April 15, 2006

I remember getting World magazine as a young teenager ... and swiping Dad's National Geographics (no, not to look at the half-naked people from other cultures). I did a science fair project in 3rd or 4th grade about archeology because I was fascinated with the kids' book Secrets from the Past that Mom got me from National Geographic. I was fascinated by stories of the Mayans, Aztec and Incans ... I thought that the underground houses in one issue of World were the coolest things I'd ever seen. I toyed with becoming an archeologist for a long time because I'm fascinated with the thought of uncovering the past. By fifth grade, I was furious that we still took a lame social studies class but had not yet started history class. Instead, we went over the same old ground about the U.S. every year and then added choice bits of culture (most often already out-dated) about other countries. So I turned more and more to those National Geographic publications and learned about as many different cultures and situations and ways of living, being, thinking and learning as I could. The articles were always too short and I found myself going back to the library to find out more about some of the things I'd discovered.

Today, I still have a tendency to want to know more about some of the things I read, particularly about other cultures, but today I have the happy happy internets to get some of that instant gratification research done.

So, I was watching the History International
last night and came upon a great show called Secret Passages. Last night's episode had a segment on Baldasare Forestiere's Underground Garden just outside Fresno, California.

Magnificent! This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

Baldasare came over from Italy, worked his tail end off and eventually bought the perfect land for a great citrus farm of his own.

Unfortunately, just a little ways down, the soil turned to "hardpan" and Baldasare was stumped on how he would ever be able to plant his orchard and give the trees any chance at all of maturing and surviving. Working in others' orchards, Baldasare began building a wooden home on his property and soon realized that in the high temperatures of California, he was simply building a wooden oven for himself.

So, he dug a cellar.

That was the start of what was to become a major obsession. Baldasare soon decided to build his living space underground. He used the hardpan, cement and mortar to build grand roman arches, tunnels, rooms ... and some of the rooms he completely dug from the top down so that you could have the "outdoors, indoors." It was in one of these circular areas that Baldasare built a planter and planted a citrus tree. He wasn't sure if he could truly get it to grow and bear fruit, but his experiment paid off and soon he was planting his orchard ... as much as 22 feet below the surface. For the next forty years, he used just $300 in supplies ... pickaxe, shovel, cement, mortar ... to build the underground gardens.

There's skylights, grape arbors, and even an aquarium in which the fish swim above you.

Baldasare never "struck it rich" in the traditional sense by his move to California. But he claimed that "To make something with lots of money that is easy � but to make something out of nothing... now that is something." He spent forty years building the visions in his head and it was worth far more than the gold rush of the previous century or the lure of TinselTown.

I only saw a 15 minute segment on this place, but I already want to go there, explore every nook and cranny ... take pictures of it all (I didn't find many on the happy happy internets, sadly).

I don't know exactly what it is that fascinates me so about the things we uncover from the earth, from our past. I don't know why caves fascinate me so, or why the thought of the ruined building on Alcatraz (which I can just see on my desktop outside of this window).

Explore the links ... have fun ... imagine.

Posted by Red Monkey at April 15, 2006 6:14 AM | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Red said:

Wow, cool post ender. Thanks for providing the links..I'm off to do some digging of my own . :)
Happy Easter my friend!

April 15, 2006 7:19 PM


rob said:

I came to the conclusion after high school that the current curriculum in North American schools do not cover enough on diverse cultures. Students are often left to themselves to discover about other cultures. Most of what we learnt in school is about WWI, WWII, ancient Mesopotamia or North America history. What about the Mayans? What about the Chinese?

The best way to learn such things is by traveling. You can get a sense of someone elses' culture first hand. But, it would be nice to have a good start in schoo.

April 15, 2006 10:11 PM
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