Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spring at the Farm

It's easy to forget that farming once drove the economy of Silicon Valley. Although almost every community hosts a weekly farmer's market, actual working farms are not a common site while cruising along the 280. (For a good list of local farmer's markets, check out

However, there are a couple of local gems make themselves open to the public, and these are always a hit with both kids and folks looking for wonderful farm fresh produce, or just some time in the open space.

Along with its regular programming, Mountain View's Deer Hollow Farm offers three special days Spring Farm Tours for 2011: March 19, April 16 and May 21. Visit the animals in their pens, meet the newborns and pop in to the Nature Center. For details, go to

With morning and afternoon farm tours, and programs such as Milk Mania and Cow Wow, Hidden Villa in Los Altos is also a fun spot for children to get some hands on experience down on the farm. Check out the programs at

Weekend Getaways: Skiing in the Sierras...and driving with chains

Our California 'winters' make it easy to forget that a snowy weekend getaway is as close as a four hour drive, but make no mistake: the Sierra Nevadas are currently buried in snow. All that rain the past week has meant several feet of new snow in and around Tahoe, and we went to check it our for ourselves this past week. Most resorts have excellent learn to ski and advanced level lesson programs for both adults and kids, often complimentary or very low cost when you rent equipment. We chose a lodge close to the Donner Summit, which is the first ski area on your drive from the Bay Area, and it took about 4 hours to reach the parking lot. Going all the way to Tahoe you can add another hour, depending on the weather.

We were hit with about five feet of snow over our three night stay, and saw more than a few people who had left home clearly unprepared; picking their way through the snow in running shoes and in one case, shorts!

While our drive in was clear, coming home it was a bit snowy, and this meant tire chains, a new phenomena for us. It is mandatory to carry chains in your vehicle at this time of year (unless you happen to have a 4 wheel drive with snow tires), and signs on the highway indicate when chains must be put on. There are pull off areas along the side of the road for their installation. People also appear magically on the roadside when chains are required, and for about $30 they will be happy to install them for you. Not a bad idea unless you know what you are doing, and when it is dark and hailing out, $30 seemed like a great deal. When the chain requirement is lifted, the same routine begins all over again. Although taking them off is much faster and simpler, be prepared to get rather wet and dirty - the snow had turned to brown slush on the road by the time we had the OK to remove ours, and it was a bit of a messy job. (A bag to put your dirty chains in is a must). However, since we were now able to go faster than 25 mph - which is the speed limit for most cars with tire chains - we were happy to remove them. All this made the trip home take about 6 hours, so make sure you check the weather ( and the road conditions ( before you set off.