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
It's dry here. It's dry throughtout much of the Midwest. The severity and scale of this year's drought is the talk of the news these days, both local and national. Most of the focus of discussion is centered on the drought's impact on cash grains-corn and soybeans. Indeed, many farmers in Illinois are already tilling in corn fields condemned as a total or near-total crop failure. Most of these farmers are protected by federal crop insurance, so while their losses are devastating, they wil receive some income. However, there are numerous farm stories with serious drought-related calamities that aren't making the headlines. Hot, dry winds are scorching vegetables. Farmers growing vegetables with little to no irrigation have crop failures without any economic safety net. What few fruits survived the spring freeze are either ripening too fast (and lacking in flavor) or have been bleached by extreme temperatures. For our farm, it's all about the forages. Our pastures have stopped growing. As such, our goats' main food source right now is second-cutting alfalfa hay that normally would be reserved for their nourishment next spring. Our alfalfa is re-growing very slowly, and is so drought and heat stressed that it is flowering within a couple of weeks after cutting. Most farmers who raise alfalfa hay know to cut their alfalfa just before it flowers to maximize its nutritional value. With so little growth and flowers, it's a hard pill to swallow when we think about the feed value of this hay for our lactating goats. AND.. it's not just our alfalfa fields that are in jeopardy. Most of the other alfalfa fields in our region and most of Illinois and neighboring states are in the same conditions as ours. The need for rain is profound and far reaching.
Bastille Day for our new hens
As I mentioned in my earlier news blast this week, we purchased 21 barred (NO, our hens are NOT the Shakespearean "bard" variety, but rather barred as in striped) rock hens from a fellow farmer last week, and we were advised to keep them in the new coop for three days so they would get acclimated to their new home and start laying eggs in our nest boxes. Well, they stoically accepted their fate, and we tried to lessen their discomfort and heat stress by blowing a fan on them. Yesterday morning was chicken liberation day. We opened to the chicken coop door, and, within minutes, they poured onto their new green foraging ground.
Immediately, they started tearing off what few blades of grass there are and scratching the bare earth patches for bugs and stray flakes of grain. They seem thoroughly content with their new digs. Two have already figured out how to escape underneath the chicken coop to even greener "pastures."
Cheese News and Farmers' Markets
Many of you have been waiting patiently for the arrival of the spring batches of Moonglo, our raw goat milk tomme washed in a bath of Moonglo pear tea and ripening cultures. I am happy to report that after almost four months, the first spring batch is finally ready. It has its wonderful goat tang, a nice creamy texture and lots of complex flavor tones that linger on your palate. It is a great cheese to enjoy in this heat with a slice of heirloom tomato and a shred of fresh basil drizzled with olive oil. It's also great with some quince jam if you have it.
We'll have plenty for you to taste and buy at the three famers' markets we're attending this weekend: Urbana, Green City Market (both on Saturday) and Chicago's Logan Square (SUNDAY from 10 AM to 3PM).
In addition to Moonglo, we'll be bringing lots of other great cheeses:
- Fresh chevre (of course)
- Fresh goat milk ricotta
- Sheep milk feta
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses featuring some really ripe and gooey Angel Food, Black Sheep, Krotovina, Ewe Bloom and limited quantities of Little Bloom on the Prairie.
- Roxanne--now just because we have Moonglo doesn't mean you should stop buying the Roxanne-it holds its own
- Last of the Caprino Romano--try grating it on some grilled meats or grilled summer squash
Urbana Market Goers can cool down with some goat milk gelato and local fruit sorbetto:
- Stracciatella (chocolate ganache chip)
- Vanilla Chevre
- Thai Basil (made with our own thai basil leaves infused in the base)
- Margot's Mint
- Rhubarb Swirl
- Milleur Orchard Peach Sorbetto (it tastes as good as a ripe peach)
- Strawberry Sorbetto
- Cucumber-lime-mint Sorbetto
Despite the severity of the weather, there's a lot of great local food to be had right now, and for this we are thankful.
Thanks to Cathe Capel of Seven Sisters Farm, we have 21 new bard rock laying hens. They are about 10 months old and already laying eggs. They'll be out in their new pen-chicken coop tomorrow, so come out to welcome them to our farm. Soon, we hope to have eggs for sale during our open house as well as our cheese and gelatoOur farm open house and on farm sale runs from 4 to 6PM.
We'll have lots of cheese for you to sample and buy including chevre, several soft ripened cheeses, some huckleberry blue, roxanne and caprino romano. We will also have a few jars of our first extraction honey for sale. It is beautifully pale, and very floral tasting. We've got some great gelato flavors for you to enjoy including:
- Stracciatella* (fancy chocolate ganache chip)
- NEW: Smoked white chocolate stracciatella (WOW!!)
- Thai Basil
- Rhubarb Swirl*
- Peach Sorbetto*
- Strawberry Sorbetto
* indicates the flavors that we will have available for scoops into cups or cones.
Stewart's Artisan Breads will have breads, bagels, biscotti and granola for sale. Tomahnous Farm will be here with a nice variety of vegetables and beautiful flowers. AND... Last but surely not least, Laurence Mate, the knife dude, will be here to sharpen your knives while you shop and see the farm.
We look forward to seeing you here tomorrow afternoon. It will be hot, but it will be fun!
It's that time of year again that we receive our day-old Freedom Ranger chicks in preparation for the 100 yard dinner. They arrive from Pennsylvania at the post office. I get the call and I can hear the chicks peeping in the background. When I arrive at the post office, the gentleman tells me that his co-worker had said if he has to listen to the chicks peeping much longer, he will have to have a chicken sandwich for lunch. I pointed out the tiny size of these little birds and the meager meal they would make, and he said "Oh no, not those; he meant going to MacDonalds to buy a chicken sandwich." He handed me the peeping box, and off I went back to the farm. Wes built a very predator-proof box for the chicks, and we placed them inside, dipping each one's little beaks in water to make sure they would know how to drink. So far, they have settled into their new home, scuttling along the bottom of their box eating and drinking as they go.
Our beekeeper, Emil Blobaum, reports that our bees are doing very well this year, despite the heat and the drought. He thinks they are flying to the nearby creek to get their water, although the creek has very little water itself. Emil has been busy taking our first honey off the comb, so we will have jars of honey for sale at the farmers' markets this Saturday--8 oz and 16 oz jars.
We will be attending three farmers' markets this weekend: Urbana, Green City Market and Springfield. I know many of our Springfield customers will be scratching their heads right now, because we attended the Springfield market last week. In our attempt to get to a point of having no more than three markets in any given weekend, we will be going to Springfield this Saturday, and then we won't be back until two weekends later (July 28th). Cheese wise, we have some scrumptious offerings:
- Fresh chevre (all three flavors)
- Angel Food Brie (nice and ripe for this weekend's eating)
- Black Goat
- Black Sheep
- Ewe Bloom
- Sheep Milk Feta
- Huckleberry Blue
- Caprino Romano (these are the last wheels, so if you like this cheese, stock up NOW)
Urbana shoppers can enjoy gelato and sorbetto this Saturday. We will have some of your old favorites, along with the seasonal debut of some of last summer's favorite flavors:
- Strawberry Gelato
- Vanilla Chevre
- Thai Basil (a favorite from last year)
- Buttermilk (tangy and delicious)
- Stracciatella (ganache chocolate chip)
- Rhubarb sorbetto
- Strawberry sorbetto
- Cucumber lime mint sorbetto (another favorite from last year)
Even if it rains on Saturday (which I hope it does even during market), you should all come out to the market to celebrate the cooler weather and take home some great summer cheeses and gelato. I can guarantee it won't be as hot as last weekend! Also, stay tuned for my notice about next Wednesday's on farm sales.
What a difference a few days make. It is PERFECT weather for you local folks to come out to the farm tomorrow afternoon from 4 to 6PM. The goats aren't panting anymore, so you can see them under no stress conditions. We'll have plenty of great cheese for you to taste and buy (and it is PERFECT cheese eating weather) including chevre, feta, some bloomy rind cheeses and some hard, raw milk cheeses.
We've got some great new flavors of gelato for you to taste and buy too:
- Vanilla Chevre
- Stracciatella (fancy chocolate ganache "chip")*
- NEW: Buttermilk gelato*
- Back for the summer: Lemon-thai basil
Sorbettos include: rhubarb, strawberry* and back by popular demand: Cucumber-lime-mint
* indicates flavors in our dipping cabinet available for scoops into cups or cones (also available as pints). Other flavors are available as pints only.
Tomahnous Farm will be here with their veggies and beautiful flower bouquets, Stewart's Artisan Breads will have bagels, breads, granola and biscotti AND Laurence Mate will be here to sharpen your knives. All the right ingredients will be here for a perfect Wednesday afternoon at the farm, so come on OUT!!
I know farmers talk obsessively about the weather. We obsess because our livelihoods depend on it. This week's farm news is much the same as last week's, except that we're going on over a week with temperatures hovering around 100+ degrees. The intensity and duration of this heat is chipping away at our state of mind, and our goat's milk production. We have purchased more fans and we're eagerly awaiting the arrival of a mister that attaches to the fans so we can blow some cool water droplets onto the goats to lessen their suffering. Today, we sprayed them with a fine mist from the hose. Normally, they would flee from any droplets of water touching their bodies. However, today, they stood there with their faces in full exposure to the cooling mist. Shelly, one of our hybrid milkers extraordinaire, tilted her head back and lapped up the water droplets as they fell on her muzzle. With not much relief from this heat wave in sight, it's a small pleasure to get the girls cooled off, if only for a brief reprieve.
So, now we turn to the topic of farmers' markets, and thoughts of shopping for food during these hot times. My recommendation is to get there early, so you can stock up and get home before the sun starts blazing. We'll be attending FOUR farmers' markets this weekend: Urbana, Springfield and Green City Market on Saturday AND Logan Square on Sunday.
I know many of you don't think of cheese eating for this hot weather, but actually, you can have a meal with bread, salad and cheese without heating up the kitchen. We've got:
Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
Fresh goat milk ricotta
Sheep milk feta
An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Black Goat, Black Sheep, Ewe Bloom and Krotovina. Some of the markets will have more or less of these cheeses.
Roxanne--our firm, raw sheep milk brebis
Huckleberry Blue-our raw goat milk blue
Caprino Romano-one year old, raw goat milk grating style cheese
Urbana Market goers can cool off with some gelato or sorbetto:
Gianduja (Chocolate Hazelnut)
Stracciatella (a new flavor for us--vanilla gelato with chocolate ganache "chips")
Stay tuned for details about next Wednesday's on farm sales. Try to stay cool, but don't forget to shop the farmers' markets early and bring coolers and ice packs to transport your cheese and gelato home safely. Thanks for your patronage.
Cool off with some gelato or sorbetto--single servings in a cup or a cone OR take home some pints for your eating during fireworks watching time. In the dipping cabinet, we'll have vanilla, chocolate, rhubarb swirl, gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut), stracciatella (vanilla gelato with chocolate ganache "chips") and local plum sorbetto. Pint-wise, we've got vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, strawberry vanilla chevre, rhubarb swirl AND rhubarb, plum and nectarine sorbettos.
AND...Introducing Knife Sharpening by Laurence Mate
"Need a sharp knife in the kitchen? Starting tomorrow (July 4th), the old knife dude (aka Laurence Mate), who sharpens knives for Prairie Fruits Farm's kitchen, will be bringing his grindstone to the farm, so that you can get your knives sharpened while you shop for cheese, gelato and fresh produce. Prices range from $2 for a touch up on the 4000 grit Japanese waterstone to $6 for a complete re-grinding. Sorry--no serrated knives. And, if a good kitchen knife is something you need, Laurence will also have knives for sale.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate the fourth--goats on parade, fresh and cool local foods and a good sharp knife! See you here!
The mercury topped out at 101 degrees F this afternoon, and the heat index fluttered around 113, but there was a breeze. This is the kind of weather that puts my hair on end worrying about the goats, especially our "geriatric" girls. We have several fans blowing on them, and they can decide where they want to be throughout the day--inside the barn, out in the dry lot, out in the pasture or parked under a hay feeder--it's their choice. I checked on them every few hours and several of the does were buried half way up in the straw bedding to keep cool. Katie, one of our older La Mancha does, had her whole body directly in front of one of the strongest blowing fans. Chippewa (Chippy) was out running in the pasture much to my surprise. Chocolate had her jaw submerged in the waterer when I checked on them this afternoon. The kids sought shade under the eaves of the barn. Everyone drank LOTS of water. I decided to give the kids new collars and name tags this morning, and by the end, my coveralls covered in hoof prints, I succumbed to the onslaught of kid jumping, hair eating and earring pulling.
My reward for trying to keep them in line.
This week, we have two farmers' markets to attend: Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market. Given the forecast of heat, I strongly recommend you bring coolers with ice packs to the market so you can buy cheese (and gelato in Urbana) without worry. Even in the "dog-days" of summer, cheese is a coveted food (Drummer, the Blue Moon Farm Dog, quivers longingly for a bite of Angel Food Brie in the photo below):
We've got the following cheeses for you to enjoy:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
Fresh goat milk ricotta-limited amounts so come early--this would be perfect with some early season honey and fresh berries
Sheep milk feta-perfect for topping a crisp cool salad
Angel Food Brie-don't let your dog get it!
Ewe Bloom-delicate rind, bold taste
Black Sheep-ash coating on the rind, perfect for a summer evening snack
Black Goat-another ash rinded gem, slightly drier than it's sheep cousin
Roxanne--great for carving off a slice and putting it on a piece of crusty bread
Huckleberry Blue--raw goat milk--creamy, sweet and pungent
Caprino Romano--a perfect accompaniment to your grilled veggies
For our Urbana Market goers, you can cool off with some refreshing gelato and sorbetto this weekend:
Vanilla Chevre (slight tang like a buttermilk ice cream)
Don't forget to come out to the farm on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6PM for our open house, farm sale. WE WILL BE OPEN ON JULY 4TH. STAY TUNED FOR DETAILS--THE GOATS MIGHT HAVE THEIR OWN INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE (AKA BREAKOUT).
Stewart will have bagels, breads and biscotti (the three B's) AND Lisa Haynes of Tomahnous Farm will be here with salad greens, garlic, onions, potatoes, fresh herbs and maybe some cherry tomatoes.
Come see the newest addition to our goat herd--the Ali baby born on Saturday evening, June 23rd DURING the farm dinner!! Check out those spots!!
This week is "pollinator week," a time of raising awareness about those precious cupids of the flowering plant world. Intentionally or not, they carry pollen from one flower to another, leaving behind the germ of future fruits. Here at Prairie Fruits Farm, we hold our pollinators in very high regard, because without them, we would have no fruit. Given the freakish warm March we had, our main pollinators, the honey bees, were out in full force visiting the proliferation of flowers adorning our peach, pear, apple and cherry trees. We witnessed their handiwork at the end of March, as almost every single flower blossom had set into tiny little fruits. When the freezing temperatures descended upon our orchard in April, we watched our potential bumper crop of peaches turn black and fall of the branches. The pears, apples and cherries never even set any fruit to witness their demise. Nevertheless, our pollinators carry on. They visit our herb garden daily. Our blackberries (the only fruit we are likely to have this summer) are flush with flowers now turning into red and soon blue-black ripe berries.
In addition to our honey bees, tended with care by our beekeeper, Emil Blobaum, I've noticed other native pollinators have settled into our farm. We have a pair of resident mason bees who have created a little nest just outside the cheeserie window. Our cheesemakers marvel at their comings and goings during the day. We like to watch them while we are washing dishes (which happens a lot in the cheeserie). We've also got lots more bumble bees this year. In fact, Wes and I discovered a fence post just outside the milking parlor that had a row of perfectly drilled holes down one side; each hole contained a single resting bumble bee. It was pretty remarkable.
Last night, Nat and Alison, our cheesemakers, hosted a tasting of honey and cheese at our farm, as part of Slow Food Champaign-Urbana's celebration of Pollinator Week. They paired three of our cheeses each with two different honeys--light dandelion and our farmstead honey with our light and tangy chevre, a beautiful Linden flower honey with our Angel Food Brie and dark wildflower honey from Seven Sisters Farm with our intensely flavored Huckleberry Blue. It was amazing to experience the differences among honeys and how each honey's character complimented (or not) the different types of cheese. I highly recommend buying several different types of honey if you can find them at the farmers' markets and pair them with a few of our cheeses this weekend. Honey is the new "wine."
Once again, we're attending FOUR farmers' markets this weekend: Urbana, Springfield and Green City Market on Saturday AND Chicago's Logan Square Farmers' Market on Sunday. We will have the following cheeses for your enjoyment:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses that will vary in quantity and availability depending on the market you attend: Angel Food --our gooey goat milk brie, Little Bloom on the Prairie (our goat milk camembert), Black Sheep (ash coated) and Ewe Bloom (delicate rinded sheep milk cheese)
Sheep Milk Feta--perfect for a salad
Roxanne--our raw sheep milk brebis (firm, just plain delicious on bread or made into a grilled cheese sandwich)
Caprino Romano-we are cutting into the last wheels of this 1-yr. old grating style cheese, so get it while it lasts.
For Urbana's market goers, you can enjoy some cool gelato or sorbetto:
Gianduja (Chocolate Hazelnut)
Margot's Fresh Mint
Honey (in honor of pollinator week)
Peach Sorbetto (first of the season-made with Mileur Orchard peaches from southern IL)
Happy Eating!! It's summer and the bounty is just beginning.