Articles published in Main Street Media papers in California

Hernandez offers tranquil hospitality

Thursday, February 19, 2004

By Valerie Brockbank 

SAN MARTIN - Rose Hernandez’s home in San Martin is a little different than most - it’s one of the region’s premier bed and breakfasts.

Hernandez started the Country Rose Inn in 1988 after looking for a new project in life that would bring her back to the area she loved as a child. Hernandez’s family of 10 children grew up on a farm in Morgan Hill.

“My parents traveled on Monterey Road from Gonzales to the Mission of San Jose to pick apricots, and they kept driving by this ‘fore sale’ sign,” Hernandez said. “This was in 1946, there wasn’t much here then. Gilroy was the larger center.

“They paid $12,600 for 77 acres of frontage land. I remember sitting next to our wood burning stove as a child, reading aloud to my family.”

When Hernandez was in the eighth-grade her family sold the farm and bought lots on the Keith Tract, the first subdivision in Morgan Hill.

Hernandez picked strawberries and prunes as a child, and her first job was at JC Penney in Gilroy.

“It was during the Bracero Program, when Mexican migrant workers came to the area with the blessing of the U.S. government. I was bilingual and could speak to the customers in their language,” Hernandez said. “This was my first job, but Mr. Dillon, the store manger, told me you have to start somewhere, and he gave me the opportunity.”

Hernandez used the money she earned to pay for her own high school education. She had decided to go to Notre Dame High School in San Jose and that led to a degree from San Jose State.

“I always knew I would go to college, and I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Hernandez said. “My second-grade teacher, Elena Moreno, inspired me. I liked her so much, and she made feel significant. She treated everybody as if they counted.”

Another influence on Hernandez’s life was Eleanor Evans, her second-grade room mother.

“I was friends with her daughter Pat; the family took me to the San Francisco Zoo for the first time. I remember fancy meals at their home. I remember thinking who were these people in my life ... they were intellectuals, they thought outside the box and were socially conscious.”

Hernandez taught in the primary grades and in the Head Start program in Palo Alto and in Milpitas.

“I wanted to be a good teacher, and I was; but in 1987 I was ready for a new project. It had never occurred to me, with my Protestant work ethic, to take a year off,” she said.

Hernandez’s mother was 90 years old, and she wanted to be closer to her. So, she decided to open a bed and breakfast, and the property off of Fitzgerald Avenue in San Martin had potential, she said.

“I’m a romantic at heart, and I like creating pretty places for people,” she said.

Hernandez acknowledges she is a natural nurturer.

“I want my inn to be a place people can really talk to each other; I want them to have a memorable night,” she said.

Throughout the years she has met many interesting people. Film star Debbie Reynolds stayed at her inn in 1993, while doing a benefit for the local hospital. Recently she hosted violin teachers of the Suzuki Method, where her large living room doubled as a practice hall.

“I remember one night I took in two 18 year olds who were stranded. One of the other guests, an accomplished pianist, was playing the grand piano, Chopin. The next morning the girls asked her to play again; we all gathered round to listen to the most beautiful music,” Hernandez said. “I had a young woman from Ecuador stay with me for four months while she was an intern at a local company. She told me how beautiful it was to stay in such a tranquil place. She was afraid to be away from home, but she was never homesick. She told me I had turned from an inn keeper into her friend. It’s moments like these that are inspiring.”

Being an inn keeper takes persistence, hard work and attention to detail. Hernandez often doesn’t have time to take in the views from the windows of the rooms she is setting up for new guests.

“This area, the farmland the mountains, it’s beautiful,” she said. “But without a doubt, what I like best about this business, is meeting people. When I don’t have guests I miss them, they are a part of your life.


Residents learn fundamentals of first aid

Thursday, March 18, 2004

By Valerie Brockbank

GILROY - One woman is lying on the ground while two other women are taping her arm to her body. A man sits in a chair as a cardboard splint is applied to his leg. This is a hands-on practice session of the Gilroy Community Emergency Response Team, an eight-week program that teaches residents the fundamentals of first aid.

The program was developed to create a well-trained civilian emergency work force. These teams are vital during disaster situations when the number and scope of incidents overwhelm conventional emergency services. The training provides community self-sufficiency through the development of response teams that can act as an adjunct to local emergency services during major disasters.

Gilroy is a rural area, and in the event of a local disaster resources could be heavily taxed.

“CERT is about readiness, people helping people and doing the greatest good for the greatest number,” said Paul Staudenmaier, chairman of the South County Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness Project, which collaborated with Gilroy Fire Department and the city to run the program. ‘‘It’s a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. Through training, citizens can organize themselves to be effective.”

During a recent exercise at the Chestnut Fire Station, participants practiced diagnosing and treating an airway obstruction, bleeding and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques, and they learned how to evaluate patients by doing a head-to-toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area, and performing basic first aid.

vulnerability to earthquakes and fires. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy have adopted the CERT program.

“Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life-saving and life-sustaining needs,” Staudenmaier said. “We also expect that under these kinds of conditions, family members, fellow employees, and neighbors will spontaneously try to help each other. This was the case following the Mexico City earthquake where untrained, spontaneous volunteers saved 800 people. However, 100 people lost their lives while attempting to save others. This is a high price to pay and is preventable through training.”

The program is new to Gilroy.

‘‘We will weigh its overall effectiveness, costs involved, and whether the community wants a program like this to continue,” said Geoff Cady, the local program coordinator.

Residents believe the program will prove beneficial.

“I believe in being prepared,” said Burdetta Moore, who lives in Woodland Mobile Home Estates. “We have elderly and housebound residents at Woodlands, I want to be ready to help and know what to do.”

Joe Lomeli was living in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles, when the Northridge Earthquake struck.

“I’ve seen what happens without training,” he said. “It was total chaos. I live in Eagle Ridge, and I’m concerned about accessibility in times of an emergency. I’ve learned that quick response is imperative. I’m learning how to be self sufficient for a week or more by being prepared. ‘’

For 24-yar-old Eric Ingrassia this program is a refresher course. He took the program with his mother a year ago in Morgan Hill.

“Initially I wanted to learn what to do in a disaster and how to help save the lives of others,” he said. “I came back to get updated on new information, I was interested in the information that is included this time on response during an act of terrorism.”

The eight sessions cover disaster preparedness, fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue operations, disaster psychology and team organization, course review and disaster simulation. The Gilroy class has about 25 participants ranging from teenagers to senior citizens.

The program costs $25. For more information, call the Chestnut Fire Station at 846-0370.

Fill your senses at Foxhollow Herb Farm

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

By Valerie Brockbank 

 Among the rolling hills of farmland just off Best Road at the south end of Hollister is Foxhollow Herb Farm, a hidden treasure of lavender waving gently in the spring breeze. Integrated into the landscape are 55,000 herbs in different stages of the growing process.

Jackie Mendizabal started growing herbs in her back yard in Morgan Hill, and that passion grew into a business in 1993.

“My husband, Rey, and I started looking for land to grow herbs on. We needed somewhere flat and sunny, and Hollister had the perfect weather, hot and dry, and the soil doesn’t have too much clay,” she said.

Rey is the farming part of the operation.

“My husband works at a job; he comes home and puts in long hours on the tractor. But he likes that I can stay home with our son and still have a successful business.”

Jackie is interested in the medicinal properties of herbs.

“I get my interest in healing with plants from my grandmother and my uncle,” she said. “I’m of Mexican and Italian heritage; I find it fascinating how different cultures adapt the plants around them. I can’t walk by a plant without wondering what it can do.”

Before Jackie got into herb farming and botanicals full time, she worked as a health education coordinator for the Good Samaritan Hospital.

The herbs Jackie raises are organically grown, and she does sell the plants, but her main herbal products are for body care. They use only the highest quality vegetable oils: almond, grape seed, rapeseed, pecan and extra virgin olive; and the essential oils are derived directly from the plant. The herbs and flowers are also steeped in sun-warmed oils for several weeks to extract their fragrance and active ingredients.

“We test everything on family and friends prior to selling to the public,” Jackie said.

The first product she made was a salve to treat her son’s diaper rash.

“I remember my aunt using olive oil on diaper rash, so I combined that with gold seal, which is a great healing herb.”

The Foxhollow Herb Farm Botanicals include dried bouquets, soaps, massage and bath oils and lotions, facial care and old herbal remedies.

“The herb growing community is like a family, I made a lot of mistakes with the soap when I first started; it’s very difficult to get the temperature just right. Through the Herbal Network, I learned about some good recipes, and then I adjusted them to my own things,” she said.

She sells her products at farmers markets in Los Gatos, downtown San Jose and Mountain View. In June, she plans to open the farm to the public, so guests can cut their own lavender. She is also studying to become a master herbalist and hopes to teach classes at the farm.

As Jackie walks through the fields rubbing the leaves of white sage to release the scent known in American Indian lore to chase away negative energies, goats are bleating in the neighbor’s pasture and her creative thoughts are flowing.

“I’m planning to make goat’s milk soap this year,” she said. “My husband will retire in seven years, and he still wants to be doing this. Foxhollow Herb Farm has sustained our family; it’s been good to us.”

For more information, call 637-8626 or visit





I also have more articles and editorials from The Goldendale Sentinel, where I was the managing editor