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, October 30, 2008

My Political Soap Box

For those of you who don't know me that well, I'm a bleeding heart liberal. Yes, I will be voting for Barack Obama on election day. But before you castigate me for my choice, ask yourself this, "Who do you want to lead our country out of it's current quagmire?"
A man who was elected by his peers as the the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, who respects ALL Americans, not just those who fall in step with his beliefs and who believes that AMERICANS should come first, not some oil-rich nation's refugees that have had their infrastructure blown to bits by our invading military.

Second runner up in a small-town beauty pageant who claims to be a K-Mart shopper like the rest of us middle class grunts while she goes on $150,000 shopping sprees at Sak's and Neiman Marcus. Oh yeah, that's right. She did stop at K-Mart to pick up diapers for her developmentally disabled baby whom she is dragging all over the country while campaigning instead of giving him her undivided attention. Stand up and be a parent, Palin. An oil-field worker/commercial fisherman husband and her as governor? Can you say...Zero Supervision for the Palin Children? It's no wonder she's got a teenager who is knocked up already.

And what's this with Joe the Plumber? He's been outed as an unlicensed laborer who doesn't pay his taxes. Seriously folks, would you let a hack like that fix your toilet? Joe the Plumber represents what's WRONG in this country--people who try to get ahead dishonestly.

I sure don't and hope this country will use some common sense when voting on election day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thanks, PSECU

A couple weeks ago I got an email from PSECU, my credit union, asking customers for their stories in preparation for their 75th anniversary. So I wrote a nice little blurb in the box provided. A few days later I got a call from the credit union's marketing director who was excited to read my story and even more excited to find out that I was a woman. Within days, a full-on PR firm was at the farm with cameras and even a make-up artist! I'm anxious to see the video they shot, but this was the online scrap book entry from their time at the farm. If it's one thing I've learned over the years, it's never, ever turn down the opportunity for free advertising.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taking the Plunge into the DC Markets

Although I'm a firm believer in taking small steps to achieve one's goals, the step I took this weekend to go to farmers markets in Washington, D.C. felt like a huge leap. A big thank you to Melanie at Keswick Creamery for helping to make this move possible and Mark at Toigo Orchards for the encouragement. On Saturday, I drove Keswick's big, black dually diesel into the city loaded with coolers, tables and tents. The first drop was at the Mount Pleasant farmers market and then we headed over to the 14th & U Street market. I had veal, goat and beef for sale between Keswick Creamery and a vegetable grower.
At the end of the day, my 'neighbors' loaded me up with a huge spaghetti squash, savoy cabbage and a variety of sweet potatoes.
Across from us was DolceZZa, an Argentine gelato maker who uses only the finest ingredients, much from local farmers. I had the avocado, orange and ginger gelato that is out of this world.
On Sunday, six of us sardined into Keswick's big, red diesel with the monster racks holding close to 50 coolers packed with our products. I was the first drop at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market located at 1st and R Streets right next to the Big Bear Cafe. I set up a combined stand of both my meats and Keswick's cheeses, much like we do at the Carlisle Central Farmers Market. The BIG differences is the metropolitan markets are PRODUCER ONLY. Another difference is the amount of support the producers get from the market staff and surrounding businesses. The market manager, Robin Shuster, in one of the most on-the-ball people I have ever met when it comes to interfacing with vendors and customers. And the folks at Big Bear kept the vendors' coffee cups full--gratis--because they want to do everything possible to support farmers and small-scale producers. What an awesome day! It was so nice to have customers thanking me for bringing our products into the city. It just felt so nice to be appreciated.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Gentle Haunting

Gus getting belly scratches in his glory days.

Halloween is only a few weeks away. Spooks, goblins, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns adorn houses all over in anticipation of trick-or-treaters. Suspected paranormal activities and plain old hooliganism makes the news. And I’m haunted by a dead dog.

Not just any canine corpse, but our neighbors’ beloved English Springer Spaniel, Gus.

The fall is always a time for picking up trash here at the farm. The leaves are falling off the trees and the underbrush has been browsed down by the goats. In the crisp autumn mornings after chores, I walk through the pines and pastures picking up the trash that the wind has blown on to the farm throughout the year.

Plastic bags, paper plates, potato chip bags—I’d hit the mother lode as I filled my plastic pale with assorted wrappers and faded packaging sticking up through the carpet of drying leaves. Tromping through the pine trees, I stepped on something squishy.

An aged tennis ball. Gus.

When we moved to the farm eight years ago, Gus was the first sentient being to officially greet us. He bounded across the road, his entire body wiggling with anticipation of sniffing the butts of the new mutts on the block. The ringlets of his pale liver and white coat giggled as he snorted vigorously with those scent-catching jowls, never once showing a hit of aggression. An intact male, he peed on my tire, but my two spayed females barely gave it a glance. We met his owners soon thereafter and everyone, including Gus, became openly welcome in our home throughout the years.

Gus was an everyday staple in our lives. Each morning he would head down into the woods behind the barn for his morning constitution. His owner joked that was less dog poop for him to pick up or hit with the lawn mower.

When hunting season rolled around every year, good ol’ Gus was in his element. He flushed out many a ringnecks in the local State Gamelands that ended up on my table. I had many scrumptious meals thanks to Gus.

Believe it or not, around here they actually stock pheasants. The morning after the opening of pheasant season one year I heard Gus's high-pitched whimpering. There he stood in his front yard trembling and looking at me in anticipation. I thought something was terribly wrong with him until a flash of color in another neighbor’s yard caught my eye. There stood a ringneck cockbird and two hens. Gus was ready to go and eagerly awaiting the command to flush his quarry.

“Get ‘em,” I whispered. He exploded in the direction of the birds sending them into the sky. He pranced on his hind legs waiting for the shot, but I realized that I had let him down. There would be no feathered prize today. Feeling guilty, I fed him a patty of organic grass-fed ground beef as a consolation.

Over the years, Gus became our surrogate dog as my own dogs, an elderly shepherd mix and Whippet crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. But time spares no one and the years took their toll on Gus as well. Even after his hearing was long gone, his coat had begun to fade and the cataracts were clouding his eyes, Gus lived for retrieving tennis balls. He would tirelessly chase the green balls for as long as anyone would throw them.

Warm summer nights, our neighbors and us would share a cold beer while sitting in their garage, all of us taking turns firing the saliva-drenched balls out across the lawn. Rarely a day went by that I didn’t toss Gus a tennis ball at least once. Going out early in the morning to do chores, Gus was always there, ball in mouth, waiting for a few tosses before I began feeding my hungry mouths.

But then one day Gus didn’t want to cross the road anymore. He was going blind. Even with the loss of his hearing and sight, he still had his nose. As long as the tennis balls were in his yard, he’d seek them out and find his way back to me, although slowly. Slower and slower he got until one day he didn’t want to play anymore. From there, it wasn’t long until the neighbors showed up at my door one night with tears in their eyes.

“Gus is gone.”

He wasn’t my dog, but he felt like it sometimes. I’d let him hang out in the house and watch TV with me in the evenings when his family went out of town and I had agreed to feed and water him. When another neighbor’s dogs attacked him, I carried him bleeding to my truck and drove him immediately to the veterinarians’ office. Even when he killed one of my Araucana hens I couldn't fault him since it did look like a pheasant.

It’s been a few years since Gus has passed away. When I’m walking through the pines and come across a tennis ball, I know that it's Gus haunting me, in a good way.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

He's So Right

I'm sure you're wondering how this relates to the farm, but when I watched General Colin Powell (retired), who was the Secretary of State under the Bush administration AND a Republican on Meet the Press this morning, I was very moved. Why? As a meat goat farmer who caters to ethic customers, especially Muslims, I've been verbally attacked in public at the local farmers market for "supporting terrorism". On more than one occasion, I've had people stand in front of my space during market hours and ask me [quite loudly] if I'm the farm who won't support our troops. Why? Because I sell goat meat to people of the Islamic faith. Colin Powell hit the nail on the head and this interview is probably the most sane, intelligent 7:09 minutes of the entire Presidential campaign.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cheese, Chocolate & Beer

When my friends at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture asked if I would round up the cheese for an afternoon of pairing artisan cheeses, chocolates and local craft beers, how could I resist?
Mary Izett, a Certified Beer Judge let the presentation and tasting at the Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg. The beers included Water Gap Wheat, RauchBock, Hoppy Trails India Pale Ale, Broad Street Barleywine and Susquehanna Stout. There was also a Raspberry Mead that was delicious.
When I arrived, I began the task of cutting the remaining soft cheeses as I didn't want the paste to dry out too much. We had the Daisy Tomme and Smoke Signal from Calkins Creamery, Pipe Dreams Fromage Bouche Log which is an aged, ash-coated chevre, Stone Meadows Farm Camembert, Lesher from Keswick Creamery and Shepherds' Delight, a sheeps milk cheese from Otterbein Acres. All the cheeses were provided by artisan cheesemakers in Pennsylvania. The chocolate selection was equally delicious. There were White Chocolate Covered Almonds from Chocolates by Tina, Double Dark Chocolate Truffles and Dark Orange Bits (my personal favorite!) from Cafe Chocolate, Wilbur Buds & Caramels from Wilbur Chocolate and Hershey's Extra Dark Cranberries, Blueberries & Almonds.

I can't wait to do this again!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Making 'Kraut

First, let me apologize for not updating the blog lately. My old version (5.5) of Adobe PhotoShop finally crapped out on me. Since I take all of my images in magazine print quality, I need to significantly reduce their size and resolution prior to posting online. After debating about spending the cash to upgrade, I decided to check out some open source options and have finally settled on GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). So I'm back online with appropriately scaled images. Enjoy!
Anyone seeing cabbage and crocks in central Pennsylvania in the fall knows that it's Sauerkraut-making time! I stopped by a local farm with a gorgeous crop of cabbages and picked up a dozen large heads which weighted around twelve pounds each.
My kraut-making buddy is Tom and since he's got all the equipment--a special grater from Austria, no less--we do the deed at his place. Prior to starting this batch, we polished off the last quart of the last batch with some of my bratwurst.
The recipe is basically two tablespoons of sea salt to two pounds of cabbage. After grating a bowlful, Tom measured out the cabbage, put it in the crock and added salt. This was repeated until the crock was about two thirds full. Since Tom has to carry the five-gallon ceramic crocks down the narrow stairs into his basement and back up the stairs when we are ready to can the finished kraut, he doesn't fill them to the top.
So, what do I get to do other than offer some relief to the hours upon hours of grating cabbage? My job was to cover the wooden disks that will weight down the cabbage in the brine with paraffin wax.
When all the crocks were filled, we covered the shredded cabbage, which was already expelling copious amounts of liquid, with the large, outer cabbage leaves. Next, clean tea towels where wetted with the cabbage juice and laid on top of the large leaves. This helps collect the slime molds that form on the surface during the fermentation process. The waxed disks are placed on top to help weight down the cabbage in the brine.
The final step is setting some type of weight on top of the waxed disks to keep the cabbage pushed down into the brine. Tom used empty jug wine bottles filled with water as weights and no, he didn't drink all that cheap wine. Tom has much better taste when it comes to wine. It's true. Check out his blog where he writes about Pennsylvania Wineries. Our final tally--112 pounds of cabbage fermenting in three 5-gallon crocks and one 3-gallon crock.