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Posted 11/21/2013 6:33pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

The mid November pregnancy check is becoming a late fall tradition here at Prairie Fruits Farm.  On Wednesday, the second year veterinary students arrived with portable ultrasound machines in tow to have a peak at our does’ uteruses.  Given the number of does with no obvious mating notes next their names on the breeding plan, I was especially anxious to witness the state of their gestations.  Had we missed their heat cycles, were they bred during the pre-breeding buck breakouts, were they still open?—so many unknowns and the girls weren’t talking. As the first group filed into the milking parlor in late morning, the expressions on their faces were a mix of delight (ooh, more grain!) and confusion (weren’t we just up here a couple of hours ago??).  The first group is always tested for patience as they endure the novice hands of students learning the proper amounts of lubricant (apparently, you can never have too much lube), pressure and exact position of the ultrasound wand to get the best glimpse en utero.  With the lights off in the milking parlor to better see the ultrasound screen, I waited, clipboard in hand, for the signs of success: sounds of excitement from their instructor, followed by “freeze that screen,” followed by “she’s pregnant with at least two.”  In some cases, I could corroborate their evidence of pregnancy with notes about dates showing wet tails or mountings.  A few of these corroborations were met with suspicion: the signs of pregnancy indicated that the gestation was a lot further along than my recorded breeding dates.  What does this mean?  Rex was a busy little boy in late September, and we should prepare ourselves for late February births. 

Now that we have a better idea of who is bred, we’ve started to dry off the pregnant does whose milk production has plummeted.  This afternoon, we reorganized the doe barn into milkers and dry does.  As with any shuffling of the housing deck, there ensues a cascade of head butting to re-establish the doe hierarchy—even sisters, Nina and Maxine, who had been separated during breeding, had to duke it out.  The bucks were moved to start breeding our “ladies of James Bond” doelings.  Rejuvenated with the prospect of fresh faces, the bucks’ excitement could not be curtailed.  The doelings have a different agenda for the time being, but soon they’ll stop running and hiding under the hay feeders. 

Thanksgiving happens next Thursday. For me, this holiday has come to symbolize the ultimate celebration of local foods and the farmers who bring them to the holiday table.  Locally raised, heritage-breed turkeys, pumpkins, apples, squashes, turnips, fennel, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, salad greens—it all comes from a relatively short travel distance. It’s become so easy to eat close to the ground.  Even the cranberries are relatively closely grown in Wisconsin or Michigan. We are thankful for this ease, we are thankful for our fellow farmers who raise this beautiful food, and we celebrate the profound deliciousness that these local foods represent.   

Farmers’ Markets

We’re attending two holiday markets this coming Saturday, November 23rd: Urbana’s Holiday Market (8AM to 1PM inside Lincoln Square Mall) and Chicago’s Green City Market (8AM to 1PM second floor the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Cannon Drive). We’re doing our part to adorn your holiday tables with locally produced dairy products.  To help those of you who might feel overwhelmed by selecting the perfect cheeses for a holiday cheese board, I have taken the liberty of selecting three distinct Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses for you:

PFF holiday cheese board
Little Bloom on the Prairie –our ooey gooey camembert-style goat milk cheese, Ichabod, a single-batch, pumpkin-ale wash rind sheep milk cheese (we made this last year, and it was a big hit) and Eldon Sheep Milk Blue, a sweet-salty and slightly crumbly blue cheese.  You can serve these cheeses with apples, honey and quince paste. If you’ve got some toasted walnuts, I would definitely add those to the mix. 

Don’t forget the other cheeses we’ll have on hand:

  • Plenty of fresh chevre (it’s super creamy as the goats’ milk butterfat is off the charts right now): plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
  • Angel Food Brie: so good, it doesn’t need any explaining
  • Sheep milk feta (this makes a beautiful alternative cheese board cheese if drizzled with good olive oil and served with fresh herbs)
  • Moonglo—our raw goat milk tomme—you could definitely shave this on your mashed potatoes if you really want to impress your dinner guests
  • Roxanne—a firm, buttery sheep milk cheese—try grating it over roasted brussel sprouts. I can't wait to try this!

Don’t forget gelato for the pies you plan to make:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin
  • Honey Chevre
  • Honey Lavender
  • Apple Sorbetto
  • Cider Sorbetto
  • Quince Apple Sorbetto

Lastly, if you’re looking to get a jump on gift giving, why not try some of our beautiful goat milk soaps. They’re made naturally by the folks at Red Barn Farm with three ingredients: our goat milk, organic olive oil and organic coconut oil.  I love their simplicity, their lather and the way they soften your skin. 

For our Urbana market goers, we’ll have half gallons of pasteurized apple cider made with our very own organic Fuji, Mutsu and Winesap apples. 

Lots of great food; all of it local. We hope you’ll adorn your own Thanksgiving tables with all that your farmers have to offer.  We thank you. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Posted 11/18/2013 5:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


We survived yesterday's storms and high winds with a few minor scratches and many fewer leaves and house shingles. We have a lot to be thankful for, SO, we're opening our farm doors to celebrate the season this Wednesday afternoon, November 20th from 3:30 to 6:30pm.  

We've made lots of delicious apple cider with our bumper crop of organic apples so we'll have half gallons for sale as well as hot, mulled cider for you to drink.  

We'll have plenty of cheese and gelato for sale as well as our healthful and beautiful goat milk soaps.

Stewart's Artisan Breads will have breads, bagels, cookies and granola in addition to some frozen dinner rolls that you can bake up for Thanksgiving.  

Blue Moon Farm will be here with an array of fall veggies.

Not to be left out of a good time at the farm, Laurence Mate, The Knife Dude, will be here at the farm to sharpen your knives while you shop and visit with the goats.

The weather forecast sounds fairly respectable for this time of year, so we hope you'll find time to come out for a visit and take home some great fall treats to share with your friends and families around the Thanksgiving table.

Posted 11/14/2013 10:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

We’ve been watching Olivia. Olivia is one of our top La Mancha milkers.  In planning our breeding season this year, we decided we would like to artificially inseminate (“AI” is the short hand in the livestock world) her to get a new La Mancha breeding buck. We started monitoring her heat cycles in early October (or so we thought).  Our perceived cycle of 21 days came and went over a week ago, and we began to suspect that she might have been bred by Rex during one of his late September midnight mating marauds.  Then, last Saturday afternoon, I brought a tour group into the doe barn, only to find Olivia saddled up to the side of the fence next to Eddie (one of our handsome Nubian bucks).  Her tail was waving at lightning speed and his wailing was reciprocated with her own doe version of a mating cry.  I tried to maintain my composure and quell my excitement as I described to the tour group the classic signs of a doe in heat. 

As soon as I could steal away from the tour, I called Carolyn, our goat guru, to see if she could come over to AI Olivia.  Carolyn milks for us part time; she decorates cakes as her “day job.” She has been raising, showing and judging dairy goats for several decades, and her knowledge of all things caprine is vast and deep.  When Carolyn arrived, we brought Olivia into the milking parlor so we could get a clear look at the stage of her heat cycle.  As luck would have it, we were at the beginning—no ovulation yet, not the best time for insemination. Carolyn proposed a plan to AI her first thing Sunday morning and again on Sunday afternoon. The window of greatest receptivity is only 12-15 hours within a 24-36 heat cycle.  Sunday morning arrived. Olivia came into the milking parlor and hopped onto our little wooden milk stand (it’s one of our original stands that we built in 2005 to milk our first three does!!). The phase of her cycle was perfect. Carolyn readied her instruments—a glass speculum, plenty of lubricant, the semen straw dispenser, semen straw drawn from our nitrogen tank, a snake-like flash light.  She was very careful to warm the instruments, reminding Wes that we women who have undergone many gynecological exams are particularly sensitive to the temperature of the instruments.  We selected semen from Udder Way “Cassa Nova”—these are genetics from a long-disbanded herd (the semen was frozen in 1991!) with great milk lines.  Carolyn’s photographic memory and recall for dairy goat herds, pedigrees and their genetics is the stuff of legends. 

As she began to insert the semen straw dispenser, she could feel the plunger move through the cervical rings. Goats (sheep too) have 5-7 cervical rings that must be penetrated to ensure that the semen is deposited as close to the uterus as possible. Immediately, I envisioned a scene from the “lord of the rings,” –many gates to pass through, protecting the treasure.  We counted five rings—excellent penetration!  In went the semen straw and slowly she pushed down on the plunger to dispense the contents of the straw.  A little udder massage sealed the deal, and then it was over. Olivia continued to eat her grain, not phased by the goings on at her rear.  We discussed the phase of the moon (it was a waxing moon) and hoped it might favorably impact the success of this AI attempt.  We’re crossing all of our body parts and hoping for the best. We’ll know if she’s settled in about 21 days—wish her luck.  May the force be with her (sorry for the mixed movie metaphors).

On Wednesday morning, we awoke to a skiff of snow on the ground.  We’d been following the forecast and had winterized the doe barn the day before in anticipation of our first blast of frigid arctic air. I was sure that the weather men would be wrong about snow. Snow this early! Snow, when we had just come off of highs in the low ‘60’s?  Yep, the white stuff was coating the ground, barely enough to cover the still green grass.  Blue, the dog who is immune to weather, ran sprints around the house biting at the snow.  I forgot how much he loves snow.

Farmers’ Markets and Cheese


little bloom on the prairie

This Saturday, we’re attending just one farmers’ market: Urbana’s indoor “Holiday Market” at Lincoln Square Mall. We’ll be there from 8AM to 1PM.  We’ve got an abundance of perfectly ripe and gooey Little Bloom on the Prairie, our goat milk camembert, so we’re throwing down the proverbial marketing gauntlet to you, our customers.  If you buy two little bloom rounds, you’ll get a third at half price. What, you’re asking yourselves, can a person do with so much goat milk camembert cheese? Well, I’ve compiled a list of great recipe ideas on our website to inspire your imaginations.  We’re even cooking up a little contest that we’ll be posting on our Facebook Page on Friday:  Come up with a creative recipe using at least two little bloom on the prairie rounds (they’re about 5 ounces each), post it on our Facebook page along with photos of your dish, and we’ll select the most creative recipe. The winner will receive a $25 Prairie Fruits Farm gift certificate to be used at the farmers’ markets or at our on-farm sales. 

Yes, we have other cheeses available too and they are delicious and deserving as well:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Eldon Sheep Milk Blue

We’ll also have some beautiful, seasonal goat milk soaps. If you haven’t tried our soaps, you should. They are made by Red Barn Farm (near Gilman IL) with three simple ingredients: our goat milk, organic olive oil and organic coconut oil.  Farmer Jill uses our herbs as well as other pure ingredients to add extra goodness to these gentle soaps. They last a long time too. I love the Loofa Soap with a loofa sponge embedded in the soap. They make great gifts or just treat yourself. 

Gelato is still available--what is pie without gelato:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Hazelnut
  • Applesauce Sorbetto
  • Quince-Apple Cider Sorbetto
  • Winesap Apple Cider Sorbetto

For those of you looking for an excuse to come out to the farm, we’ll be hosting a pre-Thanksgiving open house next Wednesday, November 20th from 3:30 to 6:30PM. We’ll have cheese, gelato, apple cider, goat milk soaps along with bagels, breads, rolls, cookies and granola from Stewart’s Artisan Breads. Caveny Farm will have their heritage Burbon Red Turkeys available for pick up there too (you must pre-order to get one, I believe). Stay tuned for more details early next week. 

Posted 10/31/2013 5:41pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

As I write on this wet blustery October day, I am happy about the weather. It feels good to have the ground squish under your boots, the dog leave his muddy paw prints on your raincoat and a few small leaks in the roof of the barn drop water on your head.  It’s the end of October, and at last, we’re gettin’ some rain.  I believe that the last rain of significance we received was in June or early July. The maple tree at the entrance to our driveway has begun its color transformation from green to yellow to red.  The soil in the garden beds shows its true black prairie nature.  Forced indoors, I make tomato soup with the very last of the tomatoes and find time to reflect a bit on the season. 

Hallow’s eve or Halloween is tonight. I have long resigned myself to the realities of life in the country on this night. We get no children dressed in costumes ringing our door bell, begging for candy.  Folks who grew up in the country already knew this, but I didn’t. Rural kids don’t trick-or-treat in the country; they go into town where all the good candy lives. So, we too will venture into town to our chef, Alisa’s house, so we can marvel at the kids in their costumes and hand them out candy.  We could dress up our goats in costumes and give them their goat “candy” (aka, their grain), but they’re getting tired of coming into the milking parlor at night, and even goat candy won’t entice them. 

Farmers’ Markets

This Saturday, November 2nd is the last outdoor market in Urbana.  The market moves inside Lincoln Square Mall starting November 9th and runs through December 21st.  For those of you looking for adult versions of “candy,” we’ll have a great assortment of cheese, gelato, apples and honey for you to try and buy this Saturday.  Having a post Halloween party this weekend? How about some cheese!!

  • Fresh chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn
  • Bloomy rinds that are ripe and ready: Angel Food Brie, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and Red Dawn
  • Sheep milk feta
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Eldon sheep milk blue

How about gelato? We’ve got a limited supply of pints this week, so come early for the best selection:

  • Winesap apple sorbetto
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (limited)
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Espresso (very limited)
  • Pumpkin

Our organic apples are still going strong—last of the winesaps and plenty of Fuji. We also have a very limited supply of our farmstead honey.  Get it while it lasts.  This cool wet weather is perfect for nesting—stock up on these staples.  Happy Fall Food eating!

Posted 10/25/2013 7:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm and other News

My apologies for sending out the weekly newsletter so late in the week. I can't really report directly on the goings on at the farm this week. Wes and I have been on the road.  We left for Portland Oregon last Thursday to celebrate Wes' mother's 90th birthday.  It was a beautiful affair, and the lady of honor was resplendent.  While there, we decided to drive back their old Toyota RV so we could have it for use on the farm.  It's a gem of a camper--born in 1990 and touched only by Oregon and California climates, it has only 60,000 miles and no rust.  I've kept a photo journal of our journey from Oregon to Illinois by way of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa, so I'll spare you the details. I will send a link to the journal once it has been posted.  I will mention that we picked up a couple of passengers in southern Oregon of the caprine kind.  Intrigued? Stay tuned for the travel blog.


nigerians meet a bison

Thanks to the marvels of 21st century technology (aka iPhone and ipad), I've been connected to the goings on at the farm throughout the week.  When we left, summer was still clinging to the air, the leaves resisting their change from green to gold to brown. As we return, snow has fallen, the tomato vines have been stung by frost and pulled from the ground, and the goats' milk production has plummeted (signaling successful breeding). We'll be hosting our 100 Yard Dinner this Saturday "The Whey to Raise a Pig."  This is the dinner that features foods grown within 100 yards of the dinner table.  It's a celebration of the uber-local, the diversity of what we can grow right here in central Illinois without a whole lot of hardship. The menu will be posted on our website before the weekend so you can marvel at Chef Alisa's creativity. 

Farmers' Markets: We're attending two farmers' markets this weekend and yes, it will be chilly: Urbana's Market at the Square and Chicago's Green City Market.  There are two more outdoor markets including this weekend in Urbana, while this is the last outdoor market of the season at Green City.  Don't let the cold weather slow you down. We'll have plenty of cheese for you to buy:

  • Fresh Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses--little bloom, black goat, angel food and red dawn are likely to make appearances along with the last of the Ewe Bloom
  • Sheep milk feta-how about crumbling this tangy salty cheese over chili!!
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Eldon Sheep milk blue

We're running into gelato shortages due to the low milk supplies, so we'll only have pints available at the Urbana Farmers' Market this weekend (sorry Green City Market goers--I will have gelato for you once the market moves to its indoor location at the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum in November—9th and 23rd). Here are the flavors for this week:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Espresso
  • The Great Pumpkin
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Lemon Verbena w/Blueberry Swirl
  • Winesap Cider Sorbetto

 

Posted 10/16/2013 9:05pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Farm News

This past Sunday, we hosted a farm dinner for members of our cheese, bread and gelato CSA. For those of you unfamiliar with CSA, it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.”  The typical CSA provides vegetables for its members throughout the growing season.  Members pay the farmer in the dead of winter, so the farmer has some cash to buy seeds and other inputs to grow the members’ food. Then, once the season begins, members pick up their farm shares of beautiful vegetables every week. In the good ol’ days (think birkenstocks), CSA members would “work” at the farm, often in partial payment for shares of produce. Members had a fairly intimate relationship with their farm; farm work afforded them a window onto the daily realities of farming and the personalities of the farmers who grew their food. Farmer and CSA member got dirty together. 

In recent years, the concept has expanded to farm products other than vegetables—fruits, meats, eggs, dairy products, breads, even flowers! The proliferation and diversity of CSA options at times approaches a virtual local food grocery store.  At the same time, the relationship between farmer and members has become more superficial.  The “community” part of CSA becomes little more than a financial transaction and subsequent hand offs of products. Sometimes, the CSA members never get to meet their farmers. 

Our CSA certainly has the earmark of out of the ordinary-bread, cheese and gelato could be considered ‘non-essential’ food groups to some (although, I would beg to differ). We have several pick up locations such that I cannot personally deliver the shares to our members. Our baker delivers to half of the locations, and I deliver to the other half.  So, it was important to me to bring back some semblance of community by offering a CSA member-only farm dinner.

The feel of the dinner was akin to a large extended family picnic: not all “relatives” know each other, but all share something in common (in this case, it’s not genetics, but a love of goat dairy products and fine artisan breads).  On a crisp, sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, we pressed cider from our apples, we offered folks a chance to go out to the orchard to pick their own apples, we took them on a tour of the farm and then we sat down to a giant family meal.  We featured one of our wood-roasted whey-fed pigs.  We brought out platters of salads and sides, jars and jars of house-made pickles and over-flowing plates of cheese.  For dessert, we wheeled out the gelato dipping cabinet stocked with several flavors of gelato. Alisa and crew prepared an array of toppings (whipped cream, nuts, caramel sauce, cookies) and guests loaded up bowls of gelato and toppings!  With the sun setting and the evening pulling in a chill, we thanked our members for their patronage-our attempt to bring us closer to the community part of “Community Supported Agriculture.”

Farmers’ Markets

While Wes and I are away in Oregon (Wes’ mother’s turning 90 so it’s time to celebrate!), Sarah and Andrew will be greeting our patrons at the Urbana Farmers’ Market on Saturday, October 19th.  Fall is the perfect time to shop the farmers’ market. There’s still a lot of great produce from warmer times AS WELL AS all the great fall stuff—you get the best of two seasons!  So, come on out to buy some veggies and fruits, but save room in your market totes for cheese and gelato. You won’t have to worry about the gelato melting before you get it home. We’ve got:

  • Chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Bloomy rind cheeses including perfectly ripe Little Bloom on the Prairie, last of the Ewe Bloom (after this batch is gone, there is no more!), Black Sheep—delish!! And Red Dawn—our smoked paprika-dusted beauty
  • Sheep milk feta—still great for salads or how about some spanikopita
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Eldon—salty sweet sheep milk blue-perfect for a Waldorf salad with our gorgeous crisp organic apples (yes, we’ll have those for sale too).

Gelato Flavors include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Espresso
  • Rhubarb Swirl
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Winesap Cider Sorbetto
  • Pear Sorbetto
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto

We’ll be bringing organic apples: Mutzu, Fuji and Stayman Winesap—all of them are perfect for fresh eating as well as cooking. Come visit Sarah and Andrew at the farmers’ market –they’ll be VERY happy to see you.

 



Posted 10/10/2013 9:07pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

We’re a little late this year with the start of breeding season.  There have been stone patios to build and apples to press.  Time for thoughtful development of the breeding plan was sorely lacking this fall as well. The warm October days also lulled me into complacency-it just felt too early to start breeding.

The bucks let their impatience be known on numerous occasions over the past few weeks.  Jumping fences, pulling fences down, plowing through hot wires—it’s hard to keep a driven boy down.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we find some late February “surprises’ next year, as Nate and Harry were particularly adept at finding their way into the doe barn (they’re young and nimble).  Just the other day, Ben arrived at 5AM to milk, only to find Rex making the rounds among the ladies in heat. 

Breeding plan in hand, we began barn cleanout on Tuesday, set up the five breeding pens on Wednesday and this morning, we moved the does into their respective pens.  Once they were settled and had worked out their hierarchy rituals, we brought in the bucks.  Eddie and Harry have smaller groups this year (7-8), while Nate and Mocha will be busy servicing 15-20 each.  Rex’s group is somewhere in between.  With all the mating fanfare that usually ensues with the arrival of the bucks, the initial response from the does was akin to the “cold shoulder.”  The bucks check for telltale signs of heat, arching their lips to detect breeding pheromones.  I left them alone for a while to acclimate, and when I returned they were mostly eating or snoring through a late morning nap; not exactly the hot and heavy frenzy I would have expected with so much anticipation.  The game of love is off to a slow start. I’m sure it will heat up soon enough.

Farmers’ Markets

We’re attending two farmers’ markets this Saturday, October 12th: Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market.  October is American Artisan Cheese Month, so what better way to celebrate than to stock up on some great fall cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper (it’s not too early to start stocking up with chevre in your freezer—yes, it freezes beautifully, and you’ll have chevre to make you happy during the lean cheese days of winter)
  • Sheep milk feta—it’s still tasting great—firm, tangy—perfect for a fall salad
  • Bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, last of the Ewe Bloom, Black Goat and REINTRODUCING OUR RED DAWN—a little, mold-ripened goat cheese that is dusted with smoked paprika
  • Roxanne—grassy and buttery as usual
  • Moonglo—sharp, tangy—perfect for shaving over some roasted fall veggies
  • Eldon—sheep milk blue-if you like salt caramel, you’ll love this blue cheese

Gelato Flavors include (there may be some others too):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Gianduja
  • “Great Pumpkin Patch” Pumpkin (this is really delicious—made with an old pumpkin variety called “Triple Treat” from the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur)
  • Stracciatella
  • Rhubarb Swirl
  • Pear sorbetto
  • Concord Grape  sorbetto
  • Apple cider sorbetto
Posted 10/7/2013 2:17pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Dear CSA members:


We have four more CSA pickups remaining this fall--two in October and two in November. There are a number of changes in venues and times of CSA pickups starting this week, so please read below carefully. 


Normal (1st Presbytarian Church--same date (Tuesday, 4:30 to 5:30PM), same location)

For our Bloomington members (Unitarian Church parking lot folks), we are moving our pickup location to the Vitesse Bike Shop at 206 S. Linden, Normal. The pick up time is the same 6-7PM on Tuesdays

Springfield CSA members will be picking up on Wednesday at the Springfield Farmers' Market (through October only--you should have received an earlier email today explaining how the November shares will be distributed). 

Peoria members will still pick up at Marcella Teplitz' house but from 4:30 to 5:30PM.  

Prairie Fruits Farm members will be picking up their shares on Saturdays at the Urbana Farmers' Market (7AM to 12 noon).  

Naperville CSA members-same time, same location as usual (Fridays)

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.  

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the changes.  

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

Thank you.


leslie & Carissa


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