News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 8/21/2012 9:07pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Our last farm open house of the summer is tomorrow afternoon, August 22nd from 4 to 6PM. We'll have all the usual suspects: cheese, gelato, eggs, honey as well as our regular farmer/artisan guests: Stewart's Artisan Breads, Tomahnous Farm and Laurence Mate, the knife sharpening dude.  We'll also have our last u-pick of blackberries.  Here's a very satisfied customer whose face speaks volumes to the deliciousness of the berries (followed by some delicious chocolate gelato). 

blackberry baby

If her face isn't temptation enough, here are some of the gelato flavors we'll have available for single servings tomorrow (plus many more flavors to purchase as pints).

  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint
  • Stracciatella (chocolate ganache "chip")
  • Lemon Verbena-Thyme

We've got some new fruit sorbetto flavors for you to try including "Autumn Berry."  So, come on out.

On another note, for those of you who tried to get seats to the fall farm dinners, and were not successful, I am sorry. I know some of you experienced some technical difficulties on the website. There was a lot of traffic on the website when  the seats became available at 5PM yesterday, and there were not that many seats for each dinner (we usually post only 40 seats per dinner).  All I can say is, that we are working to make the process easier and as fair as we possibly can.  I will let you all know as improvements are made.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Posted 8/16/2012 8:10pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

It rained. It really rained--2.5 inches in about three hours kind of rain; daytime sky black as night kind of rain; barn flooded kind of rain.  It came so fast and so furious that even the ingrained manure stains on the concrete walkway between the barn and the milking parlor were washed clean. The first flush of rain caught me in the kid barn during the mid-day feeding.  As I waited for the storm to abate, I watched the rain seep into the barn underneath the metal siding. Frustrating since Ben had just finished cleaning out the barn, and it looked so beautifully clean (and dry). I was able to dart from the kid barn to the house in between storm waves. As the next wave hit and the wind gusts hurled the raindrops sideways, I watched a tiny hummingbird battle the breeze, clinging to the perch of the nectar feeder I had put out for them just yesterday.

The intensity of green that now envelopes the farm reminds me of the deep pea-green of Fuji chrome color slide film (for those of you old enough to remember slides, and slide film). We can almost hear the alfalfa shoot up in response to all that soil moisture, pushing its way toward a respectable fourth cutting.  The tomatoes will surely split with that onslaught of moisture, but that's ok.

Farmers' Markets

This weekend, we're down to only one farmers' market: Urbana.  Unfortunately, we won't be attending the Sunday Logan Square Farmers' Market (so sorry Chicago customers), but we hope to be back there in a couple of weeks. Green City Market is closed due to the Chicago Air Show.  For our Urbana market goers (and we hope there are lots of you), we have a full house of cheese to offer you:

  • Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence, heirloom tomato
  • LOTS of bloomy rind cheeses including the return of Little Bloom on the Prairie (YAY!), Ewe Bloom, Black Goat, Black Sheep and Krotovina
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Huckleberry Blue (the last batch)
  • Mollisol Pecorino Romano

We've got a dozen or so flavors of gelato for you to enjoy as well:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Margot's Mint
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Lemon Verbena-Thyme
  • Thai Basil
  • Peaches & Cream (our Peach sorbetto swirled with our vanilla gelato--YUM)
  • Sorbettos: Cucumber-l.ime-mint; Peach, Nectarine and Concord Grape (it's beautiful to look at as well as delicious)

We've also got some of our farmstead honey for you to buy--both 8 oz. and 16 oz. jars. It's light and floral and ever so good with most of our cheeses.

Farm Dinner Reservations and Summer Open House News

Many of you have been inquiring about the next release of farm dinner reservations. The seats will go on sale through our website on Monday, August 20th at 5PM. You won't be able to make reservations before then, but you can read the descriptions and familiarize yourself with the process.  To make reservations, just go to the Dinner Season part of our website and either click on "Show Clix" or scroll down to the dinner of your choice. They sell out very quickly, so I recommend being poised at your computer at 5PM.  Our last summer farm open house of the season will be next Wednesday, August 22nd from 4 to 6PM. We hope to still have blackberries for you to pick, but stay tuned for updates next Tuesday. It's hard to believe the summer is waning. It's been one for the record books, for sure.

Posted 8/14/2012 7:21pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

There are only two more summer open houses (tomorrow and next Wednesday), so if you haven't come out to the farm this summer, you should. There's a color of green emerging from the ground that we haven't seen for quite some time. The latest round of small rains is reviving our grasses and other living plants.  The cool late summer breezes are wonderful. Come out to the farm tomorrow from 4 to 6PM to experience the lushness of late summer and enjoy some locally grown products. We'll have plenty of cheese for you to try and buy, our farmstead honey, a few dozen eggs and gelato:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate*
  • Mint
  • Hazelnut
  • Rhubarb Swirl
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Lemon Verbena-thyme*
  • Thai Basil*
  • Peach sorbetto*
  • Nectarine sorbetto
  • Cucumber lime mint sorbetto

Laurence, the knife dude, will be here to sharpen your knives.  Stewart's Artisan Breads will have a nice assortment of breads, bagels, biscotti and granola for sale. Tomahnous Farm will have some great summer tomatoes, okra, summer squash and other summer veggies.  

This  might be our last week for UPICK blackberries, so if you really want some, come out from 4 to 6PM.  We provide all the picking supplies--buckets, pint containers, etc. Price is $4 per pint.  The berry patch is on the north end of our farm, so we recommend parking in the field to the north of our driveway (just past our neighbor's brick house) where you will see a silver hoop barn. Pull in there and just walk east to the berry field (you will see Wes out there).  You can pick berries and then drive back over to the farm to see the goats and buy some cheese, gelato and other goodies.

Posted 8/9/2012 10:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Sometimes, you just have to stop what you're doing on the farm and take off for an adventure. It was Nat's birthday today, one of our cheesemakers, so we got everyone to finish up early (well, sort of) and we piled in our vehicles with fixins for a cookout in tow and headed west to Moraine View State Park. It's a beautiful wooded oasis that sits on a glacial moraine about 40 miles west of Champaign. There's a small, clear spring-fed lake in the middle of the park. It's perfect for a swim.

As an easterner who grew up practically living in some body of water in the summer (ocean, lake, pool--whatever), it is hard for me to NOT slither my body into open water all summer. We arrived at the park and started to unload our coolers and set up the grill for a cook out.  The sky to the northwest looked a bit ominous, and we soon learned that a fairly large thunderstorm cell was bee-lining it for Moraine View State Park, but the water beckoned me and I was compelled to get in.  The sensation of slightly cool water enveloping your skin is hard to beat. After a few laps in the refreshing lake, the food was ready. We all sat down to a small feast of summer salads (including a multi-colored tomato salad with all the rainbow colors of our heirloom tomatoes, some fresh basil and our sheep milk feta-of course) and burgers and brats from Triple S Farm.  As the sky darkened overhead, we could see what was coming, so we sang "happy birthday" really fast, and then headed for the cars as the large raindrops covered the picnic table.  Within ten minutes, the storm had passed. We emerged from our vehicles, headed back into the water and then ate a few birthday chocolate fudge cupcakes.  It was a grand adventure.

I have captured a stormy sky that passed over the farm late last week on our camera and created a little slide show for you to enjoy. You can find under our website heading "The Experience" then click on Anatomy of a Summer Storm. The color of the sky is remarkable.

This Saturday, August 11th, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Srpingfield.  We have lots of great cheese for you this weekend, including our summer tomato chevre and our American Cheese Society's Award-winning Black Sheep.  Our Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie are still on a little summer holiday, but they promise to return to the cheese line up next week some time. We do have plenty of Ewe Bloom and Black Goat to satisfy your needs for bloomy rind cheese. We've got lots of our tangy and slightly salty feta with which you can adorn your salads.  AND,,, don't forget our raw milk cheeses, including Roxanne, Moonglo, Huckleberrry Blue  and Pecorino Romano.

Urbana shoppers will be treated to the main gelato maker himself, Stewart Pequinot--hawking a variety of flavors including:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon Verbena-Thyme
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Margot's Mint
  • Nectarine Sorbetto
  • (and probably a few others)

I know many of you are eagerly awaiting the release of the tickets for the fall dinner dates. They will be going on sale on Monday, August 20th at 5PM. Hopefully, most of you will be back from summer vacations by then, with your hand poised on your mouse. Stay tuned for more details sometime next week. Also, we had a great turnout for farm open house and blackberry picking. If we have enough berries next Wednesday, we'll do it again. I will let you all know next Tuesday.

Posted 8/7/2012 9:43pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Tomorrow's farm open house (4 to 6PM) will feature a smorgasboard of cheese, gelato, honey and eggs for sale from Prairie Fruits Farm. Tomahnous Farm will be here with summer veggies and cut flowers. Stewart's Artisan Breads will have sourdough breads, bagels, biscotti and granola for sale. Laurence the knife dude is on vacation this week, so no knife sharpening. He will return next week.  Come see the latest and smallest kids born on the farm-Maxine had twins on Saturday night during our last farm dinner (that Maxine!!). 

Our blackberries are plentiful enough to offer U-pick this week--$4 per pint.  They are big, black, juicy and sweet, so come out between 5 and 7PM to pick some.  We are offering u-pick hours a bit later than the open house to give you fruit pickers some respite from the height of the afternoon heat.  You can still come out to shop for cheese, gelato, and all the other goodies we'll have to offer you.  Your kids can eat gelato while you pick too. This might be the only u-pick we offer this season, so if you want to make a blackberry crumble, now's your chance.


Posted 8/6/2012 4:59pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings Peoria and Bloomington CSA members:

We finally got a very welcome 1.4 inches of rain early Sunday morning, which might help us get a fourth cutting of alfalfa hay.  Our goats are holding up pretty well in the heat, and we have a nice selection of cheeses and gelato for you this week. For those of you with bread shares, Katic Breads is shaking things up a bit this week--you'll be getting some different breads than you have been receiving. We will be bringing extras of cheese, gelato and bread to the Bloomington location, so if you know of people who would like to purchase some of our products, please pass this information along to them. 

If you are a Peoria CSA member, please pick up your share at Marcela Telplitz' house between 5 and 6PM. If you are a Bloomington CSA member, please pick up your share at the Unitarian Church parking lot on Emerson Street between 6 and 7PM. If you haven't already notified me about not picking up your share, please do let me know by tomorrow morning. If someone else is picking up for you, please remind them, and please let me know who they are. I hope things are going well for you all this summer, and that you are enjoying the bread, cheese and gelato CSA.  Please send us feedback--both good and not so good, so we can make improvements for next year.

Thank you!

leslie & Carissa

Posted 8/2/2012 8:05pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

teddy bear sunflower
FARM NEWS

Sunflowers epitomize summer. The gold finches love these teddy bear sunflowers. They love to rob the seeds right out of the flower heads even before the seeds are fully ripe.  For some reason, the summer feels like it has reached its apex, maybe because we have entered august.  Or maybe it's because our bucks are starting to go into rut, making it seem more like early September than early August. On the other hand, the endless days of 90+ temperatures and 100+ heat index make it feel like we will have a perpetual summer. I think I am actually getting used to these extremes of heat and drought. The other thing that screams summer is tomatoes--ours are coming in fast and furious--gorgeous Rose de Berne--a large meaty red tomato, Cherokee Green--a tart green & yellow striated tomato and the rich, tangerine orange Valencia with mellow flesh and no seeds and let's not forget the Striped German with it's orange body and burst of red deliciousness on the bottom. Of course, the Juliets are thick on the tomato vines like clusters of grapes. I've been busy drying them for the "Heirloom Tomato Chevre."

The rain clouds loom on the horizon, but skirt us as they roll to the east.  As I write, the sky has turned an eerie pale yellow-green with a pink cast (is it a tornado sky??). Wes and Ben cut our pitifully stunted and past-bloom alfalfa hay today, so it will probably rain tomorrow just before we have time to bail it and get it into the barn. This year's hay cutting is a kin to a rain dance, unfortunately. 

FARMERS' MARKETS

This weekend, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana and Green City Market on Saturday and Logan Square Market in Chicago on Sunday. Since our Green City Market cheese monger, Pat, is attending the American Cheese Society conference in Raleigh (no doubt gorging himself on the 1700+ cheese entries for the cheese competition), we have a guest monger to greet our Green City Market customers. Her name is Kate--although she has been to our farm (and taken some gorgeous photos of the farm and our cheeses), she is new to the world of cheese mongering, so please be kind to her and buy lots of cheese from her. Speaking of cheese, we've got a great line up for you to enjoy this weekend:

  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and making its summer debut: Heirloom tomato chevre (a note to our cracked pepper chevre fans--the pepper chevre will take a hiatus while the tomato chevre steps in. If you are in desperate need of pepper chevre, just buy our plain chevre and crack some black peppercorns into it-that's all we do anyway!)
  • 19:55:56
  • All bloomy rind cheeses except Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie--Ewe Bloom, Black Goat, Black Sheep and Krotovina
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Pecorino Romano

Urbana market goers can get their gelato fix this Saturday with a cornucopia of flavors. With so many to choose from, you'll have to buy at least two:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Margot's Mint
  • Strawberry
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Rhubarb Swirl
  • Honey Lavender
  • Vanilla Chevre
  • NEW FLAVOR: Blackberry Cream (made with our very own blackberries)
  • NEW FLAVOR: Lemon Verbena-Thyme (made with our very own garden herbs)
  • Peach sorbetto
  • Nectarine sorbetto

Embrace the heat; it's time to eat some great local food--we farmers are doing all we can to keep the abundance flowing.

Posted 7/31/2012 5:55pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

We watched the clouds to the east drop some rain only a few miles away, while we received lots of thunder and enough moisture to barely darken the color of the soil. Nonetheless, we're forging onward, and we'll have lots of goodies for you to try and buy at tomorrow's farm open house.  Of course, there will be cheese (chevre, several bloomy rind cheeses, some Moonglo and Roxanne and maybe some Huckleberry Blue and Pecorino wedges).  We'll have a few dozen of our hens' eggs for sale and maybe a few pints of blackberries.  Our light and floral first-extraction honey will be available in 1/2 pint and pint jars too. Of course, there will be gelato (both pints and single servings--dipping cabinet offerings are indicated with an asterisk below):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate*
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint*
  • Strawberry
  • Rhubarb Swirl
  • Plum sorbetto
  • Honey Lavender
  • Peach sorbetto*
  • Cucumber lime mint sorbetto
  • Vanilla Chevre
  • Blackberry gelato NEW THIS WEEK, MADE WITH OUR VERY OWN BLACKBERRIES
  • Lemon Verbena-Thyme--NEW FLAVOR, COME OUT AND TRY IT*
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Tomato Creme: AN EXPERIMENTAL FLAVOR, COME TRY IT AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

 

Tomahnous Farm will be back with gorgeous veggies and beautiful cut flowers. Stewart's Artisan Breads will have bagels, breads, biscotti and granola for sale too.  Laurence Mate, the knife dude, will be here to sharpen your knives while you shop, visit with the goats and eat gelato. HE WON'T BE HERE THE SECOND WEEK OF AUGUST, SO IF YOU HAVE KNIVES THAT NEED SHARPENING PLEASE COME OUT TOMORROW. There are only four farm open houses left this summer, so if you haven't had a chance to make it out yet, now is the time. The goats will be happy to see you.

Posted 7/26/2012 10:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

plank sheep in pasture

Farm News: My sheep milk adventure

This week, Wes is in Oregon visiting his family, so Ben and I headed down to Arthur at 5AM this morning to pick up the sheep milk from the Plank Farm.  Waking up at 4:30 in the morning is not something I come to naturally. It's usually Wes' job and he does it twice a week with little fanfare.  For me, however, coffee preparations (grinding the beans, pouring the water into the coffee maker) the night before were essential.  Milk cans loaded onto the trailer-check, sanitizer and sample vials in the cooler with ice--check.  Pouring my tired body into clothes at 4:45AM and walking out the door at 5AM--check. 

I have to admit that once we were underway, the sight of the giant red ball of sun rising on the eastern horizon was breath taking.  As we left I-57 and headed west toward the Amish town of Arthur, we started seeing several Amish men on bicycles toting their coolers with lunch as they made their way to their off-farm jobs in the many factories that now line the highway.  Sadly, like many Amish communities in the east, the Arthur-Amish are leaving their farms for secure off-farm jobs, slowly eroding their agricultural way of life. 

As we arrived at the Plank Sheep Dairy Farm, we saw the sheep out in his pasture grazing on the sparse grass in their paddock.  Eldon's family milks at 4:30 in the morning, so that the milk is cold and ready for pickup at 6AM. The purple field in the foreground (photo above) is Eldon's drought-stressed and flowering alfalfa hay crop (looks a lot like ours).

The sheep move en mass in the pasture, almost amoeba-like. Although sheep and goats are "small ruminants" and herd animals, that is where the similarities end.  As you watch sheep graze, you notice that the flock behaves as a single unit. In contrast, goats on pasture keep an eye out to make sure their buddies are close by, but they wander in several different directions as they nibble here and dabble there. Sheep eat uniformly; goats graze selectively.

Ben backed up the trailer at the Plank Dairy's milk house. We unloaded the milk cans and were greeted by two tiny kittens peering out from the horse stalls.  Inside the milk house, I recorded the milk temperature and volume inside his generator-powered refrigerated bulk tank.  I then collected a sample for quality testing, and we started transfering the milk from his bulk tank to our milk cans. Everything was hosed off with warm water, and the milk cans were reloaded back onto our trailer.  We headed back home with the precious cargo in tow.  About 45 minutes later, we arrived back at our farm, and Ben off loaded the heavy cans.  Our cheese makers were there to take the cans inside the cheeserie, clean them again and pour the rich white fluid into our cheese vat for the cheese make of the day. Today, they made Roxanne, our raw sheep milk brebis.  In two to three months, you'll be enjoying this cheese made today with sheep milk from Arthur.

Farmers' Markets

This week, we're attending three markets: Urbana, Springfield and Chicago's Green City Market. Our cheese makers, Nat and Alison, will be selling in Urbana, while I will venture to our state's capitol, Springfield, for the first time. I am looking forward to selling our cheeses in Springfield and meeting our new customers there. The ever charming Pat McCroy will be selling at Green City Market. We've got a solid lineup of cheeses for you:

  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta
  • Angel Food
  • Black Sheep
  • Krotovina
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Pecorino Romano--the first and only batch of sheep milk romano that we made last year, so come get it while it lasts

Urbana shoppers can enjoy some cool and refreshing gelato and sorbetto:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Stracciatella (chocolate chip)
  • Honey Lavender
  • Vanilla Chevre
  • Margot's Mint
  • Plum Sorbetto
  • Peach Sorbetto
  • Nectarine Sorbetto

There may be a few other flavors added for good measure, so let us surprise you at the market!

Thank you to those adventurous souls who came out to the farm during the blazing hot afternoon this past Wednesday. We'll have lots of goodies for those of you who come out next Wednesday. Stay tuned for details.

Posted 7/23/2012 1:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings CSA members:

We have another bread, cheese and gelato pickup scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Bloomington members will pick up from 6 to 7PM at the usual location (Unitarian Church on Emerson St.) and Peoria members will pick up from 5 to 6PM at Marcella Teplitz' house.  Please let us know if someone else will be picking up for you (and provide their phone number in case they forget and we have to call them). For those of you with the cheese share, we will probably have an assortment of chevre flavors this week--plain, cracked pepper and herbs de Provence. Hopefully, everyone will get what they want of these three choices. We will bring extras of some of the cheeses and gelato for sale at the Bloomington location, so if you know of people who aren't CSA members, but want cheese and/or gelato, please let them know.  If you have any other feedback about the CSA, please let us know.

thanks. leslie & carissa