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Aeolian Dust, Playing Possum, Market News and Farm Happenings

Posted 5/19/2017 12:03pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

I’m imaging the Pleistocene.  I envision those glaciers slowly receding from our landscape, crushing and grinding rocks underfoot as they melted.  Geologists say that those finely-ground rocks turned to dust, and that the fierce winds blew this dust across most of what is now the Midwest.  Aeolian dust, the wind-blown foundation of our rich prairie soils, was on my mind this week.  The prairie is flat and windy; we all nod our heads when visitors from other realms ask “Is it always this windy here?”  Yes, after a while you acclimate to the wind; it’s just a constant in the background.  Yet, this week’s 40 mph gusts and gales seemed out of the ordinary.  The wind raged for days, not hours, and it suspended some of that ancient Aeolian dust into the air once more.  Last night’s thunder storms pulled those particles back to earth; we’re living in some turbulent times. 

Playing Possum

I have never fully appreciated the saying “playing possum” until yesterday.  During our morning kid feeding chores, our dog Blue has a routine.  He comes into the kid barn while I am ankle deep in kid grain or milk replacer and throws a tiny stick (it’s usually a piece of bark from the mulch) at my feet, demanding a game of throw and fetch.  His high-pitched bark reverberates inside the hoop barn, making it especially piercing on the eardrums and compelling me to comply. Believing I can multi-task, I throw him his little stick while I scoop grain into the feeders; he retrieves and places the stick right in the feeding trough, just so I won’t neglect him. 

While yesterday morning’s routine started out as usual, he abandoned our game rather abruptly, his attentions being drawn to something outside.  Normally, when I hear him barking outside, I assume a delivery truck has arrived.  Delivery truck barking is usually low pitched and constant.  I poked my head out the back end of the kid barn to find Blue barking at something underneath the flatbed trailer.  Oona, our other dog (and my little canine shadow during chore time), and I walked over to see what the fuss was about, as Blue dove under the trailer to flush a possum.  He grabbed and shook it violently, tossing it into the air. Oona, not to be outdone, rushed to grab the possum before it hit the ground and shook it in her mouth as well. I let out a primal scream, and she dropped it.

The possum lay on its side, mouth open, curled in a fetal position. It did not appear to be breathing.  I thought the dogs had killed it.  I could hear a faint hissing sound, and I thought it must be in death throws, so I ran to fetch Wes so he could put it out of its misery.  He was finishing milking chores, and by the time we got back to crime scene, I could see that the hissing was coming from two very tiny possum babies, wriggling in the grass in search of their mother.  She still appeared very much dead.  I called our vet student volunteer to see if she wanted to collect the babies and take them to the vet school.  I went up to the house to grab a box to transport them.  I returned again to the crime scene, box in hand, to witness the mother trundling off, babies nowhere in sight (obviously back in her little marsupial pouch). She sure had me fooled.

Farmers’ Market News

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 20th) we’re attending two farmers’ markets: Urbana’s Market at the Square (7-12) and Chicago’s Green City Market (7-1).  The forecast is calling for rain. Don’t let a few showers keep you away.  We have LOTS of great cheese and gelato for you. The markets will be teeming with fresh spring greens, and the promise of first-of-the-season strawberries should be enough to make you put on your raincoats and come on out.  Our cracker maker is on vacation for the next few weeks, so no crackers for a while. We recommend picking up a fresh baguette from your favorite market bakery to accompany our cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper—light, fluffy, lemony, YUM!
  • Fresh Ricotta: this delicate, mild and slightly sweet cheese is the essence of spring. Try it with a simple pasta of roasted asparagus and sautéed greens, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Want to go sweet? Drizzle a wedge of ricotta with honey or maple syrup and slice some fresh market strawberries on top. 
  • Angel Food: our little compact bloomy rind—firm paste; great with some homemade rhubarb jam
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: our goat milk camembert. Our favorite chefs love to put this cheese on the grill to give it a light smoke. OMG
  • Black Goat: our ash-coated bloomy with a hint of yeast on the rind; it is perfect on a baguette with a drizzle of local honey
  • Moonglo: these raw-milk tomme wedges are the last of the late fall-milk batches. Get ‘em while they last
  • Little Red: raw cow-milk, grating style with a smoked paprika rub. It is a perfect substitute for any grating cheese—use in a pesto, grate it over pasta or roasted veggies. 
  • Huckleberry Blue: the last of the raw-goat-milk blue made last December. This cheese is creamy, sweet & salty—the most flavorful blue in central IL. Give it a try.
  • Goat Milk Yogurt: plain, whole milk, available in pints or quarts. I eat this every morning for breakfast (my version of breakfast of farmer champions).  Give it a try and you’ll be hooked; only available at the markets and on the farm.

Need some gelato? Here’s the line- up of flavors by the pint (* indicates flavors going to Green City Market):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Fresh Mint*
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Fruitti di Bosco & Yogurt (a mixed berry concoction with our yogurt-super tasty)*
  • Salted Caramel Swirl*
  • Rhubarb Swirl*
  • Mexican Coffee (coffee with cinnamon and kick of cayenne)  

Farm Happenings

Farm Summer Hours resume: Starting this week, we resume our farm summer hours. This year, we’re starting with a more limited schedule, but we hope to expand hours as our staffing situation improves.  Summer hours are low key and a great way to see the farm transform as veggies, fruits and flowers start to grow.  The goat kids are growing like weeds too, so come see them before they get too big.  We’ll be open for you to purchase cheese, gelato (pints and single servings both), local farm products and PFFC “merch.”  From time to time, we’ll have special things to see and do (special gelato flavors or u-pick fruits for example), so stay tuned for those details. For now, open hours are:

Wednesdays, 3-6 PM

Fridays, 11 AM to 6 PM

Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 PM

Family Friendly Friday Happy Hour on the Farm Starting Friday, May 26th and running every other Friday through September 1st, we’re hosting a Friday Happy Hour (5-7 PM).  Come out to enjoy a summer evening at the farm-bring yourself or your whole family. We’ll have local microbrews available as well as wines by the bottle or glass (all of our wines are either organic or biodynamic and our prices are VERY reasonable).  For the non-alcohol drinkers, we’ll have Homer Sodas available. Grab some cheese, charcuterie and other farm-made treats (pickled asparagus anyone?) and you’ve got some delicious local food snacks to accompany your beverages.  Guests can stroll around the farm, or just hang out on our lovely stone patio and watch the sun go down.  Of course, you can visit with the goats too.  We hope to feature different local breweries each time as well as special appearances from guest farmers and food artisans. We will also have live music from time to time.

CU Farmers Resumes with two outdoor pick up locations weekly Blue Moon Farm, Bane Family Meats and Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery are teaming up again to offer the CU Community an online farmers’ market.  If you can’t make it to the markets on Saturday, or you just don’t want to fight the crowds, consider CU Farmers.  It is simple, convenient and comprehensive (veggies, meats, eggs, cheese and gelato).  You won’t find a better deal on some of the highest quality local foods around. Here’s how it works:

1)  Go to the website and set up an account

2) Order products starting Friday (8AM) through the following Monday (10 PM). Select your pick up location (one in Champaign, one in Urbana) before you check out.  Pay online with a credit card.

3) Farmers fulfill your orders and bring them to two pick up locations on Wednesdays for you to pick up (5-6 PM for both locations)

4)  Pick up locations are either Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign on Prospect Avenue OR the east parking lot of Lincoln Square Mall in front of Common Ground Food Co-op.   

Farm Dinner Updates

Dinner Tickets are selling at a brisk pace, and our June 10th “Big Steak dinner” is now sold out as well our “100 Yard Dinner” in September.  There are some fantastic casual meals planned for July and August—burgers, fish fry, summer vegetarian—check them out and make your reservations now before they sell out too! 

Copyright 2017. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2017. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.