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Posted 10/4/2013 1:05pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Farm News

Fruitopia: Sundays are usually the one day of the week that Wes and I get to “hang out” on the farm by ourselves (there are exceptions such as farm tours, stray visitors and the occasional farm dinner—we have a big one this Sunday with Rick Bayless and the Eastern Illinois Food Bank fundraiser).  Wes milks in the morning, and I make a batch of chevre. Last Sunday, after the goats were milked and fed and the chevre making was underway, we strolled out to the north end of the orchard, faithful dog Blue in tow, to pick the last of the Moonglow pears.  We were hoping there were at least 15 pounds left for the dessert planned for the Bayless dinner.  Sure enough, we were able to find 20 pounds of intact medium sized pears.  The windfalls on the ground were in various stages of decomposition. The orchard floor was a buzz (literally) with honey bees carving out pears to extract the juice.  Others were loaded with Asian lady beetles.  I was happy to see the bees in such a feeding frenzy—they need all the sugar they can get to make themselves some winter honey.  Wes picked the pears that were high up on the trees, while I focused on the low hanging fruits and the intact windfalls. I moved over to some apple trees to find several buckets full of perfect red apples at the base of just a single tree! Wes being the long-time fruit maven (he grew up on a fruit farm in western Oregon), I asked him if he had ever seen a fruit year like this before. His reply: “I’ve never seen a fruit year like this in all my fruit lovin’ days” (and he’s been picking and loving fruit since he could walk).   

What do you with fruit when you have lots of it? You press it into cider. We purchased our very own stainless steel cider press last week, and it arrived just in time to make a batch of pear and several batches (by variety) of apple cider. Bill Morgan, our resident brew meister (Blind Pig Brewery fame) will be turning these first batches into perry (that’s hard pear cider) and hard apple cider.  We’ll be pressing more apples to sell as fresh cider. 

 apples ready for pressing

apples ready for pressing


making cider

making cider-it's a three person job, clearly!

Arthur Expeditions: In preparation for our upcoming farm dinners, Chef Alisa and I took a trip to Arthur this past Tuesday to attend the Arthur Produce Auction and purchase pumpkins from the Great Pumpkin Patch.  The Arthur Produce Auction is an Amish-run wholesale auction where buyers bid on locally- grown vegetables and fruits in season. We were there to purchase fall mums to plant around our beautiful new stone patio.  The crowd of bidders follows the auctioneer from lot to lot of products and transactions are made within seconds.  The regulars know what they want and what they should pay, so novices like me have to brave the pace and jump in quickly. Knowing when to stop bidding is just as critical as jumping in.  You have to have an end price in your head BEFORE you start bidding.  The exercise reminded me of riding the waves at the beach—you have time your entry and exit from the shore just right so a wave doesn’t break on top of your head or suck you back out into the froth.

 Forty mum plants later, we headed over to the Great Pumpkin Patch, a multi-generation family farm that grows over 400 varieties of cucurbits (that’s the family of squashes, pumpkins and gourds). Mac Condill, the current generation farmer is a world authority of cucurbits and can give you all the characteristics of each variety.  We met him at the gate (Bill the brew meister had tagged along so we could pick out pumpkins to make the pumpkin ale for our beer dinner) and he led us to the section of baking pumpkins.  We told him what traits we needed, and he selected three varieties of banana pumpkins for the ale. He also picked out a great heirloom baking pumpkin called “Triple Treat” for our pumpkin gelato.  The seeds are skinless so they can be roasted (nothing goes to waste except the skin). Alisa described a French variety of pumpkin that she wanted to use for a pumpkin cake and within seconds, Mac had it identified as “Galeux d'Eysines.” Literally, this means a skin condition akin to psoriasis.  The pumpkin is a beautiful coral pink with light-brown wart-like protrusions on the skin, similar in appearance to circus peanuts.  We lugged our pumpkin-laden wagon to the car and headed back to the farm.  Banana squashes were roasted the next day and are already in the fermentation tanks as I write. 

wall of squashes


car load of cucurbits
Building a little bit of Tuscany in Central Illinois: Wes and crew put the final touches of sand over the stone patio pavers yesterday, just before the rains came.  The process of laying crushed rock, compacting it, then a thin layer of sand, then the pavers in pattern, then more compacting, then the final sand to fill in cracks took about two weeks to complete. The crew ranged in age from mid-20’s to late ‘60’s—lots of sweat and dust covered faces.  The patio is a marvel—stone evokes emotions deep within our early ancestor psyche.  We’ve brought a little bit of the old world to our farm once more—Tuscany in Champaign. 


stone patio near completion

Farmers’ Markets   

 We’re attending one farmers’ market this Saturday, October 5th: Urbana’s market at the square.  We’ll have some great fall milk chevre (it’s getting super creamy right now) so start stocking up for the winter:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper, heirloom tomato
  •  Bloomy rinds including: Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Sheep, Ewe Bloom
  •  Sheep milk feta 
  • Moonglo
  •  Roxanne
  • Eldon: sheep milk blue

 Gelato flavors (Stewart was out of control this past week AND he helped build the stone patio):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Stacciatella
  • Espresso
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Walnut Brittle
  • Tart Cherry Stracciatella (yes, we froze some tart cherries just for this occasion)
  • Gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) 
  • Honey Lavender
  • Winesap apple cider sorbetto
  • Moonglo pear sorbetto
 We’ll also be bringing a few varieties of our organic apples including Mutzu, Fuji and Winesap.  If you think you’re sick of tomatoes, just pick up a quart box from us—they are so sweet and flavorful (you can thank the drought for that), they’ll make you forget how many you’ve already eaten. 


Posted 9/27/2013 8:58am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

I like to attribute strange and seemingly coincidental phenomena to the moon phases, and the waning fall moon does have special powers in agricultural lore. So, when our one remaining red waddle pig escaped from his pen Monday morning and was nowhere to be found, I looked up at the early morning sky to see the shadow of the near full culprit moon.  We searched everywhere for him; we looked for pig prints into our neighbors adjacent corn field, we walked back to the prairie and along the creek bank,hoping for signs of his presence, fresh pig scat would have been the clincher (that’s poop in wildlife biologist’s terminology).  The trail was cold.  Wes decided to leave the gate to his pen open and his feed trough filled with whey and bread.  We also made sure his wallow was nice and wet. Sure enough, he strolled back into his pen by late morning and nestled into the wallow for a good soak.  The lesson of this story: whey and water are the way into a pig’s heart.

The bucks have had bouts of wander lust this week too. In their case, their escape antics are driven by hormones, not by food or shelter.  The does are in heat, and each day it’s a constant parade of amorous goat girls saddling up to the pasture fence that separates them from the bucks, tails flagging furiously.  Several of the bucks-Rex being the ring leader, followed by Nate and Harry (the younger and more nimble of our breeding bucks), pulled the woven wire down and leaped over the fence to be closer to the does.  This happened Monday morning too.  Our hope is that no intimate contact occurred.  At present, the does are in “lock down” inside the barn until the fence can be repaired. Less than two weeks to go before our official breeding season begins—clearly, they were trying to get a head start on the game.

Other farm news: If you’ve been out to the farm recently, you’ve noticed that our wooden dining platform and pergola are gone and have been replaced by a giant pile of dirt and lots of gravel.  This is all in preparation for our new stone patio.  Wes and Ben have been busy leveling and compacting the gravel so that they can lay a thin layer of fine sand today and begin to place the pavers in a beautiful pattern.  It will be a new look for our outdoor dining—bringing the farm closer and closer to Tuscany.

Farmers’ Markets and Other Events

We’re attending two farmers’ markets this weekend (Saturday): Urbana and Chicago’s Green City Market. It is GORGEOUS  fall weather, so what could be better than an outing to the farmers’ market to stock up on cheese, gelato, fruits and some great produce. For cheese, we’ve got some great tasting aged cheeses as well as our creamy chevre:

  • Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato
  • Bloomy rinds: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep
  • Sheep milk feta: If you haven’t tried our feta yet, you really need to—it will change your idea of what feta should taste like
  • Moonglo-slightly sharp, nice tang, perfect for slicing with some crisp tart apples
  • Roxanne—grassy, buttery, simply delicious
  • Eldon-sheep milk blue—sweet-salty blue cheese—perfect for salads, with some gorgeous pears or just carve off a chunk and eat it with bread!

On the gelato front, Stewart’s been busy again with some new flavors:

  • Walnut Brittle
  • Butter Pecan
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto
  • Moonglo Pear Sorbetto

As well as the favorites you have come to know over the season:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Stracciatella
  • Espresso
  • Ginger

We’ll also be bringing some of our apples to the Urbana market (Mutzu, Fuji, Winesap and Macoun) as well as more of those flavorful tomatoes, padron peppers and maybe a few cayenne peppers as well. 

For those of you who have been trying to get to one of our farm dinners, I wanted to let you know of a very special dinner we’re hosting in collaboration with Champaign Urbana Slow Food. The dinner will celebrate foods on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. If not familiar with the Ark of Taste, it is a list of rare and threatened species of crops, livestock and traditional foods.  Our menu will include “The Shrub” (it’s an old fashioned cocktail), red waddle head cheese with Elberta peach chutney, Great Lakes whitefish, buckeye roasted chicken and several rare vegetables.  The  dinner is Friday, October 4th and the cost for a four course one-of-a-kind meal is $65 per person. Seating is limited to 40, so don’t delay.  To make reservations: 
http://www.slowfoodcu.org/?page_id=49



 



Posted 9/24/2013 2:44pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings:

This gorgeous fall weather has beckoned me to the orchard where I continue to find apple trees dripping with fruit and a few Moonglo pears still on their branches. SO, we're hosting another afternoon of U-pick TOMORROW, WEDNEDSAY, SEPTEMBER 25TH FROM 4:00 TO 6:30 PM.  As usual, we'll provide all the things you need for picking: buckets, scales, bags. Cost is $1.50 per pound.  These are some juicy, tasty apples--Mutzu (Crispin), Fuji, Macoun, Winesap and a couple of other varieties.  

We'll also have cheese (chevre, bloomies, feta, firm aged cheeses and sheep milk blue) and gelato for sale as well as some of our succulent tomatoes (they just keep coming and with all this warm dry weather, they are loaded with flavor).

Gelato Flavors (pints only) include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Stracciatella
  • Butter Pecan
  • Walnut Brittle
  • Espresso
  • Ginger
  • Pear (moonglo) Sorbetto
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto

Come on out and enjoy a serene fall afternoon at the farm. Play hookie from work if you have to!

Posted 9/19/2013 10:39pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

This week we hosted the vet school’s production medicine club to perform what they like to call the annual fall “goat bleed.”  This is veterinarian’s terminology for drawing blood to test for potential diseases in our herd.  We do this every September before breeding season to make sure our breeding stock are free and clear of major diseases that could be passed among them.  It requires some skill to draw blood from a goat.  A needle must be inserted into the jugular vein at just the right angle and depth. Apparently, goats have very superficial veins compared to other animals, making it easy to miss them with a needle. 

The production medicine club consists of vet students (first to third years mostly) who are interested in animals that produce something (that’s compared with animals who are considered “companion”)—meat, milk, fiber. Dairy goats fall squarely into this definition, although for me they serve other purposes as well.  I have decided to allow the students to stick needles into the jugular veins of my girls (and boys) because the students need to practice and get it right before they go out into the real world of veterinary practice. I admit that I sometimes cringe as I watch a student struggle to hit the vein and have to remove the needle multiple times before the red viscous fluid starts flowing into the small tube at the end of the needle. The saving grace is that our girls are so used to people that they are remarkably compliant subjects (or victims?).  Once one has had her blood drawn, she likes to watch another “victim” go through the process—must be either a sense of goat girl revenge or a desire to relive the trauma vicariously through a caprine comrade. 

Farm Dinners- a little nostalgia for the beginning

This Saturday, September 21st, we’ll attempt to recreate the very first farm dinner menu we served on the farm just five years ago.  It was early August 2008.  Our newly minted commercial kitchen had just been inspected and approved by the Champaign Urbana Health District, and we decided it would be wise to host a small dinner for “family and friends” before launching a farm dinner where guests actually paid to dine here.  We set a long table with white linen and fancy plates on the lawn.  The night was warm and balmy.  Our guests arrived and we served them a few hors d’oeuvres by the barn.  A few flies descended upon some of the appetizers, and our chef, Alisa, was mortified.  The guests took it in stride and poured themselves a glass of wine. After a while, we sat them down to serve the first course at the long table.

Wes and I were the servers for the evening. We struggled clumsily to place the food-filled dishes before the guests without spilling the food.  We often forgot about serving from the left (or was it right) and removing the finished plates from the opposite side.  It became clear fairly quickly that this was a job best handled by professionals.  The guests were good sports about the service.  As they dug into the main course of the meal, the wind died down and a stillness of air settled over the farm like none we had experienced before. The wind seemed to blow constantly out here on the prairie, so when the weather vane on the windmill stopped moving, it was noticeable. Suddenly, swarms of mosquitos appeared out of nowhere (I always liked to brag to our friends in Madison that we NEVER had mosquitos here in central Illinois) and began to attack our guests while they were dining.  We broke out the insect repellent, lit the citronella candles and even tried to hook up a fan to blow them off their targets, but our poor guinea pig diners became covered in insect bites. 

They finished their desserts gracefully and we hurried everyone inside our house so they could nurse their welts with aloe vera and fill out our little questionnaire about their dining experience. We had invited them to get their honest feedback, and provide it they did.  Everyone loved the food, but we were told gently that Wes and Leslie should not be servers and that we needed to elevate our dining table to keep the biting insects at bay.  We fixed the problems, posted our first five dinners on our website (they did NOT sell out right away as they do now) and opened our doors to the public in mid- August.  Five years later and scores of farm dinners now under our belts, we continue to learn from each event.  We also relish the joy our guests experience at dining on a farm, eating foods picked close to the dinner table within hours of eating them and the camaraderie that accompanies communal dining. 

Farmers’ Markets

We’re attending one market this Saturday, September 21st: Urbana’s Market at the Square.  We’ve got cheese, gelato, apples, pears and tomatoes for you.  You say you need some cheese? We’ll have:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom dried tomato
  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Sheep milk feta
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Eldon-sheep milk blue

Need some pints of gelato? Stewart’s been slaving over the gelato batch freezer to spin you a bunch of flavors:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Ginger
  • Butter Pecan
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Espresso
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Gianduja (chocolate hazelnut)
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Italian plum sorbetto

Stay tuned for details about another possible farm open house and u-pick opportunity next Wednesday, September 25th

Posted 9/12/2013 10:09pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

All of the doelings we had wanted to sell have been sold.  The lucky few who remain will be bred later this fall and join the ranks of the milkers next spring.  So, it’s time for the ritual of naming.  Unlike the traditions of human baby naming, we don’t name our kids when they’re born. It takes me a while to decide who to keep and who to sell.  I don’t like to sell a doeling who we’ve already named. It takes me awhile to get a sense of their personalities too.  Instead, they spend the first months of their lives with their mother’s name and their birth number. We grow to know them as “Tulula 102,“ “Liberty 36,” “Olivia 22” and so on.  

Naming livestock is surrounded by mystique or routine.  For those in the show world, names are elaborate and fanciful.  Our breeding buck “Eddie” came out a show herd in Ohio, and his official name is “Hoanbu Easy Street.”  His mother’s name is “Giavonna Giabella.”  The show goat names can be even more over the top: “Blazin’ Hot Gillette” or “Calm Before the Storm” anyone? At the other end of the spectrum, most commercial herds know their does by numbers only; not an approach that suits our dairy.

 My ritual takes a more direct and anthropomorphic approach.  I usually select a theme—“movie stars of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s” “jazz singers” “dead female relatives” to name a few.  Then, I make a list of names, take this out to the doeling pen and being the process of placing names with emerging personalities.  This year, I have decided to open this very personal process to our patrons. We have a launched a little campaign on our Facebook page to select a naming theme for this year’s crop of doelings.  The response so far has been very creative—Illinois towns, first ladies, National parks???,  Cuts of meat (don’t think we’ll be using that one).  We’ll announce the winner early next week so stay tuned. 

Farmers’ Market News

This Saturday, September 14th is a two market weekend: Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market. Sarah and Stewart will be filling in for us in Urbana, while Andrew makes the early drive north to Chicago.  In addition to cheese and gelato, we’ll be bringing some tasty tomatoes, apples and pears to the Urbana Farmers’ Market.

We’ve got a great lineup of early fall cheeses, including the long-awaited return of HEIRLOOM TOMATO CHEVRE!!! We had been waiting for some hot weather to ripen those little Juliette tomatoes (an intensively rich mini-roma variety that we dry and chop up to blend into our chevre). With all this hot weather lately, they're finally ripening and ready. In addition, we'll have:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta
  • Some fairly young bloomy rind cheeses, including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and Ewe Bloom-if you like them gooey, I’d put these in the frig for several days to let them ripen a bit longer.
  • Firm aged cheeses including Moonglo (raw goat milk tomme) and Roxanne (sheep milk brebis).  They both pair extremely well with the apples and Moonglo pears we’ll be bringing to market. 
  • Eldon: our sheep milk blue—it’s got some great veining, but the taste is sweet and salty blue—YUM!

Gelato fans, we’ve got some great flavors for you (chocolate fans will have to wait until next week to get their fix-sorry):

  • Vanilla
  • Hazelnut
  • Fresh Mint
  • Espresso
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Cucumber Lime Mint Sorbetto

Green City Market Patrons will have a smaller selection of locally sourced flavors, some of which are listed above. 

On another note, don’t forget to frequent our ShowClix venue for available dinner tickets.  As we get cancellations, we repost them on this website. So, even if our main website lists the dinner as “SOLD OUT,” you should check the ShowClix site periodically for the latest availability. 

Posted 9/10/2013 9:35pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Greetings:

We've got summer weather but fall fruit to pick, so we're hosting another open house-on-farm sale and u-pick TOMORROW--WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH--FROM 4:00 TO 6:30PM.  

We will have cheese (chevre, feta, bloomies, sheep milk blue, Moonglo and Eldon) and gelato (pints only) for sale as well as loads and loads of scrumptious heirloom tomatoes. You can cool off with bottle of authentic soda by Homer Soda company too.  Need some tempting on the gelato front?

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Mint
  • Hazelnut
  • Cucumber Lime Mint (this will cool you down)
  • Butter Pecan
  • Pumpkin Pie (like I said, it should be fall)
  • Pineapple Sage (it's an herb infusion that has hints of pineapple and beautiful herbal notes)
  • Espresso

Stewart (Artisan Breads) will have a few loaves of bread on hand to sell as well.  We'll be offering u-pick of Moonglo Pears and a couple of apple varieties.  Come on out! It's cooler out here in the country for sure.  


Eastern Illinois Fundraiser with Master Chef Rick Bayless: Ticket sales are picking up, so if you've been considering this donation, I would recommend moving on it before they're gone.  Childhood hunger is real and widespread right in our own backyard, so plesae consider making this generous donation to this very worthy cause.  You'll get an unforgettable meal and meet one of America's most inspirational chefs as a bonus!  Click on this link to make your purchase. 


Tickets to our fall "Fork in the Road Tasting Trail" are now on sale as well. This tour, scheduled for Sunday, September 22nd (12-5PM), starts at our farm, goes on to KD Ranch-Sugar Shack Antiques in Oakwood (bison, long-horn cattle, elk) and ends at Sleepy Creek Vineyard with a full tasting of ALL of their wines (accompanied by a cheese and cured meats platter); all for the VERY reasonable price of $35 per ticket.  Less than half the places remain, so don't delay.  

Posted 9/9/2013 10:59am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Dear CSA members:


Fall is upon us, although we wouldn't know it from this week's weather forecast.  We have another pickup scheduled for this week:


Tuesday, September 10th: Normal, Bloomington, Peoria

Wednesday, September 11th: Springfield (AM), Prairie Fruits Farm (PM: 4:00 to 6:30-we'll have an open house and u-pick that evening as well)

Friday, September 13th: Naperville

If you are not able to pick up your share, please have someone pick it up for you. Please let me know who that person is along with their phone number, in case I need to reach them. Please remind them to pick up your shares for you so you don't miss out.  

The remaining pick up weeks for our CSA are as follows:

  • September 23rd
  • October 7th
  • October 21nd
  • November 4th
  • November 18th

This will make a total of 14 pick ups for the season.  PLEASE MARK THESE WEEKS (AND YOUR RESPECTIVE PICK UP DAYS) ON YOUR CALENDARS SO YOU DON'T FORGET AND DON'T MISS OUT.  Our Bloomington CSA pick up will be moving to the Vitesse Bike shop probably for the months of October and November  (and the pick up time might change), so stay alert for the notice about that change.  

The deadline for extra seats for our CSA is this coming Sunday, September 15th (this is for members who have ALREADY PURCHASED ONE SEAT FOR THE DINNER). We will then open it up for others to add additional seats. If you've been waiting to get another seat, please don't delay--either bring a check to the CSA pickups in Normal or Bloomington this week or send it in the mail. 

As always, we appreciate your support and we welcome any feedback on the CSA.

Thank you.


leslie & Carissa


Posted 9/5/2013 9:42pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

I know that the summer is on the outs when I have sold the last of the doe kids of the season.  For me, the process of selling doelings isn’t a one-way street. I like to know something about the people who are buying them—kind of like interviewing foster parents. We had two buyers come this week; one has bought does from us in the past, and I know he treats them like princesses and queens.  The other person travelled all the way from Carbondale to buy a couple of doelings and a breeding buck as a present for his wife. This was “good sign number one.” Then, when he mentioned she was finally coming home from a two month stint in the hospital (she contracted a rare illness from a tick bite), that was an extra good sign.  Then, as we talked further, he mentioned that he had milked dairy cows in the past, raised fresh water prawns and currently owns Belted Galloway cattle; the deal was sealed.  It is important to me that our does go to good homes and will be cared for as we would care for them.  We’re down to our 14 replacement does, and so the process begins to select names for them. 

tomato mania

Tomato anxiety is in full swing.  We spent last weekend freezing, canning and drying, and by Sunday night, our hearth (this has become the tomato holding pen in our house) was bare. Alas, they just keep coming. Flats and flats of three-pound heirlooms, plump romas and even the elusive Juliets arrive daily.  I have come to the conclusion that, despite the work and mess, canning is my favorite means of preserving tomatoes.  There’s something deeply satisfying about the entire process: cleaning and sterilizing the jars and lids, setting up a pot of boiling water and an ice bath to remove the skins, squishing the peeled tomatoes into the jars and packing them down until the juice runs out the top; cleaning the rim of the jars and placing the lid and band on top, setting the jars in the metal jar holding and then lowering them into the canning pot brimming with boiling water.  The cooking time for tomatoes is 45 minutes; then comes the tricky part of hoisting the jar holder out of the boiling water and placing it on a tea towel on the counter.  I usually leave that part to Wes.  Once the jars are out of boiling water, I listen for the classic lid pop—this is the sound that all the prior work has gone well-the jars are sealed, summers’ bounty is preserved. 


canned tomatoes

Farmers’ Market News, Next Week Farm Open House and U-Pick

This Saturday, we’re attending one farmers’ market: Urbana’s Market at the Square. We’ll be bringing some of those gorgeous tomatoes to sell along with a few peaches, apples and pears—yes, the Moonglo pears are finally ready to be picked.  Of course, there’ll be cheese to accompany all that great fruit:

  • Fresh chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
  • Bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Black Goat and Black Sheep
  • Sheep milk feta—this one is MADE for tomatoes
  • Moonglo—try it with the Moonglo pears! It will make the pears proud
  • Roxanne—I think this will pair well with apples
  • Eldon—our sheep milk blue is delicious with apples as well

It’s still plenty hot for gelato eating, and our herb garden has been the inspiration for many of the flavors this week:

  • Honey Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Fresh Mint
  • Cucumber Lime Mint Sorbetto
  • White Peach Sorbetto
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut)—a classic Italian flavor
  • Stracciatella

Due to the abundance of tree fruit ripening in our orchard, we will be hosting on farm sales and u-pick fruit next Wednesday afternoon, September 11th (4 to 6:30PM). We will have cheese and gelato for sale and some of our own veggies, but the other guest farmers likely won’t be here.  Stay tuned for details early next week.

Posted 8/29/2013 9:44pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

In the poultry business, she was known as a survivor.  Blanche, Bianca, “Whitey”, she went by different names depending on the circumstances.  Sadly, this week, our beloved white Americana hen, Blanche, succumbed to an unknown fatal blow.  We found her flattened next to one of the hay feeders inside the doe barn.  We’re not sure exactly how old she was, but we estimate between seven and eight years of age—this is ancient for a chicken. 

She had a remarkable life for a chicken. We took Blanche in from our friends at Blue Moon Farm several years ago. She was the sole survivor of a raccoon raid on their chicken coop.  Having witnessed the massacre, and probably suffering from survivor’s guilt, she initially kept to herself, avoiding contact with our other laying hens and not letting us get close to her.  She definitely was not one to roost in the chicken pen at night, preferring the company of the goats over her own kind. Over time, she relaxed somewhat and started laying her beautiful blue-green eggs—the classic pastel color of the Americana breed.  I would characterize her as a chicken with attitude; she was very sure of herself and knew how to get what she wanted. Although she grew accustomed to us and seemed fond of the goats, she never was one to submit to being picked up or petted (unlike many of our other hens who would crouch in submission as soon as we approached them).  I wanted to pet her, but I respected her. 


blanche on her perch above Eddie our buck

When predators struck the chicken coop at our farm and we started losing hens one by one each night, Blanche took to the air to escape the fate of her feathered compatriots.  Each night at roosting time, she would fly up onto one of the ceiling fans suspended at least 20 feet off the ground.  We marveled at her agility and her unflappable instincts for self-preservation.  When we finally caught the predators (a family of raccoons), she somehow sensed that the threat had subsided, and resumed her normal evening perch on top of the gate inside the doe barn.

 Her last survival came from the jaws of our dog, Blue.  Not too long after his arrival on our farm this winter, he mistakenly got the idea that he could kill chickens.  One early spring afternoon, I found Blanche lying in the orchard. She was alive but wounded. We brought her inside, cleaned up her wound and nursed her back to health. From death’s door to beak pecking for freedom from her cage, slowly she regained her chicken traits and feisty attitude.  When she was well enough, we put her in the chicken coop with her fellow hens. Several days later, she started laying eggs again. After another week, she was done socializing with her own kind and had escaped back to the goat barn.  Thankfully, Blue learned to repress his taste for chicken, and Blanche’s survival instincts prevailed. 

We will remember her fondly –a true icon of poultry.

Farmers’ Markets

This Saturday, August 31st, we’re attending two farmers’ markets: Urbana and Chicago’s Green City Market.  Given our long hiatus from Green City, we’ll be bringing lots of cheese for our Chicago patrons to enjoy.  We’ll have:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta: this cheese is so delicious with summer tomatoes
  • Bloomy rind cheeses including Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Sheep, Black Goat
  • Roxanne—firm, buttery sheep milk cheese
  • Moonglo—firm, raw goat milk tomme-tangy but nutty
  • Last of the fall milk Huckleberry Blue (you won’t see more of this cheese until next year)
  • Eldon-our sheep milk blue-spicy but not overpowering

Need to get some relief from this late summer heat? How about taking home some pints of gelato (be sure to bring a cooler to the market so it doesn’t melt on your way home):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Fresh Mint
  • Espresso
  • Stracciatella
  • Ginger
  • Sweet Corn
  • “Hot” Chocolate (that’s spicy heat from hot pepper—it’s warm but it will cool you off)
  • Pure peach sorbetto
  • White peach sorbetto

For our Chicago patrons, we’ll have a subset of these flavors representing local flavors as well as a few others (Lemon Verbena for example). 

A few other things:

U-pick and on-farm sales: Although our summer open house has come to an end for the season, we’ll still be offering opportunities to come out and pick peaches, apples and pears this fall. Stay tuned for details about dates and times.  

Fundraiser dinners: If you have been debating about whether or not to purchase seats for one of the two fundraiser dinners at our farm this fall (WILL Independent Media hog roast on September 15th and Eastern Illinois Food Bank dinner with Master Chef Rick Bayless on October 6th), I encourage you to reconsider. Although the cost for these dinners is steep, the majority of the ticket price is a charitable donation to organizations doing valuable work in our community.  If you’re able, we know that the causes are very worthy. Details about the dinners are found on our website under 2013 Dinner Season.  

Fork in the Road fall tasting trail tour: In case you missed it, we're doing a fall tasting trail on Sunday, September 22nd: Prairie Fruits Farm to KD Ranch (bison, long-horn cattle) to Sleepy Creek Vineyards. It's grape harvest and wine making time at the Vineyard--should be loads of fun and good eats. Tickets are now on sale on our ShowClix site. 



Posted 8/27/2013 10:29pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Summer has arrived late and with a vengeance, but we don't let a little heat wave slow us down.  Tomorrow (August 28th) is our LAST summer open house of the season, so we're staying open a bit later than normal. Hours will be 4 to 6:30PM.  We'll keep you cool with cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre
  • Feta
  • An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses
  • Firm aged goat and sheep milk cheeses

We've also got boat loads of heirloom tomatoes, hot padron peppers and maybe a few cool cucumbers fresh out of our garden for you to buy as well.  

Want to pick some organic fruit? We'll have both peaches and apples for u-pick and maybe a few blackberries too.  Apples and peaches are $1.50/lb for u-pick.  We'll probably have some already picked for you to purchase as well.  

Don' forget to stay hydrated with some old time Homer Soda Company sodas--only $2 a bottle.

Gelato will be available by the pint and by the scoop(*):

  • Vanilla*
  • Chocolate*
  • Fresh Mint
  • Stacciatella*
  • Cajeta (goat milk caramel) swirl
  • Sweet corn*
  • Ginger
  • Espresso*
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Nectarine Sorbetto*

Stewart's Artisan Breads will be here with his usual selection of breads, bagels, cookies and granola. He'll also be bringing round challah with and without raisins and honey cakes (also with and without raisins) for the upcoming jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.  

Tomahnous Farm will have an assortment of vegetables along with their gorgeous flowers--all certified ORGANIC!

Lucky Duck Farm will be bringing chicken and duck eggs along with ham steaks

Laurence Mate, aka the Knife Dude, is back from vacation and will be here to sharpen your knives while you shop, pick fruit or just visit with the goats.  

Fall Tour and Tasting Tickets NOW ON SALE:

If you missed our summer "Fork in the Road" tasting trail tour, you've got another chance. We're offering a fall tasting tour on Sunday, September 22nd from 12 Noon to 5PM.  You'll start at our farm, go on to KD Ranch-Sugarshack Antiques in Oakwood and end at Sleepy Creek Vineyard with a full wine, cheese and cured meats tasting. It's all for the very reasonable price of $35 per person. For more details and to make reservations, go to "Tasting Trail" on our website.  Tickets are on sale right now.