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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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Primered & Painted

In the daylight it's easier to appreciate all the work that was done on the tractor. No more cracked and peeling hydraulic hoses.
Even though the block lacked a soft plug into which a block heater could be installed for firing up the diesel on chilly mornings, Nevin found one that installed into the radiator hose. The old, dented oil filter got replaced, too.
I knew that there was no way Ralph was going to be able to sit on his hands during the wet weather so he drove the tractor down to a neighbor's place who has a heated garage. They got the bare metal dried and etched yesterday. Today they primered and painted.
Kevin does body work and paints so he added some sort of 'secret sauce' to the paint in order to get it to harden up really good. In a few days, Ralph will be turning compost and piling up all the dead trees that came down over the winter.
Ralph and Nevin were practical when it came to the little details like chain hooks. We are really happy with the quality of work done by Nevin. If you have any tractor repair or fabrication needs, give him a call at Wisler's Machine 717-860-9904. He'll fix you right up.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Home, briefly.

Santa (aka Nevin) brought the tractor home last night complete with newly built bucket from plate steel, four new cylinders, all new hydraulic hoses and fittings and battery cables. The new battery was a Christmas present from my brother (thanks, Dave!). Nevin also fixed the leaky rear seal and added weight by filling the tires. BUT...sadly for Ralph, the tractor was delivered right around dark and the next morning greeted us with rain. There is no way Ralph is going to start scratching earth or pushing over trees with the virgin bucket until it is properly sheathed with at bare minimum, several coats of primer. He was twitching about getting paint on the bucket so he drove it down to his buddy's garage about a mile away where they're drying it off and getting ready to etch, primer and paint the bare metal just so he can go out and stab it in the compost pile.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Did Not Chop Down That Cherry Tree

But Ralph & Larry did, and it's a good thing because as you can see from the pictures, there wasn't much left of the inside of the old tree. We knew the tree's days were numbered and tried to extend its life by pruning off all of the dead branches, but when exterminating a nest of hornets in the trunk last summer, we realized just how hollow the tree really was.
With record high winds taking down branches and trees on the farm and throughout the neighborhood, I quit parking my truck next to the old cherry tree for fear it would come crashing down on top. However, where I was now parking in front of the barn also happened to be one of Ralph's favorite working areas. So today when I heard the chainsaw fire up, I didn't think much of it until the sound of the tree crashing to the ground rattled the house. Always thinking two steps ahead, Ralph offered to haul all of the wood over to Larry's house if he would help cut up the tree. Larry is one of the local hard-luck cases who lost his job and lives in a dilapidated trailer on a neighboring farm. He heats his trailer with only a wood stove. This way Ralph could make sure that Larry stays warm and that I get my truck out of his way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Babies, Babies Everywhere!

Marylin is hip to the cycle. A nice warm sunny afternoon. The perfect time to stretch out in the straw and give birth to a gorgeous set of twins (buck & doe) under the bright blue sky and a brilliant shining sun. Fortunately, I was on my way out to the main herd to see who was ripe for the maternity ward. Bypass, go straight to nursery. You know, the usual fresh straw, kid-warming barrels, partitions and baby monitor. With the warmer weather, Hershey and her kids stayed in the outdoor maternity ward until now. So across the yard we tromped, babies in hand, mommas in tow.
Tinkerbell's udder told me that she was also extremely ripe and needed to go over to the barn because birth was imminent. She got the luxury suite and was able to birth in the privacy of her own jug. And boy, did she ever deserve it. In less than ten minutes after bedding her down in her own stall, with minimal effort she dropped a set of triplets.
And by the next morning, they were standing and nursing while she continued to clean them. Good mommas are worth their weight in gold.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It Lives Again!

Ralph came into the house this morning and said, "The good news is the rototiller fired up when I put fuel in the engine. The bad news is the rototiller fired up when I put fuel in the engine." Yes, yes, you know how some guys are about their gadgets. Actually, the rototiller was my gadget until Ralph discovered gardening back in Ojai.

I first used the Sears & Roebuck tiller when I moved to the Ojai Valley in 1988. My riding pal, Joyce Lathan, lent it to me so I could till up the yard at my cute little house on Riverside Road. I grew a variety of tomatoes, peppers, greens and herbs that year. Every year following that (and at all my subsequent domestiles) I hauled Joyce's rototiller over to the house in my pick-up truck and turned my soil for the coming year.

When Joyced moved out of the Ojai Valley, the rototiller became mine. Again, it chewed up virgin ground for a new garden at the trailer in the orchard on Foothill Road until BANG! The engine blew up. By then, Ralph & I were together and you know how he's loathe to let anything go to waste. "All it needs is a little Briggs & Straton engine and it will be good as new," he said.

That evening, the local newspaper advertised that the city was having an auction of all it's old equipment. "I bet there's going to be lots of engines there," said Ralph and we were at the city garage at the appointed auction time later that week.

Sure enough, there sat two landscaping edgers, their blades chewed beyond repair. "Those are the exact same engine that was on the rototiller," pointed out Ralph. Withour bidder number in hand, we were the only people to want the edgers. The city sold them both to us for $5. Back to the orchard we went where Ralph promptly dismantled the equipment, saving only the useful parts. By the next day, the tines on the tiller were again turning.

That's been over ten years ago. The same engine is still on the tiller and it's broken ground for four new gardens here at the farm and continued to power through the soil year after year. And there's still a spare engine tucked away in the barn for the day that this engine gives out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's All About Love

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. This is my Valentine from Ralph from several years ago--a 50-foot red heart in the middle of the pasture. There hasn't been much snow on the ground this year and if there was, now there are animals in that particular field who would have to investigate. I don't particularly relish the thought of having my heart trampled. But this was and oldie & goody so I thought I'd share what farmers do for their loved ones on Valentine's Day instead of sending chemically polluted roses grown in South America and unsustainably flown to North America or giving diamonds that have been dug from earth-destroying pits using child slaves where the profits continue to fund military dictatorships and political unrest. Let's not even consider the environmental impact of precious metal production. So, what does a guy get a gal who doesn't wear jewelry, perfume or like cut flowers? A card and chocolate, will do just fine, thank you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Slapped By Mother Nature

Last night the winds started howling. Some of the strongest winds I've experienced since moving back to Pennsylvania has hit in the last twelve hours--gusts up to 70mph! Of course, it had to happen on a trash night so everyone's garbage cans in the neighborhood were on their sides and the contents are now splattered across the farm and tangled in the browse pastures. While doing chores this morning, the wind was so strong, it was literally blowing hay bales like sausages across the lawn. Bird feeders, wind chimes and anything else that hung from a tree are down. When the wind gusts, the entire house shakes. Last year, Ralph build a couple of new types of shelters using metal instead of wood. He screwed the extension top between the two huts out where the goats are right now, but Jess and I put an extension on the two in the pasture last month for the bull calves and failed to screw it down. When the sun came up this morning, the shelters in the far pasture where on the fence. Had they not been stopped by the wire, I'm sure they'd be in Newville by now. You can see how far the wind rolled them from where the extension lid was left. They held up pretty good. The only damage was the skid on the one that rolled the furthest was broken--not an expensive fix, but a fix none the less. So far there is only one spot where a tree has come down on the fence. It wasn't a big tree and fortunately, it was a "trash" tree (wild cherry). Since we haven't tightened the wires in that section of fencing yet, the worst it did was pop out the top staples on one post. But not all the impact from the winds has proved to be a bad thing. Just ask the goats.
Oh, yummy, yummy, yummy! Pine tree for breakfast.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The New Gals In Town

It's a sad fact of life. Kids grow up--both goat kids and human kids. Sometimes when the human kids who have spent years in 4-H and FFA grow up, their parents are left with grown goats who have become like members of the family. So when one of Jess's fellow 4-Hers contacted me about my quest for some quality meat goats to supplement my customers' orders, I agreed.

Over the years, I have watched as the goats from their farm were lovingly primped and cared for so they would shine in the show ring come fair, Roundup or Farm Show. Our children helped each other show their numerous breeding stock projects. So it came as little surprise to me when I got home and decided to add four gorgeous does into our breeding herd.

Meet Ears, Lola, Barbie and Annie.

Monday, February 09, 2009

They Just Couldn't Wait

Given our schedule and the weather, I've always tried to end kidding season by Christmas and resume after the PASA conference. Last year was a disaster due to some clandestine visits to the open doe her from Jessica's show buck while I was away in Burlington, VT earlier in the summer. Kidding season started during Farm Show week which was also blisteringly bitter cold. Nothing worse than having to use a digging iron to chip frozen dead kids out of the mud.

So when breeding season rolled around, I kept all intact males under lock & key until the day came that would ensure kids would not begin to arrive until I returned home from State College. Or so I thought.....

Well, this time is wasn't the buck getting loose. It was a doe. Hershey was the bellwether that the battery charging the electric netting needed recharged. She ended up in the barn with her face in the feed sack. Instead of dragging her back down to the pasture along with a fresh battery I tossed her in the buck pen for a whole 15 minutes thinking what are the chances she's in heat and will actually get bred. And if she does, I should make it home from the conference a day or two before she pops. Yeah...right.

So on Sunday as I was sitting down to brunch prior to heading home my mobile phone rang. "I thought we weren't supposed to have any kids yet," Ralph said. And then he held out his phone so I could hear the telltale sound of a newborn kid. Damn.

Fortunately, the weather had warmed up and the birth of the twins was effortless to an experienced doe with excellent mothering instincts. I came home to a buck and a doe. In another week or two, the real kidding season should begin.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What a Bummer

You know what this is? It's Painted Hand Farm, Keswick Creamery and Otterbein Acres pulling out of the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. As many of you who follow this blog know, all three of us have been at the market since the doors opened back in September of 2007 selling locally and sustainably produced meat, dairy, produce and baked goods. Between the three of us, we had soft and hard cow and sheep cheeses, yogurt, pudding, eggs, veggies, fruits, bread, grass-fed beef & lamb, pastured chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, pork and goat. Who can forget the Fishers' fresh blueberries, Keswick's creamy yogurt or when Jessica roasted her 4-H goat and sold sandwiches and tacos?

A HUGE THANKS to our loyal and supportive customers. Our business was good enough to keep coming back week after week, but due to politics beyond our control, we are no longer able to sell at the property located at 117 North Hanover Street.

Fear not, however, the farmers will be back come spring with an outdoor, seasonal, farmer-run, producers-only market delivering fresh, nutritious, sustainably-produced local foods to the people of Cumberland County. Stay tuned......