News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 10/26/2010 1:56pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you who live in the Chicago area and love great food and a great cause, we have the perfect event for you.  We are partnering up with Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park on Tuesday, November 16th for a very special "Cheese Maker's Dinner."  Chef Leonard Hollander will be preparing a five course meal featuring many of the foods we raise here on the farm as well as our cheeses. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for our fight against the Olympian Drive road project. As many of you are aware, we and our farmer neighbors have been trying to provide alternatives to a proposed road that would come within yards of our farm and bisect our neighbors' farms.  We hope you'll come to feed your soul and your concience. For more information about the event and how to make reservations, please take a look at this flyer:
http://sfc.smallfarmcentral.com/dynamic_content/uploadfiles/167/pff%20cheesemaker%20dinner_call%20to%20action_102020101.pdf
Posted 10/22/2010 7:52am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This is the time of year we begin peeling off outdoor farmers' markets. This week, it's Bloomington--we will be there this Saturday, but not their final outdoor market on October 30th. The following week, it will be Oak Park and Green City Market in Chicago. Then, November 6th will be Urbana's last outdoor market. No worries for Champaign-Urbana and Chicago shoppers, however; we will be moving indoors to complete the farmers' market season in a more comfortable environment right up to the 18th of DECEMBER. 
Most people associate fall as a time of year when frosts kill crops and farmers put their vegetable beds to "bed" for the winter with mulch or cover crops.  However, the irony is that there is an abundance of foods still to be had for the avid local food shopper for most of the fall.  The cool season greens are growing with abandon (at least they are on our farm-we have a mini kale forest going on in one of our garden beds); there are winter squashes of many colors and sizes; potatoes, carrots, turnips, salad greens.... I could go on and on with vegetables alone. But not only that, there are still plenty of locally raised meats and poultry, eggs and of course cheese. Let's not forget cheese.
While we are a seasonal dairy (the goats will be dry in January and February), we still have plenty of milk to continue making most of our cheeses into early to mid December. I emphasize the abundance of local food to entice you to shop the farmers' markets even if the weather is less than ideal (cold and rainy, perhaps). 
This week's offerings include:
  • Fresh Chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • Angel Food--stil gooey as ever
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-late lactation milk is starting to make this cheese nice and rich tasting
  • Black Sheep-our wonderful soft ripened sheep mik disc with an ash coating
  • Krotovina--the last of the season with half goat milk and half sheep milk (we are making the Krotovina classic all goat version so you can serve it during the holiday season and impress your friends with its pyramidal elegance)
  • Moonglo--nice nutty and tart flavor notes coming through in this batch with a creamy finish
  • Kaskaskia-golden color and great nuttiness--perfect for grating over all those roasted root veggies you're going to buy this weekend.
So, please come out and visit us at the farmers' markets this weekend.  We farmers have a lot to offer you. 
Posted 10/14/2010 9:27pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
chino hittin the hay
If this doesn't say "lazy," I don't know what does. Chino, our beloved blind cat is the master of the late morning snooze. Here he is "hittin' the hay" on one of the glorious warm fall days we've been having lately.  The trees along the creek are finally beginning to turn color, but I'm afraid that the drought is going to dampen the intensity of fall colors this year. 
Kris harvested our sweet potatoes this past week, and we think we have some record breakers in size.
Kris and his sweet potatoes
How 'bout them sweet potatoes! We'll be serving some of these beauties at the farm dinner this Saturday.
Cheese-wise, we have a nice selection of cheeses for you to taste and buy at the farmers' markets this Saturday. We'll be attending three markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park and Chicago's Green City Market. Remember, there are only a few outdoor market Saturdays left, so please come out and support your local farmers and pick up some amazing locally-grown foods.  What do we have for you?
  • Fresh Chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper for sure; maybe dried tomato too
  • Angel Food-it is really rich tasting these days
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Red Dawn-our soft-ripened goat milk disc dusted in a bath of smoked paprika YUM!
  • Last of the Sheep Milk Feta--last batch of the season and it is REALLY creamy!
  • Moonglo--our luscious raw goat milk tomme; has a sweet-tang flavor right now
  • Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
Come early and buy lots! It's a great time to catch the remants of solar warmth.
Posted 10/7/2010 9:56pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

This is the week we started making matches of the caprine kind.  On Monday, we cleaned out the barn and set up sections for each of the five breeding bucks and their harems.  Eddie has the biggest pen, as he has close to 40 does to breed. Paulie, Mocha, Latte and our newest buck, Little Rex, have pens to accommodate the dozen or so does they each will breed. We brought the does in from the pasture that evening, sorted them according to our breeding plan, and then let the games begin. All of that pent up buck libido launched on the does like mini tornadoes.  Despite the furry fury (couldn't resist--sorry), the mating ritual of goats is quite "romantic." I'll spare you the graphic details, but the process is highly ritualized. 

Goat breeding marks the beginning of the decline in goat milk production. The flipside is that the butterfat in their milk is on the rise, which makes for really rich cheese.  This Saturday, we’ll be attending four farmers’ markets to bring you some of these rich cheeses: Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market and Oak Park.  We'll have the following cheeses for you to enjoy:

Fresh Chevre—plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (no tomato this week)

Angel Food

Little Bloom on the Prairie

Ewe Bloom (limited quantities)

Krotovina—the little pyramid with half goat and half sheep milk curd separated by a thin line of ash

Moonglo (limited quantities)

Kaskaskia-our raw sheep milk Manchego style cheese that has a wonderful nutty flavor and is perfect for shaving or grating

Posted 9/30/2010 8:25pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Lots of hustle and bustle this week.  We're putting up a new barn (when do the farm construction projects end!??) for next year's kids, dry does and bucks to have plenty of room to stretch their legs.  We're reconfiguring our existing barn for breeding--dividing it into four sections so that each buck has his own protected harem of does.  Strong fencing is critical during breeding season, because our bucks have been known to widthstand the pain of electric shock fencing to be with the "one they love." We plan to start the match making next week.  We made our last batch of sheep milk cheese today--feta. Unless a miracle happens, and Eldin Plank's sheep go back up in production, their milk production days of 2010 have come to close.  Such is the seasonality of sheep and goat milk. We will eagerly await spring sheep milk in March of 2011.  We put together the Community Supported Goat (CSG) packages for all of our shareholders this week, and mailed off lots of packages filled with a delicious assortment of cheeses.  We also wrapped lots of ripe Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep and Red Dawn for you all to purchase at the farmers' markets this weekend. 
We'll be attending three farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. 
We have plenty of chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper, heirloom dried tomato), so don't be shy--buy at least a couple; they freeze beautifully. 
We also have Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Red Dawn (that gorgeous fire-engine red, smoked papkrika-coated disc of deliciousness), Black Sheep (soft ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind), Ewe Bloom (rich, golden and buttery in flavor) and on sale again this week, Moonglo.  We will also have some freshly extracted honey for you to enjoy with all that cheese you plan to buy.  Emil, our beekeeper, says it's a bit darker than the first extraction because of mid-season pollination flowers (clover, alfalfa, various veggies, cone flower and probably soybeans too).  ENJOY!
Posted 9/29/2010 6:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Guests (those who already have reservations and those who are just curious what we will be serving):
You can now view the menu for the 100 Yard Dinner on our website. This dinner will take place this coming Saturday, October 2nd. We start at 4PM with hors d'oeuvres and then go on from there.  Right now, the weather looks good for Saturday, albeit a bit chilly, so dress accordingly. We plan to dine outside.
To view the menu, go to our website: www.prairiefruits.com then go to "Dinners on the Farm." Then, click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" and go to the "100 Yard Dinner" for all the details.
For those of you who have reservations, we look forward to seeing you here soon.
Posted 9/23/2010 9:29pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings Cheese Lovers:

This week's rain and warm temperatures has revived our vegetable garden just in time for preparation of our upcoming "100 Yard Dinner." This is the dinner where we create an entire five-course menu from foods grown within a 100 yards of the dinner table (we do make allowance for salt, pepper, some sugar and olive oil).  The menu should be on our website by early next week (the dinner is sold out). Our guinea fowl that we have been raising all summer on orchard grasses and grain were taken to Arthur this morning to "meet their feathered maker." True to their difficult guinea nature, one flew away as it was being unloaded at the poultry processing plant! The fall greens we planted are leafing out nicely. Our Jerusalem artichokes flowered this week, signaling that their tubers are sizing up for harvest.  Our bee-keeper, Emil Blobaum, was out harvesting honey this afternoon. He reported that the bees have been EXTREMELY busy harvesting nectar from the golden rod in the prairie--this news brought joy to my ears--another benefit of our gorgeous prairie--fall honey.  In fact, he was astounded at how busy they have been so late in the season; more honey for us, and more honey for them to eat during winter. 
So, back to cheese. This week, Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep and Krotovina return to the cheese repertoire at the farmers' markets after a long summer vacation.  We'll be attending four markets this Saturday--Urbana, Bloomington, Oak Park and Green City.  For those of you not familiar with these cheeses, Ewe Bloom is a soft-ripened sheep milk cheese in the shape of a triangle. It has a wonderful golden interior and subtle buttery flavor right now. Black Sheep is a cousin to Ewe Bloom. We start with the same curd but ladle it into round forms  (instead of squares) and then dust the outside of the cheese with a mixture of salt and vegetable ash. The ash modifies how the cheese ripens and gives it a distinct flavor profile.  Krotovina is a small pyramid that we typically make with half goat milk and half sheep milk separated by a layer of ash. This particular is a throw back to the days (two years ago) when we made the cheese with goat milk only. We're calling this batch "Krotovina Classic." It is nice and creamy with rich dense center. 
In addition to these cheeses we will be bringing our fresh chevre--all four flavors, Moonglo and Roxanne.  The Moonglo will be on sale this week as this batch is a bit drier than usual. It still works great for cooking--melting, grating, shaving--it's just not as creamy as it normally tastes. 
The weather forecast looks good--EVEN for Chicago, so please come out and support the farmers and buy LOTS of cheese. Happy Eating!
Posted 9/16/2010 9:19pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Black Krim Tomato
Farm News
This time of year, the seasons send mixed signals. It's still warm and dry. We're still harvesting lots of tomatoes (and canning and drying and making sauce and making salsa and making tomato jam.....), the girls are still chowing down on lush sorghum Sudan-grass pastures. Yet, the signals of fall are here as well.  Giant black and yellow orb spiders have set up their elaborate webs (with a white zig zag pattern that supposedly helps birds see the web so they don't fly into it--pretty ingenious) between tomato vines, on withering stalks of basil, wherever there a space between any two plants, really
. They're voracious eaters of lingering flies and mosquitos--a joy to watch from my perspective.  The praying mantis females abound and have abdomens swollen with eggs, which means they have already mated and eaten their mates. Our seasonal resident barn swallows have fledged their nests on the porch roof, leaving behind our solitary resident brown bat, Victor, to contribute to the daily accumulation of scat on our porch.  My buck scent indicator (aka my nose) now routinely detects a "9" or "10" on the Richter scale of stinkiness. Our neighbors have begun the grain harvest, spitting corn and soy bean residues into the air and onto our cars, creating dust that hangs in the sky and produces the most amazing firery red sunsets.  Yes, the evidence is overwhelming: fall is here. 
Cheese and Farmers' Markets
We are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. Adrianne, our cheesemaking apprentice will be greeting our Urbana Customers, and Katy, another Pastoral Artisan Cheese-whiz, will be attending to our customers at Green City Market. Of course, Adam will be manning the stand at Oak Park.  We have the following cheeses for your late summer-early fall eating enjoyment:
Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom-dried tomato
Fresh sheep milk ricotta--the last of the season
Sheep milk feta--also the last of the season
Angel Food--our nice and gooey goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie--creamy camembert style
Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme washed with Moonglo pear tea
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
Next week: Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep will return to our repertoire
Farm Dinner News
Speaking of tomatoes, the theme for our farm dinner this Saturday evening is "Ode to the Tomato." The dinner is sold out, but check out the menu on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm" then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" then click on "Ode to the Tomato" dinner details to view the menu.
Posted 9/14/2010 10:13am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
To those of you who have reservations for the Ode to the Tomato Farm Dinner this coming Saturday, the menu is now on the website.  To access it, go to our website: www.prairiefruits.com and click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." Then, click on "Ode to the Tomato" dinner for more details and scroll down the page to view the menu. Remember, the event starts at 4PM with hors d'oeuvres and then a tour of the farm.  Also, remember, it is BYOB, so the menu should assist you in making your wine selections. I'm not sure what the weather forecast is yet, but hopefully this warm dry fall weather will continue.
Posted 9/9/2010 9:45pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you who have wondered how our farm name came to be, now is the time for explanations. When Wes and I moved to this beautiful land of prairie soils over seven years ago, we decided to build a farm "of this place." So, one of the first things we did was begin the process of restoring the rich (but really beat up) prairie soils with cover crops.  The other thing we decided was we wanted to try to restore some of the farm to its native vegetation--prairie.  We had also decided we wanted to grow fruit, and to try to replicate the flavors and sensory experiences of the Pacific Northwest, since Wes grew up there. He tells everyone that we bought this land so he could grow peaches and go out and pick them dead ripe just like he did when he was a kid. He also wanted to be able to share those tastes and senses with people around here. Well, this summer, we achieved the peach sensory experience in spades. He even acknowledges, begrudingly, that these peaches might taste even better than those in Oregon (but don't tell his parents that!). Maybe it has something to do with these prairie soils.  
Back to the prairie planting. Our second year on the farm, we got a whole bunch of prairie seeds (grasses, forbes) from Spence Farm in Fairbury. They had established almost ten acres of gorgeous prairie on their own farm and were selling the seed. We broadcast the seed heavily in the front of our property that fall, expecting the prairie to emerge the next spring. I waited and waited, and nothing but Canada thistle, Fox Tail and Rag Weed grew there that year.  I later found out that it can take years for the prairie seeds to germinate and grow.  I wanted more immediate gratification than that, but it did not come very quickly.  The following year, some prairie grasses emerged--Big and Little Blue Stem--and then I scouted a Black-Eyed Susan during the middle of that summer. I was encouraged. Two years ago, a very good and beneficent friend purchased 15 acres east and adjacent to our property so we could grow more pasture and hay.  We decided to set two acres of this land aside to plant prairie.  We lucked into more prairie plant seed--lots of different grasses and forbes--prepared the ground well with lots of goat manure compost, drilled in the prairie seed heavily (it was VERY badly eroded from years of corn and soybean cultivation on sloping ground--yes, there is some sloping ground in this flat land)--and waited again.  Well, last Saturday, I decided to take a walk back there to see what was going on, and I was blown away. Yes, there is still some remnant ragweed, but the eight-foot tall Indian Grass and Big Blue Stem was just a little sea of waving grain. Nestled in the tall grasses were bursts of bright yellow Golden Rod, at least three species, and more Black Eyed Susan. I wormed my way into the middle of the prairie, and I swear I felt like I was transported back to 200 years ago when prairie WAS the dominant landscape.
prairie bouquet
We decided to cut some of these magnificent grasses and flowers to adorn the tables at our farm dinner last weekend.  So at last I can say that we have a legitimate prairie for which our farm is named. 
Farmers' Market Cheeses
This week we're attending four farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.
We're bringing the following cheeses for your eating enjoyment:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato
Angel Food-our goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie--our goat milk camembert
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
We might bring Moonglo, our raw goat milk tomme, if it is ripe and possibly some more Kaskaskia, our Manchego style sheep milk cheese.
Next week, stay tuned for the return of Ewe Bloom, Sheep Milk Feta and possibly Sheep Milk Ricotta (it's a sheep milk cheese bonanza in store for you!)

I know this week's newsletter is longer than usual, but I must tell you about an event that our friends at Blue Moon Farm in Urbana will be hosting next Friday morning, "WEED DATING": Even if you're not single, it sounds like a great time!

Weed Dating Anyone? Sept 17th 10-12ish
Do you want to farm or garden but have been unable to weed out the good from the bad?  Weed Dating might just be the thing for you.  In and effort to help single farmers and gardeners in the CU area Blue Moon Farm is hosting a weedsome spin on speed dating. Weed dating is an opportunity to meet someone interested in being in a relationship who is also interested in farming or gardening and eating well.  Depending upon turn out, you should be able to weed-date up to 10-15 other people, who are serious about farming, gardening and dating.  Each ‘date’ will last 5-10 minutes, enough time to leave your date wanting to learn more if there is interest, and not so long that you’ll run out of small talk.
For more visit http://www.bluemoonfarm.biz/2010/09/07/weed-dating-anyone-sept-17-10-00-1-00/