Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 7/9/2009 10:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This week I had the priviledge of extracting the first of our farm's 2009 honey with our bee keepers, Emil and Melvin Blobaum. It was a simple, sticky and delicious affair.  First, we took the comb and cut the wax cap off using a hot double bladed knife designed especially for this purpose. This was my job, along with Emil's son Paul who was visiting from the Chicago area to help out his dad and uncle. The benefits of this job were that you could take the cut wax and suck out the remaining slightly warmed honey--a truly exquisite experience.  Next, Emil placed the uncapped combs in the honey extractor--a low speed centrifuge, essentially. The centrifuge spins for 30 seconds, then you flip the comb over to extract/spin the other side for another 30 seconds. The honey extracted in the centrifuge is collected in a bucket at the base.  This honey is then strained through cheesecloth to collect any remaining pieces of wax. The honey is never heated to retain its full nutritional and health benefits.

farmstead honey

I am happy to report that this year's early season honey is as clear,floral and delicate as it has been in past years.  We will have some of this honey available for you to purchase at the farmers' markets this weekend in both 8 and 16 oz. jars. 

Farmers' Market Offerings
This week we are attending THREE Farmers' Markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. We will be bringing the following cheeses:
Little Bloom on the Prairie--on sale again this weekend; it tastes really great but has a bit of blue on the rind--love this cheese for its inner core!
Angel Food--nice and gooey
Red Dawn--a mold ripened cheese coated in smoked paprika--great to serve along size your barbeque fare.
Krotovina-half sheep & half goat separated by an ash layer
Ewe Bloom--our soft ripened sheep milk cheese
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese with a subtle tang and creamy mouth feel.
AND Last but NOT least--our fresh as it comes chevre, available in plain, herbs de Provence blend and cracked peppercorn blend.

We will be sending a few pints of black currants to the Green City Market, so if you love to make black currant jam or juice them for a summer afternoon cocktail, get them while the limited supply lasts.  These berries are loaded with anthocyanins--purported to prevent cancer among other health benefits. They are tart, but a some honey or raw sugar can clear that up, no problem.

Farm Dinners
This Saturday, we welcome Paul Virant, from Vie Restaurant in Western Springs into our farmstead kitchen.  He will be cooking up an ode to the heritage pig feast.  Check out the menu on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners," then click on July 11th "The Whole Hog." The dinner is sold out, and we are praying to the rain gods to hold off for awhile. Central Illinois has had enough rain these past few days, thank you very much.  The corn around us is growing practically a foot per day (or so it seems), but we really would love to be able to dine outside with our guests on Saturday, July 11th. No worries if the rain gods ignore me--we have a beautiful backup space for the dinner.

Happy Local Food Eating!!

Posted 7/1/2009 2:07pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Independence Day isn't exactly known for cheese feasting, but it is definitely the time for outdoor feasting and picnic fare enjoyment. Why not shake up your 4th of July festivities by serving an all Prairie Fruits Farm cheese plate along with your local burgers and brats? 
This Saturday we will be attending THREE Farmers' Markets: Urbana's Market at the Square, Oak Park Farmers' Market and Downtown Bloomington Farmers' Market.  For those of you who live in Chicago, please note that we won't be atteding the Green City Market this Saturday.

We will be bringing a limited selection of cheeses this weekend, and we have some cheeses on sale.  The extreme heat took its toll on our aging rooms last week, resulting in uneven aging of our bloomy rind cheeses, "Angel Food" and "Little Bloom on the Prairie." The Angel Food ripened too fast and it is VERY runny. If you love to eat brie style cheese with a spoon, your ship has come in this week. Alternatively, the Little Bloom on the Prairie is more firm than normal. The taste is still wonderful, but the outer edges don't have their normal gooey deliciousness. Both of these cheeses are on sale this week.

Other cheeses available this week:
Fresh chevre--plain,herbed and cracked pepper GREAT FOR DOTTING A FARMERS' MARKET SALAD OR ROASTED BEETS
Limited availability of our whole goat milk ricotta--remember, we only make ricotta once per month. Once you taste it, you'll be hooked.
Roxanne, our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese
Ewe Bloom, our soft-ripened sheep milk cheese

Happy 4th of July!!

Posted 6/26/2009 10:55am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, the lament this week is the heat. The goats are hot, the chickens and the guinea fowl are panting, simple chores like feeding the kids or walking in the garden result in sweat soak clothes.  Even our cheeserie's air conditioning compressors are working over time and not able to keep our rooms cool enough for aging some of our cheeses! Nonetheless, we're adapting to the weather, trying to weed the vegetables and the berries in the early morning and bringing the goats in from the pasture in the early afternoon. We set up a whole bunch of fans inside their barn and they all stand in front of the fans to cool off! They are so much like people sometimes it's scary. 

This week at the farmers' markets
We won't be attending the Oak Park Farmers' Market this Saturday, but we will be trying a new market-Downtown Bloomington's Farmers' Market. If you live in or near Bloomington Normal, this is your chance to come try our full repertoire of cheeses.  Of course, we'll be doing the Urbana Market at the Square, Green City Market and 61st Street Market in Chicago this Saturday as well.  If you're concerned about the cheese not holding up to the heat, I would recommend you come early to the markets or bring a bag with an ice pack to transport your cheeses home safely. 
We have the following cheeses available this week:
Fresh chevre
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Ewe Bloom
THIS WEEK ONLY: our sweet and delicate whole goats' milk ricotta!!  It is great drizzled with some honey and fresh berries as a simple, cool dessert. 

For those of you coming to the farm dinner this Sunday, we are relishing in the weather forecast: sunny, dry and 84 degrees.  Since it is an afternoon affair (1-5PM), we will be dining under the trees--plenty of shade and cool breezes. It should be very pleasant. We're very excited about the menu that our guest chefs from Naha and Prairie Grass Cafe have planned for us. Check out the menu on our website. 
Posted 6/19/2009 1:07pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
 This week's transformation from spring to summer was abrupt.  Last night's air was so still,  hot and thick, it reminded me of a mid July evening. Fireflies are dazzling us with their annual light show over the emerging corn and soybean fields as well as our alfalfa field. The "girls" are out on pasture every day, except during torrential downpours, and their milk reflects the pasture rich diet they are consuming.  This means that there are a lot more "critters" in their milk that result in greater diversity of molds and bacteria growing on the cheeses, especially our raw milk cheeses. Some of you may have noticed that the rind of the Roxanne is very different in color than it was a month ago.  This too is related to the Amish dairy sheep spending more of their time grazing on pastures and eating a lot less hay.  Check out the photo of Roxanne, the cheese, on our website (under "Our cheeses") to see the contrasting rinds. 

Market offerings for this Saturday
We will be doing three farmers' markets this Saturday, June 20th: Urbana, Greeen City Market and Oak Park. 
We have a good supply of:
Ewe Bloom
Little Bloom on the Prairie

We have a limited supply of:
Prairie Blazing Star Banon--our "all Illinois" version of a provencal banon-soft ripened chevre wrapped in a sycamore leaf from our farm that has been soaked in an IL chambourcin wine.  Beautiful presentation,  and delicate slightly enolic flavor on the cheese.

Angel Food

Next week:
Krotovina returns along with our end of the month offering of whole goat milk ricotta
Moonglo and Roxanne will return in early July. 

Farm Dinners
All but the "Illinois Fish Tale" Dinner are now sold out.  We do receive cancellations, so you can send me an email to be put on a waiting list if you have your eye on a particular dinner. Just let me know how many seats you would like to have should spots open up.
Posted 6/11/2009 5:12pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Everett Lee with Hershey, his first born offspring and Leslie, November 2004
Everett Lee
A tribute to Everett Lee

Everett Lee, our first buck and one of the first four goats we purchased to start our herd back in 2004, passed away today. He was peacefully put to sleep following a long and mysterious illness.  Everett ("Evy" as we called him affectionately), was one of the sweetest bucks you can imagine.  Extremely affectionate, always hankering for a head scratch and a neck rub, he did not live up to the stereotype of an ornery & cantankerous buck (except in breeding season when he took on his male goat "aroma" and procreation single-mindedness).  He produced some very fine offspring indeed, and his heritage lives on in our herd, despite our sadness over his loss. 

On a happier note, Dawn, the matriarch of our herd (a spry nine years old and counting) kidded last night with a beautiful little doe. She is the last doe to kid this year (FINALLY and THANKFULLY).  The doeling looks exactly like her momma--reddish brown with a white saddle.  Mother and baby are doing very well.

Other Farm News: Fruits, Farm Dinners, Cheese Happenings
The raspberries and currants are starting to ripen, and as soon as we can get the weeds under control, we will begin to offer U-pick. Stay tuned for notices.
Our next farm dinner "A Vegetarian Feast" will be held this Saturday.  You can view the menu on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners." We are defying the weather forcast, and setting up for outdoor dining. Let's hope the weathermen will be as wrong as they have been these past fews days at predicting rain storms in Champaign County. 
The menu for the "Meditteranean Feast on the Farm Dinner" scheduled for Sunday, June28th is now on the website as well. 
You can now find our cheeses at a number of Whole Foods Stores in the greater Chicagoland area, thanks to Natural Direct.  They are helping us get our cheeses into a wider geographical area. 

What we're bringing to the farmers' markets this week
This week we will be attending four farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market, Oak Park and 61st Street Market.
We'll be bringing the following cheeses:
Fresh Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Mouton Frais (this is fresh sheep milk cheese, similar in texture to our fresh chevre but with a bit more tang and creamy mouthfeel)
Little Bloom on the Prairie--we will be running a special on this cheese over the next couple of weeks.  The rind of the most recent batches of this cheese has some wild blue molds on it, so it does not have the snow white appearance you have come to expect with this cheese. Rest assured, the taste is NOT compromised; just the aesthetics. 
Ewe Bloom--our lucious soft-ripened sheep milk cheese
Roxanne--our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese; it has developed quite a following
Caprino Romano--NEW THIS WEEK, LIMITED AVAILABILITY ; this raw goat milk cheese has been aging patiently for over six months and it is finally ready for primetime; sharp with finish that bites you back, it is really delicious. Wonderful for shaving or grating over some fresh pasta. We only made one batch last fall; so when it's gone, it probably won't be back until next year.  We will have Pecorino Romano (sheep's milk romano) available in August, so stay tuned for that one. 

We expect to have Angel Food and Krotovina back in the line up in another couple of weeks. 
As always, thank you for your patronage.
Posted 6/5/2009 10:53am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News and Notes
We have a couple of late births this week.  Both Chippewa and Coco Chenel kidded with twin doe kids (thankfully!!). All are healthy.  Since we thought we we were done with kidding season, we had our dry does out in the pasture.  That didn't deter Chippewa; she kidded out in the pasture last Sunday afternoon without any fanfare.  It's amazing how quickly you forget how adorable a little 6 pound kid can be. 

We're finally getting out to tend to the orchard and berries. The wet weather has created a weed extravanganza, but little by little we are beating them back. A number of folks have called inquiring about u-pick fruit. Right now we don't have any berries ready for u-pick. Our strawberry beds are new this year, so we really don't have many strawberries. We should have currants-red, black and white in another 2-3 weeks and rasberries by the end of June.  I will send out a notice about fruit availability and our hours for u-pick as soon as we have ripe fruits. Keep checking the website under fruits or "what's new."

Our vegetable garden is mostly planted, and despite the rain and rabbit tomato and pepper seedling nightly beheadings. The plants are growing, and we are confident we will begin to have some vegetables for our farm dinners. 

Speaking of farm dinners, check out the latest issue of Bon Apetit Magazine (the July 2009 issue). There is a page about farm dinners across the country, and we are IN IT!!  Our first farm dinner "Celebrate Spring" was a huge success.  We dined inside the somewhat refurbished barn (very rustic, but all enjoyed).  The meal was exquisite (as we would expect from Alisa DeMarco and her crew) and folks enjoyed the goats and each other.  The next dinner is a "Vegetarian Feast," and the menu will be posted sometime this weekend.   

Farmers' Market Offerings
This week we will doing three farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park.  We will be bringing the following cheeses:
Fresh Chevre (of course): plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Little Bloom on the Prairie (very limited supply, so come early if you want some)
Krotovina (the lovely little pyramid with half sheep and half goat milk separated by an ash layer)
Roxanne (our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese)

We expect to have Angel Food and Ewe Bloom back in the repertoire in the next week or two.  Expect some other cheese debuts in the coming weeks too.
I have updated the "Available Cheeses" page of our website, so check out the photos of Krotovina, Ewe Bloom and Roxanne.

Posted 5/29/2009 12:22pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Last week you probably noticed my absence from both cyberspace and marketplace.  Well, I was in southern Argentina (Patagonia) giving presentations about composting to folks from all over Argentina (a vestige of my former life as a professor of soil science and organic matter management). The marvels of overnight travel transported me from spring to fall in less than 24 hours.  A whirlwind trip, but very worthwhile.

asparagus, chive and johnny jumpupsPatagonian fall colors

I returned home earlier this week, back to full steam cheese making and readying the farm for our first farm dinner. We will be attending FOUR farmers' markets this week: Urbana, Green City Market, Oak Park and 61st Street (South Side of Chicago). 

This week at the markets you can expect to find:

  • Fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn)
  • Angel Food
  • Krotovina--the new shape is a pyramid with sheep and goat milk layers separated by a thin layer of ash.
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Fresh whole goat's milk ricotta

We expect to have more Roxanne in another week or two.  Little Bloom on the Prairie takes a hiatus this week, but will be back next week. Our first batch of Moonglo for the 2009 season should be ready by mid June. 

Dinners on the farm update

We host our first farm dinner of the season on Saturday, May 30th. The weather is uncertain, so most likely we will be dining inside the barn.  For those of you who have reservations, we look forward to seeing you at the farm around 4PM. We will have hors de Oeuvres waiting for you upon your arrival. If you haven't already done so, check out the menu on our website--"Dinners on the Farm" then "Buy Dinners" then go to "May 30th: Celebrate Spring" for details. 

The next two dinners are sold out, but we still have spaces available for several of the other dinners of the season.  Feel free to email us if you have any questions.

As always, thank you for your patronage.

Posted 5/16/2009 2:24pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

What's new for the farmers' markets this week

We're falling into our summer routine of making lots of cheese for farmers' markets. The response at the last two farmers' markets--both in Urbana and at the Green City Market-- have been tremendous. We were pretty much sold out at both markets by 11AM!! Thank you all for your support.  We will continue our labors so that we have more cheeses available for you each week. 

This week, we will be attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and the 61st Street Market in Chicago's southside University of Chicago neighborhood.

We will be bringing the following cheeses:

Fresh Chevre (of course): plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn

Krotovina: a soft ripened cheese with an ash layer through the middle. New this year: we are making the cheese with a half layer of sheep milk and a half layer of goat milk. It will be sold in rounds (or half rounds) this week, but in the future the cheese will be the shape of a truncated pyramid. This cheese is bit firmer and more subtle in flavor than say the Ewe Bloom or Little Bloom on the Prairie, but it definitely has its following.

Roxanne: Introducing a new raw sheep milk cheese made in the style of a Pyrannees brebis.  It has a natural ivory colored rind (hence the name Roxanne, because it looks like our cross-bred doe Roxy) and buttery gouda-like interior. It has aged for about two months. Try a wedge and let us know what you think.

Roxanne: A Nubian X La Mancha doe

The Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food (except for Urbana Market) and Ewe Bloom are not available until next week.

Expect our fresh, whole-milk ricotta the last weekend in May

Moonglo (our raw goat milk, washed rind tomme) will be coming back in mid-June.


Farm Dinners

Due to a last minute cancellation, we now have six openings for the first dinner on the farm "A Celebration of Spring."  You can make your reservations on line through the website:  Just go to the section "Dinners on the Farm" and then click on "Buy Dinners" and you will see each of the dinners listed. We still have plenty of openings for many of the other dinners, so feel free to take a look at them all and make your reservations now.  They fill up fast!

Prairie Fruits Farm Debuts in Boston/Cambridge MA at Formaggio Kitchen

As a native Bostonian, I am thrilled to announce that the acclaimed Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge MA will now be carrying our cheeses. We sent our first shipment of Ewe Bloom, Little Bloom on the Prairie and Krotovina to them this week. I imagine that the cheeses should be available in their stores this weekend. You might want to call them to make sure.  Please let us know if you were able to find them there, and what you think.

Posted 5/8/2009 11:43am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings From Prairie Fruits Farm

Farmers' Market season is here.  This Saturday, May 9th, we will be attending two markets: Urbana's Market at the Square and Chicago's Green City Market.  The following Saturday will be adding the 61st Market on Chicago's South Side, and then May 23rd, we will add the Oak Park Farmers' Market, making a grand total of FOUR farmers' markets this year. We have wonderful, dedicated and cheese-savy people lined up to help us sell our products at the Chicago markets this year. All of them have been to our farm so they know first hand how we manage our goats and our land and how we make our small-batch, hand-crafted cheeses.

We will have the following cheeses available this weekend--think Mothers' Day presents:

Fresh Chevre: Plain, Herbs de Provence Blend, Cracked Peppercorn blend

Angel Food: Our soft-ripened brie style--makes a great grilled cheese sandwich (especially on a brioche type bread)--decadent mothers' day brunch material

Little Bloom on the Prairie: Our soft-ripened goat milk camembert style--firm and creamy; pare it with some fresh strawberries (if you can find some locally) or fruit preserves.

Ewe Bloom: our soft-ripened sheep milk cheese; sharp and tangy but delicious

Krotovina: the soft-ripened cheese with the ash layer in the middle--a show-stopper on the cheese plate.

News from the Farm

I am happy to report that Peppermint Pattie has recovered fully. She is running with the herd in the pastures and producing some great milk.  We still have a few pregnant does yet to kid, but no action to report on this week.  We finally were able to get a few things planted in the garden-peas, beats, parsnips, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and of course flowers.  The landscape is awash in yellow and white dandelion heads--we don't care, because the bees love to forage on them. 

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the markets.


Posted 4/23/2009 8:31am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Spring Drama of the week

We tilled up our vegetable beds last weekend, inspired by the dry warm weather and anxious to plant some early season crops for our first farm dinners, only to be plunged back into another round of cold, wet, slap-in-the-face days. This weekend, we will approach summer temperatures.  I have come to expect this weather rollercoaster here in central Illinois in the spring.  We plan to plant strawberries and spring greens this weekend if the weather holds.

Kidding season is still upon us, and this week we experienced the highs and lows of birthing. On Tuesday afternoon, Larrissa, one of our independent minded La Mancha does, kidded two beautiful cross bred doe kids.  True to her spirit, she had a kid’s hooves hanging out her backside while head butting one of her compatriots. At the same time, Peppermint Pattie, one of our smaller unassuming and gentle Nubian does, looked liked she was going into labor. We kept observing her and she wasn’t acting too out of sorts. We continued about our chores—milking, feeding the kids, checking on cheese and came back a couple of hours later to find her water had broken and she was trying to push but nothing was coming out. We have seen this scenario a lot—it usually means that the kid is breach or positioned in such a way that it needs some human assistance to be delivered. I put on the OB gloves, doused my hands with betadine solution and lubricant and slowly tried to work my hand inside Peppermint. She was barely dilated, and I could only get a few fingers in there initially. I felt a little tail, and knew for sure that the kid was breach. I massaged her cervix and finally I was able to get my whole hand inside her uterus.  I could feel a hip, but not much else. It seemed like the kid was both upside down and breach or on its side. I tried to manipulate the kid inside the womb, but it became clear it was huge. Aaron, our herdsman, tried to go in there and help get a leg out. No luck. 

After trying to get this kid out of her for over an hour, we finally called the University of Illinois Vet Clinic.  They told us to bring her in if we could. Amazingly, she was able to walk to the truck, and Wes and Aaron hoisted her onto the back of the truck, quickly covered in a bed of straw. She stood the whole ride down Lincoln Avenue to clinic. Thankfully, it is only about 10-15 minutes drive.  Upon arrival, the vet residents tried to remove the kid without having to do the emergency cesarean section they had planned. Miraculously, the doctor was able to get two feet out and began to pull. No movement. At that point, it was clear that the kid was already dead and apparently had been dead for a long time (over 12 hours).  After another 30 minutes of trying to remove the kid and Peppermint Pattie getting weaker by the minute, we decided to go forward with the C-section.  I couldn’t watch the procedure, but once they opened her up, they found a gigantic male kid that probably weighed over nine pounds. It didn’t look normal either—head and shoulders were proportionally much larger than the back half of his body.  There were some complications with her uterus, but they stitched her back up about 11PM and she started to come out of the anesthesia shortly thereafter.  I am happy to report that she is recovering well, and we to plan to bring her home from the vet school this afternoon.  You can visit her this Saturday in the little “recovery” ward we will create for her.

 Farm Open House Sales and Breakfast Menu

 This Saturday (April 25th), we will be hosting our FINAL spring open house, on-farm sale and farm breakfast.  Weather is expected to be sunny and 80 degrees!! As usual, we will open from 9AM to 12 noon.  We will have the following cheeses for you to taste and purchase:

  • Fresh Chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
  • Ewe Bloom (soft ripened sheep milk cheese)
  • Angel Food (our goat milk brie style cheese-its 2009 debut)
  • Moonglo (our raw goat milk, washed rind tomme—the last batch until June)
  • Huckleberry’s Blue (our raw goat milk blue cheese-sweet and mild blue flavor)

 The other farmers will be here as well including Blue Moon Farm, Tomahnous Farm, Seven Sisters Farm hand spun wool and Stewart’s Artisan Breads and Pastries. We will also have ramps for sale from Spence Farm-the last of the season

 Blue Moon Farm will have limited spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard and kale.

Tomahnous Farm will have eggs, lots of shitake mushrooms, herbs, flour, very limited asparagus and hand crafted goat milk soap.

 Stewart’s Artisan Breads and Pastries will be bringing his usual assortment of breads, bagels, bagel bites, granola and granola bars along with his delicious potato dinner rolls.

Farm Fresh Breakfast will be served from 9AM to 12 noon as well.  This week’s menu pulls out all the stops and includes:

  • French Toast Bread Pudding with Maple and Illinois Pecan Glaze
  • Spence Farm Ramps and Three Sisters Farm Grits “Cake” with Tomahnous Farm Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce
  • Triple S Farms Mini-link Sausages
  • Alisa DeMarco’s Red Pepper Jelly, Prairie Fruits Farm Moonglo and Herb SconeS
  • Jarrell Family Plum and Walnut Scones
  • Goat Milk Masala Chai
  • Fair Trade Coffee

We look forward to seeing you here this Saturday.  This is the last Saturday that we will be hosting farm open house, farm breakfasts and on farm sales since the Urbana Farmers’ Market season starts next Saturday May 2nd. If you haven’t had a chance to come out to visit the farm and enjoy a delicious local breakfast, now is the time. As always, thank you for your support and patronage.