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Farewells

As the CSA season comes to an end, you may be thinking the same thing I am: Where am I going to get my vegetables now? We have been enjoying eating the delicious, organically and locally grown produce for months now- I feel slightly spoiled! I don't know if I want go back to the large supermarkets and buy the flavorless tomatoes, boring lettuce, or pears from Peru...

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Saving for winter by freezing today

A lot of our time here at Hidden Villa is dedicated to food, one can infer this simply by reading these blog posts.  We spend our time talking theory, everything from organics to nutrition, and sometimes it can get out there with wild sodas bubbling in the corner and meat-slab looking kombucha mothers drying in the courtyard. But things aren’t always up in the ether. What it comes down to is that we love food. Real food. (Guest post by Liz, our Public Programs Intern)

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Reflections on Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings always throws me a little off kilter. When I woke at a quarter to nine on Sunday, which is a little late for me, and then realized that it was actually only a quarter to eight, I was pleased. This gave me plenty of time to bake a delicious fresh raspberry and dried apple coffee cake for breakfast. Fall daylight savings is my favorite because we get a free hour. Conversely it also means that it is nearly dark at five and, recently, very cold. This is dual edged sword. I really love it when the season changes and the rains come that replenish our aquifers and change the landscape from the dead brown of late summer and early fall to the bright new green of winter and early spring. Yes, this is another story of how, as the season changes, the farm follows suit.

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What's growing in Redwood City?

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Hello from Hidden Villa’s Garden Outreach program! My name is Carey Fritz. As Garden Outreach Teacher Intern, I spend 2 days a week teaching off-site at Taft Community School and at John Gill Elementary. I am excited to share how I have been involved in our partnership schools in Redwood City in this guest post.

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Apple Puff Pancake

applesA breakfast (or anytime) treat my mom makes for special occasions. It is similar to a Dutch baby, but includes apples and cinnamon. 

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Do I Have What it Takes to Raise Animals?

pasture_dqI wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had about our Animal Husbandry program at Hidden Villa recently. Maybe some of you have seen our eggs and meat at the Los Altos Farmer’s Market. Or you’ve visited Hidden Villa and stopped at Scarlet in her pigpen or watched Cleo the dairy cow graze in the pastures. The animals, overseen by the Animal Husbandry Department, are seemingly separate from our produce farming. However, it’s becoming clearer to me that animals are critical to an organic farming operation. For instance, we make our own compost and worm castings from the manure of our cows and pigs. These are the inputs that make our soil black gold, teeming with life from microorganisms in the dirt to the nutrients our crops absorb to grow. We are essentially creating a closed cycle in which the byproduct of animal production results in robust organic agriculture production; the compost and worm castings we make on site are better than anything we could buy (and they’re free). And though we do buy feed for our animals, their diets are supplemented with grazing in our pastures and the byproducts of our agriculture production. They happily eat our vegetable scraps, such as the sweet corn stalks that were left after you received corn in your CSA basket. Creating a closed cycle is a boon to the farming production- a win-win that is cost effective and minimizes waste.

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Roasted Pepper Pesto

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This week's CSA baskets feature several different varieties of sweet peppers including: golden cal wonder, corno di toro, gypsy, and lipstick peppers. Here is one way to enjoy all of them!
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A Potential November Watermelon?

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I last wrote about some of the innovations that we are steadily making based upon our compiled observations.  All these ideas and this information goes into a kind of living document that I have that is a detailed calendar charting the perfect growing season.  So far in 15 years of farming this is my most refined approach to the predictive guesswork of managing crops.  There is something very hopeful and expressive about a plan that assumes everything going well.  Best laid plans… I hope that I have also learned to not become too expectant of some trend or pattern because it will probably change. 

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The Afternoon Siesta

As I look around my room, my eyes stop at a Van Gogh painting I purchased while visiting Paris with my mom. Two people, a man and woman, are resting in the shade of a pile of straw, their scythes laid by their sides. They are dressed in blue, the color of the cloudless sky. I relate to them - content with themselves, cooling their bodies down from hard work in the fields. Farming is timeless, the civilization we now know stemmed from agriculture and the hard work done by farmers.

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Farm School Pita Bread

A lot of participants in Hidden Villa's recent* Farm School event asked about the recipe for the homemade pita bread recipe that the CSA team whipped up for their demonstration, and we're happy to oblige. Pita bread is one of the easiest breads to make, but you won't know the difference between this recipe and a really complicated one when you're munching on soft, pillowy flatbread. Use these little pockets for a nice cucumber/falafel/salad wrap, or roll them up and dip them in hummus for a healthy treat.

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Enthusiastic, Motivated, Sign me up

Last week I attended an event at Stanford University, Food Summit 2, aimed at bringing together "community activists, university scholars and others who are coming together to discuss strategies to address and solve the most challenging and important food-related crisis in our communities, our country, and around the world." Among the many panels and conversations was the implicit agreement that there is a food crisis happening and that any solutions will need to be interdisciplinary. 

(A brief plug: the third panel on Hospital Food was most excellent, and Marydale DeBor and Frank Turner deserve an extra round of applause for their candor and hard work.  They've taken the daunting task of reinventing the way hospitals feed people and created simple and elegant solutions.)

One of the earliest audience questions brought up an important, and perhaps missing, component from the day - Who is training young people to farm?  A good question, considering that at the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 40% of farmers in the US at 55 years of age, or older.

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What Does Organic Mean to You?

What is organic? A broad definition would be any food that isn’t exposed to synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. But anyone who grows organic food will probably give a different definition of what organic means to them.

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Interns, Definitions of

If you haven’t ever thought about it (and until recently, I hadn’t) the word “intern” has an interesting etymology. From the French interner or “to confine within set limits,” the word has use as both a noun and transitive verb. However, the definition can very greatly depending on its grammatical use.

Intern (in-turn) -  vb
1. ( tr ) to detain or confine (foreign or enemy citizens, ships, etc), especially during wartime - noun
2. chiefly  ( US ) a student or recent graduate receiving practical training in a working environment

(Source: Collins World English Dictionary)

But in common parlance, especially among twenty-somethings an internships is often known as “the modern equivalent of slavery, except nowadays, people are actually willing.”

So where do we fall? Confinement, like on an enemy ship? Or practical training?

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Produce Like a Local Celebrity

For the past few months we’ve been in the part of our season where produce is overflowing from our fields. As part of the crew growing this food, I am proud to see it getting sent off to many different outlets, used at Hidden Villa events, and feeding many of the staff who live here. I’ve been reflecting on how a farmer’s work becomes very tangible, especially in the summer months.
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Fall Opportunities

Chris at the Duveneck DinnerFall has finally arrived and our school-year programs are back in full swing! Students, teachers and parents are returning to our environmental education programs, CSA shareholders are enjoying the bounty of the autumn harvest, our Community Programs are full of eager participants and our hostel is booked with visitors. It's a really great time to visit the farm and enjoy the beautiful trails, see our farm animals and learn something new in the educational garden.
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Refrigerator Pickles

module_baskets_blogWonderful with sandwiches, burgers, or as a refreshing treat on a hot day. Will keep in your fridge for up to two weeks.

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Happy August!

bottom_module_creek_explorers_hveep_creek_trail_dqWhatever happened to the lazy days of summer? Hidden Villa is in full Camp mode still, with just a few weeks left of Summer Camp 2011. It's been a really wonderful summer so far and I have two happy campers at home to prove it--my son had a great time at 12 Day Farm and Wilderness Camp and my daughter really enjoyed her first time as a Tipi Camper!

Those of you who are Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shareholders know just how delicious the farm's bounty has been so far, as we've had a really excellent and diverse season to date, but if you're not a shareholder, you don't have to miss out. Just stop by the Los Altos Farmers' Market on a Thursday evening, meet our farmers and get the most delicious, local, organic produce around!

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Growing Farmers: Interns at Hidden Villa and Beyond

bottom_module_internships5_jbThis week marked the beginning of a flood.  And while it is unusual for it to rain in Los Altos in the summer, it is perfectly normal to drown in a tide of basil, cucumbers, and summer squash.  This is second only to the yearly drenching in tomatoes and eggplant.  Eating so much highly anticipated produce has my stomach and brain thinking about farms and how much I enjoy knowing farmers (a brief explanation:  most of my actions, professional or otherwise, are motivated by my stomach.  Freudian interpretations aside, I look forward to each meal and snack more than all holidays, vacations, and birthdays.  Unless they also happen to involve meals). 

Considering farmers I know brings up several former interns at Hidden Villa who have all dove into the world of farming headfirst, and to excellent results.  Some highlights:

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The White House? Like…Obama?

bottom_module_intern_2_jbBeing the first post, I’ll start with introductions….I am a former Hidden Villa intern now in the year-round position of Food Education Liaison and Intern Coordinator.  Coordinating the intern program means, for the most part, answering questions –  questions from interns, from other staff, and from many curious and motivated people who feel like Hidden Villa would be a great place to intern (first answer: it is).  So let me take this opportunity/soapbox to toss a few things out there.

FAQ’s about the Intern Program at Hidden Villa:

This look great! What internships are there?

We offer ten residential, year-long internships in the following departments: Community Programs (Public Programs) (one position), Animal Husbandry (one position), Agriculture (two positions, plus a more advance Journeyman’s apprenticeship), and Environmental Education (six positions).

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No Batteries Required

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I’m sitting here watching the cutest scene out on the Duveneck House lawn: a camp counselor playing her ukulele, 9-year olds just grinning away and singing along gustily - good old fashioned fun. No gimmicks. No batteries required. That’s what this place seems so profoundly able to provide for the world-weary. Exactly what our weekend programs do: give folks a breather, away from the mall, away from the pressures of our hectic urban life and back to a healthier and more balanced human-ness.

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