The operative word of the week, from dairy to creamery to fields and back, was “busy.” As the remnants of a hurricane pushed their way northward, the weather was finally dry enough to get a couple of the barns cleaned out. Erica, our herd manager, maneuvers the skid steer like an extension of her own limbs. We recruited her husband, Leon, to give us a lesson on syncing the tractor with the manure spreader. Our new skid steer grapple sunk its teeth into matted layers of accumulated soiled bedding, while our new (but old) manure spreader flung it masterfully on the barren and organic matter-depauperate soils of our new farm.
We were finally able to do our monthly milk sampling too—"Dairy Herd Improvement” or DHI. This gives us the total volume and milk components for each of our milking does for two consecutive milkings. These data are critical for tracking the health of each member of the herd. They also help us make decisions about whose kids to keep next year.
In the creamery, we transformed 80-95 gallons of milk a day into chevre, black goat, fleur du prairie, fresh ricotta and blushing goat (a washed rind cheese we haven’t made for a while). Lots of ladling, flipping, salting, packing and dish washing (oh the dishwashing!!). The routines of each day etch tracks of familiarity into our muscles; each movement flows into the next with growing familiarity.
The garden is taking shape with semblances of neat rows displaying emerging plants. The pathways, once covered with weeds, now reveal their intention, buffered by thick layers of mulch to keep the weeds at bay. The newly seeded pasture is showing promise of alfalfa and clover germination. As I write (and more to come about this project), the crew from Midwest Agroforestry Solutions is planting close to 2000 tree and shrub saplings for the start of our goat silvopasture. Busy-exhaustion-accomplishment.
Urbana’s Market at the Square-Come early to get the best selections!
Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for PERFECT farmers’ market shopping weather! The offerings at the market are growing every week, and we are excited to feature recipes highlighting what’s available that pairs well with our cheeses.
As you know by now, the market is open with some restrictions to ensure the safety of farmers and patrons alike. If you haven’t already reviewed the markets rules for operation under “COVID 19 restrictions, please check them out on the “Market at the Square” website. We will be taking your orders at one section of our stand and fulfilling them in another. We will have a Square card reader set up for you to swipe your card for payment. If you bring cash, we will give you change (and sanitize our hands between transactions).
This week, we’re featuring “Angel Food,” our take on a French-style “crottin.” This style of bloomy rind cheese is made for fresh goats’ milk. Petite in size, but mighty in nuanced flavor, it tastes great whether young or mature. Our recipe features slices of Angel Food atop sautéed green beans (Meyer Produce) and crispy bacon (Triple S Farms). We also have a featured chevre flavor this week: chevre with pickled cukamelon. Last year, we grew these adorable mini-gherkin style cucumbers and they were so prolific (after waiting and watching them flower forever!), we turned them into pickles. The crunch and tartness of the pickled cukes compliments the creaminess of the chevre.
Fresh Chevre $8/each
--herbs de Provence
Seasonal Chevre: Chevre with Pickled Cukamelon $9/each
Angel Food-our little “crottin” style bloomies—this next batch is young, but super buttery with hints of mushroom $9/each
Little Bloom on the Prairie: our goat milk camembert style cheese-young but loaded with rich-buttery flavor $11/each—VERY VERY limited (aka only 2 rounds) this weekend, but we’re wrapping the next batch this weekend
Black Goat: our ash-ripened bloomy; it’s ooey-gooey and deliciously funky $11—ALSO VERY VERY LIMITED but more are aging for next week as I write this blog
Fleur du Prairie-bloomy rind cheese adorned with dried herbs and edible flowers $11/each
Goat Milk Feta—aged in whey brine, tangy with a creamy-crumbly texture $7 each
Fresh Goat Milk Ricotta—whole milk ricotta made using the Italian basket method $10/8 oz. container
If you can’t make it to the market, no worries. You can order online by 10 AM Saturday for Farm Pick-Up between 1-4 pm. Gelato pints return to the line up for farm pick up ONLY-limited flavors this week (Vanilla, Fresh Mint for sure).
Other Opportunities to Purchase Our Products
If you’re not able to buy our cheeses in person, you can order online for shipping. We ship on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week. There are also lots of retail establishments throughout central IL and the Chicagoland area that carry our cheeses.
Reopening the farm
We plan to be open for visitors and outdoor seating on Sunday, June 21st (1-4 pm). We are working on a reservations system so that folks can reserve times to sit outside under our pavilion to order cheese boards and wine/beer and other beverages. We will have some special items for sale in honor of Father’s Day too. Details to come early next week.
Victory Cheese-Choose it OR lose it!
There is a grass-roots volunteer movement afoot to help save the American Artisan Cheese community, who has been hit hard by the cascade of unintended consequences from the COVID pandemic. Called “Victory Cheese” (think Victory Gardens during World War II), this movement aims to raise awareness about the beautiful cheeses that could be lost if the cheese makers can’t find markets for their cheeses.
Starting next week, we will be launching a very special cheese box featuring three Illinois Farmstead cheeses (Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery chevre, Marcoot Jersey Creamery sharp cheddar and Ludwig Farmstead Creamery Kickapoo). Chef Rick Bayless has curated this collection and will be posting a video about the cheeses, including a cooking demonstration! We will provide links to this posting as well as all the details about how/when to buy our Victory Cheese Box in the next few days.