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Posted 2/21/2013 9:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Update from the Farm

Tonight's blizzard of pelting snow hitting my face sideways has me questioning the prognostications of the large rodent from Pennsylvania.  Nonetheles, from inside the barns, many signs are pointing to spring.  Last week and this, we have been busy cleaning and prepping the goats for kidding season.  Several resemble double-wide trailers in girth; I predict several sets of quadruplets again from gaugin their "rear view."  

2013 FARM DINNER SEASON
We've got the lineup of farm dinner themes and dates posted on our website now. Chef Alisa will be revisting some of her favorite cuisines and we're welcoming back some of our favorite guest chefs. We've also got a few new guest chefs this year. The first five dinner dates will go on sale on MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH in the evening, EXACT TIME TO BE DETERMINED.  NEW THIS YEAR: To allow more folks to sign up for each dinner, we will be limiting the number of seats per person (signup) to four.  I encourage folks to familiarize themselves with the workings of our website and with ShowClix (once the descriptions get posted there, which should be over the weekend) well before Monday evening. If you encounter any problems, please let us know so we can correct them BEFORE THE RESERVATIONS GO LIVE ON SHOWCLIX.

I also encourage you to read our general description of "Dinners on the Farm" to familiarize yourself about what to expect when you come to dine at our farm. 

Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA sign up now open

Our sign up for the 2013 CSA season is now open. You can sign up for cheese, gelato or Katic bread shares (all three or one of the three--you choose!).  We're expanding our membership to 100 members with five pickup locations (two in Bloomington-Normal, one in Springfield, one at our farm and one in Naperville).  We're also offering an exclusive farm dinner to all of our CSA members (some time in the fall; date and details to be determined).  Check it out!

Posted 1/31/2013 10:04pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

In honor of Ground Hog Day and wishing he doesn't see his shadow (although  enough with the up and down temperatures already!!) to hurry spring along, we're making the journey north this Saturday to the big city to sell some cheese.  Nat and Alison, our cheese makers (just back from  sun and fun in the warm tropical climes), will be at the Green City Market this Saturday, February 2nd from 8:30 AM to 1PM (for those of you who haven't been before, it's located at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Cannon Drive just north of Fullerton). They'll be bringing a limited but delicious assortment of our winter cheeses:

  • The last of the tangy and complex sheep milk feta
  • Rich and sharp Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme style cheese
  • Roxanne: buttery and slightly dry, raw sheep milk brebis
  • Eldon: our sweet and creamy raw sheep milk blue
  • Huckleberry Blue: a sassier cousin to Eldon--made for all you blue cheese lovers out there.

We should have some of our farmstead honey available as well. If you're in Chicago this weekend, stop by the market, say hello to our cheese makers and pick up some cheeses to adorn your winter tables.   

Posted 1/17/2013 8:17pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Greetings from Prairie Fruits Farm in winter.  The soils are bare and finally frozen.  The big news on the farm is the arrival of our first farm dog, “Blue.” He’s a boisterous, sweet, one-year old Australian Shepherd-Australian cattle dog (and he might have a few other rogue genetics thrown in) mix.  We inherited him from a friend of ours, and he seems to be settling into farm life quite nicely.  He and the goats are engaged in staring matches as they slowly become used to each other. He and Wes started obedience training this week, and once they graduate from that class, they will start the training for livestock herding.   It was an instant love affair between Wes and Blue.  I, on the other hand, am learning what dogs are like and how to relate to him. I am really a cat person at heart. Nonetheless, I am in awe of his beauty, his intelligence and his desire to please (this last trait is NOT something cats possess). 

man and his dog

On other news fronts, the does mid-sections continue to grow and they’re starting to waddle when they walk.  We’re working through our seemingly endless list of winter chores—repairs, prepping for the kidding season and just getting caught up on all things that fell by the wayside during last year’s production season.  Kidding season will be here before we know it.  In the meantime, crazy Eddie, our handsome Nubian buck, amuses himself by trying to push Blanche, our white Americana hen, off her evening perch.  Goats get bored in winter.

Eddie and Blanche

Cheese and Market News

Although we’re not in active cheese production over the winter, we have been tending to the aging cheeses such as Moonglo, Roxanne and our blues.  The feta too has been maturing slowly as it is bathed in its whey-brine. SO, we’ve decided to travel north the Green City Market this Saturday, January 19th to offer our Chicago patrons some of the beautiful and delicious cheeses.  We’ll be at the first winter market inside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum from 8:30AM to 1PM. We’ll have our farmstead honey as well as:

  • Sheep milk feta—this stuff is SO delicious; it just keeps getting better and better. We are enjoying it drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs—WE THINK IT’S SO GOOD, WE’LL GIVE YOU $1 OFF IF YOU BUY 2 CONTAINERS.
  • Moonglo—made with late summer-early fall milk, you can still taste the pasture in this cheese
  • Roxanne—the last batch of last year’s production; slightly crumbly and nutty with hints of butter—perfect for slicing, melting or shaving
  • Eldon—our very rich raw sheep milk blue—super creamy and slightly sweet
  • Huckleberry Blue-the first from our fall milk, raw goat milk blue—a bit sharp and slightly pungent—it’s perfect for the blue cheese lover in your family.
  • maybe a few containers of previous frozen plain chevre--very limited quantity, so come early

We’ll be back at Green City in February (2nd and 16th most likely), so stay tuned for details about cheeses for those dates.  For those of you in the Champaign-Urbana area, we won’t be attending the Urbana “Middle Market” in January and February, but we might consider it once we’re back in production in March.  In the meantime, check out the local stores including the Common Ground Food Coop and World Harvest for availability of some of our cheeses.

Cheese,Gelato and Bread CSA news

In the very near future, I will be posting information about signup for our Cheese, Gelato and Bread CSA. We will be partnering again with Katic Breads. We will be offering the CSA in Bloomington Normal and several pick up locations in the western suburbs of Chicago.  I will let everyone know when the sign up goes live on our website. To sweeten the pot (as if the cheese, gelato and bread aren’t enough), we’ll be offering our CSA members a “sneak preview” of farm dinners and give them an opportunity to sign up before the reservations go on sale to the public at large.  STAY TUNED!

Posted 12/20/2012 9:23pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

As I awoke to a gusty 50 degree morning, it was hard to fathom that the day would end so dramatically differently.  In anticipation of our final on-farm sale, we harvested the still-lush field-grown spinach, kale and chard and snipped a few of the fresh herbs.  The grass was still green, the soil soft and muddy; remnants of a fall reluctant to lie down and die.  We knew that the warmth wasn’t right for the date on the calendar, and we hurried to finish the winter buck pens inside the kid barn.  It didn’t take more than a handful of grain to lure the bucks inside to their winter digs just as the wind gales started to escalate.  By noon the rain was blowing sideways, then it stopped altogether and the sun came out.  New black clouds collected along the southern sky and by early afternoon, the temperature was plummeting and the sky was spitting raindrops on the verge of freezing.  It’s strange how the transformation from rain to snow can happen so quickly when the wind is blowing more than 25 miles per hour.  As the sky darkened for its typical early winter hour, it occurred to me that folks might not be able to make it out to the farm tonight.  A few brave souls trickled into the warm barn, greeted with hot cider and evidence of warmer weather. 

Today was our last day of milking and our last day of cheese making for the season. As I reflect on the end of our season, I am struck by a recurrent theme of perseverance in the face of extremes—extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme wind, extreme highs and lows.  We set some records: highest number of quadruplets and triplets born on the farm, highest amount of cheese produced and of course, our American Cheese Society first-place award for our “black sheep” cheese.  Our goats performed remarkably well despite the environmental extremes they endured, and our summer dinner guests were great sports and ate with gusto, despite the sweltering temperatures.  Our farm continues to harbor the beauty of the prairie in the midst of these extremes-I witnessed some of the most dramatic skies throughout the seasons.  It has been a good year for us, and I want to thank all of you who have supported our farm.  As the wind howls outside and this season draws to a close, I know that in true cyclical fashion, it will be raining baby goats in a few short months.


Elly May and Jethro holiday cheer

Elly May and Jethro wish you all the happiest of holidays and good cheer!

Winter happenings and CSA signup

We’ve got some exciting things planned for the winter including expanding our cheese and gelato CSA to the greater Chicago area. Stay tuned for updates just after the New Year.

Final Farmers’ Market of the Year

We have one final farmers’ market on Saturday, December 22nd- Chicago’s Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. We’ll be there from 8:30AM to 1PM with cheese, honey, cajeta (our goat milk caramel-very limited quantities so come early) and even some gelato.  Come on out for a local food holiday blowout. We’ve got:

  • Fresh chevre—your last chance to stock up for the winter-plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta-it’s been aging beautifully and the taste is sublime. We’re running a special to honor its delicousness—buy two containers and get $1 off each container.
  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • AND Introducing our rich, creamy and sweet raw sheep milk blue “Eldon”—named after the Amish farmer who milks the sheep and supplies us with this delicious milk. 

Our gelato flavors—all locally sourced—include:

  • Pumpkin Pie gelato—pumpkins from the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur IL
  • Seedling Orchard Cider sorbetto
  • Autumn berry sorbetto-a wild harvested tart and tangy berry-beautiful pink color, lip smacking taste
Posted 12/18/2012 5:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
We've decided to open our farm doors for some last minute local food holiday shopping. So, come on out to the farm on Thursday, December 20th from 5 to 7PM.  We'll have cheese, gelato and honey for sale AS WELL AS our brand new, stylish farm T-shirts. Stewart's Artisan breads will be here too  with both savory and sweet baked goods. We'll even harvest some of our late season (and sweet as sugar) spinach, kale and herbs for you.  We'll crank up the heaters in the barn, turn on the festive holiday lights, and maybe even mull some hot cider for you to sip while you shop.  Just don't ask us to sing any holiday songs! We hope to see you here!
Posted 12/13/2012 5:20pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

News flash in the journal Nature: archeologists have discovered evidence of a 7,000 year-old clay cheese strainer.  There was a wonderful radio piece on National Public Radio this morning highlighting the importance of Neolithic cheese making in humankind’s transformation from hunter-gatherers to agrarians.  The research scientists called milk a “super food” (of course, we dairy folk already knew this) and suggested that our ancestors had trouble digesting it—yes, lactose intolerance has been around for millennia (who knew??). Transforming milk into cheese by the elegant act of acidification rendered this digestively-challenged product into a nutrient rich powerhouse. Cheese sustained our ancient cousins so they could have the energy to cultivate new crops and tame those wild ruminants.  By reasoning, then, you might say that cheese played a critical role in the birth of the world’s great civilizations.  Heady stuff for the simple curd; let’s celebrate cheese’s simple ancient beginnings as we go from lightness to darkness in this winter holiday season. If you want to read or hear the piece on NPR, go to:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/13/167034734/archaeologists-find-ancient-evidence-of-cheese-making

 Don’t forget to pre-order your holiday gift basket on our website—for those of you picking up your baskets either at the December 15th Urbana or Springfield Markets, we need your order NOW. If you’re picking up your basket at the December 22nd Green City Market, please place your order by Wednesday AM, December 19th.

End of Year Holiday Markets and On Farm Sales

This Saturday, December 15th, we have two holiday markets: Urbana and Springfield. Urbana’s market runs from 8AM to 1PM, and Springfield’s Holiday market at the State Fairgrounds runs from 9AM to 1PM.  We’re bringing plenty of cheese to adorn your holiday tables:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food Brie—perfect for that baked brie appetizer you make for holiday parties every year
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie—our camembert style goat milk cheese is rich and creamy
  • Black Goat and Red Dawn—one’s got ash, the other one’s got smoked paprika—both are available in very limited quantities
  • Sheep milk feta—this feta is tangy and crumbly; perfect for finishing any roasted winter vegetable dish you plan to make for the holidays
  • Moonglo—our raw goat milk tomme—a bite of summer pastures in winter—kinda’ hard to beat!
  • Roxanne—the raw sheep milk brebis—a recipe inspired by the Pyrenees style cheeses of Spain and southern France

We’re running a special for this holiday season: if you purchase a container of feta along with either a bloomy rind cheese (Angel Food, Little Bloom) OR a wedge of Moonglo or Roxanne, we’ll give you $1 off the price of the feta!!

In addition to cheese, we’ll have some of our late summer farmstead honey and very limited quantities of our goats’ milk cajeta-that velvety caramel sauce that so many of you have been craving.

For our Urbana market goers, we’ve got some holiday gelato and sorbetto to don your holiday dessert tables:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Espresso
  • Stracciatella
  • Holiday Spice—a lovely blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove—think eggnog without the egg
  • Licorice—this is the REAL deal for you licorice fans—pure, unadulterated licorice root—slightly earthy, quintessential licorice taste
  • Pumpkin Pie—it compliments any chocolate dessert to a tee
  • Apple cider sorbetto- a great pallet cleanser for that fancy holiday meal you plan to make
  • Autumn berry sorbetto—beautifully tart

On Farm Sales: We’ve decided to open our doors for the holidays. We’ll be open on Thursday, December 20th from 5 to 7PM for your last minute local food holiday shopping needs.  We’ll have cheese (of course), gelato (of course), some freshly harvested spinach and kale from our farm, holiday breads (from Stewart’s Artisan Breads) and maybe even a few dozen farm fresh eggs.  Details to come next week, so stay tuned. 

Chicagoans: Please remember that there is NO Green City Market this Saturday, BUT there will be a final market on December 22nd. We will be there with plenty of cheese, honey, cajeta and maybe even some local flavors of gelato and sorbetto. 

Posted 12/9/2012 7:00pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings:

If you're in a quandry about what to give as a gift this holiday season, you're problems are solved. You can now order a beautiful gift basket of Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses accompanied by either our farmstead honey or by cajeta, our delicious goat milk caramel sauce.  You must be able to pick up your basket at either the Urbana Holiday Market or the Springfield Holiday Farmers' Market (both on Saturday, December 15th) OR Chicago's Green City Market (Saturday, December 22nd).  ALL ORDERS NEED TO BE PLACED BY THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13TH AT 5PM. Here's the link:


http://www.prairiefruits.com/store/special-sales#


Champaign-Urbana cheese lovers: I will be at the Common Ground Food Cooperative on Tuesday, December 11th from 5 to 7PM sampling our lovely & tangy sheep milk feta. Billy LeGrand, the Coop's Cheesemonger (and their wine and beer 
connoisseur), will have special treats to accompany the cheese including olives, crackers and some lovely organic italian wine. Stop by to taste and say hi! If you're not already smitten by this cheese, I'm sure you will be.

Posted 12/6/2012 10:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Unbeknownst to me, yesterday, December 5th, was World Soil Day, “a day to remember that we owe our existence to those few inches of living and life-giving topsoil.” This time of year, after the crops have been harvested from the fields and the stubble tilled in, the soil is laid bare to showcase its inherent richness.  Coincidentally, Wes and I were driving from Chicago to Bloomington and then back to Champaign yesterday, bearing witness to the abundance of black “dirt” that blankets much of central Illinois. We even passed the town of Flanagan, the namesake of one of the most productive prairie soils on the planet, “Drummer-Flanagan silty clay loam.”  It is so black, it’s almost blue.  These soils are the foundation of the longstanding agricultural heritage of this region; indeed, they are the starting point for the distinct nature of our goats’ milk and the cheeses we produce from their milk. 

Farmers' Markets: Cheese and Other Gifts

Chino models new T-shirt

Chino, our cat, models the new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirt--no animals were harmed in this picture--he was purring the whole time!
We're attending two farmers' markets this Saturday, December 8th: Urbana's Holiday Market and Chicago's Green City Market.  We'll be debuting our new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts at the Urbana Market. Our in house model, Chino, shows off the green T-shirt above. We also have poppy red and grey colors--all sizes including child sizes.  They make GREAT holiday gifts!!! As for cheese,  I have been telling folks for a few weeks, that now is the time to stock up on fresh chevre to put in your freezer.  In addition to chevre, we'll have:

 

  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Goat
  • Ichabod--this is the last of our pungent pumpkin ale-wash rind sheep milk cheese. If you've tried it and loved it, come early to the market to get some.  
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Sheep Milk Feta

Upcoming events and other news:   I'll be at the Common Ground Food Coop in Urbana on Tuesday from 5 to 7PM sampling our sheep milk feta. It's not just for summer salads. We'll have goodies to accompany the feta as well as a recipe or two.  The Coop will be offering the feta at a discounted price that evening, so come by to taste and to buy some.  

We are putting together some beautiful holiday gift baskets of cheese, honey and other Prairie Fruits Farm products.  Stay tuned for details about how to pre-order your basket.  We'll have our final batch of gelato made for the markets on December 15th--THIS IS URBANA'S FINAL HOLIDAY MARKET AS WELL AS THE HOLIDAY MARKET IN SPRINGFIELD. FOR OUR GREEN CITY MARKET PATRONS, PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WILL BE NO MARKET ON DECEMBER 15TH, BUT THE FINAL MARKET OF THE SEASON WILL BE HELD ON DECEMBER 22ND.  Cheese is the perfect gift for the holidays.  

Posted 12/3/2012 4:26pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

In case you don't already have this on your calendar, a gentle reminder to come see us at the "Ms. Mint Holiday Bazaar" at Goose Island Brew Pub at Clybourn in Chicago. That's TOMORROW FROM 4 TO 9:30pm. We'll be there with cheese, some jam, some honey and beautiful holiday gift baskets.  It should be loads of fun, so come on out for a night on the town!

Here are the details:

EVENT INFO:

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:

 Pingg: http://msmint.pingg.com/Dec4Goose2012

 Eventbrite: http://msmint2012bazaar.eventbrite.com/#

 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


Posted 11/29/2012 6:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

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:

EVENT INFO:
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:

Pingg: http://msmint.pingg.com/Dec4Goose2012

Eventbrite: http://msmint2012bazaar.eventbrite.com/#

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