Forestiere Underground Gardens

"Here beneath the hot, arid surface of the San Joaquin Valley, Baldasare Forestiere (1879-1946) began in the early 1900's to sculpt a fantastic retreat. Excavating the hardpan by hand, he created a unique complex of underground rooms, passages and gardens which ramble throughout a ten-acre parcel. His work is being preserved as a living monument to a creative and individualistic spirit unbounded by conventionality."

B & I were completely intrigued by the idea of an underground garden, especially one hand dug by someone with the grandiose moniker of Baldasare Forestiere. We navigated Fresno's endless Shaw Avenue, pulled up and found it closed for renovations until the end of the summer. I spent sometime mooning around the chain link fence, hoping to curry favor with the leathery old man who was watering the roses. I even dropped phrases like "All the way from Santa Cruz," but all I got was a brochure. "Look on the internet!" he advised me, which was so ironic in a way I can't explain..........
I discovered from a local Fresnoian that Baldasare did these gardens for the love of a woman, who in the end did not return his affections. Man, if a guy spent 40 years hand-digging the hardpan beneath a fruit orchard in face-of-the-sun hot Fresno in order to win my love, I think I'd go out with him. One date at least........
It sounds like the plantings are mainly fruit trees: Strawberry (Arbutus?), Carob, Jujube, Pomegranate, Mulberry, Date Palm, Avocado, Quince & Persimmon. B & I are already planning our return at the end of the summer (two voluntary trips to Fresno in one summer!) so I'll report back when I actually get inside. The photographs posted are from Ron's Log, which I discovered on Flickr. Thanks Ron!
"God only knows what has kept the Gardens this long. I think if it were not for the visitors, we would not have been able to make it this fair. How can one destroy or exploit the work this one man has done? Can not the strength and purity of a person's work survive in our age? Certainly we, at this period in history, desperately need examples of man's simple capacity to achieve with only the mind and body God has given us."

-Lorraine Forestiere


Brothers & Sisters

This is a great moment in time: all the siblings together. We are pondering the etymology of the word siblings, and goofing off on mattresses in the middle of the Oakland Hills. Fruit trees abound. World of Warcraft is not being played..........



I spent the weekend in Fresno, of all places. Our fabulous friend Neb got married there, so we trundled off to the land of agriculture, strip malls and heat. It was 104 degrees when we arrived on Saturday and we sort of slid out of the car in a stupor, feeling smacked in the face with a wall of hotness. I never thought I'd welcome a trip to a hotel swimming pool. My past is sprinkled with many shame-filled visits to hotel pools across California, Mexico & Hawaii-horrible memories of sneering tan boys & their smirky thin & tan girlfriends as I huddled, pasty & uncomfortable on a patio chair, reading and trying to appear unconcerned & aloof. Anyway. Now I am 33, and I embrace my light skin and less than sporty bathing suit style. (A.K.A. the Try To Hide As Much As Possible style.) So, B, G and I went in the pool and had big time fun in the water, trying to blow bubbles underwater and experimenting with arm floaties. Very cute.
Casa de Fruta
On our way down we stopped at one of my favourite roadside attractions, Casa de Fruta. Casa de Fruta began 1908 as an orchard and fruit stand hawking cherries on the then lonely road through the Pacheco Valley. Now it is alongside the zippy & semi-dangerous Hwy 152, aka Pacheco Pass. It's gone from merely selling fruit to being a strange fruit stand on steroids, as if Disneyland had a fruit stand. No audio animatronics yet, but there is a petting zoo, wild peacocks, and a guy that flips coffee cups into the air at the Casa de Restaurant. We took G on the Casa de Choo Choo, which kept breaking down in an endearing manner. It gave me a chance to take some pics of the scenery, aka the perimeter of the Casa de Fruta property which is littered with old harrowers, plows and the odd peacock, strutting through dusty avenues of
of rusty who knows what. I think all these pieces might actually be on display, like an agricultural museum. It's so inspiring that old farm junk and the nostalgia there invoked has been capitalized on in such an enterprising manner. That we all were taking time out of our busy dot com lives to be pulled around on a little choo choo train to gaze on rusting tractors and tame buffalo was amazing to me. It was regenerative in some manner.
However, after a while all the Casa de _____ was beginning to grate on my nerves. Casa de Sweets. Casa de Gift Shop. Casa de Restroom. Casa de RV Park. We started calling everything the Casa de Wahoo! It got a little silly. But G loved the Casa de Carousel. I like the Casa de Dangerous and Rusty Playground.
Oh, and B is totally into the Applets & Cotlets, which is like a soft, gelatiny candy with nuts, covered in powdered sugar. He claims it is just like Turkish Delight, except TD tastes like roses (gross!) and these taste like fruit. I am of the opinion that both are totally naff, and I'm not trying either of them. B used to get these candies when he'd come to Casa de Fruta as a kid. I have no notion of Casa de Fruta from my childhood. We stuck to Santa's Village and Trees of Mystery......but I'll save those for another post.
So, Casa de Fruta: I love it's distinctive California feel, and that all this hoopla is about fruit.


Neal's Non-Book Meme

Neal B, my favourite Northern Irishman turned Glaswegian Medical Student/Ceilidh Band Frontman has delivered up his first non-book meme. Check it out, and stick around for the lovely photography.Tell him Rosa sent you.


Mr. Sullivan, Third Grade Dupe or Nemesis Dan & Chocolate Chips

I'm still not quite sure why I did it: I think because I could get away with it. I also wanted to show off before my pseudo-nemesis, Dan. I have absolutely no idea why we were enemies, except maybe because I had glasses and so did he. It made sense in third grade.....
My third grade teacher, Mr. Sullivan, was a firm believer in the reward system when it came to discipline. He awarded the Student of the Day, Week & Month. Student of the Month got a T-shirt, Week got a poster, and Day got.......a handful of chocolate chips, kept trustingly in a big jar on Mr. Sullivan's desk in the front of the classroom. Now, I was in after-school daycare, which took place, as it happened, in the back of Mr. Sullivan's classroom, (again, this was also my classroom during the school day as well.) I discovered during one boring afternoon at daycare that I could sit on Mr. Sullivan's desk, sneak my hand behind my back, dip into the chocolate chips, and eat them by the fistful. I was so proud of myself that I crowed to Nemesis Dan and laughed in his jealous face. Chocolate smeared, I was riding high on my infamy as the craftiest third grader at Soquel Elementary Afterschool Daycare.
"It was YOU!"
The next day, at the end of the school day, Mr. Sullivan looked at the jar and said, in this ultra-disappointed voice,"Aaaw, someone ate almost all these chocolate chips! Who would steal them? That is just so sad!" I looked over and saw Dan pointing at me with a malevolent grin, mouthing the words,"It was YOU!" I realized suddenly that maybe telling my nemesis about my crimes was not a good idea, after all, and that he probably would rat me out. I think there was something deep down in there as well that felt bad for letting down Mr. Sullivan, who seemed to have such child-like trust in his students. Maybe this could be chalked up to faint stirrings of conscience, which is about the only encouraging thing about this story. Anyway, I devised a plan. The Plan
After class I approached Mr. Sullivan privately and asked him how much a new bag of chocolate chips would cost: $1.00. I went home and conned my mom into giving me a dollar to fold some laundry. The next day at school I got there early, and went out back, to where the other kids were playing tetherball and cherry drops, and I began to write. I remember it so vividly.
I was wearing my rodeo skirt, and writing using that brown paper that had all the lines in to help you learn to write. I didn't have any smooth surface to write against, so I remember having to put my thin sheet of paper against the rough wall of the school building, it made my writing all jagged and messy. Also, Nemesis Dan was there, trying to read what I was writing, but I hid it from him. This is what I said:
"Dear Mr. Sullivan,
A bully made me steal your chocolate chips.
I am sorry I did it. Here is a dollar.
Signed, _________. "

I am ashamed to admit it here, but this note is as truthful as I could get at the time. A "bully?" How's that for confession without actually having to confess anything. I was just so slithery then, telling wild half-truths, bald-faced lies and minute fabrications in order to come out okay. It was years before I read in the Psalms, "Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me; let them lead me to your holy hill."
Mr. Sullivan's Revenge?
The icing on the cake is that later on, when it came time to reward the Student of the Day, guess who was chosen?! Yup, little old honest 'n' upright me. A fitting irony.
I think I actually got the Student of the Week award later in the year, don't ask me why. (It was a Charlie Brown poster-Charlie upside down in a tree-tangled up in his kite string, saying something like, "I hate Mondays". ) I could never bear to have that poster up in my room.
Which just might have been Mr. Sullivan's revenge ala heaping burning coals on my head.........
And I haven't even began to confess how I lied my way through our St. Patrick's Day party later that year......on live television! Bless me Father, for I have sinned................


B's hometown, by John Steinbeck

"The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into the Monterey Bay. I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in summer - and what trees and seasons smelled like - how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich.I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother. They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding - unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and love of east. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains."
John Steinbeck - East of Eden


Secret Garden

It's the secrecy of this particular garden that I admire. Actually, it's not secret in the least-as many as 4 windows look out on it, and the walls are only about 6 feet high around it. But this morning as I surveyed the work at hand, the paths couldn't be seen for the fireweed, spurge and wild cranesbill that sprawled out over the packed earth. The fruit trees hung heavy with apples, plums, pears and apricots that all wanted thinning. The blackberries had joined hands with the rock rose across the path and played a sort of 'London Bridges' with each other in the breeze. G & I cut a swath through the herbage and picked lavender blossoms, agapanthus flower heads (*sniff of disdain*) and immature apples to lay in the small bowl that the sculpture girl held in her lap. Later I made my first lavender wand since we lived in Scotland, and I made one from the lavender at Seamill. It was thoroughly restorative, and I looked up and caught a glimpse of the afternoon light on the Santa Lucia Mountains. It did seem secret today, I think because the little black rain cloud that has set over me this past week couldn't find me in my secret garden............

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honour; no good thing does he withhold from him whose walk is blameless." Psalm 84:11. Today, amongst malus, acorus, and lonicera, under a sky traversed by both tree and leaf, I experienced Yahweh my bright Sun, bringing light into my dark places. Here enclosed amongst the green growth of June I found Him to be my shining Shield giving me shelter from all that threathened to assail me.
And I sang as I dug in the hot earth:
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
The King of Creation.
O, my soul praise Him,
For He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear-
Now to His temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration!"

photo credit: o_o mars



Feeling a curious disinclination to write anything original or personal. I wonder if I am avoiding the mirror's gaze, so to speak.
I feel neither inspiration nor depression, just the day to day stuff that doesn't seem to engender creativity, at least not at this point.
Anything that interests me enough to write about is tinged with the knowledge that the subject is actually just a ruse, something to hide behind so I don't have write about me. I'm hoping this passes soon. Any suggestions?



The holy Three
For saving be,
To act as guard,
To aid and ward
The hearthstone fire,
The house entire,
The household all
As eve doth fall,
And night enthrall,
This evening light,
And o this night!
Each evening light,
Each single night,
So may it be,
O holy Three,
Amen to me.

506 South Uist
taken from Rev. G.R.D. McLean's Poems of the Western Highlands, translated from the Gaelic.



Thou King of the moon and of the sun,
Of the stars thou lov'd and fragrant King
thou thyself knowest our needs each one,
O merciful God of everything.

Each day that our moving steps we take,
Each hour of awakening, when we know
The dark distress and sorrow we make
To the King of hosts who loved us so.

Be with us through the time of each day,
Be with us through the time of each night,
Be with us ever each night and day,
Be with us ever each day and night.

from Rev. G.R.D McLean's Poems of the Western Highlands,
translated from the Gaelic
photo: Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.