Visit to Hidden Villa (Saturday 5/7)

On the farm

So OBVIOUSLY I am going to be a weekend farmer at the rate I keep visiting them. And by “weekend farmer” I mean “someone who mucks around in the dirt for about an hour and is slowly killing all her potted kitchen herbs.”

Still, in 2011, I’ve played with baby goats and made marmalade. I’ve even mucked a barn!

Last weekend, however, was off-duty for this seasoned hand. KO and I went to the distant hills of Los Altos, where our dear friend Soozbomb had accepted an apprenticeship. We citygirls went down strictly as visitors.

Walking in the woods

First off, Hidden Villa is HUGE. Much larger than Pie Ranch. There are several buildings for the education program, some for meetings and events, and one ramshackle White House where the interns live.

What does Hidden Villa do? Grow stuff and educate young folks about how to grow stuff. It’s a really awesome program, and has a great history too. From the farm’s site:

Hidden Villa was founded by Frank and Josephine Duveneck, who purchased the land in 1924 and offered it as a gathering place for discussion, reflection, and incubation of social reform. Over the following decades, the Duvenecks established the first Hostel on the Pacific Coast (1937), the first multiracial summer camp (1945), and Hidden Villa’s Environmental Education Program (1970). The Trust for Hidden Villa was established as a nonprofit in 1960


Although it was a bit cold, we got to have a tour in a golf cart! I got to eat fresh strawberries (only 1 or 2), harass some chickens, and take a hike with an awesome cat named Rosebud. (That evening there was an intern barbeque, during which Rosebub brought her own rat to the festivities!)

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I can’t wait to go down when the weather is warmer and maybe, y’know, help out a bit. I’m pretty great at it by now.


Oh hello


Something this way grows

Wee nest

Greenhouse cat

Want more?

Check out the Hidden Villa Calendar of events! If you’re in the area, consider their CSA!

Visit to the farm

Baby goats by a stream!

“How could this happen,” I whined recently. “I’m losing all my friends to nature.”

And it’s true; I’ve had three friends who dropped out of the “traditional” workforce and take up the land. Maybe it’s something in the water, or the air, or the food. I’d say it has more to do with the lighting, and the cubicles, and the Excel spreadsheets. Either way, it’s impossible to write about without rehashing a recent New York Times Style piece.

In the interest of maintaining a presence on the cultural bandwagon, I went to visit my homesteading friends to do some investigoogling.

Just kidding. I went to go play with baby goats.

J & A have adopted two goats, both about 3 months old. One was abandoned by her mother (Coca Cola), the other (A&W) was raised by her mom for a few weeks and then brought onto their farm. Naturally, it is A&W who is the neediest, the crier, the one who has become quite the lap goat and will wriggle into anyone sitting down in the vicinity.

I’m always staggered when we visit over how much work it takes to do things I take for granted. Hot water comes from solar paneled trays, heat from a little squat stove, and the toilet is compost.

We took a ramble Sunday morning and got to see the lay of their property. A lifetime renter, it must be immensely gratifying to be able to look and know all around you is yours. And there’s nothing quite like witnessing a baby goat scale the side of (an admittedly low) cliff. Because next time I see them, I probably won’t be so pleased if they crawl on my lap.

Want more?

I dunno, man, go find your own friends with a cabin.

Old truck

Life (by Keith Richards)

Just finished Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life. What a ride. If you’re a Stones fan at, casual or no, you’ll appreciate this behind-the-scenes look at their songwriting and recording as well as the band’s decadence and gossip. It’s juicy, that’s for sure. Can you believe him 100% of the time? Does it matter?

First thing to note – Keith’s always been about the music. When he writes about first hearing Elvis, and discovering Chicago bluesmen, and sitting with Mick in the early 1960s trying the master an American soul sound, you get that music has always been his driving force (and probably salvation). Real musicians will get more from the way he describes discovering new chord progression, and his trademark 5 chord grip, but it’s fascinating to read a master reflect on his trade. The way he tells it, the success of the Rolling Stones seemed to happen overnight. One day the band is playing little London clubs, the next stadium tours of the U.S. All Keith did was show up and write his songs.

Then again, not really. Because there’s the rest of the mythology, the parties and orgies and drugs. No hiding there. In fact, Keith brags that he remembers more than people think (although I counted at least three lost weekends in the book). He’s free about what he was using, priding himself on being able to maintain limits where others of his generation didn’t. Reading a fraction of what he put his body through, it is absolutely shocking that the man made it out alive. It must have something to do with the ways things just bounce off him. Car accidents, drug busts, prodigious abuse of all his organs – he’s as slippery as an eel.

You do get a sense about the havoc that was around him, though. I was most eager to read about the Exile on Main Street sessions, cause it’s my favorite Rolling Stones album and I totally love the imagery of recording these bluesy rock record in the basement of a villa on the French Riviera. Richards had no problem with the recording sessions, even while his bandmates would wait for hours for him to slip out a heroin-induced stupor. And the time Richards took his 7-year-old son Marlon on tour in the late 70s? The poor kid was tasked with waking up his dad right before shows because noone else could do it. (That’s a relationship that probably required some therapy).

As much as the Rolling Stones are a touring, money-making machine at this point, they really did set the standard for rock and roll excess. I’m a sucker for gossipy asides, and I totally dug his reflections on the famed, beautiful people of his acquaintance… most notably, Mr. Jagger himself. Mick didn’t come out as nasty as early reviews of the book implied. Yes, they were closer in the past. Yes, Keith pronounces judgment on his songwriter pal’s incessant need for flattery. But it’s a complicated and historied relationship, and it’s almost useless to try to describe to an outsider.

Richards manages the tricky feat of breaking down his blood drinking rockstar image while building up what he sees as his legacy – a musician. Is it odd to see a Richards family  Christmas card photo? Yes. (I wish the whole book had more photos!). He doesn’t let himself off scott-free but he doesn’t apologize either. This is it, luv. Only rock and roll, but I like it.

How bout some vintage Keith?



Back to school cravings

This weekend I read Still Life, by A.S. Byatt, the second book in a series. She’s the author of Posession, for which I believe she received the Booker prize and, perhaps more importantly, inspired a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow.

The book tells a story of a family in Britain in the middle of the 20th century. All the characters are frightfully well-read, and seek out words and ways of understanding the world. They all take for granted a familiarity with a syllabus of British classics. I, however, loved it. It is rich and absorbing, and made me want more than ever to go back to school and study English.

I majored in English and history at school, and I never thought that it was practical to pursue graduate studies in English. Now, one year post graduation and deeply mired in corporate cubicle land, I miss and even crave that stimulation. In Byatt’s world, there is no art for art’s sake. The merits of Eliot, Beckett, and the works of her fictional characters are debated, but they are necessary. And I guess what I miss most of all is the belief that the written word is of the utmost importance, and can drive/mold peoples’ lives.

So this weekend I started looking at graduate programs. I still can’t convince myself to get an MA (or a Ph.D!) in English, but I want–and I think need–to get back to school.