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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Monday, April 27, 2009

A Day Off the Farm

It was the first day this year to hit 90 degrees and Ralph talked me into a trip up into the mountains near the farm. We stopped by some mountain creeks in the Big Flat area and then on to Long Pine Dam.
When we first arrived, there was a woman taking pictures of something along the lake's edge. I thought it was a turtle, but closer inspection revealed a frog orgy. These little fellas (I think they're Mountain Chorus Frogs) were singing their hearts out.
And those who impressed the larger ladies got to ride around on their back and procreate.
We hiked to the overlook of the dam and spillway where we had lunch.

As usual, we picked up garbage on our way back down the trail. People can be such pigs. That's Ralph with the first aluminum can of the day. By the time we got back to the truck, we had over a dozen assorted bottles, cans, boxes and bags.
There's a nice little boat launch ramp. Combustion motors aren't allowed on the lake so it's nice & quiet. Lots of kayaks.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What a Trooper!

As Alex was pitch-forking his way through the winter's bedding pack of the barn's center isle, he looked up at me and said, "I think it's ironic that while most kids are getting cleaned up for the prom, I'm shoveling shit." 
No, no...he's not being punished (as in some other teenager I know who occasionally wields a pitchfork to atone for her misdeeds). His choice and he was much luckier than anyone else who, to this point, had to do the dirty deed because now having a tractor with a bucket we no longer have to hoof each wheelbarrow load down to the compost pile, just outside the gate. 
Cleaning the center isle is not for the faint-at-heart or weak-at-hand.  It gets packed with straw, hay, goat poo, urine and birthing fluids all year long until spring and then it's time to clean it out. I've done it, Ralph's done it (a few times), the Amish kids next door did it the year Ralph broke his leg, AJ Potter did it. It's a necessary evil due to the design of our barn which was built before the days of tractors & skidloaders. If I ever build a barn for animals, I'm going to design it so the area where they are kept is wide enought to get my tractor through so all I'll have to do is drop the bucket and put 'er in gear. Until then, someone will keep pitch-forking.....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Morning Bliss

There's something majestic about an 1,800-pound draft horse galloping across the pasture in the morning sun. From my office window this morning, I noticed Andy kicking up his heels and taking a good romp back and forth across the lush green pasture, his blond mane and tail streaming in the wind. Never mind that up close he looks kind of ratty--a big bald spot on the bridge of his nose from where the previous owner let the halter grow into his face or his unkempt hooves because he refuses to stand quietly to have them properly trimmed. He's blowing his winter coat right now, too, so there are huge patches of matted fuzz waiting to be rolled off as soon as he can find a rough, dry spot. When he first started shedding, I noticed a sizable yellow spot out in a dip in the pasture. It looked as if someone had dumped a load of sand. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be his rolling spot. Guess I'll break out the shedding blade and help him along.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Babbies, Babies Everwhere!

We knew that Spot had her kittens two weeks ago. In the morning, she was a walking football, but later that day, she appeared obviously deflated. We hunted throughout the barn--in the hay mow, on the third level, under the lumber pile, in every nook & cranny hoping to find a nest of babies. The search widened to the basement, the sheds, the stock trailer and the front porch. Still no luck. We didn't think we'd see them until they would begin to expand their horizons. As I was sitting on the step up into the barn's center isle giving Delilah her bottle, Spot slipped out from under the wooden ramp up into the barn. She had revealed her hiding place. Sure enough, when I tipped up the ramp, there they were with their eyes fresh open, mewing curiously at the new world to which they had been exposed.
Shortly after the discovery of the kittens, Peaches went into labor. I was going to take her from the main herd over to the maternity ward when she decided she would rather plop right down in the tall green grass and have them on her own terms. Seeing as she's the matriarch of the herd and an all-around great goat, I obliged her. While I worked in the garden, she birthed a buck and a doe, each in excess of ten pound each! Peaches was one of our first goats and these will be her 28th and 29th kids. She and another goat are neck in neck for production. Carlisle will pull ahead if she has triplets this time, however, Peaches is still ahead in terms of kids weaned. Peaches has some dairy goat (Saanen is my guess) somewhere along the way and this batch of kids were born with wattles, the little danglely things on their neck.
Maddie loves the baby goats. Only five more years until she's old enough for 4-H!Emma's little squirt is growing like the weeds he's relaxing in on this warm, sunny day while his momma grazes.
Peach wasn't the only one to have twins. Her daughter, Phyllis also had a buck and a doe the day before.
The buck gets some na-na while his sister relaxes from the stresses of being born next to a shady round bale.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Hottest Ticket in Town!

If you like great local food, wine & beer served in a gorgeous setting, this is the event of the season you don't want to miss. Hurry before tickets sell out.

Event Tickets are $50. Partner Level Tickets are $75. Your ticket purchase at either level supports the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's efforts to build vibrant regional food systems. Tickets purchased at the Partner Level show that you not only appreciate good food and the farmers who grow it, but you also understand the importance of supporting PASA.

You can purchase tickets HERE online or call 814-349-9856 ext. 208

Friday, April 17, 2009

Not a Joke

I know you're out there. I'm talking about you...the goat farmers who routinely bring their babies into the house. Whether you are dairy goat folks who automatically pull the babies soon after birth or the meat & fiber people who occasionally end up with a bottle baby. I've been to your homes and seen kids in make-shift pens in your dining room, on heating pads in your bath tubs and curled up on the couch next to your husband. There's always an endless stream of pee and little yellow globs with the consistency of a quasi-melted Tootsie Roll that someone invariably steps in and tracks throughout the house. We know that baby goats are mouthier than a Retriever puppy, but not as destructive. Throughout my experiences with house goat bottle babies I found that getting them to pee on a towel was a fairly easy process after mopping up a puddle or two and leaving the towel lay in the general area, but imagine my surprise when I found Delilah using the cats' litter box in my office! This isn't a posed shot and it's about the third time I saw her do it. However, goats urinate much more than cats meaning I have to change it more often and needless to say, the cats are none too pleased.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sure Signs of Spring

Easter wouldn't be Easter without the fragrant beauty of Hyacinths. I remember when I used to work at Orners' Greenhouse across the street from my parents' house on East Pine Street when I was a kid. One of my jobs was putting foil on the Easter flowers and taking them over to Richwines' garage across the alley. The garage always smelled so wonderful. Spring wouldn't be spring without daffodils, either.
The pear blossoms are just starting to unfurl, but I hope they stay shut long enough to evade the next bout of cold weather.
We have one house goat--Delilah. Fortunately, it's warm enough to put her in the peep pen so I don't have to follow her around with a towel cleaning up her little puddles.
With spring comes grass, with grass comes grazing and with grazing out comes the portable fencing and charger.
Why fire up the lawnmower when you can turn the first lush front yard grass into milk and butter? Plus, Emma gets to show off her new baby to the neighborhood.
The only disadvantage to grazing cows in the front yard.....

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Milky Milky Time

Yes, the 1952 Surge Milker has been serviced with new parts from Hamby Dairy Supply and is ready to go. I kind of think the old contraption is like my truck--parts are cheap and it keeps on ticking. As you can see, I'm down to milking one teat on my two-teated Jersey. Make fun of me all you want, but there's a healthy bull calf in the barn (for the uninitiated, that will bring about 160 pounds of delicious veal) and I'm getting 17 pound of milk (8.33 pounds of milk per gallon) out of a single quarter....do the math. As of today, the milk is good to go "in the tank" as they would say in a regular dairy.
So, just how do I know the milk is ready for personal consumption? Sure, there are LOTS of people who like colostrum, but capilary bleeding...I'm with Mel...that's just plain gross. The bull calves can have the "strawberry milk." YUCK! But what do we have here? All the 'goodies' that go along with good udder health. First, there is the CMT paddle (aka California Mastitis Test). It lets you know when the Somatic Cell Count (SCC) is high by getting 'snotty' when you add the reagent to fresh milk out of the teat on to the paddle. Today, mine came back clean so I'm good to go for drinking, butter, creme fraiche, etc. I credit a speedy recovery from calving to the Udder Comfort, which I pay $25 for a tube. It has essential oils that help reduce inflamation. You know Emma must be special if I spend that kind of money on her udder and I cringe at spending more than $5 for the cream that goes on to my face. Teat dip is another essential for milking, regardless if you are doing one or a thousand cows.
For those of you who are family milkers or want to leave the calf on the cow, this is the difference between the favored teat and those to milk. As you can see, the calf teat is squeaky clean, while there is crud on the the lower and hind quarter. While the calf is on, I'm down to milking a single quarter, but it's worth it.
17 pounds of milk out of single quarter with once-a-day milking. Works for me. By the way, I ran the numbers from Emma's last lactaion. Out of her two functional quarters, I got 6, 136 pounds of milk out of which I made 244 pounds of butter, had fresh milk & cream to drink for nearly 330 days, had significant supply of real buttermilk (pancakes, salad dressing, drinking etc.), made creme fraiche and fed the excess buttermilk & skim milk back to the veal calves to create some awesome meat. Family cows ROCK!!!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What a Weekend!

The weekend started off with a bang or should I say a gush of amniotic fluid? First, Emma calved on Friday night. Unfortunately, I didn't use sexed semen on her third artificial insemination attempt. I lost in the 50-50 chance of having another heifer. But he's still healthy and cute as the dickens.
Shortly after Emma popped, so did Oreo with a set of twins. I didn't find them until the next morning when they were all dried off and hiding in one of the pasture shelters. Since winter weather decided to return, they are now snug in the barn in the stall next to Emma & her baby.
Saturday it was off to the Dickinson College Local Foods Celebration. This is the 6th year for the event. There is a farmers market during the afternoon and a dinner made from all locally-produced food in the evening. Many of the vendors and customers from the former Carlisle Central Farmers Market were there. The customers were happy to see their farmers, get their food and are looking forward to us returning to Carlisle later this spring without being under the thieving thumb of the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority.
Melanie, Maddie and Paul set out delicious dairy products from Keswick Creamery.
Diane Wiest from Brushwood Farm has our favorite soap--Patchouli Lime
Our dinner table.
My delicious dinner of local salad greens with Tait Farm dressing, pastured turkey, pastured pork sausage, roasted root vegetables and potatoes and mushroom soup.
And of course, no local foods event in these parts would be complete without a table full of artisan and farmstead cheeses.