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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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The First Meeting

Miss Bango, a Foundation-bred Quarter Horse, and I have been companions for fifteen years as of this month. Despite everyone's belief that when I bought the farm I'd soon have a whole barn full of the four legged beasts, I'm a one-horse kind of gal. As a matter of fact, I think the last time I rode a horse other than my own was three years ago when I was in California for a visit and took Rocket my buddy, Tim's Palomino up Sisar Canyon in Ojai with some of my old trail pals.

As the years go by, you learn to recognize your horse's facial expressions and moods. I knew early on that Bango was incredibly jealous and any time she would see me riding or driving other horses, she would turn her back to me and squeal. So when Andy showed up in her pasture on Sunday, needless to say she glared at him with pursed lips and stomped indignantly in her stall.

Monday and Tuesday delivered miserable cold rain and driving bitter winds. Being a priss, I knew the old red mare would resent being turned out so she stayed in her stall brooding about the big blond Belgian she could see from the barn. He would whinny, but she refused to respond.
Finally, I turned her out into the front pasture yesterday. I knew that if I put her in the big pasture with the big horse, she'd make a bee-line for him and proceed to beat the living daylights out of the poor guy.

At first, she kept her distance from the fence line, snorting and prancing, deciding to investigate while Andy stood patiently on his side of the fence waiting for an introduction. Visibly full of attitude, she approached the fence. Both horses stood face to face, their necks arched and silently exchanged greeting for several seconds before the silence and stillness was broken by a blaze of red squealing, kicking and stomping that sent the behemoth of a gelding dashing across the pasture like the devil herself was after him. Cautiously, he neared the fence again and the whole process repeated. After a few episodes of this game, Andy grew bored and went back to grazing. Bango stuck near the fence and cursed at him the rest of the afternoon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Sunday of Pictures

Did you ever have one of those days where you felt like you really accomplished something? Today was one of those days. I guess it's also a culmination of a very productive week.

Guilt-Free Veal. The calves' shelter and loafing area. No tiny crates for them!

Most commercial veal operations bucket-feed calves. We use 'mommy buckets' since the sucking reflex on calves also produces saliva to help aid in milk digestion.

One of the steers looking for a handout.

Ralph's awesome garlic garden for next year. He's got four types of garlic varieties planted, including Elephant Garlic.

Rifle season for deer starts tomorrow. Today, all the breeding does were brought up to the barn from the far pasture so some idiot doesn't mistake a goat for a deer and kill one of them. The grabbed as much browse as they could between the back pasture and the barn paddock.

Mother Nature helps us decide what trees get removed.

Along with the movement of the goat herd goes the moving of their portable shelters. The alleyway was designed so that vehicles as well as the portable shelters could be accommodated.

Meet the newest resident of Painted Hand Farm--Ragedy Andy. Jess has been riding him at another farm. Sadly, this sweet Belgian gelding was left for dead in a barn leased las year by her riding instructor. When she moved in, there he was--underweight, sick, overgrown feet and his halter was grown into his face (you can see the permanent divot in his nose)--a real mess. Gradually, Andy was nursed back to health, but he needed a home. Jess and her instructor tag-teamed me the other week when I got caught between the two of them at the feed store. "Mom, we could go trail riding together," she said. I couldn't say no. We stuffed his draft horse butt into the stock trailer earlier this afternoon and now he's here.
Jess is away at the National 4-H Congress so she'll really be excited when she gets home.


Emma is feeling much better. She's walking without hesitation, eating and increasingly making more milk day by day. She churned out nearly 20 pounds (2 1/2 gallons) of milk over the last 24 hours on only half an udder! Yes, I'm still hand-milking, too.

As you can see, the entire front quarter is gone...including the teat.. The brown mess hanging at the rear is what's left of it. There is still a teat in the rear quarter, although it continues to pass very bad mastitis when milked. The skin surrounding the teat is also necrotic. The vet says she'll lose that quarter as well, but as long as I can work fluid (and solids) out of the teat, I'm not giving up. Most of the brown mass to the rear is a giant scab sloughing off. I'm keeping salve on the new skin below. The fissure to the right is also beginning to close up. Twice a day I've been cleaning the entire wound with a weak Betadine solution with a large syringe and by hand. I've noticed significant improvements and have the utmost respect for health professionals that not only have to do this sort of stuff on animals, but humans as well.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Naked Bird

Despite my plans to take pictures of my beautiful Thanksgiving turkey and the rest of our delicious dinner, we dug in and polished off a 15-pound bird before I could click off a few images.

I can only hope that the pastured heritage turkeys that graced our customers' tables turned out as juicy and tasteful as ours.

People always ask, ' How long will it take my turkey to cook? and Do you have any good recipes?" So while the numbers are recipes are fresh in my mind, here is how I prepared my family's bird this year.

Pastured Heritage Turkey
1 15-pound bird
2 gallons of brine solution
2 quarts turkey stock
1/2 cup Maple Syrup and Herb Butter

The night before, I made a brine solution for the turkey using a cup of Kosher salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup Maple syrup (grade B), peppercorns, bay leaves and a half gallon of apple cider and water. For easier cleanup, I first inserted a plastic bag in a five gallon bucket and then inserted the bird breast down and filled it with the solution. I put a bag of ice on top and set it on the cool porch overnight. The next morning two hours prior to cooking, I removed the bird from the brine and set it on the table to come to room-temperature.

While the oven was heating up to 450 degrees, I whipped a stick of butter with a 1/4 cup of grade B Maple syrup, a tablespoon of rosemary and some orange zest. Working my fingers and hand between the turkey skin and meat, I smeared the butter concoction under the skin as well as on the outside (it helps to pat the bird dry prior to this step). I quartered a large Bosc pear and inserted a quarter under the neck flap and the rest inside of the bird. The bird was placed on a rack in a roasting pan and I added two quarts of turkey stock to the pan and popped it in the oven at 11:30 am.

At 12:20, I peeked in the oven as the aroma of roasting bird was beginning to permeate the house. The breast meat's internal temp was at 104 degrees. By 1:00, the bird was really sizzling (NO BASTING) but the temp wasn't quite there--only 128 degrees. At 1:30, the thermometer read 155 degrees. Darn, I had overshot my goal of 140.

The bird came out of the oven and was left to set on the counter covered slightly with foil until 2:00 pm. The New York Times had a great article including video, The Butcher's Method Takes Carving Off the Table. Let me tell you, folks, this bird-carving method rocked! I especially liked the way they carved the breast similar to the way breast meat would be cut in a deli--across, not with the grain of the meat.

Despite my error in judgment with temperature, the bird came out extremely juicy.

The rest of our dinner included giblet gravy, cranberry compote with pears, persimmons and black raspberry juice, mashed golden sweet potatoes, cornbread & oyster dressing and steamed asparagus.

Many folks have asked for an update on Emma. Since today is Thanksgiving, I won't gross out everyone with ugly udder pictures.

The vet was here yesterday and trimmed away all the necrotic tissue hanging off the udder. The entire front right quarter--teat and all--is gone. The hind right continues to be highly mastitic, but I keep working away at it several times a day to work all the infection out of there. Dr. Trent said chances are good I'll have a Jersey 'goat'. Darn...so much for buying the milker on eBay with four inflations for a cow as opposed to the two-teated model I already had.

After a 5-day round of Penicillin, she's eating well again and her milk production out of her two functioning teats continues to rise by 4-6 ounces a day--not that we'll be able to drink it any time soon. :-(

Grayling, her calf, is growing like a weed. We kicked her out with the four bull calves on Sunday to prepare for their new paddock. She may be the youngest and the smallest, but she rules the roost. Bull calves are almost as dumb as turkeys.

Ralph is working on a shelter using some materials we've managed to salvage from here and there. With winter nipping at our heels, shelter is very important.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holiday Kick-Off at the Market

This past Friday officially started the holiday season at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. In addition to the regular hours (8 AM - 2 PM Friday & Saturday), the market included extended evening hours during the Carlisle Downtown Association's Holiday activities--lighting of the Christmas tree in the town square and the arrival of Santa.

Beside our regular vendors were a few additional producers who set up on Friday night and all day Saturday. There was also a cooking demonstration Saturday morning from the market's favorite Chef, Jason Turner who whipped up some delicious goodies with products from various market vendors.

Chef Jason giving customers an idea of what to cook with local foods.

Judy & Jonas Stoltzful from JuJo Acres in Perry County raise some of the finest Certified Organic grass-fed beef you'll ever eat were there will assorted cuts of their meat and sampling Judy's awesome beef bone broth.

Jonas with some of his wonderful beeves.

Dickinson College's farm brought an array of freshly-picked chemical-free produce. The students are always enthusiastic, as you can see from their accessories. I believe the interaction they have with the public can be just as valuable as the education they get in the classroom. It's experiences such as this that really prepare one for life in the real world.
Dickinson students make market fun.
Although most people think food when it comes to a farmers market, Linda Singley from Bearlin Acres is the ultimate when it comes to farmer-produced products such as hers. I've known Linda for years and can tell you that she's out there breeding her sheep, birthing them, raising them, having them sheared, washing the wool, spinning the wool into yarn, dying the wool and ultimately, knitting it into the most gorgeous sweaters, hats, mittens, socks, etc. Her farm is home to not just sheep, but also cashmere goats and alpacas who deliver luxurious fiber. Additionally, Linda also produces some mighty tasty lambs.

Linda with all her wonderful wares.

Another special holiday vendor was Mersida Camdzic, who owns a local European food store in Carlisle. A few years ago I stopped in at her market to purchase some cheeses for a Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance meeting about ethnic cheeses. We struck up a conversation and I gave her my business card. Since then, she has referred a number of customers from her community (Bosnian Muslims) to the farm to purchase goats. It was really special to see them at the market and have them check to make sure I'd have animals available for the upcoming Eid celebration.

I believe that it's good business for farmers to make an effort to reach out to local ethnic communities. Food is such an important part of people's cultural identity and studies have shown that ethnic customers tend to be much more loyal to their food purveyors that your average white bread American.

Ethnic or not, what I've found is that if you produce a quality product in which you take pride, customers will return time and time again.

Our first (and returning) turkey customer of the year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fall Colors

Since a number of my recent posts have been colorful, but in a disgusting kind of way, I'm uploading some images taken over the last few days of the fall colors around here. We've been taking some day trips into the mountains surrounding the Cumberland Valley and yesterday, Ralph & Dan ventured out in the canoe for a few hours floating down the Conodoguinet Creek.

This is the view of the Cumberland Valley from the top of North Mountain.

There was actually snow on the ground at the higher elevations. Ralph threw out the first snowball of the season.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A small, small world

We're nine weeks into the Carlisle Central Market. Business has been better than expected. Each week, the number of 'regulars' seems to increase. It has just been a blast to make new friends with all sorts of people and see their reaction to the availability of really good local foods.

However, this weekend one of our regulars reciprocated. She walked up to the stand and said, "I have something for you to try. Do you know what these are?" she ask as she held out her gift.
In her hand she held an abalone shell containing several very ripe wild persimmons. "I found these out in the woods and didn't know they even grew around here. I wanted to share them with someone who would appreciate them."

Little did she realize that standing only several feet away from her were two former abalone/sea urchin/sea cucumber divers and long-time foragers. This week, Ralph's dive partner from his commercial fishing & diving days came to the farm for a visit. Ralph had brought him down to the market to check out things since Dan, too, used to sell fresh fish at a farmers market in Los Angeles.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"I've never seen anything like that before."

First, that's what Susan Dietrich said, and she's been milking and breeding cows for 30 years. Then that is what my veterinarian said and he's worked for all sorts of large and small dairy farms. The left side continues to milk just fine and appear normal, but this is the view from the right side and from below.

It's official, the front right teat is a goner. The hind right quarter, while still mastic, continues to milk out.
When people ask me why I'm not Certified Organic, I can point to these pictures and tell them that there is no way I'd ever let our heifer suffer through a wound and infection such as this without therapeutic antibiotics. While I don't believe in using them indiscriminately, such as in milk replacer, poultry feeds or animals destined for meat, when it comes to the survival of breeding animals, I'm willing to reach for the syringe.

Emma is still eating, drinking and ruminating, but it's obvious she doesn't feel well. I'm continuing with flushing the wound twice a day with warm water and a squirt of Betadine, patting it dry and applying antiseptic cream. The rest of the udder gets a good rubbing with Udder Comfort.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fantastic Farmers Market

Wow! This past Saturday at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market was just ripping! People were wall-to-wall and snapping up locally grown foods right & left. Again, our Bratwurst was a hot item along with yogurt, Bovre and Quark from Keswick Creamery. There was dancing from a local Clogging troupe and Dickinson College ended their "Step It Up" bike ride at the market and then gave out their "Carbon Friendly" awards. Several people came up to the stand and thanked me for providing fresh, sustainably grown local foods. They would say how they moved her from Seattle, Ithaca, Tempe, Boston, and other progressive cities in which there are active producer-populated farmers markets and were so disappointed there was nothing like that in the area. I've had customers actually hug me when they find out we sell goat meat by the cut!
Although it's the end of the growing season, I've been taking as much produce out of our gardens along--beets, swiss chard, kales, mustards, herb and salad greens. Customers actually get excited when they find bugs on the greens because they know I'm not using any sort of chemical pesticides. I tell them them I don't charge extra for the bugs.

For anyone who wants to serve the freshest possible food for their Thanksgiving feast, the market will be open on Wednesday, November 21st from 10 AM to 2 PM.

We'll have fresh pastured Heritage Turkeys, salad greens, fresh sage and sun chokes in addition to all our other regular products.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dishing Out the Worst

This post contains stomach-churning images & descriptions.
The right side of Emma's udder which is milking just fine.

I believe that the Universe has a way of testing you before allowing your dreams to be fulfilled and the last few days must be my baptism-by-fire for my long-time dream of wanting to milk cows and make butter. It wasn't enough for Emma to calve a week early in the pouring rain. The heifer calf survived and is aptly named "Gray Skies"...Gray for short.

The next challenge was getting Emma to let her milk down. You see, cows' teats aren't like spigots. They just don't turn on with a squeeze. Any woman who has ever given birth understands the concept of milk let-down and cows are no different.

But Emma just wouldn't give it up. I tried removing the calf (the first choice was to dam-raise) and massaging the udder for a few minutes prior to trying to milk, still only a few squirts would come out and then stop. We fired up the Surge Milker and still no milk. We used oxytocin and got a little more, but not much.

The calf had chosen to nurse the left side which began to milk out fine, but despite repeated tries at milking the right side, it continued to swell and finally Emma's udder split.

The left side of Emma's udder which is a total mess.

No, this wasn't a crack...it's a nasty tear right down to the subcutaneous udder fat. No bleeding, but a lot of weeping. The majority of the serum trickled down over the front teat forming a hard scab and essentially closing up that quarter. I washed the entire area with a mild Betadine solution and called the vet. He set me up with injections of Lasix (diuretic), Dexamethasone (steroid) to reduce the edema and a jar of antiseptic cream.

The morning following the two injections and a liberal dose of cream, the right hind quarter finally let the milk flow.

Needless to say that all this mess on the right side has set up a nasty case of mastitis. Ralph was helping out and made the comment, "Look, she's already producing butter inside her udder!" as the bright yellow chunks hit the bucket. All the color drained from his face when I explained that it was pus...not butter. The milk was fairly chunky at first, but cleared up about half way through the milking. The front teat still refused to open up. I could feel the chunks inside and knew that when that teat opened, it was going to be equally nasty, if not worse. Milk from a quarter with severe mastitis.

The vet suggested I strip her several times a day in order to clear out the pressure and mastitis. Four hours after the first milking, I went out again. The front right had some flecks, but the milk itself appeared fairly normal.

The front right teat finally opened. Foul doesn't even begin to describe it. Putrid would be a much better word. Images and the Internet can do no justice to what came out of poor Emma's front right quarter. The relief must have been welcomed because she gave out an incredible sigh after I got a quarter cup of solid waste stripped out. I only got about a pint of sludge, but I'll go back in a few hours and see what can be stripped out again.

The milk from the right side appears and smells normal. Gray finally got the hang of the bottle and is drinking up everything I get out of the right side as well as some of the replacer I use for the bull calves.

I realized this post has been graphic and a bit disgusting, but this is my experience. No where in any of the books & articles I've read (Keeping a Family Cow by Joann Grohman, Backwoods Home Magazine) is anything like this described. On all the lists and forums, everyone is on their soap boxes about raw milk and the joys of having your own cow, but darn it, sometimes it's just not as easy as it sounds.

This is reality, my reality right now. Is it frustrating and discouraging? Yes, but I believe this is just life asking me if this is really what I want to do.