Greetings CSA members:
I apologize for the lapse in communication since you signed up to become members of our unique and delicious CSA. We have six pick up locations with 72 members total. This is a three-fold increase in our number of CSA members over last year! Thank you for supporting us!! Starting in late May ore early June, most of our pick up dates are scheduled EVERY TWO WEEKS (EXCEPT WHERE NOTED BELOW). Here are the start dates for each CSA by location:
- Bloomington (with Henry's Farm CSA): Tuesday, May 28th 6 to 7PM
- Peoria (Marcella Teplitz' house): Tuesday, May 28th from 5 to 6PM
- Normal (with PrairieErth Farm): Tuesday, May 28th from 4:30 to 5:30PM
- Prairie Fruits Farm (at the farm): Wednesday, May 29th from 4 to 6PM
- Springfield (at the Downtown Farmers' Market with Katic Breads): Wednesdays from 8AM to 12 noon.
- Naperville (with Broadbranch Farm): Friday, June 7th from 3:30 to 5:30PM
NOTE TO Naperville members: we will be having pickup on THREE dates in June to make sure you get 14 pickups total and to get you on the same pick up week as the other CSA pick up locations. So, you'll be picking up your shares on June 14th and then again on June 28th.
For all pickup locations, we'll be adding a third pick up in late August to make sure you all get 14 pickups total. Stay tuned for the complete calendar of pickup dates by location.
For those of you who signed up for the CSA member exclusive farm dinner, we'll be offering you the chance to purchase 1 additional seat for that dinner. If you would like another seat, please send us a check ($45) made out to Prairie Fruits Farm and note 1 seat for CSA dinner. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We are very excited about this season's CSA and again thank you for making it happen.
News from the farm
It’s hot. It’s hard to believe, since last week I swear I was wearing my winter down jacket at the farmers’ market. We had our first lesson in how to keep the pigs cool this week: dig them a wallow and fill it with lots of cool water. I did not realize that pigs don’t sweat to cool their bodies; they seek muddy wet environs to regulate their body temperature. We came to this realization as we were sitting in our dining room yesterday. I glanced out the window to see one of the red waddle pigs jaunting towards the newly planted vegetable garden. He looked like a porcine on a mission (find fresh dirt and dig, dig, dig). Blue, the dog, immediately chased after the pig and tried to herd him (I use this term “herd” very loosely because Blue has some rudimentary instincts to herd, but he needs serious training—let’s just say there’s a lot of barking and circling but not much movement on the part of the herded). Of course, we followed quickly and ran out of the house to join the dog in his efforts to herd the pig back into his enclosure. It quickly became a two person + one dog show, and after much circling, Wes and Andrew managed to get the pig back with his buddies. Wes dug them a depression in the dirt, pulled out the hose and started filling the depression with water. The pigs delighted in their dirty cool wetness.
We’re getting the farm gussied up for our first farm dinner this weekend. We’re replacing floor boards on our outdoor dining platform, weeding the herb garden, planting flowers. Even the goats got a major house cleaning yesterday and today-full barn cleanouts with fresh straw bedding all around. We received the lamb from Caveny Farm that will be featured in the meal and Chef Alisa will be neck deep in food preparations tomorrow.
Tasting Cheese and Farmers’ Markets
Toward the end of each week, all of our cheeserie staff gets together to taste cheese. We taste the young, the middle-aged and the well-aged (even the over ripe too). It gives us an opportunity to follow the progression of flavors and textures that develop in a single batch of cheese over time as well as a means to compare the same style of cheese from batch to batch. It also gives our new staff exposure to the art and vocabulary of cheese tasting. To fully appreciate the flavors, you must temper the cheese to close to room temperature. If that’s not possible, you need to warm the cheese in your mouth before you let yourself truly taste the cheese (this is kind of hard to do, especially if you really like the cheese). Once you taste it, you have to find the words to describe it: sweet cream, butter milk, “fudgy” (that’s one of my favorites that Nat likes to use), tangy. Unflattering terms include: sour milk, chalky, sneaker feet. Nat had a great one today: “river wet” socks—can you imagine what that might taste like??
Today, we tasted several batches of our goats’ milk camembert “little bloom on the prairie.” The oldest one is nearly 6 weeks old (this was the last wheel of that batch, sorry) and was perfectly gooey throughout. The next in line is now one month old and has the perfect ratio of gooey exterior to firm paste. The guts of the cheese taste like the perfect sweet milk-salt balance. The rind has hints of mushroom. This one will be available for sale this weekend at the farmers’ market. The youngest batch we tasted is not ready for prime time, but we could tell it is headed in a good direction—stay tuned.
This Saturday, we’ll be attending only the Urbana Farmers’ Market. It will be my first Urbana market of the season. We have lots of GREAT cheeses this week:
- Fresh chevre that is perfectly lemony, creamy and delicious: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- The full Monty of bloomy rind cheeses: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie (in all its gooey glory), Black Goat, Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep
- Fresh goat milk ricotta
- Sheep Milk Feta
Our gelato will cool you down this weekend:
- Margot’s Fresh Mint
- Toasted Coconut
- Dulce de Leche de Cabra
- Pumpkin Pie
- Honey Ginger Ricotta
- Chocolate Mint
- Rhubarb Sorbetto
We’ll also be bringing our goat milk soap hand-crafted by Red Barn Farm. They use our goat milk, our honey and our herbs to make these gorgeous soaps. They lather really well, and last a long time. Come visit us at the Urbana Market to try and buy.
The farm exploded with color this week. It’s one thing to be lured into buying thousands of bulbs from the sensuous descriptions in the flower catalogues. It’s another thing to behold their beauty in the flesh. I am marveling at the ruffles and stamens of the tulips.
I am also in awe of the wisteria. The bumble bees have discovered them as well.
The window of opportunity for rainless days to plant opened up for us this week, albeit briefly; and finally, we were able to get potatoes, peas, beets, carrots, parsnips, chard and kale planted. As of this afternoon, it’s a mud bath out there again; the dog is filthy and the pigs are caked in a blissful black veneer.
The goats were finally able to wade out into their green sea of pasture this week too. It always brings me joy to watch them bury their heads in the lush greenness, open their jaws wide and stuff their faces with fresh forage. You can hear them eating with gusto too.
In the cheeserie
In keeping with the theme of flowing rivers of liquid, the abundance of milk over the past several weeks has been converted to tommes and blue wheels. What does a cheese maker do when he or she has surplus milk? He or she turns into wheels that age for several months. We’ve made so many wheels of Moonglo, that there’s barely room at the “inn” (that would be their cheese cave of sorts).
Our”tomme room”, as it is called affectionately, has so many wheels that must be bathed in Moonglo pear tea wash twice weekly, that it takes the cheese makers several hours to wash and flip them. We don’t even need to use our fogger to generate humidity, because the mass of breathing cheeses gives off so much water vapor that they keep the room at the ideal humidity range required for their aging. Thankfully, the farmers’ markets have resumed, so we can sell lots of fresh cheese and bloomy rinds, thereby slowing the flow of milk to Moonglo.
We’re attending two markets this Saturday May 11th: Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market. It’s the day before Mother’s Day, and what better way to celebrate our mothers than to give them the gift of dairy. We’ve got a great lineup for you:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
- Angel Food Brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Black Goat and Black Sheep (compare and contrast the two milks—you’ll be amazed)
- Fresh goat milk ricotta (the perfect ingredient for that brunch you plan to make for your mother)
- Sheep milk feta
- Moonglo (made with milk from last year’s late lactation milk)
But wait, there’s more dairy! Goat milk gelato:
- Stracciatella (chocolate ganache chip)
- Honey Ginger Ricotta **
- Pumpkin Pie **
- Fresh Mint **
- Dulce de Leche de Cabra (that’s goat milk caramel) **
- Chocolate Mint
- Toasted Coconut
- Pecan Biscotti (oh man, this one is good, and it’s new!)
** indicates flavors that we’ll have at Green City Market
Thank you to all of our CSA members, new and returning. If you still want to sign up, I am keeping the signup section open through this weekend. We really need more folks from Springfield to sign up so we have enough to make the trip worthwhile. So, if you’re from Springfield or close by, check it out!!
We were actually making progress this week before the sky started to darken and the lightning strikes started flashing this afternoon. We tilled our garden beds. We spread compost, lots of compost. We even got the compost tilled into our soil. We mowed. We watched the dandelions explode seemingly overnight and observed our solitary bee, “Henri” (named affectionately by the cheese makers who watch his comings and goings and droppings on a daily basis outside the cheeserie window) return from his winter hideaway—both true harbingers of spring. The rain showers hit just before we could get some seeds in the ground, but now we’re ready for planting once the ground dries out again.
Farmers’ Market Season has arrived
It’s hard to imagine that we have come full circle to another season of farmers’ markets, but we have. It’s been all noses to the grindstone to get ready for market season, and WE ARE READY! This Saturday, May 4th is the opening of both the Urbana Farmers’ Market and Chicago’s Outdoor Green City Market. We will be attending both, coolers a full with cheese and gelato. Both markets start bright and early: 7AM. The Urbana market ends at 12 Noon, but Green City Market runs until 1PM. We’ll be bringing:
- Lots of creamy luscious chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses likely to include Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and maybe a few Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep
- Our sweet, fresh goat milk ricotta—try it drizzled with some honey and fresh berries
- Our tangy sheep milk feta---perfect for a spring salad of fresh greens, roasted beets and crispy carrots
- Moonglo—our raw milk firm cheese, perfect for that “uptown” grilled cheese you want to make this weekend
For our Urbana Market Goers, we have a cornucopia of Gelato Flavors. Our Green City Market patrons will NOT be left out of the gelato deliciousness this year, but we will be limited to flavors representing locally sourced ingredients (the starred flavors in the list below are the ones we’re bringing to Green City Market):
- Hazelnut Croccante (little pieces of candied hazelnuts in a sea of hazelnut gelato)
- Stracciatella (chocolate ganache chip)
- Margot’s Fresh Mint***
- Gianduja (that’s Italian for Chocolate-Hazelnut)
- Toasted Coconut
- Local Strawberry***
- Honey Ricotta Ginger ***
- Pumpkin Pie ***
May 4th at 4PM is the date/time that seats to the summer farm dinner dates go on sale. For more information and details, go to our website. Please check out how to interface with ShowClix, our ticket sales platform, so you are familiar with how it all works BEFORE the sales begin.
May 4th is also the deadline for signup to our CSA. We’re still shy of members for the Springfield, Peoria and Naperville pick up locations, so if you live close to those areas, I highly recommend you consider becoming members. Since we don’t do farmers’ markets in those areas, it will be your only opportunity to buy our cheese and gelato (and bread from Katic Breads) directly from us. I hope you will consider it.
Happy spring and happy beginnings to another season of eating locally.
FARM DINNER UPDATE
As I mentioned in my last e-newsletter, we will be releasing the next set of farm dinners (July 13-September 7th) on Saturday May 4th at 4PM. Please take note that the first five dinners (May 18 through June 29th) are sold out. To see the descriptions of all the dinners, go to our website under Farm Dinners, 2013 Season. To make reservations for these next five dinners, you must click on the link to Show Clix. This is our ticket sales platform. As I have mentioned in the past, there are ONLY 40 seats for sale per dinner, and you can only reserve 4 seats per person (to make the dinners more accessible to more people).
BREAD, CHEESE AND GELATO CSA--WHY JOIN?
If you're wondering what the benefits are for joining our CSA, well, let me tell you. First of all, you are guaranteed biweekly allotments of these wonderful products without having to go to the farmers' markets or worry that we might run out. Secondly, we are providing a 10-15% discount on our retail pricing--so you are getting a deal. Thirdly, you get an inside track on a special CSA-members only farm dinner. And, if you're not motivated by financial incentives, you get the benefit of creating a community of customers who love great artisan cheese, bread and gelato, and who want to support the farmers and food artisans who produce these products. So, don't delay in signing up for our CSA. The deadline for sign up is midnight, May 4th. We've got six pick up locations (2 in Bloomington, one at our farm, one in Springfield, one in Peoria and one in Naperville) and we need at least 10 members per pickup location to make it viable. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
The end of April usually coincides with a drop in adrenaline coursing through my veins. Most of the does have kidded; we’ve got five stragglers left to go. The kids on the ground (167 so far) are growing leaps and bounds; each day they convince me that they will thrive with less and less codling from me. The worries about late night encounters with kids stuck in someone’s birth canal are subsiding, and my brain is allowing my body to believe it can sleep. I know I am being lulled into a false sense of relaxation. Like the flood waters moving slowly through towns along the Illinois river, we know what May brings—LOTS AND LOTS of milk. The cheese makers are building the “levees” to handle the surge, and we’ll figure out what to make with all that rich white stuff. Adrenaline will return and it will be show time at Farmers’ Markets once again.
Spring is forcing itself on the farm. The piglets tillage project is advancing at a good clip, and this evening I caught them “horsing around” with each other—the little red waddles rolling over to let the black pigs scratch their bellies.
The thousands of flower bulbs we planted last fall are making their appearance at last, and man, they are gorgeous.
We were finally able to start mowing all that lush green growing around the farm. The rye-vetch cover crop growing in our garden beds met with the blade today. Tomorrow, we hope to till and then spread compost over the weekend.
If the weather holds, we’ll be planting our vegetables next week.
Last Spring Breakfast-Farm Open House, Pastoral Artisan Producers Festival, Farm Dinner Reservations and much, much more
This Saturday, April 27th, is our last spring farm open house-breakfast of the season. Come on out from 9AM to 12 noon to get some of the best breakfast in town, see the baby goats and buy some fantastic locally grown products. Our chef Alisa and her team of culinary wizards have a great line up in store for breakfast:
- “Toad in the Hole”: A sunny side egg cooked inside a toasted English muffin, served with mornay sauce and Blue Moon Farm salad greens
- “Ploughman’s Breakfast”: A “simple” (aka hearty) plate of Moore’s Farm pork sausage, hard-cooked duck eggs from Lucky Duck Farm & a wedge of Moonglo cheese, served with house-made wheat thins, cherry mostarda, pickles and mustard
- Goat milk yogurt parfait with granola and honey
- Bacon & Jalapeno Cornbread
- Chevre Pound Cake
As always, NO RESERVATIONS are required. Just show up between 9AM and 12 and let the crowd sweep you away.
We have some great local food for sale as well. We’ll have plenty of cheese, gelato, goat milk soap and our hip t-shirts for sale:
- Fresh Chevre
- Angel Food Brie
- Black Goat
- Goat Milk Ricotta
- A few remaining pieces of Huckleberry Blue (last of the fall milk batches)
- The debut of our first batch of sheep milk feta—it’s got a lovely tang and it’s wonderfully creamy!
Stewart’s gelato creations continue with our “standards” and some new tunes:
- Gianduja (Chocolate-Hazelnut)
- Stracciatella (Chocolate ganache-chip)
- Pumpkin Pie
- Hazelnut Croccante
- Honey-Ginger Ricotta
- NEW: toasted coconut
- NEW: “Chocolate covered banana”
Our other farmer friends: Tomahnous Farm, Lucky Duck Farm, Blue Moon Farm will be at the farm as well. Tomahnous has shitake mushrooms and maybe asparagus this week. Lucky Duck has their beautiful and delicious chicken and duck eggs along with some frozen meats. Blue Moon Farm will be here with salad mix, lots of early season greens and probably a few surprises. Stewart’s Artisan Breads will have his wonderful bagels, breads, cookies, and granola.
This just in: Cow Creek Farm will be here with RAMPS!!! Those harbingers of woodland spring are here just in time for our last spring open house.
Pastoral’s Artisan Producer Festival
As much as I would love to be at the farm for our last spring open house of the season, alas, I will be in Chicago for Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine’s Third Annual Artisan Producer Festival. It from 11AM to 3PM at the French Market in downtown Chicago. So, all you Chicago food lovers, this is THE place to be this Saturday. Here’s a little description of the event:
The festival features over 85 producers of cheese, wine, beer, confections, jams/honey, charcuterie and so much more. This is the largest free event of its kind in Chicago, drawing over 10k people least year in the French Market and adjoining concourse.
Update on Farm Dinner Reservations, CSA signup deadline is approaching
We’ll be taking reservations for the next five farm dinners on Saturday, May 4th. Stay Tuned for more details. If you haven’t signed up for our cheese, bread and gelato CSA, you should check it out. The deadline for sign up is also May 4th. To get more information, visit our website: http://prairiefruits.com/our-csa
If we build it, surely we’ll sail away. The furious and incessant rains of the past several days have swelled every single soil pore on our property. The earthworms have been displaced and the water is rising and flowing to fill the low spots. Now is the time that the image of central Illinois “high spots” takes on true meaning. Thoughts of tilling garden beds and spreading compost are completely gone. Dreams of planting early season greens, peas and maybe even potatoes are shear fantasy. No, the past few days have been all about moving water and keeping water out of places where we don’t want it: the barns, the shed, the house. It’s tempting to ponder constructing Noah’s Ark to transport our critters to higher ground. Even the piglets seemed forlorn, nestled in their water-logged three-sided houses. Blue, the dog, spent most of today sandwiched between a bale of straw and the kid pen, resigned to a day of no ball throwing.
The only ones who seemed unconcerned were the goat kids. In the midst of all this wetness, we started weaning our oldest group of kids yesterday--six weeks old already!! How fast they grow up. It takes them several hours to realize that milk is no longer part of the diet. They’re content to eat their hay and nibble at the grain we’ve been offering them, but once reality sets in, the grain fever begins in earnest. Within a couple more days, their cries of indignation will subside and they’ll be content to fight over solid foods.
The does who freshened in early March are building their milk production to a crescendo in the next few weeks. While they’re happy to stay in the barn with this wet weather, I catch them looking longingly at the now verdant pasture to the east of the barn. It must have grown several inches in the past 48 hours with all the rain and the warmth. The cheeserie is working steadfast to keep up with their surge, cranking out lots of little bloomy rind cheeses, chevre, ricotta and Moonglo.
Farm Open House & Breakfast
Speaking of cheese, it’s time again to get ready for our pen-ultimate farm Open-House, On Farm Sale and Breakfast, this Saturday, April 20th. We’ll have:
- Fresh Chevre
- Whole goats’ milk Ricotta
- An assortment of soft-ripened cheeses—Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep, Black Goat, Little Bloom on the Prairie and Angel Food (what else is there, really)
- Moonglo (man, does this late fall cheese taste delicious!)
On the gelato front, we’ve got:
- Honey Ginger Ricotta (limited quantities)
- Gianduja (Chocolate-Hazelnut)
- Hazelnut Croccante (that’s Italian for hazelnut brittle)
Stewart clearly has been VERY busy spinning gelato.
Our guest farmers include Tomahnous Farm, Lucky Duck Farm and Stewart’s Artisan Breads. Blue Moon Farm will be behind the Common Ground Food Coop with pre-orders this weekend. The elusive ramps are still elusive (maybe next weekend, I hope!!).
What’s for breakfast you ask?
- House Made Corned Beef Hash and a Fried Egg- Central Lean Beef and Blue Moon Organic Green Mountain Potatoes
- Lucky Duck Farm Quiche- Triple S Farm House Cured and Smoked Ham with Chevre, Moonglo and Chive or PFF Dried Juliet Tomatoes, Chevre and Chive
- Goat’s Milk Yogurt, Granola and PFF Honey Bowl
- Traditional Samosa with Blue Moon Organic Potatoes, Peas and Goat’s Milk Yogurt
- Goat’s Milk Vanilla and Michigan Nectarine Pot de Crème
- Candied Hazelnuts
- Goat’s Milk Hot Chocolate
- Columbia Street Roastery Coffee
When you come out the farm on Saturday morning, it will be sunny (if you believe the weather people), but the farm will be VERY soggy. We will do our best to park your cars safely, but there is likely to be mud. We may have to park cars along the road, but PLEASE make sure you park ONLY ON ONE SIDE OF THE ROAD AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS OF OUR TRUSTED PARKING ATTENDANTS. We look forward to seeing you here on Saturday!
Update on our Cheese, Bread and Gelato CSA
We’re still taking members for the 2013 of our CSA, but the deadline for sign up is fast approaching. May 4th is the last day you can sign up for this delicious and unique CSA-a partnership between Prairie Fruits Farm and Katic Breads. We have SIX (COUNT ‘EM 6) PICK UP LOCATIONS TO MAKE IT REALLY EASY FOR YOU—ONE RIGHT HERE ON THE FARM, TWO IN BLOOMINGTON, ONE IN PEORIA, ONE IN NAPERVILLE AND ONE IN SPRINGFIELD. If you’ve been riding the fence on this one, now is the time to become a CSA member. Members can sign up for an exclusive farm dinner in addition to share options for cheese, bread or gelato. Please sign up TODAY!
This week’s weather felt like the melting of the Pleistocene glaciers in ultra-time-lapsed photography. From four-foot snow drifts to ephemeral ponds spread out across the still frozen black earth in less than 48 hours, I could hear that massive volume of water percolating slowly into the soil on a sunny afternoon this week. The multitude of bulbs that we planted last fall is finally daring to emerge from the ground; the azure blue Siberian Irises are especially gorgeous right now. There were a few bees out foraging on the crocuses too. Thankfully, the fruit trees are still dormant, as we still have to spray them with dormant oil and get them pruned before they too begin to wake up.
I believe it’s safe to say that spring is in the air, and with its arrival comes the desire to clean house, to discard the dead to make way for the living lurking beneath. We’ve been busy turning compost, making room for all the manure and soiled straw bedding that need to come out of the goat barns. The bedded pack is so high that the goats are starting to tower over us when we stand in the aisles to throw them their hay. This only exacerbates their feeling of dominance.
We’ve pulled the mulch off the garden beds and we’re getting ready to spread compost and till the soil for this year’s plantings. The soil has warmed enough even for the piglets to start tilling in earnest. The transformation of the season has begun; it feels good.
This Saturday’s Open House is chock full of goodies. From 9AM to 12 Noon, you can visit with the goats, marvel at the pig’s soil moving techniques, buy some great local foods and eat a hearty farm breakfast. Our repertoire of cheeses keeps growing every week.
This Saturday, we’ll have the first Little Bloom on the Prairie of the season in addition to our chevre, Angel Food, Moonglo and the last of the fall Huckleberry Blue. According to Murray’s Cheese in NYC, April is "Grilled Cheese Month" (who knew!!), so why not buy some Moonglo and make a delicious grilled cheese sandwich with some of Stewart’s Artisan Bread and some sautéed greens from Tomahnous Farm.
Our gelato flavors (pints only) include: vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, espresso, honey-chevre, rhubarb swirl, stracciatella and pumpkin pie.
Our guest farmers-vendors include Tomahnous Farm with early season greens, herbs, potatoes, carrots and probably a few other surprises; Lucky Duck Farm with chicken and duck eggs, ground beef and some pork products and Stewart’s Artisan Breads with bagels, breads and cookies.
What’s for breakfast at the farm this Saturday?
- Buttermilk Biscuits and House Made Triple S Pork Sausage Gravy
- Spence Farm Grit Cake with Chevre, Tomato Pesto, Poached Egg and Blue Moon Greens
- Bowl O’ Goat Milk Yogurt, Granola and Honey
- Spiced Brown Butter Yeast -Risen Streusel Coffee Cake
- Ham and Ricotta Tamales
- Kids Pancakes
- Goat’s Milk Cinnamon Spiked Hot Chocolate
- Columbia Street Coffee
Come and Get It!!
Dateline: Prairie Fruits Farm, Sunday, March 24th 5PM. The snow began falling at about 1:30 that afternoon. All was quiet in the doe barn as I made my mid-afternoon rounds. The kids were snuggling inside their heated boxes after gorging themselves on mid-day milk. I had finished all my chores in the cheeserie (this included making our first Sunday batch of chevre of the season), feeling good that things were in order. I relished the thought that I might get an hour or so to relax before the evening milking. Wes had ventured out to buy some groceries just as the snow started falling, and on his return to the farm, his truck veered into a ditch over a now ice-covered Lincoln Avenue. After waiting for nearly two hours for AAA road service to pull him out, it was time to go back out to the barns to get ready for milking and kid feeding. By then, there were at least five inches of snow on the ground, and the wind was howling and blowing snow horizontally in our faces. We had told our evening helpers not to come out due to the treacherous road conditions: Wes and I were flying solo on the evening chores. Wes trudged out to the doe barn (dragging his recovering Achilles’ tendon leg along) to find Ingrid had delivered quadruplets—two does and two bucks. One of the bucks weighed in at nearly 10 pounds; the remaining three each weighed close to seven pounds! Poor Ingrid!!! Wes milked her out while I cleaned off the kids and placed them in a warm box under a heat lamp. As I was getting the kids checked in, Wolfie went into labor and delivered the first of her three kids. The other two came over the next three hours, the last one being a breached doeling who I pulled out of her exhausted mother after 9PM.
Between Wolfie kids’ births, I got milk feeder buckets ready for the kids in the kid barn, fed them, plugged up the cracks and crevasses where snow had drifted in and re-bedded the wet areas with clean dry straw. I let our dog Blue out for his evening run, and he was disappointed to realize I wouldn’t be throwing him a ball that night. Even he with his boundless energy and love of snow didn’t seem that keen on venturing outside the kid barn that night.
After stabilizing the kids, I came back into the milking parlor to discover that yet another doe, Lola was going into labor. She was very busy cleaning off the Wolfie kids as they were born, getting herself geared up for her own motherhood. Wes finished milking, I helped him clean up; he milked out Wolfie and I fed her kids that were already born. Lola was taking her time going into full blown labor, so we trudged back to the house to eat something before the next wave of kidding. Lola finally delivered her first kid at almost 11PM and then Huckleberry started pushing. Nothing was advancing, and I could see she was straining and grinding her teeth. So, I donned the OB gloves, squirted on some sterile lubricant and betadine and gently inserted my fingers in the birth canal. I felt a little tail and recognized it was breach. After some coaxing, I was able to pull out both hind legs and slowly extricate the doeling inside. Huckleberry was done with a lovely long-eared black singleton. Lola started pushing again just after Huckleberry delivered her kid and out popped a doeling. By the time I got the kids cleaned up and under heat lamps and milked out their mothers it was past midnight. I fed the kids their colostrum and headed back into the house at about 1AM. Four hours later when Wes went back out the barn for morning milking, now with close to a foot of snow (and drifts much, much deeper than that) on the ground, Millie had just delivered two healthy doelings and one still born kid.
The spring blizzard of 2013 brought us 12 kids out of five does in a 12 hour period. Before this kidding marathon, I wondered if the does could sense bad weather and delay the onset of their birthing. I now know this was a sheer figment of my imagination or just plain old wishful thinking. Despite the profound exhaustion, I am happy to report that all 12 kids are doing well.
The calm after the storm: the 12 "blizzard kids" snoozing after feeding on milk.
Just to convince you that I can even now have a sense of humor about the whole episode, I am copying this news article that confirms my earlier dismay about the groundhog’s erroneous prognostications:
"Punxsutawney Phil's handler takes blame
PITTSBURGH — An Ohio prosecutor who has light-heartedly filed charges against the famous Pennsylvania groundhog who fraudulently “predicted” an early spring says he may consider a pardon now that the animal’s handler is taking the blame.
That’s right, Bill Deeley says the animal rightly predicted six more weeks of winter but Deeley tells The Associated Press he mistakenly announced an early spring because he failed to correctly interpret Phil’s “groundhog-ese.”
Butler County, Ohio prosecutor, Mike Gmoser tells the AP he’s reconsidering the charges in light of the new evidence and may issue a full pardon."
Farm Open House, Breakfast, On Farm Sales
This Saturday, March 30th, we will be open again from 9AM to 12 noon for Spring Open House. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the high 50’s. It should be a gorgeous day for an outing to our farm. However, the high temps and sun mean that our farm soils will be trying desperately to absorb an enormous volume of water from the rapidly melting snow. The upshot is that the farm is likely to be pretty muddy during Open House. We will have extra folks on hand to direct people where to park to minimize the muddiness.
We thank all the folks who ventured out to the farm last week for our first open house of the season. We appreciate your patience and good nature in having to wait in line for breakfast. I wanted to let everyone know that we have worked out the kinks in our credit card acceptance vehicle, so we should be able to move people through the breakfast ordering line more smoothly. Even so, if you have to wait in line, you can shop with the farmers who will have their wares waiting for you outside the breakfast dining area.
We will have a nice assortment of cheeses and gelato for you, including lots of chevre—perfect for the holiday table. We’ve got a few new gelato flavors this week too including Honey Chevre and Rhubarb Swirl! We’ll also have some of the beautiful goat milk soaps made by Red Barn Farm (with our milk).
Blue Moon Farm will be at the farm with salad mix, arugula, spinach, kale, chard, cilantro, carrots, turnips, and potatoes. Tomahnous Farm will have carrots, potatoes, garlic, shallots, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, cilantro, chard, napini, kale, herb plants, fig trees, dry peas and soybeans, and (maybe) soap. Lucky Duck Farm will have chicken eggs and duck eggs (all free-range, pastured, and organically-fed), and ground beef (100% grass-fed), ham, and bacon (the pigs are pastured and organically-fed). Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with bagels, breads, granola and biscotti along with Kosher for Passover chocolate cookies that are AMAZING!!
What’s for breakfast??
- Swiss chard strada
- Batatas bravas (spicy potatoes)
- A special kids’ breakfast
- Delicious potato knishes made by Alison (these are a meal unto themselves not to be missed!)
- A secret sweet pastry
- Coffee by Columbia Street Roastery
- Goat Milk Hot Chocolate
The ultrasounds of goat bellies taken last fall foretold of the early March goat baby explosion, so theoretically, I should have known what was coming. Intellectually knowing is one thing; experiencing the torrent of babies (0 to nearly over 90 in about two weeks’ time) is completely another kettle of fish (sorry for the mixed metaphors-sleep deprivation does that to a person). Over forty does have kidded to date with lots of triplets and twins to show for their labor toils. We've had three sets of quadruplets so far, not close to approaching our record number of seven sets last year. There’s almost “no room at the inn” inside the kid barn right now. Each night, we divide the pens into small groups so that they can snuggle under the heat lamps without piling too high on top of each other.
Every kidding season has its patterns, and this year, the theme seems to be lots of tangled kids struggling to make their way through the birth canal at the same time. I'm beginning to wonder if there's something in the water or some phase of the moon that might be causing these strange in-utero alignments. We’ve been going through lots of OB gloves and lubricant as I dive in to find baby heads and limbs. The trick of trying to extricate two kids stuck in the birth canal at the same time is making sure you have the right legs associated with the same head. So far, we have been successful at delivering all of these babies without endangering them or their mothers. Even Alison, one of our cheese makers, has had her hand in (literally) delivering a couple of challenging births.
With babies comes milk, and this week, we have started making our first batches of chevre, Angel Food and even some Huckleberry Blue. So, this Saturday, March 16th, I will venture north to Chicago’s Indoor Green City Market to offer our Chicago patrons the first of the season chevre along with some delicious late lactation Moonglo and Huckleberry Blue. I’ll be there (Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Cannon Drive just north of Fullerton) from 8:30AM to 1PM.
Our farm open house and breakfasts start next Saturday, March 23rd, so stay posted for details about the breakfast menu and what products we’ll have for sale. Also, if you haven’t checked out our venues for our 2013 Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA (and the special farm dinner for CSA members), you should. We’re offering four pick up locations this year in Bloomington (two), Peoria, Springfield and Naperville. We’re trying to reach a goal of 100 CSA members this year, so help us get there!