Monday, October 7, 2013

Fresno, California

Fresno, California is about 30 miles south of where we are now parked.  Yesterday we drove there to tour the Forestiere Underground Gardens, as well as the Fresno zoo.  We certainly had a full and wonderful day seeing those tourist attractions!  Other than several museums there is not much else to be found in Fresno.  Driving around the town we discovered that there are no outstanding historical or downtown areas to explore.  There is a fair going on, which we plan to attend Monday.  Baldasare Forestiere (1879-1946) built his home and gardens over 38 years.  As a young Italian he came to the United States in the early 1900s.  At first he was a subway digger in Boston.  However, he was more use to the Mediterranean climate, so he moved to California where he found the San Joaquin Valley more to his liking.  Soon after he arrived in the valley there was a heat wave with temperatures up to 105 degrees.  He also discovered that the soil, called hardpan, was too hard to plant citrus groves.  Quite literally he started digging underground to find cooler temperatures and a place to plant his trees.  He kept his day job as a ditch digger.  His home, over the years, became a complex of underground rooms, passages and gardens spread over a ten acre parcel of land..  He is quoted as saying:”the visions in my mind overwhelm me”.  Near his home in Italy were catacombs, and, he designed his home with them in mind.  We had a guided tour of the home and our first stop was the Trinity Courtyard, where Forestiere acknowledged the spiritual side of his personality.

In this courtyard there is one main planter with three wings.  Planted in them are three trees and, also three benches.  Also planted in this area is a grapevine which Foresteir pruned so that the vine would come out of the wall in three places.  An interpretive sign explained that Forestiere pruned the grape vine in that manner to once again keep in mind the “quiet trinity”.   As you may deduce, Foresteire was a horticulturist- in his planters he had oranges, lemons, grapefruit (even multiple varieties grafted onto a single tree) as well as other varieties as kumquat, loquat, jujube, strawberry, quince and dates.  When we walked through the home many of the plants were loaded with fruit.  Grapes are hanging off the vine under the oranges in the picture below.
In the home there is a kitchen complete with a stove, icebox and cupboards.  Off from the kitchen he had two bedrooms, one for the winter and the other for the summer months.  Unlike the winter room which had his bed placed by the window, his summer bedroom had the bed placed in the room’s cooler interior.  That room is pictured below, notice the trees which he hand-painted on the pillars.

In one of the courtyards is a large Victorian bathtub. The house also has a fishing pond as well as an aquarium and chapel.  The owner also had it wired for electricity.  After Foresteir died his family came from Italy to decide what to do with the home.  Fortunately one of his brothers bought it, and his descendents have kept it going since.  After the tour we spent some time in the gardens outside.  Pictured below is a pomegranate tree loaded with fruit.  A blooming rose bush sits below the tree.

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