Alas, it's Wednesday and I am just getting around to reminding you of our weekly farm open house and on farm sale. Yes, it's TODAY from 4 to 6PM this afternoon. We will have everything for sale set up inside the barn in case of rain drops. Also, you can check out our new display of goat milk soaps and Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts. We've got a beautiful fire-engine red table that was rescued from the old Homer High School many many years ago.
We've got cheese, gelato by the scoop and pint too. Come see what our guest farmers have picked fresh out of their fields: Tomahnous Farm, Lucky Duck Farm and Hendrick House will have veggies, eggs, meats, herbs and beautiful salad greens. Stewart's Artisan Breads is on vacation this week, but Laurence the knife sharpening dude will be here to sharpen your knives while you visit the farm and shop.
Of course, the goats are "hungry" for visitors as are the pigs and Blue the dog. The garden is growing as if we've injected steroids in the irrigation water (no we haven't! we're organic), so you can stroll around and marvel at mother nature with timely rains.
U-pick fruit season is just around the corner. Stay tuned for details about dates, what's in season and how it all works.
It’s the fourth of July. Outside, I hear the explosions of fireworks. The night is calm, mild. Our fields have their own version of fireworks tonight—the fireflies flicker in multitudes over emerging soybeans and vegetables. This week my sister and her family visited us from Boston. My nephew and niece, one off to college, the other starting middle school, immersed themselves in the life of the farm. Milking at 5:30AM, feeding screaming baby goats, weeding the garden, mulching the tomatoes; they seemed to relish the hard work and the rhythm of routine.
It wasn’t all drudgery; however. One day, we visited our neighbor’s yard and picked gorgeous fire-engine red tart cherries. We brought them home, broke out the cherry pitter and within a flash, turned those cherries into a warm cherry crisp for dessert. Of course, it was served with each person’s favorite flavor of goat milk gelato.
This Saturday, July 6th, we’re attending two farmers’ markets: Urbana and Chicago’s Green City Market. We’re celebrating our nation’s leap of faith into independence and freedom. So, keep up the holiday spirit this weekend and let the cheese set you free. OK, you can let gelato set you free too. Here’s what we plan to bring to market:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper—you need lots of this creamy chevre for the salads, cold pasta dishes and crostini you’ll be preparing for all your holiday guests
- Fresh goat milk ricotta: YES, it’s back after a few weeks’ hiatus. It’s sweet and delicious—perfect for a berry-laden dessert
- Sheep milk feta—it’s got the tang you’re craving, so take some home this weekend
- Bloomy rind cheeses—Little Bloom on the Prairie for sure, maybe a few others of your favorite gooey friends
- Roxanne: our take on a sheep milk brebis—it’s buttery, melts well and works great with a burger or cheese dog hot from the grill
- Huckleberry Blue: our raw goat milk blue, wrapped in pear brandy-soaked sycamore leaves from our farm—it’s a creamy, sweet and tart blue that will feel like fireworks in your mouth!
Need something cold to accompany all those cherry pies you’re making? How about some delicious goat milk gelato. Gelato flavors for Urbana include:
- Lemon Balm-Thyme
- Cajeta Swirl
- Tart Cherry Stracciatella
- Honey Lavender
- Vanilla Chevre
- Peach Sorbetto (made with peaches from Mileur Orchard in Murphysboro, IL)
Green City Market Gelato Flavors include:
- Lemon Balm-Thyme
- Honey Lavender
- Vanilla Chevre
- Margot’s Mint
Hello CSA members:
Once again, it is time for another allotment of delicious bread, cheese and gelato. Here is the schedule for pickups this week:
- Peoria, Tuesday, July 9th: Marcella Teplitz house from 5 to 6PM
- Normal (1st Presbyterian Church): Tuesday, July 9th, from 4:30 to 5:30PM
- Bloomington (Unitarian Church): Tuesday, July 9th from 6 to 7PM
- Wednesday, July 10th: Springfield (Farmers' Market at Katic Bread farm stand): 8AM to 11AM
- Wednesday, July 10th, Prairie Fruits Farm: 4 to 6PM
- Friday, July 12th, Naperville Tennis Club: 3:30 to 5:30PM** NOTE TO NAPERVILLE CSA MEMBERS: I KNOW YOU WERE NOT ABLE TO GET YOUR SHARES LAST TIME DUE TO WEATHER CONDITIONS. KATIC BREADS WAS SUPPOSED TO CALL YOU LAST WEEK TO PICK UP LAST FRIDAY, THE 5TH OF JULY. IF YOU MISSED YOUR PICKUP, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND WE'LL GET IT STRAIGHTENED OUT.
Just a reminder for those of you who signed up for the CSA farm dinner and want to purchase an additional seat, please send me (Leslie) a check for $45 to reserve the extra seat.
Thank you and happy summer eating.
leslie & Carissa
The 4th of July is a great holiday to celebrate our FOOD independence. What better way to celebrate than to visit us on Wednesday, July 3rd for our summer open house. We'll be open from 4 to 6 PM.
Of course, every FOURTH OF JULY picnic should have some cheese, so we can set you up with:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black pepper (our version of the "red, white and blue")
- Sheep milk feta
- Angel Food Brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Huckleberry Blue (now that's the holiday spirit)
- Roxanne (an independent minded goat has her namesake on this spanish style sheep milk cheese)
Need some gelato to top off that cherry pie? (* indicates single servings available as well as pints):
- Chocolate *
- Lemon Balm-Thyme*
- Honey Lavender*
- Vanilla Chevre
- Tart cherry Stracciatella*
- Cajeta Swirl*
- Peach Sorbetto* made with peaches from Mileur Orchard in Murphysboro IL--it's sublime
We've got a very special guest farmer coming to visit us this week: Sticky Pete's Maple Syrup. Here's the sweet deal on their beautiful liquid amber:
The usual suspects will be here as well:
Tomahnous Farm will be bringing fresh veggies, berries (probably blueberries and raspberries--another critical component of the "red, blue and white" local holiday celebration)
Lucky Duck Farm will have farm fresh chicken and duck eggs, grassfed beef and ham steaks along with beautiful flower bouquets to adorn your holiday tables
Stewart's Artisan Breads will have an assortment of bagels, breads, cookies and granola
Laurence the Knife Sharpening dude will also be here to sharpen your knives while you shop and visit with the animals.
The garden is lush, come see the baby peaches growing on the trees (soon to be ripe for u-pick we hope), the animal await you!! Celebrate FOOD independence in style. Come on out to Prairie Fruits Farm tomorrow afternoon!
Hidden treasures in central IL: Last Sunday afternoon, during what normally would be our few hours of rest time, we decided to venture over to the Sharp’s Crossing Lavender farm on Highway 45 just south of Tomasboro. They were hosting one of only two weekend u-pick events. The lavender is in bloom full force in late June in this part of the world (who knew!), and we wanted to pick some for our delicious honey lavender gelato. Yes, there is a lavender farm in central Illinois, nestled quietly amongst the corn and soybean fields. It is truly a gem. As you pull off the highway onto their driveway, you encounter a sweet simple farm house. The driveway curves around to reveal the lavender beds and large white old barn. People are stooped over the field, scissors in hand, cutting away. Inside the barn, you are overcome by the scent of drying lavender, the explosion of purple everywhere. The owner, Jan, greets you and hands you a pair of shears for clipping. We go back outside to cut our bunches.
Maybe it’s the sedative effects of breathing lavender essence, but after several minutes of cutting flowers, I feel a strange sensation of calm waft over me. I begin to take in the strange juxtaposition of lavender against soybean, and the bees buzzing from flower to flower remind me of the importance of oases.
Pigs on the move: Finally, this week, it was time to move the pigs from their now barren pig enclosure to “greener pastures.” Although I wasn’t present to witness the actual running of the pigs, I heard second hand that their trek occurred with little fanfare. The Arkansas black pigs were the most compliant, while the Red Waddles showed some signs of feralness. A little bit of mash to coax them on their way was all it took to smooth the move down the driveway to the pasture enclosure. They settled in immediately, rooting into new ground, sloshing in the new wallows to make them just right, pushing the straw around to accommodate their rapidly growing bodies. Their neighbors, the goat kids, came to the fence immediately to check them out—busybody characters that they are. Their curiosity got the best of them as they tried to breach the now hot (electrified) fence to get an even closer look. The pigs unfazed, dug deeper into their wallows—the epitome of porcine bliss.
Farmers’ Markets, Farm Dinner this Weekend
This weekend, we’re attending the Urbana Farmers’ Market only. We’re debuting the first spring batch of Roxanne, our sheep milk brebis cheese (it’s inspired by Pyrenees style cheese).
It’s a semi-firm cheese, with slight sharpness, and some buttery notes. Great for slicing and eating or for melting on one of those burgers you plan to cook on the grill this weekend. We’ll also have more of our delicious spring milk Huckleberry Blue. In addition, we’ll have:
- Plenty of cool and creamy chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- Sheep Milk Feta—perfect for your salads now that cucumbers and tomatoes abound at the farmers’ markets
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food, Black Goat and Ewe Bloom—all perfect to pack for a summer afternoon picnic
Our gelato flavor repertoire is growing as the list of local ingredients comes on the scene:
- Tart Cherry Stracciatella (one of my favorites)
- Vanilla Chevre (made with our chevre, of course)
- Honey Lavender (made with the last of last year’s honey and Sharp’s Crossing lavender)
- Fresh Fig (made with local figs!!)
- Lemon Balm Thyme
- Maple Yogurt
- Local Strawberry
Make sure you bring a cooler with ice packs to take your gelato home safely given the heat.
We have another farm dinner tomorrow evening, and I have a couple of last minute cancellations leaving four seats available. The theme is “Summer Vegetarian” with guest chef Thad Morrow, of Bacaro Restaurant in Champaign. The menu is posted on our website. Just scroll down to the date and theme to see it. If you would like to purchase those seats, email me at email@example.com. I will take them first come first served.
It might be stormy right now, but tomorrow, it will be all sunshine (well, maybe) and flowers, especially in the local food department. Once again, it's time for our weekly farm open house--Wednesday, June 26th from 4 to 6PM.
We've got cheese--plenty of chevre, feta, bloomy rind cheeses and maybe even a few pieces of Moonglo. We've also got some GREAT goat milk soap made for us by Red Barn Farm. Check them out! They're beautiful and long lasting.
We've got gelato by the scoop and pint (* indicates flavors available for scoops and cones):
- Tart cherry stracciatella*
- Lemon Balm-Thyme
- Maple-Yogurt (Funk's Grove Maple Syrup)*
- Honey Lavender* back by popular demand--our honey with lavender from Sharp's Lavender Farm on Rte. 45, close to Tomasboro. Wes and I went there to pick lavender on Sunday. What a beautiful farm!!
- Fresh Fig* Made with local figs from Cary's Garden of Eatin'
- Local Strawberry*
Lucky Duck Farm has:
- Chicken eggs and duck eggs (free-range, pastured, organically fed)
- Ground beef (Black Angus, 100% grass-fed)
- Ham steaks (pastured Red Wattle pigs, organically fed)
- Yarn from our flock of 100% grass-fed Icelandic sheep
- Maybe some bouquets of flowers from our fallow field
Tomahnous Farm is bringing: some blueberries, raspberries, herbs, garlic scapes, garlic, salad mix--BERRIES, VERY EXCITING
Stewart's Artisan Breads will have bagels, breads, cookies and granola--the usual great stuff
NEW to our farm sales: Hendrick House roof top garden will be bringing lettuce and spinach. It should be wonderful.
Laurence the knife dude will be here to sharpen your dull knives while you shop and visit the farm.
Need any more enticements? I think not.
Don't forget to sign up for our "Fork in the Road" tasting trail tour, July 21st. Tickets are still available.
Happy Summer, CSA members:
We have another pickup scheduled for this week:
- Tuesday, June 25th: 4:30-5:30PM-1st Presbyterian Church, NORMAL
- Tuesday, 5:00-6:00PM, Marcella Teplitz house, PEORIA
- Tuesday, 6:00-7:00PM, Unitarian Church, BLOOMINGTON
- Wednesday, June 26th 8:00-11:00AM, SPRINGFIELD FARMERS' MARKET-KATIC BREAD
- Wednesday, 4:00-6:00PM, PRAIRIE FRUITS FARM
- Friday, June 28th, 3:30-5:30PM, NAPERVILLE TENNIS CLUB (WITH BROADBRANCH FARM)
Remember, pickups for our CSA are EVERY OTHER WEEK (NOT WEEKLY). Please don't forget to pick up your shares and bring coolers with ice packs since it will be hot this week. If you're not able to come yourself to pick up your shares, please have someone else pick them up for you. Please let me know who is picking up for you and send me their email and phone number. THANK YOU!
FARM DINNER UPDATE: For those of you who signed up to attend our CSA-members-only farm dinner, the date will be Sunday October 13th from 3 to 6PM. We will be roasting one of our whey-fed pigs for the special occasion. If you would like to purchase an additional ticket, please send me (or bring to the CSA pickup) a check for $45. If you don't eat pork, please let me know.
As always, we appreciate your feedback on the CSA: how are you liking your cheese, bread and gelato? We hope we have worked out the logistical kinks at this point, but if something is not right, please let us know.
leslie & Carissa
This is the time of year when you’re patting yourself on the back for getting most everything planted. You begin to lull yourself into thinking that things are going well, according to plan. You tell yourself, “the farm is in motion, animals are growing, producing milk, staying relatively healthy, seeds are germinating, growing, looking like the plants they are supposed to become. “ You could imagine you're as happy as pigs in mud.
The routine of the farm is settling into summer after the wild ride of spring. You’re thinking, “just maybe, we can take a little breather.”
Blue, the dog, accompanies me on my garden "rounds."
So, you take a little walk around the garden and the orchard and you begin to see the emerging chaos—the weeds so tall and thick, you can barely find the currants and gooseberries growing among them.
The creeping grasses stealthily covering the emerging flower seedlings—so tenacious, they resist the forceful hand pulling you try to exert upon them. You begin to feel as if the weeds are choking you personally, and the sentiment of being overwhelmed begins to swell. Your instincts are to pull everything out at once, and you try. At some point, you make some kind of truce with the weeds because they just keep coming back despite your efforts to get rid of them.
This Saturday, we’re at two farmers’ markets: Urbana and Chicago’s Green City Market. We’re debuting the first spring batch of Huckleberry Blue. We decided to “dress” the wheels up a bit, like we had done with “Eldon” our sheep milk blue cheese. We covered the wheels with Koval Pear Brandy-soaked sycamore leaves. The result is a match made in heaven: sweet and rich early lactation raw goat milk, slightly sharp blue mold veins, all lightly infused with the alcoholic fruitiness of the pear brandy. In addition to the blue cheese, we’ve got:
- Plenty of fresh and creamy chevre—plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food, Black Goat and Ewe Bloom
- Sheep Milk Feta
For gelato, we’ve got a selection of spring and summer flavors (asterisks indicate local flavors going to Green City Market):
- Pistachio (a premium flavor so we charge a little more)
- Lemon Balm-Thyme *
- Margot’s Mint*
- Tart Cherry Stracciatella (cherries and dark Belgian chocolate, oh my!)
- Cajeta de Cabra (that’s goat milk caramel) swirl*
- Rhubarb Swirl
- Pumpkin Pie*
A new kind of tour at Prairie Fruits Farm
We’ve partnered with some other local farms & agri-tourism venues here in east central Illinois to offer you a novel progressive tour and tasting we’re calling “A Fork in the Road Local Food Trail.” Our first tour will be held on July 21st (a Sunday) from 12 noon to about 4:30PM. The tour starts at our farm, progresses to KD Ranch-Sugar Shack Antiques in Oakwood and ends at Sleepy Creek Winery in Fairmont. Tickets cost $35 per person and include all three farms’ tours and tastings. They go on sale on Saturday, June 22nd at 5:00PM. There are only 30 tickets available so act quickly. For more details, go to the section of our website called “The Experience” and click on “Fork in the Road Trail.”
It's lush, it's hot. It's time again to come out to Prairie Fruits Farm tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday June 19th from 4 to 6 PM to chill, eat some gelato, commune with some farm animals and buy a whole bunch of great local foods. We've got some new and old favorites on the gelato front (* indicates flavors available for scoops or cones):
- Rhubarb Swirl *
- Lemon Balm-thyme
- Cajeta Swirl*
- Tart Cherry Stracciatella (who doesn't like cherries and chocolate chips???)
For cheese, sample and take home some fresh chevre, some feta, several styles of bloomy rind cheeses (Angel Food, Black Goat, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom for sure) and the debut of our first spring batch of Huckleberry Blue (raw goat milk blue cheese). We'll also have our hip t-shirts and goat milk soaps available for sale.
Our guest farmers and food artisans include Tomahnous Farm with fresh veggies, plants, herbs and flowers, Lucky Duck Farm with chicken and duck eggs, grass-fed ground beef and ham steaks (and their beautiful Icelandic sheep wool yarn), Stewart's Artisan Breads with breads, bagels, cookies and granola and Laurence, the knife dude, is here to sharpen your knives while you visit the farm and shop.
The cedar wax wing that appeared in our sycamore trees a few weeks ago was a good omen; such a beautiful and graceful bird who loves to eat cherries. Her presence was the seal that we were finally going to have a good fruit year here at Prairie Fruits Farm. We planted our small, organic orchard nine years ago, and aside from a one or two years of mouthwatering peaches, we can’t really say that our orchard has lived up to our farm’s namesake. Between early spring blooms and late spring freezes along with invasions of Japanese beetles, oriental fruit moths and plumb curculio larvae, it has not been easy to grow fruit in central Illinois, let alone organic fruit.
As we succumbed to the winter of 2012-13 that never seemed to end, we knew that the fruit trees weren’t breaking dormancy. This was a good thing. We held our breath that the cold and wet weren’t so severe that the pollinators couldn’t (or wouldn’t) fly to pollinate the emerging fruit flowers in April. When the flower petals blew away from the seemingly incessant rains, we held our breath again that we might find little tiny fruits swelling at the base of where the petals had attached to the branches. As May has turned into June, it has become clear that our fruit trees are loaded with tiny little fruits—baby peaches and apples so dense they look like grape clusters. They are so thick that we have to thin them so that we get the fruit to size up properly. The highlight for me, however, is that we have CHERRIES! In the nine years of our little orchard’s existence, we have never produced a single cherry. Yesterday, our chef, Alisa was out in the orchard climbing the cherry trees. She picked two large buckets-full of cherries—perfectly ripe, no blemishes, no little worms inside. There were even more cherries left higher up on the tops of the trees. She spent most of the afternoon with the cherry pitter, so we’ll have cherries for our farm dinners. We might even have enough to sneak into a new gelato recipe. Thank you, Cedar Waxwing.
Farmers’ Market News
This Saturday, we’ll be attending one farmers’ market: Urbana’s Market at the Square. We’re hosting another farm dinner this Saturday, welcoming guest chef Chrissy Camba from Bar Pastoral in Chicago. The menu will be posted on our website some time tomorrow. As for what we’re bringing to the market:
- Fresh chevre—from the pasture to the parlor to the cheese vat—the distance that our milk travels before it becomes cheese is a mere matter of feet. Our milk is so fresh and delicious right now and you can taste the pasture in the cheese. We’ve got plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and Ewe Bloom
- Sheep milk Feta
- Very limited quantities of Moonglo—these are the last pieces of our late fall batches of Moonglo. It will be taking a little early summer vacation and will return as our early spring batches ripen.
On the gelato front:
- Local Strawberry
- Lemon Balm-Lemon Thyme (this new flavor is VERY refreshing and delicious)
- Mint Ricotta
- Pumpkin Pie
- Pistachio (we have very limited quantities of this premium flavor; we’re charging a couple of $$ more for this flavor because it is PURE Sicilian Pistachio paste, but it’s totally worth the extra $$)
- Rhubarb sorbetto (tart and scrumptious)