31. the underground citrus gardens of Baldesare Forestiere

The Sicilian born Baldesare, bought a plot to farm in the arid San Joaquin Valley in the early 1900s. He envisioned a vineyard, but the poor guy hit the hardpan within a few feet. The dry hot sun had baked the clay earth to rock. He dug out an underground room and and realized how pleasant the belowearth could be. Now that he had escaped the heat to think, Baldesare, with his tools and barrow, decided he'd make his home and garden happen nevertheless. He dug and excavated, created skylights and planters, gardens and benches. His fruit trees and vines crept from his caverns to the flat earth above where the sun settled. He carved out 10 acres of space, three levels of depth, 50+ rooms, in 40 years time.

Today the gardens are only partially open to the public, partially under repair. Keil and I and our group of comrades that dutifully followed our descriptive leader walked through all that was made available to us.

In Baldesare's time, his gardens were outside the city, a pastoral paradise, today the gardens sit in the hot sprawl of Fresno just across the street from an In and Out Burger, a McDonalds, and a Chevron station to fill our tanks.

The guided tour carried through the cavernous archways of active gardens. Many of which held the original grafted fruit trees of Baldesare.

our leader

she encouraged us to read the hand written informative panels

a nested hummingbird

his water well (now dry as a skeleton)

A foci of the tour is Baldesare's personal private living quarters, where people might imagine how he lived his life, where he slept ate, bathed, dreamed, peed, etc.

and then we walked out into Fresno again