We had the vet students out this week to ultrasound the does to check for pregnancies. It has become an annual late fall ritual. We bring the girls into the milking parlor, they get a little grain, the vet students lubricate the ultrasound wand, and we go in search for signs of pregnancy. There’s something universally joyous about birth, and witnessing the first signs of future goat babies. No matter how many times I’ve seen an ultrasound or watched the vets view the fuzzy and fast-moving images on the screen, I still get excited about fluid-filled sacs, placentomes and darting fetuses. It’s also fun to watch the students (and yes, even their instructors) eyes gleam as the images of confirmed pregnancy come into view. Mind you, the does haven’t really grasped the significance of our excitement. For them, eating grain at 1PM in the afternoon was all the excitement they needed. Usually, we’re in a hurry to get as many does check as possible in a short period of time. This year, we’re going a bit slower so the students can learn how use the ultrasound machine, so we were able to see twins and even triplets growing inside their mommas’ wombs. Based on the number of confirmed pregnancies and the numbers of multiple fetuses to date, it looks like March 2013 is shaping up to be a whirlwind of baby goat births.
Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Bazaar
This Saturday, December 1st, we’re attending two farmers’ markets: Urbana’s Holiday Market and Chicago’s Green City Market. Now is the time you should be stocking up on chevre to stick in your freezer to get you through the long cold lonely (chevre-less) winter—that’s right; you can freeze the chevre without compromising its texture or taste (I promise). So, we’ll have:
- Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn
- Angel Food Brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie—our silky goat milk camembert
- Black Goat—our ash ripened goat milk cheese
- Moonglo—it’s summer raw goat milk encased in a rind bathed with pear leaf tea! How great is THAT!!
- Roxanne—reminiscent of greener pastures, this raw sheep milk brebis is great for slicing or even shaving.
- Sheep milk feta—you may be thinking that feta season is over, but our feta is perfect for topping a homemade pizza or crumbling over some roasted root veggies!!
- Ichabod—our one-of-a-kind washed rind sheep milk cheese. The rind was washed with Blind Pig Brewery’s Pumpkin-Honey Ale (alas it is no more at the brewery, so you’ll have to enjoy it in cheese form now). It is known, affectionately, as “stinky” among our cheese makers, but the taste will leave you wanting more and more.
For those of you who live in or around Chicago, I hope you’ll come out to the Goose Island Brew Pub next Tuesday, December for the Ms. Mint’s Holiday Bazaar. We’ll be there with some cheese gift baskets as well as cheese and honey to make your own holiday gift baskets. It should be a FANTASTIC EVENT, SO CHECK IT OUT:
Ms. Mint’s Holiday Bazaar- 3rd Annual
Tuesday December 4, 2012 4-9:30 pm
Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub-1800 N. Clybourn Ave Free Parking/Vendors-in Baby Gap Lot
General Admission- Free/Donation
Tasting Ticket- $15 at the Door / $12 Online:
Event Website: http://www.msmint.com/ms-mints-holiday-bazaar-2012.html
Facebook Invite: http://www.facebook.com/events/129958457154399/
Hosts: Kate Gross/ Ms. Mint Trading Post and Goose Island Clybourn
Theme: Holiday Gift Fair/ Local Artisan Vendor Fair, Local Spirits Sampling, Networking, and Gift Basket Making
As you enjoy your leftovers from yesterday's Thanksgiving Feast, don't forget to come to the Urbana Holiday Market tomorrow from 8AM to 1PM. I'll be there with cheese, honey, jams AND gelato! If they loved your Prairie Fruits Farm cheese board, why not send them home with some "cheesey" gifts. I'll have:
- Angel Food Brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Black Goat
- more of that beautiful pumpkin-honey ale washed "Ichabod"
- Roxanne brebis
- Moonglo tomme
Local foods make wonderful gifts. I believe tomorrow is "small business" day, so what better way to support your local small businesses than to shop the farmers' market. I hope to see you there!
Farm News: Giving Thanks and Thanksgiving
We’ve arrived at the time of the season that begs us to pause, to take stock, to savor the harvests. We as a community of farmers have come a long way or maybe full circle to the time of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who helped them survive their first year in the new world. Their feast was all about local foods-wild turkey, native crops. Our feast is all about modern day local foods—pastured raised turkey from Triple S Farms, greens from Blue Moon Farm, potatoes and sweet potatoes raised on our farm and of course cheese! I know. Cheese was definitely not on the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving table. I did say “modern” day feast, and what better way to give thanks than to start with some locally produced hand-crafted goat and sheep milk cheeses. Our cheese makers, Nat and Alison, have composed a couple of model cheese boards to whet your appetites.
“Ladies and gents, it is again our pleasure to vie for your attentions in Leslie’s weekly tales of goat intrigue with some well-composed fromago-phillic verbiage. It would be difficult to trump the comprehensive and poetic cheese pitch we made for last year’s holiday cheese board; however, we will have a go at it with two suggested cheese progressions either to begin, end, or, even, to become your Thanksgiving meal.
Taking a page straight out of classic foodie gifting, we call our first progression, “The Crowd Pleaser.”
It is an all-goat tasting that begins with the ubiquitous “goat cheese”, Chevre. This pick is a great place to start any cheese course with it’s high acidity that gets your taste buds moving and leaves you wanting more. Never mind the fact that our chevre is the Bees’ Knees. Now that you’ve really tickled Grandma’s pickle with your first selection, the second pick is Angel Food. This fluffy-rinded cheese has an unctuous, mild paste with the aroma of a maitake (that’s mushroom for the uninitiated) meadow glistening in the autumnal sun. (What we are trying to say underneath all this jibber-jabber, is that our brie-style cheese is both approachable and nuanced and a rind that’s outta sight.) Our final pick for this progression is Moonglo, a raw goat’s milk tomme, aged 4-5 months. It tastes of brown-buttered grass, with a texture that occupies that sweet space between buttery and crumbly. If you want to make good even better, put honey to chevre, tart jam to brie and apples and pears to Moonglo.
Our second selection reminds us that anyone can bring the Green Bean Amandine to the potluck, but is takes a very special person to bring “the funk!”
This tasting starts with the ashen lady of the night, Black Goat. The beauty of this beginning is a wrinkly rind with the complexity of a Rubik’s Cube, and a chalky interior as bright as the noon-day sun. Batting second is Little Bloom on the Prairie, our homage to the cheese traditions of Normandy. This Camembert-style cheese’s luscious interior begets a loamy aroma with a finish of dew-kissed hay. We close with Roxanne, a natural-rind, raw sheep’s milk cheese named after the coolest cat (goat) in the yard. The flavors of cultured butter are complimented by a firm, open texture and well-balanced salt. This plate’s best friends would be berries and Black Goat, warming spices and Little Bloom, honey and Roxanne. Don’t forget some pickles.
Often people will make a big to-do about what to drink with their cheese, but in this instance, you can keep it simple. Buy a case of off-dry to semi-sweet French white (although dry to off-dry Riesling, old or new world, is a reasonable alternative), and it will make your turkey get up and do the Electric Slide with your cheese. If you wanted to celebrate with some fermented bubbles, and we think you should, a Cider would be a great bet. If you need a red, keep it fruity and light. (Bloomy rinds and Big tannins make Bad Bedfellows… nor does it do your stuffing much justice).
That‘s about it from the dark dungeons of the dish pit at Prairie Fruits Farm, but with one final request: We’ll keep making cheese if you remember to temper it before serving (close to room temperature). Remember, that you should eat what makes you happy, but that eating is an agricultural act.”
We’re going all out for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. We’re attending three holiday farmers’ markets this Saturday, November 17th: Urbana (8AM to 1PM), Green City Market (8:30AM to 1:00PM) and the Springfield Holiday Market run by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (at the Illinois State Fairgrounds from 9AM to 1PM). We’ve got a great lineup of cheeses (several of them have already been described eloquently by our cheese makers):
- Fresh chevre---plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
- Angel Food Brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Black Goat
- Sheep Milk Feta
AND…a sneak preview of a special cheese we made to commemorate the fall season. We’re calling it “Ichabod” –a luscious sheep milk wash rind cheese. The name is homage to the Blind Pig Brewery’s pumpkin-honey ale that was used to wash its rind. It was made with one our last batches of sheep milk this year. It’s rich, slightly sweet and “stinky” (in a good way as is the case with most washed rind cheeses). We’re bringing only a small amount to market this Saturday, so come early if you want to try it. Don’t worry though; we’ll be selling more of it in the next couple of weeks, so you should have ample opportunities to try some.
Urbana market shoppers can pick up some gelato for their holiday dessert tables:
- Pumpkin Pie
- Autumn Berry Sorbetto—very lovely and tart
For our Green City Market shoppers, don’t be surprised if I show up with a few pints of pumpkin gelato and Autumn berry sorbetto (bring your coolers!!).
Stay tuned for details about other holiday markets we’ll be doing over the next few weeks. We thank you, our patrons, for making this year another one for giving and receiving many thanks. Chippy, one of our beloved goats reminds you to Eat local—it’s the true spirit of Thanksgiving!
Our final CSA share pickup will be tomorrow evening, November 13th. Our Peoria members will be picking up their shares with Marcela Teplitz from 5 to 6PM, and our Bloomington members will be picking up from 6:30 to 7:30PM at the Vitesse Bike Shop in Normal. I will be bringing extra cheese and gelato for the Thanksgiving Holiday too, so if you know of people who might want to come get cheese and gelato, please send them over to the Bike Shop at that time. As usual, if you are having someone else pick up your shares OR if you are not planning to pick up your shares, please let me know ahead of time.
We want to thank you all for participating in our fledgling CSA this year. We will be in touch with you soon about our plans for next year.
November is the time in a doeling’s life when she begins the transition from kid to productive doe. Our doelings have been given their names, the first step toward milker-hood on our farm. Next comes the match-making; aka, the breeding plan. Then, we do a thorough clean out of their pens and put down fresh straw bedding. Next follows a “day of beauty,” a full mani-pedi hoof trimming by our resident goat cosmetologist, Ben. After all, they have to look their best for their future breeding partner. At last, they are ready to meet their mates. We have three breeding pens set up this year—Vincent, our new champagne-beige La Mancha buckling—he’s quick on his feet, both horizontally and vertically. Then, we have Nate, our tall, tan and handsome Nubian. Last, but certainly not least, we have Harry, our red-haired whirling dervish. The doelings are let into their respective breeding pens. Immediately, Samantha, one of our all-black hybrid does with beautiful pigtail ears (one of Elaine’s daughters) saddles up to her mate and gives him the tell-tale tail wag. Instincts kick in, the buck returns his suitor’s affections and the rest is textbook Mother Nature. I didn’t have to give anyone any lectures about the proverbial “birds and bees,” no pep talks, nothing. Instinct is a powerful and beautiful thing.
Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Markets
We’re going inside for the Urbana Farmers’ Market this Saturday, November 10th. It will be held inside Lincoln Square Mall from 8AM to 1PM. We won’t be attending Green City Market this Saturday, but we will be there the following Saturday, November 17th. We have a great lineup of cheeses for our Urbana market goers:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herb de Provence, cracked pepper
- Bloomy rinds: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and a few remaining Ewe Bloom—both the Black Goat and Ewe Bloom are nice and ripe and gooey-ready to eat this weekend
- Sheep Milk Feta
I will have a few pints of gelato available, but not much, so if you want gelato, please come early.
We’re gearing up for our pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Markets. We’ll be attending three holiday markets on Saturday, November 17th: Urbana, Springfield and Green City Market. More details to follow about what we’ll be bringing to those markets next week. I also wanted to let our Bloomington-Normal customers/fans know that we will be dropping off our final CSA bread, cheese and gelato shares this coming Tuesday, November 13th and I plan to bring extra cheese, honey and gelato for our non-CSA customers to buy. If you are interested in this venue, we will be at the Vitesse Bike Shop in Normal from 6:30 to 7:30PM on November 13th. Feel free to email me to let me know you plan to come by that evening.
Farm News in the big wide world
The only signs of Hurricane Sandy to reach our central Illinois fields were the whiplash winds. Those winds buffeted our faces, they made it hard to do much of any work outside, they pushed our little white truck sideways on the highway as I drove to drop off our cheese CSA shares in Bloomington. The goats had little interest in venturing outside the barn, and our non-breeding bucks spent most of the day hunkered down inside their hutches. It’s hard to fathom the destructive power of water and wind that wreaked havoc on much of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. We were spared this time around.
Farmers’ Market News
We’re at that time of year when outdoor farmers’ markets come to an end for the year. Urbana’s Farmers’ Market has its last outdoor market this Saturday, November 3rd and then moves inside Lincoln Square Mall on November 10th. Chicago’s Green City Market makes their indoor move this Saturday to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The indoor market runs 8AM to 1PM. We’ll be attending both markets this Saturday with a respectable lineup of cheese:
- Fresh Chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper—NOW is the time to start stocking up and freezing chevre for the winter
- A near full house of bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and Ewe Bloom (Black Sheep is done for the season)
- Red Dawn—we have brought back this smoked paprika red bloomy-rind beauty for a limited engagement this fall. Quantities are limited so come early if you want some.
- Sheep Milk Feta—perfect for a fall spinach and feta pie
We’ll also be bringing some of our late summer farmstead honey to enjoy with our cheeses or with whatever you choose. Urbana shoppers can stock up on pints of gelato too:
- Lemon Verbena-Thyme
- Pumpkin Pie
Farm News (aka the weather report)
As the mercury rose to 80 degrees this afternoon, the accelerating wind speed and nearly bare trees acknowledged the dissonance of this late October day. We carried on with preparations for winter, shedding layers of clothing as we worked; pruning out the dead canes from the blackberries, shoring up the hay stocks in the barn, tilling up garden beds, taking supers off the bee hives. It doesn’t feel right to sweat in late October; something bad is sure to follow. Indeed, the sky is darkening as I write, and the blackness isn’t just the onset of dusk. The wind mill is shifting furiously outside our house triangle window; first north winds blow, then west winds and now EAST winds (that almost never happens around here). Within a few hours, the temperature is expected to drop 40 to 50 degrees. By morning tomorrow, there will likely be a skiff of frost on the spinach and kale. I am bracing myself for frozen feet at the farmers’ market on Saturday.
Farmers’ Market News
My rationale for coaxing you out of your cozy covers on Saturday morning is the promise of rich, fall-milk cheese and gelato that you can take back home to enjoy by a roaring fire. We’ll be attending two markets this Saturday, October 27th: Urbana and Green City Market. This Saturday will be the final outdoor market of the season for Green City Market, so come out and stock up on your favorite cheeses. Don’t worry. You’ll still be able to purchase our cheeses for the months of November and December. We will be moving inside to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum starting November 3rd. The Urbana Farmers’ Market stays outside through November 3rd, and then moves inside the Lincoln Square Mall for the remainder of the fall. Also, don’t forget: now is the time to start freezing your chevre to get you through the bleak winter months when we are out of production. We will be bringing the following cheeses to market:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses likely to include Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat, Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep. We are now selling our final batches of Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep of the season, so buy them while they last.
- Sheep milk feta
Urbana Market goers can grab a few pints of gelato to stock up in their freezers. We should have:
- Lemon Verbena Thyme
among other surprise flavors. I promise you, it will be worth getting out of bed for!
I’m long overdue for my annual ritual of naming the next generation of does--our doelings, young-of-the- year, future milkers--all terms apply. My method involves selecting a theme (three years ago it was movie stars of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s; last year it was dearly departed matronly relatives), and then peering into the soul of each doeling and giving them a name I believe befits their personality. This year’s theme is TV personalities from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I’ve got names like Jeannie (as in “I dream of Jeannie”), Samantha (as in “Bewitched”), Elly May (as in “The Beverly Hillbillies and Marcia (as in the “Brady Bunch). I confess that I had to do a bit of internet “research” to come up with 22 names. While I am a child of many of those TV shows, my memory and name recall aren’t that great.
On the farm, we continue to ready the farm for winter as breeding continues and the milk supply slowly tapers off. We’re pulling up dead squash vines, turning the compost pile and cleaning up the shop. I have been pouring over bulb catalogues in the hope of giving our flower beds a complete makeover this fall. The leaves are turning their brilliant hues of reds, yellows, oranges and browns. It seems that the summer’s drought either stressed the trees to their colorful splendor or they somehow overcame the drought’s stress to put on a truly Technicolor show. Unfortunately, the winds this week don’t leave the leaves much time to be admired on the trees.
Farmers’ Market News
This Saturday, October 20th, we’re attending three farmers’ markets: Urbana, Springfield, and Green City Market. This will be our last outdoor market in Springfield. We’ve got plenty of cheese for you, so don’t let the fall temperatures slow you down:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Sheep and Ewe Bloom. Angel Food and Black Goat might be available at some of the markets in limited quantities.
- Sheep Milk Feta—if you’re moving out of salad mode, I would recommend trying the feta on a pizza or finishing a hearty winter stew
Our Urbana market goers can still get their hands on pints of gelato. I know I am not deterred in my gelato consumption despite the cooler outside temperatures. We’ve got a smorgasbord of flavors for you; sorbetto flavors are available in very limited quantities so come early to get the full selection:
- Mint Stracciatella
- Hazelnut Crocante (brittle)
- Lemon Verbena-Thyme
- Anise Hyssop
- Rhubarb Sorbetto
- Espresso Sorbetto
- Concord Grape Sorbetto
- Chocolate Sorbetto
Farmers' markets have lots of great food in the fall. Put on your coat and gloves and come out to shop. You won't regret it!