Yesterday, our smallest yearling, Gladys, gave birth to twins-two healthy but tiny kids-a doe and a buck. The little buck weighed just over 4 pounds, the doeling a petite 3 lbs. 7 ozs. Both are complete and healthy and full of spunk. I've taken to calling the little doeling a "tea cup" goat because she is so miniature.
She's just a bit bigger than the tea kettle. I tried to get her to stand inside it, but she wasn't cooperating. Her diminuitive size is no match for her magnanimous personality.
With Wes stealing a little kiss, you get the picture of her miniature nature.
On other farm news, we finally got some rain this week, setting a green growth spurt in motion. The pasture is lush, the alfalfa crop nearly ready for its first cutting and the flower seeds that Rachel planted are sprouting. Thankfully, we missed the funnel cloud that materialized over the southern part of Champaign on Tuesday afternoon.
First Outdoor Farmers' Markets of the Season
Farmers' Market season has arrived at last, bringing our spring open house-breakfast season to a close. We will be attending two markets on Saturday morning, May 5th: Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market. Both start at 7AM; Urbana's Market at the Square runs until 12 noon and Chicago's Green City Market (located in Lincoln Square Park) runs until 1PM. The weather is expected to be balmy: sunny and in the '80's, so it should be a great way to spend your Saturday morning. We're bringing lots of great cheese:
- Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
- Fresh goat milk ricotta--what better way to celebrate spring with some fresh ricotta, fresh market greens sauteed and tossed over some pasta.
- Sheep milk feta--perfect for a quick spring green salad
- Angel Food--our creamy, slightly gooey goat milk brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert, wonderful served warm with some honey
- Ewe Bloom--a delicate yet intense soft-ripened sheep milk cheese
- Black Sheep--with ash on the rind, this soft-ripened sheep milk disc is perfect for a spring picnic cheese plate.
For our Urbana customers, we will be selling pints of our goat milk gelato:
- Gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut)
- Local Strawberry
- Strawberry Sorbetto
- Fresh Ginger (limited quantities)
Farm Dinner Reservations, Other Markets this year and our Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA
We will be releasing reservations for the next four farm dinner dates (August 4th through
September 8th) on Saturday, May 12th. We have a new e-commerce platform through which the tickets will be sold. I will send out another announcement about how this will work on Monday, May 7th, so stay posted. This year, we will be attending two new farmers' markets: Springfield and Logan Square (a Sunday market in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago). Our first Saturday in Springfield will be May 26th and our first attendance at Logan Square will be June 10th. We won't be attending the Oak Park Farmers' Market or the Downtown Bloomington Farmers' Market this year. For those of you who live in the Bloomington-Normal and Peoria areas, you can still purchase our cheese through our "Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA."
We still have openings for the CSA, but you must sign up by Saturday, May 12th. The first pickup for CSA members will be Tuesday, May 29th either in Bloomington OR Peoria. For more details about how to sign up, visit our website.
Here's what's for breakfast on Saturday April 28th, the last of the season:
- Triple S Farms pork sausage gravy and biscuits
- Fried Egg with Spinach pancakes, carrots and chevre sauce
- Three Sisters Oatmeal topped with orange scented granola and a touch of maple syrup
- Feta and Juliet tomato hand pies
- Hot Chocolate
Remember the news of over 40 does kidding that first week in March? Remember the day we reached our 100th kid born less than two weeks after the first kid was born this year? Well, this goat "baby boom" generation reached the six-week old mark this week, so we decided to weigh them to determine if they had grown enough to wean them off their milk. Yesterday, we brought the scale out to the kid barn, list of kids in hand (46 in total who were 6 weeks old or older--we have sold over half of this group of 100 already!) and started weighing. Much to my amazement, most of the kids weighed between 21 and 32 pounds after ONLY SIX SHORT weeks! One of the bucklings weighed over 36 pounds! Since they had more than quadrupeled in size, we deemed it time to wean them. We set up a separate new pen for them, Wes built them a cat-walk to distract them, we loaded up their hay feeder with alfalfa hay and let the games begin. We decided to go "cold turkey" on milk withdrawl, because we don't have the setup to gradually reduce the amount of milk that 46 kids should receive.
At first, they were thrilled with their new digs--lots of kids prancing on the cat-walk trying to push their rivals off the plank. After a couple of hours, the realization that milk was no longer free flowing started to set in, and the din of kid screams began to rise. By mid-afternoon, the mere sound of human footsteps outside the barn set in motion a cacaphone of 46 indignant kids. I tried to appease them with some grain, more hay and lots of fresh water. Their consolation didn't last very long. They were still upset well into the night and this morning. Their voices hoarse, some continued to protest while inhaling their grain. Finally, this evening, the decibels of noise were dying down, they seemed to be satiated with their hay and grain, and most were plum tuckered out from all the histrionics of the past 24 hours.
Farm Open House, Farm Sales and the Illinois MarathonThis Saturday, April 28th is the last spring farm open house of the season. As usual, we will be open from 9AM to 12 noon. We'll be serving up a breakfast that will include Chef Alisa's most-amazing buscuits and gravy (with sausage from Triple S Farms) and feta-heirloom dried tomatoes crafted by Alison. The rest of the menu should be posted on our facebook page sometime tomorrow. Saturday is also the Illinois Marathon. You should be able to get out to the farm if you check out the map showing the marathon route and the traffic routes around it http://illinoismarathon.com/pdf/map_beltway.pdf
Of course, we'll have plenty of cheese for you to taste and buy:
- Lots of chevre
- Fresh goat milk ricotta
- Sheep Milk Feta
- Several styles of our goat and sheep milk bloomy rind cheeses
- Maybe a few pieces of the last fall batch of Moonglo
Gelato flavors include:
- Margot's Mint
- Giandjua (chocolate-hazelnut deliciousness)
Our other farmers include Tomahnous Farm, Moraine View Farm and Stewart's Artisan Breads. Blue Moon Farm will be selling at Lincoln Square Mall. Rita Glazik of Cow Creek Farm notified me today that her ramps are done for the season. Hopefully, most of you were able to purchase some of their plump and savory ramps this year. They were delicious!
Cheese in the City (the windy city that is)
Prairie Fruits Farm will be making two appearances in Chicago on Saturday. We'll be attending the last indoor Green City Market at the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum from 8AM to 1PM. We'll be offering our Chicago patrons the same assortment of cheeses we will have here in Champaign at the farm. I will be attending the 2nd Annual Pastoral Artisan Cheese Festival at the French Market from 11AM to 3PM. I'll be sampling my heart out, so come by for a taste. Pastoral will have our cheeses for sale as well. If you love cheese, you don't want to miss this one!
Outdoor farmers' market season starts May 5th. Stay tuned for details about what we'll be bringing to the markets.
Lottie and Ethel, two of the first fresheners who kidded this week
Our first fresheners have started having babies. Lottie kidded last Saturday during the farm open house; Ethel kidded yesterday afternoon with twins. The look of befuddled first time mothers is in their eyes. Their post partum hormones are raging, yet they don't fully comprehend what has just happened to them. All of a sudden, their udders are swollen with milk, and their destiny as milkers must take precendence. We coax them gently up the ramp into the milking parlor as they learn the tricks of walking down the stantion platform and putting their heads through the metal head lock to get the coveted grain ration. Grain is a good distraction for calming them down, putting the inflations on them and getting them milked. Then, they need to learn the trick of pulling their heads out of the head locks so they can exit the parlor and go back to the barn. Soon, they will fall into the routine and act like they've been milkers their whole lives. Right now, a lot of patience is needed.
With new little kids, it's glaring how fast the first crop of kids have grown. Here's one of the "big" kids (just barely 4 weeks old) checking out one of the little new arrivals. For now, we have the new borns separated from the older kids as they gain confidence on their feet and determination for drinking milk from the bucket feeder.
FARM OPEN HOUSE, BREAKFASTS, CHEESE AND GELATO SALES
With only two more Saturdays left for our spring open house-breakfasts, on farm sales, if you haven't been out yet, now's your chance. We've got a fantastic breakfast line up--my favorite dish, "eggs in purgatory," is on the menu for this Saturday. It's a poached egg in a bath of chef Alisa's famous house-made marina sauce. Scrumptious! We've also got stuffed french toast, house-made doughnuts and several other goodies. As always, hours are 9AM to 12 NOON. NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. JUST COME AS YOU ARE. For up to the minute details about the open house, visit our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/prairiefriutsfarm
For those University of Illinois students and their mothers visiting for "Moms' Weekend," what better way to celebrate your mother than to bring her out to the farm, see our new mothers and their babies, eat some local food breakfast and buy her some fantastic cheese, gelato and other farm-fresh treats (or let her buy all these goodies for you!).
We've got a great line up of cheeses for you to try and buy:
Lots of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
Fresh goat milk ricotta
Sheep milk feta
Angel Food (brie)
Little Bloom on the Prairie (camembert)
Black goat (ash coated, mold ripened)
Black sheep (a close cousin to black goat, but made with sheep milk)
Ewe Bloom (soft ripened sheep milk)
Moonglo-raw goat milk tomme aged over four months-sharp and complex
We've got some new gelato flavors for you to try in addition to our standards:
NEW: Gianduja (hazelnut-chocolate blend; a favorite italian flavor)
NEW: Chocolate Mint Infusion (chocolate gelato base infused with chocolate mint)
I also want to mention that Art Mart in Lincoln Square Village will start selling our gelato this weekend. If you can't make it to the farm on Saturday morning, check out their offerings of our very own gelato--an exclusive for Urbana.
Our guest farmers this week will be Tomahnous Farm, Blue Moon Farm, Cow Creek Farm (probably the last of their ramps), Moraine View Farm (with green garlic) and Stewart's Artisan Breads with bagels, granola and biscotti. Celebrate spring in style with some of the best local food around!
The recent below freezing nights we have experienced may have done some damage to our fruit crop, but it is too early to tell. For sure, the wisteria that were blooming just a few days ago have wilted and look very sad. Wes examined the tiny peaches today, and he is not sure if we'll have a bumper crop or total crop failure--it could go either way.
On a happier note, I am marvelling at the growth spurt the kids are going through this week. It seems like just yesterday that they were born, yet many of them are approaching the five-week old mark. We started offering them grain this week, and yes, they like it. Soon, we will start weaning the oldest kids from milk. Eating grain takes the edge off the weaning process. Their boundless energy gets them into trouble too--they've been pulling the tubes off their self-feeder (the one that dispenses milk replacer to them on demand), releasing the precious (it's expensive stuff!!) fluid onto the barn floor, resulting in puddles of milk. The chickens love this feast, but poor Ben has had to clean up the resultant milk "lake" three times in less than 24 hours. We'll have to outsmart them with baffles to prevent them from pulling off the tubes or divert their attention with other goat toys.
While these kids are growing like corn in july, their mothers are cranking out the milk. Each of our milking does is producing over a gallon of milk per day! Nat, Alison and Sarah are trying to keep up with the growing volumes of milk. We made over seven batches of cheese in about 24 hours these past couple of days!!!
On the birthing front, Vivianne, one of the other does who was artificially inseminated (with some very special semen from another buck--not the same as the Millie twins), kidded this afternoon with twin bucks. They are gorgeous--both chocolate brown. You can see them this Saturday during the farm open house. They look like Nubian teddy bears.
Farm Sales and Green City Market this Saturday
Join us again this Saturday, April 14th, at the farm for our open house and on farm sales-9AM to 12 noon. Chicago residents, we'll be attending the indoor Green City Market at the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum from 8AM to 1PM. All this great cheese needs a good home and a willing gullet.
Our cheese offerings (both at the farm and at Green City market) include:
- Lots of creamy chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- A cornucopia of soft-ripened goat and sheep milk cheeses including the debut of Krotovina, Black Goat, Ewe Bloom, Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Moonglo--very few late fall wheels remain, so get it while it lasts--we won't have spring batches ready until the early summer
- Goat Milk Ricotta-first of the season and perfect for a spinach-ricotta pie or spanikopita (it's Greek Easter this weekend, so this would be the perfect way to enjoy our ricotta)
- Sheep milk feta--perfect on a salad or with some roasted beets!!
For those of you coming to the farm, our gelato offerings include:
- Hazelnut (paste from the Willamette Valley of Oregon, a stone's throw from Wes' home town of Forest Grove)
- Sicilian Pistachio
- Margot's Mint
In addition to our products, we have several other farmers who will be here: Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek Farm (probably their last weekend for ramps), Stewarts Artisan Breads and a new farmer, Phil Swartz, from Hoopston, who will be bringing spinach and lots of green garlic. Blue Moon will be at Lincoln Square this Saturday, but back at our farm next weekend.
Breakfasts--check out the menu on our facebook page
For a general description about how the breakfasts work (no reservations for example) go to our web page that describes the breakfasts and the open house in general.
Wes and Ben have been mending fences this past week. Not the metaphorical kind, but the hotwire kind, the kind that attempt to keep goats where we want them to be. Keeping them where we want them is a critical part of intensive rotational grazing-moving graziers from section (paddock) to section to control the growth of the pasture and more importantly, to prevent the goats from re-ingesting intestinal parasite eggs that get deposited on the pasture in their droppings.
It's tough business to try to tell a goat where she can or can't tread. They are the quintessential "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" kind of creature. There's always one or two who decide that the grass is TRULY greener (aka more delicious) on the other side and venture under or over the hotwire, enduring a jolt of electricity to satiate that curiosity. Once that first one takes the plunge, the rest of the herd usually follows, laying waste our attempts at rotational grazing. We decided we needed more amunition in this battle of wills and fences, so we purchased more hotwire and placed more strands between each of the pasture paddocks. We also increased the intensity of the electrical current to create a strong "disincentive" for attempts at fence breaching. I am happy to report that the new fence fortress appears to be working. The goats seem to have rediscovered their respect for the hotwire. The pasture has been growing beautifully with the weather we've had--luscious grasses, clover, forage alfalfa and chicory. They're even happy to eat the prolific dandelions. They get what they want, we get what we want. Everybody's happy.
Saturday Open House, Breakfasts, On Farm Sales
Once again, we're opening our doors on Saturday, April 7th from 9AM to 12 noon to come visit the farm, see the goats, eat some breakfast and buy some local food goodies to adorn your spring holiday tables. NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. We have lots of places for you to park (and two very skilled parking people) and lots of places for you to sit and enjoy your breakfast. This week's menu includes:
- Stewart's Bagel Sandwich with fried "Little Farm on the Prairie" egg, sauteed kale, jalepeno Chevre
- Claybank Farms asparagus and Triple S Farms bacon Quiche with Mouton Frais
- Vanilla yogurt parfait with crunchy granola, fruit
- Potato and Onion Knish with whole grain mustard
- Black Currant and Pecan muffins
- Dried Cherry and oatmeal cookies
- Fair Trade Coffee roasted by Columbia Street Roastery
- Goat milk Hot Chocolate
- Ice tea
We also offer a short stack of pancakes and Kilgus milk for children.
For those of our customers observing Passover, we will have limited portions of a crustless quiche without bacon. Please tell Nat or anyone taking your order that you would like the crustless quiche (we aren't making a lot of these, so come early if you want to make sure you get some).
We have a lovely selection of cheeses to adorn your holiday tables:
- Lots of fresh chevre-what better way to celebrate spring!
- Angel Food-our goat's milk brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat's milk camembert
- Ewe Bloom--creamy soft ripened sheep milk, it's yummy
- Black Goat-a little mold ripened cheese dusted with vegetable ash--it's dry but creamy (how's that for a paradox)
- Krotovina--our little truncated pyramid soft-ripened cheese that has a layer of goat curd, a layer of sheep curd, both separated by a thin veneer of vegetable ash
- Moonglo-our raw milk tomme style cheese--great flavors of tang and nuttiness.
- Margo's Mint
- Honey Chevre
We have pints of all of these flavors and a limited selection for single servings. Stock up on pints for holiday dessert tables.
Our farmer friends including Blue Moon Farm, Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek Farm (spring ramps) and Stewart's Artisan Breads (bagels, granola and biscotti) will be here as well. You can almost buy everything you need for your holiday celebrations right here at Prairie Fruits Farm. Come on out to spend a green and joyous Saturday morning with us!
Many of you have been asking when we will be posting the reservations for the remaining farm dinners. We plan to post reservations for the July and August Dates in mid May and the September through December dates in early to mid August. Stay posted for more details either through my weekly email or through our facebook page.
For those Bloomington Normal and Peoria residents who haven't already signed up, we still have spaces open for our Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA. For more details about this program, go to the section of website under Products, CSA.
In my haste to send you out the newsletter this morning, I neglected to announce another monumental occasion that occurred at about 4AM this morning: the long-awaited arrival of Millie's kids. You see, Millie is one the best milkers we have produced in our herd (she was one of the first two doe kids born here back in March 2005). Last year, she was given the designation of "Exceptional Genetics" by the American Dairy Goat Association. So, we decided to purchase some very special semen, and last October, she was inseminated successfully. As her due date approached, we were watching her like a hawk: nothing, nothing, nothing, until last night, we noticed her udder swelled up like a giant watermelon in August. We were hoping for bucks (I know, we always hope for doe kids, but this time we wanted a buck out of Millie to add to our repertoire of herd sires), and sure enough, she produced. Two healthy and strong males were brought into this world early this morning without much fanfare. Both weighed close to 9 pounds! True to form, when Ben milked her out this morning she had close to a gallon of colostrum!! That's our Millie.
Yet another monumental occasion is the arrival of Wes' grand-daughter, Camille, to our farm. Just barely one year old, she was initially a bit hesitant to participate in this photo shoot with baby goats. After communing with them for awhile, she was all smiles and giggles as she clapped her hands with glee.
Yesterday, the weather conditions were perfect for our first prairie burn, so the volunteers from Grand Prairie Friends came out to set the field on fire. Led by their fearless leader, Jamie Ellis, a team of four pyro-professionals lit the dry grass stalks and got the fire started in no time. Working from the south end, they burned the two acres in about one hour. As the flames approached the center, a pheasant hen took flight to escape to safety.
Amidst the ashes, we discovered an intact deer skeleton, complete with an eight-point rack of antlers. He must have died peacefully nestled in the prairie over the winter.
In other blazing news, our prairie fire crab apple tree is in full bloom with crimson pink flowers; a fitting coincidence with our actual prairie fire.
This week's farm open house (tomorrow, Saturday, March 31st from 9AM to 12 noon) should have perfect weather for an outing to the farm. Check out our facebook page for the full breakfast menu, but the highlights will be a spring farm-egg strada and breakfast burritos. We're adding lots more chairs for you to sit while you eat, and if the weather is warm enough, we encourage you to bring blankets to sit outside and have a breakfast picnic.
Cheese-wise, we have a cornucopia of spring delights:
- Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
- Black Goat-first of the season and boy is it creamy in your mouth
- Ewe Bloom--delicate soft ripened sheep milk deliciousness
- Moonglo--the final batches from late fall 2011 milk
Gelato Flavors include:
- Luscious chocolate
- Honey Chevre
- Margo's Mint (an infusion of fresh mint from Tomahnous Farm)
Although Blue Moon Farm will not be here (they are in Lincoln Square this Saturday), Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek (aka Glaziks) Farm (ramps) and Stewart's Artisan Breads will all be here.
For those of you in Chicago, good news! We will be attending the indoor Green City Market with the same array of cheeses for you to buy!! We hope you'll venture over to the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum on Cannon Drive from 8AM to 1PM and get some cheese. Happy Spring!
It's been "May" in March these past few weeks. Our early variety peaches started blooming a few days ago, along with the quince.
As many a fruit grower knows, early blooms can be disasterous if a freeze hits. It looks like we will dodge the freeze bullet for the next several days, so maybe we'll have a bumper fruit crop this year (keep all of your body parts crossed and throw salt over your shoulder, just for good measure).
The intensity of kidding season appears to be behind us. Within the first two weeks of March, about 40 does kidded, dropping well over 100 kids. Sleep deprivation is subsiding and our trips to goat barn are less frequent. As I mentioned before, we experienced a record number of quadruplets (7 sets) and triplets (too numerous to keep track of the count).
Here are just a few of the little buggers fighting over nipples on the self feeder. You get to see them all THIS coming Saturday, March 24th as we usher in the first of the season Spring Open House-Farm Breakfast-Farm Sales. Hours are 9AM to 12 Noon. NO RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.
The breakfast menu includes:
- Stewart's Artisan Breads bagel sandwich with local farm eggs, Triple S bacon and tomato jam chevre
- Three Sisters Garden Oatmeal with Creme Fraiche and Plums
- Michigan Bluebery Scones
- Fairtrade Coffee from Columbia Street Roastery
- Mexican Goat Milk Hot Chocolate
We will be selling our cheeses:
- Lots of fresh spring milk chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
- First of the season Angel Food
- First of the season Ewe Bloom
- A few containers of our Mouton Frais (sheep milk chevre with a more rich texture and flavor profile than the goat chevre)
- Moonglo made late last fall
- Huckleberry Blue made late last fall
The Angel Food and Ewe Bloom are just ripe, but within a few days in your 'frige, they'll be perfect. Of course, if you like them nice and gooey, you can leave them to ripen a bit longer.
We'll have our Goat Milk Gelato too, in pints and single servings dipped from our fancy Italian Gelato dipping cabinet:
- Simply Vanilla
- Lilly's Luscious Chocolate
- Nocciola (Hazelnut) de Piemonte
- Sicilian Pistachio
As is our tradition, we will have a few other farmers selling their spring produce:
- Blue Moon Farm will have salad mix, spinach, arugula, kale, chard, cilantro, turnips and carrots.
- Tomahnous Farm will have Lettuce, Kale, Eggs, Cilantro, Oregano, Garlic Chives, Peppermint, Scallions
- Glazik Farm will bring some young and tender ramps (wild leeks)
- Stewart's Artisan breads will have bagels, biscotti and granola
A few logistical notes:
We are expecting a LOT of people for the first open house, and we will have a couple of folks directing parking either along our driveway or to our overflow lot on the north side of our farm. PLEASE DO NOT PARK ALONG LINCOLN AVENUE. IT IS NOT ALLOWED, and we will get in trouble. If you are handicapped or have handicapped passengers, please let the parking folks know when you arrive, so they can direct you to our handicapped parking area.
Communing with the goats
We know that the main reason you all want to come out to the farm (aside from eating breakfast) is to see the goats and their kids. When visiting with the goats, we ask that you look but don't touch them, especially the kids. Their young immune systems are not quite up to snuff yet, so they are vulnerable to stray illnesses. We also have a hand washing station for you to wash your hands after you visit with the goats.
As I mentioned, you need no reservations for breakfasts. You just place your order and pay when you arrive (you might have to stand in a line, but we'll keep it moving fast), give us your name, and we will bring out your order as soon as it's ready. We'll have coffee, hot chocolate and water for you to serve yourself.
Here's what's planned for the first breakfast:
- Stewart's Artisan bread bagel sandwich with Triple S Farms Bacon, House-made tomato jam, chevre and fresh fried egg
- Three Sister's Garden (Kankakee, IL) Oatmeal with Peach Creme Fraiche and Poached Plums
- Michigan Blueberry Scones
- Prairie Fruits Farm Carrot Muffins
- Goat Milk Hot Chocolate
- Fairtrade Coffee from Columbia Street Roastery
Items range in price from $2.50 to $8 depending on what it is.
NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. JUST COME ON OUT AND ENOY THE DAY ON THE FARM!