe corrals from her days in the west.
And for those of you who shop the Carlisle Central Farmers Market, it won't be long until these fresh Asian greens will be showing up at the stand. Be sure to get there early as we sell out fast.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Give Me Shelter

Last summer we held a Fencing Workshop for the Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network here at the farm. During the day, several attendees expressed interest in our low-cost portable shelters we had built so this year we are hosting another workshop--a day of hands-on building of a set of portable shelters on Monday, June 9th. You can sign up for the workshop HERE. Although the shelters are listed as being for small ruminants, they also work well for calves, pigs, turkeys, chickens, miniature horses....anything that can fit inside! They can be set apart individually, but we like to build them in pairs and set them up facing each other. We then place a sheet of reinforced plywood between the two and drape rubber roof down over the openings to make an excellent winter shelter. In the summer, we set them up side-by-side and place the plywood between the shelters creating a breezeway that provides shade This is the fourth set of portable shelters we've built--all of them have been constructed using salvaged materials for minimal costs. The first set used wooden pallets and old garage doors and wasn't very portable.

The second set was made out of a shipping box from a gigantic network attached storage system that was delivered to my former workplace. Six geeks trying to bust it up with a hammer was just too much, so I had them load it in the back of the truck. What a score! Ralph cut the box in half and mounted each side on a pair of landscaping timbers my Uncle asked us to burn for him, but we set aside because they were still in usable condition. The outer shell is the thin, flexible aluminum from a dough-boy swimming pool that was headed to the landfill on a local large item dump day. It's imprinted to look like wood, no less.
The third set was constructed from the T-111 Ralph tore out of a neighbor's house. We sprung for the barn red paint.This latest set is something different in materials--the aluminum roofing pieces that have been amassing behind the house--leftovers from neighborhood roofing jobs and a pile I bought at an auction for $5. Ralph found that cutting them with a circular saw with the blade turned backwards works, but is a royal pain the the butt.
With all the agricultural construction in our area, there are two local businesses that specialize in the aluminum roofing & siding materials. They sell the cap pieces (the ones that get scratched up) for $0.50 a linear foot---much cheaper than retail and they cut the pieces to size for free. The goats don't care what color the shelters are or if there are scratches so these last two shelters have been constructed out of metal instead of wood. Since the metal edges were very sharp, Ralph decided to add trim. It turned out that the trim added a significant expense to the shelters--about $45--and required more time and screws to install.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Attention All Home-Brewers!

When we first moved to Pennsylvania in 2000, we began brewing our own beer and joined a local home-brewing club to learn more. The Henrys, who didn't live far from us, gave us several hop rhizomes. We planted them but by the time they had begun producing hop flowers in the quantities we needed, our beer-brewing days had ceased.
The vines have been more of an ornamental, trailing up and over (and into) the outhouse and wrapping around the mailbox. Last year they got so invasive, I cut back the ones by the road and let the goats eat down the vigorous plants by the outhouse.
Ralph had been talking to a few home-brewers who lamented the increasing shortages of organic hops so he's decided to work with the vines this year and get a hop harvest. Knowing that the vines can reach up to twenty feet, he rigged a line approximately fifteen feet up into the cherry tree from the mailbox for the Cascades by the road. On one side of the outhouse, he's put to use our neighbors' old clothesline (thanks, Gary & Ginny!) and on the other, he's built a ten-foot tall trellis out of pipe and parts salvaged from a chain-link fence and dog kennel. Go Ralph!

Come harvest time, keep an eye out on the blog to see when we'll be taking our organically grown hops (no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides) to the Carlisle Central Farmers Market in downtown Carlisle.