1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Such a beautiful book cover. What is even better is that the story inside was written by a woman of her time devoted to the social ills being ignored by the greater society. Mary Jane sounds like a fascinating woman.

  2. Karlyne says:

    When I see a cover like that, it makes me want to paint!

  3. Sarah says:

    Lovely book cover! I collect vintage books and have several by Mary J. Holmes. In fact I am reading her book “Forrest House” right now. : )


    • Winnie Nielsen says:

      Hi Sarah, I just ordered my first book by Mary Jane Holmes titled Meadow Brook. Have you read this one? I found it on Ebay and looking forward to receiving it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Underground Gardens

Are you up for a weekend dash to California?

Come on, let’s go.

I just learned of a place I’d love to see near Fresno.

“Fresno?” you’re thinking. “Have you gone urban on us, MJ?”

Not a chance. The destination we’re out to discover is actually beneath the city in a sort of secret garden that defies the parched climate and pavement above …


Photo of underground fruit tree courtesy of

This unlikely oasis is called the Forestiere Underground Gardens, created in the early 1900s by Italian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere, who was inspired by ancient catacombs that he had admired as a boy. Using a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow, Forestiere excavated his own private paradise deep in the sun-baked California desert over the course of 40 years. By the time he was 44 years old, he had transformed over 10 acres of seemingly unyielding dirt into a labyrinth of rooms, passageways, patios, and courtyards that are still beautifully intact today.

Of course, I was instantly beguiled by the bath …


Photo of bathtub grotto courtesy of Garden Toolbox News

But, what about the garden aspect?

This I would love to see.

“Incredibly, Forestiere planted multiple varieties of fruit-bearing plants at different underground levels. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits—many on a single tree—as well as more unusual varieties like kumquat, loquat, jujube, strawberry, quince, and dates could be easily plucked from the surface by simply bending down,” says the Forestiere Gardens website. “Wine and table grapes also grace this sanctuary and dangle lusciously in great clumps everywhere.”

Can you imagine?

I knew you’d love the idea, too, so I arranged a private tour. Take a look …

If you’re near Fresno in person, you can stop in for a visit. Just be sure to tell me all about it when you get back to the surface!


  1. Deborah McKissic says:

    Oh, my! I would so be ready for a dash to California, Mary Jane! What a beautiful, beautiful place! What perserverance from one man! Thank you for sharing this just made me smile and made my day…I am a gardener and heading out to work in some of my gardens later today..finally a sunny day with cool temps., but so now inspired! And, the “bathroom”…the clawfoot tub…my husband and I had one refinished from the 1880’s and it sits in my bathroom…a small, 4 and a half foot one…just big enough to lay your head upon the back and relax after a long day in the gardens!

  2. Sarah Blue says:

    MaryJane, I’m floored that you heard about the Underground Gardens and will be visiting my neck of the woods. Baldasare was a true artist and used many ingenious engineering principals to make his tunnels bright, comfortable and livable. Have a wonderful tour!

    Just east of Fresno, past our foothill ranch, lies Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Forest, home to the Giant Sequoias. One of my goals this year is to go hiking there once a week. Sometimes I go with my husband, sometime with friends, sometimes just alone with my dog. One of my favorite groves lies within view of a forest fire lookout and so I think of you when I go there! Please do let me know if you’d like to stop by for iced tea or if you plan to visit the big trees and would like some easy destination tips.

    Enjoy your trip!

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is so amazing. What a creative genius of a gardener who had fewer tools, that would be available today, to do the hard work of digging and creating these spaces. For sure, If I ever get out that way, this will be on my list of must see.

    Sarah, I had the privilege of visiting the Sequoia National Forest a few years ago and it is truly one of the most incredible forests ever. How lucky you are to be close enough to visit on a regular basis!

  4. Karlyne says:

    I had no idea this existed! Amazing!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



  1. Marylyn says:

    I would name her Jerusa, and with her thick, rich milk, I would prepare clabbered milk, maybe you would call it clotted cream. It is my husbands favorite.

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Such a lovely path to walk or bike on with the spring green bursting out everywhere!

  3. Karlyne says:

    We have some rocks at the bottom of our property that the previous owner collected. Now all I need is expertise! And a strong back and arms and maybe legs wouldn’t hurt, either.

  4. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Whoop!!! USPS dropped off THE CUTEST EVER TRACTOR Journal! Honestly, just when I have had this cloud hanging over my head today, out of the blue came the most unexpected treat. Thank-you Mary Jane for thinking about me and taking the time to send off this adorable journal. Next will be the fun of deciding how to use the journal and then getting some colored pens to match the tractors for writing in it. I can’t wait to get started!! You sure know how to make this Farmgirl happy!!

    • Karlyne says:

      Cloud, Winnie? Everything OK?

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        Everything is really OK, Karlyne. Thank-you for asking! You know how sometimes you just have a huge list of worries that have no answers and so you just wonder and worry some more? Maybe this new journal should be about listing worries and then closing the book because most things you don’t have control over anyway!!

        • Karlyne says:

          Well, just remember that “worry is interest you’re paying on a loan that will probably never come due”. Says I, who often forget my own advice… I hope you dream of tractors tonight!

    • Probably Tulip withdrawal, and a touch of jet lag. That journal gift from MJ will help I am sure. nothing like writing to get out of a blue funk, and into a red tractor mode!

  5. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Hahaha!! Lisa and Karlyne, you made my day this morning!! I love that saying about worry and interest on a loan. Brother, is that ever the truth and I should write that up in bold letters and put it in my desk. I did come down with a nasty cold as soon as I got home, which did not help with the jet lag and made my head feel like it was going to explode. It is much better and today we are off to Baltimore to watch the Preakness. California Chrome, Derby winner, has such a compelling story with his humble beginnings and I cannot wait to just se him in person!

    • Ah yes, the Preakness! Growing up for a time in MD,in an area where everyone was “horsey”, we went every year, and the parties were bigtime. I love the underdog story of California Chrome and wish him the very best of luck. I envy you your trip.
      Karlyne, that quote is the best , I am putting it on my fridge this morning, where all my favorite life affirming quotes live. Thanks for sharing that wise knowledge!

  6. Karlyne says:

    The 3 year old grandkidlet has come down with the soupiest cold ever, and although he’s amazing at keeping it wiped and we’ve gone through boxes of extra-soft Kleenex (the rest of the year, it’s TP, folks!), I know that there’s no way the rest of us are going to come out of it unscathed. I tend to be a Typhoid Mary, and just get mild symptoms, so I hope that’s the case here. Haha! See, not worrying… I hope you recover speedily, Winnie, and enjoy the Preakness and win tons of money! Have a great weekend, too, Lisa!

  7. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Farmgirls, the Preakness was beautiful and California Chrome was a sensational horse to watch! The way he came around the last turn and thundered down the stretch gave me goose bumps. All that power and determination taking him right to the winner’s circle. I was located on the rail, close to the finish line, and joining all of the other fans screaming as loud as we could to stay strong. It is a few moments in time that you are suspended in total fascination and excitement of being swept up in thousands of screaming fans and seeing your pick come in first. California Chrome is beautiful and majestic. Godspeed to him for the upcoming Belmont Stakes. He is so deserving of this title! What a story, what a horse!!

  8. Karlyne says:

    My favorite race of all time is National Velvet: The Pie, The Pie! Or is it The Pi, The Pi? Either way, it’s the most exciting race I’ve ever seen!

  9. Karlyne says:

    I forgot to mention my envy, Winnie….

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This looks European in design. Like maybe one of those old roman bridges from the 9th century? I like the little watch out towers on the top.

  2. Karlyne says:


  3. Karlyne says:

    It’s been years, and my best friend just moved there last year, so a trip is on my horizon!

  4. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Whoa! Was I off by 10,000 miles or so!! What a regional treasure and I bet it has a great story behind it all.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love these photos that make me really study the details and try and figure out what they are. I am guessing assorted vintage tractor parts that are used for planting or harvesting? Or vintage parts for a type of saw?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Truth be told, I can hardly even stand to think it …

P …

Pee (wince) cycling.


You did read “pee.”


Oh, merciful milk cows.

Believe it or not, this cringe-worthy concept is for real.

In fact, it may actually indicate that we, the world, are moving in the right direction.


Allow me to elaborate:

In Amsterdam (I know—those, uhm,  innovative Dutch), the public powers-that-be are already (you guessed it) collecting … uhm … pee.

But, WHY?

Amsterdam’s utility company, Waternet, launched the Green Urine initiative (yes, really) in order to fertilize public gardens and vegetated rooftops around the city.

“It turns out that urine is packed with nitrogen and phosphorus, the two main elements of fertilizer,” explains Justin Gammill of “So much so, that when wastewater is treated, the nitrogen and phosphorus are purposefully removed because it would cause insane algae growth when the treated water was added back to a standing water source, such as a lake or river.”

Waternet set up multiple urinals in the city that were designed to process the urine in such a way that “struvite” (magnesium ammonium phosphate) is extracted and dried to a powder that can be used to help plants grow.


Photo by alan_adriana via

I guess women aren’t yet … contributing … to the effort. But should I ever visit, I could use my female camper’s GO GIRL! FUD (female urinary device) that allows me to stand when, I, uhm, take aim. Along with maybe a portable privacy curtain?????? Good heavens.

Andri Antoniades of writes, “Waternet is just the latest group to jump on the pee-cycling bandwagon. In 2007, researchers in Finland actually did go door-to-door collecting urine from locals. That untreated wastewater was used to successfully fertilize small crops of vegetables such as cucumbers and cabbage—all of which the researchers reported tasting delicious.”

Mmmm … had enough?

Just one more thought—Antoniades also argues, “In addition to making agricultural methods more sustainable, urine-based fertilizer could help boost food production and heighten sanitation in developing countries, particularly in small communities where wastewater treatment simply isn’t available.”

Are you seeing the potential here? (Emphasis on the letter “p”).

Go ahead, let your thoughts flow. Me? I’m going with the flow should the occasion (or peecycling urinal with a DOOR) ever present itself. Now I could stand for that.



  1. Ok, the real question here is , Winnie, did you see any of these? And was anyone actually using them?

  2. Oh and another thought. Back when I was an estate manager, the boss wouldn’t let the help ” pee” indoors. You had to go around the vegetable garden fence. Two fold reason:fertilizer and the deer would stay away. If he heard you going #1, indoors in the bathroom , he’d dock your pay !

    • Karlyne says:

      When we lived in the mountains, the guys peeing around the perimeter was the only way to keep the deer and elk out. I encouraged the drinking of beer, by the way. (The adults!) Now that we’re in “civilization”, it’s a bit harder, although the 3 year old valiantly does his part!

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Yep!! I saw plenty of these around Amsterdam !! They put them up in abundance for the the big national celebration of King’s Day outside of the pubs because there is so much beer drinking and celebrating. But for girls??? We were told, girls have to rely on the bathrooms inside the establishments because there are no privacy curtains on the streets. I did not know there was an actual practical use for the urine other than keeping throngs of people from peeing in the street. Just a side note, the urinals came in lots of bright colors too making them easy to spot.

    This Farmgirl is leaving tomorrow . Wagons ho, Delta!!

  4. calle says:

    Great resource. My only concern would be drugs! In our area anyone who is in hospice care who passes has a mandatory visit from the Sheriff’s office, they watch you flush all narcotics down the commode. Not a good thing. In the instance of pure urine the concentration of antibiotics etc would be very high.
    I have never read a research paper on what happens to some or all of these drugs in the soil.
    It does say that they are separated into two component chemicals so maybe they can remove the drugs.
    We have recycled human waste for our flower gardens and range land.
    They could build bathrooms for this purpose and modesty still counts so far in my world.
    Thanks for this post.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *