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.

Search This Blog

Friday, December 26, 2008

Never Again

Talk about an exercise in futility! Somewhere along the line, I had the bright idea to process all the excess Muscovy ducks milling about at Keswick Creamery instead of having them sent off to the local auction house. They could sell them at the farmers markets in DC. What a great idea.

The first butcher date for the ducks found me flat on my back with a nasty bout of food-borne illness (I thought that tuna roll tasted funny) combined with freezing rain. So a week later, I picked up the processing equipment and headed over to the farm where all hands were on deck for a day of processing.

The plan was to do the excess roosters for stew chickens first and then add the "secret sauce" (vinegar, dish soap & baking soda) to the water in the scalder to do the ducks. You see, since ducks live in the water, their feathers and skin contain much more oil & fats than chickens do making them much harder to process. Much, much harder.

Although we had close to two dozen ducks to process, we gave it up after only six ducks. What a MESS! The only way to effectively get the feathers off of them was by using paraffin wax--basically giving them Brazilian--totally not worth the effort.

So, from now on the ducks will either end up at the auction house or they can get hauled down to Lancaster County where there's a professional processor. Fortunately, Mark had some Troegs' Mad Elf Ale to numb the agony of defeat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let the Holiday Feasting Begin

When I was giving a few folks from the local Slow Food Chapter the unofficial artisan cheesemakers tour of Newburg, one of the people asked if I knew where they could get a goose for the holidays. Although I didn't know anyone personally, we had driven past a farm with a huge flock of geese in their pasture. They also had ducks, chickens and a shingle hanging in their driveway advertising brown eggs.

"Turn in there," I said the driver.
"Why?" he replied.
"We're going to see about getting you a goose."
"Do you know these people?"
"No, but I'm guessing they've just might have geese for sale."

They did and so I met a new local producer, The Shirk family, who at Pecan Acres, raise pastured ducks, geese, laying hens and beef. The Slow Food guy got his goose and I couldn't pass one up either.

It's been a long time since I cooked a goose, so I double-checked on the basic temperatures (450 the first 15 minutes and then 350 for 20 minutes per pound) and then winged it. I started by loosely stuffing the cavity with a few fresh tangerines, Toigo Orchard pears and rosemary. Seasoned only with sea salt and white pepper, the bird went into the oven. Next, I cut up a variety of winter vegetables--yams, crook-neck squash, carrots, fennel and onion, tossing in fresh brussel sprouts and a handful of cranberries before marinating in a mixture of olive oil and white truffle balsamic reduction sauce and roasting on the rack below the goose for a good hour until all the vegetables had caramelized. For the last 15 minutes of roasting, I glazed the goose with tangerine zest & juice, local honey and smidgen of freshly grated ginger. What else was on the table? Freshly baked bread, my farmstead butter, a variety of artisan cheeses from Keswick Creamery and Birchrun Hills Farm and two phenomenal bottles of wine--a 2006 Staatlicher Hofkeller Wurzburg Slivaner Troken Franken from one of the oldest wine estates in Europe and a 2007 Testarossa Castello Chardonnay brought from the central coast of California, by my good friends Nick & Pan who were home visiting for the holidays.
We did a pretty darn good job of picking that bird clean.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I want to be on this farmers market shopper's Christmas list! What a great idea to give family & friends locally produced products while supporting small farmers and businesses. As we are constantly bombarded in the news each passing day of the economic melt-down and unbridled corporate greed, it's time for responsible human beings to step forward and say "enough is enough". How do we do this? Just like Matt is doing...by supporting our local communities when we spend money, especially our food dollars. So this year for the holidays, instead of buying your loved ones fancy baubles and 'luxury' goods which were probably produced in some third-world country by slave labor, transported thousands of miles and resold at a hundred times their production cost only to line the pockets of faceless shareholders, consider shopping in your local communities. Check out the small family-owned stores in downtowns and forgo the big box discount stores. Look at the label and make a conscious effort to choose Made in the USA. And most importantly, when planning your holiday meals, keep your local farmers and producers in mind. I can guarantee that ham from a pastured pig or prime rib from grass-fed beef will not only be the best you've ever had, but help make the holidays brighter for those have dedicated their lives to bringing sustainably-raised food to your table.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tails, I Win!

Volcano was a purebred Jersey bull calf born at Carrock Farm to a heifer who had been given to their herdsman one year as a Christmas gift. The bull grew up next to the herdsman's hacienda on the back forty until he was turned into a steer and turned out with the young heifers to live out his numbered days. When fall came and the pastures grew scarce, it was Volcano's time to make the ultimate sacrifice. But when the herdsman picked up his packages from our local butcher, he left behind a few of my favorite things and I made sure they ended up on my dinner plate instead of the compost pile. So, just what did I get?
The tongue, liver, kidneys, heart and my favorite...the tail! Nothing takes the chill off of a fall day like oxtail braised with vegetables. I added a quart of veal stock, some wine and a pint of heirloom tomatoes put up earlier in the season in a dutch oven and baked for the better part of the afternoon. After removing the oxtail from the sauce, I added some fresh wide egg noodles and topped with Telford Tomme. Jess brought home fresh greens from farmers market and I had baked some chocolate chip cookies with my farmstead butter, eggs from the chickens across the street and some Scharffen Berger dark chocolate chunks. Life is too short to eat tasteless and soulless food.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Culinary Advantages

It was at the very first PASA pot-luck dinner I attended that I heard someone say, "we may be poor as church mice, but we eat like kings and queens." Given the incredible dinner we all shared that evening, I thought I understood what they had meant. However, it wasn't until I began humanely raising rose veal and going to farmers market that I really understood what they were talking about. Veal sweetbreads, kidney & fries in a tarragon caper red wine reduction.

Just a few weeks ago, a gentleman came up to me at the farmers market and asked if I butchered the veal young enough to get sweetbreads, which is basically the thymus gland. As calves age, the gland shrinks until it eventually disappears. My response to him was yes, however, they never make it to market as they are my 'treat' to myself for all the work that goes into raising the calves. I may not be able to afford dinner out (or more like stay awake) at an upscale restaurant that serves sweetbreads from organically and humanely raised veal, but by golly, I can cook them up right here at home!

That got me thinking about the other 'premium' items that I take for granted. While sweetbreads may be the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to veal delicacies, I realized that there are other items I routinely snag for personal consumption (heart, kidneys, fries & tongue). While I end up with as much as 150 pounds of gorgeous rosy meat cuts and several 5-pound bags of bones per calf, my goodies are in short supply with each calf only providing one or two of each item.

So today when I was rummaging around in the deep freeze, I came across a bag of what others consider offal squirreled away. The heart & tongue went into a pot for poaching the fries, kidneys and sweetbreads before I dredged them in flour and cooked them up in some of my tarragon, shallots and home-made butter. The remaining stock will be the base for my sister, Joan's awesome sausage kale soup I'm going to make tomorrow with some bulk bratwurst (what's left in the auger when the butcher does our links) and fresh kale from Prescott's Patch.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Local Wine & Cheese at Alibi's

Look what happens when you feature locally-produced products. This is Alibi's Eatery & Spirits in downtown Carlisle on a Wednesday evening and there isn't an open seat in the joint!
Why? Because Adams County Winery and Keswick Creamery had paired their products for a special event. Seating was limited to the establishment's capacity and was quickly filled. The people in Carlisle know great drink & food when it's offered!
Mark Dietrich Cochran, John Kramb and Jim Touloumes are ready and waiting for the crush of local wine & cheese aficionados. The tables are all set and ready to go!Mark, one of the owners and cheesemakers at Keswick Creamery cuts more cheese.
People enjoyed tasting local wines with hors d'oeuves artfully prepared by Alibi's own chef.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Day in Chester County

Yesterday, I attended a board meeting for the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance in Chester County at fellow board member, Susan Miller's Farm. She and her husband, Ken own Birchrun Hills Farm where they milk a purebred herd of Holstein cows. A few years ago, Sue began making cheese from their milk at an unused cheesemaking facility a few miles from their farm at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, an intentional farming community for adults with developmental disabilities.
Many years ago, Camphill Village purchases cheesemaking equipment from Europe, including a large copper cheese vat. The creamery had set idle for years before Sue approached them about renting the facility. However, she soon found how impractical and difficult it was to work with the copper kettle, so she has moved to a stainless steel cheese vat. A batch of Birchrun Hill Blue on the draining table behind the vat.From the cheesemaking room, the wheels are removed from their molds and transferred to the cheese cellar. Who ever built this facility had the forethought to build in a dumb waiter between the make-room and just outside the cellar door. Once in the cellar, the cheeses are ages for a minimum of 60 days since they are all produced with raw milk. This year, Sue expiremented with pressing aromatic hops flowers on to the tops of cheese wheels.
When sufficiently aged, the cheeses are packaged and sold at farmers markets (Phoenixville, Anselma and Head House), at well-known cheese shops such as DiBruno Brothers and to local chefs & restaurants.
In addition to the Birchrun Hills Blue, the Millers also make an Highland Alpine, a sharp nutty cheese and a tomme they call Fat Cat that has a delicious earthy tang with a pear-like finish.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Ok, bear with me. I know you're wondering what on earth an image of a discount toilet bowl cleaner is doing on the blog, but I wanted to share with everyone the source of some howling good laughter we had over the holiday. Sure, this looks like an innocuous package, but turn it over....
...and you have the best case of Engrish I've seen in a long time! Yes, I've submitted it to www.engrish.com. Just thought I'd add some humor on this cold, damp day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Day 2008

You've seen the birds as day-old poults and watched them grow since arriving at the farm in mid-June. Since Governor Palin was so kind as to offer the American public a ringside seat for turkey slaughtering, I'll spare everyone the details. But understand that to get them from the pasture to the kitchen required a very long day consisting of loading all the birds into the stock trailer (getting the entire rig stuck in the mud), taking them a few miles down the road to the farm where the automatic plucker is located and then spending several hours in the snow & rain processing, bagging and tagging. This is one of those rare days when I miss living in southern California when it was always sunny and 70 on butcher day. A big thanks to all our customers who purchased their holiday turkeys from us this year. The birds weighed between twelve and twenty pounds, with the majority being 15 & 16 pounders. This is the 15-pound bird I cooked today for my family.
I started out brining it for twelve hours in a solution of 1 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup Pennsylvania maple syrup, 1 gallon of water, 1/2 gallon of Toigo apple cider, fresh ginger, some juniper berries and a few peppercorns.

Next, I creamed together maple syrup, my home-made cultured butter from Emma the Jersey Cow and some dried rosemary I got from the flower, mushroom & herb people who were next to me at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market the first few weeks I was there. I carefully separated the skin from the breast and pushed the mixture between the two, smooshing it throughout the top of the bird. I slathered the remaining butter mixture on the outside.
This is the bird about half way through cooking. This year I was able to talk several of my customers into taking the feet and using them to make stock. This is the difference a few feet make in the stock. Notice the thick, silky, gelatenous texture. When it comes to making turkey gravy, nothing beats stock made from turkey feet that have been simmered until they fall apart. I do not stuff my bird when I roast it. Instead, I make dressing and bake it in the oven while the turkey is resting. For stuffing, I used a stale baugette, our onions & shallots, celery and locally-grown shitake mushrooms (thanks Jim!) sauted in my butter. It was all tossed together along with a few cups of that rich turkey feet stock and a pint of fresh Cheasapeake Bay oysters, topped with grated Ewe's Dream sheep cheese from Otterbein Acres and baked.
When I was growing up, it seemed like every year my grandma would forget to put the cranberry sauce on the table. That was just fine with me since it was the canned kind and not very appealing. When I began cooking at Wheeler Hot Springs Restaurant many, many moons ago, I was introduced into making real cranberry sauce to accompany turkey. It's quick, simple and so worth it. For mine, I used a bag of organic cranberries, a fresh pear, a handful of local cherries I had frozen earlier in the summer, some minced ginger and a half cup of raw sugar. Some people like to add nuts like pecans or pistachios. Simmer the whole mess until it starts to bubble & spit, stir a few times and put in a serving bowl. Don't refridgerate it since that really detracts from the flavor.
The other lucious goodies included in our Thanksgiving dinner were fresh brussel sprouts and purple carrots with a balsamic & white truffle reduction glaze (a gourmet prize from BB's), steamed brocoli and romanesco, mashed yellow sweet potatoes, a seven layer salad (thanks Mom), fresh biscuts made with the Carpenters' awesome lard and some quince butter I made a few weeks ago. Oh yes, and turkey feet gravy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Ok, so they didn't all come flying off the back of the truck when Mel took off one, but sometimes that's what I think when we're stacking them high and rolling down the highway. When one does occasionally fly off, however, then it becomes a Freeway Picasso which is actually more like a Jackson Pollack.
Today was our last day at the Bloomingdale Farmers market in Washington DC. I've really enjoyed breaking into the metropolitan market scene. The people are all so nice! I'm really looking forward to going back next season.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Can't Help It

I'm sorry, but this is just too good not to pass up or post. Yes, the election is over and yes, Obama won so just why am I posting this Sara Palin interview? Because this is just too crazy!!!

According to the Huffington Post, "Some videos you just have to see to believe. On Thursday, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin appeared in Wasilla in order to pardon a local turkey in anticipation of Thanksgiving. This proved to be a slightly absurd but ultimately unremarkable event. But what came next was positively surreal. After the pardon Palin proceeded to do an interview with a local TV station while the turkeys were being SLAUGHTERED in the background!! Seemingly oblivious to the gruesomeness going on over her shoulder, she carries on talking for over three minutes. Watch the video below to see for yourself. Be warned, it's kind of gruesome."

So, I'll armchair quarterback this video. See the guy in the background with those big silver things? They're called "killing cones". You put the bird in the top and its head sticks out the bottom. Below the cones, that's a 50-gallon Rubbermaid livestock water tank. The same kind we use here out in the goat pastures. It's there to catch the blood after the arteries in the turkey's neck is severed. He takes an obviously dead bird out of a cone and brings in a live one. See the bird struggling toward the end of the interview? That's the tell-tale "flap of death". He slaughtered the bird while she was giving her freaking interview? So much for a pardon. I think this video is indicative of the entire GOP--all smoke & mirrors while they slit your throat in the background. Oh, by the way, is that $275 Burberry scarf one that the RNC missed when they took back all the Neiman Marcus booty? Maybe it was a consolation prize for Miss Sarah.

First Snow

Today, we woke up to our first winter dusting that covered the ground
The sage and Swiss chard appear to have weathered through it. After all, got to have that fresh sage for Thanksgiving!

Pax & El Jefe are in their element.

One more reason to be glad the turkeys will be GONE within a week. I hate breaking ice and slogging buckets of water.
Not enough to weight down the pine boughs or completely blanket the fields. You can't really see it in this picture, but our compost pile is steaming nicely...hence, no snow on the pile to the right. Ralph has yet to incorporate all the leaves into the main pile, plus we'll have some bedding and manure to add to the mixture once the turkeys are GONE. {Can you tell I'm ready for Thanksgiving?}

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ten Days & Counting

Yep, that's right you snood-faced relic from the age of dinosaurs. In just a little over a week, I'm going to pluck you, gut you, whack off your head, stuff you neatly into a plastic sack and put you on ice. A few days after that, you'll be the guest-of-honor for some lucky family who understands just how wonderful farm-raised Heritage turkeys really are, especially if you're a fan of dark meat. Notice these birds still have their full beaks & snood (that little thingy that sticks up on top) and haven't been shamefully mutilated like their commercially-raised brethren.
Similar to all other animals here on the farm, the turkeys are watered via a gravity-fed rainwater harvesting system. Remember the rain barrel Ralph installed earlier this year? Well, he ran a hose down to a secondary barrel which feeds the turkey waterer. Unlike those bell system, we have an open bucket with an automatic float. Too keep the turkeys from fouling their water, Ralph attached a wire cage around the water bucket so then can only get their heads through. It works great!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

It's not only the bull calves who come running in the morning when I head out to the barn with buckets of milk. The Rodent Patrol that Ralph acquired earlier this year has been working in full force. The plan was for two, but he brought home six thinking that two would fall victim to the road, two to predators and that would leave us with two. But they were smarter than expected and only one has been squashed by the local NASCAR wannabees speeding up over the hill.
That's Spitty, Turtle Head, Smokey and the Shy Guy. Three Spot hasn't realized that breakfast has arrived. Turtle Head is doing his Sarah Palin imitation.
And just where are the two usual felines of the farm these days?
With the new crew, they've taken it upon themselves to defend the house. Megs covers the downstairs and Bugs' territory is the upstairs. In addition to keeping mice and crickets at bay inside, they also function as foot-warmers now that the colder weather has set in.
Ah, the joys of seniority.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What's Going On at the Market

Now there's something you don't often see at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market--Melanie and Jess! They're usually down in Washington, DC on the weekends, however, this weekend was special. Jessica roasted her 4-H market goat project at the market and sold sandwiches and tacos as a fund-raiser for her trip to the Presidential Inauguration in January. There were also three new vendors at the market this week. One that makes prepared foods like cheese steak sandwiches and fresh-cut fries.
Here's Hutch from Toigo Orchards and all their wonderful products.
And Torchbearer Sauces was back for the day. The sauce guy was really nice and gave Jessica a bottle of awesome Honey BBQ to serve with her goat sandwiches.