News

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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

Posted 7/19/2012 9:46pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

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. 

barred rock hens

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.

Moonglo wheels ripening

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:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Stracciatella (chocolate ganache chip)
  • Vanilla Chevre
  • Thai Basil (made with our own thai basil leaves infused in the base)
  • Margot's Mint
  • Ginger
  • 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.

Posted 7/17/2012 9:10pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate*
  • Hazelnut
  • Stracciatella* (fancy chocolate ganache chip)
  • NEW: Smoked white chocolate stracciatella (WOW!!)
  • Ginger
  • Thai Basil
  • Mint*
  • 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!

 

Posted 7/12/2012 9:55pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

FARM NEWS

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. 

FARMERS' MARKETS

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
  • Roxanne
  • 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:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint
  • Strawberry Gelato
  • Vanilla Chevre
  • Ginger
  • 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.