With the final harvest of our eggplants and peppers that had ripened in the summer heat, and the budding heads of cabbage as cooler weather comes in, this stir fry marks a particular time in the changing seasons. Enjoy!
Olive season is coming. Hidden Villa has a 1/2 acre olive grove and many other olive trees lining our road and around the property. The original trees were planted by missionaries in the 1880's and they were harvested and pressed for oil intermittently by the Duvenecks. The grove had gone largely untended and overgrown until about ten years ago when we topped the trees in a long term project to reclaim the orchard's productivity. Thanks to several recent years of diligent pruning the trees are once again producing substantial crops.
Standing outside the silent auction tent at the 16th annual Duveneck Dinner I was taken aback by a vision. This vision was of Frank and Josephine treacherously climbing the mountainside and looking down on the canyon and I wondered what they saw all those years ago. Could they see then the potential this land had to bring communities together and collaboratively work towards a just and sustainable future? Surrounded by the diverse group of staff, board members, donors and honorees, I stopped and thought about how this farm has changed so much since the Duvenecks came here but how their legacy still continues to inspire so many.
We finished harvesting and boxing up the last of our potatoes on Friday. At Hidden Villa we using a digging bar on the back of a tractor to turn up the potatoes and then we easily dig through the already loosened soil by hand and pick up potatoes. It is still a lot of work to harvest 800 row feet of potatoes, especially since it was a dishearteningly light yield of around 500 pounds.
It is October already! I can hardly believe it, especially because it has been so hot these last couple of days. It was hot enough yesterday that we braved the now algae encrusted swimming pool for a quick dip and cool down. The atypical heat and newly erected pumpkin patch in the education garden are telling signs that summer has passed and fall has truly arrived. The season is winding down which means that we are looking into the winter, making plans for work projects and talking about how to get the fields ready for a much needed break. As a year-long intern, I am also starting to think about final skills I would like to acquire, and I am developing plans for my post-Hidden Villa career.
When I came to Hidden Villa four years ago I was searching for a place to find myself. I grew up in a very conservative Midwest town in Indiana, a place where I never truly felt comfortable in my own skin and was left searching for confidence. It’s funny but reassuring that I ended up in a place that teaches kids to have that confidence in themselves; something that I had never been able to do though I understood all too well the challenges of loving yourself as an individual.
This Saturday marked the Autumnal equinox and the first day of fall, and also marked the beginning of my fourth week as a CSA intern at Hidden Villa. This first month has been an exhilarating introduction to the farms’ systems, and these weeks have gone by fast. I arrived in early September, when the summer heat was still brilliant, and the sun would not set until after eight o’clock. My large collection of wool hats, blankets, and socks were out of place in the warm evening air. While the seasonal transition from summer to fall can be easily overlooked in California, with Indian summers fluidly stretching into October, the first day of fall is cause for celebration. The fall harvest celebrates a change in pace, and a time to commemorate the bounty of the harvest and prepare for the onset of winter.
On Monday evening we had our fourth annual heirloom tomato tasting with great success. Every year our tomato tasting has been bigger and fancier. This year we had two hundred people RSVP, though maybe only half of those showed up, and we had live music starting around five o’clock. Out of the ten heirloom varieties that we had available for the tasting the top three chosen in order of popularity were: Japanese Black Trifele, Striped German, and Vorlon. For the farm crew these results are a good reinforcement to continue and expand production of these varieties next year because these three varieties continually rank well during the tomato tasting.