News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 6/24/2013 11:32am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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.

Thank you!


leslie & Carissa

Posted 6/20/2013 9:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Farm News

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.

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.”

the dog in potato patch

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. 

towering weeds
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.

Farmers’ Markets

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):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pistachio (a premium flavor so we charge a little more)
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme *
  • Margot’s Mint*
  • Stracciatella
  • Tart Cherry Stracciatella (cherries and dark Belgian chocolate, oh my!)
  • Strawberry*
  • 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.”

 



Posted 6/18/2013 3:09pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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):

  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla*
  • Strawberry*
  • Rhubarb Swirl *
  • Lemon Balm-thyme
  • Cajeta Swirl*
  • Hazelnut
  • Pistachio* 
  • 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.  



Posted 6/13/2013 10:10pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

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:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint
  • Local Strawberry
  • Lemon Balm-Lemon Thyme (this new flavor is VERY refreshing and delicious)
  • Stracciatella
  • 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)
Stay tuned for unfurling surprises about our Wednesday farm open house next week.  Happy local food eating.
Posted 6/11/2013 10:59pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

It's time again for another farm open-house and on-farm sale-tomorrow, Wednesday from 4 to 6PM.  Summer weather is finally upon us and we've got "cool" foods to keep you cool.  We've got lots of great cheese for sale including creamy fresh chevre, sheep milk feta and several styles of bloomy rind cheese.  On the gelato front, we've got scoops (**flavors marked with asterisk) and pints of some great new (and favorite) flavors:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate *
  • Hazelnut
  • Fresh Mint*
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme* NEW this week
  • Stracciatella*
  • Mint Ricotta
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pecan Biscotti
  • Local Strawberry
  • Pistachio

We've brought back Pistachio by popular demand. We have a very limited number of pints for sale and we're charging a premium price for this 100% pure Sicilian Pistachio paste gelato (it's the real deal). We know you green nut fans are out there, so come and get it!

As to our other farmer & artisan friends:

Stewart's Artisan Breads will have bagels, breads, cookies and granola for sale.
Tomahnous Farm will have the last of their asparagus, some strawberries, salad mix, plants, and herbs.

Lucky Duck Farm is bringing:

  • 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

Laurence the Knife Sharpening Dude will be here to sharpen your knives while you shop and visit the farm.  

The goats, the pigs, the dog and any other creatures you've come to love at our farm will be here to greet you as well.  We hope to see you HERE!

Posted 6/10/2013 12:33pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Greetings CSA members:


It is time again for another pick up of cheese, bread and gelato. Just to remind you:

 

  • Tuesday 4:30 to 5:30PM 1st Presybterian Church, Normal (with PrairieErth Farm)
  • Tuesday 6:00 to 7:00PM Unitarian Church on Emerson St. Bloomington (with Henry's Farm)
  • Wednesday 8:00 to 11:00AM at the downtown Springfield Farmers' Market at Katic Bread's stand
  • Wednesday 4:00 to 6:00PM at Prairie Fruits Farm
  • Friday 3:30 to 5:30PM at the Naperville Tennis Club (with Broadbranch Farm)


If you are not able to come pick up your shares, please make sure you get someone to pick up for you.  


Thank you very much.


Leslie and Carissa



Posted 6/6/2013 6:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Nearly a week ago as Friday evening rolled into Saturday morning, I awoke not to the sounds of thunder or high winds from the latest rainstorm, but to Wes’ opening the back door. Apparently, I had slept through a raucous thunderstorm that took out our power.  Wes had gone outside to make sure that the generator had turned on, only to find a large tree limb stretched across the roof of our little red shed and our pole barn.  The fiercest part of the storm had passed, but the rains were still coming, so I threw on a raincoat and some boots and headed outside with Wes, flashlights in hand to assess the full damage and check on the goats.  We had noticed signs of rot at the base of this large silver maple—the major clue being birds coming and going from inside the base of the tree—clearly taking advantage of a gaping hole inside.  Clearly, we didn’t realize the extent of the rot until the storm damage was before us.  With only the light from the flashlights—I was using a combination of the flashlight app on my smart phone and a headlamp—it was hard to see how large this limb really was and how much its weight had crushed in the roof of the shed and tore holes in the metal roof of the pole barn. We went inside the pole barn and climbed up the stairs to the hayloft to place buckets underneath the roof holes where rainwater was now seeping inside. 

Once that was stable, we ventured out to the pasture where we had just moved the oldest group of weaned kids along with the retired does.  I had feared that the old ladies would have taken the igloo shelter for themselves, leaving the little ones to wail in the pouring rain. As we approached the gate, it became clear that the kids had taken over the igloo and the old ladies---Chocolate, Habanero, Chippewa and even the brazen Huckleberry were standing out in the rain, soaking wet and moaning in distress over their situation.  The additional wooden shelters that Wes had put out in the pasture for the kids were partially submerged under water, and clearly, the little ones sought higher and drier ground inside the igloo, forcing their grandmothers out to brave the elements.  We quickly opened the gate and escorted the old ladies back to the barn; they were most eager to follow us (except Jethro, the yearling wether and brother of Ellie May, who seemed so traumatized by the storm that I had to drag him from the pasture to the barn).  Thankfully, there was no damage to the barns, and just wet bedding where the rain blew in from the windows. So, we closed up the windows, put down fresh straw bedding, gave everyone a round of hay to calm their nerves and headed back to the house. 

One thing that city folks don’t often realize about losing power is that you lose water too (I confess that being a former “city girl” this relationship was not obvious to me when we moved to our farm).  Most rural residences have wells, and wells have pumps that are powered by electricity—no electricity, no power to the well pump, no water. Unfortunately, our well pump is connected to the electrical panel at our house, while our main generator only powers our pole barn and our barns.  So, we have another smaller generator that we turn on manually to power up the house panel to get the water back on.  Water is critical for a dairy. We need it to run the milking system, we need it to flow through our automatic waterers in the barn and we need it for the self-feeder that provides milk replacer to the kids still on milk.  We also need it in the cheeserie to fill the jackets of the cheese vats and to wash everything.  The relationship between power and water is as important as the relationship between power and refrigeration.  Wes stayed up for the remainder of the night (now early morning) to turn on and off the house generator (it overheats if you leave it on continuously), while I tried to slow down the flow of adrenaline in my veins and get a little bit of sleep before it was time to get up and get ready for the farmers’ market. 


tree damage

Daylight seeped in, revealing the full extent of the tree limb damage.  We got ourselves to the Urbana Farmers’ Market, set up and Wes went back to begin storm cleanup.  The power finally came back on by 10AM on Saturday, and we were able to pull off another successful farm dinner that evening. 

The arborist finally came on Tuesday to excise the limb from the roof.  His technique was a kin to surgery.  Before he could get to the heart of the tree limb, he had to cut out the major side branches. 


tree limb surgery 1


Once they were removed, he was able to back the limb slowly off the roof.  Now comes firewood for winter and dried maple leaf snacks for the goat girls.


limb on the ground

Farmers’ Markets

This Saturday, June 8th, we’re attending two farmers’ markets: Urbana and Chicago’s Green City Market.  Our raw milk tome, Moonglo, is taking a brief early summer vacation, but we’ve got a great line up of cheeses to keep you satisfied:

  • Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: grass and citrus notes evoke pasture-fed goats
  • Ewe Bloom—delicious in all its sheepy-ness; perfect for a cheese burger if you dare
  • Black Goat—ash-ripened delicate goat milk round—great on a salad of fresh greens
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Goat Milk Ricotta-try using this cheese with a drizzle of honey and some fresh sliced strawberries

On the gelato front, we’re starting to add some summer flavors to our repertoire (flavors with an asterisk are those likely to appear at the Green City Market):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Stracciatella
  • Pumpkin Pie*
  • Mint Ricotta*
  • Margot's Fresh Mint*
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme (a new flavor--come try it!!)*
  • Cajeta (goat milk caramel) Swirl*
  • Local Strawberry*
  • Pecan Biscotti

 Stay tuned for next week's details about farm open house and CSA pick ups.

 

 



Posted 6/4/2013 7:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


If you're craving a fix of goats, you should come out to our farm tomorrow afternoon between 4 and 6PM.  Our summer open house and on farm sale has something for everyone:

Cheese to taste and to buy (plenty of chevre, an assortment of bloomy rind cheeses, sheep milk feta)
Gelato by the scoop (asterisk indicates flavors for single servings) and pints to take home
  • Vanilla*
  • Chocolate*
  • Hazelnut
  • Stracciatella
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Mint Ricotta*
  • Margot's Fresh Mint
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme (a new flavor--come try it!!)*
  • Cajeta (goat milk caramel) Swirl
  • Local Strawberry*
  • Pecan Biscotti
Produce and plants from Tomahnous Farm (greens, onions, tomato and herb plants)
Lucky Duck Farm is bringing 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
Stewart's Artisan breads will have an assortment of breads, bagels, cookies and granola
Laurence Mate the knife sharpening dude will sharpen your knives while you shop and visit with the farm animals
Blue the dog will greet you and try to get you to throw him a ball or a stick
The pigs will wallow in the mud while Blue the dog tries to circle their pen
The goat kids in the pasture will beg you for grain (but don't give them any)


If those aren't reasons enough, just come out to enjoy the tranquil farm environment.  It's very peaceful.



Posted 5/31/2013 7:08am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

 

Farm News

This week I spent a lot more time in the cheeserie leaning over the cheese vat.  I came to reconnect my body with the rhythms of ladling curd. There’s a pattern that sets in that reminds me of tango or waltz—dip, scoop, rest, dip, scoop, rest—that’s rest the curd into the basket or the cheese mold, not “rest” your body.  Amidst the steam of ricotta, the seemingly endless, dense curd of sheep milk cheese and the delicate curd of chevre, the dance steps change slightly to fit the needs of the curd.  Once the curd is out of the cheese vat, another dance ensues—the shuffling “hustle” of washing the dishes.

Rain, rain, rain—it’s making the garden grow but not allowing our neighbors to cut hay.  This is the latest date we can remember that we haven’t been able to get a first cutting of alfalfa. Thankfully, the pasture is lush and tall, so the goats have plenty of fresh forage to eat.  We moved another group of weaned kids out into pasture this week—they’re pasture mates with the retiree goat girls. It’s pretty comical to see them out there, their little heads visible just barely above the tall grass.  They move like a school of fish.  The retired does move in the opposite direction of the little ones. 

Farmers’ Markets, Farm Sales, Farm Dinners

This Saturday, June 1st, we’re attending just the Urbana Farmers’ Market.  We’ll return to Green City Market next Saturday.  We’ve got a full lineup of early summer cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
  • Fresh goat milk ricotta
  • Sheep milk feta (if you think this is just any old feta, you NEED to try it!)
  • A selection of bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom, Black Goat
  • Moonglo (some of the last pieces of last fall’s batches—get it before it’s gone)

We have moved into gelato season with the warmer temperatures. Come take home a pint or two:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint
  • Strawberrry
  • Stracciatella
  • Cajeta Swirl (that’s goat milk caramel sauce swirled into vanilla gelato)
  • Mint Ricotta (made with our very own ricotta)
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pecan Biscotti crunch

If you miss the market on Saturday, you have another opportunity to buy cheese, gelato and other farm products. Just come out to the farm on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6 PM. 

We have a farm dinner this Saturday with our very special guest chef Paul Virant.  The menu is now on our website. We also have four extra seats available due to cancellations. So go to the ShowClix site to purchase them. 

Posted 5/28/2013 9:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

In my haste to get out a message to our local patrons about our Wednesday Open House and On Farm Sales, I completed forgot to include the weekly professional knife sharpening service we offer by way of Laurence Mate, aka, the knife sharpening dude. He will be here tomorrow from 4 to6 PM along with all of us farmers and food artisans. Bring your dull knives and see the farm and shop while Laurence sharpens them for you.  Strawberry Gelato makes its 2013 debut tomorrow!! It's delish!!!