Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 9/29/2011 9:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

baby Muscovy Ducks
Adult Muscovy Ducks
It was just a few short months ago that 30 Muscovy Ducklings arrived at the US Post Office in Champaign, destined for our farm.  They ate, they drank, they grew, and today the remaining pin feathers were plucked from their naked bodies in the Prairie Fruits Farm kitchen. This Saturday, October 1st, we and our dinner guests will sit down to enjoy a five course meal prepared with close to 100% (well maybe 98%--we don't grow salt, sugar cane, pepper or olives for oil)
of the ingredients grown within 100 yards of the dinner table. This meal is the apex for our gardener Rachel, who has tended the garden beds with a level of care reserved for new borns.  We have such diversity of vegetables that our chef, Alisa, had a really hard time designing the menu.  The sweet potatoes were dug, the kale and chard cut, the dry beans shelled, the tomatoes placed carefully in totes to finish their ripening in the warmth of the house. We picked the paucity of apples from the orchard, and pressed them into cider. Emil, our beekeeper, brought over his old fashioned wooden cider press, and we threw the not-so-beautiful apples into the hopper. We hand cranked the press down onto the crushed apples and the juice dribbled out into a pan.  Although we only yielded about three gallons, we poured ourselves a little glass and made a toast to the harvest (it's a tradition in Emil's family to toast the first pressing of apples).  We fed all the goats with the apple "mash" (leftovers from the pressing), and they gobbled them down with gusto (should make the milk taste extra sweet I imagine). The cheese makers, Alison and Nat, were busy in the cheeserie crafting a special cheese for the dinner with our luscious goat milk (it's a surprise, so I won't tell you about it just now).  The farm hummed with the fervor of busy hands preparing lots of food for this "EXTREME LOCAL" meal.  I can't wait.
This Saturday, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington and Chicago's Green City Market.  We don't have a lot of cheese diversity this week, but everything is tasting really great right now. We have:
  • Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (sorry, but heirloom tomato is done for the season)
  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Moonglo
  • Mollisol Pecorino
We will also have some of our farmstead honey, although our supply this year is VERY limited.  For those of you in Urbana, we've got some scrumptious gelato flavors for you to try and buy:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Sicilan Pistachio
  • Margot's Mint (limited quantity)
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Butter Pecan
  • Honey Lavender
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
For our Bloomington customers, we'll have our sign up sheet for gauging interest in a cheese buying club or CSA for next year.  If you're interested in this idea and you haven't already given us your name and email, please make sure you sign the sheet.  We'll be sending out a questionnaire later this fall or early winter to determine the best model for this buying club. 
Posted 9/26/2011 7:32pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I usually view the departure of the hummingbirds from our feeder as a gauge that fall has solidly settled upon the farm. They're still here-fighting for positions on the humingbird nectar feeder. Nonetheless, we have decided that the end of the September is long enough to offer our weekly farm open-house, on farm sale. Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27th is really the last day of the season for on farm sales. So, we're going for the gusto. Tomorrow from 3-6PM, we'll have cheese (chevre, little bloom on the prairie, some angel food brie--I think and maybe a little bit of Roxanne), honey, tomatoes, and maybe a few other goodies from our garden for sale.  Of course, there will be gelato both as single servings and pints:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistachio
  • Honey Lavender
  • Margot's Mint
  • Butter Pecan *** (pecans are from Southern IL)
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
If you haven't had the experience of being served from our sleek Italian gelato dipping cabinet, this is your last chance in 2011! You can even get more than one flavor in a cup.
The star of the last sale will be Stewart's Artisan Breads Rosh Hashanah Challah with or without raisins. This is the traditional round challah eaten during the celebration of the Jewish New Year! Pick up some of our farmstead honey too, and you'll have the makings for a locally sweet New Year!!! We have limited quantities of this challah, so come early! We hope to see you here.
Posted 9/22/2011 9:25pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Lady Beetles on Buckwheat
Mid September seems to be the time of abundant predatory insects. All of sudden, there's  an explosion of preying mantis, orb spiders, parasitic wasps and yes the lovely lady beetle. In the case of the lady beetle, we released a bunch last week to tackle an aphid problem we were having on some of beans.  The extreme dry weather we experienced this summer created conditions in the garden that were more similar to a greenhouse than to growing outdoors! The lady beetles love aphids, and they devoured them quickly.  The buckwheat was planted in between vegetable rows to attract other aptly named beneficial insects. They're beneficial because they are voracious predators, and they tend to predate the "bad" bugs--tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles, etc.  The tomato hornworm, the catepillar stage of a beautiful sphynx moth, can defoliate a tomato plant in a matter of hours. A tiny wasp lays her eggs in the hornworm, and as the wasp larvae grow inside the catepillar, they send it signals to crawl up to the top of a plant and die.  The adult wasps hatch out of the dead catepillar, and the cycle repeats itself.
The preying mantis are the most intriguing and seemingly intelligent of the predatory insects. They are the kind of predator that lies very still until its desired prey comes along.  In the case of the mantids, they change color to blend into their background to make the unsuspecting prey not realize that they are lurking close by.  Today, we spotted a preying mantis on a hot pink zinnia flower, waiting (unfortunately) to eat the heads off of honey bees or other pollinators (not exactly a desirable predator-prey interaction). The mantis had disguised herself in a mottled pink color to match the flower she was hiding on. Such is life on the "Serengetti" of the vegetable garden.
September is also the time of year that our prairie explodes with the yellow, purple, pink and blue hues of goldenrod, bluestem and asters.  If you get a chance to come out to the farm next Tuesday, I encourage you to take a walk down to our prairie so you can experience it for yourselves.  I wade right into the nearly eight-foot tall prairie grasses, and I am transported back a couple of hundred years ago to pre drainage ditch and tile drain days. 
This Saturday, September 23rd, we're attending two farmers' markets: Urbana and Oak Park. Our repertoire of cheeses is diminished in diversity, but what we have is tasting really great. Expect:
  • Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper (heirloom tomatoe chevre is done for the season)
  • A little bit of the sheep milk feta--this really is the last of it
  • Angel Food--our delicate and delicious goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-just turning ripe, the cheese has a nice firm center
  • Roxanne--our raw sheep milk cheese with notes of butter and grass
  • Moonglo-our raw goat tomme, whose rind is washed in a tea made from the leaves of the Moonglow pear--nice tang and nutty flavors
  • Mollisol Pecorino-our raw sheep milk romano grating style cheese
BACK THIS WEEK: OUR FARMSTEAD HONEY--We've got 8 oz and 16 oz glass jars for sale as well as boxes of honey comb (an EXCELLENT accompaniment to our cheeses) and a few jars of honey with comb inside. 
For Urbana Market Goers, Wes has been busy spinning frozen confections. The gelato repertoire this week includes both single servings and pints of:
  • Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Piedmontese Hazelnut
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Coffee
  • Margot's Mint (pints only)
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto
Lastly, Tuesday, September 27th is OUR FINAL ON FARM SALE OF THE SEASON--In addition to our cheeses, gelato, jams and veggies, we will be selling the traditional round Challah for the Jewish New Year-Rosh Hashanah (starts Wednesday evening). We will have challah with and without blond raisins.  More details to follow on Monday. 
Posted 9/19/2011 8:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I completely forgot to mention the veggies and jams we'll have for sale tomorrow in addition to the cheese and gelato:
Tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and flavor profiles
Swiss Chard bunches
Kale bunches
peach butter (maybe some honey too)
Hopefully, this is even GREATER reason to come out to the farm tomorrow.
Sorry for multiple emails.
Posted 9/19/2011 7:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, it sort of feels like fall out there, but summer is trying to suck us back in with these balmy humid winds.  Tomorrow should be a great day for an afternoon foray to our farm--come on out between 3-6PM in the afternoon. Remember, this the second to last on open-house, farm-sale of the year, so take advantage of the opportunity while you can.  We'll have plenty of cheese for you (chevre, Little Bloom on the Prairie, maybe some Angel Food, some Moonglo and a little bit of Roxanne).  Wes is at the gelato batch freezer helm this week (Stewart's on vacation) and he promises we'll have some mighty flavorful gelato flavors in both single serving and pint sizes:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Margot's Mint
  • Blueberry AND Blueberry-Lemon Verbena Sorbetto (two versions of blueberry-the last of the season!!)
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto
Flatland Food Foundry's First "Moveable Kitchen" Kickoff Event: Tomato Canning Workshop at Prairie Fruits Farm PLEASE SIGN UP AT THE COMMON GROUND FOOD COOP!
So far, we have had only a few people sign up for our tomato canning workshop this coming Thursday, September 22nd. There are three time slots: 10-12, 12-2 and 2-4.  We can accommodate 4 people per time slot. The cost is $15 per person and includes jars for canning, instruction and a handout on how to properly can acid foods like tomatoes, recipes for tomato sauce(and some sauce to take home) and overall great time with our chef, Alisa DeMarco.  The deadline for signup is Wednesday, September 21st at 12 NOON, so don't delay if you want to come.  To sign up, you must go to the Common Ground Cooperative and ask one of the folks at the checkout for the signup sheet for the Flatlander Food Foundry's Tomato Canning Workshop.
Posted 9/15/2011 5:41pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm News
Yesterday's cold front that brought us some much needed rain ushered in some cold air. It's the kind of abrupt weather change that sets the does' minds toward breeding and the bucks' scent in full airborne dispersion.  Eddie, one of our Nubian breeding bucks, realized that the hotwire fence wasn't very hot, so he escaped from his pasture six times this morning to get closer to the does. Thankfully, Wes found the breaks in the electricalfencing system, and now the wire gives a good strong jolt when touched. We control the breeding time very carefully here, to ensure that most of our does kid in March and April.  The winter break works out very well for both goat and human around here.

We decided to cut our southernmost hayfield on Monday for the final cutting of the season.  Despite the drought, the alfalfa had grown nicely and was very leafy and tender (perfect hay for next year's freshening time--that is when the goats have their babies and "freshen" with new milk). Although we REALLY needed the rains yesterday, we were secretly hoping it would have waited until Friday so that we could have baled this gorgeous alfalfa. Mother Nature didn't totally cooperate, but Wes is raking it as I write, so we are hoping it will still be loaded with lots of protein and nutrients when we bale it on Saturday. 
Market News
Thanks to the folks who ventured out to the farm on Tuesday.  We had a really nice showing of people. We have only TWO MORE Tuesday afternoon sales left for the season, so if you have been holding off coming out here, now is the time.  We'll continue to have our cheeses and gelato for sale as well as produce out of our garden. We should have some heirloom tomatoes and maybe some fall greens (chard, kale) for next Tuesday.  Details to follow in my Monday newsletter.
Regarding our farmers' market season, we've still got plenty of cheese, gelato and sometimes honey that we're bringing to the markets.  This Saturday, September 17th, we're attending THREE markets--Urbana, Bloomington and Chicago's Green City Market. YES, that is true-two Saturday's in a row for Green City Market.  This means we won't be back at Green City until October 1st, so stock up on our cheeses this weekend.  For our Bloomington Market goers, I will at the market this Saturday, because a) it's been awhile and I miss our Bloomington patrons and b) I would like to talk with our customers about the possibility of doing a once per month Buying Club-CSG (that's Community Supported Goat--like a CSA but with cheese only) for next year.  We have a solid and loyal customer base in Bloomington (THANK YOU), but it hasn't been enough business to sustain us as a biweekly attendee at the Bloomington Farmers' Market. SO, I'll have a sign up sheet at the market on Saturday to gauge patron's interest in a buying club-CSG for next season.  I look forward to seeing folks in Bloomington and to answering any questions you might have about this buying club concept.
What are we taking to the markets this Saturday?
  • Lots of luscious chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato (our supply of Juliette tomatoes will be drawing to a close soon, so stock up on this wonderful cheese-tomato concoction)
  • Last of the sheep milk feta--this is it for the season
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--our rich goat's milk camembert
  • Angel Food (limited supply, probably available at Urbana only)
  • Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme--tasting very buttery from the May milk (early pasture)
  • Roxanne-our supply of this smooth, semi-hard raw sheep milk brebis is dwindling as well
  • Mollisol Pecorino-our hard, grating style Pecorino Romano made with last year's summer sheep milk
For our Urbana Market Goers, we got lots of smooth and creamy gelato for you--both in pints and single servings:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Margot's Mint
  • Honey-Ginger Chevre
  • Coffee
  • White Peach-Lemon & Orange Thyme Gelato
  • Blueberry Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
  • White Peach Sorbetto (very limited quantity)
The forecast calls for temperatures in the 70's--definitely still respectable for enjoying gelato.  We look forward to seeing you at the Markets!
Posted 9/12/2011 3:20pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings.  Many folks consider September as a time when the abundance of locally-grown foods diminishes. This is FAR from true. While Blue Moon Farm won't be making it out to our farm through the rest of this month, we will be offering some of our vegtables and herbs from our garden during our Tuesday afternoon Farm Sale. PLEASE NOTE OUR CHANGE IN HOURS; 3-6PM ONLY!!!
We'll have some of our prolific "Juliette" tomatoes for sale as well as limited quantities of fresh herb bunches and a lovely little cucumber called "Mexican sour Gherkin." It's a little round ball with white spots--the taste is a bit tart--great for pickling OR simply eating fresh in a salad. The texture is nice and crunchy. We'll also have some okra for sale. For those of you afraid of the slime factor inherent with okra, here's a simple way to prepare them that results in NO slime:
1. cut okra pods crosswise into 1/4 thick pieces.
2. Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and saute them for a minute in a hot saute pan with some olive oil.
3. Add the okra slices and stir to cook.  Sprinkle some salt as the okra cooks for about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle some corn meal to coat the okra pieces and continue sauteeing until golden brown. Add more salt to taste.
5. Squeeze lemon juice over the golden brown cornmeal-coated okra pieces (probably the juice of half a lemon is sufficient for a pint or quart box of okra). 
6. Eat and be amazed.
Of course, we'll still be offering a nice selection of our cheeses (chevre, Little Bloom, Angel Food, Red Dawn and Moonglo most likely--maybe some feta) as well as gelato. You can get scoops of gelato hand dipped from our very chic Italian dipping cabinet ($3 per scoop) and pints ($9). We'll have:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Margot's Mint
  • Honey Ginger Chevre
  • White Peach-Lemon-Orange Thyme
  • Blueberry Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
  • White Peach Sorbetto
We might have a few dozen eggs for sale as well as some of Chef Alisa's small-batch fruit preserves.  The goats are still up for visitors (even the bucks who are in full breeding scent), and you can peruse the garden and marvel at Rachel's handiwork.  The weather is supposed to be gorgeous so, COME ON OUT!
Posted 9/8/2011 9:32pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The gentle rain that is falling tonight is causing all those pasture seeds to swell and hopefully germinate. We've been waiting for this rain for some time, and it's a relief to watch it soak into the bone dry compacted ground. Even though we had our first "sunset" wine tasting at the farm tonight (we really wanted to hold the event outside so guests could sip some great wines, eat an array of local food small bites and watch the sun set over the senescing corn field), we were happy to set up inside the barn.  Our guests didn't seem to mind.
Farmers' Market News
This Saturday, September 10th, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. Sadly, our supply of sheep milk has ended for the season so there will be no more Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep until next year. However, we've got some other great cheeses for you:
  • Plenty of fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato
  • Sheep Milk Feta--get it while our limited supply lasts
  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Krotovina
  • Red Dawn
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Mollisol Pecorino Romano
For our Urbana Market goers, we got a very nice mix of milk and water based gelati for you to buy (both pints and single servings this Saturday):
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Thai Basil-Lemon Zest
  • Nectarine
  • Concord Grape
  • Plum
On Farm Sales and Other News
We will be continuing our Tuesday afternoon on farm sales through the end of September. However, Blue Moon Farm will not be coming anymore. Since the daylight is ending sooner, we will be shortening our hours from 3-6PM ONLY.  We'll continue to have our cheeses, gelato, honey, preserves and select veggies and herbs from our garden.  On the Tuesday before the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) September 26th, Stewart Pequinot (our gelato maker, but he's also a baker extraordinaire) will be offering his round Challah for sale (with or without golden raisins--specially made for the holiday). 
I also want to alert folks to a special event we'll be offering at the farm on Thursday September 22nd.  The Flatlander Food Foundry, a newly formed organization in Champaign Urbana (born out of the Flatlander Fund), that aims to "
Bring People Together Around Food" is launching a series of worshops this fall on food preservation. We will be hosting a tomato canning workshop as the first of these workshops on Thursday September 22nd. Our chef, Alisa DeMarco, will teach you how to properly can tomatoes and how to make her delicious primavera sauce.  The cost of the workshop is $15 per person and includes three canning jars, recipes and a handout on proper canning techniques.  Participants will bring their own tomatoes (4-5lbs) and an apron to wear during the workshop. We will have three 2-hour sessions (10AM to 12noon, 12-2 and 2-4PM) with a total of four participants per 2-hour session. You can sign up at the Common Ground Food Coop in Urbana. SPACE IS LIMITED TO ONLY 4 PARTICIPANTS PER SESSION, SO DON'T DELAY IN SIGNING UP. 
Here are some of the other activities that the Flatlander Food Foundry (FFF) is hosting:
Thursday, Sept. 15, 5:30-7pm; at Corkscrew’s Buvons Wine Bar
Meet the FFF board, meet other volunteers passionate about FFF mission, and find out more about the year ahead.
Thursday, Sept. 22, sessions at 10am, noon, and 2pm; at the Prairie Fruits Farm kitchen
Learn to can your own tomatoes with chef Alisa DeMarco. Stop by the Common Ground Food Co-op for details and to sign up.
October (date TBD)
Learn about the culinary science of fermentation by making sauerkraut to enjoy with locally-made sausages—just in time for Oktoberfest.
November (date TBD): We’re planning a class focused on preparing & canning goodies that will make perfect holiday gifts from local ingredients. Stay tuned!

Posted 9/5/2011 4:19pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Geraldine and Dora
Geraldine and Dora beckon you to our farm tomorrow (Tuesday, September 6th) afternoon from 3-7PM.  We've moved the kids outside (FINALLY), and, with the cooler weather, they are as frisky as ever. Come watch them run wind sprints, kick their hind legs in the air and nibble on Canada thistle nubs.  Come out for some great goat and sheep milk cheeses--our sheep milk cheese supply is dwindling as our Amish sheep dairy farmer has stopped milking his ewes for the season, and we are no longer receiving sheep milk for cheese making--SO, get 'em while supplies last.  Come out for some gelato and sorbetto. This week's flavors include:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Thai Basil-Lemon Thyme
  • Nectarine Sorbetto
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto
  • Plum Sorbetto
We'll have all flavors available as both single servings (from our very chic Italian gelato dipping cabinet) and pints to take home. 
Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-6PM with salad mix, basil, tomatoes, multi-colored peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, kale, chard, potatoes and onions.

Posted 9/1/2011 9:52pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The air temperature as I write is a balmy 80+ degrees. We've returned to July despite other environmental cues telling us fall is approaching. The Monarch butterflies are drifting into our farm these days seeking nectar for refueling on their long journey south.  The hummingbirds  dive bomb each other for a chance to sip red sugar water out of our feeder.  The fall crops have been planted in our garden--kale, chard, carrots--and it all Rachel can do to keep the carrots from croaking (we are still watering even at this late hour-got to go out and shut off the sprinkler before bedtime).  What better way to spend one of the hottest days in September than canning tomatoes.  Today, I put up 12 jars of beautiful Juliettes, Yellow Icicle and other meaty fleshed tomatoes to enjoy when I will be pining for at least 50 degree temperatures. 
We billed this Saturday's farm dinner as "End of the Summer Barbeque." Summer is determined to hold on tight through Saturday, however.  It's OK though, because our menu featuring Triple S Farms' apple-fed pork fits right into a heat-wave kind of afternoon. 
Another signal for us that fall is approaching is the annual naming of the doelings we have decided to keep as future milkers. Each year, I choose a theme and then name them. Last year's theme was jazz singers and gem stones. This year's theme is old dead relatives--reaching back into both the Jarrell-Sanow and Cooperband-Levine pantheon of strong women figures.  When you come out to the farm on Tuesday afternoons for our open house-on farm sales, you can say hello to Dora, Geraldine, Elmira, Ethel, Birdie, Louraine and Adele (among others). 
This Saturday, September 3rd, we're attending TWO farmers' markets: Urbana and Bloomington.  We hope to entice you out to shop in the heat with some fantastic cheeses.
  • We have plenty of cool and creamy chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato.
  • We also have sheep milk feta--think Greek salad with all those wonderful tomatoes and cucumbers that are still abundant at the farmers' markets
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-our slightly gooey goat milk camembert
  • Ewe Bloom--just barely a blush of bloom on this delicate grassy sheep milk cheese
  • Krotovina-our pyramid of half sheep milk-half goat milk separated by a layer of ash
  • Black Sheep-the ash-coated cousin of Ewe Bloom
  • Moonglo--made in spring, it's got wonderful notes of tang and spring pasture (that is when we actually had some rain and some pasture growing)
  • Roxanne--our raw sheep milk brebis with notes of butter and grass
  • Mollisol Pecorino--(limited amounts this week)-made LAST summer, this hard, raw sheep milk grating style cheese is excellent shaved over pasta or even a cool salad.
For Urbana's Market Goers, the secret password to Gelato and Sorbetto this Saturday is "WHITE PEACH." We got it as a water-based sorbetto as well as in a milk-based gelato infused with essence of rose thyme.  We also have:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Dunkelberg Plum
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Honey Ginger Ricotta
  • Thai Basil-Lemon Zest
In addition to our pints, you'll now be able to purchase single servings of a couple of these flavors-white peach sorbetto and white peach-rose thyme gelato- (we finally found a nice small container with a lid to sell at the farmers' market).  Of course, you can get plenty of single servings straight out of our Italian dipping cabinet if you come out to the farm on Tuesday afternoons from 3-7PM (through September only so come out while you can). More details about our upcoming Tuesday afternoon sale on Monday. Enjoy the fruits of our labors on this Labor Day Weekend!