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Posted 6/10/2011 7:27am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
FARM NEWS
The old adage "make hay when the sun shines" is difficult to realize in the now humid tropics of central Illinois.  In an ideal situation, you cut hay when the weather forecasts at least three to four days of sunny dry weather.  For the uninitiated, there are several critical steps to making hay that goats will eat: first you cut it--this involves a special piece of equipment that essentially mowes down the stand of alfalfa (in our case, it's a mixture of mostly alfalfa and some grass). Then you rake it into windrows--this step usually occurs on day two.  Sometimes you rake it twice to fluff up the cut alfalfa to speed up the drying.  If the drying is sufficient, you can bale it on day three. This involves another special piece of equipment called a baler. Ours is very old and idiosyncratic and subject to frequent break-downs. When baling, it is critical to not crimp down on the hay too much; otherwise the hay becomes brittle and the leaves separate from the stems.  Goats love leaves; they don't like stems. If your leaves fall off, you'll be left with stemmy hay to which they turn up their noses. The other old adage that goats will eat anything is false!
This past week's exceedingly hot and steamy weather made making hay a challenge, especially with the first cutting of alfalfa. It takes longer to dry, leaving it vulnerable to sitting in the field when those intense rain storms come along. We were able to get some of it out of the field, but in the end, the baler broke down one too many times and the rains came at inappropriate times. We had to mulch a good part of the hay right in the field where it lay.  It is not a total loss as the nutrients from the cut hay will replenish the soil and help grow the alfalfa for the second cutting. The second cutting has more leaves than stem anyway, making it more attractive to goats. 

MARKET NEWS
Our on-farm sales on Tuesday afternoon were a huge success--ok I eggagerate a bit. For those who ventured out, they had a full selection of cheeses, gelato and our very own eggs to buy.  They also spent quality time with the baby (well, they are entering into pre-teen age) goats.  This coming Tuesday's farm sale should be even better.  Of course we'll be offering tastings of gelato and cheese, single-servings of gelato and more of our farm-fresh eggs. We're working on a surprise gelato confection to unveil on Tuesday as well, so if you like surprise sweets, you'll have to come out. We may also have Pekara Bakery here selling their wonderful breads and pastries.  I'll send an update on Monday to let folks know what we will have--remember it's 3-7PM on Tuesdays.
FARMERS' MARKETS THIS WEEK
We're attending three markets this Saturday: Bloomington, Urbana and Oak Park.  Expect the following cheeses for sale:
  • Fresh chevre
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Angel Food
  • Smokin' Angel Food (apple-wood smoked by the kind folks at Black Dog Smoke and Ale House in Urbana)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Smokin' Ewe Bloom (we had to try it, right??)
  • Krotovina
  • Red Dawn
  • Maybe: Huckleberry Blue--our raw milk goat's milk blue made with spring milk. It's a bit more piquant than our end of the season version, but still a wonderful nutty blue.
Wes' gelato flavors at the Urbana Farmers' Market are:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (Nocciola)
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Local Strawberry (made with some of our very own organic strawberries)
We'll have single servings as well as pints for sale. 

We have another farm dinner this Saturday--"The Pampas Meets the Prairie" It's an Argentine carnivore's delight. The menu will be posted on our website later today. For our grill's sake, pray for NO RAIN on Saturday.

Posted 6/6/2011 6:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, it's hot. Yes, you'd rather be sitting in an air conditioned room and lying very still. Just think, INSTEAD, you could be savoring some cold goat milk gelato, buying some mouth-watering Prairie Fruits Farm cheese, taking home some of our own pastured-hen eggs and of course, enjoying those baby goats.  This can all be your experience tomorrow--Tuesday, June 7th--from 3-7PM. See you here!
Posted 6/3/2011 11:16am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

FARM NEWS
We've been fighting a thistle problem in our cane berry patch for several years now. Each year, we've been pulling, hoeing, mulching and mowing to no avail.  In fact, the labor that we've expended in trying to keep the Canada thistle from taking over our berries has resulted in a near complete coverage of thistle over the blackberries and raspberries. So, we've decided to bring in the big guns, our "secret" weapon so to speak: our beautiful bucks.

Mocha chowing on thistle
Here's Mocha, one of our La Mancha bucks, snacking on some succulent thistle flower buds.

bucks in weed heaven

The rest of the "boys" take stock of their new "salad bar" including thistle and sadly the remaining cane berries: blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries and marion berries.  Goats love Canada thiste (and the cane berries), and we waited until the thistle was just starting to head out (apparently this is when it is most vulnerable) to let the boys have at it. We fenced off the area and topped it with a nice strand of hot wire (the vegetable garden is just to their east, and we don't want them to wander away from their job at hand to munch on veggies).  Their excitement with their new-found food heaven is obvious--lots of tail wagging and snorting going on inside their new paddock.  We'll keep you posted on the success of noxious weed eradication by goat program.

FARMERS' MARKET NEWS
This Saturday, June 4th, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Chicago's Green City Market. 
We've got lots of really nice tasting cheeses for you this week:

  • Fresh chevre--the usual suspects (plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper)
  • Angel Food--goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert style
  • Krotovina-the best of two milks (goat & sheep) separated by a layer of ash
  • Ewe Bloom-soft ripenend sheep milk deliciousness
  • Black Sheep--ash dusted soft ripened sheep milk
  • Red Dawn--smoked paprika dusted disc of soft-ripened goat

Our friends at Black Dog Smoke and Ale House in Urbana have been experimenting with smoking some of our Angel Food and Ewe Bloom, so these might make an appearance at the markets as well. 

Wes will be bringing more of his creamy goat milk gelato this Saturday to the Urbana Farmers' Market. Flavors include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Honey-Chevre
  • Local Strawberry-Cream
  • Nocciola (Hazelnut)
  • Coconut

REMINDER: WE'VE STARTED OUR TUESDAY ON FARM SALES. COME OUT ON TUESDAY AFTERNOONS FROM 3PM TO 7PM. WE'LL HAVE SINGLE SERVINGS OF GELATO AS WELL AS PINTS FOR YOU TO BUY. WE'LL ALSO HAVE CHEESE. WE MAY EVEN HAVE SOME OTHER FARMERS WITH THEIR PRODUCTS AS WELL. COME VISIT THE FARM, SEE THE GOATS, ENJOY SOME COOL GELATO ON A HOT SUMMER DAY. WHAT COULD BE BETTER??

Posted 5/26/2011 8:54pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Borrowing from an old adage, if you can't bring the goats to their forage, then bring the forage to the goats. Well, this week's turbulent and soggy weather has prevented the goats from going out to forage in their pasture, so we decided to get creative.  We have a plethora of honey locust, honey suckle and other woody browse at the edge of the creek near our property, so we went down there with loppers in hand and cut a whole bunch of branches for the girls.  There's nothing more joyful than the sound of goat lips ripping leaves off branches and munching them with gusto.  It was a bit of a parana style feeding frenzy, but we cut plenty to ensure even the less aggressive does got their share of locust leaves.  Honey locust is a woody legume and grows prolifically along our riparian zone (some might say it's borderline invasive).  Legumes make their own protein (like alfalfa), so it's a great nutritious food for them. Woody browse also contains anti-oxidants and compounds that help goats fight off intestinal parasites, so that is an added benefit.  My very first encounter with goats was in Costa Rica in the mid 1980's.  I was living in a place that had an experiment of feeding goats woody legumes that they would coppice (cut the tops of the trees off and then new branches would sprout). I remember those goats would strip the leaves off those branches with elegant nimbleness and skill. Who knew that many years later I would have my own herd of goats and marvel again at those agile lips of theirs.
We also got some over-ripe bananas from the Common Ground Coop today and gave them all a little treat on the milk stand. We'll see if this added diversity in their diet translates to better or more interesting tasting cheese--you can be the judge.
This week, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park. WE'LL HAVE BOTH CHEESE AND GELATO AT THE URBANA AND BLOOMINGTON FARMERS' MARKETS, SO COME PREPARED. It is Memorial Day Weekend, a time usually spent eating outdoors with friends and family, so what better way to celebrate than to include some Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses AND gelato on your table. 
Cheeses include:
Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
Angel Food--our goat milk brie
Ewe Bloom--nice and soft-ripened sheep milk cheese
Krotovina--the lovely little pyramid that is half sheep, half goat with an ash layer separating the two milks
Fresh sheep milk ricotta--perfect for a pasta dish or just drizzle some honey on it
Sheep milk feta--great on a salad or make some spanikopita if you're really ambitious
Wes has made plenty of goat milk gelato this week, and the weather is calling for heat--perfect gelato eating weather indeed. He has made:
  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Nocciola (hazelnut)
  • Coconut with or without shredded coconut
  • Small amount of persimon using frozen persimon puree from John and Connie Caveny (Caveny Farm in Monticello)
Coming Soon!! local strawberry, rhubarb, strawberry-rhubarb and lemon gelato

We have our first of the season farm dinner this Saturday, May 28th starting at 4PM. Alisa has already been busy in the kitchen preparing the dishes. The dinner is sold out; however you can check out the menu on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm," then click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations," and finally click on the May 28th Celebration of Spring dinner for details. If you scroll down, you'll see the menu.  The weather is too unpredicable to say whether or not we'll be dining inside or out, so we'll make the call on Saturday. 
NEWS FLASH      NEWS FLASH     NEWS FLASH     NEWS FLASH
PRAIRIE FRUITS FARM WILL BE STARTING MID-WEEK ON-FARM SALES OF GELATO AND CHEESE THIS COMING TUESDAY, MAY 31ST.  OUR HOURS WILL BE 3-7PM.  COME VISIT US, SAMPLE AND BUY SOME CHEESE AND GELATO AND YOU CAN EVEN SEE THE GOATS. THIS WILL BE A REGULARLY SCHEDULED SALE DAY AT THE FARM (TUESDAYS FROM 3-7PM) UNLESS NOTIFIED OTHERWISE.  WE HOPE TO SEE YOU HERE!



 
Posted 5/20/2011 8:55am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This week epitomizes a study in contrasts: the realities of getting older and the birth of beautiful spring greens.  I realize I am indulging your willingness to hear yet another tale of death and birth, but I feel compelled to acknowledge the passing of one of our first three does--Snickerdoodle (we called her "Snicky").  We got her along with her sister, Chocolate, and Queen back in June of 2004--an experiment in goat husbandry that turned into our current goat dairy and farmstead creamery of 70+ milking goats.
Snickerdoodle
She was eight years old and died suddenly last friday (it turned out she contracted acute pneumonia probably resulting from the stress of the drastic swings in temperature last week). She was a beautiful black doe with doberman markings. She produced lots of beautiful babies, so her legacy continues in our herd. She was loving and unassuming, and accepted her fate as a member of a commercial dairy herd. Nonetheless, I will never forget the look she would give me shortly after we expanded our herd from THREE to 25 in the summer of 2005 just prior to opening our dairy for business.  It was a look of "What have you done to me??!!" "Things were so wonderful with just us three does!" She would give me this look when I would come into the old barn, once a spacious dwelling for three and then suddenly crowded with new goats.
So, what is the take home message of this recent slue of older goats getting sick and dying? We now have a population of "geriatric goats" according to our vet.  Like older people, they are more fragile than their younger milker compatriots. They're more susceptible to changes in the environment, swings in the weather, and they loose stature in the goat hierarchy meaning more competition at the hay manger.  So, we have created a "retirement" community if you will for some of our older does. It's a sort of "assisted living" area inside the barn.  They have more feeding space (less competition) and we will be giving them special treats to keep them happy.  We'll also be able to keep a closer watch on them if environmental stresses come into play. 
Onto the birth part of my musings.  The garden has EXPLODED into a sea of greens:
herb garden
The newly designed herb garden--thanks to Rachel and Ben (and the volunteers who helped remove the old gravel!!)
broccoli rabe bed
a bed of broccoli rabe and peas--let's hope temperatures stay warm so we have food for the first farm dinner!
blue and yellow irises
These irises came from my great Aunt Lena's front yard in Boston MA many years ago.
The tomatoes went into the ground this week, the early season crops that Rachel has been protecting with roe cover were unveiled this week to reveal a riot of green leaves (see that broccoli rabe!).  We're about two weeks behind last year if we use our strawberries as a harbinger of spring crops--we've got flowers but no fruit yet.  It is finally getting warmer, and the weeds seem to sense that it is time for a growth spurt, so the crops can't be too far behind.  From our weekly scouting in the orchard, it appears we will have peaches and some pears this year and CHERRIES for the first time. We're pretty excited about the cherries. Stay posted for notices about u-pick which will likely start in mid to late June (if we have enough fruit).
On to the farmers' markets and what we will be bringing. This week (Saturday May 20th), we are attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market in Chicago. 
Cheese wise, we have a really nice selection for you this week:
  • Fresh chevre (of course)
  • Limited quantities of Little Bloom on the Prairie (come early if you want some)
  • Sorry but no Angel Food Brie this week
  • Krotovina makes it's 2011 debut--the little pyramid of half goat and half sheep separated by a thin layer of ash.
  • Ewe Bloom--it's nice and creamy
  • Red Dawn--another 2011 debut--a soft-ripened goat disc dusted with smoked paprika
  • Fresh Sheep milk ricotta
  • Sheep Milk Feta--another 2011 debut (we're full of these this week)
For Urbana Market goers, Wes will have lots of gelato on hand this week: vanilla and chocolate (limited quantities of these), a luscious organic banana, Scilian pistacchio, hazelnut and some "experimental" flavors to try and give feedback. 
Even if it's raining, just wear your raincoat and bring an umbrella. You won't regret the treats you'll take home.
Posted 5/12/2011 10:43pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

As I write with all fans whirling inside the house and the barn, it is hard to fathom that, only last week, outside temperatures felt like March. As the proverbial mercury hit close to 90 degrees F the other day, chino the cat stretched himself out along the porch, seeking some cool air wafting from the soil underneath the floor boards. The goats are going out to pasture every day now (in between rain drops), and thankfully they only spend the cooler nights inside the barn after the evening milking.  The fresh chevre is starting to take on its characteristic fresh forage tang--luscious notes of lemon pervade the creamy texture.  The cheeserie is wall to wall, ceiling to floor (well, I exaggerate a little) cheese--chevre, little bloom on the prairie and angel food along side Roxanne (our first batch of the season--raw sheep milk brebis) and ewe bloom.  In between the batches of cheese, we squeeze in batches of gelato base for pasteurization.  We have definitely hit the phase of milk overflowing.
Wes has been busy standing in front of our Carpigiani gelato batch freezer this week so that you, our Urbana Farmers' Market customers, can partake of this delicious frozen dessert.  Lucky for us, it seems like summer has come early to central Illinois; perfect weather for eating local artisanal gelato.
We will be attending two farmers' markets this Saturday, May 14th: Urbana and the first of the season downtown Bloomington Farmers' Market.  Urbana's market runs from 7AM to 12 noon. Bloomington starts at 7:30AM and runs until noon.  We won't be attending the Green City Market this weekend (remember, we're alternating Saturdays with Capriole Farmstead Cheese this year) but we will return next Saturday, May 21st to Green City AND we will greet our Oak Park patrons at the first of the season Oak Park Farmers' Market.
Here's what we plan to bring to the markets this week:

  • Lots of that luscious lemony fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence or cracked pepper
  • Angel Food--goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert
  • Ewe Bloom-sheep milk robiola style
  • Fresh Sheep Milk ricotta!!--yes, it's back and it is sweet as ever. Pairs really well with honey or jam; how about making some crepes filled with our ricotta for a special Sunday brunch this weekend

Gelato Flavors include: vanilla bean, chocolate "2X," and a lovely "chocolate mint. The mint is not the artificial green stuff you might be used to; it's actually our creamy gelato base infused with the essence of the herb "chocolate mint" grown by Tomahnous Farm.  We recommend you arrive early to get the full selection.
Happy summer????

Posted 5/5/2011 10:10pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Lessons from the farm and creamery this week
It's hard to fathom that something so small that it isn't even a true cell can reak such havoc on cheese. A brief lesson in cheese making for the uninitiated:  Cheese is a living being. Its form is born of the action of microbes--lactic acid producing bacteria to be specific. They are the critters who get the whole process rolling. They "hit" the milk as a freeze-dried culture (a cocktail of different strains of microbes), and as they rehydrate into this warm sweet medium, they "realize" that they are surrounded by a sea of readily available food: lactose, or milk sugar.  They start chowing down on all this lactose and produce lactic acid as a by-product, thereby acidifying the milk into cheese.  The result (with help from some other important elements like milk proteins, calcium and rennet, an enzyme) is that their ravenous appetite for lactose converts fluid milk to a semi-solid state we call "curds."  Yes, little miss muffet was the beneficiary of microbial fermentation--eating her curds and whey. 
So, what happens when something comes along to stop these lactose-eating bacteria in their tracks??? No lactic acid, no acidification and the cheese curd dies.  Well, this started happening to us this week. First a batch of cheese barely acidified, then no acid production, then a third batch of dead curd. Desperate for an explanation (and getting increasingly tired of feeding this curd to the chickens), we tried to solve this mystery by re-tracing our steps through the entire process--collection of the milk (any problems there, anything strange that the goats might have eaten?), did we add all the cultures, did something strange get into the cheese vat?  We consulted with the cheese culture experts and slowly a pattern emerged that pointed to the most likely culprit: bacteriophage. Bacteriophage is like a virus and it attacks very specific strains of bacteria and renders them useless.  For those of you thinking, "oh my, will I get this virus if I eat Prairie Fruits Farm cheese???," rest assured, the bacteriophage is so specific that it only attacts very specific strains of the lactic acid producing bacteria.  Once the pieces of the mystery started to fall into place, we took action immediately. We switched our cultures and things seem to be working ok. We're still taking long deliberate breaths as we watch the cheeses come together in the vat and on the drain tables, but the good news is that WE WILL HAVE CHEESE FOR EVERYONE.  THE CHEESE LIVES, LONG LIVE THE CHEESE! The moral of the story: respect your microbes and the even smaller creatures that can take them down.
First Farmers' Markets of the Season This Saturday, May 7th
Farmers' Market season is finally upon us.  We're gearing up for two markets this Saturday: Urbana's Market at the Square and Chicago's Green City Market.  We will be in a new spot at the Urbana Farmers' Market--along the north side of the market where the community groups were located in years past. This new location is much closer to electrical outlet and we hope will be an easier spot for patrons to find us.  Don't forget, the Urbana Market runs from 7AM to 12 noon. We won't be doing our farm open house-breakfast anymore this year, so please come visit us at the farmers' market.
For those of you in Chicago, The Green City Market is temporarily moving to a more northerly location in Lincoln Park, at the intersection of Clark and Washington Streets to be precise. The Market and the Park District are renovating the original site so it will be more resistant to bad weather (less muddy).  The market runs from 7AM to 1PM. 
Here's what we're bringing to the markets this week:
  • Plenty of fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper)
  • Angel Food--creamy goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--our signature goat milk camembert-style cheese
  • Ewe Bloom--robiola like sheep milk cheese
  • Black Sheep--a soft-ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind
Cheese makes a great Mother's Day gift, so why not buy a medley of our cheeses, put them in a nice basket, add some rustic, local artisan bread and jams and let your mother bask in the glory of knowing that she raised you well. 
For those of you in Urbana, Wes will be selling pints of his soon to be famous goat and sheep milk gelato--Sicilian pistacchio, Piemontese hazelnut, chocolate and honey vanilla are some of the flavors that will make their market debut. 
Posted 4/28/2011 10:20pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Anasazi
This morning, goat death collided with goat birth.  We awoke to find that Anasazi, one of the first group of milking does we purchased when we became a commercial dairy in 2005, had died.  She was a sweet, mild-mannered (that is saying a lot for a Nubian) black beauty of a doe with a great udder.  She provided us with several years of wonderfully high butterfat milk so characteristic of her breed.  I will remember her fondly for her vigorous cud chewing--she chewed with such gusto that she often had a thin veneer of foam around her lips.  She had been recovering from illness, and appeared to be on the mend, so her passing was a shock to us.  As I was coming to grips with her sudden death at 7 in the morning, Ella, one of our yearling does, went into labor.  Instinctively she pushed, and out came a lovely cinnamon-colored doeling.  As I cleaned up the new arrival and milked out Ella's colostrum for her first time, Millie decided to go into labor in the pen next door. We had been awaiting Millie's kidding because she had been successfully artificially inseminated, and we were hoping for a buck.  I gave her some time, and soon it was obvious that she was having trouble delivering. I donned the OB gloves, squirted on the OB lube and betadine and in I went (into her birth canal that is).  I first felt two hooves (the normal delivery position for kids), so I wondered why she was having so much trouble. So I positioned the feet and realized that one was facing forward and the other backward. Then, out came another foot--three feet??? I then realized that there were two kids stuck in the birth canal--one in the correct head forward position and the other one breach. I retrieved the correct one first--a chesnut colored doeling, and then quickly pulled out the breach kid, a large chestnut- colored doeling with splashy grey spots.  Two girls! No buckling, but they are beautiful.  The cycle of life completes itself in a matter of a few hours in the space of our hoop barn. 

I was going to talk about the unceasing rain, the super-saturated soils, the possibility that our flowering fruit trees might not be pollinated because bees won't forage in this wet weather, but goats take precedence.  There is a lot going on in Champaign Urbana this weekend--the Ebert Film Festival, the Marathon, Artists Against Aids--it will be hard for our FINAL FARM OPEN HOUSE-BREAKFAST to compete.  Yes, April 30th is our last breakfast-open house of the season. Because of the marathon, we will extend the hours from 9AM to 12:30PM to give folks who might get trapped in downtown Urbana or Champaign fighting runners a chance to get out here. Or maybe you're a runner wanting a hearty farm breakfast to eat after burning all those calories. Either way, Alisa is pulling out all the stops with a Mexican influenced menu:
  • Huevos Rancheros - Eggs with roasted chili tomato sauce, garlic chive pesto, corn tortillas, cilantro and fresh chevre
  • Yam, potato and sunchoke quesadilla with fresh chevre, fire roasted salsa and fresh crema
  • Corn Muffins with gooseberry chutney
  • Applesauce cake with dried plums
  • Fair trade coffee
  • Either Mexican hot chocolate or herbed ice tea (weather depending)
Cheeses you ask??
We'll have plenty of:
Chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper)
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Smokin' Little Bloom
(the folks at black dog smoke & ale house in Urbana have graciously allowed us to use their smoker for this cheese).  Wes will not have gelato available this Saturday as he gets ready for the start of the Urbana Farmers' Market next Saturday, May 7th (sorry you gelato fans, you'll have to wait another week).
Blue Moon Farm will be here with lots of salad mix, spinach, kale and other early spring greens. They aren't do any pre-ordering this week, so there will be plenty for all who come to shop.  Lisa Haynes of Tomahnous Farm is actually running the Marathon, so she may or may not be at our market on Saturday (I should say her son, Maxwell).  Rita Glazik may not be here if their ramps are flooded out. 
I will be headed to Chicago on Saturday morning to participate in Pastoral Artisan Cheese Bread and Wine's first 'Food Artisan's Festival.' For those of you who live in Chicago, please come see me at their French Market location from 11AM to 3PM.  We'll be sampling some of our cheeses, and there will be lots of other cheese makers, pickle makers, chocolateirs, etc to meet as well.  Here is the link for more information:


the rain will end..... eventually. in the meantime, eat lots of cheese!


Posted 4/21/2011 9:55pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
ali with mini horse "rowdy"
My niece, Ali, with "Rowdy" the miniature horse who came to visit the farm
Sarah and "Rowdy"
Sarah, our assistant cheesemaker and sous chef with her uncle's mini-horse "Rowdy"

It was tough to convince my sister and my ten-year old niece, Ali, to come visit us this spring from Boston, Mass. The baby goats were enticing, the possibility of limitless chocolate gelato was alluring, BUT the real deal clincher was the cart ride with the miniature horse "Rowdy."  Everyone knows (but me) that the way to win a girl's heart is to get her a horse.  I never knew this growing up in the wilds of Boston.  It worked like a charm on my niece.  She spent the week ladling and packing chevre, making gelato with her uncle Wes, thinning broccoli starts with our horticulturist, Rachel, and even digging ramps in a nearby woodland. 
Ali thinning broccoli rabeAli making gelato

You can enjoy the fruits of her labors this Saturday by buying some delicious cheese, eating some gelato, and enjoying a scrumptious breakfast.  Wes has a limited supply of gelato this week: two versions of chocolate (to purchase as pints) and tastings of three-berry sorbetto, mango sorbetto and moka gelato. 
For cheese, we have a special treat for this holiday weekend:
SHEEP MILK RICOTTA!!!
We also have plenty of fresh chevre in all three flavors: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
To add some elegance to your easter dinner table, we also have 'Angel Food' Brie and Little Bloom on the Prairie
We will be hosting our second to last FARM OPEN HOUSE this Saturday from 9AM to 12 Noon.  Chef Alisa is preparing a very special menu for the breakfast:


  • PFF Farm Egg with jalepeno chevre, spinach and sorrel on a toasted bagel
  • Easter Pie: Puff pastry stuffed with ricotta and Blue Moon swiss chard
  • Blackberry Raspberry Muffins
  • Maple Oat scones
  • Pecan and Chocolate Biscotti
  • Goat Milk Hot Chocolate
  • Fair Trade Coffee
Tomahnous Farm will be here as well with lots of early spring greens, mushrooms and maybe asparagus (Blue Moon Farm is selling behind the Coop this weekend). Rita Glazik will have a limited supply of ramps for sale.  The recent storm flooded their woodland, so she was only able to dig ramps from the highest ground. 
We will also be attending the Green City Market this Saturday at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum on Canon Drive in Chicago.  The market runs from 8AM to 1PM. We'll have the same variety of cheeses available for our Chicago customers as those who come to the farm. 

Last but not least, I wanted to let everyone know of a very special event happening in May to raise funds for the "Flatlander Fund."  The Flatlander Fund was created in memory of the late Dan Schreiber, an artisan chocolate maker, to build a community kitchen in Urbana-Champaign. Here's a note we received from one of the organizers of this event:

On Saturday, May 21, a one-of-a-kind soiree will be held at a magnificent 8,000 square foot modern architecture home right here in Champaign-Urbana (and just down the road from your farm!). The Philia dinner (philia is Greek for ‘friendship’) will be filled with a bounty of homemade Greek foods, served in a casual, stroll-about setting at the home of Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis. Guests can mill about the home and property to explore the magnificent architecture (there are no exterior walls, only 94 sliding glass doors offering a breathtaking view of the surrounding lake and woods), take in the wonderful art, and sample a wide array of Greek foods made largely with local ingredients.

 Attached is a PDF version of the invitation (it can also be viewed at http://flatlanderfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Flatlander-philia-greek-dinner-e-vitation.pdf). You can register for the event at http://flatlanderfund.org/flatlander-philia-dinner-registration, as well as peruse the evening’s menu and view photos of the Cope-Kalantzis home. It promises to be an unforgettable evening filled with great food, beautiful architecture and art, and outstanding philanthropy! Wes and I plan to attend, and we hope you can join us at the Flatlander Philia dinner on May 21!

Posted 4/13/2011 8:38pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

quince blossoms

For-real magenta pink quince blossoms

black currants in flower

Black Currant Flowers Starting to Open, Bees Hovering Nearby

Angel Food

Angel Food Brie--a bloomy rind cheese

It's happening! Flowers are blooming, white mold ripened cheeses are blooming, and they're predicting temperatures in the mid '30's this weekend. I guess this defines spring in the Midwest.  Our 20+ remaining pregnant does are in a holding pattern right now. Every night I go out to check their udders, and most are still as limp as overcooked pasta.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term "bagging up," it refers to udders filling up with milk; a signal that goat kids are working their way into the birth canal for imminent delivery. It's a mixed blessing, this lull in goat freshening--one the one hand, we're getting a good night's sleep these nights; on the other hand, we're anxious for more milk so we can really ramp up our cheese and gelato production.  We have been able to make a few batches of Little Bloom on the Prairie and Angel Food, our soft-ripened aka bloomy rind cheeses, and they are now ripe for your eating pleasure.  We will have them available this SATURDAY, APRIL 16TH at our farm open house from 9AM to 12 Noon.  We'll also have our fresh as you can get it chevre, and Wes will be serving up goat milk gelato--some new flavors will make their debut, so come taste and buy!

Blue Moon Farm will be back this Saturday with lots of mouthwatering spring greens.  Please go to their website to pre-order to guarantee you get all that you want. Here's a message from them:

"If you've been having trouble placing your order, we hope we've solved the problem. Please try again to guarantee yourself salad mix, arugula and other goodies. However, we are going to bring some extra produce on Saturday in case the problem isn't solved.  Let us know if you get more Server 500 errors. To order, please go to: www.bluemoonfarm.biz/products-page/"

Tomahnous Farm will be here as well. Lisa promises to have very limited quantities of shitake mushrooms and MAYBE even the first asparagus of the season! She'll also have chard, herbs and other spring greens as well as her beautiful goat milk soaps. Come early for the best pickins'.

Glasik Farm will be here again with wild ramps. If you haven't tried them yet, now is your chance. Their season is very short (only a few weeks), and they are fragrant and delicious grilled or sauteed or even pickled.

I know you really want to know what's for breakfast so here goes:

  • Waffles with Prairie Fruits Farm strawberry syrup, honey butter and whipped Kilgus cream
  • Fried Tohmanous Farm Egg on Triple S Farm House-Made Corned-Beef Hash
  • Organic Blackberry Muffins
  • Sticky Buns with dried plums and pecans
  • Goat's Milk Mexican Hot Chocolate
  • Fair Trade Coffee

Chef Alisa seems to be pulling out all the stops this Saturday. There's plenty of food, (her ancestry does not permit her to be stingy), so don't worry if you're having trouble getting out of bed first thing.