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The farm at night, Market offerings, Farm happenings

Posted 8/30/2018 7:55pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

This past Tuesday, as the skies darkened on the farm, our second annual “Night of the Living Farm” was underway.  The entomologists were giving their presentation, replete with dramatic photos of some of the nocturnal insects we might encounter. Under early evening darkness, flash lights in hand, many using their phones’ flashlight apps, the sizable group (almost 30) splintered off into smaller packs, entomologists at the lead. 

The group I followed started in the Delight Flower Farm garden, hoping to find some diurnal insects sleeping (we did find a lovely sulfur colored butterfly in complete stupor, barely hanging on to a blade of grass) or even better, some of the critters who come to life when the sun goes down. The first sightings were mostly insect pests—prolific cucumber beetles nibbled on zinnia petals.

Having scouted some orb spiders in the Delight Farm greenhouse earlier in the week, we knew we could count on some arachnid action there. As predicted, the female spider was busy rolling up insect prey, a litter of monarch butterfly wings below her web. 

The group continued on toward the vegetable garden. The tomato plants yielded many tobacco horn worm caterpillars, hanging upside down, feet clinging to the branch. They had been paralyzed earlier by a parasitic wasp who had laid her eggs in the unsuspecting pest.  The white peaks that hung from the caterpillar corpse were the pupae of the next generation of wasps; a black light revealed that the pupae fluoresced! The okra leaves showed off a formidable predator-a very large male praying mantis, not native, of course.

We meandered across the driveway, shining our lights on the tree trunks in our savanna, hoping to spot some beetles or showy moths.  On the trunk of a black walnut, we spotted a smaller and dappled native praying mantis, perfectly camouflaged to mimic the tree bark.  The white sheet with a black light set up on our porch flapped in the brisk wind, preventing any attracted insects from landing. 

As we headed toward the orchard, the large yellow waning moon rose up above the eastward horizon. The size of the group following the scientists diminished, but the crowd’s enthusiasm swelled, as we stumbled into some cool creatures.  We began to encounter more and more spider webs, some anchored by trees spanning over 20 feet.  The entomologists marveled at the architectural feats of the spiders.  Many had built their webs in parallel plains, some within the orchard canopy, others straddling the orchard rows.  Some spiders were actively hunting; others hurriedly repaired tears in their webs, especially those caused by the entomologists.  We witnessed a battle between two predators-an orb spider and a katydid.  The katydid tried to grab the spider with her mandibles, but the spider spun a web around the katydid, wrapping her up like a neat little gift.

We spotted the illusive bolus spider in one of the apple trees.  This spider has a minimalist web; instead, he/she makes a sticky ball that it hurls at its prey to snare them.  There were alien-like caterpillars with spiky bristles along their backs and three fluorescent dots to add a touch of flare (and probably predator deterrence).  The tell-tale signs of our every-day orchard pests, plum curculio and oriental fruit moth, were evident on the many misshapen fruit and pock marked leaves. 

The most astounding revelation of the evening was the sheer number of spiders on our farm.  Shining our lights along the orchard aisles, it became clear that we had a virtual LA freeway full of spiders clogging the open spaces between the trees.  They say that abundance of predators is a sign of a healthy ecosystem.  Our farm’s cup is brimming over with health—arachnophobes beware, arachnophiles rejoice!  

Text Message Customer Loyalty Program: This week’s text club special relates to several cheese specials. To get the message with the special info, you’ll need to sign up: text either “GOAT” or “URBANA” or “FARMSTORE” to 30500 to sign up. 

Farmers’ Market Offerings 

The weather should be perfect for market goers to patronize the market and stock up on so much local food goodness right now.  We have several cheese specials this week, including oozy-gooey black goat—last chance, “big-hugs black goat,” blushing goat and pesto-rubbed Moonglo. Here’s the cheese line up for Saturday:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Goat Milk Feta: watermelon, heirloom tomatoes—they’re begging for a salty, tangy crumbled feta to adorn them. Our feta is aged in whey brine for 1-2 months; it’s tangy, crumbly and perfect for summer salads. We have a tomato-watermelon-feta recipe on our website.
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: This batch is modestly ripe, with a slightly gooey edge along the rind.  Flavor is buttery, milky and slightly mushroomy.
  • Angel Food: our little “mini-brie” or crottin style bloomy rind; this batch of Angel Food is aging nicely, with hints of cream and mushroom.  It could be sliced into rounds, lightly breaded and pan-fried for topping a bed of fresh greens.
  • Black Goat: an ash-coated bloomy with a delicate and crinkly yeasty rind. This batch is ripe, and I mean gooey in a funky but delicious way.  Slice up some nice crusty bread, grab your favorite hard salami and get ready to slather on the black goat.  It’s essentially a ‘no cook’ fondue or cheese dip. The special is: buy 1; get 2nd FREE.
  • Big Hugs Black Goat: our collaboration with Half Acre Brewery, Chicago. This black goat has “big hugs” coffee stout beer infused in the curd. It’s perfectly ripe this week, with a lovely hoppy beer flavor in the finish. It’s pretty fantastic and it’s perfectly ripe this week. 
  • Blushing Goat: our take on a washed rind cheese—these little rounds are washed with a kombucha beer for one month.  These blushing pink-orange beauties have a dense fudgy paste with a rich umami flavor. This cheese just keeps getting better and better with age. If you haven’t tried it, ask for a taste. It’s a stunning addition to any cheese board.

  • Moonglo:  Our first spring milk batches of this raw milk tomme (sort of like a Gouda, but not really) are making their debut at the market and in the farm store. The spring milk produces a lighter, tangy paste with hints of pineapple. The texture of the cheese is a bit more firm than fall milk batches. I’ve got a Sweet-Corn-Moonglo “Queso” recipe posted on our website, so take a look.
  • Applewood Smoked Moonglo: our friends at Urbana’s Black Dog Smoke and Ale House cold-smoked our Moonglo cheese over Applewood chips; the result is a lovely smoky version of our Moonglo. Like our regular Moonglo, it makes a killer grilled cheese (that’s what Black Dog is doing with it at their Urbana location). You could also use it in the “Hot Queso” recipe.  LIMITED OFFERING THIS WEEK.
  • Pesto Rubbed Moonglo: fall-milk Moonglo wedges with top & bottom rinds removed and slathered with a house-made pesto (our own basil, Voss pecans, olive oil and local garlic).  It looks as beautiful as it tastes. Try it on toasted baguette rounds or with roasted potato wedges.  LIMITED OFFERING
  • Huckleberry Blue: our limited late fall goats’ milk blue cheese—it’s a gateway to blue cheeses; creamy texture, not overly blue-veined (or sharp in a blue way). This cheese is great crumbled on a salad, sliced and warmed on a steak or burger OR served on baguette with a fig jam or walnut balsamic vinegar reduction (this is an amazing combination). We’re down to a few wheels, and once it’s gone, we won’t have any again until next year.

Gelato: We’ve been making lots of gelato and fruit-based sorbettos with all the great local ingredients we have available at this time. I encourage you to bring a cooler with ice packs to the market to keep your gelato in tip top shape as you travel from the market to your home.

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Buttered Pecan (made with Voss Orchard Pecans, Carlyle IL)
  • Fresh Mint
  • Peaches & Cream (made with our very own peaches from the PFFC orchard)
  • Nectarine Sorbetto (with nectarines from Mileur Orchard)
  • Honey-Vanilla-Chevre (made with local  honey)
  • Ginger-White Peach Sorbetto (made with our Belle of Georgia white peaches)

If you don’t know already: we have a new spot at the farmers’ market--Urbana Market at the Square. We are in spot #20 on the south-west (along Illinois Street) end of the market. We are right next to Moore Family Farm.

Farm Store Summer Hours

Starting this Saturday, September 1st, we will be shortening our open hours.  We will be open Fridays, 4-7 pm and Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm. Come see the farm as summer fades into fall.  On Fridays, come out after work to unwind. During our open hours, you can savor a scoop of gelato or “build your own” cheese boards—pick out your cheeses, add a stick of salami (Underground Meats) or a jar of jam from Autumn Berry Inspired or pickled veggies, grab some Central IL Bake-house baguette bread and we’ll provide the board. You can sit outside under our new pavilion roof and enjoy a glass of wine or beer with cheese! Want to go the total sweet route? How about a root-beer float with a scoop of our gelato?

Need to de-stress? Come visit with the goats. They love to be petted, even in the warm weather.  Shop in our farm store: “The Real Stand.” We’ve got pasture-raised meats and poultry from Bane Family Meats, frozen artisan sausages from Piemonte Sausage Co., pickled veggies and pesto by Sarah (our former gelato maker), locally-grown and milled flours by The Mill at Janie’s Farm and much more. 

NEW IN THE STORE:  PFFC goat meat—we have one pound packages of stew meat, goat loin or rib chops (4 to a package) and leg shanks (2 to a package). Pasture raised, very lean and mild, try the meat that most of the rest of the world enjoys regularly. 

U-PICK: U-picking is suspended until further notice.  We might have apples and maybe pears for u-pick in September. Peaches were just not that plentiful this year. We are also planning another “Cider Days” event, so stay tuned for details. 

Farm Dinners:

Fall season is not far away, and the September and October farm dinners are filling up fast.  I encourage you to book your tickets now. The menu is now posted for our September 1st Farmer Block Party Fete—check it out! Five seats are still available.

We have two versions of our 100 Yard Dinner this year: a progressive meal around the farm on Sept. 15th and “ploughman’s feast” style meal  October 13th; menus forthcoming.  We have added a beer dinner with Half Acre Brewery for Saturday, October 6th. We’ll likely be serving some beer-cheese collaborations, so you won’t want to miss this one if you love micro-brews.

Upcoming Farm or Farm-Related Events

Matsuri Festival, Sunday September 9th, 2-9pm

Once again, we will be slinging (well, serving nicely) Japanese inspired flavors of gelato and sorbetto at the Japan House Matsuri Festival: matcha, black sesame, Thai basil and ginger-white peach sorbetto.  We are sharing a tent with Pizza M. For those of you who miss Pizza M, Matt has been making our gelato all summer. Grab a slice of pizza and a scoop of gelato.  Enjoy the festivities as Japan House celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Marche-Glen Ellyn bus trip to Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery-Sunday, Sept. 23rd, all day trip For those you who live in the greater Chicagoland Area, and have been looking for an excuse to come visit us, and enjoy a locally-sourced lunch at the farm (as well as a guided tour), your ship (or bus) has come in. The amazing little cheese shop (gourmet foods too) in Glen Ellyn called Marche is offering an all-inclusive bus trip to our farm. Check out the details on their website: https://www.marche496.com/shop/marche-classes/sunday-september-23rd-farm-to-table-lunch-and-tour-at-prairie-fruits-farm/

CU Symphony Orchestra to perform special “environmental” pieces on our farm on Sunday September 23rd, 2-4 pm.

Visit Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery for a free gelato social and concert from 2:00 to 4:00 pm on Sunday, September 23 to celebrate Mother Earth's summer harvest! This tribute to our planet will feature musicians from the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra performing several earth-themed chamber works by CUSO Composer-in-Residence Stacy Garrop. PFFC owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband will bring us the latest news about their sustainability efforts on the farm.

Take a tour of the farm, visit the goats, and participate in our "Messages to Gaia" community art project--where you can draw pictures, write poetry or simply share your thoughts about our planet. Come enjoy! This free gelato social is sponsored by CUSO, New Music USA, and Prairie Fruit Farms & Creamery.   

Copyright 2018. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2018. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.