News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 6/27/2011 6:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings Local Food Lovers:
Tomorrow's on-farm sales will feature lots of treats:
  • Plenty of cheese--chevre, some bloomies, some huckleberry blue and pecorino
  • Plenty of gelato--Wes and Stewart are concocting some special flavors for you to try; also we've made our first ever goat milk gelato-chocolate chip cookie sandwiches--very limited quantity, so come early if you want to try one.  They're scrumptious!
  • From our garden: bundles of beautiful baby leeks and more heirloom tomato starts (probably our last week for the starts)
  • From the fertile fields of Blue Moon Farm--hearty salad mix $6.50/lb
  • NEW this week: Pekara Bakehouse artisan breads and cookies
Come on out from 3 to 7PM!
Posted 6/23/2011 8:52pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Headline News:  A comprehensive study of foods people eat that make them gain or loose weight has concluded that cheese DOES NOT make you gain weight (stay away from potato chips, though).  This is yet another validation that cheese is GOOD for you! We're here to help you stay healthy with a lovely array of goat and sheep milk cheeses. 
This Saturday, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park.
Here's what we plan to have available:
  • Lots of lemony fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
  • Sheep milk feta--the first of the hothouse tomatoes are making their debuts at various farmers' markets around Illinois, so what better way to enjoy them than with crumbled tangy-salty feta cheese.
  • Angel Food--the gooeyness returns
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--how about warming it in the oven and serving it on a bed of local mixed salad greens
  • Black Sheep--our new and improved version of black sheep is a bit younger than before, but oh so creamy in the mouth
  • Ewe Bloom--think Robiola but with sheep milk
  • Red Dawn--the smoked paprika on the rind will remind you of bacon
  • Huckleberry Blue-our spring milk version--it's got a nice blue bite but the body of the cheese is filled with notes of the grape jam-cassis spirits rub it's been bathed in
  • Mollisol Pecorino--a raw sheep milk pecorino romano swabbed in black currant-olive oil paste, aged for one year. It has a wonderful nutty flavor and works great as a grating cheese.
Wes has been slaving in front of the gelato batch freezer to offer our Urbana Farmers' Market goers a nice selection of our goat milk gelato. Here's what he'll be bringing to the market:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Nocciola di Piemonte (hazelnut)
  • Pistacchio Siciliano
  • Local strawberry
  • Strawberry-rhubarb sorbetto
If you can't make it to the farmers' markets this Saturday, don't despair. Our on-farm "open house" is growing with products and guest vendors.  This coming Tuesday, June 28th from 3 to 7PM, expect lots more cheese and gelato of course, a few offerings from our organic vegetable garden, veggies from Blue Moon Farm AND artisan breads and cookies from Pekara Bakehouse.  Pretty soon, you'll be able to craft an elaborate meal from the wonderful local foods we'll have on offer at our farm. 
soltice moon
We have another farm dinner this Saturday--Summer Beer and Cheese Fest. The weather should be very pleasant (if not a bit cool), so we'll be dining outside.  The menu will be posted on our website some time tomorrow for those of you who would like to know what we're serving with the Blind Pig Brewery's outstanding microbrews.  To view the menu, go to www.prairiefruits.com and click on "Dinners on the Farm." Then, go to "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" (NOTE, this dinner is sold out) and click on the June 25th Summer Beer and Cheese dinner for details. Summer is officially here, as this outrageous soltice moonrise suggests.

Posted 6/20/2011 8:49pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greatings Local Food Lovers:
Tomorrow's on farm sales will be filled with lots of great FOOD:
  • our very own organic beets
  • lots of wonderful cheese of course--in case you missed the Urbana Farmers' Market this Saturday or we ran out of your favorite cheese--buy some beets, roast them, and then sprinkle some chevre on top--hard to beat (no pun intended)
  • Goat milk gelato: chocolate, hazelnut, strawberry, rhubarb and vanilla--both single servings and pints to take home (or eat here while you visit with the goats)
But wait, there's more.....
  • Blue Moon Farm Salad Mix! Yeah!!!
AND, Rachel, our horticulturist, has potted up some gorgeous heirloom tomato plants for you to plant in your own gardens or in containers.  She has 20 different varieties from which to choose. If you've procrastinated about growing your own tomatoes, now is your chance.
Come on out to the farm from 3-7PM. The goats will be here, will you??
Posted 6/17/2011 9:07am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
It's the time of year that the poultry arrive for our farm dinners. Two weeks ago, our "freedom ranger" meat chickens arrived as day old chicks. They are sturdy, fat-legged chickens that LOVE to forage. Even as day-old chicks you can see it in their anatomy.  They are designed to eat pasture and bugs.  We have them in our kid barn and they are already developing their adult plummage.  Wednesday morning of this week, our Muscovy ducklings arrived at the Post Office. We are raising them for the "100 Yard Dinner." 
ducklings
They're SO different than chickens. Apart from the obvious anatomical indicators: nail-polish pink bills and delicate webbed feet (with toe nails for tree climbing apparently), their first instinct after being liberated from their transportation box, was to jump in the water container we had provided for them to DRINK!  Muscovy ducks are supposed to be more of a land-loving duck, but clearly it is hard to take the water out of the duck.  They're also known for their prolific insect (flies especially) eating, so we're excited to get them big enough to roam outside in the pastures and close to the goat barn. 
This is also the time of year that we make decisions about which doe kids to keep and which ones to sell.  It is bittersweet because, inevitably, everyone involved in caring for them has his or her favorites.  Nat, one of our new cheesemakers, fell in love with one particularly charismatic doeling he nick-named "black goat."  She is the twin daughter of Velvet, and we decided to keep her twin sister but sell "black goat" to a wonderful young couple who are starting their own goat dairy and farmstead goat creamery in Door County Wisconsin.
Nat with Black Goat
There were lots of hugs and kisses before her departure, but we know she is helping to start another wonderful herd in our neighboring state to the North. We feel honored that some of our does will now populate that the state that has the highest number of goat dairies in the US. 
On to the markets, and cheese in particular.  Many of you have been waiting for the arrival of some of our longer aged, hard cheeses.  I am pleased to announce that both Huckleberry Blue (Spring Variation) and Molllisol Pecorino Romano will be at the farmers' markets this Saturday. The Huckleberry Blue is made with spring milk and has an intense piquant blue flavor. The blue veining on this cheese is much more prolific than our late lactation version.  You can still taste the hints of grape jam and cheese nuttiness in the body of the cheese.  The Mollisol Pecorino was made a year ago with Plank Farm raw sheep milk. It has a somewhat sweet-nutty taste accentuated with that wonderful fatty acid finish. The texture is nice and firm, great for grating over a summer pasta dish. 
We are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday--Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. The weather forecast is chance of showers, but just bring an umbrella, and you'll be able to shop to your heart's content.  In addition to the blue and pecorino, we'll have:
  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • Fresh sheep milk ricotta--wonderful texture--crumble it on that same pasta dish you're going to make with the pecorino
  • Sheep milk feta--it's saltiness can be asset when pairing with food--you won't need to add more salt!
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--these camembert-style rounds are just beginning to ripen, so you can either eat them now, or let them sit in your frig for a few days to get more gooey.
  • Angel Food--our goat milk brie--this batch is also a bit firmer than our usual oozy style, but just let them warm to room temp, and the taste is wonderful
  • Ewe Bloom-delicate rind and intense creamy texture-yum
  • Black Sheep--the soft-ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind
  • NEW!!! and exclusive to the farmers' markets: Baby Ewe Bloom (aka "baby bloom") and Baby Black Sheep--we decided to conduct a little 'experiment' with size--small rounds of both styles of cheese and these little delicate morsels are perfectly ripe after only eight days. Try one!
GELATO: Wes and Stewart have been busy spinning their creamy goat milk gelato. This week at the Urbana Farmers' Market, we will have:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Essence of Chocolate Mint
  • Hazelnut
  • Local Strawberry
  • Local Cherry
Come early for the best selections. 
If you miss us at the markets, you can come out to the farm on Tuesday afternoons from 3-7PM.  I'll let you know what we expect to have at the farm early next week.  EAT LOCAL, BE HAPPY!
Posted 6/14/2011 11:09am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I'll be brief. Today, June 14th from 3 to 7PM, come on out to the farm to buy some cheese and gelato and farm fresh eggs. We will also have some beautiful breakfast radishes picked this morning from our garden.  The weather is PERFECT for a farm outing--make it a Prairie Fruits Farm afternoon!
thanks and see you here
Posted 6/10/2011 7:27am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
FARM NEWS
The old adage "make hay when the sun shines" is difficult to realize in the now humid tropics of central Illinois.  In an ideal situation, you cut hay when the weather forecasts at least three to four days of sunny dry weather.  For the uninitiated, there are several critical steps to making hay that goats will eat: first you cut it--this involves a special piece of equipment that essentially mowes down the stand of alfalfa (in our case, it's a mixture of mostly alfalfa and some grass). Then you rake it into windrows--this step usually occurs on day two.  Sometimes you rake it twice to fluff up the cut alfalfa to speed up the drying.  If the drying is sufficient, you can bale it on day three. This involves another special piece of equipment called a baler. Ours is very old and idiosyncratic and subject to frequent break-downs. When baling, it is critical to not crimp down on the hay too much; otherwise the hay becomes brittle and the leaves separate from the stems.  Goats love leaves; they don't like stems. If your leaves fall off, you'll be left with stemmy hay to which they turn up their noses. The other old adage that goats will eat anything is false!
This past week's exceedingly hot and steamy weather made making hay a challenge, especially with the first cutting of alfalfa. It takes longer to dry, leaving it vulnerable to sitting in the field when those intense rain storms come along. We were able to get some of it out of the field, but in the end, the baler broke down one too many times and the rains came at inappropriate times. We had to mulch a good part of the hay right in the field where it lay.  It is not a total loss as the nutrients from the cut hay will replenish the soil and help grow the alfalfa for the second cutting. The second cutting has more leaves than stem anyway, making it more attractive to goats. 

MARKET NEWS
Our on-farm sales on Tuesday afternoon were a huge success--ok I eggagerate a bit. For those who ventured out, they had a full selection of cheeses, gelato and our very own eggs to buy.  They also spent quality time with the baby (well, they are entering into pre-teen age) goats.  This coming Tuesday's farm sale should be even better.  Of course we'll be offering tastings of gelato and cheese, single-servings of gelato and more of our farm-fresh eggs. We're working on a surprise gelato confection to unveil on Tuesday as well, so if you like surprise sweets, you'll have to come out. We may also have Pekara Bakery here selling their wonderful breads and pastries.  I'll send an update on Monday to let folks know what we will have--remember it's 3-7PM on Tuesdays.
FARMERS' MARKETS THIS WEEK
We're attending three markets this Saturday: Bloomington, Urbana and Oak Park.  Expect the following cheeses for sale:
  • Fresh chevre
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Angel Food
  • Smokin' Angel Food (apple-wood smoked by the kind folks at Black Dog Smoke and Ale House in Urbana)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Smokin' Ewe Bloom (we had to try it, right??)
  • Krotovina
  • Red Dawn
  • Maybe: Huckleberry Blue--our raw milk goat's milk blue made with spring milk. It's a bit more piquant than our end of the season version, but still a wonderful nutty blue.
Wes' gelato flavors at the Urbana Farmers' Market are:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (Nocciola)
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Local Strawberry (made with some of our very own organic strawberries)
We'll have single servings as well as pints for sale. 

We have another farm dinner this Saturday--"The Pampas Meets the Prairie" It's an Argentine carnivore's delight. The menu will be posted on our website later today. For our grill's sake, pray for NO RAIN on Saturday.

Posted 6/6/2011 6:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, it's hot. Yes, you'd rather be sitting in an air conditioned room and lying very still. Just think, INSTEAD, you could be savoring some cold goat milk gelato, buying some mouth-watering Prairie Fruits Farm cheese, taking home some of our own pastured-hen eggs and of course, enjoying those baby goats.  This can all be your experience tomorrow--Tuesday, June 7th--from 3-7PM. See you here!
Posted 6/3/2011 11:16am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

FARM NEWS
We've been fighting a thistle problem in our cane berry patch for several years now. Each year, we've been pulling, hoeing, mulching and mowing to no avail.  In fact, the labor that we've expended in trying to keep the Canada thistle from taking over our berries has resulted in a near complete coverage of thistle over the blackberries and raspberries. So, we've decided to bring in the big guns, our "secret" weapon so to speak: our beautiful bucks.

Mocha chowing on thistle
Here's Mocha, one of our La Mancha bucks, snacking on some succulent thistle flower buds.

bucks in weed heaven

The rest of the "boys" take stock of their new "salad bar" including thistle and sadly the remaining cane berries: blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries and marion berries.  Goats love Canada thiste (and the cane berries), and we waited until the thistle was just starting to head out (apparently this is when it is most vulnerable) to let the boys have at it. We fenced off the area and topped it with a nice strand of hot wire (the vegetable garden is just to their east, and we don't want them to wander away from their job at hand to munch on veggies).  Their excitement with their new-found food heaven is obvious--lots of tail wagging and snorting going on inside their new paddock.  We'll keep you posted on the success of noxious weed eradication by goat program.

FARMERS' MARKET NEWS
This Saturday, June 4th, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Chicago's Green City Market. 
We've got lots of really nice tasting cheeses for you this week:

  • Fresh chevre--the usual suspects (plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper)
  • Angel Food--goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert style
  • Krotovina-the best of two milks (goat & sheep) separated by a layer of ash
  • Ewe Bloom-soft ripenend sheep milk deliciousness
  • Black Sheep--ash dusted soft ripened sheep milk
  • Red Dawn--smoked paprika dusted disc of soft-ripened goat

Our friends at Black Dog Smoke and Ale House in Urbana have been experimenting with smoking some of our Angel Food and Ewe Bloom, so these might make an appearance at the markets as well. 

Wes will be bringing more of his creamy goat milk gelato this Saturday to the Urbana Farmers' Market. Flavors include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Honey-Chevre
  • Local Strawberry-Cream
  • Nocciola (Hazelnut)
  • Coconut

REMINDER: WE'VE STARTED OUR TUESDAY ON FARM SALES. COME OUT ON TUESDAY AFTERNOONS FROM 3PM TO 7PM. WE'LL HAVE SINGLE SERVINGS OF GELATO AS WELL AS PINTS FOR YOU TO BUY. WE'LL ALSO HAVE CHEESE. WE MAY EVEN HAVE SOME OTHER FARMERS WITH THEIR PRODUCTS AS WELL. COME VISIT THE FARM, SEE THE GOATS, ENJOY SOME COOL GELATO ON A HOT SUMMER DAY. WHAT COULD BE BETTER??

Posted 5/26/2011 8:54pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Borrowing from an old adage, if you can't bring the goats to their forage, then bring the forage to the goats. Well, this week's turbulent and soggy weather has prevented the goats from going out to forage in their pasture, so we decided to get creative.  We have a plethora of honey locust, honey suckle and other woody browse at the edge of the creek near our property, so we went down there with loppers in hand and cut a whole bunch of branches for the girls.  There's nothing more joyful than the sound of goat lips ripping leaves off branches and munching them with gusto.  It was a bit of a parana style feeding frenzy, but we cut plenty to ensure even the less aggressive does got their share of locust leaves.  Honey locust is a woody legume and grows prolifically along our riparian zone (some might say it's borderline invasive).  Legumes make their own protein (like alfalfa), so it's a great nutritious food for them. Woody browse also contains anti-oxidants and compounds that help goats fight off intestinal parasites, so that is an added benefit.  My very first encounter with goats was in Costa Rica in the mid 1980's.  I was living in a place that had an experiment of feeding goats woody legumes that they would coppice (cut the tops of the trees off and then new branches would sprout). I remember those goats would strip the leaves off those branches with elegant nimbleness and skill. Who knew that many years later I would have my own herd of goats and marvel again at those agile lips of theirs.
We also got some over-ripe bananas from the Common Ground Coop today and gave them all a little treat on the milk stand. We'll see if this added diversity in their diet translates to better or more interesting tasting cheese--you can be the judge.
This week, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park. WE'LL HAVE BOTH CHEESE AND GELATO AT THE URBANA AND BLOOMINGTON FARMERS' MARKETS, SO COME PREPARED. It is Memorial Day Weekend, a time usually spent eating outdoors with friends and family, so what better way to celebrate than to include some Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses AND gelato on your table. 
Cheeses include:
Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
Angel Food--our goat milk brie
Ewe Bloom--nice and soft-ripened sheep milk cheese
Krotovina--the lovely little pyramid that is half sheep, half goat with an ash layer separating the two milks
Fresh sheep milk ricotta--perfect for a pasta dish or just drizzle some honey on it
Sheep milk feta--great on a salad or make some spanikopita if you're really ambitious
Wes has made plenty of goat milk gelato this week, and the weather is calling for heat--perfect gelato eating weather indeed. He has made:
  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Nocciola (hazelnut)
  • Coconut with or without shredded coconut
  • Small amount of persimon using frozen persimon puree from John and Connie Caveny (Caveny Farm in Monticello)
Coming Soon!! local strawberry, rhubarb, strawberry-rhubarb and lemon gelato

We have our first of the season farm dinner this Saturday, May 28th starting at 4PM. Alisa has already been busy in the kitchen preparing the dishes. The dinner is sold out; however you can check out the menu on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm," then click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations," and finally click on the May 28th Celebration of Spring dinner for details. If you scroll down, you'll see the menu.  The weather is too unpredicable to say whether or not we'll be dining inside or out, so we'll make the call on Saturday. 
NEWS FLASH      NEWS FLASH     NEWS FLASH     NEWS FLASH
PRAIRIE FRUITS FARM WILL BE STARTING MID-WEEK ON-FARM SALES OF GELATO AND CHEESE THIS COMING TUESDAY, MAY 31ST.  OUR HOURS WILL BE 3-7PM.  COME VISIT US, SAMPLE AND BUY SOME CHEESE AND GELATO AND YOU CAN EVEN SEE THE GOATS. THIS WILL BE A REGULARLY SCHEDULED SALE DAY AT THE FARM (TUESDAYS FROM 3-7PM) UNLESS NOTIFIED OTHERWISE.  WE HOPE TO SEE YOU HERE!



 
Posted 5/20/2011 8:55am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This week epitomizes a study in contrasts: the realities of getting older and the birth of beautiful spring greens.  I realize I am indulging your willingness to hear yet another tale of death and birth, but I feel compelled to acknowledge the passing of one of our first three does--Snickerdoodle (we called her "Snicky").  We got her along with her sister, Chocolate, and Queen back in June of 2004--an experiment in goat husbandry that turned into our current goat dairy and farmstead creamery of 70+ milking goats.
Snickerdoodle
She was eight years old and died suddenly last friday (it turned out she contracted acute pneumonia probably resulting from the stress of the drastic swings in temperature last week). She was a beautiful black doe with doberman markings. She produced lots of beautiful babies, so her legacy continues in our herd. She was loving and unassuming, and accepted her fate as a member of a commercial dairy herd. Nonetheless, I will never forget the look she would give me shortly after we expanded our herd from THREE to 25 in the summer of 2005 just prior to opening our dairy for business.  It was a look of "What have you done to me??!!" "Things were so wonderful with just us three does!" She would give me this look when I would come into the old barn, once a spacious dwelling for three and then suddenly crowded with new goats.
So, what is the take home message of this recent slue of older goats getting sick and dying? We now have a population of "geriatric goats" according to our vet.  Like older people, they are more fragile than their younger milker compatriots. They're more susceptible to changes in the environment, swings in the weather, and they loose stature in the goat hierarchy meaning more competition at the hay manger.  So, we have created a "retirement" community if you will for some of our older does. It's a sort of "assisted living" area inside the barn.  They have more feeding space (less competition) and we will be giving them special treats to keep them happy.  We'll also be able to keep a closer watch on them if environmental stresses come into play. 
Onto the birth part of my musings.  The garden has EXPLODED into a sea of greens:
herb garden
The newly designed herb garden--thanks to Rachel and Ben (and the volunteers who helped remove the old gravel!!)
broccoli rabe bed
a bed of broccoli rabe and peas--let's hope temperatures stay warm so we have food for the first farm dinner!
blue and yellow irises
These irises came from my great Aunt Lena's front yard in Boston MA many years ago.
The tomatoes went into the ground this week, the early season crops that Rachel has been protecting with roe cover were unveiled this week to reveal a riot of green leaves (see that broccoli rabe!).  We're about two weeks behind last year if we use our strawberries as a harbinger of spring crops--we've got flowers but no fruit yet.  It is finally getting warmer, and the weeds seem to sense that it is time for a growth spurt, so the crops can't be too far behind.  From our weekly scouting in the orchard, it appears we will have peaches and some pears this year and CHERRIES for the first time. We're pretty excited about the cherries. Stay posted for notices about u-pick which will likely start in mid to late June (if we have enough fruit).
On to the farmers' markets and what we will be bringing. This week (Saturday May 20th), we are attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market in Chicago. 
Cheese wise, we have a really nice selection for you this week:
  • Fresh chevre (of course)
  • Limited quantities of Little Bloom on the Prairie (come early if you want some)
  • Sorry but no Angel Food Brie this week
  • Krotovina makes it's 2011 debut--the little pyramid of half goat and half sheep separated by a thin layer of ash.
  • Ewe Bloom--it's nice and creamy
  • Red Dawn--another 2011 debut--a soft-ripened goat disc dusted with smoked paprika
  • Fresh Sheep milk ricotta
  • Sheep Milk Feta--another 2011 debut (we're full of these this week)
For Urbana Market goers, Wes will have lots of gelato on hand this week: vanilla and chocolate (limited quantities of these), a luscious organic banana, Scilian pistacchio, hazelnut and some "experimental" flavors to try and give feedback. 
Even if it's raining, just wear your raincoat and bring an umbrella. You won't regret the treats you'll take home.