Chicken varmits and other farm news
The saying "everybody loves chicken" is ever so true in the world of predators as well as humans. Over the past week or so, we have been battling with a skunk and now most likely a mink, and, so far, the predators are winning. Each night, between the hours of 10PM and 5AM, he or she (or they) lumbers into the goat barn and takes down one or two hens as they sleep or awaken from their slumber. We, in turn, awake to piles of feathers and a rapidly dwindling population of laying hens. We thought we had caught the culprit earlier this week--a skunk--inside a live trap. He barely looked the part of menacing killer, leaving us to believe he had accomplices. As Wes was taking him/her out to that far- away place where all predators go, the little bugger lifted his tail and exacted his revenge on Wes. Clothing was discarded immediately and placed in a bucket with tomato juice--the old wives' tale about tomato juice taking the stink out of skunkiness really does work! The other night we closed up the remaining hens in the chicken coop, only to find the plank door wide open the next morning, more dead chickens and the remaining live hens traumatized. Not only did this predator (this one we believe is the mink)'weasel' his/her way into small cracks in the chicken coop, but he/she pulled the bait out of the live trap! The audaciousness of it all! So, we have resorted to putting the remaining hens into our cat carriers at night and placing them inside our shop for protection. The lone exception is Blanche, an all-white Americana heritage breed of chicken (this is the breed that lays green eggs). She has taken to roosting on top of a fan about 30 feet off the ground in the goat barn. Blanche is a survivor and one smart poultry.
On a happier vein, the signs of summer returning to central Illinois have solidified this week at the farm. I have been watching and waiting for the return of our solitary brown bat, "Victor," and he showed up this evening roosting under the eaves of our front porch. He has migrated back to our farm every summer for the past several years. He has a particular spot that he likes to hang from under the roof, and sure enough, there he was tonight. Tonight was a perfect early summer evening. The air was still (another sign that spring has transitioned to summer out here on the windy prairie) and the fire flies started dancing as soon as the sun went down, itself a firey blaze. The resident barn swallows have completed their carefully crafted mud nests under the porch roof and have begun to lay eggs. We tolerate their less than ideal housekeeping manners, because their appetites for insect pests are voracious.
This weekend, we're attending four, yes FOUR, farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Springfield on Saturday, June 9th AND we're debuting at Chicago's Logan Square Market on Sunday (10AM to 2PM). This will be a first for us, and our cheese makers are busy organizing coolers full of cheese to send to each of the markets. We are very excited about being at Logan Square: our cheese monger, Patrick, will be there to greet our new customers. We've got a great line up of cheeses for everyone:
- Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
- Sheep milk feta
- Bloomy rind cheeses including: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and Krotovina (Ewe Bloom and Black sheep are on vacation this week)
- Roxanne--raw sheep milk brebis (semi hard)--great for melting on a burger or just slicing and eating
- Huckleberry Blue-our creamy, sweet and piquant goat milk blue
- Caprino Romano--one year old, raw goat milk grating style cheese
For our Urbana Market Goers, Stewart has been going crazy with gelato flavors this week:
- Margot's Mint
- Honey Lavender
- Honey Chevre
- Strawberry Sorbetto
- Rhubarb Sorbetto
The weather should be good and hot for gelato eating, so NO excuses--buy a couple of pints to take home or just share with friends at the farmers' market
CSA and On Farm Sales NEWS
For those of you in the Bloomington-Normal and Peoria areas, we have re-opened our Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA signup for those who might have missed the earlier announcements. We will leave it open on our website until tomorrow (FRIDAY, June 8th at 7PM). This is your final chance to stay well stocked in our cheeses, gelato and fantastic artisan breads from Katic Breads.
For those of you wanting to come out to the farm, we'll be resuming our summer open-house on farm sales starting Wednesday, June 13th from 4 to 6PM. I will be sending out a notice about the open house early next week.