The recent below freezing nights we have experienced may have done some damage to our fruit crop, but it is too early to tell. For sure, the wisteria that were blooming just a few days ago have wilted and look very sad. Wes examined the tiny peaches today, and he is not sure if we'll have a bumper crop or total crop failure--it could go either way.
On a happier note, I am marvelling at the growth spurt the kids are going through this week. It seems like just yesterday that they were born, yet many of them are approaching the five-week old mark. We started offering them grain this week, and yes, they like it. Soon, we will start weaning the oldest kids from milk. Eating grain takes the edge off the weaning process. Their boundless energy gets them into trouble too--they've been pulling the tubes off their self-feeder (the one that dispenses milk replacer to them on demand), releasing the precious (it's expensive stuff!!) fluid onto the barn floor, resulting in puddles of milk. The chickens love this feast, but poor Ben has had to clean up the resultant milk "lake" three times in less than 24 hours. We'll have to outsmart them with baffles to prevent them from pulling off the tubes or divert their attention with other goat toys.
While these kids are growing like corn in july, their mothers are cranking out the milk. Each of our milking does is producing over a gallon of milk per day! Nat, Alison and Sarah are trying to keep up with the growing volumes of milk. We made over seven batches of cheese in about 24 hours these past couple of days!!!
On the birthing front, Vivianne, one of the other does who was artificially inseminated (with some very special semen from another buck--not the same as the Millie twins), kidded this afternoon with twin bucks. They are gorgeous--both chocolate brown. You can see them this Saturday during the farm open house. They look like Nubian teddy bears.
Farm Sales and Green City Market this Saturday
Join us again this Saturday, April 14th, at the farm for our open house and on farm sales-9AM to 12 noon. Chicago residents, we'll be attending the indoor Green City Market at the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum from 8AM to 1PM. All this great cheese needs a good home and a willing gullet.
Our cheese offerings (both at the farm and at Green City market) include:
- Lots of creamy chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- A cornucopia of soft-ripened goat and sheep milk cheeses including the debut of Krotovina, Black Goat, Ewe Bloom, Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Moonglo--very few late fall wheels remain, so get it while it lasts--we won't have spring batches ready until the early summer
- Goat Milk Ricotta-first of the season and perfect for a spinach-ricotta pie or spanikopita (it's Greek Easter this weekend, so this would be the perfect way to enjoy our ricotta)
- Sheep milk feta--perfect on a salad or with some roasted beets!!
For those of you coming to the farm, our gelato offerings include:
- Hazelnut (paste from the Willamette Valley of Oregon, a stone's throw from Wes' home town of Forest Grove)
- Sicilian Pistachio
- Margot's Mint
In addition to our products, we have several other farmers who will be here: Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek Farm (probably their last weekend for ramps), Stewarts Artisan Breads and a new farmer, Phil Swartz, from Hoopston, who will be bringing spinach and lots of green garlic. Blue Moon will be at Lincoln Square this Saturday, but back at our farm next weekend.
Breakfasts--check out the menu on our facebook page
For a general description about how the breakfasts work (no reservations for example) go to our web page that describes the breakfasts and the open house in general.
Wes and Ben have been mending fences this past week. Not the metaphorical kind, but the hotwire kind, the kind that attempt to keep goats where we want them to be. Keeping them where we want them is a critical part of intensive rotational grazing-moving graziers from section (paddock) to section to control the growth of the pasture and more importantly, to prevent the goats from re-ingesting intestinal parasite eggs that get deposited on the pasture in their droppings.
It's tough business to try to tell a goat where she can or can't tread. They are the quintessential "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" kind of creature. There's always one or two who decide that the grass is TRULY greener (aka more delicious) on the other side and venture under or over the hotwire, enduring a jolt of electricity to satiate that curiosity. Once that first one takes the plunge, the rest of the herd usually follows, laying waste our attempts at rotational grazing. We decided we needed more amunition in this battle of wills and fences, so we purchased more hotwire and placed more strands between each of the pasture paddocks. We also increased the intensity of the electrical current to create a strong "disincentive" for attempts at fence breaching. I am happy to report that the new fence fortress appears to be working. The goats seem to have rediscovered their respect for the hotwire. The pasture has been growing beautifully with the weather we've had--luscious grasses, clover, forage alfalfa and chicory. They're even happy to eat the prolific dandelions. They get what they want, we get what we want. Everybody's happy.
Saturday Open House, Breakfasts, On Farm Sales
Once again, we're opening our doors on Saturday, April 7th from 9AM to 12 noon to come visit the farm, see the goats, eat some breakfast and buy some local food goodies to adorn your spring holiday tables. NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. We have lots of places for you to park (and two very skilled parking people) and lots of places for you to sit and enjoy your breakfast. This week's menu includes:
- Stewart's Bagel Sandwich with fried "Little Farm on the Prairie" egg, sauteed kale, jalepeno Chevre
- Claybank Farms asparagus and Triple S Farms bacon Quiche with Mouton Frais
- Vanilla yogurt parfait with crunchy granola, fruit
- Potato and Onion Knish with whole grain mustard
- Black Currant and Pecan muffins
- Dried Cherry and oatmeal cookies
- Fair Trade Coffee roasted by Columbia Street Roastery
- Goat milk Hot Chocolate
- Ice tea
We also offer a short stack of pancakes and Kilgus milk for children.
For those of our customers observing Passover, we will have limited portions of a crustless quiche without bacon. Please tell Nat or anyone taking your order that you would like the crustless quiche (we aren't making a lot of these, so come early if you want to make sure you get some).
We have a lovely selection of cheeses to adorn your holiday tables:
- Lots of fresh chevre-what better way to celebrate spring!
- Angel Food-our goat's milk brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat's milk camembert
- Ewe Bloom--creamy soft ripened sheep milk, it's yummy
- Black Goat-a little mold ripened cheese dusted with vegetable ash--it's dry but creamy (how's that for a paradox)
- Krotovina--our little truncated pyramid soft-ripened cheese that has a layer of goat curd, a layer of sheep curd, both separated by a thin veneer of vegetable ash
- Moonglo-our raw milk tomme style cheese--great flavors of tang and nuttiness.
- Margo's Mint
- Honey Chevre
We have pints of all of these flavors and a limited selection for single servings. Stock up on pints for holiday dessert tables.
Our farmer friends including Blue Moon Farm, Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek Farm (spring ramps) and Stewart's Artisan Breads (bagels, granola and biscotti) will be here as well. You can almost buy everything you need for your holiday celebrations right here at Prairie Fruits Farm. Come on out to spend a green and joyous Saturday morning with us!
Many of you have been asking when we will be posting the reservations for the remaining farm dinners. We plan to post reservations for the July and August Dates in mid May and the September through December dates in early to mid August. Stay posted for more details either through my weekly email or through our facebook page.
For those Bloomington Normal and Peoria residents who haven't already signed up, we still have spaces open for our Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA. For more details about this program, go to the section of website under Products, CSA.
In my haste to send you out the newsletter this morning, I neglected to announce another monumental occasion that occurred at about 4AM this morning: the long-awaited arrival of Millie's kids. You see, Millie is one the best milkers we have produced in our herd (she was one of the first two doe kids born here back in March 2005). Last year, she was given the designation of "Exceptional Genetics" by the American Dairy Goat Association. So, we decided to purchase some very special semen, and last October, she was inseminated successfully. As her due date approached, we were watching her like a hawk: nothing, nothing, nothing, until last night, we noticed her udder swelled up like a giant watermelon in August. We were hoping for bucks (I know, we always hope for doe kids, but this time we wanted a buck out of Millie to add to our repertoire of herd sires), and sure enough, she produced. Two healthy and strong males were brought into this world early this morning without much fanfare. Both weighed close to 9 pounds! True to form, when Ben milked her out this morning she had close to a gallon of colostrum!! That's our Millie.
Yet another monumental occasion is the arrival of Wes' grand-daughter, Camille, to our farm. Just barely one year old, she was initially a bit hesitant to participate in this photo shoot with baby goats. After communing with them for awhile, she was all smiles and giggles as she clapped her hands with glee.
Yesterday, the weather conditions were perfect for our first prairie burn, so the volunteers from Grand Prairie Friends came out to set the field on fire. Led by their fearless leader, Jamie Ellis, a team of four pyro-professionals lit the dry grass stalks and got the fire started in no time. Working from the south end, they burned the two acres in about one hour. As the flames approached the center, a pheasant hen took flight to escape to safety.
Amidst the ashes, we discovered an intact deer skeleton, complete with an eight-point rack of antlers. He must have died peacefully nestled in the prairie over the winter.
In other blazing news, our prairie fire crab apple tree is in full bloom with crimson pink flowers; a fitting coincidence with our actual prairie fire.
This week's farm open house (tomorrow, Saturday, March 31st from 9AM to 12 noon) should have perfect weather for an outing to the farm. Check out our facebook page for the full breakfast menu, but the highlights will be a spring farm-egg strada and breakfast burritos. We're adding lots more chairs for you to sit while you eat, and if the weather is warm enough, we encourage you to bring blankets to sit outside and have a breakfast picnic.
Cheese-wise, we have a cornucopia of spring delights:
- Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
- Black Goat-first of the season and boy is it creamy in your mouth
- Ewe Bloom--delicate soft ripened sheep milk deliciousness
- Moonglo--the final batches from late fall 2011 milk
Gelato Flavors include:
- Luscious chocolate
- Honey Chevre
- Margo's Mint (an infusion of fresh mint from Tomahnous Farm)
Although Blue Moon Farm will not be here (they are in Lincoln Square this Saturday), Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek (aka Glaziks) Farm (ramps) and Stewart's Artisan Breads will all be here.
For those of you in Chicago, good news! We will be attending the indoor Green City Market with the same array of cheeses for you to buy!! We hope you'll venture over to the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum on Cannon Drive from 8AM to 1PM and get some cheese. Happy Spring!
It's been "May" in March these past few weeks. Our early variety peaches started blooming a few days ago, along with the quince.
As many a fruit grower knows, early blooms can be disasterous if a freeze hits. It looks like we will dodge the freeze bullet for the next several days, so maybe we'll have a bumper fruit crop this year (keep all of your body parts crossed and throw salt over your shoulder, just for good measure).
The intensity of kidding season appears to be behind us. Within the first two weeks of March, about 40 does kidded, dropping well over 100 kids. Sleep deprivation is subsiding and our trips to goat barn are less frequent. As I mentioned before, we experienced a record number of quadruplets (7 sets) and triplets (too numerous to keep track of the count).
Here are just a few of the little buggers fighting over nipples on the self feeder. You get to see them all THIS coming Saturday, March 24th as we usher in the first of the season Spring Open House-Farm Breakfast-Farm Sales. Hours are 9AM to 12 Noon. NO RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.
The breakfast menu includes:
- Stewart's Artisan Breads bagel sandwich with local farm eggs, Triple S bacon and tomato jam chevre
- Three Sisters Garden Oatmeal with Creme Fraiche and Plums
- Michigan Bluebery Scones
- Fairtrade Coffee from Columbia Street Roastery
- Mexican Goat Milk Hot Chocolate
We will be selling our cheeses:
- Lots of fresh spring milk chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
- First of the season Angel Food
- First of the season Ewe Bloom
- A few containers of our Mouton Frais (sheep milk chevre with a more rich texture and flavor profile than the goat chevre)
- Moonglo made late last fall
- Huckleberry Blue made late last fall
The Angel Food and Ewe Bloom are just ripe, but within a few days in your 'frige, they'll be perfect. Of course, if you like them nice and gooey, you can leave them to ripen a bit longer.
We'll have our Goat Milk Gelato too, in pints and single servings dipped from our fancy Italian Gelato dipping cabinet:
- Simply Vanilla
- Lilly's Luscious Chocolate
- Nocciola (Hazelnut) de Piemonte
- Sicilian Pistachio
As is our tradition, we will have a few other farmers selling their spring produce:
- Blue Moon Farm will have salad mix, spinach, arugula, kale, chard, cilantro, turnips and carrots.
- Tomahnous Farm will have Lettuce, Kale, Eggs, Cilantro, Oregano, Garlic Chives, Peppermint, Scallions
- Glazik Farm will bring some young and tender ramps (wild leeks)
- Stewart's Artisan breads will have bagels, biscotti and granola
A few logistical notes:
We are expecting a LOT of people for the first open house, and we will have a couple of folks directing parking either along our driveway or to our overflow lot on the north side of our farm. PLEASE DO NOT PARK ALONG LINCOLN AVENUE. IT IS NOT ALLOWED, and we will get in trouble. If you are handicapped or have handicapped passengers, please let the parking folks know when you arrive, so they can direct you to our handicapped parking area.
Communing with the goats
We know that the main reason you all want to come out to the farm (aside from eating breakfast) is to see the goats and their kids. When visiting with the goats, we ask that you look but don't touch them, especially the kids. Their young immune systems are not quite up to snuff yet, so they are vulnerable to stray illnesses. We also have a hand washing station for you to wash your hands after you visit with the goats.
As I mentioned, you need no reservations for breakfasts. You just place your order and pay when you arrive (you might have to stand in a line, but we'll keep it moving fast), give us your name, and we will bring out your order as soon as it's ready. We'll have coffee, hot chocolate and water for you to serve yourself.
Here's what's planned for the first breakfast:
- Stewart's Artisan bread bagel sandwich with Triple S Farms Bacon, House-made tomato jam, chevre and fresh fried egg
- Three Sister's Garden (Kankakee, IL) Oatmeal with Peach Creme Fraiche and Poached Plums
- Michigan Blueberry Scones
- Prairie Fruits Farm Carrot Muffins
- Goat Milk Hot Chocolate
- Fairtrade Coffee from Columbia Street Roastery
Items range in price from $2.50 to $8 depending on what it is.
NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. JUST COME ON OUT AND ENOY THE DAY ON THE FARM!
The old adage, "be careful what you wish for" is wise. This time of year, we pine for the arrival of baby goats. Baby goats bring fresh spring milk, and lots of milk means lots of cheese. This year's kidding season epitomizes intensity. We have had a record number of kids over the past week, bringing unique meaning to the term "March Madness"--we reached our 100th kid (a triplet doeling out of Lena) at around 4AM this morning. So far, we have had seven sets of quadruplets and lots of sets of triplets. The doelings are slightly ahead of the bucklings, but we're not done yet. As I write, Millie, one of our best milkers is going into labor.
I''l be brief. Stay tuned for more information about our first breakfast, open house on March 24th.
We have some of our cheeses available at Blue Moon Farm's sales this Saturday, March 17th from 9-11AM at Lincoln Square Mall. Here is the information about ordering from them:
We have lots of green goodness this week: salad mix, spinach, kale, chard, turnips and carrots. Salad mix is in limited supply, so if you don't see it, it's already sold out. Chard and kale are in good supply, though if you don't see kale, then it too has sold out.
Please print a copy of your confirmation form, and bring it, if you can. There will be an extras table, but we won't know what's on it until Friday. That info will be included in your reminder email.
To order, go directly too: www.bluemoonfarm.biz/products-page/
For first-time users, please visit our information page first: www.bluemoonfarm.biz/about/winter-market-how-it-works/
See you on Saturday, 9-11pm at the Lincoln Square Village.
We welcome feedback: email@example.com
Well, the full season's description of dinners is now on our website under "dinners on the farm."
To make reservations for the first five dinners, go to "Make Reservations."
For general information about how our dinners work including what to expect, cancellation policy, etc. I encourage you to read the general description page
I had hoped to get this information on the website earlier today, but five goats kidded today starting at 6:30 in the morning (Gidget kicked off the day with quadruplets!!). We're now at 16 kids and counting. The day is not over yet!!
It's hard to acknowledge that we're still in winter, but technically speaking, we are. Perhaps, we're in that transitional state of peri-winter, early spring-the time of weather's mixed emotions. Blue Moon Farm has an abundance of greens growing in their un-heated greenhouses that will be for sale this coming Saturday, March 3rd from 9-11AM inside Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana. We will have our cheeses for sale as well--the last of our frozen chevre (it's really wonderfully creamy, believe me), our sweet and slightly pungent Huckleberry Blue and the ever tangy-nutty Moonglo. As before, you'll need to pre-order through the Blue Moon Farm website. Here's a more detailed description of what Blue Moon has available and how to order. Also, please note that they are experiencing technical difficulties on with on line ordering system right now (Monday mid day), and expect to have it back on line no later than Tuesday morning (6AM).
We hope everyone enjoyed the beautiful Sunday, crocuses and all.
On Saturday, March 3rd, we'll be bringing: salad mix, spinach, kale, chard, parsley, cilantro, turnips and carrots.
There will also be cheeses from Prairie Fruits.
Again, the pickup will be from 9-11am in Lincoln Square Village. There will be a separate table of extras that were overharvested. At a little after 11am, all unsold produce will be up for grabs.
Last time there were several issues/problems that we're going to try to solve for this pickup. Apologies to everyone who did not get the produce they ordered. We will try to solve that by bringing even more extra spinach, and harvesting a few more of the ordered items and keeping them separate from the extras table. We try to be vigilant about checking everyone's order to make sure they're not getting what they didn't order, but we will try harder. People may be confused about the difference between the extras table, and the pre-ordered tables. Some people ordered on the website who then didn't appear on our list. This is confusing and the solution we're going to try is to ask everyone print out an order confirmation if you can. So far, no one who has a confirmation has not been on our list. We still don't know exactly what is going on there.
Again, thanks for bearing with us.
Here's the order link:
To all new customers, please read this info about the pickup process:
A reminder to those of you who live in the Bloomington-Normal and Peoria regions that we are offering an exciting new concept for a CSA--Bread, Cheese and Gelato. If you haven't seen the description on our website : www.prairiefruits.com (Click on the main heading "Interact"), check it out.
Website having "some work done"
I am in the process of giving our website a "face lift." Over the next few days, you'll see a new look, updated pages and great new photos. Please bear with me as I make these changes, as they will come in stages.
Farm Dinner Update: Lastly, for those of you who missed my message last week about the schedule for releasing the first set of farm dinner reservations, it will be posted on our website some time in the afternoon of Saturday, March 3rd.
Greetings! Spring is almost here despite the snow flurries outside our window today. We're gearing up for kidding season, which by the girth of the goat girls in the barn, is imminent. This Saturday, February 25th, we'll be offering a limited but very delicious array of our cheeses at the Chicago Green City Market (inside the Notebart Nature Museum), from 8AM to 1PM. Remember, cheese plates are the perfect dish to snack on while you watch the Oscars on Sunday evening (or just enjoy them whenever you like).
- Creamy chevre (plain, previously frozen, but with that wonderful late lactation milk)
- Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme: tangy and nutty, it's excellent on a slice of hearty bread with some jam
- Huckleberry Blue-our raw goat milk blue---we tasted this yesterday, and it is wonderfully sweet and slightly piquant. Excellent for slicing, shaving or crumbling, think wilted local spinach salad with toasted pecans and blue cheese!!!
For those of you anxiously awaiting the release of our Dinners on the Farm reservation seats, we will be putting the first five dinner dates on the website next Saturday, March 3rd, probably sometime in early afternoon. Remember, we will post a full description of ALL the dinners so you can decide if you want to book now or wait until later in the season. This will be listed under the heading "2012 Dinner Season at Glance."