The rising count of kids
Each year’s kidding season has a certain theme to it; a certain pattern that emerges slowly as the does give birth. Last year’s theme was fast and furious (most of our does kidded in about two weeks; most of them had triplets and many had two kids trying to exit the birth canal at the same time). This year’s season has been slow to start, with winter clinging to the barren cold ground outside the doe barn. We’re starting to pick up steam now, with 60 kids on the ground and about one third of the does having given birth. I’m noticing a few emerging patterns: fewer triplets and most of our does kidding with little drama and no warning.
Our calculated “due dates” are pretty much worthless (except for model does like Boots who kidded on her due date with triplets!!), and the does we’re sure are about to explode at any minute continue to grow larger and more lethargic by the day. Our birth weights are in the lower to moderate range too (4-6 lbs.), rather than the behemoths we’ve had in the past. I’m beginning to wonder if the stress of such an extremely cold winter took its toll on our does and their gestating babies, resulting in fewer multiples and slightly smaller kids. Of course, there are the exceptions: Claudette had a singleton buck this afternoon weighing in at 10.5 pounds! He is serious linebacker material. My gut feelings may change radically in the coming weeks as some of larger, “heavy hitter” (that’s in the milk department) does have their babies. Time will tell.
Saturday Spring Open House—March 22nd 9AM to 12 noon
With the number of does back on the milk line rising, we’ve been able to make a couple of batches of fresh chevre this week. The first chevre of the season has a distinct lemony flavor, and our first batches have that zest. We’ll be offering our chevre for sale this week along with our aged cheeses: feta, Moonglo and sheep milk Blue (Eldon). Looking for the perfect accompaniment to our aged cheeses? Our chef Alisa made some beautiful tart quince paste last fall (membrillo), and we’ll be offering that alongside our cheeses. We’ll also be selling some goats’ milk salted caramels that chef Alisa made this week (they are irresistible—I really have to keep myself out of the kitchen when she’s making them).
Our guest farmers include:
Blue Moon Farm with spinach, kale, chard, cilantro, parsley, carrots, and potatoes and small amounts of salad mix
Tomahnous Farm will have fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, chives), carrots, potatoes, garlic, herb plants
Stewart’s Artisan Breads will have hearty loaves, bagels, granola, cookies and biscotti
Our Breakfast Menu is a real crowd pleaser:
- Sarah's Sticky Buns with Maple and Walnuts
- Dried Tomato and Feta Biscuits
- Bagels with Honeyed Chevre
- PFF Cheese Plate with House-made crackers and membrillo
- Goat's Milk Hot Chocolate
- Columbia Street Coffee
- Hot Tea
We’re also welcoming the Cracked Truck to our Farm this Saturday. They’ll be serving up their usual hot breakfast fare. Should be loads of fun.
Of course, you can peruse our other farm items, including our t-shirts with our new logo, pick up some goat milk soap or purchase a copy of the WILL-TV documentary film DVD “Course Work”—about the making of a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm.
The baby goats will melt your hearts and you might even witness a birth or two (it happened last Saturday). The weather should be fine for a farm outing, so please come out and see us this Saturday. Our new serving system has completely eliminated lines waiting for food!!! It’s miraculous.
These crazy climbing Nigerian Dwarf goats--their pregnancies sure aren't slowing them down!
It’s been hard to awake from the slumber of this long, cold, lonely winter (not really so lonely, but it’s part of the song “here comes the sun” by the beatles). The never-ending cold pervaded my psyche, leaving me feeling like my internal organs and muscles were in a semi-frozen, slushy state. I tried to fight it. I cross country skied, I took the dog for walks in the snow (he loves the snow—he’s immune to cold), I soaked in the hot tub and I cooked lots of soups and stews. Despite winter being our “down time,” we did lots of planning over the winter. We’re making lots of changes here at Prairie Fruits Farm. Starting with our name, we’re now officially “Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery.” We’ve changed our logo too. Maybe you’ve seen it on our Facebook Page. It’s now in the header of our website. The logo embodies the capricious and mischievous nature of our goats and the ties that bind our dairy to our orchard. We have named the featured goat “Chippy,” in honor of herd matron Chippewa.
The goats have been reluctant to emerge from their own winter rest. They’ve been gorging on lots of good grass and alfalfa hay to keep their rumens active, and the growing bedded pack of composting straw under their bellies generated some heat to take the extreme edge off. Nonetheless, some mornings, Wes ventured out to the barn to find Jemimah, the donkey, covered in white veneer of frost. We had a few does kid in February (result of the midnight trysts with Rex, Harry and Nate), but our kidding season really isn’t in full swing yet. This week’s snows and cold must has sent a clear message to keep those kids buttoned up a bit longer, but today we started to see some push toward spring with three does kidding. No signs of life from the ground yet, but I imagine they can’t be far behind.
First Farm Breakfast and Open House of the Season
If spring won’t come naturally on its own, we’re forcing the issue with our first spring open house this Saturday, March 15th. From 9AM to 12 noon, you can come out to the farm to see the baby goats, visit with the very pregnant mama goats, have a “continental” style local foods breakfast and buy some cheese and bread. NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED—JUST COME ON OUT! There’s plenty of parking and we have able-bodied men helping you find a parking spot when you arrive. We’ve streamlined our breakfast menu this year, so folks don’t have to wait in line so long. You can spend more time visiting with the goats.
Here’s the breakfast lineup:
- Blueberry Scones
- Cinnamon Rolls
- Toasted Bagel with Oven-Dried Juliet Tomato-Feta Spread
- Ploughman's Plate: Prairie Fruits Farm Pork Sausage, Moonglo Cheese, Cornmeal Biscuit, Hard Boiled Farm Egg, Pickles, Quince Jam and Mustard
- Old Heritage Creamery Drinkable Fruit Yogurt
- Goat's Milk Hot Chocolate
- Columbia Street Roastery Single-Origin Coffee
- Hot Tea
In addition to our breakfasts, I’ll be on hand to sell some cheese:
- some really exquisite sheep milk feta (it’s been aging for several months, and man, does it taste good)
- Eldon—the last of our sheep milk blue cheese—sweet, crumbly blue—perfect for wilted spinach salad
- Moonglo—our late fall batches of this raw milk tomme are ready—slightly sharp, good for slicing or grating.
I know you are all eagerly awaiting the first chevre of the season. Because our girls have been so slow to kid, we didn’t have enough milk to make BOTH cheese and goat milk hot chocolate. The hot chocolate won this week, but the chevre will make its seasonal debut next Saturday.
Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with bagels, breads, cookies and granola. The bagels and breads are a perfect accompaniment to our cheeses.
We'll also be selling some of our swanky goat t-shirts, our goat milk soaps AND DVDs of the WILL-TV documentary about our farm dinners "Course Work."
Let us be a part of your spring awaken ritual this Saturday. Come visit us.
I'll be brief. Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 5th) at midnight is the deadline to sign up for our cheese, bread and gelato CSA AND receive the 10% discount off our retail prices. If you've been considering becoming a member of our unique CSA, please sign up now.
Believe it or not, there are still seats open to a couple of our first five farm dinners. You can find the descriptions and how to make reservations under the "2014 Dinner Season" part of our website.
Our production season is about to explode. Spring will come. Let's force some spring--think goat cheese and farm dinners.
The grip of old man winter is still upon us, but we're trying to shake it off with lots of planning for spring. While the snow and ice have blanketed much of our region, we've been busy planning our 2014 "Dinners on the Farm" season. We're putting the finishing touches on themes and guest chefs, and the first round of dinner ticket sales for the first five dinner dates will go on sale on Saturday, March 1st at 1:00 pm. We'll have the descriptions posted on our website by Wednesday, February 26th, so you have time to review them and decide which ones you might like to attend BEFORE tickets go on sale. Since the ticket sales happen through ShowClix, I highly recommend you review the purchasing process BEFORE March 1st, so you're familiar with how it all works.
Bread Cheese and Gelato CSA
We're fast approaching the early bird deadline for sign up for our CSA. We provide the cheeses and gelato; Stewart's Artisan Breads provides the bagels and bread.
If you close to Bloomington-Normal OR Champaign-Urbana, you can lock in seasonal bi-weekly pickups of cheese, bread and/or goat milk gelato at 10% off the price at farmers' markets or on-farm sales. But wait, there's more! CSA members can also sign up for an exclusive farm dinner at a price close to 50% lower than our current ticket price. The deadline for sign up with this discount is Wednesday, March 5th at midnight. It's a great way to support the farm and guarantee a great selection of cheeses, breads and our delicious goat milk gelato. To get more details and to sign up, visit our website.
Happy New Year!
With the winds howling outside blowing the snow into impassible drifts, we're pretty much house bound today. We're keeping the goats safe and well fed, but the record low temperatures are presenting all kinds of challenges for our farm this winter.
Since many of you in the midwest are also likely house bound, I wanted to let you know that the IndieGoGo campaign for the the documentary film about our farm "A Farmers' Road" is in it's final 12 hours. If you haven't made a donation yet, NOW is the time. John Murray, the documentary film maker, has been toiling away at finding a professional editor for the film. Please help him reach his goal of $25,000 by midnight tonight!
The Food Network has pegged the Midwest as THE HOT place for local foods in 2014. Our farm is poised to showcase the bounty of the Midwest's local food agriculture. The film "A Farmers' Road" will help tell the story of our farm and Midwestern farms like ours who are striving to build a more sustainable and vibrant local food system. Don't you want to be a part of telling this story?
Go to the IndieGoGo website NOW and please make a donation: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-farmer-s-road
Any amount is appreciated greatly. Thank you!
We pulled the plug on milking this week, a week earlier than our tradition of milking until Christmas Eve. Most of the does were beyond ready; they had been on a slow path to powering down since we went to once a day milking in early November. In thinking about this expression “pulling the plug,” the implication is that the electricity (or in our case milk), stops flowing when the connection is lost; the power goes out. When we stop milking, we shut off the hormones that lactating mammals secrete to keep the milk flowing; another image analogous to lost electrical currents and negative feedback loops. Not being a lover of physics, I am always impressed when biology imitates physics.
With dry off comes a drastic change in the quality of their hay; high-protein alfalfa is replaced by high-roughage grass hay. During the first few days of grass, their cacophonous protests are deafening. As hunger sets in, they resign themselves to their winter grassy chow. Little do they know that all that roughage makes their rumens work overtime, generating heat and helping to keep their bodies warm during this bitter cold time of year. This morning, I went out to give them a few evergreen boughs to help ease their diet pains (they LOVE pine and spruce boughs—don’t know why, but they love them almost as much as fruit tree leaves)—leftover table decorations from the last farm dinner. The sound of many goat heads swishing through the grass hay to get to the evergreen boughs warmed my little motherly heart (l love to listen to them eat with gusto).
Just as quickly as the snows piled up on our farm, they have melted away with the recent rise in temperature. With the ground now frozen, all that is left are puddles of icy water. Blue the dog, lover of snow, has located many sticks and large branches that were buried by snow. I guess I have no excuses now when he comes begging, branch in mouth, to play fetch. He never gets tired.
Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Schedules
We’re gearing up for a big weekend of holiday farmers’ markets: Urbana’s Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Mall and Chicago’s Green City Market inside the Notebaert Nature Museum. Both will be held this Saturday, December 21st , from 8AM to 1PM. Wes will be attending to our Champaign Urbana patrons, while I’ll venture north to cater to our Chicago fans. This is your final chance to stock up on our cheeses before we go into winter hiatus. If you’re in need of advice for a holiday cheese board, just ask us. What are we bringing?
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
- Angel Food Brie: the last of the season and boy , is it dense and rich—perfect for the holiday table
- Sheep milk feta—as I have been telling you, this cheese is worthy of a fancy holiday cheese board, hands down
- Ichabod—the last few pieces of our pumpkin-ale washed rind sheep milk cheese—don’t be intimidated by its aroma; it loaded with complex flavors
- Moonglo—the last pieces of the early summer batches are in coolers—they’re yours for the taking
- Roxanne—perfect for melting on roasted potatoes
- Eldon—sheep milk blue; a wonderful winter cheese for a winter salad of roasted beets and curly endive (I would throw in some toasted walnuts too)
Yes, there’s still a little gelato left and you really need to buy some to keep your sweet tooth satisfied over the winter. For Urbana:
- Apple Sorbetto
- Honey Lavender
- Honey Chevre (very limited quantities)
- Cider Sorbetto
Looking for some last minute non-food gifts? Why not give them some of our gorgeous goat milk soaps or a stylish Prairie Fruits Farm Goat T—shirt or Hooded Sweat Shirt? Why not gift these to yourself??
If you can’t make it to the markets, this Saturday, we can still ship t-shirts and soap gift boxes out on Monday, the 23rd. Check these out on our website. ALSO, if you’re still searching for a really unique gift for a special someone, we still have Farm Dinner Presale tickets available for a number of dates in the 2014 Season. Check it out!
Lastly, I would like to wish all of our patrons a restful and peaceful holiday season. We have valued your support over the years and we thank you. May you all enjoy a delicious winter filled with as much local food as you can find. HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL.
Prairie Fruits Farm winter wonderland!
We've been busy in the kitchen slaving over a warm stove to make our first batches of salted goats' milk caramels. Sarah was stirring, stirring stirring to make a smooth texture while Alisa placed the finishing touches of sea salt over the sheet of creamy caramel.
I've had a sneak preview, and they are delicious! Come out to the farm tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday the 18th of December) from 3-5pm. We promise to have the barn all nice and warm. We'll even make some goat milk hot chocolate for you to sip on while you shop.
The goats have been all dressed up for the holidays too! They're eager to show off their holiday collars with sleigh bells on.
We've got plenty of cheese to adorn your holiday tables as well as gelato (how about a baked alaska for that holiday meal dessert??). We'll also be selling some blackberry jam. Who knows, we might even have a few farm fresh eggs from our ever productive hens.
Wanting some non-perishable gifts? We'll have goat milk soaps and Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts and hooded sweat shirts.
Stewart's Artisan Breads will have breads, bagels, cookies, granola and biscotti.
Seven Sister's Farm will be here with yarn spun from the wool of her very own sheep.
Lots of great holiday gifts to be had. The farm is looking beautiful all covered in snow. The roads are clear, so come on out!
The Farm Holiday Open House is happening tomorrow, Wednesday, December 19th from 3-5 PM.
Cheese, gelato, goat milk caramels, jams, breads, soaps, t-shirts and hoodies all for sale! Come see the goats and sip on some goat milk hot chocolate while you shop!
See you here.
I have to admit, I am excited about the prospects for snow. My philosophy about cold is that it goes down easier when accompanied by the white stuff. Blue, our dog, agrees with me. With his “cone of shame” now removed and recently bathed, he is ready for a romp in the frozen fluff. As I write, the storm has descended upon the farm—from the view out of the triangle window in our loft, the windmill is barely visible amidst a torrent of white. Snow falling on the eve of a farmers’ market evokes mixed emotions. I have always loved the way that snow forces humans to slow down—literally stops us in our tracks as our cars get stuck in the road. Yet, I am eager to make our way to the Urbana Farmers’ Market tomorrow morning so I can offer our patrons all of the delicious cheeses and yes, even our goats’ milk gelato we have ready for sale. Only time will tell which of these emotions gets played out.
Markets and On Line Holiday Offerings
Yes, we’re going to attempt to brave the elements and shuffle on down to Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana tomorrow morning to attend their Holiday Farmers’ Market. It runs from 8AM to 1pm. As I mentioned, we’re flush with cheese:
- Fresh chevre-better stock up now because we’re making our last batch of the season next Monday
- Sheep milk feta—not just for summer salads, this full-flavored cheese holds its own on a cheese board
- Black Goat—dense and delish! The last batch of the season
- Red Dawn—smoked paprika covered gooey-ness—try this one en croute (baked in puff pastry)—you’ll really impress your holiday guests
- Roxanne—buttery, nutty-just eat it!
- Moonglo-raw goat milk tang with a creamy mouth finish
- Eldon-sheep milk blue—your mouth will feel like it’s taken a trip to the Pyrenees.
I know your brain is telling you that snow does not equal gelato, but I just dress it up with some hot chocolate sauce and it becomes a winter dessert.
- Honey Lavender
- Great Pumpkin
- Autumn Berry Sorbetto
- Apple Sorbetto
- Winesap Cider Sorbetto
Looking for locally-made non-perishable gifts for your loved ones? How about our lovely, gentle and all natural goat milk soaps? Don’t forget our beautiful new American Apparel Goat T-Shirts and Hooded Sweat Shirts. The benefits of shopping the farmers’ market on a snowy day is that you won’t have to fight the crowds like you will at the mall.
Other Happenings Both Virtual and Real
Let’s say you can’t make it to the farmer’s market this Saturday (not because of a little snow storm I hope). We’ve now got some online gift options for you to consider on our website. We have a gift box of assorted artisan cheeses, our ever-popular t-shirts, our stylish hooded sweatshirts and a gift pack of goat milk soaps.
How about giving the gift of a Bread Cheese and Gelato CSA for the 2014 Season? We’re offering three pick up locations next year: Bloomington, Normal and Prairie Fruits Farm. Our bread shares will be baked lovingly by our very own Stewart Pequinot of Stewart’s Artisan Breads. Check it out!
Looking for the star at the top of the gift giving tree? We’re offering a VERY SPECIAL pre-sale of select farm dinner tickets to the 2014 Season. We don’t have the themes or chefs posted yet, but we do have our dates selected. We’re offering up to 6 seats (2 per purchase only) per dinner date as part of this presale. The remaining seats (40 per dinner date) will go on sale sometime in late February. For details and to make ticket purchases, please go to our Showclix page.
Wednesday, December 18th from 3 to 5 PM, we’ll be hosting a holiday on farm sale. Cheese, gelato, salted goat milk caramels—these are some of the offerings we’re planning to have. We may have a few house made jams as well. Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with hearty breads, bagels, cookies, biscotti and granola. Cathe Capel of Seven Sisters Farm will be here with beautifully colorful yarn spun from her own sheeps’ wool. Jill Cummings, the creator of our goat milk soaps, will be here to talk about how she makes our soaps and why they’re so good for you. We’ll probably warm up some beverages for you to enjoy while you shop and visit with the goats.
Become a patron of our documentary film “A farmer’s road.” The filmakers’ IndieGoGo campaign is well underway and they have raised over one-third of the funds needed to hire a professional film editor. I would consider making a donation to this cause as holiday gift TODAY. The footage is beautiful (Central Illinois never looked so good) and the film promises to highlight the joys and struggles of local food farmers overall. They have less than a month to go on their campaign, so don’t wait until after the holidays. Thank you!!
I’ve been thinking about the tricks that grey skies and damp air play on a person’s mind these days. The dampened light lulls me into a strange sense of calm and tranquility. Yet, the roller coaster temperatures of December don’t give me time to adjust to the onset of cold. I need time to come to grips with winter on the prairie. I need some consistency. Foggy mornings in the ‘50’s delude my body into thinking we’re in Oregon. When the temperature plummets to 20 and the wind cuts through my Carhart jacket, my body reacts violently. I need more gradual change.
I’ve been walking our dog on a leash this past week as he recovers from a large gash on his underside (the poor thing has to wear a cone on his head and is not allowed to run free—he perceives this as pure punishment). This ritual gives me time to walk in the elements, to reflect on the feel of the air, the color of the dying vegetation (although our grass is still green!), the smell of the exposed black soil. We walk along the edge of our prairie—there are few signs of life, save for the coyote scat and some hawk pellets (what they regurgitate). Blue, peripheral vision impaired, keeps his cone head close to the ground, sniffing for rodents. His posture reminds of our pigs as the angled their massive heads downward to excavate dirt and root out the goodies embedded in the soil.
In the cheeserie, the ascent of milk solids has me thinking that the goats have become sheep—late lactation sheep, no less. The curd is dense, with a thin skiff of whey on the surface; pure joy to work with. We made our last batch of Angel Food brie today. The ladling of this thick curd, slithering into each mold, was rhythmic; cheese tango in a hot make room. The once-a-day milking experiment has resulted in record breaking yields. Just when I think it can’t go any higher, it does. As we tasted some black goat that was made a couple of weeks ago, fudgy was the descriptor of the moment.
A plug for WILL’s documentary “Course Work”-the antidote to winter!
I am not really big on self- promotion, but I know that the folks at WILL Media have put together a first rate documentary film about the making of a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm. The film will air on WILL-TV this coming Monday night, December 9th at 7:00pm. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out. Wes and I will be in the WILL studios on Monday night to help the station raise some funds. We hope you’ll tune in and give generously. Thanks for your support.
We’re back to two farmers’ markets this Saturday, December 7th. I will be waking before the chickens to greet our Chicago patrons at the Green City Market inside the Notebaert Nature Museum, while Wes will hold down the Urbana market. In addition to our cheeses, we’ll be bringing some of our beautiful goat milk soaps and our new PFF Goat T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts (these are for Urbana market goers only). If you’re in need of holiday gifts—come see us first! For cheese, we’ll have:
- Plenty of that rich ‘n creamy chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
- Black Goat—this is the final batch of the season, so come ‘n get it while it lasts
- Red Dawn—smoked paprika dusted bloomy rind—need I say more?
- Sheep milk feta--whey-brine aging has been very very good to this cheese—it just keeps getting better all the time.
- Roxanne—man o man! Buttery is the operative word for this cheese
- Moonglo—think tang, think nuts, think pinot noir (to accompany this cheese)
- Eldon—sheep milk blue; if salted caramel could be a cheese, it would be our Eldon
Yes, it’s gonna be cold on Saturday, but don’t let the outside temperatures deter you from your weekly gelato purchases (the good news is, it won’t melt on your way home!):
Urbana will have:
- Honey Lavender
- Honey Chevre
- Apple Sorbetto
- Cider Sorbetto
Green City Market will have:
- Cider Sorbetto
- Quince-Apple Sorbetto
- Apple Sorbetto
- Honey Chevre
- Honey Lavender
- Pumpkin the Great
Remember, if the weather outside is frightful, the inside farmers’ markets will surely be delightful. Come see us this Saturday.