News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 9/9/2010 9:45pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you who have wondered how our farm name came to be, now is the time for explanations. When Wes and I moved to this beautiful land of prairie soils over seven years ago, we decided to build a farm "of this place." So, one of the first things we did was begin the process of restoring the rich (but really beat up) prairie soils with cover crops.  The other thing we decided was we wanted to try to restore some of the farm to its native vegetation--prairie.  We had also decided we wanted to grow fruit, and to try to replicate the flavors and sensory experiences of the Pacific Northwest, since Wes grew up there. He tells everyone that we bought this land so he could grow peaches and go out and pick them dead ripe just like he did when he was a kid. He also wanted to be able to share those tastes and senses with people around here. Well, this summer, we achieved the peach sensory experience in spades. He even acknowledges, begrudingly, that these peaches might taste even better than those in Oregon (but don't tell his parents that!). Maybe it has something to do with these prairie soils.  
Back to the prairie planting. Our second year on the farm, we got a whole bunch of prairie seeds (grasses, forbes) from Spence Farm in Fairbury. They had established almost ten acres of gorgeous prairie on their own farm and were selling the seed. We broadcast the seed heavily in the front of our property that fall, expecting the prairie to emerge the next spring. I waited and waited, and nothing but Canada thistle, Fox Tail and Rag Weed grew there that year.  I later found out that it can take years for the prairie seeds to germinate and grow.  I wanted more immediate gratification than that, but it did not come very quickly.  The following year, some prairie grasses emerged--Big and Little Blue Stem--and then I scouted a Black-Eyed Susan during the middle of that summer. I was encouraged. Two years ago, a very good and beneficent friend purchased 15 acres east and adjacent to our property so we could grow more pasture and hay.  We decided to set two acres of this land aside to plant prairie.  We lucked into more prairie plant seed--lots of different grasses and forbes--prepared the ground well with lots of goat manure compost, drilled in the prairie seed heavily (it was VERY badly eroded from years of corn and soybean cultivation on sloping ground--yes, there is some sloping ground in this flat land)--and waited again.  Well, last Saturday, I decided to take a walk back there to see what was going on, and I was blown away. Yes, there is still some remnant ragweed, but the eight-foot tall Indian Grass and Big Blue Stem was just a little sea of waving grain. Nestled in the tall grasses were bursts of bright yellow Golden Rod, at least three species, and more Black Eyed Susan. I wormed my way into the middle of the prairie, and I swear I felt like I was transported back to 200 years ago when prairie WAS the dominant landscape.
prairie bouquet
We decided to cut some of these magnificent grasses and flowers to adorn the tables at our farm dinner last weekend.  So at last I can say that we have a legitimate prairie for which our farm is named. 
Farmers' Market Cheeses
This week we're attending four farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.
We're bringing the following cheeses for your eating enjoyment:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato
Angel Food-our goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie--our goat milk camembert
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
We might bring Moonglo, our raw goat milk tomme, if it is ripe and possibly some more Kaskaskia, our Manchego style sheep milk cheese.
Next week, stay tuned for the return of Ewe Bloom, Sheep Milk Feta and possibly Sheep Milk Ricotta (it's a sheep milk cheese bonanza in store for you!)

I know this week's newsletter is longer than usual, but I must tell you about an event that our friends at Blue Moon Farm in Urbana will be hosting next Friday morning, "WEED DATING": Even if you're not single, it sounds like a great time!

Weed Dating Anyone? Sept 17th 10-12ish
Do you want to farm or garden but have been unable to weed out the good from the bad?  Weed Dating might just be the thing for you.  In and effort to help single farmers and gardeners in the CU area Blue Moon Farm is hosting a weedsome spin on speed dating. Weed dating is an opportunity to meet someone interested in being in a relationship who is also interested in farming or gardening and eating well.  Depending upon turn out, you should be able to weed-date up to 10-15 other people, who are serious about farming, gardening and dating.  Each ‘date’ will last 5-10 minutes, enough time to leave your date wanting to learn more if there is interest, and not so long that you’ll run out of small talk.
For more visit http://www.bluemoonfarm.biz/2010/09/07/weed-dating-anyone-sept-17-10-00-1-00/

Posted 9/3/2010 7:12pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I know it is late. It is nearly 6:30PM on a Friday evening, and those of you who are used to receiving my weekly newsletter are probably wondering what is going on. Why is she so late this week?? Well, I don't have any really good excuses except the need for more hours in the day.  This week we finally got the deluge of rain we were sorely needing. Even the goats tolerated the first drops of rain as they fell on the hard and parched soil.  If it wasn't for growing sorghum-Sudan grass pasture, which tolerates both heat and drought, the girls would not have had much pasture to eat this summer.  Now, with the rain of at least a couple inches, the other pasture plants will start to grow--chicory, birds foot tree-foil are starting to flower in the pastures.  The cooler temperatures that blew in behind the rain clouds should get the cool season grasses to grow as well. 
This week, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market in Chicago.  For those of you who patronize the Green City Market, please say hi to Lucy, another Pastoral Artisan Cheese Monger, who will be filling in for Cesar this Saturday. It's her first time selling for us so, please be nice to her (and buy lots of cheese). 
We have the following cheeses for your eating pleasure this holiday weekend:
Fresh Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn and heirloom dried tomato
Angel Food-our goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat milk camembert
Kaskaskia-our raw sheep milk Manchego style cheese-it's hard and dry; excellent for grating or shaving or just cutting a thin slice to enjoy with some grilled peaches or sauteed apples.
FARM DINNER NEWS:For those of you with reservations for this weekend's farm dinner "East Meets West: A Vegetable Love Affair", please remember: it is a SUNDAY afternoon event from 1-5PM.  The menu is finally on the website for your perusal: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm," then click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservation" then click on the "East Meets West" dinner description and scroll down to view the menu. Alisa will be busy cooking up a storm over the next couple of days. The weather should be spectacular-warm, sunny and a slight breeze. We will be dining outside.
Posted 8/27/2010 3:00pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, the Moonglow Pears are harvested and the word on the street is that they are LARGE and LUSCIOUS!

A basket of Moonglow Pears just harvested
A basket of Moonglow Pears basking in the sun
Close Up Moonglow Pear
Look at the size of that pear!

We will be sending some to all FOUR Farmers' Markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park, Chicago's Green City Market and Bloomington. There may be some organic apples too. Come early for the best selection.
Cheese-wise, we have a nice repertoire of fresh and aged cheeses for to select to eat with those pears:
Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (heirloom tomato will be back next week-no worries)
Mouton Frais--our fresh sheep's milk cheese that has a consistency like Mascarpone--how about a Mouton Frais creme and pear tart for dessert this weekend???
Angel Food--as gooey as ever
Little Bloom on the Prairie--the essence of a soft ripened goat milk cheese--yum
Sheep Milk Feta--nice and tangy--perfect accompaniment to your tomato salad
Roxanne--this batch has a very nice sweetness as well as it's usual buttery flavor--must be all that grass the sheep were eating a couple of months ago.
Kaskaskia--our take on a Manchego style raw sheep milk cheese--the first batch of the season--it has a wonderful nutty flavor--could be used as a grating or slicing cheese.
ENJOY!

Posted 8/27/2010 9:42am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, the Moonglow Pears are harvested and the word on the street is that they are LARGE and LUSCIOUS!

A basket of Moonglow Pears just harvested
A basket of Moonglow Pears basking in the sun
Close Up Moonglow Pear
Look at the size of that pear!

We will be sending some to all FOUR Farmers' Markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park, Chicago's Green City Market and Bloomington. There may be some organic apples too. Come early for the best selection.
Cheese-wise, we have a nice repertoire of fresh and aged cheeses for to select to eat with those pears:
Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (heirloom tomato will be back next week-no worries)
Mouton Frais--our fresh sheep's milk cheese that has a consistency like Mascarpone--how about a Mouton Frais creme and pear tart for dessert this weekend???
Angel Food--as gooey as ever
Little Bloom on the Prairie--the essence of a soft ripened goat milk cheese--yum
Sheep Milk Feta--nice and tangy--perfect accompaniment to your tomato salad
Roxanne--this batch has a very nice sweetness as well as it's usual buttery flavor--must be all that grass the sheep were eating a couple of months ago.
Kaskaskia--our take on a Manchego style raw sheep milk cheese--the first batch of the season--it has a wonderful nutty flavor--could be used as a grating or slicing cheese.
ENJOY!

Posted 8/24/2010 9:06pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Patrons, particularly those who live in the Champaign Urbana Community or in Central Illinois:
I want to call your attention to an upcoming fundraising dinner to benefit the Flatlander Fund!

On Sunday, August 29 from 6-9PM the Corkscrew Wine Emporium will host a fundraising dinner in their new Buvons! Wine Bar to support Dan Schreiber’s dream of a community kitchen for Champaign-Urbana. The event will feature a 3-course gourmet dinner with wine pairing. Tickets are $100/person and seating is limited. For reservations, contact Laura at 217-778-1687 or donate@flatlanderfund.org. Dinner payments can be made online here (put “dinner” in the memo line, please) or by mailing a check to Prairie Table/Flatlander Fund, 201 W. Green, Urbana, IL 61801. Click here for more details, the menu, and to read more about the Flatlander Fund.
 
HERE IS A MORE DETAILED LETTER OF APPEAL FROM LAURA HUTH OF DO-GOOD CONSULTING WHO IS VOLUNTEERING HER TIME TO ORGANIZE THIS BENEFIT DINNER.
 
Hi all:
As many of you have heard, I am volunteering my time to help establish the Flatlander Fund to honor the memory of Dan Schreiber and to help build a community kitchen in Champaign-Urbana – something Dan deeply supported. (www.flatlanderfund.org)
 
Dan died a couple weeks ago at age 24. He was passionate about local foods, good food, community gatherings, bean-to-bar chocolate, and making the community a better place. He was an entrepreneur, a visionary, full of energy, and always was involved in great things. As we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, many in the community are also rallying behind Dan’s dream to make the kitchen a reality, and we created the Flatlander Fund to do just that (Flatlander was the name of Dan’s chocolate company – he made REALLY GOOD chocolate).
 
The Corkscrew Wine Emporium in downtown Urbana has graciously opened the doors to their wonderful new wine bar, Buvons! to host a fundraising dinner on Sunday, August 29 to benefit the Flatlander Fund. From 6-9PM that night volunteers will serve an absolutely scrumptious 3-course gourmet dinner featuring local foods accompanied by a wine pairing from the Corkscrew. More information about the dinner, the menu, etc. is at www.flatlanderfund.org.
 
Tickets are $100/person and seating is limited to 40 people (and going fast). For reservations, contact me at 217-778-1687 or donate@flatlanderfund.org.
 
If you’re not able to make the event, I encourage you to support the concept of a community kitchen with a donation, which can be made here: http://rememberingdan.org/in-memoriam/, or by sending a check to Prairie Table/Flatlander Fund, 201 W. Green, Urbana, IL 61801. Dan and I shared a lot of things in common: a love of great local foods, a passion for a better community, an entrepreunurial spirit, as well as a common dream of a community kitchen. Dan’s passing has left a hole in our community, no doubt. But together, we can help create a kitchen that would cultivate food entreprenuers, share great food with the community, help teach others about food, and make Dan’s dream a reality.
 
I have made a contribution to the Flatlander Fund, and hope you will join me in supporting this effort, too.
 
Kindest regards,
Laura Huth
Volunteer, Flatlander Fund
217-778-1687 || donate@flatlanderfund.org || www.flatlanderfund.org
 
Posted 8/20/2010 2:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm News
This time of year we start to see the signs that summer is fading into fall, despite the hot and dry weather we continue to have and the summer flowers that radiate from our garden.
Cosmos
I can always tell when fall is around the corner by the intensity of buck scent.  When I walk out of the house in the early morning and my nose is hit by the smell of buck, I know that fall can't be too far behind.  When the does start rough-housing and mounting each other, I know they are starting their heat cycles.  Their breeding rhythms are queued by day length and changes in temperature.  The slowly shortening days and the somewhat cooler weather we had earlier in the week sent them signals that it is time to breed.  We humans, however, are not ready for that yet, so we make them wait for another month or so. We did spend several hours this week pouring over our milk records and goat lineage information to begin our match-making plans.  We are finally beginning to have a method to our breeding madness beyond who is most closely related to whom. Turns out that this the least important factor when trying to breed for specific genetic qualities in our next crop of kids. 

The orchard is winding down as well. Last night, the u-pickers picked the last of the peaches.  We have a few apples out there still, but they are not very beautiful, and will likely end up as cider or apple butter.  The Moonglo pears are ripening, and Kris harvested most of them today. They are HUGE!!
Cheese For the Markets this Week: Lov Diversity, High Abundance
We will be attending three farmers' markets this Saturday, August 21st: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. Wes will be greeting you in Urbana, I will be serving you at Green City, and Adam will be at Oak Park. We have plenty of chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato for you.
We have lots of luscious Angel Food (brie) and Little Bloom on the Prairie (camembert). 
Our hard cheeses like Kaskaskia and Roxanne should reappear next Saturday. 


Posted 8/18/2010 5:56pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm Dinner News
For those of you who have reservations for the farm dinner this SUNDAY, AUGUST 22nd (1-5PM), the menu is now on our website. Just go to www.prairiefruits.com and click on "Dinners on the Farm" then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations," then "The best things in life are fermented." Scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the menu.
For those of you who have been sending me emails requesting to be put on a waiting list should dinner seats become available, today is your lucky day. Due to a last minute cancellation, I now have two seats available for this dinner (August 22nd). Since the number of people who have requested to be put on the waiting list is so long and the time so short before this dinner, I am just sending out this notice as first come first served.  Please note that is a SUNDAY afternoon dinner from 1-5PM, not our typical Saturday evening affair.
U-Pick Fruits Update
Tomorrow may be the last evening for U-pick peaches and maybe blackberries too, so if you want to taste some of the most delicious peaches east of the rockies, now is your chance. We'll be having U-pick hours tomorrow (Thursday, August 19th) from 5-7PM. We have a few yellow peaches (Harrow's Beauty and maybe Red Havens) and some white peaches (Belle of Georgia and Bounty).  Peaches are $1.50/pound and blackberries are $3/pint.  Stay tuned for next week's notice about u-pick. We probably won't have any hours next week and might resume hours if there are enough apples in the next week or two.  I will post the latest information on our website as well.
I will be sending out my weekly farm and cheese update newsletter sometime tomorrow.
Posted 8/18/2010 4:42pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm Dinner News
For those of you who have reservations for the farm dinner this SUNDAY, AUGUST 22nd (1-5PM), the menu is now on our website. Just go to www.prairiefruits.com and click on "Dinners on the Farm" then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations," then "The best things in life are fermented." Scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the menu.
For those of you who have been sending me emails requesting to be put on a waiting list should dinner seats become available, today is your lucky day. Due to a last minute cancellation, I now have two seats available for this dinner (August 22nd). Since the number of people who have requested to be put on the waiting list is so long and the time so short before this dinner, I am just sending out this notice as first come first served.  Please note that is a SUNDAY afternoon dinner from 1-5PM, not our typical Saturday evening affair.
U-Pick Fruits Update
Tomorrow may be the last evening for U-pick peaches and maybe blackberries too, so if you want to taste some of the most delicious peaches east of the rockies, now is your chance. We'll be having U-pick hours tomorrow (Thursday, August 19th) from 5-7PM. We have a few yellow peaches (Harrow's Beauty and maybe Red Havens) and some white peaches (Belle of Georgia and Bounty).  Peaches are $1.50/pound and blackberries are $3/pint.  Stay tuned for next week's notice about u-pick. We probably won't have any hours next week and might resume hours if there are enough apples in the next week or two.  I will post the latest information on our website as well.
I will be sending out my weekly farm and cheese update newsletter sometime tomorrow.
Posted 8/12/2010 9:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This is our summer for tomatoes.  Big fat "Paul Robeson" blacks, rose colored brandywines, tart yellow and green "green zebras" and our favorite for drying, the "juliette.'  Juliette is an little roma heirloom variety that is prized for its rich tomato flavor upon drying. This is the variety we use for our "heirloom tomato" chevre. Our food dryer was going full steam this week in preparation for chopping and blending the dried juliettes into our fresh chevre.  We're happy to let you know that we will be bringing this "tomato-esque" chevre to the farmers' markets this Saturday.  We'll be attending FOUR farmers' markets this Saturday, August 14th: Urbana, Bloomington, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park. 
We'll also be bringing our regular repertoire of chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn.  For those of you who acquired a taste for our sheep milk feta, no worries; we'll have more for you to crumble on a fresh tomato salad.
We also have plenty of Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie as well as Moonglo.
Depending on how clean the u-pickers did on our peaches and blackberries tonight, we should be bringing more peaches and blackberries to the Urbana and Bloomington Farmers' Markets. 
If you can't beat the heat, eat some cheese and fruit.
Posted 8/5/2010 7:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
When you can actually see sweat on the brows of your goats, you know it is truly HOT. During milking last evening, Wes noticed that several of our does had actual sweat on their faces. These are temperatures that try the souls of dairy farmers. It's all the poor girls can do to get up the energy to eat, let alone produce massive quantities of milk. So, again, our milk production has taken a bit of dive this week. We're still trying to crank out as much cheese as their delicious milk will yield. We are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday, August 7th: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. 
This week we have the following repertoire of cheeses available for you to enjoy with a nice cool salad or just a simple baguette, some jam and some cheese:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (for those of you who are fans of our heirloom-dried tomato chevre, stay tuned. The little juliet tomatoes are ripening, and we have started to dry them. No promises, but we might have the dried tomato chevre by next weekend!)
Mouton frais--those of you who frequented our stand at the farmers' markets last year may recall a very rich, dense sheep milk version of our chevre we call "Mouton Frais" (literally means 'fresh sheep' in french).  I like to think it has the texture and consistency of mascarpone cheese (a very creamy rich soft italian cheese used to make tiramisu among many other dishes). The taste is less lemony than the chevre, but is clean and milky.  Try it with fruit or honey, or if you're really ambitious, you can use it to make tiramisu.
Sheep milk feta is back and delicious as ever (we modified the recipe a bit, and I think the flavor on this version is really nice)
Little Bloom on the Prairie--enjoy this little disc of cream and gooeyness with some fresh fruit and a crisp Sauvignon blanc by a cool body of water, preferably
Roxanne--the raw sheep milk brebis with a buttery, grassy taste.  Slice it, place it on a piece of crusty bread, throw a slice of fresh heirloom tomato on top, drizzle with some good olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, and you have a simple hot weather meal.
We might be bringing a few Angel Food and Moonglo to select markets, so get there early for the full selection.

In addition to the cheeses, we'll be bringing more of our first extraction, light and floral honey (lovingly extracted by Emil and Melvin Blobaum, our beekeepers). Also, we will probably be bringing peaches and blackberries to the Urbana Market, but probably not sending them up to Chicago (a bit too fragile for truck transport).
For those of you who have come out to pick fruit, you're doing a GREAT job!! You have lightened our harvesting burden tremendously. We will continue U-pick of peaches and blackberries this coming week--Monday, August 9th and Thursday August 12th from 5-7PM.
Farm Dinner this Saturday-Summer Beer and Cheese
We have a dinner this Saturday evening, starting at 4PM, featuring beers brewed right here in Champaign at the Blind Pig Brewery. The menu is not up on the website yet, but I plan to post it tomorrow under Dinners on the Farm heading (then go to "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" then click on that specific dinner for more details). We'll be pairing four beers with two small plate dishes each, including TWO desserts. It is SOLD OUT-sorry, but for those of you who don't have reservations already we'll be sure to tell you how it went.