Baby goats frolic, piglets squeal, and little children frolic and squeal along with them at Deer Hollow Farm. Nestled in a small valley where the hills open up to Santa Clara Valley, the farm lets visitors imagine farm life in the 1800s on a working homestead with the complete range of livestock, orchards, gardens, tools and historic buildings. The farm and the surrounding Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve draw large crowds, so finding a parking spot on a weekend can feel like striking gold.
But for those in the know, there’s a more pleasant way to enter the park that’s only open for people on bikes or on foot. To find this secret passage to the farm, follow Grant Road to St Joseph’s Avenue. The connection becomes obvious once you learn that back in the gold rush days, what’s now Deer Hollow Farm was the Grant Ranch, and that until the 1989 earthquake, the farm’s neighbor was St Joseph Seminary.
The Grant family bought the land for their ranch in the 1850s and worked it for almost 80 years, raising wheat, horses and dairy cows whose butter they sold in San Francisco after a long weekly wagon trip. Their neighbors the Snyders were the first in the area to grow grain crops without irrigation. The Snyder farm included a vineyard, a large winery and 25 acres of orchards.
Nowadays, the cash crops at the farm are fresh eggs, orchard fruits in season, compost and manure. The hens produce about four dozen eggs per day that sell out quickly. The farm opens at 8:00 am daily and an inside source tells me that by 8:30 the eggs are usually gone.
But the most popular attraction at Deer Hollow are the farm animals, especially when the babies are born in Spring. This year’s piglets were born in January, Luna the cow gave birth in February, and the newest additions are two sets of triplets: goat kids born to Jenny and Athena in May. And another nanny goat is due any day now. Hurry over to see these cuties, they grow fast.
If wild animals are more your interest, the nearby trails in the Rancho San Antonio open space are a great place to find mule deer, wild turkeys, quail, hawks and gopher snakes. The Rogue Valley trail is particularly active for wildlife in the evening. And if you’re lucky (or not) you may see the rare bobcat or rattlesnake. We have.
More things to do at Deer Hollow Farm:
* Hike up High Meadow Trail to the vista point hill. On a clear day you can see San Francisco and Oakland.
* Pack a lunch and picnic in the hay barn. Note that you’ll have to pack your garbage out with you.
* Check out the massive bay tree near the tennis courts. It’s the third largest in the state.
* On the third Saturday of the month, a nature center is open in the historic Apple Shed.
* Come back in October for Ohlone Days to learn how the area’s original residents lived off this rich land.
How to bike there: The route is not steep, but gradually climbs about 300 feet in about five miles from downtown Mountain View. The secret passage is at the end of St Joseph Avenue where the road is closed to cars at an Interstate 280 underpass. See map for route details.