Valentines Day at the Farm…True Love

Twenty-two years ago we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day. I think we gave each other gifts like candy and flowers, and I remember Bob got his turn-table fixed so we could listen to our favorite albums. Fixing turn-tables? Sounds like something from the Pleistocene Era.

And over the years we’ve celebrated the holiday in different ways. Some years making a big deal out of it, sometimes just cards and kisses.

He knew I’d already tagged small trees and branches around the farm that needed to be cut down this spring. His chain saw is much more suited for a man from Montana and I had planned on using my hand saw—But now, now I have the perfect tool.

From my True Love.....

True Love!!

Wishing everyone a Happy Valentines Day from the farm!

Kane County Chronicle Article – Winter Farm Market

Kane County Chronicle

Dec 17th, 2012

ELBURN – Tom and Diane Peters didn’t think it strange at all to be walking through the newly fallen snow in search of fresh vegetables.

The couple, of Geneva, had just this year begun taking part in the community supported agriculture program offered by Heritage Prairie Farm, essentially purchasing a share of the harvest of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables offered by the farm throughout much of the year.

“It’s all been so fresh and wonderful,” said Diane. “It’s hard to do anything else now.”

So when Heritage Prairie rolled out its first ever winter farm market this season, the Peters knew they’d be frequent visitors.

Read the entire article here – Winter Market

Chicago Tribune – Honey Gifts

By Joe Gray Tribune Newspapers 10:02 a.m. CST, December 12, 2011

“Only 13 shopping days left, folks. But don’t fret. Here at the Stew, we’ve got ideas. For last-minute food gifts that will make your loved one or friend swoon, check out these 10 foodstuffs, all available from online purveyors.

Honey from Bron’s Bee Co.: I like to buy gifts of foods that I discovered in the last year.  The cinnamon honey from Bron’s was served as part of a cold spring farm dinner at Heritage Prairie Farms in Elburn. Just a drop of the smooth honey brings memories of a fun, festive dinner.  Linda Bergstrom”

Follow this link for the full article: Ten @ 10: Last-minute holiday gifts


CS Brides Loves the Farm

“Driven by a desire for all things au naturel, city dwellers are going country – or bringing the country to Chicago – so they can serve up a wedding that’s fresh on flavor.” -CS Brides SPRING/SUMMER 2012

Follow this link to read more about farm fresh fare featuring Heritage Prairie Farm and Executive Chef Jeremy Lycan.

Natural Seduction – SPRING/SUMMER 2012


Winter Weddings and My Great Horned Owl Returns

This morning I watched the first snowflake of the season float past me. No more Indian summer weather. The season has changed for good.

And good it is.

Thursday mornings start early for our microgreen harvest. We harvest, wash and pack our microgreens so that when delivered to Whole Foods, they are less than four hours old—talk about fresh!

An early start means coffee at 5AM. This morning I was greeted by a beautiful moon in the west.

Its light cast shadows all over the farm. The air felt crisp and a deep breath awakend me thoroughly. And then I heard him. My owl. It may be a female, but call me old-fashioned, I like to think of him as a him, watching over me and the farm.

For eight years now I’ve heard him—a Great Horned Owl—hoot from up in the trees around the farm house. In January he will begin to call to a mate and the pair will hoot back and forth to each other for a couple of weeks until they nest. Although mated for life, they live a solitary existence most of the year coming together only to raise their chicks.

And they are such magnificent creatures. I’ve even had the honor of seeing one up close.

A couple of years ago I was driving in a snowstorm between Marengo and Rockford on Interstate 90. It was really early in the morning. Heading west, in front of me, a big rig hit something that flew up in the air and landed on the shoulder. The snowfall made it hard to see, but I thought it was a big bird—either a hawk or an owl. I wrestled with my conscience for a few seconds and then pulled over. I had to walk back about a quarter of a mile along the shoulder. There in the snow was a Great Horned Owl. Its penetrating, lifeless eyes stared past me. Such a magestic creature, so tragic. I found myself getting choked up as the owl’s delicate, beautiful feathers blurred in front of me.

I held it in my arms hoping it would come back to life. About a foot and half long, it must have weighed four pounds. Oblivious to the solemn scene, cars and trucks passed us at 70 miles an hour. It’s a felony to drag a bird-of-prey carcass off a roadway, but I couldn’t just leave. It’s so rare to see an owl up close. Children should see this bird to appreciate its beauty—a computer screen image or a picture in a book can’t do it justice. Then I remembered an ecologist friend of mine had a scavenger’s license. The license would enable him to take the owl to a taxidermist and preserve it. I made the call and decided that if I couldn’t get through to him, I would risk it and bury the beautiful owl myself in the woods—to rest in peace. My saga ended well, this regal bird was preserved for all to appreciate in a children’s museum in Chicago.

So this morning I felt blessed to be greeted by my owl.

And the blessing keep coming today. Chef Nathan from Vie (a marvelous restaurant in Western Springs) came out to the farm to pick up spinach. I tasted some of the harvest, and oh my, the freezing weather has brought out the sweetness. I love winter spinach!

Nate and the farm team harvested thousands of pounds of root vegetables from the field before it froze, filling up our walk-in cooler to the brim. Have you ever tasted a watermelon radish? It’s a gorgeous pink on the inside and tastes delicious!

All during the fall, the events team has been busy meeting with prospective brides and grooms. It’s like there is a big happy bubble around Daryn. All of his meetings are filled with MMMMs over menus that Chef Jeremy’s come up with and laughter or giggles over all the plans.

There’s nothing more fun than planning a wedding. And on the farm, couples are free to tailor it to their vision. Some are formal, others more casual, and some are just plain fun.

But the big excitement today was over plans for the farm’s first winter wedding—sleigh bells and wedding bells! Winter events are new this season. We’re all getting excited about decorations and, of course, the wonderful food we’ll feature. Our greenhouse by the barn is hosting our Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. It’s so warm and sunny—even on a grey, cold day. And the bigger greenhouse (site of last year’s Valentines Day Farm Dinner) is getting decked out and decorated for its big launch for the November Farm Dinner on Saturday, the 19th. Bring on the holiday cheer!

A day that begins so happily should end with something tasty, don’t you think? I think I’ll make chicken stew and corn bread soaked in honey. The chicken will be in honor of my owl—as I know for a fact he likes my chickens too!

Sounds of Quiet on the Farm

Have you ever heard the sound of quiet? When I was a little girl, growing up on our farm in Ohio, I remember trying to listen to “quiet”. My folks were in their 50s (now, I think that was really quite youngish) and my sisters were grown and off in their own lives. I was alone a lot. I look back on it now and see how I thrived occupying myself. My dad mowed and cleared walking paths all over our hilly 160 acres. Paths through the woods and around all the fields. I would spend hours finding just the right spot to read my book or take a nap.

Sometimes I would take my bright red portable record player out to the barn and sing to records—records like South Pacific and My Fair Lady. We had a little greenhouse radio that would get about three stations on it and had a thermometer. I distinctly remember singing along to Tony Orlando and Dawn and thinking how it had just reached 70 degrees. No head phones. In fact, I tried to get Hannibal, my Irish Setter mutt, to howl along.

Confession time: I also talked to myself regularly—a habit carried on today. Sometimes I would even read out loud to Hannibal. That sweet dog would try to look interested. My parents and I read out loud all the time. Sometimes the newspaper, sometimes a good book. We all took turns, but  Dad and I loved listening to my mother the most. She could make any story come alive and jump off the pages—still can.

But most of the time, however, there was quiet. It wasn’t ever silent. There were always sounds in the background. A tractor way off in the distance,  birds, a dog barking somewhere, on our farm it was so quiet you could hear a plane flying overhead heading to Cleveland or Pittsburg almost 100 miles away. I remember lying in bed at night wondering if the quiet could ever be complete and total silence.

Early this morning around 4:00 one of our dogs barked and woke me up. It got quiet again as I lay there deciding to start my day. Memories flooded back about the quiet times of my childhood. As I started to listen it seemed at first like silence, then I started hearing the quiet noises—a tractor in the distance harvesting corn, birds, a dog downstairs getting up to get a drink then laying back down. I hadn’t heard quiet in a long time.  It was so soothing. Heaven knows how hard it is to listen when we’re bombarded by 20,000 messages a day. Our on-demand lives can rob us of these tender moments if we’re not careful.

Today at our farm life is busy, a lot to accomplish. But I don’t want to get so busy that I don’t listen to the quiet of life.  Even for just a little while.

Then a glass of wine and a piece of Apple Pudding—

Here’s my mother’s recipe if you want to join me:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup spry (I use butter or vegetable oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scant tsp soda
  • 1 tbl cinnamon (make sure you use a whole tablespoon)
  • 1 scant tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (sometimes I substitute rolled oats)
  • Lastly, add 2 1/2 cups raw, unpeeled, diced apples

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and serve with real whipped cream


Bees on Heritage Prairie Farm

Bees are such a blessing. What a joy it is to care for them. It’s how the whole thing got started–Heritage Prairie Farm was born out of love and commitment to bees. Don’t get me wrong, I do have my days as a keeper of the bees… Yesterday could have been one of them. Rainy, windy, very provoked bees (funny, how they don’t like you taking their honey!) and for those of you who don’t often wear a bee suit–when it gets wet and lays flat on your skin, you can feel the prick of a stinger. It doesn’t really “sting” you, but the bee gets her point across.

But instead of what could have been, the day was fabulous. I worked along side another beekeeper who graciously helped me out when I needed it. Together we worked about 25 hives; opening each hive and talking to the bees, admiring their productivity, and trying to gage the health of the queens.

It was delightful. Maybe it takes a special person to love bees or maybe we just become special loving them.

It is appropriate that bees are the beginning of this blog. I hope you will follow it and share in the stories about what fuels the passion for Heritage Prairie Farm.